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Hudson playwright debuts second musical in St. Paul and at home

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Hudson playwright Donovan Stohlberg's new musical, "London in Springtime: A Musical," will premier next month as the first production at the recently renovated Mounds Theatre in St. Paul.

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Stohlberg's first musical, "Jack the Ripper," played to sold-out audiences at The Phipps Center in spring of 2001 and told the dark story in a production that included a large cast, elegant costumes and an elaborate set.

"London in Springtime" is something entirely different, according to Stohlberg, a 1991 graduate of Hudson High School. The story revolves around seven contemporary college students who travel to London with their professor for some study abroad. The play follows the group as they adjust to new surroundings, adapt to different ideas and navigate new relationships.

"It's kind of like 'Friends do England.' I spent time in 1993 studying there. As I get older, I realize that the time I spent there, the experiences I had and the things I learned really are a metaphor for life. It was a dynamic time, and the show was a lot of fun to write," said Stohlberg.

The production includes 13 original songs. Stohlberg wrote all the music and L.B. Hamilton wrote the lyrics. The two collaborated on the book and the show is directed by Yvonne A.K. Johnson, who also directed "Jack the Ripper." Stohlberg's and Johnson's production company JTR Productions produces the show.

The production team also includes others from "Jack the Ripper" including set designer Nancy Katzer, musical arranger Darrin Stohlberg, stage and lighting manager Alan Weekes and band member Kyle Bonderson. River Falls actress Jennifer Burleigh-Bentz, leading lady in "Jack," is a member of the ensemble cast.

The show's contemporary setting made sets and props a little less complicated than the group's previous production. Props include things like backpacks, a video camera, lots of luggage and whatever else you might expect to find in a college flat.

Stohlberg said being the premier production at the new Mounds Theatre is adding to the excitement of the production. "This theatre is a really special place. It goes all the way back to the vaudeville days. After that it was a movie house and was finally closed in the 1960s. But a group got hold of it in 2000 and have really done a wonderful job renovating it. It is really beautiful."

The show will also be presented at the Hudson High School auditorium March 19-21 with a portion of the proceeds from the local performances going to the Kent McConaughey music scholarship fund.

McConaughey, also a 1991 graduate and a friend of Stohlberg's, was killed by a gunman last year in the Twin Cities.

In addition to the performances in St. Paul and Hudson, "London in Springtime" will be staged in Milwaukee in July and then go on to Edinburgh, Scotland, in August as one of the entries in the Fringe Festival. The festival is the biggest international competition in the world and productions from around the globe are featured. Stohlberg said the competition is a testing ground for many of the new plays that go on to appear in London and Broadway.

Stohlberg is the son of Doug and Jackie Stohlberg of North Hudson. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota-Morris and a master's degree in fine arts in theater from Mankato University in Minnesota. His "day job" is with Hartford Insurance in Woodbury.

Performances at the Mounds Theatre are set for March 5-8 and 11-14. The theater is located at 1029 Hudson Road just off I-94 westbound, Exit 243. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (651) 772-2253 or going online at www.moundstheatre.com. Tickets for the Hudson High School auditorium performances are available at (715) 386-6832 or www.jtrproduction.com.

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Meg Heaton
Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
(715) 808-8604
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