'Love' comes to Old Gem Theater
Fans of classic rock 'n roll music might want to check out an upcoming play.
Over the next two weeks, the Old Gem Theater in New Richmond will play host to the premier of a new musical, "Love Potion #10." The musical is a re-make of the play "Radio Show," which was originally performed at the Carleton Celebrity Dinner Theater in the Twin Cities in the 1980s.
According to Dave "Swanee" Swanson of New Richmond, the updated musical was rewritten to remove the "blue humor" that permeated the performance 30 years ago.
"We all became Christians," he said. "These days we're family oriented."
Swanson is one of the longtime members of The Whitesidewalls, a classic rock band based in the Twin Cities. The Whitesidewalls, who were inducted into the Mid-America Music Hall of Fame last year, provide the live soundtrack and some of the acting for "Love Potion #10."
The musical stars Michael Patrick "Records" Ryan, a Twin Cities disc jockey since 1965. He currently hosts "Records Ryan Radio Show" on WDGY-AM.
"This guy is quite a talent," Swanson said. "He's very funny."
The new musical melds together comedy, intrigue, romance and songs of the golden age of rock and roll, Swanson said.
"Love Potion #10" tells the story of six days in 1964 at a small-town high school through the eyes and ears of the popular local AM radio disc jockey (played by Ryan). Ryan spins the doo-wop, rockabilly and rock and roll gold on school nights, all the while receiving vials of "love potion" from a mysterious female fan.
Years later, at the 40th year reunion of the Class of 1964, the disc jockey and his fan finally meet.
Throughout the show, The Whitesidewalls Rock 'n Roll Revue band touches all the bases on a trip through the music of 1954 through 1964. A total of 24 songs are part of the musical's script.
Swanson said he's excited to bring the new show in front of live audiences.
"It should be fun," he said. "This is something we've thought about for a couple of years but we've been busy and haven't had time to put it together."
This winter, when The Whitesidewalls performance schedule scaled back to about two shows per week, Swanson said the group decided it was time to dust off the old play, rewrite it and rehearse.
"Now was the time," he said. The group has been practicing for months in anticipation of the upcoming premier show.
Performances are at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 24, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30, at the Old Gem. Tickets for the musical are $20 and available online at www.oldgemtheater.com or by calling 715-246-3285 or 800-886-8035 for reservations. The Old Gem is located at 116 S. Knowles Ave., New Richmond.
"Love Potion #10" will also be performed at the Maplewood Performing Arts Theatre, April 13, and the Paramount Theater in Austin, Minn. on May 2. Swanson is negotiating with several other potential venues to expand the tour. Visit www.whitesidewalls.com for an updated schedule of performances.
Swanson, 56, started singing professionally at the age of 9. By the time he was 14, the talented musician was performing six nights a week with various bands.
"Swanee" joined The Whitesidewalls in 1976.
A 1974 graduate of St. Croix Central High School in Hammond, Swanee left The Whitesidewalls for a number of years but several years ago bought the group's name back and re-assembled some of the former members to create the newest version of the band.
Throughout his time with the Hall of Fame band, Swanee has performed with quite a list of famous singers, among them Del Shannon, Rick Nelson, Bo Diddley, Carl Perkins and Bobby Vee. The group has also performed for the likes of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
The group now plays about 140 shows a year, while Swanson performs another 60 dates as a solo artist or with Swanee Beach, a three-piece jazz and blues band. He often performs as a solo act at senior citizen complexes and nursing homes.