'Three Billy Goats Gruff' hits the stage at Old Gem Theater
Once again, the Old Gem Theater is closing the first month of the new year with a classic folktale from its repertoire. This year, the theater is presenting the audience participation musical Three Billy Goats Gruff.
“We’ve actually done a version of Billy Goats Gruff two other times and it has always been really popular,” said Kathy Welch, the Old Gem Theater’s artistic director. “It is one of those shows, in this slot, that we like to do since it is geared towards younger kids because it is audience participation.”
Three Billy Goats Gruff will be performed on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 10:30 a.m., and again on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 2 p.m. Weekday matinees for groups, such as schools and other organizations, are available as well.
“The first time we did the show was in 2003, and it was in response to a teacher who said at this time of year they are doing fairy tales in their classrooms, so we thought of Billy Goats Gruff,” Welch said. “It seemed like a perfect play to do since, at the time, we thought it would be an easy set because you just need a bridge. When we sat down to do it, I found that there weren’t any theatrical versions of it that I really liked all that well.”
So, in order to make Three Billy Goats Gruff a reality, Welch had to sit down with her team and try to write an hour-long version of the story. Welch found that it was no easy task because the story itself isn’t very long and only involves the three billy goats, a troll and a bridge.
“We started to think about how to expand it and it turned out to be something that is really silly and fun,” Welch said. “What we came up with was to set it in the 1950s, so it is kind of a rockabilly, Billy Goats Gruff kind of thing. Once we had that idea it just kind of blew up in different ways.”
Among the many ways the 1950s, rockabilly idea has changed the original Three Billy Goats Gruff story is that the troll is now a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Troll,” who acts a lot like Elvis Presley. Also, each of the billy goats is modeled after a character from the 1950s, including the Little Billy Goat, who wears a poodle-skirt, and the Big Billy Goat, who is a nerdy type of character with a bow tie.
“All of the things we changed add a lot of fun to the story, which is just simply the three billy goats trying to cross a bridge,” Welch said. “We sing some songs and added in some classic ‘50s rock, so that is a lot of fun for the kids too.”
The play is filled with musical numbers sung by the the cast that have been transformed from the originals into fun, entertaining songs that the audience can have fun with. A few of the songs include “The Rockin’ Troll Will Never Die (Rock and Roll Will Never Die),” “Who Wrote the Book of Gruff? (Who Wrote the Book of Love?),” and “Clippity Clop (At the Hop).”
Members of the Old Gem professional company appearing in the show are: Tom Monn, of Woodbury. Minn., who plays the Rockin’ Troll; Jameen Lauck, of New Richmond, who plays the Little Billy Goat Laverne; Kerry Forester, of Eden Prairie. Minn., who plays the Middle Billy Goat Max; and Kevin McLaughlin, of Minneapolis, who plays the Big Billy Goat Pat.
“The show is silly and the story is something that a lot of the kids are familiar with or they are learning about in school right now,” Welch said. “The kids really enjoy being able to help act it out because there is something about the simple act of walking over the bridge that is really appealing to kids. There is also certain expressions that the kids grab onto, and that makes it really appealing to them.”
Welch feels that shows like the audience participation heavy Three Billy Goats Gruff are perfect for the younger kids because it gives them the chance to interact with the play, which is something they can’t do when they just read the story in a book.
“It is fun to come and see the show when there are a lot of kids in the audience because of how into the audience participation they get,” Welch said. “We try to set that up early on, so that they know there are places in the play where the actors are going to need their help and ask for volunteers. It is a lot different than when you go to an audience participation play with adults because they are all embarrassed and trying not to make eye contact. The kids, on the other hand, are just dying to get up on the stage.”
For more information, or to inquire about tickets, call 715-246-3285 or 800-886-8035, or visit the theater’s website at oldgemtheater.com.