Had you been driving past 415 Bridge Ave. in Star Prairie on Saturday, June 16, around 7:30 p.m., you most surely would have experienced one of those "come to God" moments. From the street, it sounded like a good old-fashioned, raise-the-roof, revival complete with spirits.
And that would have made sense given that 415 Bridge Ave. is the address of Bethany Lutheran Church, but that Saturday night, the venerable house of God was transformed into a theatre to host the first ever premiere of "Box of Chocolates," a play penned by local shopkeeper, Jerry Ledo, owner of This Old Store and legendary co-founder of the Star Prairie Jam.
Widely recognized as founder of the Jam back in 2007, Ledo's passion for performance has taken an unexpected and interesting turn into the theatrical.
Ledo's Star Prairie establishment, This Old Store, has long been a destination for musicians who travel from near and far to take part in legendary jams sessions on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The opportunity to play on any given night with everyone from talented newcomers to established Grammy award winners has made This Old Store a must stop for acts traveling through the Cities.
Ledo borrowed the name "Box of Chocolates" from his weekly television show, which airs on cable access WITC Channel 6 featuring live and recorded jam sessions with a variety of local and visiting musicians who frequent This Old Store. Why "Box of Chocolates," because as Ledo explains it, "You never know what you're going to get on any given night."
With "Box of Chocolates," the play, Ledo ventures into new territory switching up venues, recreating the familiar confines of This Old Store on the church stage and adding a simple tale that explores both the mystery and enduring magic of the Star Prairie Jam. But make no mistake, the play, like the Jam, is all about the music.
To a musical score that includes Jam favorites ranging from Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Road House Blues and Wipe Out to, Red is the Rose, All About that Bass and Radar Love, Ledo introduces a central character, a young blind girl who can see and communicate with a quartet of ghosts, a fatherly shopkeeper and three mischievous children.
For the most part, the audience was a familiar one; many of the faces in the sanctuary Saturday night were the same ones that support the jam on Tuesday and Thursday nights. What made this jam different were the spirits tapping the shoulders of audience members in the dark and Ledo's subtle but sincere tale haunting the margins of the music reminding audience members that walls do have ears and for many both passed and present, music is heaven and home.