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Review: DON'T HUG ME at Broadway Rose

The production runs through May 15.

By: Apr. 21, 2022
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Review: DON'T HUG ME at Broadway Rose  Image

My mom laughed for a good 5 minutes when I told her I had gone to see a musical about Scandinavians in small town Minnesota who are obsessed with the music of a fictional folk singer named Sven Yorgensen. When she recovered, she asked me how many times they said "uffda" and if there were any Ole and Lena jokes. See, there's nothing that my Norwegian Minnesotan family loves more than a good-natured joke about Norwegian Minnesotans.

That's exactly what DON'T HUG ME, now running at Broadway Rose, is. Billed as "Fargo meets The Music Man (without the blood or the trombones)," DON'T HUG ME is a silly show about some residents of Bunyan Bay, Minnesota, whose lives get a jolt thanks to the appearance of a karaoke machine salesman.

The story centers on Gunner (Kevin-Michael Moore) and Clara (Elizabeth Young) Johnson, the owners of local bar The Bunyan. Gunner wants to sell it and move to sunny Florida, but Clara can't imagine life anywhere besides Bunyan Bay, even in the dead of winter. When Aarvid Gissellson (Matthew H. Curl) shows up with his "Lifestyle System," Clara sees a chance to rekindle the romance in her marriage, while Gunner just wants the thing out of his bar. The karaoke machine also lights a fire under Bernice Lundstrom (Clara-Liis Hillier), who discovers she wants more in life than her upcoming marriage to the pompous Kanute Gunderson (Peter Liptak).

Almost all of the music in the show is provided by the karaoke machine, courtesy of Sven Yorgensen, who is certainly one of world's most creative and also strangest songwriters. Inspired by everyone from Lawrence Welk to the Osmonds to Madonna, Yorgensen gives us tunes such as "I'm a Walleye Woman in a Crappie Town," "My Smorgasboard of Love," and "I Wanna Go to the Mall of America." While popular with the Bunyan Bay locals, none of these songs are likely to make the Top 40 anytime soon.

And that's what I ultimately felt about DON'T HUG ME. The musical has one gimmick - gently poking fun at the folksiness of northern Minnesota. While this provides a good number of hearty chuckles, whether or not it's a full-length musical's worth of entertainment may depend on your degree of "localness." My grandfather would have loved it!

DON'T HUG ME runs through May 15. More details and tickets here:

Photo credit: Liz Wade


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