The last few years have marked a period of change at the Old Log Theatre in Greenwood, with its purchase by Greg and Marissa Frankenfield in 2013, a $500,000 renovation and the passing of its former owner and local legend, Don Stoltz, last February. But as the 2015 season continues into spring the Old Log remains, and is better than ever.
Excitement surrounding this new era can be attributed in no small part to the cast and crew members responsible for a summer lineup that will include ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ and ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ Last weekend saw the opening of the Tony-nominated Broadway adaptation of ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,’ based on the 1988 film starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine that follows two con-men on the French Riviera as they attempt to woo and swindle wealthy women.
“I grew up in Minneapolis and Don Stoltz was an old friend of my parents, so I knew him my whole life. I came up here in the ninth grade for career day. I knew I wanted to be an actor, so they showed me around,” said Peter Moore, who plays Lawrence Jamieson. “It’s a wonderful show, it’s very funny, it’s very smart, and the part I’m playing is a great part. These are the roles actors like to do because they really give you an opportunity to do a lot.”
The production has unfolded under the skilled eye of artistic director Kent Knutson, whose work became well known to many area families while he directed high school and community shows at the Minnetonka Arts Center over more than a decade.
“I think it’s great that he has lots of big dreams for this place. This is a huge show, along with the next one they’re doing. They don’t usually do these big, Broadway-style musicals and he really wants to bring that to the audiences out here, which I think is great and he’s really passionate about it,” said Eric Morris, who plays Freddy Benson, of working with Knutson. “This show has been on my radar for a really long time. I did a scene from it in a class in college and just knew that I wanted to play this role,” Morris said.
The show features a cast of 18, the largest in the Old Log’s history thus far. Superb acting, singing and dancing from the three principles and the supporting members set the bar high opening night, and Jen Burleigh-Bentz as brassy socialite Muriel Eubanks was particularly delightful. Morris and co-star Kaylyn Forkey shine on the jazzy ballad ‘Nothing is too Wonderful to be True.’
Within the theater itself, the renovation included moving the first few rows of seats back to bring the stage forward, a new sound system and new lighting, and all cast members are now micro-phoned, so that audience members can hear dialogue clearly no matter where they’re sitting. The wooden trusses and general rustic feel of the space that patrons have long loved has been maintained.
The open, spacious lobby includes new restrooms and the preserved fireplace, and the wall it shares with the theater is now soundproof. Of particular interest to those who enjoy dining before the show or grabbing a drink afterward is the beautiful, lounge-like Cast & Cru restaurant off the main lobby, which includes the theater’s first bar, a dining area that can seat 200, a full menu and a friendly staff, and large windows that in the coming months will open onto summer nights on the 11 acres of land ensconcing the theater and its surrounding buildings.
“It’s an exciting time to be working here,” said Forkey, who plays Christine Colgate. “People have always loved it and it’s just going to keep growing, and that’s wonderful. It feels magical out here, as spring is coming. It’s just a beautiful place to come to work every day.”