DL native Rico Heisler is... 'All Shook Up'
When Chanhassen Dinner Theater premiered its newest musical "All Shook Up," back in August, the guy playing the lead character of Chad may have looked quite familiar to any Detroit Lakes area residents in the audience.
Rico Heisler gave memorable performances in the Detroit Lakes High School musical productions of "The Music Man" and "Hello Dolly" during his junior and senior years of high school, and as Bernardo in a community theater production of "West Side Story" during the summer following his graduation.
Since graduating from DLHS in 1997, Heisler has continued to pursue his interest in musical theater, even while working toward a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, which he just completed this past spring.
In fact, he postponed taking his bar exam this summer, after he auditioned for -- and won -- the lead role in "All Shook Up."
"I'm an actor at heart," Heisler says.
But as any professional actor will tell you, it's difficult to support a family without having some sort of "day job."
"If you're only looking for a new (acting) job every four to six months, you're doing well," Heisler says. "I decided to go to law school when my wife was expecting our first child."
Though he fully intends to pass his bar exam in February, Heisler says he just couldn't pass up the opportunity to play Chad, which he describes as "my dream role."
"Most people haven't heard of the show -- 'All Shook Up' is still pretty new in the world of musical theater -- but everybody knows all the songs, so as soon as it starts, they feel like they know it already," says Heisler.
But while "All Shook Up" does feature the songs of the late, great Elvis Presley, it's not really a tribute show -- i.e., there are no Elvis impersonators in the cast, as Heisler explains. "It's in the spirit of Elvis, but no one is actually playing Elvis," he says.
As Chad himself proclaims at the beginning of "All Shook Up," his character is "a roving roustabout with a song in his soul and a love for the ladies."
"It's really fun, and the music is great," Heisler says. "It's the best job in the world. I don't ever get tired of it."
The only real drawback, Heisler says, is that he only gets Monday nights off, which means he has to miss out on a lot of family functions.
"My wife is very supportive, but it gets a little tough sometimes," he adds. "I have to take breaks (from acting) every once in a while."
Heisler's wife, as it happens, is also a Detroit Lakes native -- he married former Miss Minnesota Kari Knuttila. They make their home in Hudson, Wis., with their two boys: Silas, 4, and Gideon, 2. Kari is the vocal music director at Hudson High School.
Though they don't get a lot of time to spend together during the weekdays, they are working on a joint project right now -- Hudson High School's fall musical production of "Hello Dolly," in which Kari is the director and Rico is the choreographer.
Rico says taking part in this particular production is like coming full circle -- he and Kari first became involved in a "backstage romance" while they were starring in the DLHS production of "Hello Dolly," 14 years ago.
"We're working on that right now -- the show opens in November," he says. "It's not too bad -- I rehearse with the kids for a few hours after school, then head off to Chanhassen for my show."
He has very fond memories of his days of taking part in the DLHS fall musicals, under the direction of Kathy Larson and Mark Everson (who are also directing this fall's production, "Singin' in the Rain").
"I owe a lot to those two," Heisler says. "One big influence in me pursuing this (a career in musical theater) was my experience in high school...it gave me a big love for what I'm doing now."
How to get tickets
"All Shook Up" is playing in Chanhassen Dinner Theatres' main theater through Jan. 29. Show times are 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. There is also an 11 a.m. show on Saturdays. Call 800-362-3515 for ticket information, or visit chanhassentheatres.com.
Lake Park Audubon Community Education is also sponsoring a trip to see "All Shook Up" at Chanhassen Dinner Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 27. The motor coach bus will leave at approximately 7 a.m. and return at 8 p.m. Trip includes bus, lunch at Chanhassen and the show. Cost is $85. Please call 439-3303 to reserve your spot.
In addition, Detroit Lakes Community Education will be hosting a bus trip to see "All Shook Up" on Saturday, Jan. 22. The motorcoach will leave the parking lot at M State in Detroit Lakes at 7 a.m., and return at 9 p.m. The cost is $95 per person, and includes the bus trip, theater ticket and meal. Registration deadline is Dec. 23.
Call 847-4418 for more information.