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Holmes gives sneak peek at new season

DETROIT LAKES - It may have been "top secret" up to now, but the Historic Holmes Theatre has finally lifted the curtain for a little sneak peek at its 2008-09 season.

Though season tickets won't go on sale until early August, and individual show tickets a few weeks after that, Holmes Theatre executive director Amy Stoller Stearns is hoping to generate a little "buzz" by giving the public an early glimpse into what's in store.

Now entering its sixth year of operation, the Historic Holmes Theatre attracts over 40 percent of its audience from 20-plus miles away, making it "a truly regional theater," she noted.

As such, its shows have become increasingly diversified, offering everything from touring musical theater shows for area school children to cabaret shows featuring some of the region's best talent to nationally and internationally acclaimed musicians and performing arts groups.

Part of the reason for the strength of its lineup, Stearns notes, has been its season sponsors, the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation, Arvig Communications Systems and City of Detroit Lakes, as well as local businesses and individuals that have underwritten various shows and series during the season.

"We would like to say thanks to all of them," Stearns said, noting that they have all contributed to the theater's success through the years.

Starting with a Sept. 21 comedy performance of Tim Behrens' one man show, "A Fine and Pleasant Misery: The Comedy of Patrick F. McManus," and ending with the April 25 (2009) musical stylings of Steve Lippia's "Simply Sinatra," the Holmes Theatre's sixth season promises to be one of its most intriguing and varied to date.

Along the way, the Holmes' Showcase Series of classic national and international acts will be interspersed with "the best in local music, theater, dance, visual arts and special events," otherwise known as the BTD Community Connections Series.

This series will include not only the popular Thursday Cabaret Nights (October-March) in the Holmes Ballroom and the Tuesdays in the Park (June-August) outdoor concerts, but also a Daddy's Little Sweetheart Dance, Mother/Son Football Frenzy and Ghoulish Grandparents' Tea.

Each of these three events, Stearns noted, is intended to celebrate different family connections, between fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, grandparents and grandchildren.

And let's not forget the debut of Detroit Lakes' new community theater group, the Summit Avenue Players, who will present Agatha Christie's classic murder mystery, "The Mousetrap," Feb. 28-March 8 (2009).

"It will be along the lines of Playhouse 412 (Detroit Lakes' now-defunct community theater group, which merged operations with the Holmes a couple of years ago), but it's a new group," Stearns emphasized.

But what about the kids, you ask? The Holmes Theatre's Discovery Series will return, with four all-new musical theater shows geared toward area students, families and "children of all ages." The fun begins on Sept. 25 with two performances of "James & the Giant Peach," based on the Roald Dahl children's book.

There are also several comedy "Extras" planned, along with an exciting new performance series known as "The Edge."

The "Extras" are three special comedy shows not included in any of the theater's four main performance series, starting with the "Mama's Night Out" comedy show on Nov. 7. Also planned are "Sister's Christmas Catechism," the third installment of the popular "Late Nite Catechism" series, on Dec. 13; and an appearance by the New York City-based improv group "Chicago City Limits" on Jan. 8, 2009.

New this year, "The Edge" performance series will feature three contemporary, edgy musical acts, starting with Minneapolis singer-songwriter Tim Mahoney in November. The series will continue early in 2009, with a January appearance by the acclaimed a capella vocal band, InPulse, of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The series concludes on April 17 with an appearance by Storyhill, an acoustic folk-pop duo with roots in Montana but "deep Minnesota connections."

"We will be having a 'pre-party' before each of these shows," Stearns said of the 'Edge' series. "It will be a sort of a social gathering in the ballroom, followed by the concert in the theater."

That's all well and good for next season, you might be thinking -- but what about now?

The Holmes Theatre will not stay dark through the dog days of summer, Stearns noted.

"We are planning at least one big show each month," she said.

In fact, this coming week will be especially busy, as pianist Lorie Line makes a return visit to Detroit Lakes for a Sunday, June 15 Father's Day Concert, starting at 3 p.m. Tickets are now on sale at the Holmes Theatre Box Office for $38. For more information, call the Holmes Box Office at 218-844-SHOW (7469) or visit on the Web. Tickets may be purchased online, by phone or at the theater.

The following Monday, June 16, the Fort Bend Boys Tour Choir will give a special, free concert in the theater, starting at 7 p.m.

The Tour Choir is one of five performing ensembles within the Fort Bend Boys Choir of Texas. They will be touring Minnesota from June 9-23. The Tour Choir is considered the best of the best, singing well in various styles. They are a nationally recognized touring choir that has sung for three presidents, performed in 11 separate countries and have generally been well respected everywhere they go. While in Minnesota they will have joint events with the Land of Lakes Choirboys, Minnesota Boychoir, Metropolitan Boys Choir and St. John's Boychoir. For more information, visit their Web site at or call the Holmes Theatre Box Office, 218-844-SHOW (7469).

The following week, from June 23-28, the Missoula (Mont.) Children's Theatre returns to Detroit Lakes for another weeklong artist residency. They will work with area youth in grades 1-12 to present "The Wiz of the West," a twist on the classic tale, "The Wizard of Oz."

On July 18, in conjunction with the Northwest Water Carnival, the theater will host a performance of the "Spanish Juerga" by flamenco guitarist Michael Hauser and dancers of the Zorongo Dance Company, at the DL Pavilion. The juerga, or fiesta, is a night filled with music, dance and food.

Finally, pianist and clarinet player Butch Thompson -- formerly of Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion," where he served as house pianist for 12 years -- will bring his combination of early jazz piano music, blues and pop tunes along with idiomatic, original compositions to the Holmes stage on Aug. 21.