Before writing Deal! The Musical, Tom Broadbent was a local songwriter with a collection of family memories. As he reflected on his past, he realized his family, like many, had a rich history waiting to be shared.
Teaming with playwright Jerry Seifert, director Joshua James Campbell, and producer Krut Larson, the crew turned Broadbent’s collection of memories into a timeless story about a rural Minnesotan family in the 1950s and ‘60s, struggling to stick together.
The play, which premiered April 20 at the Ritz Theatre in Northeast, follows the family of Art and Elsie Swenson, over a generation, through their ups, downs and weekly poker game.
The poker table, which never leaves the stage, is the pivotal symbol of the family’s love for one another and demonstrates the importance of getting together.
“Love is what you do in this family. In spite of hurt, regret, tragedy and triumph, these folks got together and played cards every week,” Broadbent said.
Over the years, they struggle not only with the hardships of renting a farm and trying to make ends meet, but also with changing times and generational differences.
As Art and Elsie Swenson, played by acting duo Jon Hegge and Laurie Hegge, raise their two daughters, the children want more. Generational differences in ambitions and aspirations start to hurt the family. Elsie, who left school at 14 to work, struggles with her own insecurities as her daughter Julie heads to college.
The play depicts that even though their relationship is strained, they manage to heal over time. Campbell said it is delightful to watch the characters progress, struggle and love.
“This is a real slice of what life was like in early 1960s in small town in Minnesota, producer Kurt Larson said. “It is an ageless story of family dynamics tied together with great music.
Original theatre-style songs like “Your Love Takes Me There,” and “Wings on Backwards” carry the play between comical and poignant moments.
Hegge said the story is relatable, and expects people to be reminded of their own families.
“All families have their ups and downs,” Hegge said. “Its kind of how you stick together through them that defines the midwestern ethic that I think everyone can relate to.”
The cast of eight is small, but bring the characters to life. Besides the Hegges, the cast includes Catherine Battocletti, Kim Kivens, David Roberts, Lizzie Schwarzrock, Aly Westberg and Max Wojtanowicz.
Larson, who has been working on the play for more than two years, said the cast is just right for this show.
“It’s amazing to see the written word on the page come to life through the actors,” Larson said. “There are scenes that make me cry, others that bust me up laughing.”
Larson hopes that the audience will walk away humming the tunes and tapping their feet.
Alison Henderson is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.
Want to go?
Deal! The Musical runs from until May 6 at the Ritz Theatre, 345 13th Ave. NE. Tickets are $29 and can be purchased by calling 612-436-1129 or going online to www.dealthemusical.com.