Ipswich Tribune -

Magical Medora Christmas tour coming to Ipswich


November 7, 2018

Courtesy photo

Chad Willow, Emily Walter and Jared Mason perform during last year's Magical Medora Christmas tour.

"It's a Gift" is the theme as the magic of Medora takes to the road for a fourth holiday travelling show with stops in 24 communities including a 4 p.m. Nov. 25 show at Ipswich High School.

This year's show, featuring five popular performers with many years of experience at Medora's Burning Hills Amphitheater, will include 31 performances at 24 venues in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota.

"The popularity of this show demonstrates people in the upper Midwest still thirst for good, old-fashioned family-style entertainment," said Bill Sorensen, host of the Medora Musical, who five years ago hatched the idea of taking Medora-style performances on the road during the holiday season.

In addition to Sorensen, "It's a Gift" will feature former Medora Musical hosts Emily Walter and Job Christenson, yodeler extraordinaire Jared Mason, and Chad Willow, longtime band leader at the Medora Musical.

"The Magical Medora Christmas show is an extension of Medora's allure," said Randy Hatzenbuhler, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. "We thought it would be a one-year thing, but people so enjoyed it that there are more communities asking for the show than we can get to."

Crew member Rolf Sletten says he's proud to be part of a show that brings great Christmas entertainment to thousands of people.

"It's a huge amount of work," Sletten says, "but the incredible response from the audience makes it all worthwhile. It's very fun to share Medora with so many appreciative people".

The show will feature the musical talents of Mason, Walter, Christenson and Willow, and the comedy and magic talents of Sorensen. All five have appeared as featured performers of the acclaimed Medora Musical, and they all have long resumes of entertainment experience. Among other things, Christianson and Mason have both appeared in shows on Broadway.

Walter, known as "The Queen of the West," was host of the Medora Musical from 2010 to 2015 and for three years has hosted the popular Medora Gospel Brunch. She is one of a select group approved by the Patsy Cline Estate to portray Patsy Cline, and will soon be featured in "Always Patsy Cline" at the New River Valley Regional Theater in Pulaski, Va. Walter was the lead vocalist in the US Air Force Strategic Air Command Band and served in the "Desert Band" during Desert Shield/Storm. She has worked with such stars as Bob Hope, Lee Greenwood and John Denver. She counts it as "a great thrill" to perform at Norsk Hostfest with the Medora Gospel Experience, and in February she'll resume the tribute show "We've Only Just Begun – Songs of the Carpenters," in Mesa, Ariz. Walter also spent several years as a featured vocalist performing on cruise ships all over the world, and doing jingle/commercial work.

Jared Mason says he is grateful for nine "glorious" seasons as a performer in Medora. "Had it not been for his experiences in North Dakota, he would not have landed a part in the international percussion sensation STOMP. He also credits his Medora experience for leading to the roles of Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning "Million Dollar Quartet." In addition, his Album of the Year winner at the Los Angeles Music Awards features songs that were composed in the North Dakota Badlands. Mason lives with his wife and three sons in Nashville, where he has several musical projects in the works.

Actor, singer, dancer and playwright Job Christenson, a native of Grand Forks, N.D., has hosted the Medora Musical and starred on Broadway. "Job is one of the finest singers North Dakota has ever produced," said Curt Wollan, long-time producer of the Medora Musical. "He has an incredible soaring tenor voice." Christenson performed as an actor in Cats, Ragtime, JCS, Joseph, and Billy Elliot, among others. He did numerous benefits and voice overs in New York, then worked in Chicago doing productions at Marriott Lincolnshire and Chicago Shakespeare. For six years he was artistic director of the N.D. Ballet Company and Apprentice School and Crimson Creek Players. He lives in New York and is studying for a master's degree in playwriting. He continues as artistic and development director for Sleepy Hollow Theatre and Arts Park in Bismarck, and is working on a play trilogy about North Dakota.

Bill Sorensen has served as co-host of the Medora Musical for five years, and for three years, he has been the featured speaker in the Medora Gospel Brunch. Sorensen produced and appeared in the 4M Review variety show in Medora for 30 years. This is his fourth year producing and starring in the Magical Medora Christmas shows. As a magician, juggler and public speaker he has performed over 5,000 shows nationwide. Sorensen served in the N.D. House of Representatives and as mayor of Bismarck, N.D.

Minnesotan Chad Willow joined the Magical Medora Christmas Tour in 2017 as pianist, singer, and banjo player. "As associate musical director of the show and leader of the Coal Diggers band for 12 Medora Musical season, I have experienced incredible adventures from my time in this little town tucked away in the North Dakota Badlands," he says. He produced and recorded a vocal bluegrass record entitled Scarecrow, with musicians from the Medora Musical bandstand stage.

This year the Magical Medora Christmas tour stops in 15 communities in North Dakota, one in Montana, six in Minnesota and two in South Dakota. Tickets are available now at http://www.medora.com. Tickets will also be available at locations in the host communities.

Forum Communications and the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation are sponsoring the tour.


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