Preview: West Coast Premiere Of Sweet Land The Musical At Taproot Theatre

Molli Corcoran and Tyler Todd Kimmel in Sweet Land the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

The Midwest comes to the Northwest as Taproot Theatre presents the West Coast Premiere of Sweet Land The Musical a heart-warming new production.

Based on the 2006 indie film Sweet Land by Ali Selim and the short story “A Gravestone Made of Wheat” by Will Weaver, Sweet Land tells the immigrant farmer experience in Minnesota. The musical’s book is by Perrin Post and Laurie Flanigan Hegge, music by Dina Maccabee, and lyrics by Laurie Flanigan Hegge. Taproot’s Associate Artistic Director Karen Lund directs…  

Although Sweet Land is set a century ago, it has contemporary parallels– the hate and fear of someone perceived as the enemy–cultural separation versus community. Also acceptance and seeing beyond yourself, and realizing where your fears and hatred come from.  

Sweet Land the Musical centers on the story of Inge Altenberg, who crosses a sea and half a continent to arrive in southern Minnesota in 1920 to marry Olaf Torvik, a man she’s never met. But trouble looms. Turns out she’s from war-torn Germany, following the Great War, where many of Olaf’s friends and neighbors lost their sons. She is not well received. In fact, the pastor passes the harshest judgement and refuses to marry them. Ultimately, it takes a crisis to change the course. 

Molli Corcoran, Jenny Cross, Tyler Todd Kimmel and Hugh Hastings in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Molli Corcoran, Jenny Cross, Tyler Todd Kimmel and Hugh Hastings in Sweet Land, the Musical at Taproot Theatre. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

Maccabee’s music ranges from folksy to romantic. Hegge’s song titles are homespun—“You Took a Bath,” “Ducks Dream” and “Call Me Inge Torvik,” among others. The soulful score is reminiscent of Aaron Copland and Jerome Moross (mentored by Copeland). The folk-infused tunes offer insights into character’s minds. Listen for the strains of the violin, the cello, and the piano. Then add woodwinds, guitar, flute, and accordion, and you might start dancing the Schottishe (pronounced schot·tische), one of the oldest of all dances combining two movements—a slow polka and a circular hop.  

This small-scale musical may remind you of the little village of Anatevka in Fiddler on the Roof, while its mix of blunt truth and creamy nostalgia brings to mind Oklahoma!.  But Sweet Land also reflects a farming community in a specific space and time when the forces of oppression intimidate the little person trying to find a niche.  

Molli Corcoran and Tyler Todd Kimmel costar as Inge Altenberg and Olaf Torvik Director Lund has been at the helm for several Taproot productions. She led the new musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion for Taproot’s last season. Additionally, she’s directed the musicals Godspell, A Charlie Brown Christmas and Jane Eyre in recent years. 

The Cast of Sweet Land The Musical 

CAST (in alphabetical order)
Molli Corcoran                        Inge Altenberg
Jenny Cross                            Gail/Esther/Ensemble
Eric Dobson                            Nelson/Ensemble
Hugh Hastings                        Pastor Sorenson
Tyler Todd Kimmel                 Olaf Torvik/Lars Torvik
Pam Nolte                               Mother/Anna/Ensemble
April Poland                             Marta “Brownie” Frandsen
Chris Shea                              Alvin Frandsen
Daniel Stoltenberg                  Auctioneer/Ensemble
Michael Winters                      Station Agent/Harold/Ensemble  

MUSICIANS
Michael Matlock                     Conductor/Piano
Dexter Stevens                       Reeds
Emily Ravenscraft                  Violin
Leah Pogwizd                         Bass 

The Production Team
Karen Lund                             Director
Michael Nutting                       Music Director
Katy Tabb                               Choreographer
Mark Lund                               Scenic & Sound Design
Kelly McDonald                       Costume Design
Amanda Sweger                     Lighting Design
Marie Morache                        Assistant Director
Michael Matlock                      Assistant Musical Director
Annie Szeliski                         Stage Manager
Annika Bennett                       Dramaturg
Katya Landau                         Dialect Coach 

Sweet Land, The Musicalruns July 11 – August 18, 2018 at Taproot Theatre Company’s Jewel Mainstage Theatre.  Wed/Thur, 7:30 PM; Fri/Sat, 8:00 PM; Sat matinee, 2:00 PM. There is no evening performance on July 25 due to the Greenwood Seafair Parade, a 7:30 PM performance has been added on July 24. Single tickets are available online at taproottheatre.org, by phone 206.781.9707 or in person at 204 N 85th St. Discounts are available for groups of 8 or more by calling 206.781.9708 or by visiting taproottheatre.org/group-sales. Age Recommendation: 12+ 

Special Dates For The Audience 

Post-Play Discussions: TTC staff and cast members will join the audience to discuss the play and its production process. Post-play discussions are held after every Wednesday performance (excluding Preview) and after the Midweek Matinee performance on July 17 at 2:00 PM (limited availability). 

Pay What You Can (PWYC): July 18 at 7:30 PM; a limited number of $10 tickets are available at noon, tickets may be purchased in person or by phone (card fees may apply). Beginning at 5:00 PM, tickets are name-your-own-price; these tickets may be purchased in person only. Limit 4 tickets per person. Seating for PWYC performances is General Admission, there is no reserved seating. If you have accessible seating needs please call the Box Office directly. 

Senior Matinee: July 17 (post-play discussion,limited availability); Our Senior Matinee program provides anyone aged 62 and older with an affordable way to participate in live theatre in convenient daytime performance. 

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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