“Sweet Land” at Taproot Theatre tells story of Norwegian immigrant
By Lindsay Peyton
The play on stage at Taproot Theatre seems to spring right out of the nearby Nordic Museum.
“Sweet Land” tells the story of a Norwegian immigrant Olaf Torvik, played by Tyler Todd Kimmel, who is building a new home and family, in the midst of discrimination from local townspeople.
The only difference between the play and similar experiences depicted in the exhibits at the Nordic Museum is the setting. “Sweet Land” takes place in Minnesota.
Taproot Theater is currently presenting the West Coast premiere of the musical, with book by Perrin Post and Laurie Flanigan Hegge, music by Dina Maccabee and lyrics by Laurie Flanigan Hegge. The show toured around Minnesota before making its way to the Pacific Northwest.
The musical is based on the film “Sweet Land” by Ali Selim and the short story “A Gravestone Made of Wheat” by Will Weaver.
The play runs at Taproot, 204 N 85th St, through Aug. 18.
The show opens with Lars Torvik, our hero’s grandson played by Eric Dobson, debating whether to sell his family’s homestead and the items inside.
Then, the setting flashes back to the past, where heroine Inge Altenberg, played by Molli Corcoran. Originally from Germany, she has been working as Olaf’s parents’ maid in Norway. Now she has crossed the sea to marry a man she has never met, not speaking any English to help her along the way.
Still, Inge is determined to have a happy ending. The town, however, is suspicious about a German moving in and prejudiced against the young woman. The church and community abandon the couple—and they must learn to find their own way.
“Every place has a story,” after all, as stated in one of the refrains.
Another line that stood out to me was “And we hope what came before us was a story born of love.”
The lyric seems to speak to the love story of the two grandparents Olaf remembers. It also seems to be a request. This is a tale of immigration, of becoming American.
Ultimately, it’s about coming together despite our differences.
The musical features Jenny Cross as Gail and Esther, Hugh Hastings as Pastor Sorenson, Pam Nolte as mother and Anna, April Poland as Marta “Brownie” Frandsen, Chris Shea as Alvin Frandsen, Daniel Stoltenberg as auctioneer and Michael Winters as Harold and the station agent.
The musicians make the show, providing the melodies to keep the story moving. Michael Matlock plays piano and serves as conductor. Dexter Stevens is on reeds, Emily Ravenscraft on violin and Leah Pogwizd on pass.
Karen Lund serves as director, Michael Nutting, as music director, Marie Morache as assistant director, Michael Matlock, as assistant music director, Katy Tabb as choreographer, Annie Szeliski as stage manager, Annika Bennett as dramaturg and Katya Landau as dialect coach.
Designers include Mark Lund in scenic and sound, Kelly McDonald in costumes and Amanda Sweger in lighting.
For tickets or more information, visit taproottheatre.org.
Should be good. I loved the movie.