Special Report: Preparing for Performance at the NorShor

After Eight Years of Discussion and Renovations, New Life, New Legacy Takes Center Stage at Dultuh's NorShor Theatre

DULUTH, Minn. – Since 1914, the Duluth Playhouse has managed to captivate audiences from around the world.

Now, they’re hoping a new venue they manage known as the NorShor Theatre, will help attract thousands more to the area for years to come.

Recent revitalization is proving to be meaningful for many as the production of Mamma Mia! takes center stage.

“First impression is it’s beautiful! It’s absolutely incredible,” said opening night attendee TJ Kennedy.

Glitz and glamour took over the red carpet Thursday, February 1, bringing out the best of the best in the Northland.

“I think it’s really exciting for everybody in Duluth,” said Kennedy. “It really brings back some of the historic nature of even one hundred years ago when Duluth was the center of arts and culture for Minnesota.”

Hundreds of folks flooded in to find seats, taking in the sights before the sounds of Abba captivated the crowd.

“I think it’s a huge difference being in an old historic theatre because the theatre brings back all the nostalgia of yesteryear,” said Kennedy.

It took years to kick start the massive project; months to reconstruct and weeks to prepare the cast and crew.

For Director and Choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell, it’s his sixth time directing a performance in Duluth. He’s doing so, in historic fashion.

“This is thrilling,” said Ferrell. “You just feel it when you walk in it. For me it’s an honor. It is an honor and a privilege.”

With twisting and twirling and pep talks filled with belly laughs, Ferrell and his crew have spent countless hours preparing before the curtain opened up on February 1.

“I get to be one of the first people that put my stamp on the show which is thrilling,” said Ferrell.

Ferrell says he’s filled with joy to work with such a talented cast. These actors and actresses performing Mamma Mia! for the first time on stage in Minnesota.

“It’s the regional premier of Mamma Mia!, the rights just got released and so there’s not a lot of places in the community that are doing it,” said Ferrell.

Ferrell, taking part in an exclusive experience while helping put the NorShor back on the map.

“My dad ran this theatre for many, many, many years,” said opening night attendee Marilyn Slattengren.

For Slattengren, purchasing tickets to opening night was an easy decision.

“I’m crying a lot,” said Slattengren.

Happy tears, taking her back to the past.

“It also was a place where my husband and I started going together in 9th grade and we used to spend our Sundays here watching movies,” said Slattengren.

From movie memories to frequent thoughts about her late father, Marilyn is moved to be back in a place where she spent time growing up.

“We pretty much hung upstairs a lot, my husband and I,” said Slattengren.

But the hard work isn’t over yet. A capital campaign still has just over three million dollars more to raise until the space is paid off.

“It’s just so exciting and it’s humbling and I’m so proud to be a part of this restoration,” said Executive and Artistic Director of the Duluth
Playhouse, Christine Gradl Seitz.

A new life many hope will create a new legacy for years to come.

“Thank you to all of you people out there who have brought the NorShor Theatre back,” said Slattengren.

Performances of Mamma Mia! will wrap up on Sunday, February 18.

Throughout the month of March there will be a weekend of bands, and an Andrew Lloyd Webber concert.

The next production at the NorShor Theatre will be “Lend Me a Tenor,” premiering in April.

Click here for more information about the NorShor Theatre.

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