The backdrop and scenery in the surrounding area only adds to the spectacle of the musical that takes place in Medora North Dakota. The cast is so energetic and enthusiastic to be performing, the band is great and the fiddler is awesome, he plays a solo that is great.
The Medora Musical is at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre in Medora, North Dakota, just off of I-94. It is about forty miles from the North Dakota Montana border along I-94. The musical runs from the first Sunday of June to the last Sunday of September and is at 8:30 MDT. The pitch fork fondue starts at 6:00 pm and both are on every night of the week. You can find out more about prices and reservations here: http://www.medora.org/today/musical.asp
The musical has been performing for 40 years now, and shows absolutely no sign of slowing down, with over two million audience members being entertained to date. The musical started in 1965 after local volunteers made the Burning Hills Amphitheatre by carving it out of the local rocky hillside.
Harold Schafer originally purchased the amphitheatre in 1965 and has owned it till 1986 when he created the non-profit Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation, when he gifted the amphitheatre, land and the production to the non-profit foundation. The show has been going on since, even through accidents and personal loss.
On opening night the show was interrupted by an accident when the host of the show, Wade Westin got his foot caught between the pillar he was standing on and one of the rolling buildings that is used as a stage prop, it rolls in and out on railroad tracks.
According to a vendor in town his ankle was bruised, being rushed to the hospital in Bismarck for the checkup. He was on stage the next night, though, in crutches. He is a true entertainer and proves that the show must go on, when he was being carried off stage, he yelled to the audience, “Cowboy up!” and another took his place for the evening even though he had not performed since the seventies.
Another tragedy befell the Medora Musical and the Old west side kick barber, Mike Long. His fiancé had been visiting the musical and Mike when she was in a car accident on her return home and was killed. Mike went home for several days for her funeral and until his return the part was written out, people of the performance were unsure of what was going to happen until he returned and insisted on performing.
A gospel song was performed by featured vocalist Lisa Layne and a few of the singers to honor the recent passing of a fellow member of the musical who had past away recently. The song was a beautiful tribute to the fellow performer and was another tribute to the dedication these performers have for the show and their fellow artists.
The show is a continuing tribute to our nations 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, who was a rancher in the badlands of North Dakota in the late 1880’s. He said when elected as President, “I never would have been president if it had not been for my experience in North Dakota.” Today he has made possible the preservation and continued enjoyment of these national treasures by encouraging Congress to pass legislation setting aside these lands as our National Parks and Forests.
In the show the President is played by two actors, Ray Anderson and veteran rider Lyle Glass. Ray Anderson quotes Theodore Roosevelt during the stage performance and does a remarkable job, while Lyle Glass is the performer on horse back during the reenactments of Colonel Roosevelt’s battle of San Juan on July 1, 1898.
The show has several distinct parts to it, the singers dance and sing in between the comic routines of the host, Gentleman Wade, Wade Westin and his Old West Sidekick Barber, Mike Long. The show has the tribute parts to Theodore Roosevelt and encourages people to understand and honor the great accomplishments of an American Legend. Then there is the special featured attractions, in our case we were so happy we had picked the date, The Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats.
The first routine by the acrobats was with two dragons, actually four people as two dragons, one being the head and front legs as the other was the back legs and, uh, hind end of the mythical beast. The dragons galloped around the stage and performed stunts under the direction of their master, even sitting up, begging, and doing flips off a small stage. It was truly incredible when you realized the whole time that it was two people having to coordinate their movements and such with the second person holding the hips of the first.
The next routine was two men who did some balancing with each other, they would use one as a base and the other would hold on to him in various ways that sometimes had everyone in the audience wondering about how much it hurt.
My sons are really into magic, clowning and starting to get interested in juggling and tricks of this sort. The Chinese acrobats do just this to a scale and degree that takes a lifetime of dedication to master. They do juggling, twirling and catching of a thing called a Diablo, which is two cones connected at the points that spins like a Yo-Yo on a string between two sticks. My son has one of these and has started to master it but to see these professionals perform so easily and with such precision is spectacular.
Their next routine was a man flipping and balancing first one then two pots and then a third larger one, he would flip the pots on his shoulders, head and into the air and catch them on his head. The two pots were about foot and a half tall and the same around, but the bigger pot was about four feet tall and four feet around. You could tell they weigh a good deal by the way he threw them into the air, about fifteen to twenty feet in some cases, only to catch them not with his hands but with his shoulders
They also did a routine during the second part of their show that had one man stacking chairs on top of each other and balancing on top of them, about eight chairs stacked up on a small stage. That made it about twenty feet in the air with him standing on the sides of each chair as he balanced and stacked them up, getting each chair handed to him by his fellow acrobats, including the higher ones handed up using a pole.
We truly enjoyed both performances by the Chinese Golden Dragon Acrobats, and have been motivated to see more of them. They are going to be touring the US and performing elsewhere soon. Maybe you can catch one of their performances, it would be something truly spectacular to behold.
During the show, the band plays throughout, the Coal Diggers, featuring Matty Weaver, Mark Baczynski, Chad Willow, D.J. Phillips, Boo Miller and Andy Carrol. They are a great band and Mark Baczynski plays a great solo during a song called the Orange Blossom Special. They whole band pays very well and is a great accompaniment to the show.
The Burning Hill Singers sing and dance not only country western but some rock and roll, one hit featuring an Elvis song that was a bit rewritten. They hail from all over the country and are working together so well that small incidents don’t seem to bother the show.
Something happened during the first parts of the show but was not very noticeable, one girl sang the first part by herself but was later joined by her partner. This was not the usual as during the dancing some of it was definitely supposed to be with a partner, but as I mentioned before, the show must go on. I noticed an ambulance go between some of the back stage during the first part of the show and could only hope that no one had gotten hurt or seriously injured. But the show continued and later the girl was joined by her partner so it continued.
The entire performance was exceptional, and well worth the high cost of $28, less for students and kids. We did not go to the pitch fork fondue that is before the show as we were unsure if we could make it in time and that was a bit much to pay for a meal, maybe another year we will get to add that to our vacationing fun.
I would highly recommend that if you are going to take a trip anywhere near the Badlands of North Dakota and the town of Medora, that you go to the Medora Musical. It is a great time and so much fun, regardless of which featured attractions you catch, they put on a great show and are real professionals in their production.