This summer, the History Theatre’s Glensheen will return for a second run. Acclaimed local playwright Jeffrey Hatcher and the Suburbs’ Chan Poling wrote the book and music (respectively) for the show, which premiered in October. According to the History Theatre, the reprise comes by popular demand — the show’s original run was nearly entirely sold out, breaking a record for capacity filled at the theater.
The show originated when the History Theatre asked Hatcher to write a play about Duluth’s most infamous murders, and Hatcher recruited Poling to provide the music, saying he would only pursue the project if it could be a musical. The show features “rapier-sharp” dialogue and a “versatile and fleet-footed cast,” Jay Gabler wrote in a review. All seven cast members will reprise their roles in the next run.
Though Poling is best known in the Twin Cities as the Suburbs’ frontman, he wrote scores for the venerable Theatre de la Jeune Lune, and he also studied theater and dance at CalArts. Poling said influences for the show include the scores of Cabaret, Chicago, and Sweeney Todd.
The story is based on true events that occurred in Duluth on June 27, 1977 and subsequently attracted national attention. Police found Elisabeth Congdon, the elderly resident of the Glensheen mansion, smothered to death by a pillow. Because she had suffered a stroke, she required the care of a nurse, 66-year-old Velma Pietila, who evidently had been struck to death with a candlestick. There are no known witnesses. Though one of the suspects was convicted, many elements of the story remain a source of intrigue.
Jackie Renzetti is a student at the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. She’s the projects editor at the Minnesota Daily.