Iron Range singer-songwriter Paul Metsa’s critically acclaimed memoir Blue Guitar Highway will be adapted for the stage. Jim Stowell—an influential Minnesota writer, teacher, and actor—has adapted Metsa’s 2011 book into Blue Guitar Highway—The Musical.
The onstage adaptation will star Metsa himself and will include collaborations with renowned artists such as Willie Walker, Mari Harris, and Sonny Earl. Metsa will also use the show to debut “Six Roses,” an original song recorded with Scarlet Rivera, as well as a music video shot for his song “Slow Justice.” Metsa has written some new tunes for the show and rearranged old ones.
Metsa has been hailed by many as a great storyteller. Blue Guitar Highway recounts his childhood, coming of age in the 1970s, and joining the Minneapolis music scene in the mid-80s. Notable episodes in the memoir involve Jerry Garcia and psychedelic mushrooms, the death of Metsa’s mother on an operating table, and a quest to save the original Guthrie Theater from demolition.
Aside from his solo musical career, Metsa regularly plays with soul legend Willie Walker and started the Paul Metsa Soul and Blues Revue, a six-piece acoustic group. The seven-time Minnesota Music Award winner is also the host of a weekly Saturday radio program called the Wall of Power Radio Hour, featuring musical guests and talk on AM950 KTNF. He’s shared a stage with Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger, performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Bob Dylan, Dennis Hopper, and Joey Ramone.
Jim Stowell has been writing, acting, directing and producing theater in the Twin Cities for 40 years. He’s won a number of awards including Best Performance (Twin Cities Reader), Golden Plaque for Talking Pictures (Chicago International Film Festival), and the Kudos Award. He’s written and performed 11 one-man plays and 12 full-cast plays. His plays have been performed in settings including Instituto del Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; a mountain village in Guatemala; the Goodman Theater in Chicago; and the Guthrie Theater.
Blue Guitar Highway—The Musical will premiere at the Phoenix Theatre (the Hennepin Avenue space in Uptown formerly occupied by the Brave New Workshop) for two nights on Dec. 26 and 27. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Below, Metsa performs at Farm Aid in 1992—an experience he writes about in his book.
Brenda Tran is a student at the University of Minnesota.