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'The Legend of Paul Bunyan the Musical' to be presented

BEMIDJI--There may be other communities within or without Minnesota, like Maine or Michigan, who claim Paul Bunyan for their own but we in Bemidji know that our Paul Bunyan and Babe are the first statues built in their honor, back in 1937. In fact, this whole year has been spent celebrating the 75th birthday of Paul Bunyan. It's hard to believe that 25-years could pass so quickly since Paul's 50th. And some people who are involved with Bemidji's year-long celebration can recall their children being a part of the celebrations at that time.

"When I was asked by Cindy Habedank of Visit Bemidji, to direct and produce a play this summer as part of the celebration," said Belleveau," I searched high and low for a script and finally found the original one.

Cate Belleveau found an old, beaten-up script, typewritten, from when her children Caleb and Genevieve were in the show. The Belleveau and (Carol) Olson children performed together to the delight of their parents, friends and relatives but this year's play would need an up-dated version.

After extensive on-line research, Belleveau was only able to find a short play written by a Verna Safran from Florida. In fact, the play was only performed four or five times and there was no music per se, only a melody line.

"Due to the genius of Wayne Hoff who worked so hard to complement the melody line," said Belleveau, "we now have songs for the players."

Belleveau also discovered during her research that the earliest citings of Paul Bunyan and his exploits were from stories from the French-Canadian loggers, a rough and tumble bunch of men.

Eric Callagan, a mere 6-foot-four-inches, will portray Bunyan. It is Callagan's first time on stage and he will be joined by other first-timers: from the Cass Lake area, Llewelun Grayhawke as Babe the Blue Ox and James Siems as the classic evil business owner.

Meghan Dougherty will portray Bunyan's girl friend, Carrie McGinty; the rough and tough Brimstone Billy will be played by Allie Papke-Larson and Ivan Smith does a remarkable Swedish accent for the blacksmith.

All of the characters are costumed by Karen Bradley and the set was designed and built by Al and Cate Belleveau with some artwork by MaryTherese Peterson.

Belleveau promises a good time for all by her 17 actors ranging in age from 4th grade to post college. The show is priced so that entire families can go together and enjoy the story of Paul Bunyan because of a grant received from the Region 2 Arts Council.

If You Go:

"The Legend of Paul Bunyan the Musical," in celebration of the 75th Birthday of Paul and Babe, a Mask and Rose Theater production.

Performance times are 7:30 Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Place: Bemidji High School Auditorium, 2900 Division St. West.

Tickets: $15 for a family, $8 for adults and $6 for students (k through 12) and seniors.

Tickets may be purchased ahead of time at Brigid's Cross Irish Pub and Restaurant in downtown Bemidji. They may also be purchased at the door starting one hour before show times.