BEMIDJI-Knights in shining armor! (Well, one knight). Fire breathing dragons! (Well, maybe not fire breathing but smoke does come out of the dragon's ears and they do light up)! Baby dragons and puppets! Suspense! Intrigue! Mysterious creatures of the forest!

All of these elements come alive in Bemidji Community Theater's upcoming production of "The Reluctant Dragon" at the historic Chief Theatre on March 29-31 and April 5-7, with special school matinees on April 2 and 3.

Written by Gary P. Cohen and Mark Baron and set in the medieval fairytale village of Tea 'N' Crumpet, "The Reluctant Dragon" tells the tale of Joie Bishop (played by Maggie Loxtercamp), a young girl whose love of dragons and inquisitive nature force her to venture off in search of a dragon who has reportedly been terrorizing the countryside, much to the chagrin of her worrying parents (Mary Anderson and Michael Verdugo).

However, as told by the storyteller narrator (Faith McIntyre), this particular dragon, named Dennis D. Dragon (played by Brandt Johnson) is not a bit like the ones in fairy tales. Even though the villagers believe dragons are a danger and must be abolished, this dragon wouldn't hurt a fly and is more than content to write poetry and lazily lie in the sun outside his cave. He certainly doesn't want to fight. Dennis, along with five teen-aged singing, all-dancing dragonettes (Sophie Hordichok, Hope McIntyre, Tatiana Johnson, Megan Coon, Aiyanna Beaulieu) and five baby dragon fledglings (Benji Schoneck, Finn Jorgensen, Barbara Dolson, Kylie Loso, Mercy McIntyre), have made a home in the hills above Joie's village. They all soon become friends and their lives seem idyllic until the mayor of the village (Tucker Iverson) hires a dragon-slaying knight and his squire (Branden Beaulieu and Aaron Cobb) to hunt down Dennis-then it's up to Joie to secure a "happy ending."

With a cast of 33, this family friendly musical, suitable for all ages, involves nine combinations of mother/son, mother/father/daughter, father/daughter, father/daughter/son, or siblings. The production is directed by Mary Knox-Johnson with vocal direction handled by Julie and Paul Loxtercamp, accompaniment by Carla Norris-Raynbird, choreography by Krista Grover, technical direction by Dwayne Johnson, and scenic painting by Gregg Wilimek and Dian Elizabeth Smith. Special costuming has been built by guest master puppeteer Ezra Bartsch to lend reality to the dragons.

As part of its Playing It Forward Program and to promote literacy, Bemidji Community Theater will once again be giving away free books to every child who comes to see the production. If you are willing to donate new or slightly used children's books suitable for kindergarten through high school aged youth, drop them off at Gallery North Art Gallery, 310 Fourth St. NW, between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Shows are at 7 p.m. on March 29 and 30 and April 5 and 6, and at 2 p.m. on March 31 and April 7. Tickets are available at Iverson Corner Drug and Ken K. Thompson Jewelry at $6 for children, $12 for seniors, and $15 for adults, or at the door pending availability one hour before show time.