There are as many Christmas traditions as there are families. Whether your traditions entail hiding a glass pickle ornament somewhere on the tree, baking some esoteric Old World delicacy, or trying desperately to hack off a chunk of some archaic and obstinate fruit cake, we all share the season’s classic songs in common. How nice it is that we all have the same soundtrack just one time a year, even if we all return to our respective Keith Urban, Metallica, and Drake niches come December 26th.This year’s most definitive performance of classic Christmas songs comes from Bill Sorensen and the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation of Medora, ND, a transcontinental rail line town founded in 1883. Medora has held onto their rugged frontier roots to this day, and still looks like a place that Tuco and the Man with No Name would ride into. They are home to the historic Rough Riders Hotel, named in honor of Teddy Roosevelt’s regiment in the Spanish-American War. The town also features several other points of historic interest including the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. They are best known for their Medora Musical, an Old Western act that draws over 110,000 in attendance annually.
The Medora Musical’s nostalgic, rustic style of entertainment has been such a hit that the town’s creatives are taking their show on the road. A Magical Medora Christmas, a touring ensemble of talented performers presenting traditional Christmas songs and family-friendly comedy, is coming to Mandan High School on December 2nd and Belle Mehus Auditorium on December 19th to complement this holiday season.
The show was founded by former Bismarck mayor and long-time performer Bill Sorensen, who bounced back from throat cancer in 2016 to resume emceeing the Medora Musical, his labor of love. Bill does a little magic, gives historical context to the musical numbers, and keeps the evening true to Medora’s 54 years of wholesome Western performances.
The cast of A Magical Medora Christmas is comprised by other long-standing performers from Medora’s musical tradition. Job Christenson, the director of Bismarck’s Sleepy Hollow Theatre, joins talented vocalist and host of the Medora Gospel Brunch Emily Walter to sing holiday classics of recent and old, including Silent Night, White Christmas, Jingle Bells, and a Badlands rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. The duo are joined by Jason Mason, who starred as Jerry Lee Lewis in the 2010 Tony Award winning musical Million Dollar Quartet. The Broadway performer plays the piano, guitar, and ukulele, and certainly knows how to stir up a crowd. Chad Willow, the former associate director of the Medora Musical and leader of the Coal Diggers band for 12 years, will be tickling the ivories and playing the banjo as well.
“A Magical Medora Christmas has the kind of music you would hear echoing against freshly fallen snow as you’re walking home late on Christmas Eve,” said Daniel Gannarelli, marketing specialist for the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. “Our shows are not just about the Old West, but are an homage to the deep-seated sense of community that Medora has fostered for so long. We are the luckiest town in the world that gets to keep our proud North Dakotan history thriving through song and dance. Taking our act on the road to entertain across the Midwest is the culmination of strenuous work and that great fortune we’ve had.”
“We don’t shy away from the reason for the season,” Daniel continued. “This performance will inspire your soul.”
To learn more about the Bismarck and Mandan productions of A Magical Medora Christmas, please visit medora.com.
By David Scheller