Hosts Chet Wollen and Bill Sorensen to lead star-studded Medora Musical cast made up of returning talent, new performers, and several North Dakota natives!
Each year thousands of performers audition at locations in North Dakota, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Florida to find the best talent for the Medora Musical. So let’s meet the cast!
The 2019 Medora Musical, Hosts
Chet Wollan, a Medora favorite is back to host the Medora Musical. Chet (pictured above) is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota but now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with Princess of the Prairie, Candice Lively Wollan.
This will be Chet’s fourth year hosting the Medora Musical and his 13th year starring in the show.
Bill Sorensen will return to the Medora Musical for his “final ride” co-hosting. Bill has been performing in Medora for the past 40 years as a magician, comedian, and entertainer. Don’t miss this dynamic duo together on stage this summer!
One of your old favorites accompanied by some new stars!
Every year the Medora Musical features top-notch entertainers from around the globe to wow the crowd – this year the ‘wow factor’ will be off the charts!
Jack Kalvan & Company | May 31 – June 14
As seen on TV! Sit back and enjoy a ridiculously fun evening with Hollywood’s favorite jugglers!
Jack Kalvan is part mad scientist, part world-class juggler. His wife Jeri is a circus artist and Hollywood stuntwoman. Together with their audaciously talented sons, they’ve created a one-of-a-kind show that ALL ages can enjoy together!
You’ll be on the edge of your seat and rolling on the floor laughing at the same time…if that’s possible!
Breaksk8 | June 15 – June 28
From America’s Got Talent, America’s Best Dance Crew, Shake it Up and more!
This roller skatin’, break dancin’, groovy gang has brought the hype to stages across the nation.
From the NBA to MTV, from Indiana to China and now Medora, this energetic rolling dance crew will bring favorite list Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” to life in an entertaining and fun show for the whole family!
John Cassidy | June 29 – August 10
The balloon master is back and better than ever!
John Cassidy is a professional comedian, magician, and balloon artist who holds several Guinness World Records® for balloon sculpting speed. His records include Most Balloon Sculptures Completed in One Hour and Most Balloon Sculptures Completed in One Minute.
He has appeared numerous times on television as either a stand-up comedian, magician, or as a Guinness Book of Records®celebrity. He has been a guest on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, NBC’s Today Show, and Live with Regis and Kelly!
C. Willi Myles | August 11 – September 7
Get ready to laugh!
Comedian C. Willi Myles, “America’s Everyday Comedian,” has been combing his quick wit and a great sense of humor to deliver one of this country’s most high energy, side-splitting shows for all ages. “Keep ’em laughing” has been C Willi’s goal on the stage over the last 18 years and he isn’t about to stop now.
This standup comic will have Medora Musical fans laughing till the curtain drops on the 2019 season!
Long-time Medora entertainer to co-host the Medora Musical for a final time
(MEDORA, ND) Bill Sorensen is a household name around Medora, and this summer, you’ll get to see him on stage at the Medora Musical one last time, co-hosting for his final season alongside a star-studded cast.
“Medora has been a place of great importance to me. I watched my daughters grow up here, I myself have grown in this place with these people, and whether I’m performing for five people of 2,000 people I am always grateful for the experience,” remarks Bill.
Bill first stepped on stage as co-host in 2013 with Queen of the West, Emily Walter. One of his favorite memories of co-hosting came from him sharing the stage with Emily. One hot night they were performing a scene in which Emily shot his pants off and come to find out he had forgotten to wear his long johns underneath that night – he says he has never seen Emily laugh that hard while on stage.
Bill began a battle with cancer which removed him from the stage for the 2016 season but in 2017 he returned guns a blazin with a new co-host, Chet Wollan. He and Chet have a natural on stage chemistry that is the perfect mix of humorous and playful.
“Sometimes Chet gets this little glimmer in his eye and it reminds me of when he was a little kid and I just think to myself, here we go, we’re going off script,” Bill recalls.
While this is his last season in the Medora Musical, he plans to still be around this awesome little place in different roles. In 2015 he started the hit Magical Medora Christmas show that tours during the holiday season and this summer, he is opening a brand new attraction, “Perception: a Magical Slant House” for kids and families in Medora. Bill’s partner in this attraction is “High Diving Fool”, Don Otto. The two met many years ago when Don was a featured variety act in Medora and they have had the idea for this addition since.
“We both love illusions and tricking the brain and that is exactly what this experience will be. Showing people that their perception is the difference between the truth and what their mind is believing will make this attraction in Medora so much different than anything that already exists there,” says Bill.
Beyond his work in Medora, Bill has held some unique jobs such as his time spent managing boxing champion, Virgil Hill and working with folks like Don King. He founded the Bismarck Wizards Basketball team; and was the Mayor of Bismarck for 12 years.
Bill is excited for his final season as a co-host of the Medora Musical and looks forward to the ways he will continue impacting Medora in the future.
The full cast, band, and featured variety acts of the Medora Musical will be released next week.
Emily Walter has spent a three-decade career traveling the world as a professional vocalist and actor. She’s served as a singer in the U.S. Air Force Band, entertained in shows on cruise ships, and —among many other things — has personified the title of Medora’s “Queen of the West.”
Her first professional job in music materialized after enlisting in the United States Air Force.
“My position as a vocalist with The Strategic Air Command Band was my first full-time singing job. I was just out of college and I never dreamed that I would become a veteran of The Desert Band, performing for the troops in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. It was an incredible honor and my training in the SAC Band critically developed the musical, professional, and disciplinary skills I have to this day. I couldn’t have had better training,” Emily says.
Fast forward to the early 1990s, when Emily wowed fans of the Medora Musical as a Burning Hills Singer best known for crooning Patsy Cline tunes each night under a starry Western sky.
“I sang my first Patsy Cline song on the Burning Hills Amphitheatre stage in 1993. It was ‘Sweet Dreams.’ The response was so overwhelming that the following year, the producer gave me a choice between ‘Crazy’ and ‘She’s Got You.’ I chose the latter,” Emily recalls.
Those successful summers singing Patsy Cline in Medora led to something bigger that holds a major place on Emily’s resume — the Patsy Cline estate named her one of the few entertainers approved to portray Patsy Cline, leading to performance tours across the country and internationally. She continued to perform in a variety of genres and locations, adhering to her personal formula for success: hard work, dedication to her craft, and willingness to travel.
SHE CAME HOME TO NORTH DAKOTA
Emily returned to Medora in 2010 to host the Medora Musical, and the character she portrayed that year soon became a part of her identity for years to come.
“When I returned to Medora nearly two decades after my time as a Burning Hills singer, the producer Curt Wollan and I were talking about me taking the host position in the Medora Musical, and he popped out with, ‘Emily Walter; Queen of the West!’ I loved it from that very moment,” Emily says.
Emily’s “Queen of the West” character combined the elegance of a pageant queen — complete with tiara-clad cowgirl hat and sequined gowns — with the strength of an Air Force veteran and the voice of a Broadway star. Little girls attending the Medora Musical soon started buying and wearing pink cowgirl hats with tiaras, becoming Queens of the West in their own right. “That was my favorite tie to the show…seeing a child walking downtown in their ‘Queen of the West’ hat! I can’t tell you how many photos were taken in those hats. Sometimes they would show up with one they’d had for five years, and it looked so loved,” Emily says.
HER OWN LOVE STORY
And at the current point in her incredible journey, Emily has found herself planting deeper roots in Medora, explaining: “I fell in love with Medora in 1993. I fell in love in Medora in 2011.”
Of her own Medora love story, Emily puts it simply.
“I enjoyed (the traveling performer) life very much, and it enabled me to see the entire world doing what I loved, but when I met Rolf (Sletten) in 2011, I was ready to slow down. The result was that I truly ‘came home to Medora,’” Emily says.
After hosting the Medora Musical for several seasons, Emily took on new challenges as part of the Medora team — helping launch and grow Medora’s popular Gospel Brunch and the Magical Medora Christmas Tour. In addition to these popular Medora productions, Emily continues to pursue other favorite projects including Patsy Cline and Karen Carpenter Tribute shows and performances with the Bismarck/Mandan and Bemidji (Minnesota) Symphony Orchestras.
Whatever musical project she is dedicated to, and wherever travels with Rolf take her, Emily continues to embody the Queen of West role. “It’s just me, that Queen of the West persona,” Emily says. “Me, with close ties to the town, the music, the people, the history, and the legacy that Harold and Sheila Schafer built. Rolf wrote two books about Medora and Theodore Roosevelt. This stunning place is deeply embedded in both of us and it’s great to share that passion together.”
Auditions are coming up at the end of January, don’t miss your chance to star in the Greatest Show in the West, the Medora Musical! Performed live and outside 100 nights in a row this western musical complete with history, live animals, fireworks, and some good ‘ol downhome country music is a show unlike any other!
Last performances of the Medora Musical, and the Medora Gospel Brunch season mark transition to brand-new fall and winter events
(Medora, ND) – The summer season in Medora comes to its wonderful conclusion this Saturday and Sunday when the Medora Musical wraps up September 8 and the Medora Gospel Brunch closes on September 9.
In celebration of finale weekend, TRMF has invited First Responders (police, fire fighters, etc.) and EMS personnel to see the Medora Musical for FREE on either September 7 or September 8.
TRMF marketing and communications specialist, Daniel Gannarelli says, “We’re excited to host First Responders and EMS personnel for free during the last two Medora Musical performances of the year. They serve us so well in their respective capacities. It’s the least we could do.”
Gannarelli continued, “The end of the year is always an exciting time in Medora. It’s fun to serve guests from all over the world who are trying to take in one more show — whether it’s seeing A TR Salute to Medora at the Old Town Hall Theater, the Medora Gospel Brunch or, most typically, catching one more Medora Musical at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre.
Finale weekend in Medora will also feature the 15th Annual Medora Hot Air Balloon Rally and Kite Fest September 7 – 9. This traditional event that brings in photographers and guests from across the region to view the mesmerizing spectacle.
The fun continues after the season finale of the Medora Musical, too.
Bully Pulpit Golf Course remains open through most of the month of October, and enthusiasts can enjoy the Maah Daah Hey Trail and activities in Theodore Roosevelt National Park all year. Additionally, a full schedule of family-friendly events is planned for folks to enjoy the Badlands throughout the fall and winter season.
Many of the events coming from suggestions from guests in Medora, the schedule of entertainment and events is as follows:
The Fall and Winter events schedule is as follows:
September 21 & 22: Church of Cash concert in Medora
September 22 – 27: Maah Daah Hey 150 Mountain Bike Race
September 29: Medora’s Beer and Bacon Event, hosted by Little Missouri Chiropractic
October 26 & 27: Wild West Fright Fest and Haunted House
November 17: Wine and Dine — a Theodore’s Dinning Room Event
November 30 & December 1: A Magical Medora Christmas Show LIVE in Medora (full tour November 24 – December 22)
December 7 – 9: Medora’s Old-Fashioned Cowboy Christmas
December 15: Bold St. Nick’s Fat Bike Race
February 8 & 9: Romance in Medora — a Valentine’s Day Event
Winter Shows at the Old Town Hall Theater — To Be Announced
Gannarelli concluded by saying, “These fall and winter events are the highlights. But folks from all over come to Medora in the fall to explore TR National Park without the crowds… or play Bully Pulpit when it’s at its prettiest.”
“In the winter, many love to snow shoe, cross country ski, ride fat bikes on the manicured trails at Bully Pulpit. With this entertainment lineup added to the mix, there really is more to explore in Medora than ever before.”
Guest can get more information about Medora’s fall and winter events schedule — and purchase tickjets for the Medora shows remaining this summer — at Medora.com.
Many of you may think you know everything there is to know about my dad, Bill Sorensen, as he has been doing shows in Medora for the last 42 years. Here are some facts about him that you may not know.
He is a Songwriter
Bill has written the lyrics to numerous songs, his friend Joel Gilbertson writes the music and Bill adds the lyrics. He has also written some songs with Jared Mason. Those of you who went to the Medora Christmas Show will already know this fact as some of his songs were featured in last years show.
He is the best Valentine’s Day box maker.
On Valentine’s Day our elementary school always had an even where each student would bring in a decorated box to hold all of the Valentines from the other students. The Sorensen girls always had the most elaborate boxes. My favorite was a magic illusion box he made. It was clear on the front so you could see the valentines drop down but they would disappear in the middle and then reappear at the bottom. I got a lot of valentines that year because everyone wanted to figure out how it worked. One of my sisters had computer that used black lights to light up a message on the screen and the valentines went through the floppy disk slot. Some others he made were a puppy dog crate with stuffed animal puppies inside, a robot, and full-sized guitar.
He started his hair on fire during a magic show
When he was 20 years old he was juggling torches in one of his shows, when he accidentally started his hair on fire. He burned off some of the hair and his eyebrows. The best part was the audience thought it was part of the act, and he didn’t notice until he started smelling burnt hair.
He has dyslexia
As a child my dad struggled with his reading and writing skills. My grandma saved some of his schoolwork where he would write a sentence perfectly and then the next sentence would be 100% backwards. You would never be able to tell now, unless you’ve heard his Reddy Toosevelt speech.
His name is a tradition
Bill’s full name is William Hans Sorensen; his dad’s name is Hans William Sorensen; his grandpa’s name is William Hans Sorensen, and his Great Grandpa’s name is Hans William Sorensen. My sisters and I are all happy that he chose not to name one of us Hans.
As a Grand Forks, ND native, Misti Koop is grateful and overjoyed to be returning for her sixth season as a Burning Hills Singer! We caught up with this energetic, fan-favorite hometown girl to get her thoughts on what she’s been up to and the upcoming Medora Musical season!
Fargo, ND native Alyssa Scott is thrilled to be returning to Medora for her second summer as a Burning Hills Singer. We dropped a few questions her way via email and she answered them from her Nashville, TN abode!
The 2018 Medora Musical will feature a new, “family” theme used to tell the story of Theodore Roosevelt and the American West. This year’s Featured Variety Acts will follow right along with that theme – bringing great, family-friendly variety entertainment to the second half of each night’s Medora Musical.
Three comedians — including notable returner, Kermit Apio — will be joined by a renowned jump rope acrobatic stunt team, Flight Crew — who received rave reviews and standing ovations during their time in Medora in 2016.
Guests can see the Medora Musical Featured Variety Acts during the dates below: