Visit to St. Croix Off Broadway was a revelation

'Boeing Boeing' cast

Hudson native Kelsey Hansen, top left, plays a flight hostess from Atlanta in St. Croix Off Broadway's production of "Boeing Boeing." The other actors, clockwise from Hansen, are Lydia Orvis, Augusta Lane, James Plante, Jacleen Olson and Mark Bradt.

It was long overdue, but last Saturday night (Oct. 15), my wife and I finally took in a show at St. Croix Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, located in the Best Western Hudson House Inn.

We went to see Hudson native Kelsey Hansen in “Boeing Boeing” – and are glad we did.

The 1960s farce by Marc Camoletti offers a lot of laughs and was well-performed by the cast of six professionals.

Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis starred in the 1965 film version of “Boeing Boeing.” That gives you a pretty good idea of the type of entertainment you’re in for if you decide to attend a show. Four performances remain –Friday and Saturday nights, Oct. 21-22 and Oct. 28-29 – according to the theatre’s website,

It’s a fast-paced comedy about an American businessman living in Paris who has three fiancées. The fiancées are all airline flight hostesses (in the parlance of the day). He’s able to keep them all happy with the help of a flight-schedule book and an exasperated housekeeper. That is, until the airlines buy new, faster Boeing jetliners – and the hostesses’ stays in Paris overlap.

Bernard’s (James Plante) old college friend from Green Bay (Mark Bradt) comes to visit at the same time, and as they say, hilarity ensues.

Bradt, who came out to schmooze with the diners/audience before the show, was particularly good in the Jerry Lewis-role of a nerdy innocent who warms up to the jet-setting lifestyle – and German hostess Gretchen (Augusta Lane), in particular.

The timing of the cast was perfect, which was a feat considering the snappy dialogue and quick entrances and exits of the hostesses.

Hansen, who wowed audiences in Hudson High School productions, has grown as an actor. Her Gloria, the belle from Atlanta, was spot on – right down to the sharply cut red hostess uniform and matching heels.

James Zimmerman, a UW-River Falls theater arts professor, is the owner of St. Croix Off Broadway (with his wife, Jill) and directs the plays.

He’s recruited former students for actors, including Hansen, Plante and Bradt in “Boeing

St. Croix Off Broadway is in its sixth season. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t
supported it in the past, and suspect there are a lot of Hudsonites like me. I intend to mend my ways. What I saw was quality theater, right here in town.

The price of dinner and a show ($52) is no doubt a hindrance to some. You can reduce it attending just the show ($40), and still have the ability to enjoy a glass of wine and
dessert (at an extra charge).

Next up for the dinner theatre is “Don’t Hug Me, I’m Pregnant,” which opens Nov. 25.

Bear hunting story upsetting to a reader

Not everyone enjoyed reading about a 648-pound (or more) black bear being killed near North Hudson.

Julie Irving, a resident of Krattley Lane in the town of Hudson, called the Star-Observer to dispute one of the statements in the story that ran in the Oct. 13 Hudson Star-Observer. She was also unhappy to see photographs of the dead bear in the newspaper.

“That bear would spend four, five or six hours in our yard, lollygagging, sleeping,” Irving said, countering the report that sightings of the bear were rare.

“I have thousands of pictures of that bear alive. It’s sad that a dead bear would make the front page when they are so beautiful to watch when they are alive,” she continued.

Irving said she cried when she saw the photographs.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen something in the paper that has kind of brought me to tears,
because it is just like, wow. We had known this bear. He was kind of like a little pet to us. I know you probably don’t understand that. Every time he came around it was a thrill. And he’s gone,” she said.

The headline read, “Monster bear bagged near NH (North Hudson).” But the bear was no monster to Irving. She described him as “majestic” and “the most wonderful bear.”

Irving said she understands “the hunting side of it, too.” She knows Lon Feia, the hunter who felled the bear on Oct. 9 with a slug from a shotgun.

“He’s a friend,” Irving said. “So this is nothing against him. It’s just that, gosh, for it to be on the front page like that – and such a big deal to have a picture of a dead bear. It’s just incredibly sad, I think.”

I’m pretty ambivalent when it comes to hunting, but I sympathize with Irving. It does seem odd to admire a wonderful animal and then shoot it.

To quote a Star-Observer co-worker: “You don’t say, isn’t that a beautiful building? And then blow it up.”

Deer hunting makes more sense to me. I see the need to control the population, and I’m fond of venison sausage. Who knows? Now that I own a little patch of woods up north,
I might take up deer hunting myself some day.

I have less sympathy with Irving’s suggestion that the taking of the bear didn’t warrant
being in the newspaper – or at least on the front page.

As is ususally the case when readers tell us that a story isn’t news, it’s the one getting the most attention.

The bear story has been picked up by other media websites, and as of Friday morning had
thousands of hits on It had close to seven times the number of hits as the next most-popular story about a North Hudson woman charged with stealing prescription drugs.

There’s a lot to be learned from raising chickens

On warm summer mornings, I often awoke to the sound of cans clanging in Bud Pedersen’s milk house across the street.

During the evening milking, an occasional beller would come through the open barn doors. A bossy was anxious to have her udder relieved – or for her serving of silage.

I grew up listening to the music of the farm on the other side of Butternut Avenue in the
village of Luck. The sporadic putt-putt-putt of tractors, the clanking of the hay elevator and the mooing of our four-hooved neighbors were all part of the symphony.

So I bring some bias to the hopefully concluded discussion in the town of Hudson over whether chickens – more specifically roosters – should be allowed on residential property.

On Sept. 6, the town board held a public hearing on a proposal to ban roosters from parcels of less than three acres in size. A resident of Tanney Lane reportedly had complained about the crowing of a rooster that was part of a neighbor kid’s 4-H

One thing led to another, and before you knew it, Foghorn Leghorn’s neck was on the chopping block. One person’s music is the next person’s noise.

Hudson Town Board Chair Jeff Johnson discovered the growing popularity of raising chickens at the public hearing.

All the pews in the Town Hall were full, Johnson told me in a phone call last week. He assumed people were there to weigh in on the controversial Booster ball fields issue.

Then speaker after speaker rose to the chickens’ defense.

Near the end of the hearing, Johnson asked for a show of hands from audience members who had chickens.

“Just about every one of them raised their hand,” Johnson told me. “I said, well, all right, I
think the best idea we had is not to change this thing. We’ll just keep allowing it.”

“So it was a learning experience,” he added. “It was learning about how so many people are
raising chickens out in the town.”

Johnson is hoping most chicken owners will be reasonable, and take measures to quiet a rooster that crows at 5 o’clock in the morning. I would guess that will require locking
them in the coop until a reasonable hour.

It all brings to mind one of my favorite childhood memories.

My dad pastored a small Assembly of God church (no longer there) at the corner of Main Street and Butternut Avenue in Luck.

Church members, many of them country folk, would often provide us with vegetables from their gardens and meat from freshly slaughtered animals. One day, Mrs. Pigman called
and asked my mom if she would like a couple of chickens.

Mom said sure, and was surprised to be presented with a pair of live roosters in a gunny sack the following Sunday.

I pleaded for their lives to be spared. It being the spring of the year, Mom and Dad

That summer was a learning experience for me. I discovered that if you blow your nose on the ground a rooster will eat the snot.

Ours were free-range chickens. Dad would sometimes have to hose the chicken poop off the church sidewalks on Sunday mornings. He should have bounced me out of bed and
to do it.

The roosters roosted in the row of willow trees between the parsonage and the swamp. The
willows were maybe 25 feet from my upstairs bedroom window. I learned about
those 5 o’clock in the morning cock-a-doodle-doos.

In mid-summer, one of the roosters went missing. Mom was telling Mrs. Johnson about it over the phone when Mrs. Johnson said, “That’s funny, a chicken has been running
around our house the past couple of days.”

It turns out the wayward rooster went home with the Johnsons after prayer meeting on Wednesday night. He made the five-mile trip to the other side of Milltown in the
undercarriage of the Johnsons’ car.

At the end of the summer, I was surprised to learn that my parents had planned only a temporary reprieve for our roosters. Both Mom and Dad were farm-reared, and had plenty of experience moving chickens from the yard to the plate.

I was a 10- or 12-year-old boy and had mixed feelings watching Dad stretch the roosters’ necks across a block of wood and chop off their heads with an axe. One made a final
run for it – headless.

There was nothing amusing about the executions to my younger sisters, who didn’t witness them. They cried at the last supper in disbelief that my father – whom they
worshipped – would commit such an act, and then expect us to eat our pets.

Mom got off easier, even though she had plucked the birds and put them in the frying pan.

I don’t know what the moral of this story is, but I’m glad youngsters of all ages in the town of Hudson can continue to experience the joys of rearing chickens. It’s earthy,
that’s for sure.