ELY – Hundreds of Dorothy Molter fans filled Washington School Auditorium last weekend for the premiere of “Root Beer Lady – The Musical,” based on Bob Cary’s biography of the last resident …
ELY – Hundreds of Dorothy Molter fans filled Washington School Auditorium last weekend for the premiere of “Root Beer Lady – The Musical,” based on Bob Cary’s biography of the last resident of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Barb Cary Hall, daughter of Bob Cary, completed a seven-year process of writing the original music and script for the musical. The song-and-dance version of Molter’s life was written by Hall, and is based on the book “Root Beer Lady” by her father, Bob Cary, a longtime friend of Molter.
Hall composed four of the tunes and adapted others. She also received permission to use four songs written by Minnesota artists that are humorous and very entertaining.
“The idea was conceived when I saw a musical theater show out west about a local hero that was very entertaining and I envisioned a similar production based on Dorothy,” Hall said
The one-act musical came alive through rear-screen photo projections of Molter’s actual life and scenes performed on stage.
“The show was peppered with colorful characters who comprised Molter’s circle of friends, family and neighbors,” Director Peta Barrett said. “They flavored Northwoods life with tunes like “Black Fly” and “Kwitchurbeliakin,” Molter’s signature phrase for when the going got tough.”
The story line also addressed Molter’s struggle with the federal government requiring her to abandon her home due to the Wilderness Act of 1964. After a long court battle, she was permitted to remain. One all-important number, “Copper Kettle,” described how Molter avoided the legal agreement that prevented her from conducting commerce in the BWCA.
Cast and crew members were Ely-area residents. Some knew Molter and her home well, which has bolstered historical accuracy. “People who are still alive today were out there,” Barrett said.
The production received three grants, used in part to procure rear-screen projection equipment. The long-term vision of the project includes producing the show annually and taking it on tour, Hall said. The Dorothy Molter Museum in Ely provided archival photos featured in the performance.
“It is the vision of the project to be sustaining for years and able to produce the musical each summer in Ely as well as tour in the Arrowhead Region,” Hall said.