Loch Mess! On the Rooftop of the Bakken Museum is a Hilarious Way to Spend a Summer Evening

Production photo from Loch Mess

Loch Mess! is purported to be the world’s largest freshwater musical. Now I don’t know if that’s just hyperbole or if they’ve actually measured it. What I can tell you, according to the Stages of MN Spectroclapometer and other scientific sounding gadgets, I measured it to be the silliest and most delightful original musical. It also ranked in the top 10% in heartwarmingliness. It’s the kind of show that inspires you to make up words. Performed on the green roof of the Bakken Museum near Uptown Minneapolis, Loch Mess! is a fantastic way to spend a summer evening in Minnesota. It’s the live theater equivalent of a big popcorn summer movie. Nothing but fun and I spent the entire 80 minute run time with a grin on my face. If you saw Open Eye Theatre’s summer production Hair Ball last year, you’ll have an idea of what’s in store. I had a blast with Hair Ball but I think Lock Mess! is even better. With a spectacular cast, catchy and hilarious original songs, Lock Mess! also contains a positive message about gender equality and a reminder that love is love. If you enjoy positive upbeat musicals, regional humor, Pina Coladas, and having fun, Lock Mess! is going to be right up your alley. If you do not like Pina Coladas, that’s OK, they do not figure into this show at all, I just think that people who do, are definitely the kind of people who will enjoy Loch Mess!

Beatrix Barnes from Beaver Bay, MN, an intrepid young girl who journeys to the bright lights of Duluth (“the San Francisco of the North!”) seeking to become the first female steamship captain. But fate has a different plan, as Beatrix ends up serving as stagehand to Vaudeville diva Lillian Legrand, the headliner of the soon-to-be doomed showboat The Gooseberry Flower. With the audience along for the ride as steamship passengers, Beatrix and her companions are soon assailed by Superior Lake monsters and embroiled in wistful romance, requiring a detour to Wisconsin to pick up Scottish monster hunter, Dangus MacMacaroney.

Open Eye Theatre Website

This cast is just perfect, favorite Tom Reed, who could make opening mail hilarious, plays Dangus MacMacaroney with a wonderfully rich Scottish accent that he somehow keeps up while singing. This reminded me, because I’m used to seeing him in comedic roles, what a rich singing voice he has. His character alone could be the basis for a show. But the lead is Abilene Olson as Beatrix and she rocks the girl power message while belting her way into our hearts. Antonio Rios Luna who plays Captain Handy has great musical comedy skills along with Lux Mortenson as Lillian LeGrande, and France Roberts as her agent Barrymore J. Davenport. This could easily turn into three paragraphs gushing about every performance down to the uncredited background players, who looked like they had just won the lottery, I’ve never seen such happy looking performers which was completely the right tone for this show. But I do want to mention the stellar job Jared Mogen does as the Narrator/guitarist. He’s in character for about 10 minutes before the show begins acting as a lifeguard and throwing out little jokes here and there. He plays the guitar to accompany the performers and has a real gift for acting as the overseer. A show like this has to have a cast that’s all on the same page tone wise, and this one absolutely does. They swing for the fence everyone of them, and it’s an absolute hoot.

You know there really are not a lot of shows that I can enthusiastically recommend for the whole family but this is definitely one of those.

The show was written by playwright and composer Josef Evans, as was last years Hair Ball. Evans clearly has an ear for both regional humor and catchy melodies. I really enjoyed the songs in Loch Mess! while they’re primarily humorous, Evans isn’t afraid to inject a moment of tenderness or a beautiful lyric. There have been some improvements to the presentation from last year. The first is the use of microphones, which makes a big difference and allows one to sit back and enjoy the show more rather than straining to hear some of the dialogue. The odd choice though is to use several mics on stands placed around the grassy performance space and to block everything so that the actors are holding the mics. They choreograph it well, and it adds a sense of danger to the proceedings as you wonder who will be the first to faceplant after tripping on a cord (no one did). Joel Sass directs the show, making great use of the openness and the thrust aspect of the performance space. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own camping chairs or blankets to lay out on the lawn on three sides of the “stage”. 

You know there really are not a lot of shows that I can enthusiastically recommend for the whole family but this is definitely one of those. When those come along I encourage you to take advantage of them, sharing live theater experiences can create great memories and new family traditions. If Open Eye Theatre continues to produce summer shows as good as this, I can think of no better family tradition than the summer show above the Bakken. Loch Mess! runs through July 16th on the green roof of the Bakken Museum. Show times are 7:00 PM. Your ticket includes free admission to the Bakken Museum before the show from 6-7. Don’t wait too long, the performance I was at was sold out, for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.openeyetheatre.org/loch-mess

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Photo by Nicole Neri

Rob is a member of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers and their podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat as well as a syndicating contributor to Minnesota Playlist. Read all his content www.thestagesofmn.com

Headshot of Rob Dunkelberger
Rob Dunkelberger

Rob is a member of the Twin Cities Theater Bloggers and their podcast Twin Cities Theater Chat as well as a syndicating contributor to Minnesota Playlist. Read all his content www.thestagesofmn.com