Quote of the Day: On June 27, 1977, Elisabeth Congdon and her night nurse Velma Pietila are found dead at Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, MN. What some of the headlines looked like just over 40 years ago. The case got national attention.

Lakeside and garden view of the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, MN, on the shores of Lake Superior

The Glensheen Mansion in Duluth is still a favorite tourist stop. After seeing the musical Glensheen, based on the family and murder that happened there in 1977, a few years ago at the History Theatre in St. Paul, MN, my friend and I and her two young daughters visited the mansion, and I’ve been back a couple more times. I also read the book Will to Murder by Gail Feichtinger with John DeSanto and Gary Waller. The cast of characters are troubled, and the actions bazaar. Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher teamed up with composer/lyricist Chan Poling to create this macabre musical. They’ve been playing it at the History Theatre every summer since 2015. The show, and mansion, continue to draw in thousands. They also toured the show last summer. This is my third time seeing Glensheen and it is still wickedly funny. It was the first time for my friend Kyara, who also visited the mansion in Duluth for the first time last Fall. She liked the show so much that she downloaded the cast recording and is hoping to make plans to see it again. (You can buy a CD or stream on Spotify, Itunes, and Apple Music.)

Gary Briggle, Dane Stauffer, and Randy Schmeling in Glensheen at the History Theatre, thru 7/14/24. Photo: Rick Spaulding

Hatcher and Poling are a terrific team. They take this bizarre story and give it both respect for the deceased and humor for the actions of some of the characters, and songs that are catchy and bring the story to life. The musical begins with “Welcome to Glensheen,” where the tour guide (Ruthie Baker) starts us on a tour of the mansion with the opening number “The Ballad of Glensheen.” 

Jen Maren, who originated the role of Marjorie, is back in all her eerie glory. She is absolutely fantastic and gives Marjorie just the right amount of creepiness. Her vocals are strong, and we love her as an entertainer, even while being repulsed by her character. Dane Stauffer is also back as Marjorie’s gullible husband Roger. At times, you almost feel sorry for him, until you realize what he did. Stauffer is also a terrific actor with a wonderful singing voice. 

Sandra Struthers, Randy Schmeling, Wendy Lehr, Ruthie Baker, and Gary Briggle in Glensheen at the History Theatre, thru 7/14/24. Photo: Rick Spaulding

Sandra Struthers plays Marjorie’s adopted sister Jennifer, and others. She has some great moments as well. I love their song “Two Little Girls” comparing the two sisters like “fire and ice.” Her song “No Parole” with the company is a standout moment, as well, as she explains all the criminal behavior of her sister, and how almost nothing stopped her!

Wendy Lehr is back as Velma, Elisabeth, the attorney, and others. My goodness, she has so much versatile talent. The crowd absolutely loved her! She sang a heart-wrenching solo, “Stay With Me,” as Velma, the night nurse who was also murdered on that fateful night, who shouldn’t have even been there. And, she did a hilarious impression of the attorney who defended Marjorie, with some great dance moves! 

Dane Stauffer and Gary Briggle in Glensheen at the History Theatre, thru 7/14/24. Photo: Rick Spaulding

Gary Briggle is back as the trustee, poodle, and others. And, Randy Schmeling is the reporter, cop and others. All of the actors move seamlessly between their various characters. All of them have a chance to solo and provide backup for other singers in this marvelous score. Most of the time they’re all on stage, or near the orchestra. Live orchestra on stage, under the direction of David Lohman. 

Gorgeous set design by Rick Polenek looks much like the foyer and staircase at Glensheen. Wonderful atmospheric lighting by Bill Healey. The sound designer is C. Andrew Mayer. Choreographer is Tinia Moulder. Great costumes by E. Amy Hill.

You can see this macabre musical at the History Theatre in St. Paul, MN through July 14, 2024. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Do you like to tour old mansions? How about haunted ones? Would you stay overnight in a murder house?