The Root Beer Lady at History Theatre in St. Paul ended with a standing ovation, that continued for nearly a minute after it’s star and writer Kim Schultz left the stage. I don’t remember ever experiencing that before. One thing’s for certain, Minnesotans love their Root Beer Lady and Kim Schultz brought her vividly to life for us on stage tonight. You rarely leave the History Theatre without a little curiosity stoked to learn more about the subject of the evening’s entertainment and for me, that has never been truer. As soon as this review is posted I’ll be googling the hell out of Dorothy Molter, of that you can be sure. If you don’t know much or anything about Ms. Molter, do yourself a favor and don’t google her. Instead, click on this link RootBeer and get yourself some tickets and hear about her from Kim Schultz.
Schultz heard about Molter during a stay in Tofte, MN. Fascinated by what she’d heard, she found a book written about her in the Tofte library. After reading that and doing some more research she began writing this one woman show. I really don’t want to say much about her story as I knew little going in, and not knowing all the details was a wonderful gift. Molter permanently to Knife Lake in the Boundary Waters area of Northern MN after spending three summers working at the Isle of Pines Resort for her friend Bill. She never left, becoming the last resident of what became the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Her story is about the love she had for the area and her determination to live her life the way she wanted to, where she wanted to, in a time when that wasn’t really done. The story is full of humor and emotion, astonishing facts, and moments that will leave you in awe of what Molter was capable of. It’s an inspirational true life tale of real Minnesota original, and I found my eyes got a little watery by the end. She is an example of the ways in which people touch each others lives. When the going gets rough, the woman the Saturday Evening Post dubbed, the “Loneliest woman in America” always found that she had many, many, many friends.
It’s clear that Kim Schultz connected with Molter as her portrayal is so affectionate. She embraces the wonder of a young Molter experiencing the majesty of the wilderness, and gradually over the course of 80 minutes imperceptibly changes into the mature woman who spent 56 years living in the place she fell in love with. From a wonderstruck young woman to a full blown wilderness character, effortlessly and believably. While it’s definitely Schultz’s show, she gets some wonderful assistance with the production. Chelsea M. Warren’s set is a wonderful combination of Molter’s cabin and the outdoors with large tree trunks towering into the rafters and a canoe beached on the shoreline. Kathy Maxwell’s video design creates a background that changes the season, shows us the beautiful blue skies of a sunny day and the millions of stars in the night sky. Finally, Katherine Horowitz sound design needs to be mentioned for, if nothing else, the sound of the birds that come and eat food from Molter’s hands.
The Root Beer Lady runs through February 19th at the History Theatre for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.historytheatre.com/2022-2023/root-beer-lady
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