Church theater group presents first full-length play

The cast of “Around the World In 80 Days” (from left): Kris Vollmer, Scott Zieman, Tom Pearcy, Sarah Johnson and stage manager Kennedy Elholm.

Local community theater group Fools for Christ is presenting its first full-length play, “Around the World in 80 Days,” from Aug. 23 to 25 at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake.

The high-speed comedy is loosely based on the book by Jules Verne, and less loosely based on the Academy Award-winning film adaptation from 1956 (remade in 2004) starring David Niven and Cantinflas (Mario Moreno). This will be the first full-length nonmusical production for the Fools.

“We wanted to give opportunities to our members to participate in a full-length production more than once every two years. This play offered the scalability to meet the size of our space at St. Stephen, and the membership of our group,” said director and cast member Ben Millard. “The playwright made the cast as small as possible while still being able to tell the story. The fun and humor of the show is partly derived from witty dialogue and from the lightning-fast changes between characters by the cast.” Millard will be covering 16 cast roles during the play.

As the description illustrates, the play starts fast and accelerates all the way to the end: “Stampeding elephants! Raging typhoons! Runaway trains! Unabashedly slapstick! Hold onto your seats for the original amazing race! Join fearless adventurer Phileas Fogg and his faithful manservant as they race to beat the clock! Phileas Fogg has agreed to an outrageous wager that puts his fortune and his life at risk. With his resourceful servant Passepartout, Fogg sets out to circle the globe in an unheard-of 80 days. But his every step is dogged by a detective who thinks he's a robber on the run. Danger, romance and comic surprises abound in this whirlwind of a show as five actors portraying 39 characters traverse seven continents in Mark Brown's adaptation of one of the great adventures of all time.”

Fools for Christ has operated since 1993 at St. Stephen Lutheran Church, and launched in 2018 as a community nonprofit. According to Millard, the decision to become a community group was borne out of a desire to serve a larger audience. “Our group was made up of church members who provided skits, dinner theaters and Living Nativity portrayals at St. Stephen for many years,” he noted. “When we had the idea about seven years ago to put on a full-length musical, we needed more members to help and partnered with other churches in White Bear.”

The group’s members hope to keep fulfilling their mission of being “Ordinary people spreading an extraordinary message.”



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