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Summer melodrama rises from the ashes - fourth season will be in new venue

The Fergus Falls Funtastics Theatre Troupe are as surprised as anyone: their hugely successful melodrama dinner theater returns this summer to the Otter Tail Lake area.

More than 3,000 patrons made the summer melodrama dinner show a top regional attraction since 2015. But that destination — Elmer's Texas Barbeque Restaurant on Highway 78 — was tragically destroyed by fire last August.

That didn't stop Funtastics co- owner Laura Johnson from looking at other options.

"When the fire happened, not only did we lose a great restaurant, but also the weekend dinner theatre. So we tried to find another different location," Johnson said. "We heard over and over how this area needed something like this and we worked hard to come up with new place that could match the dining and show experience we were known for at Elmer's."

Johnson said one element in particular was critical for continuing: having a stand-alone theatre. "I think part of the success of our shows was that we weren't just doing dinner shows in a restaurant, but we had a venue solely for the show," she said. "It just works better for everyone including the audience."

Johnson thinks the show has found the perfect home. The new location will be the Event Center at the Old Town Bar & Grill in downtown Clitherall. Located just minutes east of Battle Lake along Highway 210, the Event Center is a historic theatre that has "an old vaudeville vibe," Johnson said. "When I walked into that building, I immediately felt it had the feel of an authentic, old-time theater, which really matches up perfectly for doing melodrama."

Old Town co-owner John Good is looking forward to the adventure. "I've heard nothing but great things about the shows they put on, so we are sprucing up the theater and bringing back some of the historical elements."

Good said patrons will enjoy a great home cooked meal that Old Town is known for: a BBQ rib dinner with baked potato, Texas beans, cole slaw, cheddar biscuits, apple crisp dessert with ice cream, ice tea and lemonade.

Tickets for dinner and show are $45, which includes tax and gratuity, and will be available for purchase at www.fergusfuntastics.com, at the Old Town, or by calling (218) 731-4837.

Performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights starting June 15 through Aug. 18. Doors open at 6 p.m. The Event Center is located in downtown Ciltherall — easy to find with plenty of parking.

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