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Picking Up Crumbs: Prairie Home Companion

23 Nov

Growing up as an exile from Lake Wobegone, about as far away as one could imagine from Minnesota, the tapes of Prairie Home Companion wove magical tales of a far off land of hot-dish and the existential mysteries of lutefisk. On the tape of the 10th Anniversary show, host Garrison Keillor ruminated upon the regrets of his first ten years on the air, including a mis-guided an brief foray on to television. He recalled one of his actresses, who, when asked by a cameraman to move the microphone that was hiding her face, smiled sweetly and told the cameraman in no uncertain terms that it was the camera that hid, while the microphone revealed.

That was 25 years ago now, and though it may be the microphone that keeps the show intimate, to watch the live show is still a revelation. Perhaps the sweetest revelation from Saturday afternoon at the State Theatre on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis was how elegant Keillor could be on his feet. For a 6’4″ Minnesotan who has done this for 35 years, who suffered a minor stroke earlier this year and spent the warm-up part of the show complaining about a life-threatening cold he acquired from a sophisticated woman at a party in New York City (everything has a moral, or at least a punchline) he swung and and bounced, keeping the rhythm in the balls of his feet, with a light wave of his hands. The current acting cast of Sue Scott, Tim Russell and effectsman extraordinaire Tom Keith were polished and endearing, as was singer Andra Suchy who has become a fairly regular guest on PHC and dueted several times with Keillor. Musical guests Steve Wariner and Nellie McKay paid homage to their musical heros, guitarist Chet Atkins and starlet Doris Day respectively, alternately sweet and totally kitschy weird and awesome in McKay’s case. Spending the afternoon in the dark under the high art deco ceiling was lovely and nostalgic, one of those magical bits of Americana that we never ought forget, and the decades cannot improve.

For Staciaann’s slideshow for City Pages, click here.

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