When the murder weapon is a silk pillowcase and candlestick, you would think the murders took place during a game of Clue. Unfortunately, these murders are real and have been the fascination of Minnesotans for decades.
When heiress Elizabeth Congdon and her nurse Velma were murdered on June 27, 1977, it appeared to be a robbery gone wrong. But as Duluth police dug deeper, they found some unusual clues which lead them to believe Elisabeth’s son-in-law Roger was responsible. Of course, they also determined he didn’t concoct this scheme on his own, Elisabeth’s adopted daughter Marjorie was the mastermind as she stood to inherit $8 million from her mom’s estate. This influx of money was desperately needed due to Marjorie’s lavish spending and opulent lifestyle. The case wasn’t as open and closed as one would think. While Roger served time for the crime, Marjorie was acquitted. In the decades since a string of deaths and suspicious deaths have followed Marjorie.
Last fall, the History Theatre in Saint Paul brought this story to the stage in the world premiere production Glensheen. Due to popular demand this magnificent musical is back on stage this summer. With a book written by Jeffery Hatcher and music by Chan Poling, the production brings to life a chapter of Minnesota history, which still fascinates today.
Set in the historic Glensheen mansion, the set is a small scale replica of the tourist attraction. As the show opens it is 2016 and a group of tourist are touring the estate. The tourists begin asking questions about the staircase and the murders. The tour guide (Ruthie Baker) does her best to distract them away from the topic and focuses on the architecture and other aspects of the house. As Marjorie, Jen Maren is exquisite. She easily tows the line between conniving and dejected. Her rivalry with adopted sister Jennifer (Sandra Struthers), is a driving force throughout the story. Marjorie knows she will never be the apple of her mother’s eye like Jennifer, but that doesn’t stop her from trying. Or at least attempting to wiggle her way into a greater share of her mother’s inheritance.
Twin Cities stage veteran Wendy Lehr is magical in this production. She plays multiple roles including Elisabeth Congdon. But where she shines is as Beshmesher. An outlandish take on a certain high-profile Twin Cities attorney.
If you’re looking for a fun night at the theatre with laughs, drama, and mystery, then Glensheen is for you. This witty musical not only tells the story of on of Minnesota’s most notorious crimes and subsequent trials, but also pokes fun at all things Minnesotan.
Glensheen is playing at the History Theatre in Saint Paul through July 31. For more information on the show or to get tickets, visit their website.