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'Deer Camp the Musical' coming to Wadena Oct. 16

"Deer Camp the Musical" will be playing this fall for a limited run with the original cast, before making its national debut with a professional entertainment group. Written by St. Cloud native Gene Jurek, with music by Doug Spartz of Pine River, the play has surpassed all expectations since opening in 2007. The farewell tour will include shows in Winthrop, Cambridge and Wadena.

The lighthearted comedy follows the escapades of four lifelong friends as they make one last trek to their deer shack in the annual fall tradition that so many Minnesotans know so well. This group of hunters has the distinction of having never fired a shot in 30 years of hunting. But this year is different, as the wives have told them to either bring home a deer or this will be the last year. With songs ranging from "We're Mighty Hunters" to "She's Playing Bingo," there is never a dull moment with this merry band of losers.

Jurek began to write the play in 2003, while his wife, Edie was struggling with cancer. He was with her 24 hours a day. He would bounce ideas off her and if she laughed, he'd keep it in, if she didn't he took it out. As fate would have it, she passed away before the play went into production.

No one expected the play to have this kind of reaction with audiences, especially the songwriter, Spartz.

"When Gene approached me to do the music for his play, I thought that it would never go anywhere," he said. "When the shows started to sell out, it started to sink in that maybe we had something going."

As evidenced by audience reactions, these two lifelong friends did have something going. The shows continued to sell out, breaking attendance records at many theaters statewide, with over 10,000 having seen it in the St. Cloud area alone. Deer Camp sparked a sequel and "Holy Bells, a Deer Camp Christmas" played last fall to packed theaters.

The success of the show caught the attention of a professional entertainment group and will begin a national run late this fall.

"We never expected it to take off like it has. We've enjoyed working closely with the performers and the theaters around the state, so it is bittersweet for all of us, we're excited, yet sad to see it go," said Spartz.

The Wadena show times will be 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16, at Memorial Auditorium. For ticket information, call the Wadena Area Chamber of Commerce at (218) 632-7704.