Tree Party ready to celebrate a 'Christmas on the Ranch'

Monica Heuser (Miss Monica), Jenna Wyse (Little Jenna), Back: Joey Ford (Long Tall Joey), Tim Drake (The Cowhand Dusty).
Monica Heuser (Miss Monica), Jenna Wyse (Little Jenna), Back: Joey Ford (Long Tall Joey), Tim Drake (The Cowhand Dusty).
Photo by Paul Nixdorf
For the next few months, popular local Americana band Tree Party will have the kind of steady gig musicians dream about as they take the stage nightly (and a few afternoons) in Plymouth Playhouse's Christmas on the Ranch.

The band isn't strangers to theatrical stages. They provided music for Live Action Set's Ivey Award-winning 7 Shot Symphony -- a gig that still gets them dates from time to time around the region.

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"Curt [Wollan, the show's producer and director] wanted to do this type of show for a while, and he wanted a band that was together," says Andy Carroll, who plays Sheriff Andy in the show.

Tree Party's love of old-time country music fit perfectly with Wollan's vision, which takes place on a North Dakota ranch at the end of the 1950s. Much of the music from the show is drawn from the sounds of the late 1940s and '50s. 

The band also features Joey Ford (Long Tall Joey), Jenna Wyse (Little Jenna), and Travis Bolton (Cowboy Travis). They share the stage with Monica Heuser as Miss Monica. Heuser was Patsy Cline in the Playhouse's A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline and as Janis Joplin in Love Janis at the Ordway.

The band spent the first part of rehearsals just working on the music, which includes the likes of "I'm Gonna' Lasso Santa Claus," "Rootin', Tootin Santa Claus," and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." 

With the music coming together, the story -- about a holiday shindig at the ranch, hosted by the lonely Monica, who is facing her first holiday on her own -- was hammered out by everyone involved, Wyse says.

"There's not much of a plot. It's just about the music and the people and sharing together," Wollan says. "The audience is a part of the party, and there are some great tunes in it."

"This time of the year, people want that," Wyse says. "People feel like they have a family, even if they are alone in a theater."

Focusing on older-style country is important for the band. "It's the only thing that seems real. We don't want to call ourselves country anymore, because people think of Kenny Chesney. It's real. It's not fake or made to be commercial," Carroll says.

The theater schedule is also an aid to their other existence as a gigging band. The show finishes up just as the music scene gets going each night, so they plan to continue to play around town during the next few months of the show. Beyond that, they hope to do additional recordings in the next few months for an EP of music from the show and a new full-length CD, Bolton says.

"I don't know if our days jobs are for it, but I think it will be nice to do," he says.


Christmas on the Ranch
Plymouth Playhouse
2705 Annapolis Ln., Plymouth
Now through January 13, 2013
For tickets and more information, call 763.553.1600 or visit online
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Plymouth Playhouse

2705 Annapolis Lanene
Plymouth, MN 55441


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