Sunday, July 24, 2011

Medora in the Summer

Living in western North Dakota, the first thing anyone told me anything about when I arrived was Medora, the little town where Theodore Roosevelt National Park is, the town that is all that is left of where Roosevelt lived while ranching here. It had essentially become a ghost town until a wealthy entrepreneur moved in and saved it (I think in the 1960s?). Most of the town is now owned by the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and, I mean this is the best possible sense, has become a quality tourist trap. Because of when I relocated out here, the first time I visited Medora was in the dead of winter when one restaurant and one shop are still open. The rest of the people, quite wisely, have flown south for the winter.

I missed last summer's season as I didn't have any visitors come and Medora in the summer just seemed like I needed to have someone with me to brave. So, the next time I went was during my parents' visit in October of last year. Because of the oil boom in the area, more businesses stayed open longer and I got to hit the stores as they had their end of season sales. Other than that, I have driven in Medora simply to get to the national park, nothing more.

So, when my sister decided to come out in July this year, I was excited. I'd at least have someone to finally go to this Medora Musical I'd heard so much about. So, the day after I'd survived my first trail ride and hit the lunch rush at the Cowboy Cafe, my sister and I headed back to Medora for the Pitchfork Fondue and Medora Musical.
Pitchfork Fondue. Photo: Ally Thomas

The Pitchfork Fondue is not actually a fondue...so I'm not sure where the fondue part of the title comes from. There was, sadly, no cheese involved. That said, this is far and above the best meal I'd had in a very long time. The Fondue occurs next to the amphitheater where the musical is, high up above the Chateau De Mores. You have a killer view overlooking the Little Missouri River from where you sit. When dinner is ready, they ring the bell and everyone herds into line. As the dinner starts so early (two and a half hours) before the musical, there is no need to rush. We were eating on an absolutely perfect night (if a little breezy) so my sister and I waited around for the line to get down a bit. Once in line, you hand in your tickets, grab a tray and fill her up. I skipped the beans (not my thing) but loaded a tray with coleslaw, garlic bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and a baked potato before getting back into a line to pick up my steak. Now, they cook the steaks on actual pitchforks (hence the name), and whatever they season them with, they should sell. This was the tastiest 12 oz rib-eye I've ever had. Nice and juicy, if a bit unevenly cooked, it is the reason to go to the Pitchfork Fondue. The meal also includes lemonade and dessert (super yummy mini cinnamon doughnuts and really chocolatey brownies).

So, my sister and I took our time eating, had multiple desserts and enjoyed the view and still had an hour to kill before the show. We walked over to the Medora Musical Welcome Center and perused the gift shop of a while, which also has displays on the history of the musical (which started out as Old Four Eyes in the 1950s if I recall correctly), dealt with a minor issue with our tickets and then headed down to the theater. The theater is impressive as is the stage which consists mostly of movable buildings re-creating the Medora of Theodore Roosevelt's time. For an amphitheater, on a perfect night, with the added bonus of some wild elk just hanging out behind the stage, it gets you excited for the show. Then the musical started. Now, I wasn't expecting greatness and I figured it would be more revue than musical but to me, they need to work on the flow a bit more - it doesn't quite work at times and also, the corniness level is alarming in sections. What did surprise me was the level of commercialness involved. The Medora Musical is one giant commercial for North Dakota which I found interesting since you're already in North Dakota when watching it, I would assume you're sort of preaching to the choir.  I will forgive the actual commercial done twice regarding buying concessions before the show started and right before intermission, mainly because I'm still in shock they do that (but my sister took a picture so it must be so).

The Burning Hills Singers of Medora Musical. Photo: Ally Thomas
Now, for the most part, the show is half revue and half a history lesson about Theodore Roosevelt. The singing portions of the show are enjoyable and fun; the crop of guy singers this year is much better than the girls and the dancing was well coordinated and fit the style of the show. The clogging (which is actually tapping because they were not wearing clogs) was the best part of the dance sequences though I am still puzzled as to why there is clogging in a western show. I must look up the history there some time. The history lessons were actually a lot of fun especially the "re-creation" of the Battle of San Juan Hill. The use of horses in that scene was particularly effective I thought. I was actually quite impressed with the use of horses throughout the show - they added something to the brief stories rather than just being novelties to bring out on stage every once in a while.

All in all, I am glad the tickets were given to me by a friend at work. I do not think the musical is worth the price you pay to see it if I'm being honest. The Pitchfork Fondue though absolutely is - I'm quite sad I have no more visitors coming this season to give me another excuse to go!

4 comments:

thatklickitat said...

That musical sounds like the one in Waiting for Guffman.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm a season pass holder for the musical.1: I personally believe that this is the best show in years 2: your are thinking of authentic wooden clog shoes.. if you do your research about a modern day country clog you will find that the BHS are wearing the proper footwear in a number that has been a tradition and highlight for years. 3: in my opinion about ticket prices..you get more bank for the buck at the musical because talent outweighs meat cooked in fat.

Krystal said...

Anonymous, I actually think I was thinking of Irish clogging (as that is what I grew up with) at the time but that is neither here nor there. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the musical; I did. It is what it is and honestly, it wasn't anything more than what I had expected. That said, I do think it is slightly overpriced for its location and the type of show it is. This is my personal opinion and nothing more. I certainly know many people like you who adore the show and that is wonderful. It would not still be here for me to enjoy if it didn't have hundreds of people year after year who go and enjoy. So thank you for that.

Mitch said...

You probably hadn't remembered that I talked about this "musical" back in 2006 that I didn't get a chance to see. You pretty much confirmed what I expected it to be. My thought is that a show that's been performed nigh on 50 years in a row either needs to hum like an expensive car or needs to give up the ghost and let the talent try something else.

I thank you for your review, you brave woman! ;-)