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Acclaimed comedy 'Don't Hug Me' playing in Glenwood

An acclaimed stage production that is billed as "It's 'Fargo' meets the 'Music Man' (without the blood or the trombones)" will play in Glenwood next weekend.

"Don't Hug Me" was a surprise hit when it opened in 2003 and has become a national award-winning musical comedy by writer and former Minnesotan Phil Olson.

Two performances of "Don't Hug Me," featuring the originial cast, are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 24, and 3 p.m., Sunday, April 26, at the Central Square Cultural & Civic Center in Glenwood.

For ticket information, call (320) 634-0400 or toll free at (866) 497-0400.

"Don't Hug Me" is based in a north woods Minnesota bar with easily recognizable Minnesota themes, but Olson said the production reaches far beyond Upper Midwest sensibilities.

"The themes are universal," said Olson. "That's why it plays in cities all over the country. It's not an inside joke. It's about relationships."

Olson graduated from Edina East High School, attended college and played football at Dartmouth, and after a tryout with the Chicago Bears, earned his MBA at the University of Chicago.

He was selling mainframe computers when he began his writing career, helping to produce training films in Tampa, Fla. That led to sketch comedy writing and screen writing.

According to "Don't Hug Me" promotional material, the play "takes place in a colorful, rustic north woods bar in tiny Bunyan Bay, Minn. It's the coldest, most bone-chilling day of the year and cantankerous bar owner Gunner Johnson is ready to sell the business and move to sunny Florida. Clara, his wife and former Winter Carnival Bunyan Queen, is perfectly content staying right where she is. Bernice Lundstrom, the pretty waitress, wants to pursue a singing career. Her fiance, Kanute Gunderson, wants her to stay home. It's a battle of wills that tests their relationships and when a fast-talking salesman, Aarvid Gisselsen, promises to bring romance into their lives through the 'magic' of karaoke, all heck breaks loose!"

Olson works with his brother, Paul, a Shakopee physician who writes the music. Phil Olson produces the story and lyrics. The play's musical selections include "I'm a Walleye Woman in a Crappie Town," "My Smorgasbord of Love," "I Wanna go to the Mall of America," "The Bunyan Yodel," and "Upside Down in my Pickup Truck."

"Don't Hug Me" opened at the Whitefire Theatre in Los Angeles in November 2003. Originally scheduled to a six-week run, the plan garnered rave review and sold-out shows.

The run was extended and by the time it closed six months later, it was the longest running musical comedy in Los Angeles .

Since then, "Don't Hug Me" has played in 70 cities in 28 states and in Canada, Phil Olson said, and netted him awards for artistic direction, best original musical, best author of an original play and best ensemble cast. "Don't Hug Me" received one of the top honors in The Robert J. Pickering Award for Playwriting Excellence, and in the McLaren Memorial Comedy Play Writing Competition.

Now, the original play has stretched out in sequels, "A Don't Hug Me Christmas Carol," and "A Don't Hug Me County Fair."