Rhubarb’s Angels features the Rhubarb Sisters and the Burdock Brothers in a new show that opens the Rhubarb Festival Weekend in Lanesboro for one performance only on Friday, June 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Mane Theatre in scenic Lanesboro. The show is serving up two delicious episodes of “Rhubarb’s Angels.” One, written by Elizabeth Fuglestad, is called “It’s a Rhubarb-ful Life” and is loosely based on a movie of a similar title. The other features the official addition of singer/pianist Valerie Peterson Wilson to the group. She joins current Rhubarb Sisters Elizabeth Fuglestad, Beth Hennessy, and Julie Kiehne. Singing like angels, with tantalizing four-part a cappella harmonies, the Rhubarb Sisters have performed on “A Prairie Home Companion” and have made countless concert appearances in Lanesboro and the region throughout their 11 years as a group.
Former Sister Peggy Hanson will appear for cameo songs and her usual comedy routine. Tim Kiehne and Peter Torkelson of the Burdock Brothers will join as well (burdock, you know, is often referred to as “wild rhubarb”). The group will be accompanied by Valerie Peterson Wilson on piano, Barb Ames on clarinet, and members of the CBB Jazz Combo, Nathan Davidson, saxophone; Jerry Barrett, trumpet; and Steve Sawyer, string bass. Keyboardist Curt Peterson joins the CBB Jazz Combo during pre-show and intermission music.
“What I really love is making people smile. It really is about bringing joy and sharing the things that are true,” said Rhubarb Sister Julie Kiehne. “People want to seek more of the back-home roots to their childhood. Rhubarb brings that out.” Rhubarb Sister Beth Hennessy agreed, “We’re similar to rhubarb. We’re about finding happiness in your own backyard.”
“This goes so far beyond rhubarb,” former Rhubarb Sister Peggy Hanson stated. “The group performs a lot for church groups, mother-daughter teas and those kinds of events. The basic message is that rhubarb is a humble thing. It’s just back by the garage.” But just because it’s humble, doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. “It blends with anything. It’s Midwestern values — make do with what you have. And you can hardly find it in stores,” she said. “It’s inherently noncommercial.”
So are the Rhubarb Sisters, who also travel far and wide in their house dresses and vintage aprons, singing about the wonders of rhubarb. “People respond to it. It’s very emotional. They think of home and grandma and homemade desserts,” Hanson said. So what does that sound like? Warm up the pitch pipe and listen to the Rhubarb Sisters sing “What Shall We Do With the Extra Rhubarb” to the tune of “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor.” “We have a good time,” Hanson said. “We make our fun.”
A limited number of tickets remain! Tickets are $15 or $12 for LA members and are sold online at lanesboroarts.org; at Lanesboro Arts Gallery by calling 507-467-2446; and at the St. Mane Theatre box office, as available, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on the night of the event. The St. Mane Theatre is located at 206 Parkway Avenue North in Lanesboro.