"Don't Hug Me" at the Paramount
Photo: Joshua Akkerman, WJON News

ST. CLOUD -  "Don't Hug Me, a Minnesota Love Story with Singin' and Stuff" is set to go on stage at 1:30 pm and again at 7:30 pm on Thursday at the Paramount Theatre in St. Cloud. The play will have another showing at 7:30 pm on Friday.

Author and play write Phil Olson says it's "Fargo" meets "The Music Man," but without the blood and trombones. The story takes place in Bunyun Bay, Minnesota where two couples are struggling with their marriages.

"Gunner Johnson is very emotionally reserved. Clara would like a little bit more from their relationship. I think a lot of people can relate to that, their relationship. And then we have the younger Bernice Lundstrum and her fiance, so we have the younger couple's relationship and the issues that their involved in. And then the outsider coming into town and stirring up the pot. It's really a story about relationships and the themes are very universal," says Olson.

While this is a comedy production, Olson says it does have some serious, emotional moments.

There is a story behind this. It's just not a bunch of jokes. It's a story about this relationship that really needs to do something to repair itself. Gunner needs to have a little bit of a catharsis in order for that to happen. There are some very emotional moments, certainly at the end of the play, there are some very, very emotional moments.

Phil Olson and Crew Setting Up The Stage
Photo: Joshua Akkerman, WJON News
Best Original Musical

"Don't Hug Me" was named Best Original Musical by the Artistic Director Achievement Awards in Los Angeles. The play also won awards for Best Director, and Best Ensemble Cast.

That was really wonderful to happen in Los Angeles, because it's a pretty regional play, it takes place in Northern Minnesota.

The play features 16 original songs like "I Wanna go to the Mall of America" and "The Bunyan Yodel."