Garrison Keillor returns to the stage with familiar-sounding show

Garrison Keillor talks at Concordia College in 2017. Forum file photo
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DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Garrison Keillor is back — and he’s bringing some familiar faces, er, voices with him.

The former public radio star and host of “A Prairie Home Companion” brings his new stage show, "Old Friends," to the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes on Friday, Feb. 22.

The show will include “Prairie Home” musical director and pianist Rich Dworsky and vocalist Christine DiGiallonardo, a frequent guest on the radio show.

Keillor’s current five-date Minnesota tour is his first since Minnesota Public Radio cut ties with its biggest star in 2017 following reported “inappropriate behavior” with someone who worked for him.

Keillor returned to the stage last year, including shows at a Minneapolis jazz club in December. Those shows also featured Dworsky and DiGiallonardo. The trio will return there Sunday night, Feb. 24, for two sets.


In an email interview, Keillor said he’s in touch with other “Prairie Home” regulars like Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman, but doesn’t plan on incorporating them into the "Old Friends" show.

“I still see them all and we're all friends though I'm the only old one and I'd love to do shows with them but don't want them to do me a big favor because I'm old," he said.

"Old Friends" will include singing, poetry and Keillor’s signature news from Lake Wobegon. A description on the Historic Holmes Theatre’s website says the show is “sponsored by Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie, the Ketchup Advisory Board, and the Coffee Inspection Agency,” references to standing bits on “Prairie Home.”

Friday’s show will very much have the feel of the old radio show, which Keillor retired from in 2016 after 42 years.

After MPR’s decision to distance itself from the writer in 2017, the show, now hosted by musician Chris Thile, was renamed “Live From Here.”

“I'm going to sing the old theme song, ‘Tishomingo Blues,’ and sing the Minnesota state song, recite the 87 counties in alphabetical order and a few poems, then Christine will come on and sing some duets and we'll bicker,” Keillor told the Detroit Lakes Tribune. “Somewhere in there I'll talk about Lake Wobegon, maybe sing a song about my dad, then some more duets… we'll see how it goes… This is not Lady Gaga at the MGM Grand, this is three old friends out to have a good time.”

Despite there not being much news from Lake Wobegon since 2016, the updates will sound pretty familiar, he told The Forum.

“They talk about children, grandchildren, and what they see on their travels and how it makes them ever more grateful to live in the little town that time forgot,” he says.


The “Prairie Home” archives were removed from MPR’s website after it severed ties with Keillor, but in April 2018, the network said it would restore the hundreds of shows online. The shows, and his daily literary datebook, “The Writer’s Almanac,” are also featured on Keillor’s website.

Asked if the parting with the network — which he had become the face and voice of — had affected his sense of humor or his writing, he responded in typical subdued fashion.

“I'm 76 and writing a weekly column and a musical and a memoir and my wife is my reader and I hear her in the next room laughing,” he said. “She's not an easy audience, having been with me for 25 years, so that's all the confirmation I need. Everything else is a bonus.”

Other audiences haven’t been as easy on him. His appearance at a Vermont book festival in October was scrapped after complaints about his inclusion.

A champion of the written word, Keillor’s publicist said he would be be donating some of the proceeds from Friday’s show to support the Detroit Lakes Public Library, which he had previously visited.

Asked what he thinks his legacy will be, he hopes he’s remembered for what he did on the air and onstage and not behind the scenes.

“There is no legacy in radio, it ends when it's over,” he says. “I'd like the legacy to be the way the show melded the sentimental, the bawdy, and gospel, all of which are close to my heart but seldom found in one package. Stories of growing up with aunts, there was a young man of Madras, and ‘Lord, I'm Coming Home.’”

If you go

What: "Old Friends" with Garrison Keillor


When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22

Where: Historic Holmes Theatre, 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Info: Tickets range from $19 to $38; or 218-844-7469

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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