Hoopla Train: The touring theater variety show coming to a stage near you

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A touring theater group is harking back to the variety shows of the '70s with a summer performance it's taking on the road around Minnesota.

The Sod House Theater's latest creation is "Hoopla Train (with Yard Master Yip and his Polkastra)," which according to the Star Tribune is being billed as a "Lawrence Welk meets 'Hee-Haw' affair," featuring vaudeville-style sketch comedy, singing and music.

They may be based in the Twin Cities, but the group has been making a name for itself over the last four years ensuring those in Greater Minnesota get in on the fun by performing in unusual locations across the state.

Adding to Minnesota's vibrant small-town summer theater scene, this summer's tour, which started last week, will take them to 14 historic ballrooms in different cities by the end of August, including Barrett, Nisswa, Sleepy Eye and McGregor.

The troupe looks for performance spaces that are different from conventional theaters, and co-founder and director Darcey Engen told the Faribault Daily News they "fell in love with" ballrooms in the state and their post-war heritage.

"They were the Facebook of their time," Engen told the Star Tribune. "All the big acts went through and played at them. We wanted to stir up those old friendly ghosts, from a time when people went out and got together and danced."

Audience participation is regular feature of Sod House Theater performances, and this year actors will call up members from the crowd to take part in a "talent show," while the Post Bulletin adds there's also a chance for the audience to join in with polkas and waltzes.

The group will be performing in Rochester Saturday and Sunday, before moving on to Glencoe this Thursday. A list of dates and venues can be found here.

The theater group was founded in 2011 by Engen and her husband Lueverne Seifert, according to its website. Their first performance was the Anton Chekhov classic "The Cherry Orchard," which was performed in private homes.

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