GROVE - The late Fred Alley and James Kaplan were a memorable
team best known for creating folklore about the northwoods.
took over the Heritage Theatre in 1991 and ran it until his
unexpected death in 2001. The American Folklore Theatre up in
Door County is a company that features family-friendly
original musicals, performed at an outdoor venue in Peninsula
State Park. Their works have a regionalist flavor and often
include “guy humor,” which many people enjoy. Guys behave
differently when there are no women around. They are sloppier,
cruder, less inhibited and often feel less restricted to do
and say what they want without fear of judgment or reprisal.
This gender-difference emphasis seems to appeal to both men
and women because we are both often befuddled by each other.
Sunset Playhouse continues its tradition of offering a wide
variety of comedies, dramas and musicals. “Lumberjacks in
Love” follows the practice of gently satirizing local
characters and more in northern Wisconsin, much like
“Greater Tuna” of last season, which had a heyday with a
small town in Texas, though I think the latter play has more
of an edge to it.
seeing “Guys on Ice” and “Spitfire Grill” several
times, I was anticipating a bit more than “Lumberjacks”
delivered. Not that this production didn’t offer some laughs
because it did, but the quality of the music, the cleverness
of the dialogue and the distinctiveness of each character was
not as rave-worthy as I had expected.
basic premise of the story is four lumberjacks occupy a shanty
(great set design by Chris Kurtz) and relish their lifestyles
and freedom minus all females. Ironically, a young woman
disguised as a man visits them regularly as a mail deliverer
and falls in love with Moonlight, the youngest and most
romantic member of the male camp. Another intrusion into their
exclusive club is about to occur because Minnesota Slim, while
under the influence, requested a mail-order bride, an action
he now regrets.
this quartet is not cutting trees, they sing, dance, eat,
drink and celebrate their idyllic bachelor lives. And yet, a
common theme in the works of Alley and Kaplan surfaces - these
men are missing the love and romance that a woman can provide.
One even sees it in Dirty Bob, who misses his mother’s
attentions. There is no perfect existence. The vocal power of
each of the actors is not extraordinary, with the exception of
Maureen Smith, whose voice is almost too “trained” for
this setting, but the ensemble numbers are melodic and well
done, especially the closing song when all six characters join
together at curtain call.
Lessman as Kid renders her love song with poignance, Matt
Kuhnen in his role of Dirty Bob provides the best physical
humor and Phil Stepanski as Moonlight is a character we want
Villa as Minnesota Slim and Matt Knudson as Muskrat are not as
strong, but they contribute to the general playfulness of the
acknowledged in the program except as musical director is
Bryan Myers, who provided the lively piano accompaniment along
with several others who should have been credited, as well.
in Love” is directed by Jill Ponasik from the Milwaukee
Opera Company and choreographed by James Zager of Carroll
in Love” runs through Feb. 17 at the Sunset Playhouse, 800
Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove. For show times and tickets, call
782-4430 or visit www.sunsetplayhouse.com