The upper midwest phenomenon of ice fishing, a kind of religion for men in Wisconsin and Minnesota, has proven to be one of the most unlikely and popular subjects at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre's Stackner Cabaret.
Guys On Ice, a musical comedy set in a Wisconsin ice shanty, sold out its Nov. 13-Jan. 3, 1999 run in the opening weekend at the Rep's 112 seat cabaret. Five added performances also quickly sold out, prompting MRT to transfer the show to its 198-seat black box, the Stiemke Theater, for a winter run Feb. 17-March 7, 1999.
The new run makes 5,000 tickets available. About 250 people were on a waiting list for the current staging, according to MRT managing director Tim Shields.
Publicist Allison Dall-Knox told Playbill On-Line Dec. 9 the show has become a phenomenon, reeling in audiences for such goofy songs as "De Wishing Hole," "Ode to a Snowmobile Suit," "Fish is de Miracle Food" and "De One Dat Got Away."
The show features librettist-lyricist Fred Alley, Doug Mancheski and Chris Irwin, of American Folklore Theatre, who had performed the show earlier this year in Door County, WI, a resort area 3 1/2 hours north of Milwaukee by car. Music is by James Kaplan. "The musical is a little on the stupid side," Kaplan admits. "The only Broadway musical that has any similarity to ours is The Robber Bridegroom -- between folk and Broadway. Wisconsin rural characters have a lot of goofiness to them by nature. Most of the music is very simple, meant to let the humor in the lyrics come through."
The MRT run is a co-production with AFT. The original and Milwaukee productions were directed by AFT artistic director Jeffrey Herbst, with instrumental/vocal arrangements by Kaplan, scenic design by James E. Maronek and costumes and props by Neen Rock. Irwin plays piano, guitar and ukelele in the production.
The original cast recording of Guys on Ice will be released (on cassette only) Dec. 18. The tape is available through AFT by calling (920) 868-9999. Their mailing address is PO Box 273, Fish Creek WI 54212.
The recording includes the entire show and was recorded in October 1998 during the show's initial run in Door County. The cast includes Alley, Mancheski and Irwin.
Tickets are $12.50-$17. Milwaukee Rep's Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex Houses the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, the Stackner and the Stiemke (pronounced "steem-key") at 108 E. Wells St. For information, call (414) 224-9490.
-- By Kenneth Jones