The upper midwest phenomenon of ice fishing, a kind of religion for men in Wisconsin and Minnesota, proved to be one of the most unlikely and popular subjects in the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre's Stackner Cabaret season last fall.
Guys On Ice, a sold-out musical hit at MRT's 112-seat Stackner Nov. 13, 1998-Jan. 3, 1999, now returns to MRT, but to the larger, 198 seat Stiemke Theater, Feb. 17-March 7.
The added run made 5,000 tickets available, but by the Feb. 17 matinee opening, the show -- set in a Wisconsin ice shanty -- was 92 percent sold out, according to an MRT spokesperson.
The show became an instant phenomenon in 1998, 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."
Guys On Ice features librettist-lyricist Fred Alley, Doug Mancheski and Chris Irwin, of American Folklore Theatre, who had performed the show earlier in 1998 in Door County, WI, a resort area 3-1/2 hours north of Milwaukee. Music is by James Kaplan. "The musical is a little on the stupid side," Kaplan admitted to Playbill On-Line in 1998. "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 was released (on cassette only) last year. The tape is available through American Folklore Theatre 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.
The Rep run 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