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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Fish Creek-based theater company unveils 10-production lineup

Critic At Large

Northern Sky Theater

Company image.

FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV)

Northern Sky Theater announced its 2020 season in Door County.

According to a press release: 

Northern Sky Theater will expand its schedule include 10 shows – seven in summer, two in fall and one during the winter holidays.

During summer, three musicals will be performed at its outdoor venue, Peninsula State Park Amphitheatre, and four at its new indoor space, the Gould Theater.

The two fall shows and the holiday show will be held in the Gould Theater.

While continuing its traditional performance schedule in the park, the company will use the Gould Theater to augment the season in a way that was not possible in the past.

“One of the major reasons for building a new theater was to have more control in scheduling our season and more assurances against weather-affected shows,” said Jeff Herbst, artistic director. “The Gould gives us both, and with the success of our first show in this new space last fall, we are certainly encouraged to provide our audience with more opportunities to see programming indoors.

Northern Sky Theater’s mission is to create original musicals and plays, now surpassing 65. The shows in the 2020 season will emphasize this mission while also celebrating 50 years of performances in the park, 30 years under the umbrella of Northern Sky Theater, and the first year of summer performances indoors.

The lineup for the outdoor season, running from June 10 to Aug. 29:

“Love Stings” is a world premiere musical comedy by Richard Castle and Matthew Levine. The plot is adapted from a P.G. Wodehouse story revolving around idealistic Bill Zapper. While planning a lavish wedding on a 1960s Door County bee farm, Bill begins to wonder if he and his reluctant fiancée are truly right for each other. Will the outrageous wedding go off without a hitch? Or is this the calm before the swarm? This honey of a show is sure to be all the buzz.

Castle and Levine’s first show for Northern Sky Theater, “Oklahoma in Wisconsin,” was directed by Pam Kriger. She will again collaborate with the two.

“Fishing for the Moon” premiered in 1992. The musical was the first collaboration between Fred Alley and James Kaplan, who would go on to write some of Northern Sky Theater’s most beloved shows. The slightly madcap plot takes place right after the Civil War amid some absurd misunderstandings.

“Fred and James wrote a valentine to musical comedy with ‘Fishing for the Moon’,” Herbst said. “It’s one of their sweetest shows, while still being incredibly funny,”

“Belgians in Heaven” includes the book and lyrics by Doc Heide and Lee Becker and music by Heide and Kaplan. The metaphysical polka musical includes a comical cast of characters. “Belgians in Heaven” follows the antics of Leo and Roger, battling farming brothers; Mildred, a talking chicken; Angelique, a bumbling angel; Henry, a simple savant; Josephine, a booyah-making neighbor; “and enough alter personalities to fill up heaven.”

Herbst said, “It’s a terrific line-up in the park, with a signature world premiere and two shows that hearken back to Northern Sky Theater’s beginnings. We also wanted to celebrate 50 years of performances in the park by bringing back two shows from our predecessor, the Heritage Ensemble, which will both have indoor performances.”

The lineup for the summer schedule in the Gould Theater, running from June 16-Sept. 5:

“Dad’s Season Tickets,” by Matt Zembrowski, premiered last fall as Northern Sky Theater’s first production in the Gould Theater. The homage to all things Packers and what that means for a Green Bay family was Northern Sky Theater’s biggest hit in its 28-year history of doing fall shows.

“This is a show that we knew our summer audiences would absolutely love, but it’s not readily transferrable to the outdoor stage, said Dave Maier, managing director. “So, since we now are able to, we will present it indoors during the summer.”

“Song of the Inland Seas,” created by Dave Peterson, was the first show presented in Peninsula State Park in 1970. This fiftieth anniversary presentation, celebrating the songs and stories of the Great Lakes, will have a limited six-performance run.

“The Mountains Call My Name,” by Doc Heide, also dates to the Heritage Ensemble days. First presented in 1989, the show features the engaging tales of John Muir, the Wisconsin-raised conservationist responsible for our national park system.

“SkyWriting!” is assembled by Ray Jivoff with music by Brett Ryback. This is a new collaboration between Northern Sky Theater and Write On Door County. The show will feature the writing of local students, presented by professional actors. The writing will center on nature and conservation, making it a companion piece to “The Mountains Call My Name.”

“Ray Jivoff has worked with students for years, unlocking their creative writing potential and weaving the results into a collection of stories, poems, songs and vignettes,” said Molly Rhode, associate artistic director. “We thought hearing one of the earliest voices on the subject of conservation along with the voices of our young people would be a wonderful synthesis on a very relevant topic.”

Northern Sky Theatre will present two productions in Gould Theater in repertory in its fall season, Sept. 11-Oct. 31.

“Naked Radio,” by Paul Libman and Dave Hudson, made its debut in 2017. Featuring three actors playing 15, it is the story of a small-town radio station that gets swallowed up by a corporate parent and the local DJs are relegated to obscurity. But when a snowstorm knocks the power out and the station loses its tie to the pre-programmed feed, the guys have to punt. Two DJs. One Blizzard. No Records.

“And If Elected,” created by Dave Peterson, Jeff Herbst and Fred Alley, is Northern Sky Theater’s quadrennial romp through past presidential campaigns. The show uses authentic songs and humor to poke fun at and reflect on American politicking.

In addition, “Home for the Holidays” will be presented between Christmas and the new year. First offered in 2007, the show will continue to feature performers with ties to Northern Sky Theater returning for a week of signature concerts.

“Three years ago, we launched our Constellation Campaign to build a creative center and the Gould Theater,” said Holly Feldman, development director Holly Feldman. “The goal for our now well-established, professional troupe is to use this facility to its fullest potential.”

Herbst said, “Our 2020 season fully embraces this new goal while maintaining our presence in the park. We are now realizing our vision. Two stages. One sky. It’s truly inspiring.”

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