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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Northern Sky Presents Doc Heide’ a fascinating concert

Critic At Large

Theater’s co-founder, performer, writer, etc., with a Ph.D

Fred “Doc” Heide beams after performing a song in his concert in Gould Theater of Northern Sky Theater. (Warren Gerds screenshot)

FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – A sung autobiography.

Interesting concept.

Especially because the autobiographee has so much to tell while singing songs of his creation and playing guitar and writing word pictures in the air about meanings.

Heaven is a topic – scientific/scholarly thoughts upon.

The mind is everywhere.

And the heart.

The person is a load – an especially unique individual hard to explain.

The person is a lode – a gold mine so rich that every few steps there’s a nifty nugget to pick up and go, “Wow!”

Of a kind, “Northern Sky Presents Doc Heide” is a great concert. It’s about:

A scholar who forgot to be pedantic.

A performer who forgot to be simplistic.

A creator who never forgot to have fun while being smart.

Or something like that.

Frederick or Fred or Doc Heide is definitely singular.

His concert is the final shoe drop in an online series by Northern Sky Theater that entertains and explains much about the workings of the company in which creativity seems as natural as breathing. The pay-to-view concert may be found until May 31 through

Doc Heide was recorded performing live in the company’s Gould Theater. Off camera is an audience of two – tech whiz Dave Alley and Jody Jessup, Doc Heide’s wife.

Included in the hour-and-a-quarter are 12 songs, an interview/chat in the middle and a perspective on a personality and a place.

A vase of beautiful flowers off one shoulder adds comfort to the scene.

Engagement is immediate. Doc Heide’s first song is about self-acceptance. His introduction paraphrases Oscar Wilde: “You’ve got to be yourself because everybody else is already taken.”

A light, deft touch on guitar sets the tone for that song and many of the others.

Doc Heide has a doctorate in clinical psychology. He kids that he is qualified to shrink himself.

That work is in California. But the musical theater stuff is in Wisconsin, has been since 1972 for him. Doc Heide tells of a fork in the road he came to. Like Yogi Berra, he took it – essentially serving two masters.

He speaks of writing shows. He’s had hand in, among others, “Belgians in Heaven,” “Packer Fans from Outer Space,” “Guys & Does,” “Sunsets & S’mores,” “The Mountains Call My Name,” “Moon of the Long Nights” and “Ya Ya You Betcha.”

Doc Heide says only one of the songs in his concert was written for the stage, “Dream Away Down the River of Time.” It was written for “Mark Twain’s Mississippi” and for the voice of Fred Alley.

Doc Heide and Fred Alley started what has become Northern Sky Theater. Doc Heide wrote often for the voice of Fred Alley, a persona prominent in the performance. The two shared a muse and a place they owned in Door County not far from the spot where Fred Alley died of a heart attack while jogging May 1, 2001.

Doc Heide describes Fred Alley as having “the voice of an archangel and the soul of Peter Pan.”

The concert is profound in other ways – of people in his life, of thoughts on nature and living, of advice on hope in the pandemic: “Don’t let that lamp go out.”

Always near is humor, the Doc Heide brand that’s heady. In one case, he chats about the mourning dove and offers an expert’s evaluation that the male whose call is heard is “clinically depressed.”

In the middle of the concert, Door County folksinger/songwriter Katie Dahl engages Doc Heide about his creative process in songwriting, including intricacies of his guitar playing. During the discussion, Doc Heide speaks of excruciation in writing for scholarly journals (saying one such paper of his is near publication) and a song of his youth in Green Bay, “East High on My Mind.”

Were it not for COVID-19, Northern Sky Theater would not have created its online series, would not have encouraged Doc Heide to spring with a concert, would not have illuminated so much about the person who lives so much history and seems so centered.

It’s deep, but on the surface it’s nugget after “Wow!” nugget.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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