Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Guys and Does’ tickles fancies again in Door County

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Deer are dancing in Door County again deez days. Excuse me, these days. I picked up the vernacular from the musical “Guys and Does,” which uses “deez” and “does” and “youse” and “tree” (for three) and other wreckage of the language from up nort’ Wisconsin way, hey.

Northern Sky Theater has revived one of its popular shows for another fall go-to at Door Community Auditorium. Performances continue to Oct. 15.

So there’s no mistake: Northern Sky Theater has a summer season outdoors in Peninsula State Park. That’s done. “Guys and Does” is performed indoors (though in part it’s about the great outdoors).

***

Creative: Book and lyrics – Frederick Heide and Lee Becker; music – Paul Libman; director and choreographer – Jeffrey Herbst; music director – Ryan Cappleman; stage manager – Neen Rock; musical arrangements – Colin Welford; assistant stage managers – Dan Klarer and Shawn Galligan; scenic designer – Jim Maronek; lighting and sound designer – David Alley; costume and props designer – Kathleen Rock

Cast: Fritz Dingleheimer – Doc Heide; Duane Puddles, White Doe – Lee Becker; Joe Jimmy Ray Bob Johnson III, Staghart of the Golden Horns – Doug Mancheski

Running time: One hour, 50 minutes

Remaining performances: Through Oct. 15: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays

Info: northernskytheater.com

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A show with dancing deer sounds silly, and “Guys and Does” is… and isn’t.

It’s a love story in many layers.

There aren’t any women present, but they sure count.

Action starts as two paper mill workers in central Wisconsin head up nort’ to go deer huntin’. One guy is a namby-pamby who has taken to knitting and has no desire to kill a deer, much less a fly. Duane Puddles is goin’ huntin’ so as to bond with Fritz Dingleheimer and thus ease his path to being Fritz’ son-in-law – if he can get up the nerve to ask Fritz for his daughter’s hand, much less propose to his girlfriend in the first place. Duane dithers. He is not mucho on the macho.

Fritz, meantime, feels his 33-year marriage has slipped into a bog. His wife’s idea of sizzle – a trip to Helsinki – leaves Fritz cold.

The title, “Guys and Does,” is a play on the Broadway and movie musical, “Guys and Dolls.” The two are miles apart in story and most matters. Songs for “Guys and Does” are all original to “Guys and Does.” The title is important as the show embraces themes around matters of the heart – finding that certain someone and then doing the right thing by that person. Or something like that.

The show’s love includes respect and appreciation that extends to nature in the form of hunting. We see good hunter/bad hunter characters. Fritz is the good hunter. An interloper from Texas, trophy-happy Joe Jimmy Ray Bob Johnson III, is the bad hunter.

Not many musicals include key components of hunter safety. Not many express the creed of conscientious hunters. Not many weave those into what masculinity means surrounding scenarios of dropping deer by arrow or bullet. The show is deep in ways.

But then… but then… “Guys and Does” is outrageously funny. And earthy.

A myth-like white stag appears. He speaks. Stagehart of the Golden Horns figures his time is about up, and he yearns to keep his legacy going by siring the next generation. He finds his White Doe, all right. Not many musicals include the dot-to-dots about mating deer, told through ballet. “Pas De Doe” is a tease and a takeoff of serious ballet’s pas de deux with male and female dancers often developing a romantic story. Same thing here, with two guys in balletic moves dressed as a buck (a golden rack to boot) and a doe (you can tell by the skirt and girlie face make-up). Laugh? You think you’ll never stop.

The earthiness extends to the show dropping a line with a fictional name for one of Wisconsin’s counties to a joke about things that make a buck a buck.

The actor who dances as a doe also dresses as a tree and philosophizes about being a tree. He grows rambunctious about the fate of many pine trees, too, so much so that you may opt for an artificial tree next Christmas. And yet it’s funny.

It took no arm twisting for Lee Becker and Doc Heide to mess around in their roles because they dreamed up the show, with Paul Libman. Doug Mancheski joined in because he’s been around Becker and Heide forever in Northern Sky Theater (and American Folklore Theatre before it), plus his roles are pure Mancheski – comically vile (Joe Jimmy) and over-the-top absurd (Staghart).

A fourth collaborator is director Jeffrey Herbst, a troupe mainstay. His choreographic touches with dancing deer and a tree elevate the already high level of humor.

Imagination abounds. Jim Maronek’s palette of scene designs this time includes an animated cartoon-esque feel in Fritz’ hunting cabin. The look signals this show is not meant to be of reality and is meant to have a playfulness to it. The audience needs to supply imagination when it comes to the moveable trees, made of plain trunks and a few limbs covered in camo material. The actors move the trees between scenes.

“Guys and Does” premiered in 2009, also with Becker, Heide, Herbst and Mancheski on board. The four, and music director Ryan Cappleman on keyboard, have things down pat. And so do backstage folks when it comes to costume/character changes for Mancheski. In somewhere around a minute sometimes, Mancheski goes from a duded-up Texan to an all-white stag complete with hooves (for his hands and feet) or vice versa. Also, the audience hears none of the offstage scrambling and changing, and when Mancheski re-appears, his wireless headset microphone is spot on. Now, I see a lot of performances, and Northern Sky Theater’s are remarkably in a league of their own when it comes to clarity of the sound system and amplification working correctly in many, many tricky situations. What is standard for Northern Sky Theater is on the wish list for many companies in the area that use wireless sound systems.

“Guys and Does” is one of the best by the professional Northern Sky Theater – though there are a lot of “bests.” Let’s say it’s one of the most out-there of Northern Sky Theater shows with a title that immediately resonates.

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Musical numbers

Act I

“Up Nort’” – Fritz, Duane

“Slapjack” – Duane

“I Can’t Kill Bambi’s Brudder” – Duane

“Another Notch in My Gun” – Joe Jimmy

“Huntin’ Day” – Fritz, Duane

“What Do You Get Your Wife?” – Fritz

“If I Was a Tree” – Duane

“Staghart of the Golden Horns” – Staghart

“Slapjack Duel” – Duane, Joe Jimmy

“Staghart of the Golden Horns” (Reprise) – Staghart, Fritz, Duane

Act II

“Needing the Doe” – Staghart

“Pas De Doe” – Staghart, White Doe

“Guys and Does” – Fritz, Staghart

“Avalon” – Staghart

“Knitting Love Song” – Duane

“Huntin’ Day Reprise” – Joe Jimmy

“Staghart’s Soliloquy” – Staghart

“Avalon” (Reprise)

“Sacred Critter Choir” – Joe Jimmy, Fritz, Duane

“Up Nort’” (Reprise) – Fritz, Duane

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ALSO: “And If Elected,” Sept. 29-Oct. 15, Gibraltar Town Hall

THE VENUE: The 725-seat Door Community Auditorium features wood elements (for acoustics) surrounding its focal 60 by 24-foot proscenium (straight-front) stage. The auditorium opened in 1991. It serves the Gibraltar School District and hosts professional performances such as the respected Peninsula Music Festival, many of the nation’s top-shelf artists and Northern Sky Theater fall musicals. In the auditorium design, the architects chose to emphasize open space, exposed steel beams and simplicity of shapes. For orchestra concerts, the stage is lined with wood; panels are squares within larger squares. The roof interior is exposed wood, an acoustical touch. Balcony and box-seat areas are faced with plaster surfaces of a red hue, and the aura is like that of decks on a passenger ship, only inside. The hall’s seats are padded with wood backs. The lobby features two murals that represent the spirit of the peninsula, “Door County/The Water” and “Door County/The Land.”

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.

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