Guys On Ice

Book & Lyrics by Fred Alley
Music by James Kaplan
Conceived & Researched by
Fred Alley & Frederick Heide

The Hit Ice Fishing Musical


Buddies Marvin and Lloyd spend a winter’s day in a shanty out on the ice, talking about life, love and Leinie’s. Guys on Ice has thrilled audiences throughout Wisconsin, as well
as in Michigan, Oregon, California
and New York.

Guys on Ice will run Nov. 15, 2015–Jan. 17, 2016 at the Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret.

"Guys On Ice" had its broadcast premiere on Wisconsin Public Television in 2015!
NEXT AIR TIMES: Monday, November 30th at 7PM & Sunday, December 6th at 3:30PM
It is available for purchase on DVD at Northern Sky Theater.
OR Donate to Wisconsin Public Television to get your DVD today.
Recorded at Northern Sky Theater in summer 2014 and starring Doug Mancheski and Steve Koehler,
this is the first time the musical written by Fred Alley and James Kaplan
has been captured on video.MORE INFORMATION – CLICK HERE
Watch this exclusive premiere preview of “Ode to a Snowmobile Suit” now.

Since 1998, Guys on Ice has played to sold-out houses in Ephraim, Sturgeon Bay, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison and played for audiences as far away as California, New York and Oregon. Fred Alley wrote the following description of the show for AFT’s 1998 program:

You've seen them. Little wooden shanties sitting on lake ice. Puffs of smoke rising from chimney pipes. On a quiet day, maybe the static of a tinny radio filters through plywood walls, across the frozen tundra, back to shore. In a cold world, on a cold day, on a frozen lake, these little signs of life are all most people know of a secret culture that thrives right here amongst us. Well, wonder no more. Once again, AFT sets its sights close to home as we bring you our somewhat twisted take on the secret world of ice fisherman. Guys on Ice spends a day in the life of Marvin and Lloyd — fishing buddies and home-grown philosophers. With musical numbers like, "The Wishing Hole," "Ode to a Snowmobile Suit," "Fish is the Miracle Food" and "The One That Got Away," Guys on Ice works not only as a serious anthropological study but as a musical comedy as well.

Produced in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2011 & 2014

Production Photos

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Peninsula Pulse

A Newbie Reviews AFT Favorite

Erin Monfils - August 1, 2014

I cannot say how, despite about two decades of bi-annual trips to Door County, I had managed to escape an experience which so many consider absolutely essential to every visit here. Yet neither can I say that, prior to this summer, I ever minded much. After I had returned from several walks in Peninsula State Park, American Folklore Theatre always inspired more apprehension than attraction in me. But this year an ad for the AFT classic Guys on Ice, along with the guarantees of my grandparents, reeled me in, and pretty soon this little theater in the woods had won me over – hook, line, and sinker.

What first hooked me in was simply the atmosphere of the place. Upon our arrival, as we crossed the grassy lot amid a chorus of slamming car doors and joined the merging streams of playgoers at the far end, my dad struck up a conversation with a family of AFT pros. When we confessed that this was our first time, they kindly gave us some advice and encouragement before we parted ways at the ticket booths. On route to the theater gate, we passed by stands selling candy and popcorn. Christmas crooners played over the speakers, warming us up for the winter-set show, and a friendly usher pointed out a prime spot, where we hunkered down. All around us, good old Midwestern geniality filled the air—folks chattered and bantered, exchanged introductions and shared jokes. Everyone there seemed thoroughly prepared for a delightful evening.

Next, the humor and pace of the production continued to pull me along the line. Even though the cast for most of the musical consisted of only two men, the show never lost its momentum. It was sprinkled with a copious supply of fish tales, fishing jokes, and fishy figures of speech, not to mention the dozen or so songs that graced the stage with their catchy tunes and clever lyrics. These included “Ode to the Snowmobile Suit,” which features an interlude of choreographed zippering, as well as “De Ice Fishing King” and “Fish is the Miracle Food,” involving impersonations of Elvis Presley and Jesus respectively. The third and final character, Ernie the Moocher, provided his audience with more than a few laughs, and his fellow ice-fishers with those bits of news from shore which drive on the plot. All this, and the fact that the play was just an hour and a half long, kept me engaged and enjoying myself throughout the whole show.

I have since discovered that these are typical virtues of AFT productions. All their plays are less than two hours in length and run without intermissions, and all of them, no matter how serious, have funny moments. Jeff Herbst, artistic director at the theater and Lloyd in Guys on Ice tells me, “It is unbelievably a good thing in this world to be able to make people laugh. . .I think people are enriched by laughter, especially by their own.” According to Herbst, comedies, whether slapstick or witty, “fulfill a real fundamental need in people, to find that release of their better self, who can sort of rise above whatever tragic circumstances they might find themselves in.”

Finally, after the atmosphere of the theater and the production’s pace and humor, for me it was the story’s heart which sunk the deal. Without ever sacrificing its buoyant spirit or turning corny, Guys on Ice manages to incorporate the all-important human themes of love and death. It also astutely portrays the companionship between those men on the ice, past and present. Near the beginning, Lloyd sings about how when he was a boy, his father and uncles “never said a word” to him “any other where,” but out there in the shanty, “dey had tings to share,” and now, he clearly has a true friend in Marvin. Herbst appreciates offering some substance beneath the silliness: “We’ve always wanted to do stuff that can be both funny and touching, if at all possible,” he explains. “If you can get in both in, then I think you’re really doing your job well.”

Ultimately, the play succeeds because the men up there on stage, while they have times of caricature, reveal themselves by the play’s end to be real people, in fact, our very neighbors. I overheard several comments from audience members, both during and after the performance, who recognized themselves or their loved ones in Marvin and Lloyd.

While we headed en masse back to our vehicles, I heard a few other responses: one mother inquired of her two young sons, “Well, did you finally find a musical you like?” “YES!” was their resounding answer. My father too, also originally deterred by the genre, expressed enthusiastic approval afterwards. All of which just goes to prove that, as Marvin declares in the very first song, “All you need is the right kind of bait” – and this theater in the woods has undoubtedly got it.


Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel -

Those Legendary 'Guys on Ice'

MIKE FISCHER, Special to the Journal Sentinel - June 23, 2014

The lesson learned by Stoeger's extraterrestrial (in "Packer Fans from Outer Space") is lost on Lloyd in "Guys on Ice," the Fred Alley (book and lyrics) and Kaplan (music) musical in which two men in an ice shanty — periodically interrupted by Ernie the Moocher (Helm) — ostensibly talk fishing while ruminating on life and the mystery of friendship.

Lloyd (Jeffrey Herbst) is in hot water with his wife because he'd rather see the Bears and Packers at Lambeau than take her out for their anniversary. Marvin (Mancheski) is crushing on a woman who works check-out at the grocery store.

Herbst and Mancheski have been to this rodeo together before, and it shows; they don't so much play these role as inhabit them. Mancheski's irrepressibly jiggling and clowning Marvin complements Herbst's wry and more taciturn Lloyd, who expresses himself best through Herbst's tender rendition of bittersweet songs that always make me miss the late Fred Alley, taken from us far too soon.

Like this piece, both Mancheski and Herbst are older now than when they first played these characters, lending a smoky and melancholy quality to even some of their funnier moments. Dead-end jobs, rocky relationships, fading dreams of glory and the specter of living alone when old aren't as easy to joke away once one is well into middle age.

All of which paradoxically makes each of this show's justly famous laugh lines even better — while reminding us, as this show's closing moments insistently do, that life is short. Reason enough to catch this legendary play, featuring two fine actors who know it so well, while one still can.

Warmth flows from AFT’s ‘Guys on Ice’

WARREN GERDS - June 15, 2014

FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – Two friends from Wisconsin spend the day ice fishing. Happens all the time. Like with Lloyd and Marvin. They tell jokes, drink beer, bait hooks, talk about women, share tasty morsels, wonder about stuff (Do fish think?), tease, step out of the shanty to tap a kidney, talk up the wonders and virtues of the Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field, grouse about work, dream and wait. They wait for fish bites, for Cubby and for the pain-in-the-neck Ernie to come and go.

On the day we’re with Lloyd and Marvin, they don’t catch a fish. Nothing happens that way. Everything changes in other ways because of a visitor they itch to see show up – Cubby, a guy on cable TV with a fishing show. Oh boy, FAME.

The tale of Lloyd and Marvin is told through “Guys on Ice,” a musical comedy that has returned for a summer run on the American Folklore Theatre main stage in Peninsula State Park in Door County. It’s a great show (5 stars out of 5), laced with knee-slap humor and poignant moments.

Written by Fred Alley and James Kaplan, the show has been around since 1998. It’s been produced 10 previous times by American Folklore Theatre and scores of times by other theaters around the United States.

Starring in this production are Jeffrey Herbst as Lloyd and Doug Mancheski as Marvin.

The characters: Lloyd is having trouble at home. His wife has left him. Their anniversary is coming up, and Lloyd’s offer to spend the day at the Packers-Bears game at Lambeau Field is just about her last straw. Marvin, also a true-blue Packers fan, is the guy Cubby is coming to see because Marvin is the king of fishermen. Marvin’s woman problem is he can’t quite break the ice with the check-out girl at the Pick ’n Save. The thought of her tattoo of a Packers helmet warms his heart. Lloyd is the sharper and more thoughtful of the two guys; he embraces the wonders of nature. When the two tell jokes, it takes Marvin 12 beats to catch on to Lloyd’s. Most of all, Lloyd and Marvin are friends. They know how to pick each other’s scabs, but they’re still friends to the core. Ernie the Moocher is irrepressible. He lifts beer and bait shamelessly and shamelessly breaks into songs on goofball mini-instruments.

The performers: Doug Mancheski has played Marvin in American Folklore Theatre productions from the start. He’s been Marvin in hundreds of performances. Many hundreds. If this were sports, Doug Mancheski would have some sort of record – certainly for number of times for a right-handed, blue-eyed, master-of-fine-arts actor from Green Bay portraying a role in a musical for 16 years. While there would be an asterisk, that asterisk would not be a caveat to his feat but something else. (Follow the link in *- below). Doug Mancheski is buff these days, and he adds that to in a bit he does as Marvin. His performance as Marvin is Marv-elous. Jeffrey Herbst has taken over the role of Lloyd, though he is extremely familiar with the part. As artistic director of American Folklore Theatre, Jeffrey Herbst was present at the birth of Lloyd. He directs and choreographs this production. I get a kick out of this: Jeffrey Herbst is so lean that he has to wear a fake beer belly to be more convincing as the Leinie-loving Lloyd. Folks should know that Jeffrey Herbst and Doug Mancheski are keepers of a flame – the Lloyd/Marvin/“Guys on Ice” legacy – and they do so with deeper meaning, I think, than anybody can understand. Paul Helm is new to the role of Ernie, but in his pre-show game-show bit, he demonstrates he has clued in to what makes “Guys on Ice” tick.

The Fred Alley-James Kaplan songs strike multiple chords. “Ode to a Snowmobile Suit” is sheer comic joy as the guys extol the virtues of their suits while playing them like rhythmic musical instruments. “Everything is New” celebrates the awe of Earth, essentially. “Fish is the Miracle Food” comically savors fish. “The King” finds Marvin glorying in himself in the manner and moves of Elvis Presley.

“Guys on Ice” is about two friends from Wisconsin who spend the day ice fishing and find out more about life. “Guys on Ice” also is about entertaining an audience and slipping in pithy thoughts along the way.

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Door County Advocate

A New Fishing Hole Opens Up

ED HUYCK - July 2003

Guys on Ice debuts at AFT summer stage - 2003

Since it premiered at Ephraim Village Hall in 1998, Guys on Ice has defined American Folklore Theatre. The show has played to sold-out audiences from Door County to Madison to as far away as Ashland, Ore. It has been featured on a segment on National Public Radio.

But this signature show has never been on AFT’s signature stage — the outdoor amphitheater at Peninsula State Park, where the group first started (as the Heritage Ensemble) more than 30 years ago.

That’s changed. The musical about two guys sharing their hopes and dreams (not to mention beer, fish and jokes) on the Green Bay ice has come home in a bright and funny production at the park. This is a revised version of Fred Ally-James Kaplan show. The original was an hour-long, one-act piece. Shortly before Alley’s death in 2001, the collaborators expanded it — with new bits, jokes and songs — to a two-act production, which has been used in productions since.

The latest show returns it to a one-act format but keeps some material from the expanded version. However the show is organized, Guys on Ice is always about its two heroes — Marvin and Lloyd, a pair of Sturgeon Bayites who seemingly live for fishing and the Green Bay Packers. They’ve gotten together in their shanty on a cold winter morning for a special occasion. The host of a local cable TV fishing show is going to drop by the shack and interview the two "for the TV."

They pass the time – this is a kind of Waiting for Godot with regional accents — by swapping jokes and talking about their lives. Neither is too happy right now. Lloyd’s wife has left him because he won’t give up his Packers vs. Bears tickets for that Sunday, which is also their wedding anniversary. Marvin is burned out by his job and lonely — and he can’t find the courage to ask out the checkout girl at the Pick ’N Save.

The third character — Ernie the Moocher, mainly just a pain in the neck — is an immediate threat on the ice. As his name implies, Ernie wants what the two have (in this case, mainly their Leinenkugel Beer).

Doug Mancheski returns as Marvin, a role that has defined his work at AFT. He fits into the role like a pair of comfortable old gloves. He knows — and obviously loves — the material, and takes fresh chances with each production. His Elvis-inspired "I Am the King" is still a highlight. Jeff Herbst steps into Lloyd, a character created by his long-time friend, Alley. Herbst makes this his own character, full of nuance and unique touches. Lee Becker returns as Ernie The Moocher, and has a blast in his two scenes during the show, and during the pre-show warm-up, where he gets the crowd (a packed house Wednesday night) into the mood for the show.

Those familiar with Guys on Ice will not be disappointed. Favorite tunes, from "Ode to a Snowmobile Suit" to "The Once That Got Away" to "Your Last Day on Earth" are all here. An expanded orchestra — Kaplan on piano, Maureen Milbach on percussion and Eric Lewis on guitar — adds extra punch to the songs.

Though AFT tries to set the mood — Christmas songs before the show, Ernie’s warmup, the heavy snowmobile suits worn by the character — it is difficult to get completely in the mood, especially on an early evening where the sun is shining brightly and the temperature is pushing 90 degrees. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Guys on Ice doesn’t try to be too deep, through it does delve into the nature of friendship and love (just like Lumberjacks in Love and The Bachelors, the other two shows in this informal trilogy by Alley and Kaplan) and finds plenty of truth in the simplicity of spending a day doing nothing but waiting for the fish to bite.


Green Bay Press Gazette

Guys on Ice Sliding into Another (Season) of Fun, Frolic

WARREN GERDS - September 1999

A great little musical has returned for another burst of off-the-wall energy. Guys on Ice — about two ice-fishing buddies who don't catch a thing but still share a special time — opened Thursday to a full house at Village Hall.

The American Folklore Theatre show started at a rare time, 5 p.m. That was because of the Green Bay Packers–Miami Dolphins game at Lambeau Field. Marvin and Lloyd, the characters in the show, would insist on that because they're Packers fans to the hilt.

Guys on Ice was an instant hit when it opened in Ephraim last September. The jolly musical played to packed houses through fall, then went on to more glory in two runs at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre's Stackner Cabaret. After the run at Ephraim, Guys on Ice will return to the Stackner for a one-month run.

It's Wisconsiny. It's also surprisingly touching.

This show clicks with its inside humor. It's very Wisconsiny. It's also surprisingly touching. Some songs are giddy and goofy. Some are pretty. The story is simple yet deep at the same time. It's two guys coming up with corny ice-fishing jokes (like a one-armed fellow showing how big his lunker catch was) and breaking into a song and dance about such things as the virtues of the snowmobile suit. Then, suddenly, they ponder life as if it were, as the song says, Your Last Day on Earth.

Perfectly capturing the purely Wisconsin feeling are Fred Alley and Doug Mancheski, a Green Bay native.

Mancheski is Marvin, who envisions all the fame that will be his when he appears on a fishing show on cable TV. He imagines himself as Elvis Presley and sings, "What Elvis is to rock 'n' roll I am to the ice fishing pole."

Alley is Lloyd, who has problems at home. That's partly because Lloyd's wife doesn't think spending their anniversary at the Packers-Bears game at Lambeau Field is all that swell. Picky, picky.

James Valcq doubles as the "band" and as the character Ernie the Moocher. Valcq is new to the show, and it shows. But then, Alley and Mancheski have all the mannerisms, expressions and fractured-English phrases down pat, so Valcq is working from a disadvantage.

One of the many beauties of Guys on Ice is it runs for only 60 minutes, yet is packed with impish adventure.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Charm of ‘Guys on Ice’ reels in audience

BY DAMIEN JAQUES - November 1998

How can you argue with the logic of Marvin, one of three characters in the one-act musical comedy “Guys on Ice”?

If hell is all flames, heaven must be cold, like Wisconsin. So there must be ice fishing in heaven.”

Ice fishing is heaven for many Wisconsin winter sportsmen, and “Guys on Ice” affectionately spoofs them and the concept of fishing in a shanty on a frozen lake for hours. Gentle fun also is poked at northern Wisconsin dialects and the state’s devotion to the Packers.

The hourlong show was developed by composer James Kaplan and writer Fred Alley of Door County’s American Folklore Theatre. Alley is responsible for the book and lyrics.

“Guys on Ice” was performed to sellout crowds, at the Ephraim Village Hall during the fall, and it has now moved to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret, where it runs through Jan. 3. It deserves sellouts here too.

Like virtually all American Folklore Theatre shows, “Guys on Ice” is simple, straightforward and possesses a sweet charm. The abundant humor is just this side of being corny. The original music is melodic and catchy. In this case, strong folk influences can be heard in many of the songs.

Plots are secondary in AFT productions. Kaplan’s tunes, Alley’s clever writing and the ensemble’s knack for effective showmanship make the experience enjoyable. Director-choreographer Jeffrey Herbst shares the credit for the company’s success.

The story line for “Guys on Ice” involves a fisherman awaiting his moment of glory on a cable TV fishing show, a husband in big trouble with his wife because he wants to spend their anniversary at a Packers-Bears game, and an irritating angler famous for his freeloading. The show is played out inside a fishing shanty that swings open on the Stackner stage.

Three veteran AFT actors-musicians, Alley, Doug Mancheski and Chris Irwin, make up the cast. Alley, who plays the husband in hot water, uses his beautiful tenor in several songs, including “The One Who Got Away.” The wistful tune is not about a fish; it declares his fear that he is losing his wife.

Without slipping into insulting parody, Mancheski is quite believable and likable as a North Woods doofus who “has a gift for fish,” and he still gets mileage out of an Elvis impersonation: “What Elvis was to rock ‘n’ roll, I am to the ice-fishing pole.”

Irwin spends most of his time accompanying the other two on keyboard and guitar, but he makes a few short appearances as Ernie the moocher.

The musical’s best number reflects the slightly goofy tone of the entire piece. An ode to the joys of wearing snowmobile suits uses the suits’ numerous zippers as the central point of some hilarious choreography.


Wisconsin State Journal

Jennifer Garrett - December 2002

Hilarious ‘Guys on Ice’ Returns

Winter is back and so is “Guys on Ice.” No one greets the falling temperatures with the enthusiasm of an ice fisherman. Oh, the augers! The shanties! The walleye! The beer! It’s a winning combination that lures droves of anglers into the cold and has, for the second season in a row, given rise to Madison Repertory Theatre’s much-adored musical “Guys on Ice.” Unless your heart is colder than a Wisconsin winter, you’ll fall hook, line and sinker for this light-hearted romp.

We spend the day with Marvin (Doug Mancheski reprising the role) and Lloyd (Steven Koehler) who converge upon Sturgeon Bay at dawn to hook a few perch and, they hope, to land an appearance on a cable TV fishing show. They swap stories and songs about life and love when they aren’t telling bad jokes or trading tall tales. There are even a few Elvis riffs: If only fishing were always so amusing.

So hold onto your knit caps. The laughs come easily and often, mostly because everyone knows someone like Marvin, Lloyd and their annoying friend Ernie the Moocher (Lee Becker). The material is fondly familiar, and you needn’t have trudged out onto a frozen Lake Monona in the frigid dark to appreciate it.

Even the intermission provides interactive entertainment, thanks to Ernie, who does out appropriate prizes to happy audience participants. This improvisational interlude is a show within a show, so be sure to hurry back from the concession stand for Ernie’s solo routine.

All in all, the opportunity to laugh at ourselves is a delightful way to welcome the winter, and “Guys on Ice” will have you chuckling at Wisconsin faster than you can say Oconomowoc.

My only objection is the brevity. Wrapping up in less than an hour and 45 minutes, darkness falls on these guys a little too quickly. With James Kaplan (who wrote the score for “Guys”) on piano, I could stand a few more clever ditties and silly dances.

And if I must split hairs, Lloyd shows no evidence of the spare tire around the middle that he sings about. All of those Friday fish fries should eventually wreak havoc on the waistline, and his physique suggests more time spent at the gym than on a frozen lake.

But this is art imitating life, after all, and I am duly thankful for the spruced-up version of this winter sport. After all, if you’ve seen one beer gut, you’ve seen them all. Plus, just shy of two hours is probably plenty of time to dedicate to these great outdoorsmen. I’m sure the same amount of time spent watching actual ice fishermen would numb the mind as quickly as it would the extremities. I’ll take the “Guys on Ice” version any day.


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