Frederick Heide, Lee Becker and
A Centennial Celebration for Peninsula State Park! Sparkling folksongs, great ol’ sing-a-longs, hilarious camping tales, and fascinating historical tidbits combine in this summer-long birthday party for our favorite state park. Plus audience member stories, too!
Sunsets and S’mores celebrates the 100th birthday of Door County’s Peninsula State Park, one of the most popular destinations in the Midwest.
Doc Heide, Lee Becker, and Matt Zembrowski are the show’s authors. Heide and Becker co-wrote the hit comedies Belgians in Heaven and Packer Fans from Outer Space, two of the largest-drawing shows in AFT’s history.
The show features catchy audience sing-a-longs. Heide says they’ll be “those fun songs your family sang around the campfire while your brother was busy hiding pinecones in your sleeping bag.”
The large cast features longtime AFT regulars such as Jeff Herbst, Heide, and Becker. Also onstage will be Chase Stoeger and Molly Rhode, who’ve performed with Door Shakespeare and Skylight Opera Theatre as well as in such AFT shows as Cabin with a View. Door County folksinger Katie Dahl and music director Matt Zembrowski join the AFT ensemble for the first time.
“This will be a summer-long birthday party in honor of this beautiful park,” Heide says. “Gosh, we all hope we look this good when we turn 100.”
Green Bay Press Gazette
WARREN GERDS - June 2009
Mmmm, S'mores: American Folklore Theatre production is a rare treat
4 Out Of 4 Stars!
This is rare: A state park’s 100th birthday is celebrated in an ongoing show by a musical theater group that has entertained tens of thousands of people for years in the park’s amphitheater that’s surrounded by towering pines.
The rarity is real in American Folklore Theatre’s presentation of “Sunsets & S’mores,” playing at Peninsula State Park twice a week this summer.
The show is a surprise in a way, dishing out information and emotional impact along with the expected sing-alongs, corny camping and knock-knock jokes and tributes to the park.
That’s because key creators Frederick Heide (AFT co-founder) and Lee Becker, with an assist from Matt Zembrowski, are so knowing of the park and their audience – as is director Jeff Herbst.
“Sunsets & S’Mores” captures the lure of the park through time through “Pen Park Fact” scenes, songs and poems from bygone campers and original tunes about the place.
Only in show like this could we get “Ode to the Niagara Escarpment,” an original song by Heide that entertains as it marches through geographic and geological facts.
Old songs such as “Sentimental Journey” and “Shenandoah” are filled with luscious harmonies by the troupe – Heide, Becker, Zembrowski, Molly Rhode, Chase Stoeger, Katie Dahl, Alexander Mace, Pamela Niespodziani, Amber Alley and Josh Alley.
Longtime AFTgoers will savor “Gibraltar Town,” placed in the show to honor co-founder Fred Alley, who died in 2001. The song reminds listeners of Alley’s great songwriting skills and knack for sweet melancholy. The song is sung with care by Dahl and Amber Alley, Fred Alley’s niece.
The show is mostly playful and populist. It contains songs that play with words, tales of campers’ comical experiences, such light tunes as “Fried Ham,” “Daddy Long Legs,” “Bottle of Pop/Fish & Chips/Junk” and, sung at increasing speed, “Flea Fly.”