Book & Lyrics by Richard Castle
Music by Matthew Levine
Summer 2022 World Premiere
A new musical comedy from the writers of Oklahoma in Wisconsin. 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.
Playwright & Lyricist
Richard is excited to premiere Love Stings at Northern Sky, where Oklahoma in Wisconsin was seen in 2017. Virtual Happy Hour was produced online by both TRU and Left Edge Theater in 2021, and his spooky comedy Housewarning Party was featured in Lionheart Theatre’s “Bewitching” festival. His musical The Angel of Painted Post was in the Stephen Schwartz ASCAP Workshop, and his comedy song “Mr. Whiskers” was a semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Competition. Richard is thrilled to work with the folks at Northern Sky again. Special thanks to Pam Kriger, Jeff Herbst and John Anderson for their incredible support.
Matthew has been writing songs for 40 years in styles from rock, pop, jazz, cabaret, art, children’s, a cappella, and others. His first musical, The Angel of Painted Post with collaborators Richard Castle and Adrian Bewley, was picked by Steven Schwartz to have the first act performed at the 2014 ASCAP/Dreamworks Musical Theater Workshop. His first musical produced by Northern Sky Theater with lyricist/bookwriter Richard Castle, Oklahoma in Wisconsin, had its debut in 2017. He is thrilled to once again collaborate with his Northern Sky family on Love Stings. More of his music can be heard at matthewslevine.bandcamp.com.
CAST OF CHARACTERS 2022
Doc Dudley………………..Alex Campea
Claire Fairweather………………..Molly Rhode*
Nutty Boyd………………..Zachary Thomas Woods
Elizabeth Boyd………………..Claudia Dahlman
Jeri Nichols/Operator………………..Lachrisa Grandberry*
Bill Zapper………………..Doug Clemons
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Understudies: Erin Kopit, Hannah Kato, Hayden Hoffman
‘Love Stings’ = fantasy with wings
by: Warren Gerds, WFRV-TV, Channel 5, WeAreGreenBay.com
Northern Sky Theater’s all-original musicals deal with something about Wisconsin, even if just a tidbit.
“Love Stings,” one of this season’s new offerings, is off the bee-ten track as it imagines a bee farm in Door County in the early 1960s.
Love plays big in the story – seldom going honey-smoothly but ending sweetly.
A star theater in Milwaukee, Melody Top, has a key role. It was a real place. Established musical theater stars with age 40 in their rear-view mirror were the big draw in popular musicals that audiences savored.
In “Love Stings,” Molly Rhode, one of Northern Sky Theater’s mainstays, portrays one such star, Claire Fairweather. Claire brims with lofty self-glory as a queen of the stage.
Imagined for Claire by Richard Castle (book and lyrics) and Matthew Levine (music) is a secondary career in low-budget B-movies. B… bee – get it? It’s a masterful stroke of character creation.
Much of “Love Stings” is caricature. Showbiz meets a bee farm will do that. But it is delighting entertainment on the outdoor stage in Peninsula State Park Amphitheater.
Spirited director and choreographer Pam Kriger pumps dance/movement action into the overplayed scenario. One sequence includes B-movie over-the-top characters – Evil Stuntman from Planet X being one – in a fantastically costumed battle with the formidable Queen Bee (Claire) who, naturally, has super powers.
With all the players being excellent and energized, the story sweeps around fantasy and statements.
Bill Zapper (Doug Clemons) is a goody two-shoes who has turned his back on his family business of making pesticides with DDT. Bill loves Claire, who is so-so about him. The now-jobless Bill comes into a sudden inheritance of $1 million, having once rescued a bee-stung stranger. Bill imagines a glorious wedding with Claire at a Door County bee farm that suffered DDT devastation. Bill is eager to share his inheritance with the owners, one of whom is a lonesome woman who despises his true name. There’s more. The story is quite hocus-pocus.
Statements are of a variety. Bill is informed of the inheritance by an attorney. The attorney is a woman who is single. A point is this was not common in the 1960s. As the no-nonsense persona, Lachrisa Grandberry drives the point home.
Twice, a point is made about lying: “A lie is like a pesticide, nothing but poison.”
Other subtleties are bits of adult humor that Northern Sky Theater shows manage to sneak in.
The show name-drops like crazy. Milwaukee stuff: Going to Mader’s (a popular downtown Milwaukee restaurant) for champagne and schnitzel. Pulaski High School (rival of my South Division). Jay Joslin (theater critic of Milwaukee Sentinel morning newspaper). General stuff: Alan Funt and “Candid Camera” (popular TV show). John F. Kennedy (president at the time and revered by Bill) and subject of this big-audience-response line: “JFK would never cheat on Jackie.”
The show is stoked with all sorts of stuff.
+ There’s a flashy duet of sorts. A breathless Bill zips out an excited, speedy message to send to Claire by way of Western Union, with Lachrisa Grandberry as the operator repeating in warp speed – and then adding advice.
+ Hand puppets – oversized bees – sweep into song action at times.
+ A main song, “Honey Lasts Forever,” is a torchy-bluesy creation that features the flexible, strong voice of Doug Clemmons.
+ Among his characters, Alex Campea struts as the one-time class nerd now rich in the song “Loaded,” and eventually shows up at a wedding loaded, as in having too much to drink.
+ Zach Woods plays the fantasy to the hilt as Nutty Boyd – of the “Boyds and the bees” farm (groan) – as super-expressive fan of Queen Bee.
+ Claudia Dahlman radiates the determination of Elizabeth Boyd with a colorful personality and voice.
+ Molly Rhode sells Claire in show-biz ways. Like: Suddenly, there is a high-energy tap-dance routine with Claire/Molly Rhode the epitome of a queen of the stage.
Yes, “Love Stings” is off the bee-ten track but this road less traveled has very much to see and hear and escape into.
Love Stings Is All the Buzz
Northern Sky Theater presents world premiere of its newest show
To open its 52nd season, Northern Sky Theater has debuted the world premiere of Love Stings, a new musical comedy based in Door County. With toe-tapping music and jokes about County Roads E and EE, it’s a family-friendly delight that makes you feel right at home, whether Door County is home all year long or just for a weekend.
Love Stings marks the 76th original show written for Northern Sky. The playwright/lyricist and composer duo, Richard Castle and Matthew Levine, respectively, previously worked on Oklahoma in Wisconsin, another Northern Sky original released in 2017.
The musical takes place on a 1960s bee farm, where a trusting, idealistic Bill Zapper, played by Doug Clemons, is planning a surprise wedding for his bug-hating actress fianceé, Claire Fairweather, played by Molly Rhode.
Bill spends time with the farm’s owners, Nutty and Elizabeth Boyd, played, respectively, by Zachary Thomas Woods and Claudia Dalhman (the understudy for Corrie Beula Kovacs). Bill chose their bee farm as the wedding venue to secretly give them an uncle’s misplaced inheritance.
He feels too guilty to keep the money and needs an extravagant wedding to hold on to his fianceé, so he combines the two. But, time away from Claire and the city makes him doubt whether marriage is what he wants or what he should want.
Love Stings is 90 minutes of laughter and earworm songs. It’s heartwarming without taking itself too seriously and has lovable, engaging characters. And, although sandwiched between conga lines and many bee puns, seeing the characters come to terms with who they – and the people around them – are leaves a lasting impression.
Through the lens of bees, honey and a science-fiction fever dream, the play explores the difference between the person you’re told to be and who you are, the person you’re told to love and whom you do love. And although, initially, it’s an easy, fictitious musical, it covers very real, modern topics such as parental pressure, financial security versus happiness, and the stigma that still exists for single working women.
The descending night at Northern Sky’s iconic outdoor amphitheater in the depths of Peninsula State Park makes for an unforgettable experience, and it also makes the audio and lighting design that much more impressive.
The set, though simple, is impressively detailed, and the costumes practically buzz. With the live band, the music isn’t flat or rehearsed to death either. Instead, it’s as lively as the characters.
The answering-service battle between Bill and the operator, played by Lachrisa Grandberry (who also plays Jeri Nichols), captures his anxiety and her disbelief flawlessly. Not to mention the arrogant conga line of Doc Dudley, played by Alex Campea.
With catchy music, talent galore and a backstage crew that knows how to put on an outdoor show, Love Stings is a performance that’s as sweet as honey.