Assembled by Frederick Heide
Given that we’d made our home (not to mention lots of music) in Peninsula State Park for 30 years when this show was first performed in 2000, we thought it only fitting to throw the park a birthday party with this collection of songs, designed to evoke the feeling of sitting around a campfire in the Nicolet Bay campground, or send you gently off to sleep if you were camping in the park anyway.
Green Bay Press Gazette
Troupe’s tip of hat to state parks is a thing of beauty, humor
FISH CREEK – For the 100th anniversary of the Wisconsin park system, one of the system’s illustrious attractions – American Folklore theatre at Peninsula State Park – has created a show that captures the essence of why folks like the parks.
Woven through “Moonlight and Marshmallows” are stories, songs and sing-alongs that burst with the spirit of wilderness-type camping.
The show only is performed on Wednesday nights, tucked in the theater’s rotating schedule of three other summer productions.
“Moonlight and Marshmallows” has charming qualities galore.
- Terrific sing-alongs. They’re led by Laurie Birmingham, Laurie Flanigan and Jennifer Peterson-Hind. the three have wonderful voices and personalities, and all the songs are comical and zippy. “Sing-along” sounds corny, but this stuff is way up the ladder in energy and flair.
- Beautiful singing. Together, the seven-person cast produces shining harmonies, as in “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” Individuals have moments that you wish you could bottle and keep forever: Jeffrey Herbst in “My Evening Star,” Peterson-Hind “Oh Shenandoah” and Flanigan in “Diane and Billy.”
The shows title song “Moonlight & Marshmallows” is stunning and special. it features American Folklore Theatre co-founds Frederick Heide (a 1970 graduate of Green Bay East High School) and Fred Alley doing what they do best. Heide wrote the song and plays guitar – cleverly fusing a tune with a seafaring flavor with that of the outdoors and camping. Alley colors what Heide has created with his lustrous tenor voice.
- Personal reflections. Cast members tell of how their families embraced outdoor life. Peterson-Hind tells of being a park kids because her father managed a number of parks in her childhood – and her expertise with campfire shows in the sing-alongs. Alley ticks off sights, sounds, smells and tastes he experienced as a boy – and the effect is poetic.
- History. Heide thanks the Wisconsin leaders who had the foresight to create the “treasure” of a park system. He focuses on the second-oldest park – Peninsula State Park – where he has performed for 27 of its 90 years. Among his yarns, Heide tells how the first superintendent brought groceries to patrons, but today that’s different: Groceries are taken by other parkies – racoons.
- Interaction. Questionnaires are handed to the audience before the show, and some responses are read on stage. Sample: One person’s funniest moment while camping was dropping a flashlight in an outhouse and having it stick, pointing upward and illuminating the place for two days.
Not every state park can mark the anniversary this way. Only one park has American Folklore Theatre, which has a way of earning its audience’s affection.