Muskie Love | Northern Sky Theater

Music by Paul Libman
Book & Lyrics by Dave Hudson

Ben and Bea are rival fishing guides, both avowedly single—and happy that way. Through the playful scheming of Bea’s Uncle Roy (helped along by his daughter, Sarah, and her boyfriend, Claude), Ben and Bea are soon lured into a romantic trap. Despite their sworn hatred of each other, the couple finds themselves inexplicably drawn together. Throw in a feckless Fish and Game Warden, (DNR Doug), the ever-present Wisconsin love of the Packers, a few jokes from Roy, and a wonderful blend of tuneful songs – and you’ve got Muskie Love, a sure crowd-pleaser. This laugh-a-minute fish tale is a comic, contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set on the shores of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Show Length = 90 minutes with no intermission

Produced in 2004, 2005, 2009, 2013, 2018

Celebrate Water Door County

Celebrate Water 2018 is a year-long series of activities to celebrate Door County’s water, understand the threats to our water, and inspire people to act and protect our water. Muskie Love is just one of a great line-up of events all focused on preserving and celebrating our greatest resource. More info at

“Hudson and Libman have crafted endearing songs with bright and funny lyrics that both capture the characters’ hopes, reams and confusion, but also brings the distinct Northern Door way of life to the stage.” – Door County Advocate

“The show not only has budding romance between two couples, it is in love with Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s outdoors, Door County, Green Bay (the waters of), fishing, the Green Bay Packers…Things are nutty, fanciful, and funny.” – Green Bay Press-Gazette

About The Writers
Cast of Characters

Musical Comedy "Muskie Love" Preview Video

About The Writers

Paul Libman PAUL LIBMAN (Composer)
Musical theatre is Paul Libman’s destination on a journey that began with playing jazz piano, composing for television and radio commercials and producing records. After winning the Richard Rodgers Award twice for two different musicals with collaborator Dave Hudson, Paul relocated to New York, where he currently is a member of the Lehman Engel BMI Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop. He is also the creator, arranger and producer of the hit comedy CD, Oy to the World! A Klezmer Christmas. Now, having had eight successfully produced musicals, he continues to write with Dave Hudson and others. This year, Paul is especially excited about the return to the Northern Sky stage of Dave’s and his first musical, Muskie Love.



Dave HudsonDAVE HUDSON (Playwright-Lyricist)
Dave (member, ASCAP, The Dramatists Guild) is proud and a little bit amazed that he and Paul Libman have written eight musicals for Northern Sky. He and Paul are two-time winners of the Richard Rodgers Award and their work has been featured at festivals across the country. Dave is the proud father of three amazingly creative kids, Connor, Garen, and Paige. He is also lucky enough to have a great partner in his amazing wife, Gigi, who is a theatre director and artist in the Chicago area. This year Dave launched Marengo Publishing where you can find his youth plays as well as some of the shows from Northern Sky. If you know a theatre or school looking for fun musicals, send them over to


Other shows written for Northern Sky include Naked Radio (2017), No Bones About It (2015, 2016), Strings Attached (2014), Cheeseheads, the musical (2009, 2010 & 2012),  A Cabin with a View (2007, 2008), Main-Travelled Roads (2007), and Bing! The Cherry Musical (2011).

Cast of Characters

Roy, a fishing shop owner – Doug Mancheski*
Sarah, Roy’s daughter – Nadja Simmonds
Ben, a fishing guide – Jeff Herbst*
Claude, Ben’s assistant – Chase Stoeger
DNR Doug, fish and game representative – Doug Clemons
Bea, Roy’s niece – Molly Rhode*


*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

WARREN GERDS - September 2018


‘Muskie Love' Thrives on Romance, Packers, Magic in Fish Creek


FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) - Romance. Comedy. Bright music. Magic. Door County and the outdoors/fishing aura of the bay of Green Bay/Lake Michigan. The Green Bay Packers. William Shakespeare.


All of those are out to play in “Muskie Love,” the fall presentation of Northern Sky Theater running to Oct. 20 in Door Community Auditorium.


The show seems like it was made to be part of the Packers’ “100 Seasons” celebration – it so joyously embraces the team. But this is the fifth time Northern Sky has produced “Muskie Love.”


This darling musical bears repeating.


Step back, and “Muskie Love” is part of the legacy of the Packers: Professional theater company comes up with an original musical that embodies the love of the fabled team by fans. How many National Football League franchises can say that?


To tell that story, authors Dave Hudson and Paul Libman employ the outline of William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”  The basis is, a man and a woman who loathe and goad each other are made to fall in love by a Cupid-like figure. Pure fanciful.


In “Muskie Love,” the man and woman are competing fishing guides in Gills Rock, Door County, Wisconsin, USA.


“Muskie Love” has secondary romance in a younger ga-ga couple and the presence of over-officiousness in a gung-ho Wisconsin DNR guy.


The dusting of Shakespeare fantasy allows the creators to do stuff not ordinarily part of present-day musicals. In “Muskie Love,” the character of Roy operates a fishing shop and sees all/knows all in matters of the heart. Instead of shooting arrows, this Cupid uses a rod, reel and fishing lures to bring together two couples. With audience favorite Doug Mancheski as Cupid-like Roy, the song and scene of “Here I Come – There They Go” is magical.


Performances are sweet in this production.


Those of Jeff Herbst and Molly Rhode as the bickering duo are loaded with nuance.


Chase Stoeger and Nadja Simmonds capture the freshness of young love.


Doug Clemons chisels deviltry into his out-there role of a guy who lives by the book (Wisconsin fish and game regulations).


Doug Mancheski turns phrases and meanings with a simple look and/or move.


Directed by Pam Kriger, the production looks and feels comfortable and complete.


This and that:


+ The set design by James Maronek includes images – such as colorfully stylized trees as if from an illustrated child’s book or cartoon backdrop – that tap into the story’s imaginary elements.


+ Two “motorboats” in the set seem to glide across water. They are “powered” by especially clever set pieces – white plastic one-gallon milk bottles turned upside down that kind of/sort of look like boat motors.


+ The Packers stuff is great. Sarah (Nadja Simmonds) has a Packers shrine – an eyeful of stickers and glitter and adoration – that serves as a prop for her glorifying, catchy doo-wop song “Packer Girl.” Sarah also leads a quiz (solid Packer-y questions) that includes whiz-bang choreography by a “chorus” of four Packers apparel-clad singer-dancers in the background. It’s a fabulous scene. “Prayer for the Packers” – oozing warm-hearted gospel sanctity – is part of the stuff the Packers legacy is made of. This show unabashedly loves the Packers, with deference to the owned-by-the-citizenry specialness.


+ Songs are of an appealing blend. There’s a whiff of a musical hall here, a tug of the heart there, layers of harmonies here and there.


+ DNR Doug’s song “Non-Indigenous” is all-out clever with its comical word-warping and continuation of teases of all things Illinoisian. DNR Doug turns the word “Illinois” every which way in the tongue-in-cheeking.


+ Speaking of cheeky, there’s a joke early on in the show with a double entendre meaning as a kicker. The rolling response in Friday’s opening-night audience made the joke adult with certainty. Northern Sky Theater likes to slip in wink-wink stuff that goes over kids’ heads.


+ The stuff about Illinois includes an inside reference. The character Claude resides in Illinois. “Do you root for THAT team?” Claude is ominously asked. Claude makes it clear that he is okay when he says, “I was born in Mount Horeb.” Jeff Herbst, Ben of this cast and artistic director of Northern Sky Theater, and beloved Fred Alley, company co-founder, are from Mount Horeb. In 2016, Mount Horeb High School named Herbst and Alley distinguish alumni.


+ Jeff Herbst’s Ben and Molly Rhode’s Bea relate to the characters of Benedick and Beatrice, who are tricked into falling in love with each other in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” It just so happens that Door Shakespeare presented a solid edition of “Much Ado About Nothing” as one of its plays this summer. Just so it is clear: “Muskie Love” is not Shakespearean. The title refers to Ben and Bea being Muskie-like – headstrong loners not much given to romance.


+ Notes from the original production: The Packers shrine in this version in 2004 was a shrine to Packers quarterback Brett Favre, and the song “Packer Girl” was “Oh, Brett” back then. In 2004, Cupid-like Roy was Doug Mancheski – as today. In the original, the young lovers were played by Laurie Flanigan and Jon Andrew Hegge. Today, they are married. Laurie Flanigan Hegge co-wrote the wonderful “Boxcar,” presented this summer by Northern Sky Theater, with Jon Hegge directing and choreographing. The Packers have a legacy, and so does Northern Sky Theater.


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 Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

Door County Advocate
ED HUYCK - June 2004


Much ado about AFT’s ‘Muskie Love’



Since its origins as the Heritage Ensemble in the 1970s, American Folklore Theatre has been about taking risks – producing shows under the stars, with subject matter that big-city producers probably wouldn’t touch, with every single show being an original work.


All of that has combined to make AFT a successful and acclaimed company. This summer, they’ve taken another risk – producing an elaborate musical by two creators outside of their tight-knit circle.


Again, they’ve found success. “Muskie Love,” which premiered Saturday, isn’t perfect, but the parts of the show that work easily outweigh any of the problems. It’s a funny, engaging and, by the end, touching story.


Creators Dave Hudson (book and lyrics) and Paul Libman (music) use good source material for their play – William Shakespeare. They’ve lifted the basic plot of “Much Ado About Nothing,” but moved the action from Renaissance Italy to Gills Rock.


Here Beatrice and Benedick, er Bea and Ben, run rival character fishing boats. The two are a lot alike – and they can’t stand the sight of each other. There are also two youngsters, Sarah, the daughter of Roy, who runs the local bait shop, and Claude, Ben’s assistant who, despite being from Illinois, is welcomed as part of the fishing family.


Through the show, two love stories play out, with father-figure Roy pulling the strings. Two things stand in the way of Sarah and Claude – her adoration of Packers quarterback Brett Favre and the machinations of DNR Doug, a dim-witted “fish and game representative” who wants to protect her from this outlander (and make her his own girl, even though she can’t stand the sight of him).


The show’s intent is clear from the opening scenes and you know it’ll turn out for the best in the end, but the journey in “Music Love” is a lot of fun. Hudson and Libman have crafted endearing songs with bright and funny lyrics that both capture the characters’ hopes, reams and confusion, but also brings the distinct Northern Door way of life to the stage.


They are aided by one of AFT’s strongest-ever casts, anchored by the always entertaining Doug Mancheski as the manipulative Roy. Real-life couple Jon Andrew Hegge and Laurie Flanigan make the most of Ben and Bea, making sure their constant sniping never becomes tiresome. (They are rewarded with a very real kiss near the end.)


The younger couple gets their chances in the sun as well, and Keri Demien and Brad Anderson don’t miss their chances – especially Demien, who goes from the 1950s doowop parody “Oh, Brett” to the absolutely gorgeous “Motorboat Song.”


Yet the star of the show is Lee Becker, who makes DNR Doug the most delightful villain I’ve seen in many years, and his solo, “Non-Indigenous” is a show highlight.


So is “Muskie-Love” perfect? Far from it. It shifts from being very detailed and real to parody to utterly crazed without finding a balance between t he different tones. The show is absolutely alive during the songs, so I wish there were more of them – keeping in mind that “Muskie Love” is pushing the 90-minute mark, which is about as long as a one-act show can last at AFT.


Yet, none of this takes away from the work that Hudson, Libman, the cast and director/choreographer Pam Kriger (not to mention the backstage crew and expert set designer James Maronek) have done with “Muskie Love.” AFT took a chance by going outside of the company. It was a risk well met.

Green Bay Press Gazette


“Muskie” loves Pack and a lot more


4 Stars out of 4


Fish Creek—American Folklore Theatre’ s new “Muskie Love” redefines the term “romantic comedy.”


The show not only has budding romance between two couples, it is in love with Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s outdoors, Door County, Green Bay (the waters of), fishing, the Green Bay Packers, and Brett Favre.


It also gloriously sends up overzealous Department of Natural Resources officers (interesting because the show is performed in a states park) and “Illinutians” (interesting because those folks from south of the border make up a big part of the audience).


Things are nutty, fanciful, and funny, making “Muskie Love” another winner for the popular summer theatre under the stars.


The show centers around a modern-day Cupid (Doug Mancheski) as he works his magic on two fiercely opposite fishing guides (Laurie Flanigan and Jon Andrew Hegge) as well as his daughter (Kari Demien) and the assistant (Brad Anderson) of one of the guides.


Delighful nincompoop villainy is provided by DNR Doug (Lee Becker). To him, the DNR regulation manual is the Holy Grail.


Songs are sweet, rapturous, silly, and, in the case of two, super-duper fun as they add to Packers lore.


“Oh, Brett” finds a young woman, Sarah, singing of her mad crush on you-know-who. Her version of a hope chest opens upon a portrait of a heroic Brett Farve, with little jerseys and other Packers/Favre stuff adorning the interior. As Sarah sings, a doo-wop chorus of four backs her—with everybody singing and dancing while wearing No. 4 jerseys and sporting crowns on their head that spell out B-R-E-T-T.


“Prayer for the Packers” is a gospel/hymn tune that spreads joy and smiling reverence for the fabled team. The song is sung by five in full Packers fan Regalia.


The Packers may hold the world championship for musicals prominently featuring a sports team. They’re all American Folklore Theatre shows: “Muskie Love,” “Packer Fans from Outer Space” and “Guys on Ice.”


Other songs in “Muskie Love” are atmospheric (“On Green Bay”), comical (“Non-Indigenous”) and yearning (“Not Finished Yet”).


“Motorboat Song” is a kick not only because it captures that distinct feeling you get when stepping into a boat to go fishing but the made-for-the-stage motorboat moves as if on smooth water.


The show is long by the theater’s standards—about 1 1/2 hours—but director and choreographer Pam Kriger keeps the action moving.


The creators are new to the theater—Dave Hudson (book and lyrics) and Paul Libman (music). Hudson has taped into what makes American Folklore Theatre tick in themes and style, with Libman following with limber tunes, some with multiple layers.


“Muskie Love” will continue through summer in rotation with the returning “Guys on Ice” and the revamped “When Dogs Could Talk.”