No Bones About It | Northern Sky Theater

Peninsula Players No Bones About It

Music by Paul Libman
Book & Lyrics by
Dave Hudson

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Laughter
A rib-tickling new musical set in the competitive barbecue world.

Feuding families, star crossed lovers, and bitter rivalries – Sound familiar? This summer, our successful duo of Libman and Hudson re-team to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet in a way you never would have imagined, to hilarious results. In this case, ‘char’ crossed lovers, Ronny and Julie, find themselves at the Verona National Ribfest where their families are competing for the top prize. Drawing heavily from the source, No Bones About It promises to be full of love, music, but a bit more of a happy ending than Shakespeare’s play.

Produced: 2015 & 2016

Show Length = 70 minutes with no intermission

Northern Sky Theater's No Bones About It
Dave Hudson has a long history of fun, tongue-in-cheek adaptations of the classics at Northern Sky; “Muskie Love” (Much Ado About Nothing); “Bing!” (The Cherry Orchard) and last summer’s hit “Strings Attached” (Comedy of Errors).

No Bones About It is a frolic.”
WFRV,, Warren Gerds

“We walked through the woods…with our spirits lifted and humming tunes that still won’t get our of our heads.”
Green Bay Press Gazette, Warren Bluhm

“This delicious musical captures the essence of these actual competitions (BBQ)”
“An enchanting trubute to Shakespeare’s R&J…”
“…delicious humor all evening.”
“Relish this charming, romantic production…”
“Spicy and sweet evening of musical fun…”, Peggy Sue Dunigan

“There’s a fun and unexpected late-show surprise reminding older members of cast and audience alike that they too were once young.”
– Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer

About The Writers
Cast of Characters
About The Writers

Paul Libman PAUL LIBMAN (Composer)
Outside of his collaboration with Dave, Paul Libman has had a long and interesting career in music and advertising. At 17, Paul was fronting his own jazz trio and playing piano in the group which won the Collegiate Jazz Festival at Notre Dame University. After attending Northwestern University, Paul turned his attention to advertising and built what has become one of the most successful commercial music companies in Chicago. In the course of his work for national advertisers such as McDonald's, Kellogg's, United Airlines, and Kraft Foods, he has accumulated numerous Clios, Addys, and several international awards. Paul's independent project, Oy to the World, a Klezmer Christmas Album has been selling like latkes every holiday season - Paul lives in New York where he is a member of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop.

Dave HudsonDAVE HUDSON (Playwright-Lyricist)
Dave (Writers Guild of America, ASCAP) has been writing plays since he was in high school. He teaches playwriting and lyric writing in Chicago at the Actors Garden and Chicago Dramatists. No Bones About Itmarks his 21st musical. Other shows written for Northern Sky include Strings Attached (2014) Muskie Love (2004, 2005, 2013), A Cabin with a View (2007, 2008), Main-Travelled Roads (2007), and Bing! The Cherry Musical (2011). He also writes shows for The Actors Garden in Oak Park, Illinois. With Paul Libman, Dave is a two time winner of The Richard Rodgers Award. He is lucky and blessed to have three amazing kids, Connor, Garen, and Paige, and he has the most supportive wife in the world, Gigi.

Cast of Characters

Adam Capp, owner of Cappy’s Happy Pig
Larry Friar, owner of Friar’s Spices
Karen Montague, owner of Monty’s Jurassic Pork
Ronny, Karen’s son
Julie, Adam’s daughter
Kelly, a foodie blogger
Ken, a foodie blogger


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


Love conquers all in Northern Sky's 'Bones'

Mike Fischer - July 6, 2016


Reviewing the world premiere last summer of Northern Sky Theater's "No Bones About It" – a Dave Hudson (book and lyrics) and Paul Libman (music) adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet" that's set in the world of competitive barbecue – I made no bones about my own reservations.


Even as I recognized that "Bones" included many juicy moments, I admitted that Hudson and Libman's latest confection struck me as formulaic in light of this prolific duo's other Northern Sky shows, many of which sounded deeper emotional chords when playing variations on the theme of thwarted love.


But to paraphrase this show's barbecuing mantra, sometimes a dish just needs time to marinate so that one can fully appreciate its seasoning. Having now gone back for a second helping of "Bones" a year after my first taste, I'm happy to report that I enjoyed nearly every bite, served up by the exact same cast I'd seen last year.


Having simmered through all of last summer's performances and a second rehearsal period this spring, that cast is delivering deeper, more complex flavors in presenting the play's core relationships: lovebirds Ronny Montague (Chase Stoeger) and Julie Capp (Eva Nimmer); their bitterly antagonistic parents Karen (Rhonda Rae Busch) and Adam (Doug Mancheski); and rival food bloggers Kelly (Kelly Doherty) and Ken (Alex Campea).


More readily able to believe in them – in a cast rounded out by Bill Theisen as the stand-in for Shakespeare's bungling but goodhearted Friar Lawrence – what had formerly struck me as coy and contrived now seems sweetly idealistic, as Ronny and Julie try to imagine whether and how there might be a place for them, in a world so bitterly divided.


Joint directors and choreographers Jeffrey Herbst and Pam Kriger team with scenic designer Lisa Schlenker to emphasize such divisions; nearly everything unfolding in "Bones" is divided down the middle of the stage, with the two young lovers climbing a ladder from opposite sides, in an effort to raise themselves above the invisible wall that keeps them apart.


Because the stakes now seem higher, even the show's humor doesn't feel so slathered in cute sauce. When Ronny and Julie parody their elders' stupidity, there's a bite; when Campea and Doherty's bloggers spar over how to win a virtual audience, one simultaneously senses their urge to connect with each other.


As I'd acknowledged in my review last year, so too this year: This show is clearly connecting with Northern Sky's patrons. I saw it on a miserable night that included a 20-minute rain delay, but the small audience waited it out, with a young group to my left filling the interval by humming the title song. While wet and cold, they were clearly having fun. So did I.




Weathering: There's few places to watch a play as beautiful as Northern Sky's outdoor home in Peninsula Park. But that uncovered setting also means there's always the possibility of a rainout. My first attempt to see "Lumberjacks in Love" this summer was canceled because of rain; because of the weather, the performance of "Bones" that I attended started late and included a 20-minute rain delay. There were fewer than 50 of us in the audience by the time "Bones" concluded.


The bond that frequently develops between actors and audience on such nights is both special and unforgettable; one must really love theater to tough it out under such conditions, and the actors clearly feel it and give it right back.


In a recent interview, Mancheski recounted a long-ago performance during which Alley gathered what was left of a drenched audience backstage, finishing a show that had been rain delayed with only a few sheltering trees as cover. "Door County audiences are the best in the world," Mancheski said, speaking of how rain doesn't seem to affect them. "Rain or shine, they bring that positive energy to the theater."


A Bone to Pick with Technology: What Mancheski describes is just an extreme version of what one always experiences when watching live theater, in which every performance creates a new community, involving the interaction of flesh-and-blood human beings, unmediated by distance.


A running theme in "Bones" involves the difference between these sorts of interactions and the many ways in which our lives are now lived and exchanged virtually. In the first minutes of "Bones," Ronny and Julie are tethered to their smart phones; they meet cute because they're walking while electronically talking with their heads down, leading them to accidentally run into each other. The show's two food bloggers are often so intent on instantly transmitting their experience that they fail to live it – or truly taste the food they're eating.


By show's end, it's the more tactile experiences of eating and touching, kissing and loving that will win out. "What are we going to do, now that talking is permitted?," Ronny asks Julie shortly before show's end. It's a great question, for them and for us.


Chewing the Fat in 2016: There's a parallel between the feud dividing the Capps and Montagues in "Bones" and our inability to come together as a country in this election year; costume designer Karen Brown-Larimore emphasizes that point, dressing the southern-accented Montagues in red and the rival Capps in blue as a reflection of our red state/blue state divide.

A place where smiles come to play

Warren Bluhm - June 24, 2015


We crossed the threshold, and suddenly everyone was in a good mood.


Everyone seemed to be smiling or laughing or smiling and laughing. Old friends greeted each other like old friends. It helped that it was a clear, warm, beautiful evening, but it felt like the happy mood was just infused in the place, no matter what the weather.


I had seen a couple or three Northern Sky Theater productions indoors before and was struck by their gentle humor and sense of whimsy. I’m a big fan of the whimsical. But we had (shockingly!) never been to the amphitheater tucked away in the woods of Peninsula State Park, where what used to be American Folklore Theatre performs three shows in rotation for three months every summer.


And the first thing I noticed was the sense that everyone was happy to be there. It was like they had found a safe house from grim reality, a place where a happy ending is pretty much guaranteed. Even adaptations of grim source material find a path to a joyful finish – when I heard how the original movie “The Spitfire Grill” ends, I decided to skip it and live with my happy memory of the musical.


And what’s more grim than the ending to “Romeo and Juliet”? My goodness (spoiler alert), the two star-cross’d lovers end up dead – dead, I tell ya. How do you turn that story into a whimsical musical comedy?


The answer, it seems, is: with barbecue ribs. We had come under the Northern Sky to view “No Bones About It” by Dave Hudson and Paul Libman, an adaptation of the Bard’s most well-known romantic tragedy.


Two smokehouses, both alike in dignity, come to fair Verona, Wis., where we lay our scene, to renew their ancient grudge during that community’s annual rib fest. The Montagues and the Capps have been feuding for generations, so when Ronny Montague and Julie Capp meet and fall for each other, no good can come of it.


Or can it? As Hudson says in his note in the program, “Spoiler alert, this is Northern Sky Theater; our version of this story ends much more upbeat than the original.”


And so it does. Shakespeare’s tale ends with the two families finally united, in grief, and the Hudson-Libman version also ends with the two families finally united, only without that messy death stuff. Red and I walked through the woods back to the real world with our spirits lifted, and humming tunes that still won’t get out of our heads.


Since Friday night I’ve been known to start singing “No Bones About It, do do do do doo …” (I’m terrible at remembering lyrics), and Red keeps hearing “Better Keep Away,” a recurring theme that sounds very much like a 1980s arena rock anthem, which is altogether proper because – well, OK, that WOULD be a spoiler.


The cast – Doug Mancheski and Rhonda Rae Busch, the feuding parents; Chase Stoeger and Eva Nimmer as Ronny and Julie; Bill Theisen, Kelly Doherty and Alex Campea, who serve the traditional role of the chorus but also advance the plot in key ways – are all spot-on delightful, succeeding beyond measure in delivering silly grins and belly laughs for their appreciative audience.


The troupe is also doing “When Butter Churns to Gold” and “Strings Attached” this summer and “Lumberjacks in Love” at Door Community Auditorium in the fall. Red and I most certainly plan to return to the woods, and no doubt we’ll be in a good mood before we even sit down.


Warren Bluhm is news editor of the Door County Advocate.

Romeo and Juliet Romance Barbecue in World Premiere at Northern Sky

Peggy Sue Dunigan - June 23, 2015


What's the difference between a dry rub and a wet barbecue sauce brushed on a rack of ribs? For anyone uninitiated into the competitive world of barbecuing, Northern Sky Theater presents a second world premiere for their 2015 25th anniversary season with this theme titled: No Bones About It.


The original musical also adapts Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which crystallizes a "feud of food," between two "smokehouses:" Monty's Jurassic Pork, a restaurant that perfects secret sauces; and Cappy's Happy Pig, which scientifically determines the dry rub. Written and composed by the acclaimed team Dave Hudson and Paul Libman, No Bones About It takes place in Verona, Wisconsin where those preferences fuel the discord between Karen Montague and Adam Capp. Her son, Ronny, and his daughter, Julie portray the darling "char-crossed" couple, in the guise of Chase Stoeger and Eva Nimmer, to capture the love at first sight conflict. Meanwhile, their parents Rhonda Rae Busch's Karen and Doug Mancheski's fatherly Adam, continue their contentious discussion of who will win the coveted trophy in this prestigious barbecue contest.


Plenty of innuendo flies occur between these two duos when they discuss dry and wet sauces, which can be upstaged by those exceptional barbecue judges and food bloggers, Kelly, a gastro astrologist, and Ken, also named Uncle Yummy. This pair also disagrees over who has more followers on their internet sites. Kelly Doherty and Alex Campea give these quirky characters foodie chemistry and sizzle on stage. When the entire cast sings to the glories of the barbeque in "The Gods of Smoke," the audience cheers each team on.


Smoking and grilling is serious business for the more than 8,000 professional barbecue teams participating in competitions across the country, Their enthusiasm overflows to other continents, where people beg to learn the secrets to barbecue, often perceived cooked best when done low and slow. Throughout any calendar year, these teams travel and compete for monetary prizes and points to qualify for the annual International Kansas City Barbecue Competition.


The last several years at the end of August, Door County's Washington Island hosts Death's Door BBQ and often features close to 50 registered teams where secret sauces or rubs on chicken and ribs rule the two-day event. Smoke swirls through the air while aromatic spices tantalize appetites all day. After the intense judging, bystanders can purchase the tasty results from participants. Another Rib Fest, hosted by the non-profit Neighbor-to-Neighbor happens in Sturgeon Bay this November. Two intense competitions for die-hard barbecue fans and enjoyed by everyone.


This delicious musical captures the essence of these actual competitions in songs titled "We Love Food," "Variety is the Spice of Life," and "No Bones About It." Another number, "A Light Through Yonder Window," becomes an enchanting tribute to Shakespeare's R&J when the couple croons by the starlight of Julie's RV window: "You're the sun, you're the moon, you're the one, see you soon."


In the role of the competition's host, the president of Friar's Spices, Bill Theisen plays Larry Friar and struggles to keep these two families from arguing while he spies their amorous children kissing, which the bloggers post on the internet – welcome young lovers to the 21st century. While this Friar also plays a critical role in the turn around ending, where another set of young lovers reprises "Better Keep Away," Larry provides the variety, sweet versus spicy, to the competitors when he sings, "Choose your spice to feed your vice."


Who's chosen vice wins in the war of smokehouses? This enchanting cast Co-directed and Choreographed by Jeffrey Herbst and Pam Kriger entertains with delicious humor all evening. Northern Sky Theater appears to have all their ribs in a row when the judges reveal the final decision to end the competition, and perhaps the impending romance between Ronny and Julie. Certainly with No Bones About It, relish this charming, romantic production during the summer. Discover young love at any age in this spicy and sweet evening of musical fun when Northern Sky sets Shakespeare amid two smoking barbecues.


Northern Sky Theater presents the World Premiere "No Bones About It" in Peninsula State Park through August. For Northern Sky Theater's special programming, theater schedules and tickets, please call 920.854.6117 or visit


For information regarding Washington Island's Death's Door BBQ 2015 on August 28-29, please visit

Northern Sky tickles ribs in takeoff on a classic

Warren Gerds - June 23, 2015


PENINSULA STATE PARK, FISH CREEK, Wisc. (WFRV) - In a 2015 version of the famous balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet,” the Romeo-like Ronny gazes upon the alluring figure of Juliet-like Julie in the window of a home on wheels and says something to the effect of “But, soft! What light through yonder trailer window breaks.” Ronny has tried to climb to yonder window, but – sizz, OUCH! – has touched a hot barbeque cooker (part of the story) that is in the way. After Ronny rapturously rhapsodizes about romance in song, Julie finally speaks, saying not “Ay me!” but “What the hey?”


Ronny and Julie are in feuding families – Capp (Capulet) and Montague (Montague) – whose dispute is carried out at The 2015 Verona International Ribfest, with Verona being in Wisconsin rather than  Italy. Promoting the professional barbeque cook-off is a spice king, Larry Friar; think Friar Laurence from “Romeo and Juliet.”


Unlike in the original, Ronny and Julie don’t die in the end. There’s no swordplay along the way. Heck, there aren’t even eating utensils as folks attack barbequed pork ribs with their fingers. One bone of contention is the style of rib-making – sauce vs. dry rub – in this story, which is that of:


“No Bones About It,” a world premiere musical comedy presentation of Northern Sky Theater, with performances continuing through Aug. 28 in the amphitheater of Peninsula State Park north of Fish Creek.


Creators Dave Hudson and Paul Libman transform what can be the stilt of Shakespeare into a limber tale of today – so much today that hash tags, selfies, text messages, food blogs and other electronic-y gizmomotrometry are part of the story.


The music in songs fits the situations – bluesy, showbizzy, rocky, spiritual, lyrical and even disco – with the title song being catchy enough to take home with you, humming.


For the frisky cast, “No Bones About It” is a frolic.


The story is built around pairs, with Larry Friar (Bill Theisen) the go between: Competing restaurateurs, dry-rub proponent Adam Capp (Doug Mancheski) and sauce-favoring Karen Montague (Rhonda Rae Busch) and their children, Julie (Eva Nimmer) and Ronny (Chase Stoeger), with competing food bloggers as judges (Kelly Doherty and Alex Campea).


Typical of a Northern Sky Theater show, the audience learns a lot about the subject at hand. The show walks through the elements and processes of barbequing pork, from ingredients, to styles, to steps in a competition, to the methods of some judges in a modern world. Much is told through song; this is not a blackboard-and-book primer. Meantime, the pairs operate in stories of their own that overlap into the whole – just like Shakespeare would maneuver characters and stories.


“No Bones About It” includes a grand surprise. Hudson and Libman take a giant leap with dramatic license and end up lighting up the show in more ways than one. The show has been tooling along okay when, suddenly, it takes off with even brighter imagination and humor. (No spoilers here).


Now that Northern Sky Theater has completed its offering of two new shows for this season, it becomes clearer what the name change from American Folklore Theatre means. While shows still have an element of Wisconsin in them, that element is more of a by-the-way than having the story hidebound/iron grip about something from/in Wisconsin in its history, fact or fiction. Perhaps the Wisconsin factor will surface in future new shows, but it no longer seems a focal factor. (Not complaining, just saying).


ALSO RUNNING in 2015:When Butter Churns to Gold” and “Strings Attached.”


THE VENUE: Northern Sky Theater (the former American Folklore Theatre) performs in a scenic, 800-seat amphitheater in Peninsula State Park near Fish Creek in Door County. Seating is on wood benches. The stage is about 25 feet by 45 feet and of irregular shape because two tall white pine trees grow in the middle of the stage. Other pines ring the fringes of the stage. “The stage deck, unlike all of the stage walls, is made from recycled plastic,” said Northern Sky Theater artistic director Jeffrey Herbst. “It’s water impermeable. The deck has held up really, really well. The rest of the stage, anything that’s vertical is cedar that has to be stained and treated and washed and kept. We went with that kind of material was partly because we wanted something that wouldn’t warp and because when it rains on that material, it actually becomes less slick. With cedar, when we had it as decking in the past, as soon as you had water on it, it was like an ice skating rink.” The amphitheater is tucked in a forest and accessed by winding roads.