The Bachelors | Northern Sky Theater

Book and Lyrics by Fred Alley
Music by James Kaplan
Story by Fred Alley & James Kaplan

This follow-up to Guys On Ice celebrates the realm of bachelorhood through the lens of Stew and John, hapless bumblers in search of love in Madison, Wisconsin.

Two thirty-something (or is that forty-something?) bachelors inhabit a cave-like apartment basking in a blissful state of extended adolescence. One night they innocently order out for pizza, never expecting the delivery girl is the reincarnation of a woman they both wronged in a previous lifetime. Welcome to The Bachelors. Fall 2014 Playbill Insert PDF

Produced in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2014

By Peggy Sue Dunigan

Posted: Sept. 9, 2014


AFT's Smart and Saucy 'The Bachelors' Sparkles at DCA


American Folklore Theatre (AFT) moves indoors to Fish Creek's Door Community Auditorium when producing the 2014's fall season, The Bachelors. Another inspired musical romp by the writing team of the late AFT co-founder Fred Alley (book and lyrics) and James Kaplan (composer), the plot expounds on how "true love" rarely dies, merely becomes reincarnated over 100 years.


With several updates and revisions since The Bachelors' debut in 2001, Director Jeffrey Herbst and Co-Choreographers Herbst and Pam Kriger, revisit these two 35 plus age old roommates, Stew and John, when they begin their friendship in Victorian England. Sworn to the their death to "Be a Bachelor," the clever opening number regales the pursuits of remaining without a wife, a condition a man believes he "would be better dead than falsely married."


When Stew discovers his father betrothed him to Lady Kate, he swears he will never marry her. Until his roommate John declares his love for Kate, to which Stew immediately announces he will go through with the arranged marriage, distressing John. Enter the beautiful young Lady Kate who pleads with John for his undying commitment to her, to run anyway, marry her and deny his inheritance and social position. When John refuses, convinced by Stew's arguments to remain 'a bachelor." Victorian Kate throws herself into the Thames River swearing her own revenge on Stew and John over several lifetimes.


In classy changes of costumes and sets to the 21st century, Stew and John now live unfulfilled as two "modern bachelors," in Madison, Wisconsin, a rather depressing state of affairs for each of them in their quest for women and food in their refrigerator. When the reincarnated Kate enters their "man cave" apartment delivering a midnight pizza, the fun of these bachelors foraging for love and food, mainly bad tuna fish salad, ensues with delightful frenzy.


Chad Ludberger, Doug Mancheski and the gorgeous Corrie Beula-Kovacs create this highly accomplished Bachelor trio. Ludberger's John mourns his meal choices in "Bad Tuna Fish," and then discovers as Kate says, "How sexy to teach a man to use utensils, a food tool lesson can be a life changing experience" in the heartfelt melody "Chopsticks." Mancheski mourns the loss of his friend John to the saucy Kate, wishing for his own "Noodle Cookie," a song that relates the silliness of newly romancing couples nicknaming each other "boodle-do."


Beula-Kovacs can be devastating in her mini skirt or slim leather pants whenever on stage, or when singing to Stew, "A Bad, Bad Boy." Other charming songs showcasing the trio's comic talents and comely voices resonate in a duet titled "Bachelor Heaven," "Three's A Crowd," and "Dream Ballet," numbers to make an audience smile for the entire month ahead. Kaplan's memorable music matches to the trio's choreographic gymnastics on stage when conducted by Musical Director and Keyboardist Chuck Larkin.


Spice up a Door County fall with this smart and sexy AFT musical from Alley and Kaplan, returning after a too-long hiatus. AFT ups the entertainment ante for younger or old adults at the DCA, a sparkling and scintillating eveningwhere two bachelors and one revengeful woman rediscover that love is worth the wait while Kate sings, "I've Been A Fool for Love." Patrons might reminisce the unabashed truth that dining and food, when learning to use chopsticks, combined with love make the world go round, in England, Madison or Door County. Afterwards, audiences will anticipate summer 2015, when after 25 years, AFT transforms to Northern Sky Theater and the next half century of musical memories they plan for Door County and around the country.


American Folklore Theatre presents The Bachelors at Fish Creek's Door Community Auditorium (3926 Highway 42) through October 18. For tickets or information, please call 920.854.6117 or
By Warren Gerds, Critic-at-Large

Posted: Aug. 30, 2014


'The Bachelors' continues to delight


FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – “The Bachelors” doesn’t mess around with build-ups. The show starts – boom – singing starts. Two nattily dressed men sing of the glories of bachelorhood in their well-appointed Victorian England apartment. The performers leap into the personas of their characters of Stewart and Jonathan in look, manner and voice. Stewart is the son of a rich man who has no title; his father insists he marry the daughter of a man who has a title but no money. Jonathan is distressed; he loves the daughter, Katherine, and we find out that she loves him to the point that… To tell would be a spoiler.


What happens in the show is a giant leap of time and place – 1890s England to 2014 Madison, Wisconsin. The swell apartment becomes a dumpy bachelor pad with two dumpy guys in their 30s, Stew and John. Stew has ordered out for pizza, and along comes a delivery girl to spark instant love with John and to finish some business from 100-plus years ago.


Fanciful, funny and frolicking, “The Bachelors” is the fall presentation of American Folklore Theatre. Performances continue through Oct. 18 in Door Community Auditorium. Info:


The musical comedy is by Fred Alley and James Kaplan, who collaborated on eight shows for American Folklore Theatre. “The Bachelors” premiered in 2001.


This production stars Doug Mancheski (John in the original production, Stew in this one), Chad Luberger and Corrie Beula Kovacs. The three shine together. Doug Mancheski and Chad Luberger are quick and nimble of expression and character nuances, and Corrie Beula Kovacs notably adds some vroom-vroom-vroom heat. American Folklore Theatre shows usually include kid-appeal stuff; this production pretty much includes kiddie stuff out when it comes to matters of the heart and hormones. Kate’s song, “A Bad, Bad Boy,” isn’t about having to sit in the corner.


The direction by Jeffrey Herbst, the company artistic director, has the performers flowing in their characters. Jeffrey Herbst also is choreographer, and the piece moves in clever ways. The song “Chopsticks” plays with the age-old tune to the point that Kate and John break into a flamenco dance. “Three’s a Crowd” finds the characters undulating simultaneously, until Stew or Kate is ejected as the odd one out. “Dream Ballet” evolves from a slow-mo scene with John to a romantic ballet with Kate and John to a steamy French cabaret toss-around with Stew and Kate. These are not folksingers noodling on banjo and guitar while singing homey/veggie-loving songs with low-veneer+ voices. This is a show that belies the name American Folklore Theater.


Some of the cleverness in “The Bachelors” is from visual elements. In a matter of moments, the Victorian apartment folds out into a low-rent pad. In a matter of moments, as the three characters sing “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” the men take off their swell finery and get down to mismatched sox, T-shirts and boxer shorts (John, embarrassed, “dresses up” by donning Green Bay Packers sporty shorts).


Some of the cleverness is in a staging gimmick. Kate leaves from one side of the stage, and then next appears a few moments later on the other side of the stage, in different costume to set up the next bit of action with narrative/singing.


Much of the cleverness is in the Fred Alley-James Kaplan take on hidebound bachelorhood (with dangerous eating habits, like eating old tuna salad) and the arrival of cutesy-pooh love (especially in the tricky trio of “Noodle Cookie”). They’re also musically playful, with doo-wop and calypso part of the sounds in addition to the ones already mentioned.


The production has merry muscle to it – 5 stars out of 5, with Corrie Beula Kovacs a big plus factor.


+ Doug Mancheski and Chad Luberger have nice, flexible voices; Carrie Beula Kovacs has a really good voice – strong, practiced, ringing, bright and able to flip from cute to sexy.


It’s appropriate that the swan song of American Folklore Theatre as American Folklore Theatre is by the beloved, formidable and adventurous Fred Alley and James Kaplan. The two meant/mean a lot to the success of the company, which next season becomes 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. 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. 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.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted: Jan. 17, 2008


Hilarious 'Bachelors' glows


The catalog of Fred Alley-James Kaplan musical comedies remains precious because it was homegrown, it will never get larger - Alley died suddenly in 2001 - and the material is so darn good. We get a vivid reminder of that in the Milwaukee Repertory Theater's revival of "The Bachelors," which is playing a short run here before a 15-city tour of Wisconsin.


Alley and Kaplan were tight friends who collaborated on a string of hits written for Door County's American Folklore Theatre. Kaplan composed the catchy and melodic scores, while Alley was responsible for the book and lyrics. Kaplan sometimes had a hand in those, too.


The shows were light, cute, clever and family friendly, heavily larded with Wisconsin themes and references.


American Folklore Theatre debuted the pieces on its outdoor summer stage in Peninsula State Park, and the Rep followed up with its own Milwaukee productions of the musicals, often with the same performers and director Jeffrey Herbst.


"The Bachelors" reversed that order, getting its world premiere in the Rep's Stackner Cabaret in March 2001, only weeks before Alley collapsed and died while jogging along a Door County rural road. The last of the Alley-Kaplan collaborations, it was also the most sophisticated.


That doesn't mean "The Bachelors" is complicated or high art. Revenge and adult men behaving as boys are the prevailing issues.


For comic spice, the creators slyly slipped in brief spoofs of Gilbert and Sullivan, "Romeo and Juliet" and those old-fashioned balletic scenes found in some dated Broadway musicals.


"The Bachelors" opens with a prologue set in Victorian London. Two close friends, deeply committed to bachelorhood, unexpectedly find themselves caught up in ironic conflict over a young woman. They are gentlemanly dandies leading foppish lives.


Given the choice of doing right by the woman, Kate, or bailing out on her to preserve their bachelor status, both fellows choose the latter, prompting her to throw herself into the Thames. But before Kate makes her dramatic exit, she promises retribution.


Reincarnation facilitates the vow. Fast forward to Madison in 2008. John and Stew are friends again, but their quality of life has plunged. Forty-something losers, they are roommates in a grubby, unkempt apartment, living out the dark side of the bachelor fantasy.


When a flirtatious Kate shows up one night delivering a pizza, the plot kicks into high gear. Now it is her turn to break hearts.


The Rep's production is smashing. Alley and Kaplan knew how to amuse and entertain, and the show even tugs at our hearts a few times. Herbst, the original director, returns with a trunk full of smart stage tricks put to expert use by a fabulous cast.


Katherine Strohmaier, who fortunately is becoming a regular guest actor at the Rep, repeatedly spikes the temperature on the Stiemke stage with the swivel of a hip or the bat of an eye. Don't be surprised when a big Broadway singing voice comes out of her.


The role of copy shop manager John, Kate's first victim, was written for American Folklore Theatre veteran Doug Mancheski, whose talent for physically comic acting is prodigious. He bends like a pipe cleaner, twitches like a rabbit's nose and puffs up like a peacock on steroids as the situation demands. A slow, guttural rasp humorously punctuates specific moments of dialogue.


It's a tall order for Steven M. Koehler to play straight man Stew, John's roommate, to Strohmaier's sizzle and Mancheski's hangdog helplessness, but he more than holds his own as a romantically skittish lonely guy.