When Butter Churns to Gold | Northern Sky Theater

Northern Sky Theater's When Butter Churns to Gold

Music by Ron Barnett
Book by Peter Welkin
Lyrics by Randi Wolfe

A dash of dastardly deeds
and dairy delights!

A villain (boo!), a hero (yay!), a heroine (aww!), and trusty sidekicks in a romp with plenty of audience interaction. “You must pay the mortgage!”  “But, I can’t pay the mortgage!”  “You must pay the mortgage!”  “But, I can’t pay the mortgage!”  Woe-is-me!  Mortgage meltdowns provide the recipe for a modern musical melodrama full of madcap mayhem.

Produced in 2015 & 2016 • Developed in association with New Musicals, Inc.

Show Length = 83 minutes with no intermission

Let’s rewind to simpler (and more musically comic) times in the mid-1800s. An orphaned Wisconsin farm girl, Constance Goodwin, attempts to save the family farm from the villainous Friedrich von Fouler.  Can our strapping hero, Jack Strongfellow, stop the villain in time?  Can he save Constance from her ironic fate and launch her dairy empire?  And will the raccoon prophecy of the Golden Sapphire come true?  It’s not over till the sidekicks sing and the beer vat is empty!

“Delectable…filled with cheeky humor…”
“Delicious musical…filled with fresh theatrical delights, will conjure magic all summer.”
“Rhode sparkles in this role…the damsel in distress…”
“The young of age and young at heart will happily join in…”
BroadwayWorld.com, Peggy Sue Dunigan

“Uproarious parody of a melodrama.”
“Doherty and Stoeger steal the stage as sidekicks.”
Green Bay Press Gazette, Erin Hunsader

“Before your eyes, see a renewal.”
“What’s old is new again…a theatrical cliché…fashioned into a lively entertainment that’s fast and funny.”
“…allows actors to pour on the color.”
“Music hall-ish touches, a sprinkling of double-entre meanings (for adults to elbow one another) and general broad playfulness that kiddies can cotton to.”
WFRV, WeAreGreenBay.com, Warren Gerds

“Irrepressibly impish…cleverly constructed,
fast-paced and well-staged show”
“Along the way, we’re treated to oodles of racy double-entendres and euphemisms as well as a pastiche that delightfully and intelligently illuminates the connections between melodrama and the classic Broadway musical”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer

About The Writers
Cast of Characters
About The Writers

Ron BarnettRON BARNETT (Composer)
Ron Barnett is Director of Music and Sacred Arts at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glendale. Composer credits include scores for An Arctic Tale (book & lyrics: Julianne Homokay), Around the World in 80 Days (book & lyrics: Julianne Homokay), A Christmas Carol (book: Barry Kornhauser). Sound Design credits include the world premiere productions of Lightening Rod (Tim Slover), The French Lieutenant's Woman(Mark Healy), Turn of the Screw (Doug Jones), Cyrano (Barry Kornhauser), the off-Broadway production of All Under Heaven featuring Valerie Harper as Pearl S. Buck, and Zelda: The Last Flapper, which has played in Romania and Hungary as part of an ACTIV-5 international theatre festival.

Peter WelkinPETER WELKIN (Playwright)
Born and raised in the heart of “America’s Dairyland”, Peter is ecstatic to be working on a musical set in and produced in Wisconsin.  Peter is a graduate of AMDA NY and currently serves as a producer, director, writer, and sight-singing actor with the Academy for New Musical Theater. He is a founding member of Academy Repertory Company. Peter’s West Coast credits include Anatoly in Chess In Concert, George in Sunday In The Park With George, Roger in A New Brain at WCE, Keith in Elegies and Musical Theater Guild’s concert production of Titanic. He spent several years in the Central Coast of California performing at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, and while there, also co-founded the Central Coast Shakespeare Festival.  He’s crooned at the Oregon Cabaret Theater in Ashland, OR, hoofed it at Harvey’s Hotel and Casino in Tahoe, and toured at least half the country with Pirates of Penzance. He is a co-producer of the highly successful series of A Little New Music concerts at Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Angeles, and an associate producer of LA’s Next Great Stage Star contest. Previous television credits includeCrusade, a spin-off of Babylon 5, and a full season of Boystown which airs in Canada and Northern Europe. Film projects include the shorts: Singles Night, Mother’s Day, and A Thing Called Happiness. His favorite creative projects to date are Miranda, Nathan and Genevieve. www.peterwelkin.com

Randi WolfeRANDI WOLFE (Lyricist)
Randi Wolfe, Ph.D. is an alumnus of Theatre Building Chicago's Musical Theater Writers Workshop. Born and raised in the Midwest, Randi moved to Los Angeles in 2007. A member of New Musicals Inc. since her arrival, she is proud to be collaborating with fellow NMI members on this show. Her work includes Mom! A New Musical - which has been performed at theaters throughout the Midwest, and most recently at the Chameleon Theatre Circle in Burnsville, MN.

Cast of Characters

Friederich von Fouler, the Villain
Jack Strongfellow, the Hero
Constance Goodwin, the Heroine
Helena Goodwin, Constance’s cousin
Simon Dewannabe, Fouler’s accomplice



Melodrama, melodrama

Mike Fischer, Special to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - July 6, 2015


In the mid-nineteenth century, stage melodramas were as popular as the small screen is today, but they otherwise couldn't have been more different.


Television offers the illusion of realism and is watched in private. Stage melodrama is unapologetically theatrical and often shared with a large audience, to which actors regularly speak while enacting stories in which every character is a broadly played archetype. In melodrama, clean-shaven heroes square off against mustachioed villains, in a titanic moral battle for the soul of the world.


Or, at a minimum, for the soul of a desperate damsel in distress, played by Rhode (who also choreographs and directs) in "When Butter Churns to Gold," in which Ron Barnett (music), Peter Welkin (book) and Randi Wolfe (lyrics) simultaneously channel and spoof melodramas of yore.


Rhode plays Constance Goodwin — the name says it all — who runs a dairy farm in Lake Mills of the Illinois Territory, shortly before the creation of a new state named Wisconsin.


Sporting a blue calico dress, white bonnet and blonde ringlets, Rhode adds fluttering eyes and handkerchief, dramatic poses, a lovely soprano and a sharp twang to project an aura of daffy innocence crossed with drama queen. That makes her easy pickings for this story's big bad wolf: Friederich von Fouler, embodied by Doug Mancheski as a black-caped, greasy-haired villain who hopes to marry and murder Constance so he can steal her farm.


As our dryly witty narrator, Herbst — who also plays several small roles and serves as a Thornton Wilder-like stage manager — encourages lusty booing whenever Mancheski's mugging Fouler appears.


Herbst similarly urges pity for Constance and hearty cheers for her would-be rescuer: Jack Strongfellow (Chad Luberger), who is much better at striking poses than at doing anything remotely heroic. Good guys like Jack don't readily lend themselves to parody in the way villains and ingénues do, and Luberger's Jack is a soggy and underwritten bit of milquetoast.


Not to worry, because the true heroes here are the sidekicks, played by two actors who are often cast in such roles. Helena Goodwin — Milwaukee actor Kelly Doherty, in an auspicious Northern Sky debut — is Constance's tall, broad-shouldered and no-nonsense Chicago cousin. Simon Dewannabe (Chase Stoeger) is the villainous Fouler's resentful and put-upon apprentice.


Reflecting the irrepressibly impish spirit of a show that not only sends up melodrama but also pokes meta-theatrical fun at leads who hog the limelight, both of these second fiddles try to sneak a song of their own into the show — until being continually caught out and shut down by the stage-managing Herbst and his whining, narcissistic stars.


The story of how Helena and Simon help save the day and finally sing their own song — while in a cemetery, no less — stretches credibility. But it's also ultimately beside the point in this cleverly constructed, fast-paced and well-staged show, which runs 80 intermission-free minutes.


Along the way, we're treated to oodles of racy double-entendres and euphemisms as well as a pastiche that delightfully and intelligently illuminates the connections between melodrama and the classic Broadway musical, all deftly underscored by the sort of dramatic tonal and emotional musical shifts — along with lurid leitmotifs — typical of melodrama and the music hall.



The cream rises in Northern Sky’s ‘Butter’

Erin Hunsader - June 23, 2015


The world premiere of “When Butter Churns to Gold” at Northern Sky Theater offers lots of laughs that may seem cheesy but make perfect sense in the framework of this show that takes place on a dairy farm.


The opening number, “Melodrama, Melodrama,” hilariously sets the tone of the show, which parodies, obviously, melodramas. The Narrator, played by artistic director Jeffrey Herbst, introduces the villain, Fridrich von Fouler, played by Doug Mancheski. Encouraging the audience to boo and hiss whenever Fouler appears, the Narrator then introduces the hero, played by Chad Luberger, and the audience is directed to cheer. Finally, the heroine, Constance Goodwin (Molly Rhode), makes her entrance and the audience is encouraged to “aww.” The audience participation remains an ongoing gag throughout the show, adding to its fun feel.


As mentioned in the title, butter is churned by Constance, who is trying to keep her family’s dairy farm afloat. With assistance from her cousin (and comic relief) Helena Goodwin, played by Northern Sky newcomer Kelly Doherty, the two of them must figure out how to pay the mortgage.


Somehow Fouler knows Constance can’t pay the mortgage and comes up with a plan to get her to marry him so the land will be his. The hero, a man with a string of first names but usually called Saphy, has visions that Goodwin’s in danger and tries to save her.


Mancheski creates the villain we love to hate as he delivers lines like “I’m wearing Spanx for men” or getting a laugh simply by flailing his cape while trying to woo Goodwin.


His sidekick, Simon Dewannabe, played by Chase Stoeger, tries to get a moment in the limelight as he starts to sing a solo number, mentioning how sidekicks never get solos. He belts out a few notes before Fouler calls the Narrator back to put the kibosh on it. Fouler continues on his devious plot, saying, “And now it’s time for the wooing.”


The funny asides continue as Constance asks the audience how she should feel about Fouler. And while the audience steers her in the right direction, she ignores it, allowing her butter to be melted by Fouler in the song “Fouler’s Proposal.” Although she admits something is strange in his demeanor.


When Saphy shows up looking for Constance he sees Helena first, saying, “You’re not what I expected.” To which Helena replies, “Thanks a lot!” and starts to sing a solo about how it’s always “Constance this and Constance that.” The Narrator then re-appears, reminding Helena that, again,


“There are no solos for sidekicks” and takes a moment to have some fun with the musicians in the pit, telling them, “No more music for sidekicks.”


But there’s bigger fish to fry with the mystery of what happened to Constance’s father, who “died in a horrible alcohol-related accident one year ago.”


Rhode does a great job marrying humor with her melodious voice and impressive range. Both Doherty and Stoeger steal the stage as sidekicks in their “solo” moments. Yet, the entire ensemble seems well-blended, with Mancheski delivering lots of laughs as the villain; Luberger with his visions and one-liners like “Holy Land O’ Lakes”; and Herbst playing several roles, to all of which he brings his own special touch.


The lyrics by Randi Wolfe, book by Peter Welkin and score by Ron Barnett meld well together, showing the collaboration between the three seemed to really work, with everything feeling cohesive.


And while the back story of the hero’s nickname of Saphy seems a bit sappy, it still seems to work in the framework of this uproarious parody of a melodrama.


Northern Sky Theater presents the world premiere of “When Butter Churns to Gold” at 6 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and 6 p.m. Saturdays through Aug. 29. Also playing this summer are the world premiere of ”No Bones About It” at 8 p.m. Mondays, 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 p.m. Fridays; and “Strings Attached” at 8 p.m. Tuesdays and 6 p.m. Saturdays. For tickets or more information, call (920) 854-6117 or go to www.northernskytheater.com.


Delectable 'Love at First Bite' World Premiere Opens Northern Sky's 25th Season

Peggy Sue Dunigan - June 23, 2015


A 25th Anniversary landmark deserves a special celebration. The newly christened Northern Sky Theater with a permanent home in Door County's Peninsula State Park presented the World Premiere of When Butter Churns to Goldto introduce their 2015 summer season.


The company's Artistic Director Jeffrey Herbst, a joy to see on stage, narrates and explains this play within a play to the audience. Since the conventional "melodrama'" provides a hero, an innocent heroine, and a nasty villain Herbst asks the audience while he breaks the fourth wall throughout the play for their enthusiastic participation that adds to the theatrical fun seen under the stars.


Written by Peter Welkin and composed by Ron Barnett in collaboration with lyricist Randi Wolfe, When Butter Churns to Gold features the talented Doug Mancheski (villain Friederick von Fouler), Associate Artistic Director Molly Rhode (the beautiful blonde heroine Constance Goodwin) and Chad Luberger (handsome hero Jack Strongfellow) to carry out a parody of this genre and merits accomplished comedic timing. A genre popular in the mid-nineteenth century before Wisconsin became a state in 1847, Northern Sky's modern melodrama returns filled with cheeky humor to entertain Door County.


Let the fun begin with a plot anyone will recognize. The damsel in distress, Constance, will lose her family farm because her father died in a mysterious "alcoholic incident." The mortgage on the farm is due the next day, and the villain, Friederich will marry her to steal the land. Hero Jack falls in "true love" with Constance and her bread and butter, which causes a melt in the mouth, decadent sensation, and he desperately wants to rescue her from this dastardly situation.


Rhode plays the "maiden of magical milk products" by churning her delectable diary goods, a heroine who also believes "in tender matters of the heart, without true love will fall apart." Feelings musically detailed in the song "Your Bread and Butter," or the really humorous number featuring the man who changes hats when he plays several characters, Herbst. Herbst, Luberger, Mancheski and Rhode also harmonize in "Three Telegrams and a Wedding," which adults might remember as a play on the popular English film, "Three Funerals and Wedding." In these scenes audiences could gleefully express their own feelings on the heroine's dire situation. Will true love prevail and Constance become the singular owner of her decadent dairy delights–what Jack described as "love at first bite?"


The contemporary twist in this production lies in the hilarious sidekicks, the characters Simon Dewannabe, a charming Chase Stoeger playing Fouler's accomplice paired with Constance's cousin Helena Goodwin, a winning Kelly Doherty. These two bemoan their status in the melodrama, and wish for one chance to play the hero and heroine who get their own happy romance ending with a kiss. Their duet "Cemetery Serenade" becomes a centerpiece in the production.

Directed and choreographed by Rhode, the musical features her theatrical energy that assures the company's future leadership. Rhode sparkles in this role, especially musically, alongside the equally talented Luberger – actors with comic aplomb necessary to shine in this genre. Mancheski plays the Villain, a character he's familiar with in devious style, although his gifts also apply to roles seen in Stage Door Theatre Company's dramatic A Drawer Boy, experienced last season in Sturgeon Bay.


Northern Sky promises family friendly theater, and the young of age and heart will happily join in hissing Friederich, cheering Jack, and shedding a few tears for the delicate Constance when they appear on stage. The play on words incorporated in the dialogue and lyrics will keep theatergoers on their toes, while the older audience might occasionally wish for a few more historical Wisconsin details amid the laughter.


Each summer the company serves more than 35,000 fans, adding an additional 10,000 in the fall season. This year features the beloved Lumberjacks in Love. At the end of each performance, the actors sincerely ask for "one buck in the bucket" to support their new musical fund. If each person places a mere one dollar in the bucket when they leave the theater this year, Northern Sky will have enough funds to commission, workshop and produce another musical to continue the quarter century tradition honoring the dairy state and their heritage. In a dedicated effort to produce affordable, professional theater like no other company in the country, their delicious musical When Butter Churns to Gold, filled with fresh theatrical delights, will conjure magic all summer.


Northern Sky Theater presents the World Premiere When Butter Churns to Gold in Peninsula State Park through August. For performance schedule, times, and to purchase tickets please visit www.northernskytheater.com.


Northern Sky adds sparks to old-style show

Warren Gerds - June 13, 2015


PENINSULA STATE PARK, FISH CREEK, Wisc. (WFRV) - Before your eyes, see a renewal. See something worn, haggard and sapped get a transfusion and stand up, stride, sing, dance and laugh like new – no, like better than before.


What’s old is new again in “When Butter Churns to Gold,” a world premiere musical comedy by Door County’s newly renamed Northern Sky Theater. The show takes a theatrical cliché – the old-timey (and corny) melodrama, with boos for the villain and cheers for the hero – and fashions it into lively entertainment that’s fast and funny.


“When Butter Churns to Gold” opened Friday night in the full Northern Sky Amphitheater. It now heads into multiple performances – soon joined by two other shows – and continues to Aug. 29 in the outdoor setting.


Info: www.northernskytheater.com.


The story is pure tongue in cheek: The last straw of a mortgage payment is due, and (oh, woe) sweet Constance has no way to make enough hay before the sun shines. The dastardly Friederich, who set her up for this predicament, has designs to marry her get her property by tossing her into a beer vat, just like he did her father.


History is always present in Northern Sky shows. Here, there’s a dusting of it in the story as the year is 1847 and the place is a town in the Illinois Territory – “soon to be Wisconsin” (which became a state in 1848). Mostly, the style of theater presented is the history.


Time was, melodramas were put on with regularity. Some sort of social issue was welded into them – such as the evil of drink – and the story was played out with gross overacting (for comic effect and audience response) with florid and dramatic piano music thrashing in the background. With “When Butter Churns to Gold,” song and dance are added, and they make all the difference to fit into the Northern Sky Theater scheme of family-with-kids entertainment.


The adapted style allows the actors to pour on the color. The juiciest performances are by Doug Mancheski, who milks the boos with his expert mugging as the villain, and Molly Rhode, who toys with the audience with what-shall-I-do questions and then has the heroine do the total opposite of the advice.


And there’s plenty of juice around for Chad Luberger to puff his chest heroically, Jeff Herbst to change characters as quickly he changes hats and Chase Stoeger and Kelly Doherty to whip out wisecracks and mocking as sidekicks to the villain and heroine, respectively.


Applying the juice are collaborators new to Northern Sky – Ron Barnett, Peter Welkin and Randi Wolfe. Woven into their show is triplicate singing (villain, heroine and hero each singing his/her own song-within-a-song), music hall-ish touches, a sprinkling of double-entre meanings (for adults to elbow one another) and general broad playfulness that kiddies can cotton to.


The production gives off a sense of collaboration. Dance and movement are built in by director/choreographer (and heroine) Molly Rhode. Scenes with the sidekicks stepping into solos are cleverly stopped (a kind of historical touch about the melodrama style). Kelly Doherty’s part has signs of being a two-way street – the role being created for her and she creating the role that best may be described by one of her lines: “We’re not all sopranos here.”


I don’t know whether the title is pulled off by what happens and wonder why sapphires figure into the Wisconsin landscape. But this is melodrama, a loose form that begs the question, Why ask why? It’s for fun, and the adapted style fits into the Northern Sky wheelhouse.


The show runs 85 minutes with no intermission.


AHEAD: No Bones About It,” previews start Monday, June 15; “Strings Attached,” starting Tuesday, June 16.