Tickets On Sale April 1st, 2014
for Summer 2014 Performances

Guys On Ice

Book & Lyrics by Fred Alley
Music by James Kaplan
Conceived & Researched by
Fred Alley & Frederick Heide

The Hit Ice Fishing Musical


Buddies Marvin and Lloyd spend a winter’s day in a shanty out on the ice, talking about life, love and Leinie’s. Guys on Ice has thrilled audiences throughout Wisconsin, as well
as in Michigan, Oregon, California
and New York.

Since 1998, Guys on Ice has played to sold-out houses in Ephraim, Sturgeon Bay, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison and played for audiences as far away as California, New York and Oregon. Fred Alley wrote the following description of the show for AFT’s 1998 program:

You've seen them. Little wooden shanties sitting on lake ice. Puffs of smoke rising from chimney pipes. On a quiet day, maybe the static of a tinny radio filters through plywood walls, across the frozen tundra, back to shore. In a cold world, on a cold day, on a frozen lake, these little signs of life are all most people know of a secret culture that thrives right here amongst us. Well, wonder no more. Once again, AFT sets its sights close to home as we bring you our somewhat twisted take on the secret world of ice fisherman. Guys on Ice spends a day in the life of Marvin and Lloyd — fishing buddies and home-grown philosophers. With musical numbers like, "The Wishing Hole," "Ode to a Snowmobile Suit," "Fish is the Miracle Food" and "The One That Got Away," Guys on Ice works not only as a serious anthropological study but as a musical comedy as well.                                                        

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Door County Advocate

A New Fishing Hole Opens Up

ED HUYCK - July 2003

Guys on Ice debuts at AFT summer stage - 2003

Since it premiered at Ephraim Village Hall in 1998, Guys on Ice has defined American Folklore Theatre. The show has played to sold-out audiences from Door County to Madison to as far away as Ashland, Ore. It has been featured on a segment on National Public Radio.

But this signature show has never been on AFT’s signature stage — the outdoor amphitheater at Peninsula State Park, where the group first started (as the Heritage Ensemble) more than 30 years ago.

That’s changed. The musical about two guys sharing their hopes and dreams (not to mention beer, fish and jokes) on the Green Bay ice has come home in a bright and funny production at the park. This is a revised version of Fred Ally-James Kaplan show. The original was an hour-long, one-act piece. Shortly before Alley’s death in 2001, the collaborators expanded it — with new bits, jokes and songs — to a two-act production, which has been used in productions since.

The latest show returns it to a one-act format but keeps some material from the expanded version. However the show is organized, Guys on Ice is always about its two heroes — Marvin and Lloyd, a pair of Sturgeon Bayites who seemingly live for fishing and the Green Bay Packers. They’ve gotten together in their shanty on a cold winter morning for a special occasion. The host of a local cable TV fishing show is going to drop by the shack and interview the two "for the TV."

They pass the time – this is a kind of Waiting for Godot with regional accents — by swapping jokes and talking about their lives. Neither is too happy right now. Lloyd’s wife has left him because he won’t give up his Packers vs. Bears tickets for that Sunday, which is also their wedding anniversary. Marvin is burned out by his job and lonely — and he can’t find the courage to ask out the checkout girl at the Pick ’N Save.

The third character — Ernie the Moocher, mainly just a pain in the neck — is an immediate threat on the ice. As his name implies, Ernie wants what the two have (in this case, mainly their Leinenkugel Beer).

Doug Mancheski returns as Marvin, a role that has defined his work at AFT. He fits into the role like a pair of comfortable old gloves. He knows — and obviously loves — the material, and takes fresh chances with each production. His Elvis-inspired "I Am the King" is still a highlight. Jeff Herbst steps into Lloyd, a character created by his long-time friend, Alley. Herbst makes this his own character, full of nuance and unique touches. Lee Becker returns as Ernie The Moocher, and has a blast in his two scenes during the show, and during the pre-show warm-up, where he gets the crowd (a packed house Wednesday night) into the mood for the show.

Those familiar with Guys on Ice will not be disappointed. Favorite tunes, from "Ode to a Snowmobile Suit" to "The Once That Got Away" to "Your Last Day on Earth" are all here. An expanded orchestra — Kaplan on piano, Maureen Milbach on percussion and Eric Lewis on guitar — adds extra punch to the songs.

Though AFT tries to set the mood — Christmas songs before the show, Ernie’s warmup, the heavy snowmobile suits worn by the character — it is difficult to get completely in the mood, especially on an early evening where the sun is shining brightly and the temperature is pushing 90 degrees. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Guys on Ice doesn’t try to be too deep, through it does delve into the nature of friendship and love (just like Lumberjacks in Love and The Bachelors, the other two shows in this informal trilogy by Alley and Kaplan) and finds plenty of truth in the simplicity of spending a day doing nothing but waiting for the fish to bite.

Green Bay Press Gazette

Guys on Ice Sliding into Another (Season) of Fun, Frolic

WARREN GERDS - September 1999

A great little musical has returned for another burst of off-the-wall energy. Guys on Ice — about two ice-fishing buddies who don't catch a thing but still share a special time — opened Thursday to a full house at Village Hall.

The American Folklore Theatre show started at a rare time, 5 p.m. That was because of the Green Bay Packers–Miami Dolphins game at Lambeau Field. Marvin and Lloyd, the characters in the show, would insist on that because they're Packers fans to the hilt.

Guys on Ice was an instant hit when it opened in Ephraim last September. The jolly musical played to packed houses through fall, then went on to more glory in two runs at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre's Stackner Cabaret. After the run at Ephraim, Guys on Ice will return to the Stackner for a one-month run.

It's Wisconsiny. It's also surprisingly touching.

This show clicks with its inside humor. It's very Wisconsiny. It's also surprisingly touching. Some songs are giddy and goofy. Some are pretty. The story is simple yet deep at the same time. It's two guys coming up with corny ice-fishing jokes (like a one-armed fellow showing how big his lunker catch was) and breaking into a song and dance about such things as the virtues of the snowmobile suit. Then, suddenly, they ponder life as if it were, as the song says, Your Last Day on Earth.

Perfectly capturing the purely Wisconsin feeling are Fred Alley and Doug Mancheski, a Green Bay native.

Mancheski is Marvin, who envisions all the fame that will be his when he appears on a fishing show on cable TV. He imagines himself as Elvis Presley and sings, "What Elvis is to rock 'n' roll I am to the ice fishing pole."

Alley is Lloyd, who has problems at home. That's partly because Lloyd's wife doesn't think spending their anniversary at the Packers-Bears game at Lambeau Field is all that swell. Picky, picky.

James Valcq doubles as the "band" and as the character Ernie the Moocher. Valcq is new to the show, and it shows. But then, Alley and Mancheski have all the mannerisms, expressions and fractured-English phrases down pat, so Valcq is working from a disadvantage.

One of the many beauties of Guys on Ice is it runs for only 60 minutes, yet is packed with impish adventure.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Charm of ‘Guys on Ice’ reels in audience

BY DAMIEN JAQUES - November 1998

How can you argue with the logic of Marvin, one of three characters in the one-act musical comedy “Guys on Ice”?

If hell is all flames, heaven must be cold, like Wisconsin. So there must be ice fishing in heaven.”

Ice fishing is heaven for many Wisconsin winter sportsmen, and “Guys on Ice” affectionately spoofs them and the concept of fishing in a shanty on a frozen lake for hours. Gentle fun also is poked at northern Wisconsin dialects and the state’s devotion to the Packers.

The hourlong show was developed by composer James Kaplan and writer Fred Alley of Door County’s American Folklore Theatre. Alley is responsible for the book and lyrics.

“Guys on Ice” was performed to sellout crowds, at the Ephraim Village Hall during the fall, and it has now moved to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret, where it runs through Jan. 3. It deserves sellouts here too.

Like virtually all American Folklore Theatre shows, “Guys on Ice” is simple, straightforward and possesses a sweet charm. The abundant humor is just this side of being corny. The original music is melodic and catchy. In this case, strong folk influences can be heard in many of the songs.

Plots are secondary in AFT productions. Kaplan’s tunes, Alley’s clever writing and the ensemble’s knack for effective showmanship make the experience enjoyable. Director-choreographer Jeffrey Herbst shares the credit for the company’s success.

The story line for “Guys on Ice” involves a fisherman awaiting his moment of glory on a cable TV fishing show, a husband in big trouble with his wife because he wants to spend their anniversary at a Packers-Bears game, and an irritating angler famous for his freeloading. The show is played out inside a fishing shanty that swings open on the Stackner stage.

Three veteran AFT actors-musicians, Alley, Doug Mancheski and Chris Irwin, make up the cast. Alley, who plays the husband in hot water, uses his beautiful tenor in several songs, including “The One Who Got Away.” The wistful tune is not about a fish; it declares his fear that he is losing his wife.

Without slipping into insulting parody, Mancheski is quite believable and likable as a North Woods doofus who “has a gift for fish,” and he still gets mileage out of an Elvis impersonation: “What Elvis was to rock ‘n’ roll, I am to the ice-fishing pole.”

Irwin spends most of his time accompanying the other two on keyboard and guitar, but he makes a few short appearances as Ernie the moocher.

The musical’s best number reflects the slightly goofy tone of the entire piece. An ode to the joys of wearing snowmobile suits uses the suits’ numerous zippers as the central point of some hilarious choreography.

Wisconsin State Journal

Jennifer Garrett - December 2002

Hilarious ‘Guys on Ice’ Returns

Winter is back and so is “Guys on Ice.” No one greets the falling temperatures with the enthusiasm of an ice fisherman. Oh, the augers! The shanties! The walleye! The beer! It’s a winning combination that lures droves of anglers into the cold and has, for the second season in a row, given rise to Madison Repertory Theatre’s much-adored musical “Guys on Ice.” Unless your heart is colder than a Wisconsin winter, you’ll fall hook, line and sinker for this light-hearted romp.

We spend the day with Marvin (Doug Mancheski reprising the role) and Lloyd (Steven Koehler) who converge upon Sturgeon Bay at dawn to hook a few perch and, they hope, to land an appearance on a cable TV fishing show. They swap stories and songs about life and love when they aren’t telling bad jokes or trading tall tales. There are even a few Elvis riffs: If only fishing were always so amusing.

So hold onto your knit caps. The laughs come easily and often, mostly because everyone knows someone like Marvin, Lloyd and their annoying friend Ernie the Moocher (Lee Becker). The material is fondly familiar, and you needn’t have trudged out onto a frozen Lake Monona in the frigid dark to appreciate it.

Even the intermission provides interactive entertainment, thanks to Ernie, who does out appropriate prizes to happy audience participants. This improvisational interlude is a show within a show, so be sure to hurry back from the concession stand for Ernie’s solo routine.

All in all, the opportunity to laugh at ourselves is a delightful way to welcome the winter, and “Guys on Ice” will have you chuckling at Wisconsin faster than you can say Oconomowoc.

My only objection is the brevity. Wrapping up in less than an hour and 45 minutes, darkness falls on these guys a little too quickly. With James Kaplan (who wrote the score for “Guys”) on piano, I could stand a few more clever ditties and silly dances.

And if I must split hairs, Lloyd shows no evidence of the spare tire around the middle that he sings about. All of those Friday fish fries should eventually wreak havoc on the waistline, and his physique suggests more time spent at the gym than on a frozen lake.

But this is art imitating life, after all, and I am duly thankful for the spruced-up version of this winter sport. After all, if you’ve seen one beer gut, you’ve seen them all. Plus, just shy of two hours is probably plenty of time to dedicate to these great outdoorsmen. I’m sure the same amount of time spent watching actual ice fishermen would numb the mind as quickly as it would the extremities. I’ll take the “Guys on Ice” version any day.


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