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


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 Gold to 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 (villian 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 Wisconisin 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 villian, 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 desperatly wants to rescue her from this dasterdly 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 rememeber 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 Villian, a character he's familliar 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 appaear 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 spread magic all through the 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

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From This Author Peggy Sue Dunigan