September 22, 2019
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Penobscot Theatre’s fishing musical ‘Guys on Ice’ more than okey dokey

Emily Burnham | BDN
Emily Burnham | BDN
Ben Layman (left), Matt Madore and Scott Johnson (right) star in Penobscot Theatre's "Guys on Ice."

Okey dokey, then. It sure is cold outside. Not much to do in this weather but pull on your snowmobile suit, grab your favorite fishing pole and head out on the ice with a 12-pack of Leinie for a day of bursting into song with your best friend.

Or, you could stop in at the Bangor Opera House over the next two weeks for the Penobscot Theatre Company’s production of “Guys on Ice” and see what you’re missing sitting at home in front of the boob tube.

“Guys on Ice” is pure silliness and a welcome theatrical escape from the unrelenting snow and cold that is making the winter of 2015 memorable. Set on Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, “Guys on Ice” is a loving little satire about the joy of fishing with your buddy, loving the Packers, dreaming about a moment of fame on a television fishing show and drinking Leinenkugel beer.

The musical — book and lyrics by Fred Alley and music by James Kaplan — was first performed in 1998 at the American Folklore Theatre. Now called Northern Sky Theater, it is a summer company that performs original musicals in an outdoor theater in Door County. In July and August, Door County is to Wisconsin what Mount Desert Island is to Maine.

Despite the midwestern setting, there’s plenty in the show Mainers can relate to — especially if they fish, are related to someone who does or has a co-worker who regales them with fishing tales. At Saturday’s sold-out opening night show, songs “Wishing Hole,” “The One That Got Away” and “Fish is a Miracle Food” delighted the audience. But it was “Ode to a Snowmobile Suit,” a loving and hysterical tribute to that essential winter garb, that nearly brought down the house. Who knew that zippers could be so funny?

Dominick Varney, directing for the first time at PTC, knows how to squeeze every laugh out of a play. He keeps the show from getting static by getting the actors out of the shanty and onto the ice for those big dance numbers. Varney allows Scott Raymond Johnson ar Marivin and Ben Layman as Lloyd to satirize working class guys but never lets them slip into ridicule.

Johnson’s Marvin is a perpetual optimist and a simple guy who sees his appearance on a TV fishing show not as his chance at fame and fortune but as an opportunity to get a date. The New York-based actor, who’s a native of Hampden, portrays Marvin as a charming and guileless dolt.

As Lloyd, Layman is a cranky man with a personal crisis. He is the flinty foil to Marvin’s perpetual Pollyanna. Cast against type, Layman slowly reveals heart. By the end of the show, the audience feels the pain of Lloyd’s sacrifice for his marriage.

Matthew Madore as Ernie the Moocher brings a high-octane energy to the role and nearly steals the stage out from under Johnson and Layman. Best known in Bangor for his solos in the annual Rotary musical revues, Madore whipped the audience Saturday into a fishing frenzy with his “okey-dokey’ give-away at the beginning of the Second Act. Ernie’s really a lovable guy until he shows up at your shanty and starts mooching your Leinies.

Chez Cherry’s set, Scott Hough’s lighting design and Kevin Koski’s costumes add to the whimsical mood that makes “Guys on Ice” so delightful. The ice shanty, replete with a wood stove and found road signs, could be a shack on any frozen lake in Maine

Guys on Ice” runs from through Feb. 15 at the Bangor Opera House, with performances each night but Mondays and Tuesdays. Tickets start at $25.

 



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