Book by Eva Nimmer & Joel Kopischke
Music by Alissa Rhode
Lyrics by Joel Kopischke
Story by Joel Kopischke
Summer 2018 World Premiere
A modern-day family farming moo-sical!
Dairy Heirs is home grown, hearty, plenty sweet, with a side of tongue in cheek.
Elsie Frederiks is a passionate farmer, continuing in her family’s long tradition. But when her father passes away unexpectedly, estranged older brother Gabe returns to Wisconsin from Los Angeles, with his own ideas about what to do with the family business. As the siblings wrestle with the fate of the farm, so do their partners, neighbors, two wannabe identical twin farmhands, and one extraordinary cow. Dairy Heirs untangles the question of what family tradition means to people with different dreams, and where — and with whom — one finds “home sweet home.”
Show Length = 95 minutes with no intermission
About the Writers
About the Writers
JOEL KOPISCHKE (Playwright & Lyricist)
Joel is ecstatic to share Dairy Heirs with Northern Sky Theater and you. Joel has been performing professionally for over 40 years, having fun on stage, TV, radio, and film. He has performed at TAP, Camp David, Door County Auditorium (as Sheriff Joe in NST’s Spitfire Grill), Skylight Music Theatre, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, First Stage Milwaukee, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Melody Top, and Off-Broadway. Joel has written for the MSO, Broadway Baby, and the short plays Monkey/Cat (with Don Russell) and Role Perversal. Joel has written lyrics collaborating with David Friedman, Jamie Johns, Tony Clements, and Willy Porter, but is primarily known for his parody lyrics and humorous holiday CDs I Got Yule, Babe and Ground Control to Santa Claus, heard on XM Radio, DirecTV, and Doctor Demento. Love to Ro and Anne.
ALISSA RHODE (Composer / Orchestrator / Musical Director)
Alissa holds a bachelors in music composition from the University of Illinois and a masters in liberal studies from UW-Milwaukee’s Center for 21st Century Studies. She has previously served Northern Sky as music director, arranger and performer. Past productions include Naked Radio, Lumberjacks in Love, Victory Farm, Home for the Holidays, When Butter Churns to Gold, No Bones About It, Life on the Mississippi, Bone Dance, and Cheeseheads. Other Wisconsin credits include Door Shakespeare, Third Avenue Playhouse, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, First Stage, Children’s Theater of Madison, Skylight, Theatre Gigante, and Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua. Alissa is also the composer of Victory for Victoria, a suffragist musical about Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for U.S. President, in 1872. Heartfelt thanks to all involved in our journey from page to stage!
EVA NIMMER (Performer / Playwright)
Eva returns to the woods for her sixth season with Northern Sky. This year she is proud to join co-authors Joel Kopischke and Alissa Rhode in adding Dairy Heirs to the canon of Northern Sky original musicals. Eva has performed throughout Wisconsin at places like Next Act Theater, Forward Theater, Children’s Theater of Madison, and Four Seasons Theatre, where she recently had the joy of playing Percy in their production of The Spitfire Grill. This winter, Eva will take her love of original work to Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, appearing in the premiere of James DeVita’s Christmas in Babylon. Thanks go to her family, friends, and the amazing Northern Sky Theater volunteers and patrons that make summers here so wonderful.
Cast of Characters
Cast of Characters
Gabe Frederiks (co-heir to the family farm)………………..Doug Clemons
Elsie Fredericks (co-heir and Gabe’s younger sister)………………..Corrie Beula Kovacs
JT Blatschke (“twin” farmhand)………………..Alex Campea
TJ Blatschke (“twin” farmhand)………………..Chase Stoeger
Linda Gustafsson (next door neighbor)………………..Molly Rhode*
Rita Spicer (Gabe’s Hollywood manager)………………..Lachrisa Grandberry
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
‘Dairy Heirs’ Musical in Door County Captures Wisconsin Spirit
Warren Gerds/Critic at Large – June 20, 2018
FISH CREEK, Wis. – “Dairy Heirs” sounds like a cute title for a quaint story about Wisconsin folks who ache to keep the family farm going. It is… and then again, it is much more. Take the first song, “Home.” The show jumps right into singing by one person. Then another sings “Home,” then another, then another, then another – each with a different meaning on what home means to him or her. Eventually, five people are singing “Home” in five ways – at once. The “much more” of this musical starts right out of the gate with “Home.”
“Diary Heirs” is one of two new Northern Sky Theater shows on this year’s summer season that continues to Aug. 25 at Peninsula State Park amphitheater.
“Dairy Heirs” premiered Tuesday night in front of a full house of with-it listeners. (There’s a joke in the show about a fly and a cow that the audience caught the catchline to exactly one mile away).
The story of “Dairy Heirs” is about family and change and the country mouse and the city mouse and sibling rivalry and love and loneliness and puns – tons and tons of fun-on-the-run puns – set on a dairy farm in Door County. As opposed to some Northern Sky Theater shows in recent years, “Dairy Heirs” has a “from here” feel to it. The authors – Joel Kopischke, Eva Nimmer and Alissa Rhode – kind of breathe Northern Sky Theater, and Nimmer performs in the show.
The on-stage performers are invested in the show just by its nature. The performers act and sing on stage and often play musical instruments; all cast members play instruments off stage, too. Toss in bits of dance, and you’ve got six busy people who make even tricky little things (like a little cow bell routine) look simple. This is a solid company.
The story setup: The patriarch of the family has died young (58) of a heart attack, basically working himself to death on the family farm. The son, Gabe (Doug Clemons), has returned from Hollywood well after the funeral to figure out the farm’s future with his sister, Elsie (Eva Nimmer). Gabe wants nothing to do with the farm, Elsie wants everything to do with the farm. Sticky point: The farm has been left to Gabe; he must decide.
Meantime… Gabe’s manager/kinda girlfriend (Lachrisa Grandberry) keeps texting him with Hollywoody things to attend to, Gabe’s old girl-next-door high school flame (Molly Rhode) flickers into the picture and the farm’s two farmhands (Alex Campea and Chase Stoeger) try to figure their future, too.
Again, all of this seems simple but is not.
Alissa Rhode’s agreeable score fits right in. In turns, it is perky and catchy, heated and laced with yearning. Made collaboratively, the song “News & Booze & Music” three times moves the story forward, unloads a heap of puns on a theme and rings with family fun musicality (sung/played by the actors).
True cosmic-cology comes in the farmhand twins with two standing jokes. One, the main one, is the two believe they are identical twins and think they do things “Exactly Alike” (a song), but neither looks anything like his brother nor has the same likes. As the “twins,” Campea (JT) and Stoeger (TJ) unleash high-level singing/movement routines that dazzle in their trickiness. The other standing joke, unspoken, is that these visual/lifestyle opposites are truly (and cosmically) identical twins.
There’s lots of lovely singing and fun singing and, with the presence of Grandberry, lifting of bluesy/spiritual-ly/gospel-ly singing (that roused Tuesday’s crowd).
This and that:
+ “Dairy Heirs” includes two adult jokes (that will go over kids’ heads) referring to Hollywood personalities.
+ A custom cheese made by farmhand JT is a play on a word. Combining provolone and pepper jack, it is Projack, which has a mellowing effect like a medication with a similar name.
+ The growing-up lives of Gabe and Elsie are revealed as they open box upon box of memorabilia their father kept – toys and such. The song “Daddy’s Favorite” is rich in memories and sentiment, with the contents illustrating very much about the kids and their father. (There’s even a spoken pun that goes with the scene: The father was like Muhammed Ali. Both were boxers).
+ Northern Sky Theater’s stage is somewhat handcuffing because it has so few moveable elements. The tall pines growing through the stage can’t be shifted from show to show. For “Dairy Heirs,” pieces that suggest a farm are placed on the walls, with a decorative piece at the top having a Scandinavian aura common in Door County. Added, too, are a silo in the background and a barn door (more puns/jokes there, too).
+ JT’s milk-to-cheese cow of the story is cleverly devised Holstein on wheels. It is functional/funny and even comes with a cowbell – ding, ding!
+ In the thick of all the wit in the show is a routine in which Elsie and Gabe express a love of where they live with a blind eye (and nose). Elsie: “The manure so pure brings a tear to my eye.” Gabe: “The rows of cars in traffic can be peaceful and serene.”
+ Opening night included an appearance by Alice in Dairyland, Kaitlyn Riley of Crawford County. Riley spoke to the audience beforehand with a kind of jaw-dropping enthusiasm for the Wisconsin dairy industry and the state’s 600 – SIX HUNDRED! – varieties of cheese (though no Projack until “Dairy Heirs).”
+ This is a solidly made and played show.
THE VENUE: Northern Sky Theater (the former American Folklore Theatre) performs in a scenic, 600-seat amphitheater in Peninsula State Park near Fish Creek in Door County. Seating is on wood benches. The stage is about 25 feet by 45 feet and of irregular shape because two tall white pine trees grow in the middle of the stage. Other pines ring the fringes of the stage. “The stage deck, unlike all of the stage walls, is made from recycled plastic,” said Northern Sky Theater artistic director Jeffrey Herbst. “It’s water impermeable. The deck has held up really, really well. The rest of the stage, anything that’s vertical is cedar that has to be stained and treated and washed and kept. We went with that kind of material was partly because we wanted something that wouldn’t warp and because when it rains on that material, it actually becomes less slick. With cedar, when we had it as decking in the past, as soon as you had water on it, it was like an ice skating rink.” The amphitheater is tucked in a forest and accessed by winding roads.
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