Cheeseheads, the Musical

Music by Paul Libman

Book & Lyrics by Dave Hudson

A modern day dairy-tale with a lotto heart! The most magical thing about the lottery is pondering what you’d do if you won…At Schnaybel’s Famous Cheese, the lotto is just the ticket to help the workers take their minds off how things are in Sheboygan. Their beloved founder has passed away and there are rumors the factory may shut down. With typical Wisconsin good humor, the workers carry on while keeping their fingers crossed that something better will come their way…A touching and joyful Wisconsin musical gouda luck fable!

Casting Notes

Size: 6
Breakdown: 4 male / 2 female


Size: 3
Breakdown: 1 Keyboard / 1 Drum Set / 1 Electric Bass


Cheeseheads, the Musical – Photos from Northern Sky Theater


Cheeseheads, the Musical – Plot Summary

March of 2008. We find ourselves in the factory of Schnaybel’s Famous Cheese. While the workers realize working in a cheese factory isn’t the ideal job, they acknowledge At Least I’m Employed.. At the end of the song, Thursday (an eccentric employee) comes rushing on with the sad news that Nathan Schnaybel, the owner and founder, has died – leaving a question hanging over the factory whether they will be employbed any further.

In Hi Nathan, #1 Thursday sings of missing Nathan, who had given him the job in the factory. Thursday also talks of the factory being sold to Conglomerated Cheese. The people we get to know are the evening shift in the packing room. Dan is the de facto leader of the shift, Bobby and Natalie, two lifelong friends. Bobby is known as something of a womanizer, which Natalie (Nattie) teases him about as a way of hiding her true feelings toward him. In the back room is Doc, the head cheese maker. Rounding out the shift is Gizmo, so-named because he buys all gadgets, large and small.

Melanie (Mel) Charles arrives from Conglomerated Cheese, she observes the rather unorthodox workflow (Working on the Line) and it is clear she has strong ideas on how to ‘improve’ things.

Dan is the organizer of the weekly lottery pool and the workers muse on what they’d do if they’d win (Dollar for Daring to Dream). At the end of the first shift, Mel holds a meeting where she introduces the workers to the new benefits package from Conglomerated which is less than ideal. Bobby asks Mel out, and somehow charms her into accepting. Dan looks over the package and bemoans the fact that with health care contributions in his package he is making less than he did three years before (Average American).

Bobby takes Mel out and they go for a walk on the pier. He finds her the perfect match, in town for just a few weeks, so he asks her Do you Wanna have Fun and nothing but fun?

That night, Dan makes his way to the local convenience store with Fingers Crossed (#1) to buy this weeks’ batch of lotto tickets.

It’s been a little while, in Hi Nathan #2, Thursday sings to Nathan about how he isn’t crazy about Mel.
The following day, Mel arrives and Natalie does her best to mask her frustration that Bobby and Mel are already an item. Thursday witnesses this exchange and finally takes Natalie to task on her feelings, forcing her to admit she’s in love with Bobby (One Voice Duet).

Mel isn’t ingratiating herself, even instructing Doc to clean up all of the mold in the Cave. He instructs her in the ways of cheese with Cheese is Art.

Mel tries to implement a new more efficient (translated, boring) way of working with The Conglomerated Way. The workers chafe under it, especially Thursday who she sticks on the line. He tries to express his concerns (without words). Mel ignores him and pays the price when the equipment grinds to a halt because she didn’t allow him to attend to things.
Gizmo has been eyeing Mel’s fancy phone and reveals to everyone he has purchased the newest model (Gotta Getta Gadget).

Mel starts finding she likes these Wisconsin folks more and more (though she doesn’t understand their obsession with winter and why they say she need to get a new coat).

Mel receives word from corporate that corporate is planning on closing the plant – she begs to get a chance until the end of the year to turn things around.

Dan, and now Doc, make another visit to the convenience store – they’re really needing a winning ticket by this point (Fingers Crossed #2)

Doc’s cheese experiments continue to come up short. In Hi Nathan, #3 Thursday laments of their fears that the factory will close, no matter how hard they work.

Snow has arrived. Mel enters, half frozen, thin coat, covered with snow. She laments why anyone would live in Sheboygan, and Dan tells her it is because she isn’t a true Cheesehead (which means accepting all things Wisconsin). He and the cast convince her to do so in I Am a Cheesehead.

We see Mel’s relationship progressing with Bobby, or more to the point, not progressing. Bobby is a fun-loving guy, but isn’t much into commitments. Mel asks Natalie for advice, but she doesn’t have much to offer except to say Bobby has always been that way, and that men in Wisconsin are generally…like men elsewhere, but more-so (The Boys from Sheboygan). Mel figures out that Natalie is secretly in love with Bobby and decides to do something about it.

With things looking so rough, Dan, Doc, and Gizmo make the trip to the convenience store (Fingers Crossed, #3).
Christmas Day, Mel brings Bobby to the factory and blindfolds him, in Open Your Eyes, she introduces him by way of touch to the true love of his life, Natalie.

Thursday sends one final message in Hi Nathan, #4, entreating their departed patron to send some luck their way.
New Year’s Even finds them at the factory, waiting on a phone call which will decide their fate. Doc breaks out a special variety of Swiss cheese, but before they try it, Mel receives the phone and they listen in on expectantly – their hard work has been of no use, they are being shut down. Mel acknowledges that gas prices have gone down, but Dan realizes it is time for the lotto and Gizmo fires up his smart phone so they can watch the results online. They are soon stunned to learn they have won! (Dollar for Daring, Reprise). Each person is ready to cash in and go for their ‘what ifs’, when Thursday speaks for the first time, and pleads with them to take their winnings and invest it in buying the factory and making Doc’s new cheese.

Everyone, even Gizmo, decides to come aboard and they head for a future that they know won’t necessarily as easy or ‘cushy’ as it could have been, but it will be Something Right.



GIZMO – A worker on the evening shift obsessed with electronics of all sorts.

DAN – The old guard on the production line and supervisor. Gregarious, welcoming, and the organizer of the lotto purchases.

DOC MUENSTER – The head cheese culturist of the factory. Works mostly in the back room and makes occasional appearances. Always trying to perfect the perfect cheese and resents Bob always keeping him on task to focus on production.

BOBBY – Young man with who left Sheboygan as a football star and came back ‘searching’.

NATALIE – Our librarian who hasn’t let her hair down yet. She is very nerdy and shy, stays on task, always has her hair under a hat or scarf – has ALWAYS had a crush on Bobby.

– Young man who doesn’t speak.

MELANIE – A corporate process specialist, brought in to trim the fat and make things more efficient.



(song #1) At Least We’re Employed

(song #2) Hi Nathan #1
(song #3) Working On The Line
(song #4) A Dollar For Daring To Dream
(song #5) Average American

(song #6) Do You Wanna Have Fun
(song #7) Fingers Crossed #1

(song #8) Hi Nathan #2
(song #9) One Voice Duet
(song #9A) Cheese Is Art
(song #10) The Conglomerated Way
(song #11) Gotta Getta Gadget
(song #12) Fingers Crossed #2


(song #13) Hi Nathan #3
(song #14A) Cheeseheads – part 1
(song #14b) Cheeseheads – (underscore)
(song #14c) Cheeseheads – part 3
(song #15) Conglomerated Way (Thursday Reprise)
(song #16) The Boys of Sheboygan
(song #17) Fingers Crossed – #3
(song #18) Open Your Eyes

(song #19) Hi Nathan #4
(song #20) Dollar For Daring (Reprise)
(song #21) Something Right


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Cheeseheads Rule the World

Mike Fischer – July 23, 2010
(Excerpted from the 3-show seasonal review.)

In the current recession, our primal fears of yore have been replaced by a visceral fear of losing our jobs, while the stories we tell involve an insistence that we really do still matter in a seemingly indifferent world.

Cue the theme music for “Cheeseheads, the Musical,” which is back after last summer’s auspicious debut. It rounds out AFT’s three-play summer season.

Set in late 2008, “Cheeseheads” features the mythical Schnaybel Famous Cheese Co., a family-run operation from Sheboygan that has been sold to Conglomerated Cheese after the death of the Schnaybel patriarch.

With the arrival of Melanie (Rhode), a hotshot executive from Conglomerated sent in to raise productivity, the salad days seem gone forever, as the idiosyncrasies of the Schnaybel workforce yield to the ruthless efficiencies of a Conglomerated assembly line.

But not so fast. As AFT itself repeatedly reminds us, Wisconsin and its unique heritage have a way of overcoming all efforts to streamline their differences.

Normalize the quirky Doc Muenster (Doc Heide), with his homegrown cheese creations? Or the silent handyman Thursday (Becker), whose facial expressions say more than the thousand words he refuses to speak?

You might as well deny the obvious love of the proverbial girl next door (a charming Pamela Niespodziani) for Bobby (a delightfully clueless Stoeger) – or deny a born ham like Mancheski (playing the plant manager) a chance to bask in the limelight.

This is Wisconsin, gosh darn it, and its citizens won’t give up their traditions without a fight – particularly when we’re helped along by the likes of Paul Libman’s catchy tunes and Dave Hudson’s witty lyrics, which range from poignant to downright rousing.

No wonder that Melanie eventually waves the white flag and goes native. By play’s end, even the Flatlanders sitting around me were on their feet and cheering this improbable, wonderful and utterly cheesy story.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

American Folklore Theatre’s ‘Cheeseheads’ has earned its popularity

Damien Jaques – July 4th, 2009

Play titles sell tickets. When the Milwaukee Repertory Theater produced Theresa Rebeck’s girl comedy “Bad Dates” a few seasons ago, the unknown show had the box office humming before the marketing campaign began.

You know something called “Cheeseheads, the Musical” would be a hit for the American Folklore Theatre in Door County this summer. How nice it is to report that “Cheeseheads” earns its popularity by being as good a production as the homespun troupe has ever put on its Peninsula State Park Stage.

The significance of the show’s success goes beyond the happy convergence of a well-made musical and production being well received by the public. “Cheeseheads” confirms that the AFT has creatively survived the sudden death in 2001 of its prolific writer and artistic catalyst, the beloved Fred Alley, and has a steady grip on its future.

That conclusion has been a long time in coming because of AFT’s unique niche in American theater. The company, in its 19th season, stages only original musicals that fit into an unusual format. Shows must be one act, have a Wisconsin connection, be completely family friendly and be mountable on the troupe’s outdoor stage.

Family friendly means more than simply the absence of four-letter words. Three generations must be amused.

Few composing teams write in that form, largely because it is difficult to interest other theater companies in staging follow-up productions. Much effort is not rewarded with much money.

But AFT artistic director Jeffrey Herbst has found a pair of Chicago-based theater artists, composer Paul Libman and lyricist-librettist Dave Hudson, who have exhibited an enduring interest in and ability to write for the troupe. “Cheeseheads” is their fourth AFT show, and Libman has also written the music for the company’s new fall production, a deer-hunting musical titled “Guys and Does.”

Just as James Kaplan wrote breezy songs with compelling hooks when he collaborated with Alley for AFT, Libman composes engaging pop scores that reflect and drive the comedic and dramatic arcs of the shows. “Cheeseheads” sweeps us along on a musical journey that may be predictable but is totally irresistible. Credit snappy writing, sharply drawn characters, genuine performances and Pam Kriger’s deft directorial touch.

The musical is set in the mythical Schnaybel’s Famous Cheese factory in Sheboygan. Founder Nathan Schnaybel ran an egalitarian family business that placed profits on a par with the welfare of his employees, but when he died the company was sold to a national firm.

Conglomerated Cheese operated its plants with impersonal efficiency, and needless to say, that wasn’t the Schnaybel way. The national headquarters left the Sheboygan branch alone for a while, but the story gets interesting when a Texan named Melanie shows up to whip the Wisconsin cheeseheads into line.

The story includes unrequited love, unlikely romance and that Badger State institution, co-workers pooling their money to buy lottery tickets.

He may live in Chicago, but librettist Hudson is darn good at finding the Wisconsin funny bone and slipping inside state jokes into the lyrics and dialogue. He is particularly adept with puns that are clever rather than obnoxious.

Sample: “What a friend we have in cheeses.”

The AFT cast fits the show to near perfection, with Doug Mancheski and Molly Rhode leading the way. We have seen all of Mancheski’s comic tics and tricks over the years, but they still amuse. An underlying sweetness in his work endears him to the audience.

In “Cheeseheads,” the AFT veteran plays a low-key plant manager who can’t imagine knuckling under to corporate conformity. His warmly reassuring presence lowers the toxicity of the topic: longtime employees losing their jobs.

Rhode plays Conglomerated Cheese honcho Melanie with just enough bravado to brandish some authority, but she is mostly onstage to win our hearts, which she does in spades. Pamela Niespodziani, Lee Becker, Chase Stoeger and Dan Klarer are all major contributors to the production’s success.

Artistic director Herbst knows it is unrealistic to expect Libman and Hudson to develop a new show every year. “It would be helpful for us to get a writer on board full time with the company, like we had with Fred (Alley),” he said over breakfast.

Ticket information for AFT shows can be found at Tickets also can be purchased by phone at (920) 854-6117.

Damien Jaques’ blog:

Door County Advocate

AFT, Audience Have Fun With ‘Cheeseheads’

MARTY LASH – June 2009

American Folklore Theatre has taken on a lot this season. It has two new shows this summer and yet another planned for the fall. For all concerned, it has been a monumental undertaking.

The company unveiled “Cheeseheads, The Musical” last year at a book reading at the house of Cynthia Stiehl. Even in its most early form, the show appeared to have promise, but one cannot tell until it’s really staged.

After a year of hard work and adjustments, the show is on the AFT stage. While dealing with people in Wisconsin, it is a departure from their Northwoods comedies.

This time, we are presented with a group of people working in Sheboygan. They lead fairly uncomplicated lives and are happily employed by Schnaybel’s Cheese Factory.

The show imagines the experiences of people who worked for that company and won a big Powerball lottery prize. There were a group of workers at the real-life Sargento cheese plant who won the lottery, but that is where the similarities end.

With the economy in freefall, we find out that a large conglomerate has bought out Schnaybel’s. They send in a woman, Melanie, to evaluate the situation.

The various workers include a guy name Gizmo who is fascinated by electronics; a hapless couple, Bobbie and Natalie, that have yet to find each other; and the goofy, irreverent Dan. We have Thursday, who stopped talking after the founder of Schnaybel’s died, and the head cheesemaker who, not surprisingly, is named Doc Muenster.

Melanie, at first, is a bit too serious for the workers and has a hard time fitting in. Eventually, though, she comes to appreciate them and even feel protective. She even has an inconsequential romance with Bobbie, who is really destined to be with Natalie, the girl next door.

As we would expect, the conglomerate wants to close the small company down. The workers play Lotto regularly and find out that they won the big prize — $200 million. They decide to buy the company and run it themselves. Nothing will keep these tenacious Schnaybel’s workers down.

All this silliness comes together in a show that is bright, witty and one of the company’s better new productions. It can hardly go wrong with the likes of Paul Libman and Dave Hudson, who wrote the show, and Fred “Doc” Heide, who appears in the musical as the head cheese-maker. The always funny Doug Mancheski plays Dan and once again brings his unique blend of infectious humor and effortless charisma to his part.

The show is rounded off with AFT regulars Dan Klarer as Gizmo, Chase Stoeger as Bobbie, Lee Becker as Thursday and Molly Rhode, quite wonderful as Melanie. Chicago newcomer Pamela Niespodziani has a nice turn playing Natalie. Director Pam Kriger nicely pulled it all together.

The ensemble is clearly having fun with this new show and makes sure we do, too.


Cheeseheads, the Musical – General Pricing Info

Amateur Production:
Producing organization shall pay to Northern Sky a flat fee for the Run equal to the cost of a full price adult ticket multiplied by the number of performances of the Run multiplied by the number of seats in the Theater multiplied by .08.

Professional Production:
Northern Sky shall be paid a royalty of Ten Percent (10%) of gross weekly box office receipts (“GWBOR”) from the production of the Musical during the Run.

Transfer agreements will be issued upon receipt of licensing application and any applicable deposit or flat fee payment.

High resolution vector format show logo packets are also available for an additional $30 usage fee.

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