Main-Travelled Roads

Main Travelled Roads production photos

Music by Paul Libman

Book & Lyrics by Dave Hudson

Based on the timeless tales by Wisconsin writer Hamlin Garland, Main-Travelled Roads tells two tales of love, one laugh-out loud funny, the other one bittersweet but very satisfying.

The stories combine to form a show that is both tuneful and charming. Main-Travelled Roads is about lives and loves in early Wisconsin and has proven to be a crowd-pleaser.

Casting Notes

Size: 4
Breakdown: 2 male / 2 female


Size: 1
Breakdown: 1 Keyboard/Piano


Main-Traveled Roads – Photos from Northern Sky Theater


Main-Traveled Roads – Plot Summary

A Branch Road– Part 1 – After the introductory song, Main-Travelled Roads , it is threshing day on the Dingman farm. Aggie Dingman greets the day and wonders What’ll Happen with her new beau, Will Hannan. Both she and Will are chagrined to find that the Small Town Telegraph is hard at work, everyone is teasing them about their romantic moonlight ride. Will shows a slight jealous streak which is brought out more by Dave Johnson the proud owner of the local threshing business – (Threshing ). Later that week, on a Fine Mornin’ – Will’s wagon breaks down on the way to take Aggie to the fair. He arrives at the Dingman place to discover Aggie waited for a while, but ended up going to the fair with Dave. In a youthful, jealous fit of temper, Will writes a piercing letter and leaves town… and Aggie… behind.

Creamery Man– Part 1 – In another part of the county, we meet Ed Kinney, the handsome and single Creamery Man . He’s set his eyes on Lucinda Kennedy, the most attractive Yankee gal in Molasses Gap. (Yankees are native-born, English-speaking, Anglo-Saxon descent residents of this part of the country.) He loves how she plays the piano and seductively encourages her to Play Along as he watches her at her piano exercises, things are going well (as far as Ed is concerned) until Mr. Kennedy steps in to be sure things don’t go too far. Just up the road from Lucinda, lives Nina Haldeman a Dutch (German) girl. She tells Ed that she has her sights set on a Yankee boy, and in Pygmalion-like fashion, she asks Ed to help her in transforming into a real Yankee (Yankee Girls ). Little does Ed know that the Yankee boy she has her sights set on… is him. A few days later, Ed arrives at the Kennedy place to discover that Lucinda has been shipped off to Minneapolis to attend finishing school. He is heartbroken, but cheered up a bit by a slice of strudel from Nina down the way.

A Day’s Pleasure – In town, we meet Delia Hall and Otis Hall, two folks who tease each other that they got married so late in life, calling each other Old Maid, and Old Goat . Elsewhere, a few years have passed since we last saw Aggie. We find her married… to Dave Johnson. They have one child, a son, and are living a hard and lonely life on the farm. Today, Dave is allowing Aggie to accompany to him to town – her first time off the farm in several months. Aggie’s hopes of a lovely, family outing where you can always Another Surprise in a tiny town. Her hopes are quickly dashed upon arriving in town when Ed leaves her with a few dollars and the child, heading to the tavern for ‘business’. Aggie’s money is quickly gone and she finds herself pacing the streets with a fretful child. Delia sees Aggie from her parlor window and asks her in. Soon, the baby is napping on the day bed, and the two women are, Talkin’ Nonsense like lifelong friends. Too soon, the sun is setting and Dave arrives to take Aggie back to the loneliness of the farm. Though she is with a surly and inebriated Dave, Aggie reminisces to herself about her newfound friendship in Another Surprise – reprise .

Creamery Man– Part 2 – Nina’s ‘improvement’ has been coming along nicely (Nina The Dutch Girl ). Ed confides to Nina that he plans on proposing to his Yankee girl that very Sunday. Prior to visiting the newly arrived, and ‘finished’ Lucinda, Ed pays a last-minute visit to Nina… more in the way of visiting a friend to bolster his spirits. He finds Nina in her Sunday best who encourages him not to be nervous Rehearsal Proposal . Ed is attacked by Nina’s furious mother who throws many German curses at him before fainting dead away. Ed is chagrined at the confusion, and informs her that Lucinda Kennedy is the ‘yankee girl’ he’s been aiming for. He leaves a tearful Nina at her farm. Ed finds himself at the Kennedy place, viewing Lucinda with new eyes. Her laughs are no longer music, but piercing, her coquettishness is no longer sweet, but grating.

A Branch Road – Revisited – Dave’s business has not been going well. Aggie catches him trying to sneak their one thing of value, Spode plates, out of the house to hock for a new thresher. A fight ensues and Dave leaves a battered Aggie, who is uncertain of what future awaits her.

Creamery Man – Conclusion – Ed returns to Nina’s, apologizing… and proposing (Yankee Girls – reprise ), which she accepts.

A Branch Road – Conclusion – Will Hannan returns to the county, sad to discover many of the places he’s rememberd have changed (You Can’t Go Home), having made his fortune in shipping in Boston. He pays a visit to Aggie, chagrined to find her too thin from work, and weary and worried from her life with an increasingly angry Dave. They have an awkward visit, both of them thinking of the love they shared, and the life they know they could have had. At last, Will speaks what they both of them are thinking – he asks her to come with him back to Boston… to bring her child and pick up where they left off (A Fine Morning – reprise ). It is a difficult decision, but Aggie knows it is the right one. In Main-Travelled Roads – Reprise , we happily learn the fates of all of the characters we’ve gotten to know over the course of the evening.



One man and one woman should be more in their younger twenties. The other two players can be more flexible in terms of age – though still skewing toward 35 or younger. The play as written can be performed by 4 players using the following cast/role breakout:


Branch Road 1

Creamery Man 1

Day’s Pleasure/
Branch Road 2

Creamery Man 2

Branch Road 3


Mrs. Dingman











ACTOR 1 – BariTenor


Mr. Kennedy
Frau Haldeman


Mr. Kennedy



Dave Johnson

Ed Williams

Dave Johnson

Ed Williams

Dave Johnson


The show, as envisioned, is written for a fairly minimal yet imaginative set. A couple of benches and a few sections of fence – all moveable, should be enough to help the players create this world. Costuming should also be simple – starting from a fairly plain foundation and letting a few simple pieces suggest the characters.



“Main-Travelled Roads”

“What’ll Happen”
“Small Town Telegraph”
“A Fine Morning”

“Creamery Man”
“Yankee Girls”

“Old Maid/Old Goat”
“Another Surprise”
“Talking Nonsense – Part 1”
“Talkin Nonsense – Part 2”
“Another Surprise – Reprise”

“Nina The Dutch Girl”
“Proposal Rehearsal”


“Yankee Girls Reprise”

“You Can’t Go Home”
“Fine Morning Reprise”
“Main-Travelled Roads” (Epilogue)


Door County Advocate

‘Main-Travelled Roads’ great family entertainment

MARTY LASH – September 2007

It’s not customary for me to call a play or musical “magical,” but there is no other word to describe American Folklore Theatre’s latest offering.

Each fall it has been customary for the company to present a show after the goings-on at Peninsula State Park have closed.

In recent years AFT staged very entertaining reviews of music by Simon and Garfunkel, the Weavers and John Prine. They were great events.

This year they decided to take a risk with a brand-new show.

“Main-Travelled Roads” has been tried out in one form or another at small, Chicago, New York and Madison theaters. Those productions were essentially workshops and the show is now receiving its world premiere in Door County.

It’s a musical about the struggles of young lovers in rural Wisconsin during the 1880s.

The basic story revolves around a young couple that splits up because Will, as played by Chase Stoeger, decides to go off to college. Later his character drops out of school and goes into shipping.

His intended, Aggie, played by Molly Rhode, marries someone she is not in love with because she does not want to wind up an old maid. Aggie marries a grim farmer, Dave, played by John B. Leen.

There is the “creamery man” or Ed, also played by Leen. His character is looking for a good wife and has his eyes on Lucinda, also played by Rhode.

Lucinda flirts with Ed but winds up rebuffing him. Meanwhile, a German woman, Nina, played by Denita Linnertz, has had her eyes on Ed all along. Ed and Nina wind up together.

After a six-year absence, Will shows up on Aggie’s doorstep. He professes his undying love.

At first Aggie shows him the door but eventually the two leave town (with Aggie’s child) and presumable live happily ever after.

Dave eventually comes home to an empty house.

This might sound a little complicated but the show is not hard to follow.

The four actors slip in and out of their 11 characters easily. We always know whom we are dealing with since each actor clearly delineates each part.

Aside from being a charming story, “Main-Travelled Roads” has well-written songs. Whether lighthearted or silly, all gives you a slice of each character’s personality, hopes and dreams.

Among the show’s best songs, Will and Aggie sing “Small Town Telegraph” which reminds us that in rural communities word travels fast.

Aggie has a close friend Delia played by Linnerrtz. Together the two women sing “Talking Nonsense.”

It’s about two friends who sit together and talk about everything and nothing. The song echoes Steven Sondheim.

The opening and closing tune, “Main-Travelled Roads” is one of the show’s best-written songs. It’s high-spirited and optimistic.

Each of the four actors in this musical is splendid. The cast is personable, talented and engaged.

Leen has great stage presence and an amazing baritone voice. He is fun to watch when playing the happy-go-lucky creamery man. Yet, he plays Dave with dead seriousness.

Linnnertz is a tall, stately actor who commands our attention. She is particularly funny when playing Nina, the German flirt.

Stoeger’s tasks are mighty. He plays three male parts and briefly shows up in a female part, Frau Haldeman, Nina’s slightly crazy mother. His acting and singing are first class.

Rhode is a standout. She is an amazing actor, displaying an incredible range of emotions and a voice that glistens. She is funny, tragic and very involved.

During one of the few dark moments in this show she manages to generate tears. That is acting at its very best.

Jeff Herbst is the show’s director. His leadership is caring and unobtrusive.

Special kudos are in order for composer Paul Libman and lyricist/writer Dave Hudson. Their musical is perfect entertainment for the whole family.

Marty Lash is a member of the North American Music Critics Association and the American Theater Critics Association and a former contributing editor and classical music reviewer for the Illinois Entertainer.

“Main-Travelled Roads” Recipient of the 2007 Richard Rodgers Award

This heartwarming musical, Main-Travelled Roads, with book and lyrics by Dave Hudson and music by Paul Libman, is a 2007 recipient of the coveted Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theatre. This is now the second time Mr. Libman and Mr. Hudson have won this prestigious award, making them the only writing team to ever do so for two musicals.

Mr. Hudson and Mr. Libman adapted Main-Travelled Roads from an 1890 volume of stories of the same name by Wisconsin native Hamlin Garland. The musical weaves together several of Garland’s tales into two main stories with fourteen songs. Last year, Main-Travelled Roads was performed in both the Stages Festival of New Musicals in Chicago and the Fall Festival of New Plays at Madison Repertory Theatre. Jeffrey Herbst, Artistic Director of AFT, directed the workshop presentation in Madison and as a result offered the authors the world premiere production this fall.

This talented writing team has only been working together for five years and has already produced five musicals. Their first musical, Muskie Love, was written for the 2004 AFT summer season, returned for the 2005 season, and subsequently went on to a sold-out run at Madison Repertory Theatre in 2006. Their second effort, Dust and Dreams: A Sandburg Celebration, was the other winner of the Richard Rodgers Award and as a result received a staged reading Off-Broadway at the York Theatre in New York City.

Mr. Hudson and Mr. Libman were recently in New York City to receive the award for Main-Travelled Roads, which was presented by Stephen Sondheim at a ceremony hosted by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The award is named for American composer Richard Rodgers, who endowed the award in his name shortly before his death in 1978. Rodgers’ iconic status as a musical theatre composer is exemplified by his partnerships with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein, the former yielding numerous American song standards including “My Funny Valentine” and “Blue Moon” and the latter resulting in beloved musicals like Oklahoma, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music.

Main-Travelled Roads and Dust and Dreams: A Sandburg Celebration are two of only sixty-one musicals to receive the Rodgers Award since its inception in 1980. Another AFT writing team, Fred Alley (co-founder of AFT) and James Valcq, also won the award in 2002 for The Spitfire Grill.

The latest Libman/Hudson collaboration, A Cabin with a View, was commissioned by AFT and is currently playing in the 2007 summer season. This charming adaptation of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View is set in America in 1959 on both the UW Madison campus and in the Rocky Mountains.


Main-Travelled Roads – 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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