Muskie Love

Music by Paul Libman


Book & Lyrics by Dave Hudson

Ben and Bea are rival fishing guides, both avowedly single—and happy that way. Through the playful scheming of Bea’s Uncle Roy (helped along by his daughter, Sarah, and her boyfriend, Claude), Ben and Bea are soon lured into a romantic trap. Despite their sworn hatred of each other, the couple finds themselves inexplicably drawn together. Throw in a feckless Fish and Game Warden, (DNR Doug), the ever-present Wisconsin love of the Packers (including an ode to Brett Favre), a few jokes from Roy, and a wonderful blend of tuneful songs – and you’ve got Muskie Love, a sure crowd-pleaser. This laugh-a-minute fish tale is a comic, contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set on the shores of Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Casting Notes

Size: 6
Breakdown: 4 male / 2 female


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


Muskie Love – Photos from Northern Sky Theater


Muskie Love – Plot Summary

The play opens in the early morning with Roy Nelson opening up his shop, Roy’s Bait and Tackle in Gills rock, Wisconsin. We briefly meet all of the characters in On Green Bay . Soon, Ben and Claude enter. Ben is a good-old-boy fishing guide and a confirmed bachelor. Claude is his younger assistant and an old friend of Ben’s family who spent many-a-week in Door County as a child. The two of them look very forward to a summer of bachelorhood. Bea enters. Bea is Roy’s niece and Sarah’s cousin. She is returning home after getting an advanced degree in Aquatic Biology to open her own guide business. It is immediately clear there is no love lost between Bea and Ben. In Footloose and Fancy Free , Ben and Bea try to convince Claude and Sarah of the merits of a single life. The two younger kids attitudes soon change, however, when Roy contrives to maneuver Sarah and Claude into seeing each other. Much to Ben and Bea’s chagrin, Claude asks Sarah out and after a little reluctance she agrees to go out with him that evening.

DNR Doug, a Fish and Game Warden from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources enters. It is clear he has a huge crush on Sarah – which isn’t reciprocal. DNR Doug isn’t necessarily the sharpest tack in the tackle box, and soon starts learning larger words (i.e. ‘cretin’, ‘inept’, etc.) from Bea – which he writes down in a notebook he always carries with him.

That evening, Claude and Sarah are returning home from their date. Everything seems to be going well until they are about to kiss. Sarah pulls away and confesses she loves another man, Brett Favre. She even has a small shrine to him built beside the Bait and Tackle. In Oh Brett – she confesses to Claude that she has promised her heart to Brett Favre, and if she can’t have Brett – she doesn’t want anyone. Claude wins her over by assuring her that he’s just as big a fan of the Packers as she is (Oh, Brett – Reprise ). DNR Doug, on late night rounds for fish poachers, sees them kiss, and expresses his anger at this outlander stealing his girl (Encroachment ).

Roy approves of Sarah and Claude’s relationship. He then convinces Sarah and Claude to help him in tricking Ben and Bea into getting together. Through a series of well-placed ‘overheard’ conversations and discreetly placed poems during the song There They Go – Ben and Bea are soon convinced the other person likes them, and they start to consider the possibilities. After a week or so of stewing, Ben musters up the courage to ask Bea to take a ride with him in his boat… so she can give him some fishing advice. Once on the boat, they soon realize they are more alike than they suspected and sparks begin to fly (Muskie Love ).
HOWEVER – the next morning both Ben and Be have a few misgivings about their romantic encounter the night before. As they talk, both of them tells the other that they didn’t write any love letters or poems – tempers flare, and Ben and Bea are broken up just as soon as they were together.

All are busy with their jobs during the summer tourist season so the the summer days crawl by for the couples. For Sarah and Claude, it crawls by because they are apart – for Ben and Bea, it crawls by because their one date has stirred something inside of them – but neither is willing to admit it (The Motorboat Song ). All this while, Claude is dogged by a jealous DNR Doug, who constantly searches for a way to give Claude a citation. Early August finds Claude and Sarah very much in love – Claude has somehow acquired tickets to the first Packers preseason game – Sarah hides the tickets in the Brett Shrine. Bea enters singing Not Finished Yet – wondering whether she can somehow feel complete … perhaps with Ben. Ben enters soon thereafter, but before they can say much – they hear DNR Doug doing something in the Brett Shrine.

The play nears completion on the first Packers Sunday of the year. Roy and Ben traditionally hold their own tailgate party outside the Bait and Tackle. To kick off the party, they sing a Prayer for the Packers , at the end of which, they kneel before the Brett Shrine. When it is opened, the tickets are gone. Sarah faints just as DNR Doug ambles on, saying he has the tickets, and only if Sarah wants to go, she has to go with him. Claude challenges DNR Doug to a fight, a highly unusual fencing match ensues where the two combatants use fishing rods. The fight is ended by a tearful Roy who informs the assembled that Sarah is dead from the shock of losing her Packers tickets (all are in on the joke besides DNR Doug). Roy Tells DNR Doug that the only punishment for such a crime is for Doug to be banished – to Illinois – to work for their Fish and Game department. After DNR Doug leaves, Sarah is ‘revived’. The start to head off to the game – but Ben stops Bea before they go – and tells her the he would love to fight her, and fight to love her, the the song With All of My Heart . She accepts, and Roy gives the ultimate sacrifice, he gives up his ticket so the newly engaged couple can attend the game together.

The play ends at the end of the day, the two couples are encouraged by Roy to take a twilight cruise on the placid Bay. The sun is setting, the Packers have won, and all is right with the world (On Green Bay – Reprise ).



ROY – Owner of Roy’s Bait and Tackle in Gills rock Wisconsin. Mid-40’s or Higher.

SARAH – Roy’s daughter. Late teens to early twenties.

BEN – A good-old-boy fishing guide. Born and raised in Door County.

CLAUDE – Ben’s assistant. Originally born in Wisconsin, Claude was raised in Naperville, Illinois… but his colors have always been green and gold.

DNR DOUG – Some of Wisconsin’s best and finest are in Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources… and then there’s Doug.

BEA – Roy’s niece. Originally a native of Door County, Bea has spent several years away getting a Ph.D. in aquatic biology. She has returned home to open her own fishing guide business.


There are three primary playing areas. 1 – Roy’s Bait and Tackle, represented by a sign, a counter, and possibly a screen door behind the counter for entrances and exits. 2 – The dock where two boats are moored. 3- The main stage, which doubles as both general land and also as the water.

Note – in the original AFT production, the boats were the size of smallish rowboats and were on casters. There was no bottom. During the songs “Muskie Love” and “Motorboat” the actors moved the boats about Flintstone’s style with their feet. The boats were built with a small enough gap between floor and hull so that no feet were visible. The device worked to great effect and generally got applause.



  1. On Green Bay – The sun is rising on Green Bay. Roy welcomes us to the shores of Green Bay and we meet the cast of characters.
  2. Footloose and Fancy Free – Ben and Bea sing to their two protégés, Claude and Sarah, about the joys of the singe life.
  3. Packer Girl – Sarah sings of her love of the Pack and quizzes Claude on his knowledge of the team before allowing him to kiss her.
  4. Non-Indiginous – DNR Doug has a not-so-secret crush on Sarah. After seeing fall into the arms of Claude, DNR Doug vows to use whatever means he can (taken from the State of Wisconsin Fish and Game Regulations) to stop the non-indigenous Claude from stealing away the lovely, native, Sarah.
  5. Here I Come – There They Go – Roy revels in the machinations of pushing Ben and Bea toward each other.
  6. Muskie Love – On Ben’s boat, Bea and Ben are fighting against the feelings inside them. They both realize they are just pair of stubborn folks meant to be single… but even Muskies get the urge to settle down every once in a while.
  7. Motorboat Song – Over the course of the summer the two couples have different feelings. Sarah and Claude fall more and more in love – and Ben and Bea – after having such a close call – both start to realize that maybe the single life isn’t so . In Motorboat each person sings of their ‘someone’ who they are separate from.
  8. Something’s Not Finished Yet – As Bea prepares to head back to South Carolina for the winter, she reminisces on the unsettled feeling she has.
  9. Prayer for the Packers – Before heading out to Lambeau Field for a day of tailgating – the gang goes through their pre-game ritual.
  10. With all of My Heart – Ben proposes to Bea, and they promise to fight each other, and love each other, for always.
  11. On Green Bay, (Reprise) – DNR Doug has been banished (to Illinois) and Ben has relinquished and proposed to Bea. As the show opened in a sunrise, we now say goodbye to Door County in a sunset.


Door County Advocate

Much ado about AFT’s ‘Muskie Love’

ED HUYCK – June 2004

Since its origins as the Heritage Ensemble in the 1970s, American Folklore Theatre has been about taking risks – producing shows under the stars, with subject matter that big-city producers probably wouldn’t touch, with every single show being an original work.

All of that has combined to make AFT a successful and acclaimed company. This summer, they’ve taken another risk – producing an elaborate musical by two creators outside of their tight-knit circle.

Again, they’ve found success. “Muskie Love,” which premiered Saturday, isn’t perfect, but the parts of the show that work easily outweigh any of the problems. It’s a funny, engaging and, by the end, touching story.

Creators Dave Hudson (book and lyrics) and Paul Libman (music) use good source material for their play – William Shakespeare. They’ve lifted the basic plot of “Much Ado About Nothing,” but moved the action from Renaissance Italy to Gills Rock.

Here Beatrice and Benedick, er Bea and Ben, run rival character fishing boats. The two are a lot alike – and they can’t stand the sight of each other. There are also two youngsters, Sarah, the daughter of Roy, who runs the local bait shop, and Claude, Ben’s assistant who, despite being from Illinois, is welcomed as part of the fishing family.

Through the show, two love stories play out, with father-figure Roy pulling the strings. Two things stand in the way of Sarah and Claude – her adoration of Packers quarterback Brett Favre and the machinations of DNR Doug, a dim-witted “fish and game representative” who wants to protect her from this outlander (and make her his own girl, even though she can’t stand the sight of him).

The show’s intent is clear from the opening scenes and you know it’ll turn out for the best in the end, but the journey in “Music Love” is a lot of fun. Hudson and Libman have crafted endearing songs with bright and funny lyrics that both capture the characters’ hopes, reams and confusion, but also brings the distinct Northern Door way of life to the stage.

They are aided by one of AFT’s strongest-ever casts, anchored by the always entertaining Doug Mancheski as the manipulative Roy. Real-life couple Jon Andrew Hegge and Laurie Flanigan make the most of Ben and Bea, making sure their constant sniping never becomes tiresome. (They are rewarded with a very real kiss near the end.)

The younger couple gets their chances in the sun as well, and Keri Demien and Brad Anderson don’t miss their chances – especially Demien, who goes from the 1950s doowop parody “Oh, Brett” to the absolutely gorgeous “Motorboat Song.”

Yet the star of the show is Lee Becker, who makes DNR Doug the most delightful villain I’ve seen in many years, and his solo, “Non-Indigenous” is a show highlight.

So is “Muskie-Love” perfect? Far from it. It shifts from being very detailed and real to parody to utterly crazed without finding a balance between t he different tones. The show is absolutely alive during the songs, so I wish there were more of them – keeping in mind that “Muskie Love” is pushing the 90-minute mark, which is about as long as a one-act show can last at AFT.

Yet, none of this takes away from the work that Hudson, Libman, the cast and director/choreographer Pam Kriger (not to mention the backstage crew and expert set designer James Maronek) have done with “Muskie Love.” AFT took a chance by going outside of the company. It was a risk well met.

Green Bay Press Gazette

“Muskie” loves Pack and a lot more


4 Stars out of 4

Fish Creek—American Folklore Theatre’ s new “Muskie Love” redefines the term “romantic comedy.”

The show not only has budding romance between two couples, it is in love with Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s outdoors, Door County, Green Bay (the waters of), fishing, the Green Bay Packers, and Brett Favre.

It also gloriously sends up overzealous Department of Natural Resources officers (interesting because the show is performed in a states park) and “Illinutians” (interesting because those folks from south of the border make up a big part of the audience).

Things are nutty, fanciful, and funny, making “Muskie Love” another winner for the popular summer theatre under the stars.

The show centers around a modern-day Cupid (Doug Mancheski) as he works his magic on two fiercely opposite fishing guides (Laurie Flanigan and Jon Andrew Hegge) as well as his daughter (Kari Demien) and the assistant (Brad Anderson) of one of the guides.

Delighful nincompoop villainy is provided by DNR Doug (Lee Becker). To him, the DNR regulation manual is the Holy Grail.

Songs are sweet, rapturous, silly, and, in the case of two, super-duper fun as they add to Packers lore.

“Oh, Brett” finds a young woman, Sarah, singing of her mad crush on you-know-who. Her version of a hope chest opens upon a portrait of a heroic Brett Farve, with little jerseys and other Packers/Favre stuff adorning the interior. As Sarah sings, a doo-wop chorus of four backs her—with everybody singing and dancing while wearing No. 4 jerseys and sporting crowns on their head that spell out B-R-E-T-T.

“Prayer for the Packers” is a gospel/hymn tune that spreads joy and smiling reverence for the fabled team. The song is sung by five in full Packers fan Regalia.

The Packers may hold the world championship for musicals prominently featuring a sports team. They’re all American Folklore Theatre shows: “Muskie Love,” “Packer Fans from Outer Space” and “Guys on Ice.”

Other songs in “Muskie Love” are atmospheric (“On Green Bay”), comical (“Non-Indigenous”) and yearning (“Not Finished Yet”).

“Motorboat Song” is a kick not only because it captures that distinct feeling you get when stepping into a boat to go fishing but the made-for-the-stage motorboat moves as if on smooth water.

The show is long by the theater’s standards—about 1 1/2 hours—but director and choreographer Pam Kriger keeps the action moving.

The creators are new to the theater—Dave Hudson (book and lyrics) and Paul Libman (music). Hudson has taped into what makes American Folklore Theatre tick in themes and style, with Libman following with limber tunes, some with multiple layers.

“Muskie Love” will continue through summer in rotation with the returning “Guys on Ice” and the revamped “When Dogs Could Talk.”


Muskie Love – 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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