Something Very Fishy at The Barn

Guys on Ice at the Barn Theatre, Augusta, MI

AUGUSTA, Mich. — An hilarious look at all things  aquaticaly icy is offered in “Guys on Ice: The Ice fishing Musical,” which opened a two-week run (through June 14) and the 2009 season at The Barn Theatre. Reportedly commissioned by the state of Wisconsin to mark its sesquicentennial, it features a score of definitely show-specific melodies, from ballads to up-tempo, and a very hard working cast of two, plus a brief third who primarily provides the “Half Time Show” and a quartet of attractive young ladies who move the set, sing backup and generally fill in whenever a visual is required (including a bikini-clad car washer).

Guys on Ice at the Barn Theatre, Augusta, MIThe duo is two of the Barn’s best — Eric Parker and Eric  Petersen — who sing, dance, create believable comic characters, deliver “Fargo”-ish accents and obviously delight in telling a host of jokes better described as “groaners.” They also ignore the heat of the stage lights costumed in heavy jumpsuits and, in Petersen’s case, a knit cap. The scene is an ice fishing shanty on a frozen lake  somewhere in Wisconsin. “The ice is 17 inches thick” a radio commentator announces at the opening, also noting “The temperature is -7 degrees and the wind chill -36,” making it a wonderful day to sit in the shack around a  “Wishing Hole” with buckets of bait and a lot of beer Marvin (Parker) is a bachelor and his buddy Lloyd (Petersen), married-but-temporarily-separated. They are in the shack fishing and awaiting the arrival of the host of a TV fishing show who wants to interview Marvin. As they sit and wait and fish and drink beer, the talk (and sing) about their favorite topics: Bait, the Green Pay Packers, beer, fish and women — not necessarily in that order. They sing the praises of snowmobile suits (probably the show’s funniest duet complete with bodyslapping “choreography”), tout fish as “Da Miracle Food,” delete their supply of brews (“Twelve Beers in a Twelve Pack”) and ponder how to spend “Your Last Day on Earth.” Parker and Petersen never stop and their fish-focused men are the source of well-earned laughter. Their excellent singing voices certainly are not challenged by the score, but they blend beautifully and go from poignant (“The One That Got Away”) to rock (“The King”) with ease. Steven Lee Burright is Ernie, described as “a moocher,” and after his brief visits to the shanty, always leaves with more than he came in with. His “Half Time Show” engages the audience and obviously is there to extend the length of the show which is about 90 minutes, plus intermission. He also designed the revolving shanty. Author Fred Alley and composer James Kaplan are no threat to Kander and Ebb, but under Dusty Reeds direction, a visit to the “Guys on Ice” is  as much fun as “hooking a big one.”

“Guys on Ice: The Ice Fishing Musical” plays at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 6 and 9 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $29. Call (269) 731-4121 for reservations. The Barn Theatre is on M-62 in Augusta, Mich.

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