From the children's storybook set, to the full moon projected onto the star-glittered ceiling of the Barrymore Theatre, everything about Madison Repertory Theatre's Muskie Love is a little bit hokey. But given the warm-hearted nature of the musical and the charming performances of the cast, the result is as satisfying as a Friday night fish fry on a crisp Wisconsin winter's evening.
The story, based loosely on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, is set in a small fishing hamlet just north of Green Bay. It documents the romantic travails of two pairs of lovers who at times become as entangled as a fishing line in the propeller of an outboard motor. As you might expect, references to the Packers abound (one of the musical highlights is a song about a female fan's devotion to Brett Favre), and there are in-jokes aplenty, particularly at the expense of the state and people of Illinois.
Written by Paul Libman and Dave Hudson, the creative force behind the equally whimsical Guys on Ice, the show hums along at a merry clip, driven by catchy melodies and humorous lyrics. The singers are all possessed of good voices that are very ably supported by a solid musical trio, and the acting is equally accomplished. Lee Becker, in particular, gives a delightfully tongue-twisted turn as a befuddled, lovelorn DNR inspector.
Muskie Love may not be the next great American musical, but its sweet-natured spirit and enchanting folksiness will definitely get you hooked.