April 17, 18, 21, 23, 24, 25 at 7:30 pm (doors open at 7:00 pm)
April 19 and 26 2:00 pm (doors open at 1:30 pm)
Directed by Ron WIlkie
Produced by Diane Rabehl
Stage Managed by Jennifer Bohlig
Christina Miller, Ric Ramirez, Meg Scullin, Trevor Kastein, Chris Connolly, Joelle Lillge, and Nate Scheuers
In the current recession, our primal fears of yore have been replaced by a visceral fear of losing our jobs, while the stories we tell involve an insistence that we really do still matter in a seemingly indifferent world.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.