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Muskie Love is a must-see at the Great American Melodrama 

Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann traded swords for guns when he gave Romeo + Juliet a contemporary setting. But you won't find either of those in playwright Dave Hudson's Muskie Love, another modern retelling of a Shakespeare classic.

"Mine is bigger than yours!" one character exclaims to his rival as they brandish fishing rods during a lightsaber-esque duel.

click to enlarge CAN YOU REEL THE LOVE? During the Great American Melodrama's production of Muskie Love, an unlikely romance blossoms between Green Bay locals Bea (Meggie Siegrist, left) and Ben (Ben Abbott, right), based on Beatrice and Benedick, respectively, from William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN MELODRAMA
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Great American Melodrama
  • CAN YOU REEL THE LOVE? During the Great American Melodrama's production of Muskie Love, an unlikely romance blossoms between Green Bay locals Bea (Meggie Siegrist, left) and Ben (Ben Abbott, right), based on Beatrice and Benedick, respectively, from William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

Set in 1990s Wisconsin, Muskie Love—playing at the Great American Melodrama in Oceano through March 12—centers on a quirky fishing community off the shores of Lake Michigan. It's a story where nearly every character has some kind of cheeky scheme up their sleeves—one of which leads to an unlikely romance, much like its 17th century counterpart, Much Ado About Nothing.

Most of the action takes place outside Roy's Bait Shop, where fisherman Claude (Henry Fisher) rekindles a friendship with a childhood pal, Sarah (Madison Davis), and faces undeserved scrutiny from a park ranger, DNR Doug (Toby Tropper)—whose title, abbreviated from the Department of Natural Resources, often becomes the punchline of do-not-resuscitate jokes.

click to enlarge DUEL OF THE BAITS Claude (Henry Fisher, left) engages in a fishing rod duel with DNR Doug (Toby Tropper, right), a park ranger whose title, abbreviated from the Department of Natural Resources, often becomes the punchline of do-not-resuscitate jokes. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN MELODRAMA
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Great American Melodrama
  • DUEL OF THE BAITS Claude (Henry Fisher, left) engages in a fishing rod duel with DNR Doug (Toby Tropper, right), a park ranger whose title, abbreviated from the Department of Natural Resources, often becomes the punchline of do-not-resuscitate jokes.

DNR Doug has an unreciprocated crush on Sarah, who quickly falls in love with Claude, even despite her oath to save herself for celebrity footballer Brett Farve, her favorite Green Bay Packer who she daydreams of marrying someday. After Sarah and Claude hit it off, the two lovebirds hatch a plan with Roy (Billy Breed), owner of the bait shop, to strike a romantic match between two hardheaded fellow fishers they mutually know.

Claude's fishing buddy, Ben (Ben Abbott), and Roy's niece, Bea (Meggie Siegrist), become the trio's targets, both of whom proudly voice their contempt for one another for the whole marina to hear on a daily basis. But their insult slinging gradually subsides once they begin eavesdropping on certain conversations in town. This carefully curated gossip leads each of the pair to believe the other has fallen head over heels for them but will never admit it.

click to enlarge WHEN IN ROME One skit during the Melodrama's latest vaudeville revue, City Lights, transports audience members to ancient Rome during the assasination of Julius Caesar. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN MELODRAMA
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Great American Melodrama
  • WHEN IN ROME One skit during the Melodrama's latest vaudeville revue, City Lights, transports audience members to ancient Rome during the assasination of Julius Caesar.

Meanwhile, DNR Doug becomes hell-bent on issuing Claude as many pesky citations as possible, but no fishing license breach is severe enough to break up the latter's new relationship with Sarah. Between all the perilous plotting lies the punchy song and dance numbers (with lyrics by Hudson and music by Paul Libman) and zesty pun-driven banter audiences have come to expect from the Great American Melodrama.

You certainly don't need to be a Shakespeare buff or even a casual fan to enjoy Muskie Love, a lighthearted crowd pleaser with a lively cast. The Lion King still works regardless of whether or not you've read Hamlet, right?

click to enlarge FROM PARIS WITH LOVE The entire ensemble cast of Muskie Love returns to the stage for the Melodrama's vaudeville revue during a sketch that takes place at a French bistro in present-day Paris. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE GREAT AMERICAN MELODRAMA
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Great American Melodrama
  • FROM PARIS WITH LOVE The entire ensemble cast of Muskie Love returns to the stage for the Melodrama's vaudeville revue during a sketch that takes place at a French bistro in present-day Paris.

This two-act musical was directed and choreographed by Eric Hoit and is followed by the Melodrama's latest vaudeville revue, City Lights, which includes skits that take place in different landmark cities around the world, during various stretches of time.

One sketch transports viewers back to ancient Rome during the assassination of Julius Caesar, while another follows a stubborn American tourist (Tropper) and a French waiter (Fisher) as they communicate through a game of charades in present-day Paris.

I'll sum up my rating with two words, one syllable each: thumbs up! Δ

Don't rain on Calendar Editor Caleb Wiseblood's charade. Send comments to cwiseblood@newtimesslo.com.

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