“Guys on Ice” at Encore is funny, quirky, and has heart


If your favorite shows are “Oklahoma” and “Brigadoon” you are probably not the target market for Guys on Ice, the current offering at Encore Musical Theatre Company — but for the rest of us, it is funny, quirky, and sometimes shows heart.

A huge hit throughout Wisconsin theatres, and even with some previous local productions here in Michigan, the show is a series of jokes and songs about ice fishing, living in the frozen north (hey, we can relate to that here in Michigan , right?) and relationships — all loosely tied together when Marvin (Tim Brayman) gets a call from a local tv fishing show host who wants to visit his shack. Quickly calling on his best friend Lloyd (a terrific Peter John Riopelle) the two set off for a day of ice fishing, talking, joking, and story-telling — all while trying to avoid the local pest Ernie the Moocher (hilarious Keith Kalinowski).

The entire show feels a bit like you are watching public access television (remember Garth and Wayne on Wayne’s World on SNL?) and that is part of the fun of the piece. It never takes itself too seriously, and it balances laugh out loud moments and total groaners with aplomb.

There isn’t a single hummable tune except for Lloyd’s ballad “Everything is New”, but the focus here isn’t on the music — its on the lyrics and the jokes contained therein — some of the oddest rhyme schemes you are bound to hear in many a long year…though by the time you get to the “halftime show” and its “Leinie’s is the best beer” number, you have either gone along for the ride or you are sitting dumbfounded by what you are watching. If you are in the latter category, you can win a Leinie by answering some astoundingly easy halftime questions!

There is also a strong familiarity with many of the scenarios…you kind of find yourself thinking things like “I remember my grandfather talking about that”, or “my uncle does this every weekend in Milwaukee”. That commonality will ring true for just about anyone having grown up in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, or Ohio.

It is hard to define the target market for this musical: it doesn’t really call to your typical musical audience — it is a bit too tame for a guys night out, and it is a bit too odd for a ladies night out…and yet neither group should avoid getting tickets for Guys on Ice — you’ll find yourself laughing, and clapping, and groaning…and you could do far worse on an icy cold winter night in Michigan…then head over to Aubree’s after the show for a pizza and a Leinie!….(note: I have no idea if Aubree’s actually carries Leinenkugel, it just, um, sounded good)…

Recommended. Seen at final preview on 1/29/15.

Guys on Ice continues at the Encore Musical Theatre Company, 3126 Broad Street, Dexter, MI through February 22nd — theencoretheatre.org or 734-268-6200 for tickets.

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