They’re lumberjacks, and they’re OK
STONEHAM — Sometimes, just being entertained is enough.
James Kaplan and Fred Alley aren’t trying to cure cancer or reinvent the wheel with the lighter-than-air musical “Lumberjacks in Love,” now at the Stoneham Theatre through Sept. 30.
Kaplan and Alley teamed up on the ice-fishing musical — yes, that’s right, ice-fishing musical — “Guys on Ice,” which was also produced by Stoneham, so both the theater and the subscribers probably knew what they were getting here: pleasant ditties with some clever lyrics, and some outrageous characters.
|From the left: Harry McEnerney, William Gardiner. Steven Barkimer and
Mark Linehan in Stoneham Thatre’s “Lumberjacks in Love.”
When watching I couldn’t help thinking of the “Lumberback Song” and the cross-dressing lumberjack, made famous by Monty Python’s Flying Circus — you can still find it on You Tube — which, it turns out, is referenced in this show by Kaplan and Alley.
There is a story in here somewhere, but mostly it’s a series of sketches which allow the cast to sing and play up a storm, tongues firmly planted in cheeks all the while.
The action takes place in the Haywire Lumber Camp in Wisconsin in the 1870s. The boys are getting a little lonely — it’s 200 miles to the nearest woman — so much so that the one drawing the short straw has to be the woman when they dance.
“Lumberjacks” benefits greatly from the presence of Steven Barkhimer, one of the Boston area’s most talented and versatile actors, who here plays a logger named Muskrat and also doubles as music director.
Barkimer was part of an all-star ensemble cast in the final part of Alan Ayckbourn’s “The Norman Conquests” trilogy at Gloucester Stage this summer and his comic timing is impeccable.
Here he is Muskrat, who is celebrating his 40th birthday, and despite the best efforts of his comrades, he’s very much alone and despondent — very, very despondent,
Dirty Bob (William Gardiner) hasn’t had a bath in many a year — it has to do with an issue concerning soap years ago — and Gardiner, who was very good in last year’s “Nutcracker,” is a hoot throughout.
Minnesota Slim (Mark Linehan) is awaiting the arrival of his mail-order bride, a he was tricked into doing. Linehan is another up-and-coming talent in the area with a strong stage presence and a sterling voice.
Moonlight (Harry McEnerny) has struck up a close friendship with The Kid (Darcie Champagne), who may not actually be a kid at all.
And then there’s Rose, the mail-order bride (Vanessa J. Schukis) whose entrance sends the camp topsy-turvy.
Actors accompany themselves — everyone plays at least two instruments — and Barkimer leads the way, playing cello, ukelele, guitar, and piano and playing them all well.
The rest of the cast chips in with recorder, guitar, spoons, washboard, etc.
The best musical numbers are the title song, “Stupid, Stupid Love” and “It Would be Enough for Me.”
Director Caitlan Lowans and the cast get the absolute most of the material and choreographer Kelli Edwards has the energetic cast moving briskly about the stage.
Designer Erik Diaz’s handy-dandy lodge can be swiftly reversed to set the action inside or outside and Meredith Magoun’s costumes set the proper tone.
Even with the padding of an intermission, “Lumberjacks” comes in at about 100 minutes. Great art it ain’t, but on a recent Saturday night the cast seemed to be having a good time, and it seems the audience was, too. Sometimes a little silliness and entertainment is all you’re looking for.
“Lumberjacks in Love,” Music by James Kaplan, Book and Lyrics by Fred Alley, Story by Kaplan and Alley. Directed by Caitin Lowans. Choreography by Kelli Edwards. At the Stoneham Theatre through Sept. 30.