Sunset’s “Lumberjacks” packed with flannel and laughs

Four Wisconsin northwoods bachelors (and a secret bachelorette) have their lives upended when a mail-order bride arrives at camp.

By - Jan 23rd, 2013 04:00 am

The show’s four main lumberjacks, (from left) Minnesota Slim (Glenn Villa), Dirty Bob (Matt Kuhnen), Moonlight (Phil Stepanski) and Muskrat (Matt Knudson), perform makeshift instruments throughout the show. All photos credit Jamie Johnson.

Need a good belly laugh? Go see Lumberjacks in Love, at Sunset Playhouse. The show’s hilarious songs, situations and dance routines, performed predominantly by burly lumberjacks in red flannel long underwear, will give your laughter muscles quite a workout.

Fred Alley and James Kaplan originally created Lumberjacks in Love in 1996 for American Folklore Theatre, in Door County. Director Jill Anna Ponasik, choreographer James Zager and musical director Brian Myers successfully translated the Haywire Lumber Camp ambiance to Elm Grove’s Furlan Auditorium, with the help of costume designer Dana Brzeninski and scenic designer Chris Kurtz.

Mail-order bride Rose (Maureen Smith), whose arrival disrupts the lumberjacks’ bachelor paradise, is not all she appears.

The early 1900s-set show is about four bachelors in the woods, far away from women – and happy with that arrangement. One night, Minnesota Slim (Glenn Villa) and Dirty Bob (Matt Kuhnen) go into town for a little entertainment where they joke about an ad for a mail-order bride. While Slim isn’t paying attention, Dirty Bob fills out an application for him, and the camp is thrown into chaos when they learn the bride is on her way.

Complicating things further is The Kid, a young addition to the quartet who turns out to be a girl (Sara Lessman) in disguise. The slap-happy antics that follow transform the happy bachelors, teaching them the importance of love.

The show features a variety of ballads, bluegrass tunes, and folk-esque songs featuring beautiful, tight harmonies, from “Buncha Naked Lumberjacks,” a nightmare retold by Muskrat (Matt Knudson), to “Wings of Morning,” sung by the Kid to her romantic interest Moonlight (Phil Stepanski). Especially charming was Maureen Smith, playing Rose, the mail order bride who’s really a romance novelist researching her latest novel, about lumberjacks. Smith’s distinctive voice rang out bright and clear, emphasizing her character’s sophisticated, non-woodsy personality.

Speaking after the performance, Ponasik called the show a “homegrown, homespun delight.” I’d certainly agree – I’ve already bought a ticket to see the show again.

Lumberjacks in Love opens at Elm Grove’s Sunset Playhouse on Friday, January 18th and plays through Saturday, February 17th (although this “guys being guys” show takes Super Bowl weekend off, naturally). Thursday & Friday shows are at 7:30 p.m., Saturday shows at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 with value nights ($12.50) Jan. 17 and Feb. 6.; call 262-782-4430 or visit

0 thoughts on “Sunset’s “Lumberjacks” packed with flannel and laughs”

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s “Winds of Morning”, not “Wings of Morning”.

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