Players Pen – August 9

THE SHOW MUST GO ON — Don’t let calamity interrupt the proceedings; we mustn’t stop what we are doing, even if something unfortunate has happened. “The Dictionary of Cliches” by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985)

“The show much go on” is so much more than a cliché at Peninsula Players, it is a part of the air we collectively breath and it is a part of our distinctive heartbeat as a company.

To my knowledge we have never cancelled a show in theater’s 82 seasons.

That is a very remarkable statement to make. The Peninsula Players did not produce shows during World War II as many of the company members were serving in the Army, Air Force, Navy, The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) as well as the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Storms have blown through Door County in the past few weeks, and in one instance the performance was completed under the power of our onsite generator. The generator gives us enough power to light the front of the stage with flood lamps. Kudos to the cast of “Peter and the Starcatcher” for not missing a beat and carrying on with the final 20 minutes of the play when the theater lost power during a heavy rain storm.

Staff members and crew knew where to shine the emergency lanterns and where to park cars with headlights on to help patrons find their cars after the performance.

Patron Lisa B. on Tripadvisor described the night as follows:
“The night we were there was special – an ENORMOUS thunderstorm rolled in during the show. Managers lowered/closed the walls because people on the ends were getting wet. Then the power went out! The actors never skipped a beat. After a moment of pure darkness, the emergency lights came on. Without proper lighting or microphones, the actors finished the show! It was incredible. The staff then led us out to our cars with flashlights. We soon found out that power was out on the whole peninsula. But the staff here couldn’t have handled it better.”

Patrons have shared similar stories over the years. Some memories go back prior to 1957, when we still had a ‘tent’ and patrons helped hold up the roof during heavy rains by using poles. The show would pause so the actors and audience could grab buckets and bail-out the front of the audience while others held up the poles to help drain the water off the roof. Once the rain stopped and water was cleared the show would go on.

Former General Manager Tom Birmingham, Sr. told me of a night in the 1980s when the power went out and a compact car was driven into the theater to shine lights on the stage. During another power outage Amy McKenzie said flashlights were handed out to audience members in the front row and the play was completed under battery power.

When power was lost during the tornado of 1998, we moved a company member’s RV close to the theater and hooked up the generator to run stage lights to finish a performance of “The Fantasticks.”

Teamwork and comradery shine in these moments and we are left with grateful memories. The all-weather audience pavilion that was built in 2006 is one of them. The building may now be more than 10 years old, but I still refer to it as new because of its solid, moveable walls and ‘green’ roof.

“The Bridges of Madison County” has also tossed us a few speed bumps for the memory books.

Last week, Violinist Lynn Gudmundsen was suffering from food poisoning and contacted music director Valerie Maze immediately that she was under the weather. If you have yet to see the musical, Lynn’s on stage entrance plays a crucial part at the top of Act II. Val wanted to let Lynn rest, so she put on her thinking cap and was soon inspired to ask company Matt Holzfeind (“The Actuary,” “Dial M for Murder”) to step in with his harmonica in her place. Kudos to Kyle Pingel and the costume team for pulling together a last minute costume for Matt. Lynn returned for the next performance and we are happy she is feeling much better!

Other medical related issues also caused a last minute cast change in the role of Robert’s ex-wife. Ashley Lanyon stepped into the role with one week remaining before opening night. Shortly after opening music director Valerie Maze also needed to depart for health reasons. Artistic Director Greg Vinkler and Val made a few calls and by Sunday morning Michael Duff had packed his car and was making his way to Door County.

Michael made it to Peninsula Players in time for dinner and to sit through the Sunday, July 30 show next to Val. He then made his conducting debut Tuesday, August 1. Thank you Michael for stepping in and helping to make “The Bridges of Madison County” shine for our audiences.

Michael has been Musical Director/Conductor for more than 80 different productions including Broadway’s “The News;” national tours of “West Side Story,” “Cats,” “Les Miserables,” “Starlight Express,” “Nunsense” with Dody Goodman, “42nd Street” and “Bob Fosse’s Dancin.’” His International tour credits include “42nd Street”- Moscow, “The Sound of Music”- Asia, “The King and I”- Asia and “Cinderella” with Lea Salonga- Asia.

As a composer, Michael composed “Phantom of the Country Opera” (Marriott’s Lincolnshire Theatre), with lyrics by Cheri Coons, book by Kathy Santen and Players alum Sean Grennan (“Making God Laugh,” “The Tin Woman). They received a Joseph Jefferson Award nominee for Best New Work and Michael is listed in “Who’s Who In Entertainment,” guest conductor – Grant Park Orchestra.

The cast, crew, musicians and other company members welcomed Michael and we hope you do too!

“The Bridges of Madison County” is filled with glorious music that celebrates Americana – folk, blues, county, classical and pop. By the time you read this, only a few more performances will remain before it has to close Sunday, August 13. Don’t miss this stunning musical that has Door County jumping to their feet for its amazing singers. For information or tickets please call the Box Office at (920) 868-3287 or visit