While the comedic musical "Guys on Ice" highlights the bond of fishing buddies, it's the bonds of brotherhood that steal the show behind the scenes.
The five sons of Harland and Marilyn Danielson of Cadott have all been a part of local theater productions at one time or another. One might say their musical and theater skills are known throughout the Chippewa Valley.
But you've never seen them quite like this.
"It's the first time you'll see all five of us involved in a single production, which really is a special thing," said Tim Danielson.
In fact, the five brothers make up the entire cast and directorial crew of the humorous musical.
The plot features buddies Marvin (Paul Danielson) and Lloyd (Tim Danielson) hanging out in an ice shanty, talking about life, love and dreams, while drinking Leinienkugel's beer and doing some fishing as they wait for a visit by the host of a local fishing show (Phil Danielson) and an unexpected drop-in by Ernie the Moocher (Pete Danielson). The elaborate set was, not surprisingly, built by the brothers themselves.
"We're lucky it worked out for all five of us to work together on this project," said the show’s director, Steve Danielson, who is a director by trade and lives in the Twin Cities area. Over the years he has worked on set construction, technical directing, and with actors ages ranging from 5 to adult.
"I've done all that in preparation to work with my brothers," said Steve with a chuckle.
"We sometimes would start practicing but we end up doing something else," Tim said. "It's just been a lot of fun."
With everyone's busy schedule — Steve living in the Twin Cities and the other four brothers farming in Cadott — it was sometimes tricky to get together for practice.
"Paul and I are in most of the scenes," Tim said. "I told him, 'We're going to have to practice these lines somehow.' So in the fall we would drive around the field in the combine together and learn our lines on the fly."
Tim heard about “Guys on Ice” when it came out in 1998 and was first performed in the American Folklore Theater in Door County. Since then it's been performed across the country on thousands of stages, and has been very popular.
"It's typical of a conversation between two guys who are enjoying a day of ice fishing in northern Wisconsin," Steve said. "They joke around, talk about their aspirations and relationship troubles, the Green Bay Packers, fishing and Leinenkugel's."
Chippewa Falls itself is even mentioned in the dialogue.
"It's very musical, but it's got a tenderness about it," Tim said.
"You do see the sentimental side of these two characters," Steve said. "It's a show relevant to everybody."
"We're got plenty of talent in the pit, too," said Tim, noting that the three instrumentalists are his son Joe Danielson, Jerry Way and Judy Brist.
"I've wanted to bring this to the stage for a long time," Tim said. "It's just a great show."