No need to hunt for a good time at 'Deer Camp'
The most obvious difference between Tony Papenfuss and John Voldstad's performances in the former “Newhart” TV show and their current touring show? This time around, they talk.
Fans of the hit sitcom starring Bob Newhart that aired from 1982 to 1990 will remember their characters for what they didn't say. Fellow actor William Sanderson always brought a laugh when he introduced them with his standard line, “Hi, I'm Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.” The two Darryls never uttered a word.
Fast forward two decades, and Papenfuss and Voldstad have a lot to say in “Deer Camp: The Musical,” stopping at the Palace Theatre for one performance Friday presented by Westmoreland Cultural Trust.
They also sing a lot, but Minneapolis actor Papenfuss admits singing isn't one of his strong points. He says his high-school music teacher used to tell him his vocal performances were “in the fine tradition of English music halls — if you can't sing good, sing loud. I'm not musically gifted, but I stay on key. I sell it — but I'm no Julio Iglesias.”
In “Deer Camp,” Papenfuss — whose television appearances also include “Murphy Brown,” “Coach” and “Seinfeld” — plays one of four hunters who have been coming to the same deer shack every year during hunting season for 20 years. The only trouble is, the guys spend more time drinking beer, playing cards and goofing around than bagging a buck.
When their wives issue an ultimatum to bring home a deer or risk not returning to their hunting hideaway, the boys panic and devise a plan to go in for the kill.
Papenfuss says when he first heard about the musical, “it looked like a ball. Pure silliness. I figured it would give me a chance to do a lot of my old shtick and pull out a lot of my old tricks.”
Although “Deer Camp” is scripted, it doesn't mean the actors don't take every opportunity to adlib.
“If it lends itself to a little free-wheeling, we're not opposed to that at all,” he says. “We make it a priority to enjoy ourselves. The most important element of the show is that we have fun doing it.”
They hope the audience will share in the fun, as well. One way is by coming to the performance dressed in hunting gear — minus weapons, of course. The best-dressed hunter will win a meet-and-greet opportunity with Papenfuss and Voldstad.
Composer Doug Spartz provides the score, with musical numbers such as “She's Playing Bingo,” “If I Were a Male Dancer,” “Coupon Clippin' Ladies” and “Mighty Hunters.”
Papanfuss says playwright Gene Jurek has gone out of his way to make “Deer Camp: The Musical” family-friendly. “It's very earthy, with no foul language or compromising situations,” the actor says. “My grandchildren have seen it. It's basically cornball humor.”
Jurek is reportedly working on a sequel to “Deer Camp” with a holiday production titled “Holy Bells! A Deer Camp Christmas” set to make its debut during the holiday season.
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.