Author Archives: Waukesha Civic Theatre
For this exhibition, students created a photo story based on their interpretations of The Giver, representing the story either conceptually or through characters and plot using a variety of physical and dark room alterations.
“Don’t let it be forgot that once there was a spot for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”
This favorite line of President Kennedy juxtaposes the creation of a utopia with the ubiquitous troubles of maintaining those ideals by imperfect mortals — who, inevitably, can never escape the pitfalls of human nature. Camelot asks the question, Can mankind ever escape its worst enemy: itself?
The Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot was brought to the screen in 1967 with a booming budget to provide grand, sweeping sets and costumes that breathe cinematic life into this well-known medieval tale of knights, chivalry, politics, and forbidden love.
Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Harris, and Franco Nero shine as the mythic characters of Guenevere, King Arthur, and Sir Lancelot. Their complex relationship is intertwined with the creation of a utopian round table government and kingdom — that is ultimately brought down by the actions of those who most believed in it.
The musical is a stage classic, and the film provides what the stage cannot: massive sets and costumes that stun the eyes while bringing you into director Joshua Logan’s vision of Camelot. Catchy songs are at times jaunty (“What Do the Simple Folk Do?”) while others simmer with the indescribable pain reserved only for love that is as powerful as it is doomed to destroy anyone it touches (“I Loved You Once In Silence”).
Themes of just governing systems were particularly relevant during the film’s Vietnam War era release, and these themes continue to remain relevant as contemporary notions of democracy remain tested and retested in modern times.
Children will enjoy the songs and scenes — but they may also note the familiarity of Richard Harris who, decades after playing King Arthur, brought a special magic to his portrayal of Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films. Potter aficionados may also enjoy the political philosophy discussions present in both Harry Potter and Camelot regarding the best use of ‘might’ in enforcing ‘right’.
The movie opens at the close, with King Arthur surveying the tragic conclusion of decisions gone awry. His magical mentor Merlin urges him to look back to the beginning.
Arthur and Guenevere meet and find love in the songs “The Simple Joys of Maidenhood” and “Camelot.” King Arthur creates a political ideal with timeless symbolism that is as applicable now as the decades and centuries prior: a democratic round table governance, where men can come together to share ideas without a single ruler at the head.
Word spreads, bringing French knight Lancelot to Camelot. While most do not trust his boastful swagger (“C’est Moi”), Arthur and Lancelot quickly form a nearly impenetrable bond. A love triangle emerges that threatens to undo the greatness King Arthur has created.
As the story climaxes to dark conclusions, an idealistic youth crosses paths with King Arthur. Perhaps all is not lost! Tom wishes to be a knight of the round table, espousing dedication to Arthur’s original ideas: “Not might ‘makes’ right, but might ‘for’ right.” Tom brings with him a spark of hope that Camelot may be a phoenix that will rise anew from its own ashes.
Join me as we welcome this beautiful movie back to the big screen as we continue our PIX Flix series this season. Also, remember to check out any of our social media for what’s coming up next at WCT or talk to one of the friendly house staff!
WCT is thrilled to bring Thoroughly Modern Millie to the heart of Waukesha, brought to life by incredible production staff and a robust and talented cast and crew. Millie premiered on Broadway in 2002, receiving multiple Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards, and ran for two years and over nine hundred performances, and since has been produced around the world.
Set in the 1920’s, Millie brings to the stage flashes of color in bold, swishy costumes, toe-tapping song and dance numbers, and much like the other shows of this genre, takes a tongue-in-cheek nudge at the political incorrectness of its time. This is not to say that we unabashedly jumped into the cultural references of this show, which can go over the line. WCT worked diligently to cast actors of Chinese descent in the roles of Bun Foo and Ching Ho, and when we were not able to fill these roles authentically, we worked with a culture and dialect coach through our diversity council to proceed in the most sensitive and respectfully authentic way possible. That said, we would like our community and audience to know that we are continuing to work toward a more balanced and diverse representation on our PIX stage.
I would like to thank everyone that supports Waukesha Civic Theatre! We wouldn’t be here without you. The volunteers are the heart of this theatre, contributing on stage and off, serving on the board of directors, ushering for our many events, providing maintenance and office support, and working on multiple production elements. You, our patrons, come to WCT to enjoy quality live entertainment which is only possible because of our incredible volunteers and staff.
How does our community theatre thrive? Through patrons like you, who return show after show to support our theatre community, and through our donors and community sponsorships. Our donors help keep us financially sound and looking to the future through gifts to the Annual Operating Fund, the Endowment Fund, and by including us in planned estate giving.
The generosity of the Waukesha community is mind-blowing and life-giving, and we at WCT truly appreciate the time, talent, and financial resources that each of you give to keep our theatre thriving.
The best way to support WCT is to spread the word about Waukesha’s top choice for live entertainment. Find us on social media, like and share, and help us spread the word. These are exciting times and we are thrilled that you are here with us.
We hope you are entertained, enriched, and challenged and that you come back for more!
Rhonda Marie Schmidt
Managing Artistic Director (Lady MAD)
Thank you for choosing to spend your time in 1922 New York City with us. We know that there are many things you could be doing, and the fact that you are here means more to each of us than you could even imagine. I would like to take a few minutes of your time to express my thoughts about Thoroughly Modern Millie, which hopefully will enhance your experience.
I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to Music Director Yeng Parman-Thao; your musical prowess is certainly on display here. To Choreographer Jessica Fastabend: your creativity is as big as all outdoors. From Set Designer Marisa Abbott to Props Designer Johanna Kaye to Light Designer Mike Van Dreser. My dear friend, David A. Robins, who labors tirelessly with our sound design, shortly after the untimely passing of his father. Our Master Carpenter, Scott D. Prox, has never seen anything on paper that he could not build. Our Production Stage Manager, David Kaye, who kept everything organized and on track through all the rehearsals and through a very trying technical rehearsal process. Joshua Parman-Thao, who assembled and conducts our orchestra, an orchestra that boasts of some of the finest musicians to ever sit in an orchestra pit – most masters degree prepared in their instrument. Also, very special thanks to my friend and confidant, Jill Anna Ponasik, who lent her support and talent as vocal coach.
The list goes on and on, but it must be stated here for all to see. You will be amazed by the costumes designed by Nikki Maritch and assisted by Sharon Sohner, and our wigs by Eric Welch. These two areas which are often overlooked but absolutely are essential to this show.
This creative staff is without doubt one of the finest I have ever had the honor to work alongside. From concept to fruition of opening night, we had a vision for the production and we could not be more proud. This cast has never flinched and drove forward daily, striving to deliver the vision of the creative team. The words do not exist to praise them enough.
The original Broadway production won six Tony Awards and five Drama Desk Awards, including the win for Best Musical at both ceremonies. It is the vehicle that propelled Sutton Foster to stardom, as she stepped into the role of Millie after being the understudy for the workshop and preview performances!
All the way back in December, 2018, with auditions, we set upon our mission of providing the Waukesha Civic Theatre audiences an evening in the theatre that is enjoyable and special. We assembled our cast and made a very conscious decision to use the incredibly talented Keith R. Smith, in drag, as our Mrs. Meers. We were lucky to have two impressive actresses to play Ching Ho and Bun Foo, Delaney Schlake-Kruse and Anna Lapean absolutely amazed everyone with the amount of work they put in to learning and perfecting the Cantonese and Mandarin dialects. The entire cast worked through the awful winter and trudged through the snow and ice and the polar vortex to attend rehearsals and in the process they became the caring, loving family that they are. I believe we have assembled one of the most talented casts to ever trod the boards of the Civic stage. They are backed up 100% without question or pause by the production team – a team that I believe is unlike any team of creatives to work in the Milwaukee theatre community.
Thoroughly Modern Millie is a valuable show because it teaches us how a strong work ethic and desire to do what is right will always overcome evil and ill will. It entertains us with its exceptional musical score and helps us find a sincere level of cultural sensitivity.
Having said that, in our effort to achieve cultural sensitivity, we have done many things in regard to the roles of Ching Ho and Bun Foo. We reached out to the community to try to create interest in the audition process to cast these roles authentically. We did extensive research on dialect, costumes, make up, hairstyles and culture. We worked with a dialect and culture coach.
Our dialect coach was Waukesha Civic Theatre’s own Peter Kao. Peter has been involved with three other productions of Millie, and in fact had auditioned for this one but was unable to be in the cast due to some conflicts. Peter was a huge help in mounting this production.
The Thoroughly Modern Millie family is very proud of the show we have produced and are so excited to share it with you now. So come with us to New York City in 1922 and let’s have some fun.
I urge you to visit the lobby display featuring the work of the creative staff of Millie. The set drawings and costume plot as well as the lighting plot are all featured. See how the herculean task of putting a huge Broadway musical together is accomplished.
Thanks for coming and please enjoy the performance!
My ears were assaulted by a cacophony of blaring traffic horns like angry saxophones and choirs of animated conversation.
My eyes were blinded by motion and light. Brightly backlit advertisements for products and places that I was being told I absolutely needed in my life if I hoped to survive.
My nose drew in the cool night air, colored with a mixture of aromas my brain was sifting through and identifying as a World’s Fair of cuisines cooking around me.
Foods and spices, exhaust and perfumes, tobacco and garbage, desperation and dreams.
The energy of over 1.5 million human souls coursed through my consciousness as some of their bodies brushed by me in the determined dance ritual of an unrelenting and constant mass commute.
Total. Sensory. Overload.
In other words, just another Monday night in midtown Manhattan.
I was walking into Iridium, an amazing jazz club that hosts the best of the best in music. This night was no exception. Anticipation filled the air as we all awaited the entrance of a great man and his invention, creating music that would fly from the stage into our ears, and then out into the universe, vibrational energy waves traveling farther than imaginable and living on forever.
I had been invited there by the star himself.
He was down to earth and funnier than most comedians I know. He was kind and inspiring, encouraging me in my musical endeavors.
He was the Wizard of Waukesha.
He was Les Paul.
And tonight he was ready to play.
He was strumming. He was picking. He was laughing. He was swinging. He was on fire!
He was… inviting me up to play piano and sing?
Once in a lifetime. I will cherish that musical moment together forever.
One year later, he passed away.
Now keep in mind, I did not know what Waukesha was and why he was the Wizard of it when we finally had the chance to get to know each other.
I also did not know at that moment what an important part of my life Waukesha was going to become.
That year I was living in New York City in the throes of rehearsing for my first Broadway show, “Liza’s At The Palace,” starring, of course, the amazing Liza Minnelli.
I had been living in New York City for quite some time, after growing up in Miami, FL, and attending 4 colleges in 6 years… it’s a long story for another time.
I had been working with Liza for over a decade, first as her pianist and accompanist and featured guest, then as a singer/dancer/piano player for the Broadway run, both of which offered me the opportunity to learn different skill sets from a genuine entertainment legend, from the best seat in the house.
And beyond that, she is a true friend.
Liza taught me so many valuable lessons that I think of to this day.
And our classroom was sold-out stages all over the globe.
We even recorded a duet together which is being officially released very soon.
Photo: Bill Westmoreland
The DVD of the “Liza’s At The Palace” is available through PBS.
Liza would tell me stories of her Uncle Frank (yes, Sinatra), Dean, and Sammy. Liza actually stepped in for Dean and toured with Frank and Sammy for years in a concert titled “The Ultimate Event.”
She learned from the best also, and was so very kind and generous in sharing those lessons with me. I am forever grateful.
So it’s really quite a natural and organic process for me to pay homage to the Rat Pack. Not only are they a part of history, but in many ways they are directly a part of my personal musical history.
YouTube Clip Featuring Liza Minnelli with Johnny Rodgers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5itHAAgLQYU
After the Broadway run, my NYC band, the Johnny Rodgers Band (clever name, I know) traveled for six years as Ambassadors of American Music for the US Dept. of State.
Once more, I packed my bags and traveled all over the globe, playing in Embassies, military installations, small villages, and just about anywhere else you can imagine.
The Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, Russia, Belarus, Malaysia, Cambodia, Petra… the list goes on and on.
What did I learn? Good people are good people, wherever you may find yourself on this little ball of dust. Music builds bridges between those people.
Felix Mendelssohn, the great classical composer, once said, “Music is a much more precise language than words.”
I have found this to be absolutely true.
In the words of Johnny Cash, “I’ve been everywhere, man.”
At some point I realized that although I loved living in Manhattan, I was feeling the need to spread out a bit. My tour schedule is ambitious at times and I have to travel to do what I love. But I needed a home base that would offer me a respite from the road.
I tried many places, moving from New York to Nashville, Nashville to Chicago, Chicago to Waukesha. My beautiful wife, Stephanie, was born and raised in Waukesha. She comes from great stock, and I am grateful for how supportive and loving my extended family is. I’m a lucky guy.
Once I found Waukesha, “Guitar City,” the birthplace of my fast musical friend, Les Paul, a feeling washed over me.
It was a strange feeling, a feeling that I’d not felt since I grew up in Miami.
It was calm. It was peaceful. It was gorgeous. It was full of musical history and energy.
It was home.
And it feels so good to be home.
Discover more about Johnny at johnnyrodgers.com
What is your name and role in the show?
My name is David Kaye and I am the Stage Manager for Thoroughly Modern Millie.
What attracted you to participate in the show?
It is a show full of tap dancing, and I am not the one that has to do it.
What has been your favorite part of the rehearsal process?
My favorite part of the rehearsal process is getting to know this incredible cast, as it is my first time working with most of them. They are so dedicated, talented, and supportive of each other. It’s a truly beautiful thing to watch.
What has been the most challenging part of the rehearsal process?
At the start of the rehearsal process I had an emergency appendectomy so I missed most of the first month of rehearsals. This has put me behind in organization and getting to know the cast. As someone who struggles with names, losing that extra time to connect with everyone was frustrating.
Have you been involved in productions at Waukesha Civic Theatre before?
This is my fifth production with WCT.
If so, what productions?
I was on the run crew for A Little Night Music, I directed Almost, Maine and For Purely Elfish Reasons, and I sound designed Sex Please We’re Sixty. I am also directing the upcoming production of But Why Bump Off Barnaby?
What is your favorite thing about working at Waukesha Civic Theatre?
It’s the people. I love theatre, but I’d leave it behind entirely if it wasn’t for the caring people that make up the audience, cast, crew, and management. Being around good people is the best thing I know of.
Why should audiences see Thoroughly Modern Millie?
It is fun, it’s as simple as that. Sure, the show talks about some serious issues, but the most important part is the fun songs, stunning dance numbers, and rat-a-tat dialogue the cast gets to play with. Add to this the incredible orchestra, the gorgeous sets and lighting…This show will be something special.
My family has been patiently waiting for the Waukesha Civic Theatre to present the musical comedy Thoroughly Modern Millie for a long time! As the first show my husband and I saw on Broadway (with the Tony Award-winning Sutton Foster in 2003), it immediately became a favorite! When our four-year-old daughter started tap dance lessons, we could not wait to show her the movie that the musical was based on. At the ripe old age of 6 years old, we treated her to the tap-dancing, mad-cap antics of Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore featured in the 1967 film, also starring the recently deceased Carol Channing. Finally, bringing everything full circle, the same daughter, now sixteen years old, just finished her sophomore winter musical as Millie Dillmount in Catholic Memorial High School’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. We are thrilled that our own cultural cornerstone, Waukesha Civic Theatre, is able to introduce a new generation of theatre lovers to this classic story of determination, perseverance, and, of course, love!
A spoof set in New York City at the height of the roaring twenties, the musical introduces the audience to Millie, a “modern,” who comes from small town Kansas and plans to marry her boss at a job she hasn’t yet found. The situations she and her friends get caught up in at the Hotel Priscilla, their temporary residence, are somehow shocking and hilarious at the same time, eventually leading Millie, Dorothy, Jimmy, and Ching Ho to discover the true meaning of love. Along the way, the group encounters flappers, speakeasies, a villainess-involved in kidnapping, and time in jail. All this, combined with a powerful score and explosive tap numbers, promises an evening of entertainment that will leave you grinning!
If you saw Gypsy at the Waukesha Civic Theatre in 2016, you will be thrilled to know the amazing actress who played Gypsy Rose Lee, Megan Miller, is starring as Millie Dillmount in this show! Audiences will once again be wowed by her talent!
Thank you for coming, and enjoy the show!
Board Of Directors
Whenever I told anyone I was directing a play called The Underpants, I was almost always met with the same response. A small smile. A polite laugh. A sideways glance, cautious but intrigued. I would go on to give a brief synopsis. 1910 Germany. A woman goes to see the king in a parade, and there is a mishap with her skirt. Her underpants are seen. In public. Then several guys want to move into her boardinghouse because of it. Typical hijinx ensue. And even better, it was adapted by Steve Martin. Yes, THAT Steve Martin, the hilarious American actor and comedian. All of a sudden, those smiles got bigger, those laughs got louder. It suddenly was not only acceptable, but understandable, that this show was about underwear. To me, that’s what theatre is all about. I love a great farce. The sillier the better. It’s an escape from reality. A chance for all of the stress and anxiety of daily life to melt away for a couple of hours. To not take life too seriously. To enjoy silly facial expressions, physical humor and witty wordplay. We had so many laughs as we brought these crazy characters and silly situations to life. I hope you have just as much fun watching it as we had putting it together. And it’s okay if you laugh loudly and laugh often, even if a few of the jokes are a bit naughty. You spent your hard earned money to come see a play about underwear. What else would you expect?
Rhonda has been managing theatre departments in an educational setting for nine years after studying at UW-Milwaukee and The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She has had practical experience as a performer and director in New York and has been present in exploring many avenues in Wisconsin Theatre, including directing, teaching, performing, producing, and designing at Divine Savior Holy Angels, University Lake School, Waukesha Civic Theatre, Sunset Playhouse, The Milwaukee REP, and Skylight Music Theatre.
Rhonda has a love for Waukesha Civic Theatre and the City of Waukesha, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and their beloved pets. She believes that Community Theatre is about building a team of individuals who show-up for one another – to create, to build, to plan, to dream, to clean, and to work – combining the efforts of paid and unpaid artists to create something beautiful. Rhonda looks forward to building a team that will look to the future and longevity of the Waukesha Civic Theatre.
The staff and Board Of Directors at the Waukesha Civic Theatre are excited for Rhonda to join us as we continue to enrich, challenge, and entertain both participants and audience members through our quality, live theatre performances and educational opportunities.