Category Archives: Mainstage Performance
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!
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.
Welcome to The Underpants, a hilarious comedy by Steve Martin based on Die Hose, German play written in 1910 by Carl Sternheim. The play begins with a most unfortunate wardrobe malfunction that briefly leaves a young woman caught with her pants down, both literally and figuratively. Everyone involved in the incident, including her husband, gets their knickers in a knot as they try to iron out the wrinkles this delicate situation has caused. What’s revealed is an intimate piece of comedic schadenfreude that is sure to charm your pants off.
What I love about Waukesha Civic Theatre is the many opportunities available to get involved. In my tenure here at WCT, I have been an actor, costume assistant, stage crew, production director, and Board Director. This spring, I will take on a new role as Props Designer for The Giver (May 2-19, 2019).
This particular production of The Underpants continues the tradition of providing opportunities for participants to try some new skills. WCT audiences are used to seeing Gwen Ter Haar and Phil Stepanski playing various characters on stage. This time, they have taken on new challenges as Costume Designer and Director, respectively.
If you’ve ever thought about volunteering at Waukesha Civic Theatre, please consider joining our team where you can share your talents or discover new ones!
Thank you for choosing to spend your time at Waukesha Civic Theatre and enjoy the show!
Board of Directors
This is a bittersweet moment. Candy Cane Tales And Holiday Carols will be my last show at WCT as Managing Artistic Director.
I care deeply about the Waukesha Civic Theatre, and have put my blood, sweat, and tears into my work here for more than 15 years! It has been my honor and my privilege to be part of this amazing organization and to work hand in hand with the people that are the theatre’s life source.
Thank you for the support you have given me, the WCT staff, board of directors, volunteers, and the entire WCT Community.
It’s no secret that I love the holiday season. Starting with Halloween, continuing with Thanksgiving, thriving through Christmas, and culminating in New Year’s Eve, these three months are truly “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” I love the lights, the themed decorations, the family gatherings, the parties, and of course, the music and the stories.
The Cramers are more than a little crazy when it comes to celebrating the holidays. First, we decorate like we’ve been possessed by Buddy the Elf. We have seven 30 gallon bins full of decorations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s that we lovingly haul out of storage and display every year. But it is Christmas that really gets our attention. We have more than twenty 30 gallon bins full of holiday delights. A Santa collection, an elf collection, a village, garlands, wreaths, lights and more take over our home in a festive explosion of color. We have Christmas trees in our family room and all three bedrooms. Some years we add a fifth, or even sixth tree just because. I did say we were a little crazy, didn’t I?
This love of the holidays is where Candy Cane Tales And Holiday Carols came from. The show started out in 2005 as a musical revue performed at the Waukesha State Bank holiday party by me and my wife Kelli, and accompanied by Abby Lorenz. I put the show together featuring our favorite music and stories, with a little bit of history thrown in, and entertained the WSB employees for an hour.
Then I started thinking about how it might translate to a full production. Good holiday shows are hard to find. There are a handful of traditional classics like A Christmas Carol, Miracle On 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, but every theatre produces them, so the holiday entertainment market is saturated with these old standbys. I wanted to create something that could be WCT’s unique holiday tradition so I took that WSB show and expanded it to a full two hour show, with opportunities for community members of all ages to participate. We produced it for the first time in 2009 with a cast of 65 actors ages 6 to 80, and a new tradition was begun. We followed that production with six more versions of the show through 2015. Each year the show changed a little bit, replacing some of the songs and stories with other fantastic songs and stories.
We took a break from the show for two seasons, but are now bringing it back with a brand new story line. This year’s adaptation is near and dear to my heart, with the Bickford family and friends based on my own life and circle of family and friends. I’ve loved working on this show again, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
Not only that, the holiday season at WCT is full of amazing entertainment options, including An Evening Of Holiday Tales With John McGivern, I Got Yule, Babe, our PIX Flix feature film The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Comicality.
And remember, if you’re looking for a good gift to give this season, consider our Festive Flex Four For $64 or a gift card … wonderful gifts of theatre to share with anyone, or to treat yourself! Happy Holidays!
In the words of Blues Traveler: “If it’s Hanukah, or Kwanzaa, Solstice Harvest, or December 25th, peace on earth to everyone, and abundance to everyone you’re with.”
Co-Director / Choreographer
Growing up, Christmas Eve was a night I couldn’t wait for. Not only because I knew Santa would be coming, but because it was always a night I got to see all of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. We would drive to my grandparents and the kids would march upstairs to play together with the old toys that were still there from the generation prior to us. We’d rehearse and put on a concert for our parents (complete with ripped up paper snow) and we knew if we listened closely, we would hear Santa’s sleigh. We always knew we were too loud and rowdy when one of our parents yelled up the stairs because the dining room chandelier was shaking (which happened to be right under the room we were in and right above the table where they were playing sheepshead). Opening presents was always exciting, but not nearly as exciting as the quality time spent with family. It was a night filled with love.
After my grandparents all passed, the family rotated who hosted Christmas Eve for a couple of years and some family members stopped coming. Eventually, my husband and I decided we wanted to pick up the tradition. This year will be our 6th year hosting Christmas Eve and it’s now become one of the days of the year my daughter counts down until. The night is filled with family, friends, singing, laughing and, most importantly, love.
When John Cramer approached me about co-directing and shared the concept for the show, I knew I had to hop on board. I think just about every cast member has commented at some point how much the love the holiday season. It’s been fun hearing the stories from the cast on their favorite holiday memories. Thank you to our cast, crew and production staff for making this story come to life. Every time I work on a show, I’m reminded why community theatre is so amazing.
As you sit back and enjoy the show, you might find a scene reminds you of something, a character may remind you of someone, you might hear your favorite holiday tune, but what I hope the most is that you feel is just how much dedication and love went into this production. Happy Holidays and thank you for coming to the show! Enjoy!
Introducing some members of the cast of Candy Cane Tales And Holiday Carols! The show runs November 30-December 16, 2018. Tickets are available online 24/7 or at the box office, two hours before any performance and Tuesday-Friday from noon to 5 pm. See you at the Theatre!