Category Archives: Random Acts of Entertainment
“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!
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
It’s the best movie of 1973 — the Academy says so. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Score bring its total Oscar wins to seven, with three more nominations (Best Actor for Robert Redford, Cinematography, and Best Sound) to boot. And what a film! It’s got everything: charismatic leads, despicable villains, a charming supporting cast of connivers and swindlers, and a brilliant score to match.
The Sting is the ultimate con movie, and its PG rating keeps it friendly for the whole family.
The film features Paul Newman and Robert Redford at the top of their charismatic game, Robert Shaw as the mustache-twirling villain, and a whole cast of characters helping along the way (including Robert Earl Jones as Luther and Eileen Brennan as Billie). Directer George Roy Hill also directed Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Slap Shot, and Hawaii. Screenwriter David S. Ward went on to write Major League and Sleepless in Seattle, among others, and his gift for comedy shines through in the dialogue and charm of The Sting.
When Johnny Hooker (Redford), a small-time grifter, unknowingly steals from the ominous Doyle Lonnegan (Shaw), the big-time crime boss demands satisfaction after the insult. After his partner is killed, Hooker seeks out the help of Henry Gondorff (Newman), master of the long con, to take Lonnegan down.
All it takes is a little Confidence.
The indelible ragtime tunes of Scott Joplin, as adapted for the film by Marvin Hamlisch are, technically, completely wrong for the period in which The Sting is set. Ragtime music, most popular in the 1910s, was well out of fashion by the film’s 1936. And yet, I would challenge anyone to find music that fits the film better than Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” The two are inextricably linked now for audiences: when someone thinks of the movie, they’ll hear the first few piano notes of the song, and vice versa.
WCT has undergone a lot of changes in the last few months, from upgrading our lighting system to hiring a new Managing Artistic Director. You won’t want to miss anything our theatre has to offer, so get your tickets early!
Well, we can’t go and spoil the movie, now can we? If you want to see how it all plays out on the big screen, you’ll just have to come see The Sting at WCT on March 11!
“Now, I have some instructions for you….” DON’T MISS THIS FILM!
I fear I am not a good enough writer to describe the myriad of reasons to come see Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, on February 11 at 6:30 p.m. I also don’t have enough room on the page.
Wikipedia tells us it is a 1967 American comedy-drama, starring film-legends Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy and is one of the few of that time to depict interracial marriage in a positive light. At the time of its release, laws prohibiting interracial marriage had only recently been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Frank Rich, in a 2008 New York Times article, noted that “[t]hough the film was a box-office smash and received 10 Oscar nominations, even four decades ago it was widely ridiculed as dated by liberal critics. The hero, played by the first black Hollywood superstar, Sidney Poitier, was seen as too perfect and too ‘white’.” But, according to director Stanley Kramer, the film was intentionally structured to debunk ethnic stereotypes and purposely created idealistically perfect, so that the only possible objection to him would be his race, or the brevity of the 10-day engagement. This factor lends itself to the concerns of both sets of parents: the lack of thought and consideration to what a mix-race marriage would mean.
While a victim of its times, with all the clichés and what some will find politically-incorrect positions, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner transcends the shallow, ridicule-filled approach of today’s films, with a subtle, empathetic and non-judgmental recognition of the very real, and very personal, struggles of all its characters. Though it may have all of the flaws its critics claim, it is still a great film that recognizes that there is always more than a single layer or motivation behind our behavior and portrays this internal deliberation with sensitivity and understanding. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of scenes where blatant racism is called out and ridiculed, not the least of which is Hepburn’s surgeon-like extraction of her snoopy, ill-mannered employee.
For me, the beauty of this film is not the obvious. It is not the crackling dialog addressing the issue of race in a way few movies of its time dared, but rather, it is the study of two mature marriages and the generational conflict of a father and son. Both concepts are portrayed throughout the film, but most beautifully by Beah Richards as she reproaches Spencer Tracy’s character in the most dignified and heartfelt scene in the movie, juxtaposed artfully with Poitier’s angry, yet loving, discussion with his father’s character about their difference in self-image and what it means to him as a man.
In 2017, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It was the winner of the Best Screenplay Oscar and gave Hepburn her second Oscar for Best Actress. It is the last time Hepburn/Tracy were on screen together and indeed, the last film of Tracy’s career – he died just days after its release and it was questionable he would even complete filming. Hepburn and Tracy may be the main dishes of this fantastic meal, but delicious performances by Poitier, Beah Richards, Isabel Sanford (best known for her role as Weezy in the T.V. sitcom The Jeffersons) and Cecil Kellaway make for a banquet to be savored. Just as a fine chef layers flavor upon flavor to achieve a culinary masterpiece, Kramer and the all-star cast serve up a multi-layered film that makes us not only laugh and cry, but critically consider our biases and relationships.
Will you be coming?!
To Kill A Mockingbird could easily borrow a line from Dickens that said… “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This cinematic classic is based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel about innocence, strength and conviction. Experience one of the most significant milestones in film history…nominated for 8 Academy Awards and starring screen legend Gregory Peck as courageous Southern lawyer Atticus Finch. Peck’s Academy Award winning performance was hailed by the American Film Institute as the greatest movie hero of all time.
There are so many life lessons to be taken from this classic story…from Scout’s perspectives on growing up as seen through adult eyes as Jean Louise narrates the story. It truly is “the best of times” as we witness the adventures of Scout, Jem and Dill and they dare to discover the legend of Boo Radley. Through Atticus’ wisdom the children learn that “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”
As the story develops “the worst of times” is portrayed when an angry mob attempts to take Tom Robinson from the safety of the jail…only to be stood down by Atticus and Scout in the end. The angry hatred and racism incited by Bob Ewell toward Tom Robinson leading up to and throughout the trial provide some intensely dramatic moments.
The highlight of my 40 plus year community theatre acting career has to be delivering Atticus’ closing argument monologue in defense of Tom Robinson. Very powerful and emotional even now as I reflect on that scene.
This is one of my personal all time favorite movies. However, my affection for the movie begins with the classic novel and stage play. As I pen this blog I am drinking coffee from a mug that says…
What would Atticus do?
A present from the young actress who played Scout onstage at WCT in November 2016. It was truly a blessing and honor to portray Atticus finch with an amazing ensemble cast. I will always remember the final scene of the stage play when looking across the stage to see young Scout returning home from escorting Boo Radley and making brief eye contact with the adult Jean Louise as it becomes clear to her that Atticus knew that she was “already beginning to stand in other peoples’ shoes!”
Please join us on Monday, January 7 at 6:30 pm, sit back and enjoy every classic minute of this cinematic treasure as we present…
Board Of Directors
Since it was first published in 1843, Charles Dickens’ novella A Christmas Carol has captured the imagination of readers and the spirit of Christmas. The ghostly story of Ebeneezer Scrooge has been adapted for the big screen twenty times, and even more for television and stage. It’s as tied to the holiday as pine trees and sugar cookies. Is there anything that could make this story better?
Add Muppets, of course!
I consider myself something of a Christmas Carol connoisseur. This story, more than any Christmas story (aside from the big one!), is my family’s go-to for the holidays. And The Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite adaptation of all time. (With a special shout-out to the George C. Scott 1984 classic!)
Does it help that I was seven years old when it came out in theaters in 1992? Of course! But its heart-warming storytelling and sharp sense of humor (not to mention its clever use of puppetry!) are what bring me back every year to my favorite Christmas movie, my favorite Muppet movie, and, frankly, one of my favorite movies of all time.
The first Muppet movie made after Jim Henson’s untimely passing, The Muppet Christmas Carol features a few nods to the creator, including a shooting star that Kermit the Frog watches early in the movie. Kermit plays faithful employee Bob Cratchit, but I won’t spoil any more clever Muppet casting here for those who haven’t seen the film yet. I will, however, spend some time praising Michael Caine’s performance as Ebeneezer Scrooge. He is always fully committed, even when he’s acting against a miniature mouse Muppet, and his heartfelt performance grounds the story while never getting in the way of the fun.
Every family has its holiday traditions. My family’s Christmas Eve includes corned beef sandwiches and beloved frog puppets. What could be better?
This year, though, I’ll be viewing the movie a bit earlier than usual. (Don’t worry, family, we’ll still get in our Christmas Eve tradition!) I couldn’t miss a chance to see the movie again on the big screen, now could I?
Whether you’re seeing the movie for the first time or the twenty-sixth time (and I may still have you beat!), Waukesha Civic Theatre hopes you’ll join us for our December PIX Flix showing. Tickets are only $5. Be sure to pick up some Pop’s Kettle Corn at the concession stand, and we’ll see you on December 10th at 6:30!
After over 40 years, this action packed thriller still keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. North By Northwest is the best expression of one of Hitchcock’s favorite themes: the wrong man. The wrong man theme puts an everyman into an impossible situation. Cary Grant plays Roger O. Thornhill, an ad executive from New York who is mistaken for secret agent George Kaplan. Thornhill gets kidnapped by Phillip Vandamm (James Mason), who tries to kill him. Through the many twist and turns that the movie takes Cary Grant, as usual, is very debonair, sophisticated and believable in his approach to this character. I believe that North By Northwest is Grant’s most celebrated performance. This role lets him play many different character types: hero, clown, victim, drunkard, and – the part that he always plays best – the romantic lead. Grant is in almost every scene and he owns the screen, whether he is being seduced by Eve Kendall or chased by Phillip Vandamm or the CIA.
Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall is also very believable in her part. She is sexy, mysterious and dangerous. She keeps us guessing in each different scene, who her character really is. James Mason is also brilliant in his role as the villain. Mason also has a very sophisticated, charming air about him that even competes with Grant. Jessie Royce Landis is very funny as Cary Grant’s mother. Truly, Grant is the star of this show, but everyone in the show shines in their parts.
The crop dusting scene is my personal favorite in the film. Our hero in the show, Roger Thornhill finds himself attacked by a machine-gun-equipped crop dusting plane. It is one of the most remarkable scenes in film history. It has left me on the edge of my seat and holding my breath every time I watch the film. Although, all the scenes are impeccably done: the Mt. Rushmore visitor center scene, the drunk driving scene, the auction and the UN segment.
Hitchcock’s vision, Grant’s charm, and the rest of the casts’ truly brilliant performances makes this one film that you need to see. Join us on Monday, November 12th at 6:30 pm. See you at the PIX!
Board Of Directors
Just in case you’re confused about why you are still getting a Cramer’s Corner from me…the explanation is simple. Even though I am moving on to the Oconomowoc Arts Center, I am still helping out at WCT on a part-time basis as we work through the transition to new leadership. I’ll be around for November for sure, and maybe even into December, so you might still catch me hanging around the theatre.
We’ve got a lot going on as we head into the holidays, so there is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy and to get into the spirit of the season.
Our second Mainstage show, Billy Elliot The Musical, continues for two more weekends through November 11.
Our Random Acts Of Entertainment continues with a tribute to Carole King and James Taylor. You’ve Got A Friend performs November 5, 6, and 8 and features Kerry Bieneman, Casey Olson, and Melissa Cardamone.
Our fifth PIX Flix film of the season is North By Northwest on Monday, November 12 at 6:30 pm. This classic thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock stars Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, and more! All PIX Flix tickets are $5.00, or groups of ten or more for $4.00 each. And of course we have concessions available, including soda, water, beer, wine, cookies, beef sticks, and POPCORN from Pop’s Kettle Corn!
Our third Mainstage show, Candy Cane Tales And Holiday Carols, opens at the end of the month on November 30 and runs through December 16.
Check out our Academy at Civic Theatre. Registration is open for all our great theatre arts education offerings through June 2019.
Our current featured artist in the Waukesha State Bank Art Gallery is Pat Williams through November 19.
We still have room on our bus to see Dear Evan Hansen in Chicago on February 27, 2019. If you are interested and want more information about either of these trips, let me know and I can send you the details.
Are you interested in helping WCT make decisions about everything we do? Join A Committee and get involved. We have lots of great committees to choose from: Art Gallery, Diversity, Education and Outreach, Finance and Facility, Fund Development, Fundraising Events (Gala), Governance, Marketing, and Play Advisory.
Our 62nd Season subscription packages, individual tickets, and group sales are all on sale now. Join us for all of our Mainstage shows, Random Acts Of Entertainment, Education & Outreach shows, PIX Flix Films, and Fundraising Events.
Our Mainstage Season includes:
Billy Elliot: The Musical
(Directed By Mark E. Schuster)
Candy Cane Tales And Holiday Carols
(Directed By John Cramer and Kelly Goeller)
(Directed By Phil Stepanski)
Thoroughly Modern Millie
(Directed By Jim Padovano)
(Directed By Katie Lynne Krueger)
But Why Bump Off Barnaby?
(Directed By David Kaye)
Our Random Acts Of Entertainment, Education And Outreach shows, and Fundraising Events include:
You’ve Got A Friend
An Evening Of Holiday Tales With John McGivern
Joel Kopischke’s I Got Yule, Babe
Waukesha STEM Academy’s Fame JR.
My Funny Valentine
The Wizard Of Oz Unplugged
The Shamrock Shindig (A Gaelic Gala)
A.C.T. June Summer Showcase
Our PIX Flix Film Series includes:
North By Northwest
Muppet Christmas Carol
To Kill A Mockingbird
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
Field Of Dreams
And don’t forget about all the ways to save on quality, live entertainment. WCT’s Ticket Promotions can’t be beat!
Flex Pass Membership – Save 22%
Subscriber Rate – Save 22 to 31%
Group Rate (Ten Or More Tickets) – Save 22 to 31%
Educational Group Rate (Ten Or More Tickets) – Save 31 to 63%
Senior (60+) / Military Rate – Save 11 to 15%
Teen Rate – Save 15 to 33%
Child Rate – Save 31 to 44%
Terrific Tickets – Save 50%
Pay What You Can – You Name Your Savings
All subscribers also receive the Subscriber Benefits Card with discounts at 17 downtown Waukesha restaurants. And your ticket stub can save you money too!
Thank you to all of the generous donors that have supported us every season. If you would like to donate, you can choose from any number of ways you could help us not only maintain, but thrive, as Waukesha’s Cultural Cornerstone.
Please Consider Giving …
* A gift to our Operating Fund
* A matching gift through local sponsoring business employers
* A gift that will last a lifetime through your Will or Estate Planning to our Curtain Call Club
* A gift by donation to CARS
* A gift by shopping through Amazon Smile
* A gift by purchasing something on our Amazon Wish List
* Choose WCT as your Thrivent Choice charitable organization
* Become a Sponsor of outstanding performances and educational programs
Save the date for #GivingTuesday 2018! Kick off your holiday giving season by supporting the Academy at Civic Theatre (A.C.T.)!
On a personal note, my daughter Elena has been cast as Veronica Sawyer in Heathers: The Musical at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, with performances November 9-17. And my son Jude has been cast in The Laramie Project at Waukesha South High School with performances November 9-10. And Doug Jarecki and I are going to be performing Doug’s show ‘Twas The Month Before Christmas at Vogel Hall November 28-December 2.
I’ll see you at the Theatre!
Managing Artistic Director
Who you gonna call? “Ghostsmashers.”
Well, I don’t know about you, but I am sure glad the original title didn’t stick for Ghostbusters. Who could forget the classic 1984 comedy featuring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis, of which Aykroyd conceived and later rewrote with Ramis. From the moment you hear the Ghostbusters theme song, which reached number one on the Billboard charts for three weeks straight, and see the iconic Ghostbusters logo, the movie grabs your attention and the characters keep you engaged with the story and make you smile with their witty comedy.
I remember being a teenager at the time and this being one of the most talked about comedies of the time. The movie was originally intended for an adult audience but the cast and crew were shocked to find that children were loving the film for its fun fantasy adventure of scientists battling supernatural threats with their innovative technology to track down and capture the ghosts and ghouls. This lead to a continuation of Ghostbusters as a successful 80’s Saturday morning cartoon then leading to the sequel in 1989 with the same beloved cast as the first.
So head on over to Waukesha Civic Theatre and grab your bag of popcorn on Monday, October 8 at 6:30 pm for some ghoulish delight from a great cast of characters. You will definitely get your fill of laughs, suspense, and heroic moments. There is even a love to hate antagonist figure that adds additional drama to the overall all battle of the rather unorthodox heroic Ghostbusters. Please get the word out and make our showing of Ghostbusters the highest-grossing PIX Flix film of all time just like Ghostbusters was the highest-grossing comedy of all time (until it was topped by Home Alone).
Board Of Directors