Category Archives: Random Acts of Entertainment
The filmmakers at Pixar have a reputation of creating beautiful animated films that tug at the heartstrings. To prove their point, they boast an incredible resume of films known to be tear-jerkers, including the Toy Story franchise, Monsters Inc., Up, and Inside Out. Their 2017 offering, Coco follows in those same footsteps.
Coco captivates its viewers by paying tribute to the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This colorful film celebrates the beauty of life while reminding us that those we’ve lost continue to live on in our hearts.
Along with the film, the theatre has invited an Aztec Drum and Dance troupe from La Casa de Esperanza to join in on the festivities. Waukesha Civic Theatre is proud to welcome our neighbors to the theatre in a joint celebration of culture and the arts.
Board of Directors
September is a great time to gather the family together and come to PIX Flix, in Historic Downtown Waukesha! We are thrilled to bring The Sound of Music back to the PIX Theatre, now the home of the Waukesha Civic Theatre, on Monday, September 16, at 6:30 p.m.! I say “back,” because, while I wasn’t able to find historical proof, I feel certain this film must have been shown at what is now our amazing community theatre, back in 1965, when it was first released by 20th Century Fox. The film, which debuted in sold out theatres around the country for over a month, was produced and directed by Robert Wise and stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The film was adapted from the musical, and two new songs were written just for the movie, “I Have Confidence,” and “Something Good.” Becoming an instant hit, it is no wonder this stunning film won five Oscars at the 38th Academy Awards!
Influenced by other successful movies of the day, such as Camelot, Mary Poppins, and Cinderella (all of which also starred Julie Andrews) the screenwriter, Ernest Lehman, used artistic license to convey the meaning and essence of the times in Salzburg, just as the Nazis were gaining power. A small amount of historic exploration will uncover many ways that opulence and pageantry, which were not historically accurate, were employed to draw the audience deeper into the unfolding story and to create a visual masterpiece. In reality, the von Trapps did not live in a mansion or play in the hills of Salzburg and the home they lived in was not actually their ancestral home, as is depicted in the movie. However, the visual backdrop of the movie we have come to know and love is enchanting and it is almost impossible to imagine the story without it.
Then there is the music! Who of us has not grown up with “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss,” “So Long Farewell,” and “Climb Every Mountain,” as part of our own personal soundtracks? My family had such a thrill sharing these songs and the film with the next generation that our daughter was cast as Brigitta von Trapp in Waukesha Civic Theatre’s 2014 production of the musical! These songs will forever be in our hearts.
We hope you will take this opportunity to bring your families, young and old, to see the cinematic treasure The Sound of Music at the Waukesha Civic Theatre on the big screen on Monday, September 16, at 6:30 p.m. Always a value, our PIX Flix films are still only $5 per ticket and of course, we have popcorn and refreshments available too! While you’re there, pick up an A.C.T. (Academy at Civic Theatre) brochure and discover all the amazing educational opportunities that await at our own community theatre, WCT. You will also be able to find a calendar for our 63rd season Mainstage productions – the first of which, The Little Prince, opens September 13, 2019. Mainstage Season Ticket Packages are available now and the lineup is outstanding! We will also present Bad Seed, Elf the Musical, Come Back, Big Fish, Silent Sky, and The Secret Case of Sherlock Holmes this season, in addition to many Random Acts of Entertainment! We look forward to seeing you at the Theatre.
Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991, part of a resurgence of Disney animated musicals in the late 1980s through the early 2000s. From the very beginning, the film adopted a theatrical tone, with a grand opening number featuring the full cast. For its voice talent, veteran Broadway performers lent their voices to bring these now classic characters to life: Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth, Robby Benson as the Beast, Richard White as Gaston, and Paige O’Hara as Belle. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken filled the score with tunes that have now become unforgettable classic songs like, “Belle”, “Be Our Guest”, and the title song, “Beauty and the Beast”. The film went on to become the first animated film nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category.
The animated film was adapted into a stage musical that made its Broadway debut in 1994. It ran for 13 years and closed in 2007. Throughout its run, many famous singers played its iconic roles including Toni Braxton, Debbie Gibson, Donny Osmond, and Nick Jonas. In 2017, Beauty and the Beast was turned into a live-action film, starring Emma Watson as Belle, allowing a new generation to experience the magical story.
Coincidentally, my own introduction to Waukesha Civic Theatre started with Beauty and the Beast in 2008. Braving a snowy evening in an unfamiliar city, I drove to WCT to audition for my dream role: LeFou (Gaston’s sidekick). Being new to the city and new to community theatre, I felt very much like Belle upon entering the castle. I was nervous, unsure of expectations, and a little bit scared. While I ended up not being in that production, I was welcomed with open arms by the wonderful people here at WCT, just as Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Chip welcomed Belle. In no time at all, I found myself at home.
Beauty and the Beast has cast a magic spell on generations that is as enchanting as the talking objects found within the Beast’s castle. It is only fitting that the film returns to its theatrical roots as part of the PIX Flix Kids series. Get your tickets today for this iconic film!
Beauty and the Beast truly is a tale as old as time.
Grease is the word, and it means a great deal to me. Released in 1978, the movie made it to the still-relatively-young Home Box Office (HBO) in 1979, and at that time, HBO was available in the Milwaukee market on its own, as much of the market had yet to gain a cable television option. I know this because I was in my formative years at this time, and my family – for a short time that included this period – had HBO. The fledgling network was very different then: it was only broadcasting in the evening, and its library was small. Grease was on all the time, and I watched it a lot. Maybe it’s a guilty pleasure, but it’s still one of my all-time favorites. But why shouldn’t it be?
It was the number one movie of 1978, and it was set in the late 1950s – a time in US history often romanticized on film, in part because of the birth of rock & roll in 1955. Plus, it’s filled with now classic songs like Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted to You, You’re the One That I Want, and the title track, Grease. Each of those songs charted on Billboard magazine’s Top 40, with each of latter two hitting number one in the U.S., but Summer Nights is the only one of the four that was also part of the original Grease musical.
The musical – which debuted in Chicago in 1971 – hit Broadway in 1972 with an original cast that included Barry Bostwick as Danny Zuko and Adrienne Barbeau as Betty Rizzo. Notable replacements for Danny include Patrick Swayze, Richard Gere, and Jeff Conaway, who played Kenickie in the movie. John Travolta was also a replacement during that original Broadway run, but he played Doody. That original Broadway run lasted eight years, which – believe it or not – was good enough to be the longest-running musical ever at the time it closed. Since then, fifteen newer musicals have had longer runs. With the passage of time, records fall, but perspective is also gained. Consider the relationship between the year the musical debuted – 1971 – and the year of the Rydell High graduating class – 1959. If a similar musical were to debut in 2019 romanticizing that creator’s high school years, it’d be reminiscing about 2007! Crazy, isn’t it?
“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