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
After a run of 694 performances on Broadway during the 1955-1956 season, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof made it to the big screen in 1958, just in time for Elizabeth Taylor to get her second Best Actress Oscar nomination in two years. The film was highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike and it received five additional Oscar nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Paul Newman); Best Director (Richard Brooks); Best Writing; Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Richard Brooks and James Poe); and Best Cinematography – Color (William Daniels).
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is truly an actor’s movie, and it is one of those rare films where every single actor is perfect.
Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor are both brilliant as Brick and Maggie. Not very often is there a screen couple that have the same chemistry together that they do. And those eyes! It is hard to say which of them had the most captivating eyes. Taylor and Newman were more than extraordinarily beautiful. She was an amazing actress, and he is arguably one of the greatest actors of all time. The relationship between Brick and Maggie is fascinating; full of confusion, betrayal, honesty, dishonesty, love, desire, and trust.
As Big Daddy, Burl Ives gives one of the best performances of his exceptional career. Jack Carson, Madeleine Sherwood, and Judith Anderson round out the cast as Gooper, Mae (Sister Woman), and Big Momma, and all deliver performances that are astoundingly memorable.
Tennessee Williams was reportedly unhappy with the screenplay, which removed almost all of the homosexual themes and diminished the original play’s critique of homophobia and sexism. But it is important to remember that the play and the film are two separate entities. The film is an adaptation, and they are not meant to be the same. They should be judged each on their own merit!
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is one of the great pieces of 20th century American literature and cinema. It has some universal lessons we could all profit by in viewing it.
Managing Artistic Director
Come join us on Monday, July 31st at 6:30 pm for the classic movie-musical, West Side Story! Set against a backdrop of two warring teenage gangs on the streets of New York City in the 1950s, this musical re-telling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet opened on Broadway on September 26, 1957. Racial tensions against a growing immigrant population from Puerto Rico fuel the feud between the Sharks, a gang of Puerto Rican immigrants, and the Jets, a gang of Americans. Caught in the crossfire are the star-crossed lovers: Tony and Maria. While at a school dance, Tony and Maria meet, falling in love at first sight. However, their love is ill-fated as Tony is a former Jet and Maria is the sister of the Sharks’ leader, Bernardo.
The story unfolds as told through the dialogue by author Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Together, the team created some of the most beautiful and recognizable songs in Broadway history, including, “Something’s Coming,” “Maria”, “Tonight,” “America,” and “I Feel Pretty.”
A film adaptation of the musical was released in 1961, starring Natalie Wood as Maria and Rita Moreno as Anita. West Side Story went on to win 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Musical Score. Jerome Robbins received a special Academy Award for his choreography.
To this day, West Side Story remains a favorite in the theatre community. What better way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of West Side Story than to see the film at the Waukesha Civic Theatre on Monday, July 31st at 6:30 pm? Tickets are only $5!
May 28, 1910 – Rose married Jack Olaf Hovick at age 19
August 20, 1915 – Rose and Jack divorced, and June began performing in vaudeville at age 2 ½
May 26, 1916 – Rose married Judson Brennerman at age 25
December 1928 – June eloped with Bobby Reed (Weldon Hyde), a dancer in their vaudeville act, at age 16. Rose was 38. Louise was 17. June and Bobby both left the show. They later divorced.
January 1930 – Louise became Gypsy Rose Lee. She was 19 years old. Rose was 39 years old.
April 2, 1932 – June gave birth to April Hyde.
1935 – June married Donald S. Gibbs. They later divorced.
August 25, 1937 – Louise married Arnold “Bob” Mizzy. They later divorced.
1942 – Louise married William Alexander Kirkland. They divorced in 1944.
December 11, 1944 – Louise gave birth to Otto Preminger’s son, Erik Lee.
January 25, 1948 – June married William Spier. They remained married until William’s death in 1973.
1948 – Louise married Julio de Deigo. They later divorced.
1950s – April Hyde became an actress with the stage name April Kent.
1957 – Louise wrote and published her memoirs, titled Gypsy: A Memoir
1959 – The musical Gypsy: An American Fable premiered on Broadway with Ethel Merman as Rose
1962 – Gypsy was made into a movie with Rosalind Russel as Rose
April 26, 1970 – Louise died at age 59
December 28, 1998 – April Kent died
Have you ever been to the PIX to see a movie?
Please consider coming to see the award winning 1962 American biographical film The Miracle Worker on Monday, August 15 at 6:30 p.m.
The screenplay by William Gibson is based on his 1959 Broadway play which was based on the 1902 autobiography of Helen Keller called The Story of My Life.
Anne Bancroft won the Academy Award for Best Actress portraying the tutor Anne Sullivan and Patty Duke won the Award for Best Supporting Actress portraying the young Helen Keller, blind and deaf since infancy due to a severe case of scarlet fever.
The plot centers around a battle of wills as Anne breaks down Helen’s walls of silence and darkness through persistence, love, and sheer stubbornness.
The Miracle Worker holds a perfect 100% score from the movie critics site Rotten Tomatoes and is ranked #15 on the American Film Institute’s list of America’s Most Inspiring Movies.
Time Out London’s review said, “It’s a stunningly impressive piece of work…deriving much of its power from the performances. Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft spark off each other with a violence and emotional honesty rarely seen in the cinema lighting up each other’s loneliness, vulnerability, and plain fear.”
Patty Duke was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982, after which she devoted much of her life to advocating for and educating the public on mental health issues.
Since Patty Duke died this past March 29, what better way to honor her memory than coming to see the film that made her a star at 16 for the role that she had originated on Broadway?
WCT Board Director
The Academy at Civic Theatre proudly presents Annie JR. The classic Depression-era tale of the plucky young orphan girl with a bright outlook on the world comes to life on the Waukesha Civic Theatre stage this August. Annie, living in an orphanage run by the bitter Miss Hannigan, is determined to find her parents. When billionaire Oliver Warbucks invites her to spend Christmas in his mansion, Annie’s life changes as much as she changes the lives of those around her.
The Broadway Junior series, developed by Music Theatre International, features author-approved, shortened versions of classical musicals designed for younger performers. The cast of WCT’s production of Annie JR. are students of the theatre’s A.C.T. program, learning and growing as performers under the direction of Jes and Jacob Sudbrink. Annie JR. represents weeks of dedicated study and rehearsal.
Annie Jr. features all the classics from the original musical. The young performers bring well-loved songs like “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” and, of course, “Tomorrow” to life. So many students wished to be involved in the show that there are two casts, each performing twice. The Easy Street Cast performs August 1st at 7:30 p.m. and August 2nd a 2:00 p.m., while the NYC Cast performs August 2nd at 7:30 p.m. and August 3rd at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $6 for subscribers. For tickets or more information, please visit our website or call the box office at (262) 547-0708. Box office hours are 12-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.