Blog Archives

A Blizzard Of Blessings

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?

Yes, please.

Once in a lifetime.  I will cherish that musical moment together forever.

One year later, he passed away.

Left To Right: Johnny Rodgers, Les Paul, Danny Mallon, Joe Ravo, Brian Glassman (not pictured)

 

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

Advertisements

Cramer’s Corner: He’s A What? He’s A What? He’s A Music Man!

We have four more performances of our summer A.C.T. production, The Music Man JR., August 3-5. Click here for more information or to order tickets.

Our A.C.T. August Summer Showcase starts on Monday, August 6, and we still have room for more students. Click here for more information or to register. And don’t miss the showcase performances on Saturday, August 18, at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.

Our second PIX Flix film of the season is Mary Poppins on Monday, August 13 at 6:30 pm. Join us for this whimsical classic musical starring Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynnis Johns, 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! Click here to buy tickets.

Our A.C.T. Lights! Camera! Action! class will be held August 20-24, and our fall session will start September 24th. Click here for information on all of our great theatre arts education offerings.

Our current featured artist in the Waukesha State Bank Art Gallery is Vanessa Johanning through August 27.

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: Education and Outreach, Finance and Facility, Fund Development, Fundraising Events (Gala), Governance, and Marketing.

Our 62nd Season season tickets, 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:

The Musical Comedy Murders Of 1940
(Directed By Carol Dolphin)
Billy Elliot: The Musical
(Directed By Mark E. Schuster)
Candy Cane Tales And Holiday Carols
(Directed By John Cramer and Kelly Goeller)
The Underpants
(Directed By Phil Stepanski)
Thoroughly Modern Millie
(Directed By Jim Padovano)
The Giver
(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:
A.C.T. August Summer Showcase
disABILITY: The Evolution
Waukesha Reads
You’ve Got A Friend
An Evening Of Holiday Tales With John McGivern
Joel Kopischke’s I Got Yule, Babe
Comicality
A.C.T. Combat Boot Camp
Waukesha STEM Academy’s Fame JR.
A.C.T. Live!
My Funny Valentine
The Wizard Of Oz Unplugged
The Shamrock Shindig (A Gaelic Gala)
Our Favorite Things
Miscast
A.C.T. June Summer Showcase

Our PIX Flix Film series includes:
Mary Poppins
Singin’ In The Rain
Ghostbusters
North By Northwest
Muppet Christmas Carol
To Kill A Mockingbird
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
The Sting
Field Of Dreams
Camelot
Grease

And don’t forget about all the ways to save on quality, live entertainment. WCT’s Ticket Promotions can’t be beat!

Mainstage Season Ticket – Save 33%
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

I’ll see you at the Theatre!
John Cramer

Managing Artistic Director

Cramer’s Corner: WCT’s 62nd Season Kicks Off With Some HOT ENTERTAINMENT!

Our first PIX Flix film of the season is Cat On A Hot Tin Roof on Monday, July 9 at 6:30 pm. Join us for this Tennessee Williams classic starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Jack Carson, Madeleine Sherwood, Judith Anderson, 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 summer theatre arts education program has a fantastic performance to look forward to. The Music Man JR. will perform July 27-August 5.

I am also offering beginner-to-intermediate Tap Dance Classes over the summer. We have already started, but have 13 more 75-minute sessions from July 2 through August 21. You can pay as you go, one class at a time, or pre-pay for five or ten sessions. If you have questions, please let me know!

Our current featured artist in the Waukesha State Bank Art Gallery is Vanessa Johanning through August 27.

We still have room in our New York City Theatre Adventure October 11-14, 2018, but you need to book it NOW. The deadline has been extended to July 13. We also 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: Education and Outreach, Finance and Facility, Fund Development, Fundraising Events (Gala), Governance, and Marketing.

Our 62nd Season season tickets, 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:
The Musical Comedy Murders Of 1940
(Directed By Carol Dolphin)
Billy Elliot: The Musical

(Directed By Mark E. Schuster)
Candy Cane Tales And Holiday Carols
(Directed By John Cramer and Kelly Goeller)
The Underpants
(Directed By Phil Stepanski)
Thoroughly Modern Millie
(Directed By Jim Padovano)
The Giver
(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:
The Music Man JR.
Br!NK New Play Festival
A.C.T. August Summer Showcase
DISABILITY: The Evolution
Waukesha Reads
You’ve Got A Friend
An Evening Of Holiday Tales With John McGivern
Joel Kopischke’s I Got Yule, Babe
Comicality
A.C.T. Combat Boot Camp
Waukesha STEM Academy’s Fame JR.
A.C.T. Live!
My Funny Valentine
The Wizard Of Oz Unplugged
The Shamrock Shindig (A Gaelic Gala)
Our Favorite Things
Miscast
A.C.T. June Summer Showcase

Our PIX Flix Film Series includes:
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
Mary Poppins
Singin’ In The Rain
Ghostbusters
North By Northwest
Muppet Christmas Carol
To Kill A Mockingbird
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
The Sting
Field Of Dreams
Camelot
Grease

And don’t forget about all the ways to save on quality, live entertainment. WCT’s Ticket Promotions can’t be beat!
Mainstage Season Ticket – Save 33%
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

 

Happy Independence Day!

I’ll see you at the Theatre!

John Cramer
Managing Artistic Director
jcramer@waukeshacivictheatre.org

The Waukesha State Bank Art Gallery Presents: The Rogues Gallery

Rogues’ Gallery is a diverse group of seasoned, eclectic artists: painters, sculptors, metal smiths, bookmakers, muralists and poets…doing what we’ve loved doing for decades – creating artworks to share with the world. Members include Donna Staats, Lynda Brothen, Marcia Houde Hero, Cherie Raffel, Debbie Callahan, JJ Joyce, Susanne Eli Germaine, Thomas Buchs, Beth Stoddard, Daniel Pierce, Julie San Felipe, Laura Easey-Jones, Scott Olson, Brad Anthony Bernard, Carol Christ, Marcia Hochstetter, and Gwen Granzow.

 

Debbie Callahan’s Biography and Statement:

Debbie Callahan was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana and from an early age showed interest in painting and drawing. In recent years she has worked primarily in chalk pastel, acrylic paint, and watercolor, doing mostly figurative and still life paintings. She paints traditional subject matter in an untraditional way. Her lines are often hazy, colors muted and forms simplified. The colors often run into each other. Debbie’s compositions are rarely complicated; she prefers to keep the focus directed on the subject without many distractions in the painting. She tries to integrate these components into a cohesive painting.

To Debbie, artists are born, not created. She has always known she was an artist. She believes, in many ways, an artist’s skills are self-taught. A formal art education can teach us many things about the process but only by having awareness and listening to our own voices can we develop our own unique style of expressing ourselves.

She has studied with many accomplished artists, including James Hempel, Terry Stanley, Joye Moon, and Fred Bell. Debbie has been inspired by many artists who have come before her: Odilon Redon, Marc Chagall, John Singer Sargent, Alice Neel, Lucien Freud, and Louise Bourgeois.

Debbie has exhibited widely, received several awards, and her work has been included in numerous exhibit periodicals and catalogues. One of Debbie’s pieces, Madonna & Child, was chosen from over 100 submissions to be featured on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Christmas Day 2012 as the “Gift of Art” to Wisconsin from the publishers.

She is self-represented in her own gallery, The Martini Girls Gallery & Studio LLC, and is currently working on creating art journals, watercolors on hand made papers, as well as curating and producing group art exhibits. Debbie is active in several art organizations and related activities. She hopes to continue to have an awareness of her inner voice and an expression of it in her paintings.

 

The autobiographical nature of many of my paintings is a therapy of sorts, and has given me the opportunity to look at memories of myself as a little girl from the safer distance of years. I follow the trail of thoughts, the chaos of that time when I had no voice, and put them to paper and create beauty from the pain, a platform to be heard. And my art continues to evolve into further explorations of childhood, in figure and plein air work, especially the plein air allows me to escape into a more soothing and tranquil place to rest and renew.

 

Cherie Raffel’s Biography and Statement:

Cherie Raffel graduated from National Louis University in Evanston, IL in 1972 with a degree in Art History, and a Math/Science minor. She has exhibited at The Knick; the restaurant at the Knickerbocker Hotel in downtown Milwaukee, the Atypic Gallery in Fox Point, the Cedarburg Cultural Center, The Anderson in Kenosha, and the Schauer Center in Hartford, the Grafton Arts Mill, Inspiration Studios in West Allis, and others. Cherie is a member of the League of Milwaukee Artists and the Rogues’ Gallery. She has won numerous awards.

In 2013, Cherie was introduced to plein air painting (painting outdoors), and fell in love with it. She has been participating in many plein air events in the area for the past 4 years. Cherie prefers to work in watercolors and acrylics. Her website is www.cherieraffel.com.

 

A native Wisconsinite, Cherie Raffel loves to paint outdoors to capture the seasonal changes. She also loves to paint flowers. Cherie began painting as a child, and won 1st place in the national contest, “What America Means to Me” sponsored by Standard Oil when she was 12. More recently, she has won several awards in the League of Milwaukee seasonal shows. When asked about what influences her as an artist, she said “I found that being a painter is the best way to express the full range of beauty in nature.” Cherie’s use of color, rhythm, and light invite the viewer to see the subject in a new way.

She has sold in and around Wisconsin, and participated in numerous workshops taught by nationally recognized artists including: Jane E Jones, Naomi Brotherton, M. Douglas Walton, and Don Andrews.

 

Julie San Felipe Biography and Statement:

Julie San Felipe spent her early years in Chicago, and has since lived in the Milwaukee area, currently residing in New Berlin, WI. She has always had an interest in art and words as long as she can remember. Her artistic background includes classes at UW Milwaukee, MIAD, and MATC, that included calligraphy, painting, drawing, art history, framing, and literature. She teaches Irish calligraphy.

Self-study of ancient manuscripts, researching and sampling original materials, meditating over illuminated pages, and understanding and appreciating the dedication of the monks and other artists, she continues to learn using modern techniques. Her participation and love of dance, the Irish language, reading poetry, travels to Ireland and Northern Wisconsin, and music, provide a strong presence in her work.

An award-winning member of the League of Milwaukee Artists, she has also been invited for several solo shows in Wisconsin, including Irish Fest (2006 and 2017), a successful run at Next Act Theatre (2017), Leenhouts Gallery, the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center, and the IAHC in Chicago.

All of the materials and tools she uses are professional grade, the best paints and paper in the industry, and museum quality archival mats and framing, intended to last nearly forever, (but as with all watercolors, should be kept from long periods of direct sunlight).

The poetry, prose, and songs used in the artwork are either in the public domain or permission was kindly given by the authors. Writers, musicians, and all artists and owners of intellectual property should receive credit and compensation for their work. Talented people are a pleasure to correspond and work with. The words and translations are found on the back of all her framed art.

Calligraphic paintings in watercolor, of figures drifting in and out of poetry,

WEAVING OLDEN DANCES, MINGLING HANDS AND MINGLING GLANCES,

Flirting between reality and ancient, traditional Celtic art.

Hand written words, flowing across paper, telling tales with imagination and originality          

And WITH A FULL BUT SOFT EMOTION LIKE THE SWELL OF SUMMER’S OCEAN,

Where the love of poems and a need for art merge.

Layers of vivid and intense colors overlapping with symbolism and humor

Where THE MOON NEVER SLEEPS WITHOUT BRINGING ME DREAMS

About the lingering passion of place, visits with Ireland, and the nature of Wisconsin.