Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Ja, ja, ja for Reifs Mills’ ‘Octoberfest’

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Ja, ja, ja for Reifs Mills’ ‘Octoberfest’

The Palace troupe has fun with the famous German whoop dee do.

PHOTO: Bill Mamerow, left, and Mike Mleziva make a joke about lederhosen in The Palace of Reifs Mills Event Dinner Theatre production of “Octoberfest, the Tradition.” Palace of Reifs Mills photo

REIFS MILLS, Wis., (WFRV) – The way to make a German laugh on Friday is tell to him a joke on Thursday.*

Drums, please – a little da-dump-bump.

A way to make anybody laugh is to take in “Octoberfest, the Tradition.” It’s the latest original show at The Palace of Reifs Mills Event Dinner Theatre, and it’s (4+ stars out of 5) a bunch of fun. Info: www.palaceofrm.com.

The premise: Germany’s Oktoberfest without the lines (or Oktoberfest on the cheap).

In the story, identical twins Wilhlem and Heinrich Hoffman lead an American tour group to Munich, Germany, to experience all there is about the world’s biggest beer festival. Their event includes:

- Food: A German-style meal featuring roast pork, potato dumplings with a tad of sauerkraut, a red cabbage dish and Black Forest cake.

- Music: The Jerry Krueger Band playing polkas, waltzes and schottisches with an oomph-pa flavor – and the Chicken Dance thrown in for good measure. (Growing up in Milwaukee, I think I heard all these tunes at a wedding or three). The four-piece band adds much to the flavor of the show.

- Singalongs: Included is the immortal “Fill my stein, drink my beer – Ya ha ha ha.”

- Stories: One is told by Mutte, Will and Heine’s mother, about fair maidens. The tale is supposed to feature her daughters, except she has no daughters. She volunteers Will and Heine to dress as the fair maidens, and they obediently do. (Mutte rules).

- Cultural history: This comes in the form of a skit around “The Tragical History of Dr. Heine Faust.” It’s a twist on the Faust saga with Barbara Mamerow as the devil, Sue Mleziva as an angel, Mike Mleziva as Dr. Heine Faust and Bill Mamerow as the storyteller. This is extremely camp, as is much about the show.

- Dancing: Folks get into it as the spirit moves.

- Tradition: Included is the naming of a burgomaster (mayor) to tap the first keg of beer. This is done by audience vote for three guys selected from the audience. There’s a three part-test. Saturday night’s winner was a shoo-in with his platform: “Free beer for everybody.” (There’s no free beer, but, for a bit of authenticity, Hofbrau Munchen is available).

- Background: From their A-to-Z book to guide them, Will and Heine take everybody through all there is to know about Munich’s Oktoberfest.

One thing Will and Heine have left out is they are taking their tour group to Munich after Oktoberfest has ended. It’s still October, but the 16-day festival ENDS on the first Sunday in October.

Everything is tongue-in-cheek. The goal, as Bill Mamerow says as host of the evening, is to “German-ate” everyone. Wit abounds. 

What happens is a super-hybrid form of theater. There’s a structure. There’s acting. But a lot of the performance is free form – kind of ad libbed, kind of not. Barbara Mamerow is especially good at spontaneously being a character, in this case playing two stern personages with a German accent.

Everything boils down to The Palace of Reifs Mills Event Dinner Theatre (one of the longest, quaint-est names in theater history) being a unique experience.

VENUE: The 125-seat Palace of Reifs Mills Event Dinner Theatre is a “palace” because owners Bill and Barbara Mamerow say they aim to treat customers royally. The Mamerows have owned the historical place since 2001. Seating is at long tables, and action takes place on a raised stage at the south end of the hall. For “Octoberfest, the Tradition,” the food-serving area converts to a space for dancing. The building dates to around 1892. It contains a 2,500-square-foot hall, 600-square-foot bar area and spotless restrooms. The main entrance is designed to look like a tower. The interior wood floors and wainscoting are original to the building.

THE PEOPLE: The Reifs brothers owned and operated grist and sawmills, a coffin factory and a broom handle manufacturing place nearby. John Reif manufactured broom handles. The grist and sawmills were operated by Anton and Louis Reif. Anton Reif made coffins and, later, butter churns. Peter Reif made sun clocks. All this took place through the last quarter of the 19th century.

AHEAD: (2013): “The Company Christmas Party,” Dec. 7-14. (2014): “Ireland Forever,” March 14-16; “Grand ol’ Branch River Opry,” April 25-27; “Those Golden Gals,” June 27-29; “Reifs Mills Late Night #1 Cable Show,” Aug. 15-17; “Palace Polka Show,” Oct. 17-19; “WNPO-North Pole Radio,” Dec. 6-13.

* - The joke is in the show.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV at 6:45 p.m. Thursdays and every other Sunday between 6 and 8 a.m. (usually around 7:45 a.m.)

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