GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Spirit is radiating from the stage of Robert Lee Brault Playhouse – and likely thousands of others across America – for a special show called “All Together Now!”
This weekend, the show is being presented in every state and beyond as a way to help local theater companies get back on their feet after being laid low by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown that started March 12, 2020.
Collaborating in Green Bay are Green Bay Community Theater, Play-by-Play Theatre, Evergreen Productions and Theatre Z.
At Friday night’s first well-attended performance, enthusiasm met the array of singing and dancing of numbers of an uplifting theme.
The area has a lot of colorful voices.
The idea for “A Global Event Celebrating Local Theatre” comes from the licensing company Music Theatre International. The company offered access to songs free of charge as a fund-raiser. Troupes jumped at the chance.
Here, perhaps, is an “Oh!”: The head of Music Theatre International is Cameron Mackintosh, producer of “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables,” “Cats,” “Miss Saigon” and “Mary Poppins,” etc.
I once interviewed Cameron Mackintosh by telephone – me in Green Bay and he in London – and asked, “Where does the fun lie?”
He said, “It’s working with people who you like or respect and who get the same sort of enjoyment of putting on a show as I do because at the end of the day only an idiot would go into theater just to make money. It’s very hard to make money in the theater, and you’ve got to absolutely love it and not want to do anything else in the world. I think people who treat the theater as a business usually come a cropper. That is not to say that the theater shouldn’t be run very business-like, but the business should be there to support the art, not vice versa.”
The Green Bay production is economical. One bit of high-tech is a projection of colors on a screen in the rear of the stage, which is surrounded by plain walls. Props consist mostly of benches.
The benches figure in one song-and-dance production number, which contains a tongue-in-check display of localizing. Dave Harper is cranking up folks aboard a passenger ship in “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.” The rouser has a line in it about a wave – as found on the ocean – and sections of the ensemble break into the Lambeau Field wave. Dave Harper corrects them… no, not that kind of wave… before tossing in “Go Pack!”
Chiefly, the songs are from the heart in lyrics and performance. Friday night, two singers especially erupted intensely – Carolyn Silverberg in “She Used to Be Mine” and Amelia Gibbons in “Astonishing.”
Many singers and scenes shone, with Mary Ehlinger providing their grounding as music director and pianist and Rochelle Van Erem providing direction.
“All Together Now!” lived up to its intents and purposes in Green Bay, notably being entertaining.
Also in the region are shows in Manitowoc and Tisch Mills with casts of their own. Overall, it’s a remarkable project – something positive that came out of the pandemic.
Production/creative: Music director – Mary Ehlinger; director – Rochelle Van Erem; choreographer – Andréa Hearden (“Spread the Love Around”); choreographer – Kevin Flogel (“Consider Yourself”); stage manager – Katie Schroeder; lighting designer – Kit Honkanen; pianist – Mary Ehlinger; ASL signer – Tia Peterson
Aubrey Rose Mitchell
Emily Terrell Paulsen
Mary Kay Vande Logt
Running time: One hour
Remaining performances: 4 p.m. Nov. 13; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14-15
+ “Pure Imagination” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” – Tim Olejniczak and Linda Feldmann
+ “Writing Down the Story of My Life” from “Junie B Jones, the Musical” – Amanda Meo, Mitchell Blohm, Katie Keck, Ali Weaver, Aubrey Rose Mitchell, Amelia Gibbons
+ “Back to Before” from “Ragtime” – Emily Terrell Paulsen
+ “This is the Moment” from “Jekyll and Hyde” (Friday and Monday) – David Gusloff
+ “Gimme, Gimme” from “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (Saturday and Sunday) – Kelly Gusloff
+ “Spread the Love Around” from “Sister Act” – Eileen Kozlovsky, Charly Sparks, Amelia Gibbons, Megan Carpenter, Kelly Gusloff, Katie Keck, Judy Patefield, Dave Harper, Amanda Meo, Carolyn Silverberg, Mary Kay Vande Logt, Ali Weaver, Kevin Flogel, Tim Olejniczak
+ “Tomorrow” from “Annie” – Eileen Kozlovsky, Aubrey Rose Mitchell, Megan Carpenter
+ “The Human Heart” from “Once on This Island” – Charly Sparks, Mitchell Blohm, Maddie Budner, Amelia Gibbons, Kelly Gusloff, with Tia Peterson
+ She Used to Be Mine” from “Waitress” – Carolyn Silverberg
+ “Consider Yourself” from “Lionel Bart’s Oliver!” – Kevin Flogel, Amanda Meo, Devon Breecher, Mary Kay Vande Logt, Mitchell Blohm, Judy Patefield, Aubrey Rose Mitchell, Eileen Kozlovsky, Charly Sparks, Ali Weaver
+ “When I Grow Up” from “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” – Aubrey Rose Mitchell, Mitchell Blohm, Amanda Meo, Maddie Budner, Amelia Gibbons, Ali Weaver, Katie Keck, Eileen Kozlovsky
+ “Stop the World” from “Come from Away” – Tim Olejniczak and Linda Feldmann
+ Astonishing” from “Little Women” – Amelia Gibbons
+ “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” from “Guys and Dolls” – Dave Harper, Katie Keck, Devon Breecher, Maddie Budner, Megan Carpenter, Kelly Gusloff, Eileen Kozlovsky, Amanda Meo, Tim Olejniczak, Judy Patefield, Carolyn Silverberg, Charly Sparks, Mary Kay Vande Logt
+ “Beautiful City” from “Godspell” – Kevin Flogel and Tim Olejniczak
+ “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” – Full Company
THE VENUE: Green Bay Community Theater is one of the few community theaters that owns its performance space – and rehearsal space under the same roof. Stability is a big benefit. A landmark on Green Bay’s west side, the 193-seat Robert Lee Brault Playhouse features elements of an earlier time as a church, built in 1854 (the current backstage dressing room), 1895 (auditorium) and 1911 (today’s Community Room). The most obvious remnants are the church’s peaked side-wall windows with stained glass that is covered. High-up triangular windows still contain stained glass, and their patterns can be seen playing on sunny days when the troupe has matinees. The auditorium includes a 30 by 23-foot open-end stage with no stage curtain. The troupe has remodeled some portions of the building with medieval touches, but the seating area retains elements of a church. The theater includes wooden arches with decorative geometric designs on the ends and exposed beams in the sharply angled ceiling. The stage front consists of woodwork of repeated arches that looks to be repurposed wainscoting from other parts of the building. The troupe owns the building, which became its home in 1966. The Community Room serves as a gathering space for audiences prior to a performance and at intermission and for board and other internal meetings.
THE PERSON: Larger-than-life personality Robert Lee Brault was a longtime Green Bay Community Theater actor, director, scenic designer and managing director. He and his wife, Rita Brault, were mainstays from the time the troupe performed at various locations through the purchase of the present playhouse. Bob Brault died Nov. 1, 2015, in Florida at age 88. The troupe has established a special programming and education fund in his name.