By Mary Boyle
If you're above a certain age, you may recall the film The Producers, written and directed in 1967 by Mel Brooks, and starring Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock, a has-been Broadway Producer, and Milwaukee native Gene Wilder as Leo Bloom, an accountant who's always wanted to be a Broadway producer. While the film put Gene Wilder on the map, and started a series of collaborations with Mel Brooks, including Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, the story made a much bigger splash when it made its way to Broadway in 2001, starring Nathan Lane as Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Bloom. Now, you can see The Producers for yourself, in all its offensive, yet Tony award-winning, glory at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove.
Fans of Mel Brooks know that there isn't a subject too taboo for him to make fun of, and this show is an equal opportunity offender. Max Bialystock (Robert A. Zimmerman) was once the King of Broadway, but now he's penniless after a long series of flops. When he overhears his bumbling, nervous accountant, Leo Bloom (Zach Zembrowski) speculate that, with a bit of creative math, a failed Broadway show could earn far more money than a successful one, the two embark on a scheme to produce the biggest Broadway flop in history; a show so offensive, it can't possibly be a hit, and they can't possibly get in trouble...except the show, "Springtime for Hitler," somehow manages to be a hit!
Directed by Tommy Lueck, The Producers is shockingly good (grown-up) fun. Robert A. Zimmerman sounds remarkably like Nathan Lane, and Zach Zembrowski is wonderful as Leo Bloom. Molly Morrow is Ulla, the sexy Swedish secretary/performer, and Eric Safdieh-Nelson is Roger DeBris, the worst Director in New York who, along with his partner, Carmen Ghia, played by Andrew Kelly, bring a whole lot of fabulous to the show, as well as the show within the show. The show-stealer, though, is Steven Sizer, who recently appeared as a prince in Into the Woods at Sunset, and now returns to the Sunset stage as Franz Liebkind, the Nazi sympathizer who penned the musical.
Sunset Playhouse is a great little community theater, with easy parking and not a bad seat in the house, combined with excellent productions for a bargain price, right in the heart of Elm Grove. If a Broadway show is on your bucket list, this is the perfect place to check it off. See it while you can!
The Producers runs through August 5th at Sunset Playhouse, located at 800 Elm Grove Road in Elm Grove, WI. Tickets can be purchased by calling (414) 782-4430, or online at www.sunsetplayhouse.com.
About Sunset Playhouse
Over the past 60 years, Sunset has benefitted from the leadership of Ian Dobbie, Alan Furlan, Michael Spicer, Thomas Somerville, Michael Duncan, Mark Salentine, Jonathan West, Diana Alioto, and our current Artistic Director, Nancy Visintainer-Armstrong. The theater’s staff consists of an Education Director, Technical Director, Business Manager/Volunteer Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, Box Office Manager, Box Office Associates, and Theater Technicians. In addition, Sunset benefits from a large pool of talented and dedicated volunteers who work in conjunction with these professionals and are essential to the on-going success of the Playhouse. Sunset is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the membership.
Sunset produces eight Furlan Auditorium Productions per season consisting of comedies, mysteries, musicals, and dramas. The Playhouse is also home to three professional series–Musical MainStage Concert Series, with six concerts each season, a six-show cabaret series titled SideNotes Cabaret Series, and a three-show children’s series called Bug in a Rug.
By Callie Gay
Stepping inside Brandywine after eight o’clock on a Saturday night, I was sure we wouldn’t be able to find a seat. Outside, the tables were full and, through the large front windows, it was clear that they were having a busy night. The buzz of half a dozen conversations followed my friends and I up the steps, through the door, into the historic building in downtown Cedarburg, where husband and wife team Andrew and Rhiannon Wilson, opened their first restaurant just weeks ago, after years of planning and dreaming.
With a quick scan of the front and back room, I could see that we were going to have to wait for a table to open up. There wasn’t even an open seat at the bar and, judging from the tired look on the servers’ faces as they moved around patrons and did their best not to appear overwhelmed, they’d been busy all evening. The hostess greeted us with a smile, and asked how we were doing — a courtesy almost shocking on a busy weekend night, especially when two more groups of people were moving in the door behind us and waiting their turn to be seated. When I spoke with the co-owner, Andrew Wilson, he told me that finding good people had been his top priority, and I could tell he accomplished his goal when I saw the calm demeanor of the hostess in the face of a snappy customer, as well as the time our waiter took to describe a dish, though he was clearly juggling several tables.
If you didn’t know this was the first restaurant Andrew and Rhiannon had ever opened, or that it’s only been in operation for less than a month, you’d never guess it while you’re sitting at the table surrounded by an air of comfortable charm, scanning the small but impressive menu of handmade pastas and simple but rich desserts that are made daily, and listening to the hum of conversation all around. Tables on both sides of us were filled with big groups of laughing friends; couples leaned in close to one another, deep in conversation; all of them giving the impression that they’d been there a dozen times before, and would come again a dozen more. Andrew said that their hope was to create “a neighborhood place, where people feel comfortable and leave full.” Sitting at the table trying to find the right words for the rich but light flourless chocolate cake, I was amazed that the Wilson’s vision has come together so fully in such a short amount of time, because an ambiance of delicious comfort is the only way I can accurately describe Brandywine.
Andrew started working in a restaurant as a busboy and dishwasher seventeen years ago at Trattoria Stefano, an Italian restaurant in Sheboygan, where he was later promoted to cook, and then went on to be an executive sous chef for Bacchus. “I really enjoy the fast-paced, physical nature of it,” he said, “and beyond that, I’ve always really enjoyed the camaraderie and the team element of being in the kitchen with a group of people and working hard towards a common goal.” Owning a restaurant has been his goal as long as he’s been in a kitchen. Then, in 2015, he lost both of his parents, and that heartbreak spurred him into action, “I just decided, you should chase your dreams.” From that loss, Brandywine was born.
With his wife, Rhiannon, and their three children, the Wilson’s moved from Madison to Glendale to be closer to Rhiannon’s parents, and to begin to look for the perfect place to open the restaurant they named after Andrew’s Mother’s favorite variety of Amish tomato. “She was a really avid gardener,” he said. “There were a couple of years that we had a few too many tomato plants, and when I thought about a name for the restaurant, I thought of that.” They looked all around Ozaukee county, but Cedarburg is just what the couple was looking for. No matter where they looked, they always came back to it, citing the city’s charm and small town feel as the biggest reasons they wanted to make it work. “I love the idea of doing business where I live,” Andrew said, “and we knew we wanted to live here.”
Last year, the family moved from Glendale and spent the summer living in the apartment above the restaurant, as their vision began to come together. With the help of family (Rhiannon’s father-in-law, in particular, who is a commercial painter and did a lot of the finishing), the Wilson’s have been putting in long hours and hard labor, working towards their opening. “I think you have to have healthy dose of naivety,” Andrew said. “You think, 'I’ve worked hard before and I can do this,' but the last month or so has probably been the most challenging of my life. But it’s been fun, too. I’m trying to enjoy the ride.”
Opening weekend proved to the new restaurant owners that the city of Cedarburg and its residents had anxiously awaited everything they have to give. Friends, old and new, coworkers, and the community, at large, all came to show their support (and probably also to sample some of the delicious food that ranges from burgers with caramelized onions and beer battered cheese curds, to braised pork mezzaluna in a spicy tomato sauce).
As I finished a piece of flourless chocolate cake slathered in salted caramel and topped with whipped creme fraiche and raspberries, the door opened with more new customers hoping to get a table. Our waiter told us to let him know when we needed the check, but we didn’t feel pushed to leave — quite the contrary; along with all the patrons around us, we felt free to linger, though we didn’t. We left and made room for others to discover their new favorite place to go for dinner and drinks in Cedarburg.
Callie Gay is a freelance writer, and mother of two boys. In her former life she traveled the world and hunted down the most delicious food she could find. These days she spends her time begging two small people to try a vegetable, and marveling at the fact that she prefers it. She writes to avoid doing laundry.
The Twisted Willow Restaurant is pairing food with a good cause at its very first Farm to Fork Charity Experience on Friday, September 14 at 6 p.m. This amazing dining experience will benefit programs and services funded by United Way of Northern Ozaukee. Owner Jill Bunting, along with her brother Dan Wiken, chef and farmer, and their team have created a unique and delicious evening using freshly harvested ingredients from their very own local farm in Grafton, as well as local purveyors.
“The Twisted Willow has been involved in multiple fundraisers and supported various charities. We have worked with United Way on many events in a smaller scale. Celebrating our fifth year, we wanted to do a bigger charity event that would give back to the community that has supported us. Because the United Way offers so many channels of outreach, we are honored to partner with them for our Farm to Fork Charity Experience,” said Bunting.
A portion of each ticket for this event will be reinvested to strengthen local individuals and families through United Way’s result-driven programs. United Way partners with thirteen strategic partners to deliver critical services that help working families who are struggling to make ends meet, address the intensifying needs of an aging population, protect and advocate for the most vulnerable among us, and to ensure that young children can get a good start by providing early parenting and educational opportunities for children and families.
In addition to enjoying a wonderful evening of great dishes paired with fine wines, there will be a Port Washington hor d’oeuvre trolley tour ride, entertainment by a local celebrity, and a live auction and raffle throughout the night. The live auction will feature unique, one of a kind experiences such as a winter retreat near the Chequamagan National Forest on the Flambeau River, a week’s stay in Kissimmee Florida in an eight bedroom home, free four hour rental of the Port Exploreum Museum for a private party, and a table for four at Twisted Willow Restaurant’s 6th annual 6-course Harvest Feast.
For more information, or to purchase your ticket, please contact Twisted Willow at 262-268-7600, or visit their website at twistedwillowrestaurant.com
United Way of Northern Ozaukee is a champion for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Ozaukee County. We work to improve lives by mobilizing people and leveraging our vast community network to raise money, and engaging leaders in solving our community’s most daunting challenges. We invest in resources that produce measurable improvements. For more information about United Way Northern Ozaukee’s work, or to join our fight to create meaningful, measurable, and lasting change for people throughout our county, visit unitedwayno.org.