The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 65th anniversary season kicked off on September 7, 2018 with its first performance in the recently renovated Stackner Cabaret. Two days before I saw the show I was able to have a first look at the updated Stackner. This $1.75M renovation provided some major upgrades to the performance space including a new kitchen, new bar, and expanded seating space to increase the theaters capacity by 35%. Unfortunately, I hadn’t seen a show in the Stackner Cabaret prior to Songs for Nobodies but when I walked into the cabaret for the first time I was quite impressed with the layout and number of people able to attend a performance within the venue. Here’s a look at the space…
The Stackner Cabaret is a unique performance venue. It’s not a dinner and a show venue but guests are able to arrive prior to the show beginning and receive dinner service. There is a full menu, full bar, and a Prix Fixe menu available prior to each show. (Learn more about the dining options at The Stackner.) Although I didn’t dine prior to this performance it certainly seemed like many people were thoroughly enjoying this recently renovated space along with its brand new menu.
My husband Tyler and I excitedly arrived at The Rep for our first show (outside of A Christmas Carol, a production put on by The Rep but performed in The Pabst Theater next door) and it did not disappoint. Songs for Nobodies is making its American Premier at the Milwaukee Rep. This one-woman show could not have been done without an incredibly talented actress and Bethany Thomas was perfectly made for the part. Thomas is no stranger to the Milwaukee Rep and has been seen in productions including The Color Purple, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Ragtime, Man of La Mancha, and A Christmas Carol. Not only is she an incredibly talented actress but she is a wonderful singer and she definitely had the vocal chops required for this show.
Songs for Nobodies was a play done in one act by one woman telling the story of five “nobodies” who had their brush with five great women – Judy Garland, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday, and Maria Callas. Each of these stories required Thomas to play both the nobody and the great. Thomas never broke character, her accents never slipped and always varied immensely from person to person throughout the story, and she was able to sing every song just as if she was the great herself. Abdul Hamid (Music Director/Pianist) and Alicia Storin (Cellist) accompanied Thomas and made you feel as if you were in a smoky jazz club or any of the locations Thomas was depicting onstage. Each of the stories told of these ten women and their encounters were incredibly moving. Thomas’ storytelling throughout drew you right in and made you feel like you knew both the nobody and the great in each story. My favorite part of the production was each time Thomas sang. There was such a variety in the styles of each of the great women she was singing as and she simply nailed it every time.
I was definitely skeptical of what a one-woman production would be like but Thomas proved that it could be done as well as engaging and inspiring. My takeaway from the show was that pure joy and happiness can come to you at any moment and you must not take any moment for granted. You never know what can happen to you and you never know who you will meet that may impact your life or whose life you yourself may impact.
I’d highly recommend that if you have a chance to visit the Stackner Cabaret and see Songs for Nobodies that you seize the opportunity. The show will run until November 4th and tickets are still available online, by phone (call the Box Office at 414-224-9490), or by visiting the Milwaukee Rep’s Box Office located at 108 East Wells Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202.
This was a great start to the 65th season at The Rep and I’m super excited for what is yet to come. Be sure to follow the blog for updates and information on all of the shows throughout the 65th season!
Here are some photos from the show. 📷 Photos by Michael Brosilow and provided by The Milwaukee Rep for use in this blog post.