This is not your average karaoke, a night filled to the brim with slightly overserved men and women living out fantasies of being crooners, rock stars, country warblers and hardcore rappers.
Many of these singers have had professional voice training. Most of them have been on stage many times and they know how to act the part. Generally they choose songs they know are in their sweet zone. And when not singing, they love to get up and dance.
And it may all come to an end soon unless something dramatic (pun intended) happens.
We could very well be without the stirring experience of seeing one of Milwaukee's very best actors, Matt Daniels, complete with fedora and bandana scarf, posing and moving as he sings "Psycho Killer" by the Talking Heads, complete with French lyrics.
The wonderful Wednesday night of karaoke may end soon for Robbie Ellicson, who runs Spinn Doctors and has been making momentary stars since 2001 at the Newsroom Pub on Wells St. just across from the Pabst Theatre and the Milwaukee Rep.
"I used to have a comedy night here and then went to karaoke in August of 2001," Ellicson said before what may have been his final engagement at the pub. "I think I missed a night for my honeymoon, but not many times other than that. It's been great with all these theater people coming in."
Ellicson is a fourth generation entertainer. His dad is a drummer, his grandmother had a big band orchestra and his great grandfather rode the back of a truck selling medicine and all kinds of show acts. He's great at karaoke, letting the singers be the stars as he tries to keep some order to the affair. Way too many karaoke hosts use it as a forum for them to show off their vocal chops. Not Ellicson.
Rick Pendzich, who is one of the breed of young actors making their mark in Milwaukee, was in the group that started coming to the pub back in 2006.
"There was a bunch of us who came in," Pendzich said. "All of us were in the theater and almost all of us had voice training. Plus we got the interns from the Rep who were right across the street."
The parade of stars who have stepped on the stage includes Robert Goulet, Night Ranger, Darius Rucker, the Goo Goo Dolls, Brian McKnight, Def Leppard, Frankie J and country singer Shelly Wright.
The Newsroom Pub is owned by, and connected to, The Safe House, the legendary Milwaukee bar and restaurant that could well be one of the top five tourist attractions in the city. Many of the patrons of the Safe House come into the pub to look at the impressive collection of plaques signed with chalk on small blackboards.
The signers include famous names like Theodore Roosevelt, Williams Jennings Bryan, Babe Ruth, Gene Autry, Stan Musial, Tony Bennett, and hundreds more.
Last Wednesday night a bunch of business people from Canada wandered into the bar from the Safe House. It wasn't long before a group of the guys got up and delivered a slightly off-key but enthusiastic rendition of "Sweet Caroline." The local actors jumped up and frantically danced in front of the business group.
The reason that Ellicson and his show may leave is, like most of these things, money.
The Safe House wants to renegotiate its deal with Ellicson. He is resisting. It's an old story.
But the two sides aren't far apart, at least on dollars, They may be further apart on appreciation and value of sentimentality.
I love karaoke. Back in 1968 a friend of mine, Tom Shepard, owned a bar called JJD's on Downer Avenue. He called one night and asked me to come and see this new attraction he had.
It was a guy with a collection of cassette tapes. He put them in a tape recorder and ran it through a speaker. Then he handed you a microphone and a sheet of paper with the lyrics on it. I did "Jamaica Farewell" by Harry Belafonte, complete with what I thought was a Caribbean accent. For all I know it might have been the first karaoke in Milwaukee.
While not being the first, Wednesday night at the Newsroom Pub may well be the best karaoke in town. It would be a crying shame if it came to an end because the two negotiators couldn't reach an agreement.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published Oct. 6, 2015
Recently, the Milwaukee Bucks extended the contract of General Manager John Hammond. The agreement keeps Hammond in his position with the Bucks through the 2016-17 season. I was wrong on this one. In July I had written that the Bucks were on the verge of appointing Coach Jason Kidd to be the head of basketball operations and either parting ways with Hammond or finding another position for him in the organization.
Published Oct. 4, 2015
Sometimes it takes a little tap on your noggin to get the point across and sometimes it takes a blow from a sledge hammer. The sledge hammer gets a total workout in "Back of the Throat," the over-the-top horror show running at Next Act's Third Ward theater.
Published Oct. 4, 2015
One of the worst things that can happen to anybody walking into a theater is to know all about the twists and turns and surprises that are in store. If you know, then it's not a surprise. Following my intense belief in not having the shout "spoiler alert" every time I see a play, I fully intend to say almost nothing about what happens in "Any Given Monday," an hilarious if slightly off-kilter comedy that opened over the weekend at In Tandem's Tenth Street Theatre.
Published Oct. 3, 2015
If at some point in your life you decide that you want to write your autobiography there are a couple of very important items to consider. One is that you can write. The other is that your life better have something interesting about it. Both of the requirements are met, gloriously, in "The Lion," the one man show that opened Friday night at the Stiemke Studio of the Milwaukee Rep.
Published Oct. 1, 2015
Over the last several months Dave Begel has seen a steady parade of fear mongers show up and convince a Common Council committee to turn down applications for a strip club in Downtown Milwaukee.
Published Sept. 30, 2015
Wisconsin has always taken pride in the fact that the Green Bay Packers are the little team that could, nestled in a tiny town smaller than the suburbs of most NFL teams. Tradition may be the most important product of this city. We love the present but we revere our past. All of that is well and good, but it is probably time the Packers take some steps to move into the 21st century.
Published Sept. 30, 2015
Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, the reigning U.S. pairs figure skating champions. will be among the headliners at the prestigious "Skate America" competition at the UWM Panther Arena Oct. 23-25.
Published Sept. 27, 2015
Many days and evenings of live theater ask for an audience to bring both heart and head to the theater in equal measure, ready for everything from tears to fears to gales of laughter. "Dear Elizabeth," the play by Sarah Rule that opened over the weekend at Chamber Theatre, is a bit of a rarity. While you may chuckle and certainly tear up at the end, the majority of your time is going to be spent with your mind being challenged and exercised.
Published Sept. 27, 2015
You would never think that it would take a slightly middle-aged white guy from England to take Milwaukee on a riotous tour of the black soul music that so enwrapped the lives of so many people, black and white. But give Mark Clements, artistic director at the Milwaukee Rep, a big showy play, and he'll swing hard at the softball and hit it out of the park. That's the case with "Dreamgirls."
Published Sept. 26, 2015
A poor painter in love with a beautiful, tempestuous woman. An evil cop and his equally evil henchmen. Jealousy. Betrayal. Invading armies. Escaped prisoners. Death and destruction. If it sounds like the latest and hottest movie or an afternoon soap opera, prepare to be surprised. It's "Tosca," the famed Puccini opera that opened the 2015-16 season for Skylight Music Theatre Friday night. And please, don't let the word "opera" scare you off.