I was really looking forward to The Red Hot Chili Puppets’ show on the Summerfest Children’s Theater & Playzone Thursday at 12:45 p.m. Clearly under-researched, I was expecting a cloth-sock version of Flea backing up a googly-eyed Anthony.
Instead, the show featured a ventriloquist, Wayne, and his life-sized "dummy," Wingnut. You can imagine my initial disappointment.
But once I stopped bummin’ that I was not about to witness a cover of "Yertle The Turtle" or even "Under the Bridge" by a chorus of soft-mouthed Muppet wannabes, I decided to give ol’ Wayne a chance to "laugh my head off until it pops off." (Which is what he guaranteed would happen to the audience at the beginning of his show, while he played a washboard).
Wayne Francis, who is from Denver, is celebrating his 15th year at Summerfest with more than a dozen shows throughout the 11-day festival. He travels with 10 large puppets, all of which he built and gives voice to, and says he never performs the same show twice. This I found impressive and suggested to me that Wayne actually likes what he does.
And after seeing his show, I was certain that Wayne really is a guy who loves his job. He is energetic, smiley and very engaging. I could have lived without his insistence that the entire audience recite the "Star-Spangled Banner" as well as his Chihuahua puppet named Chico who speaks Spanglish.
But he made my kids laugh. A lot. And he even made me laugh when he asked, "OK, who here likes free stuff?" and when everyone raised their hands he said, "Great. After the show I am giving away a baby boy." Also, at one point he performed with a big, creepy "talking" pillow that hit on a mom in the front row. "Wanna shake my corner?" the pillow asked the lady. I wanted more of that, but alas, it was not that kind of family show.
Wayne is, quite possibly, the best ventriloquist I have ever seen. Not that I have seen many, but wow. I know ventriloquism is the art of "belly talking" but I do not understand how they do that. Only on certain letters would his upper lip raise ever so slightly. Otherwise, his mouth was as still as the hot afternoon air.
"I started practicing ventriloquism when I was 10. I sat on my bed with a joke book in one hand and a mirror in the other and I practiced until I learned," he told me after the show.
No, my head didn’t pop off, and I wouldn’t head down to Summerfest just to see Wayne and his dummies, but I would watch his 30-minute gig again with my kids. The shows at the Children’s Stage go beyond the entertainment, they are more about sitting in the shade, enjoying Summerfest with family and listening to your child, along with dozens or more other children, laugh and laugh and laugh.
These days, for me, that’s red hot.
Upcoming Wayne & Wingnut shows at Summerfest:
Friday, June 29, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 30, 2:15 p.m
Saturday, June 30, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 3, 4:45 p.m.
Wednesday, July 4, 2:15 p.m.
Wednesday, July 4, 4:45 p.m.
Friday, July 6, 2:15 p.m.
Friday, July 6, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 7, 4:45 p.m.
Saturday, July 7, 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 8, 12:45 p.m.
No Talkbacks for 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 Molly Snyder
Published July 31, 2015
Last year, Jeremy Eineichner started a theater group called Boozy Bard, an ever-changing collection of actors who get together monthly to perform a Shakespeare play at Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, 901 W. Juneau Ave. "We're doing Shakespeare the way it was meant to be done: Drunken and vastly unprepared," says Eineichner.
Published July 28, 2015
Exactly two years ago today, OnMilwaukee.com first reported that Alterra Coffee was changing its name to Colectivo. Do you still call it "Alterra" or has the "new" name stuck?
Published July 27, 2015
Last week, Fen - a 2-year-old pitbull - was most likely taken from his backyard in the Harambee neighborhood. His best friend and caregiver, Alana Wooldridge, would really like to get him back.
Published July 26, 2015
OnMilwaukee.com recently made the trek out to Panga and realized that it really wasn't much of a trek at all. Mike and Kristyn Eitel, who also own The Nomad and the BelAir chain, acquired the Oconomowoc-based Panga in early June.
Published July 25, 2015
Here's a review - and a video - of today's giant waterslide that stretched across four blocks in Downtown Milwaukee.
Published July 25, 2015
Bookworm gardens in Sheboygan is a magical place featuring creative, gorgeous gardens representing more than 65 children's books. It makes a great day trip for Milwaukeeans of all ages.
Published July 23, 2015
Some go to the Renaissance Faire for the turkey legs, but some go for the buffet of breasts.
Published July 23, 2015
Here are 10 things to do at the Faire. And no, "let your geek flag fly" did not make the list.
Published July 22, 2015
Earlier this month, Melissa Dorn Richards and Pamela Anderson transformed the top floor of the Marshall Building, 207 E. Buffalo St., and introduced Milwaukee to Material Studio + Gallery. The 6,900-square foot space formerly housed Plaid Tuba. Material will be open to the public on both Gallery Night and Day, July 24-25.
Published July 21, 2015
A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about how my Little Free Library had been emptied out, repeatedly. Two days later, I received a very generous email.