Advertise on OnMilwaukee.com
Do people really call Boston "Beantown?"
Do people really call Boston "Beantown?"

Whirlwind trip to Boston: What should I do?

As you might have gleaned, the OnMilwaukee.com editorial staff is in jet-set mode this summer. As part of our Free Recession Buster Getaways blog contest -- with AirTran and OnMilwaukee.com giving away two tickets and a netbook -- we’re checking out some major U.S. cities for two days of fun-filled article research.

Drew Olson went to St. Louis, Julie Lawrence went to Los Angeles, Andy Tarnoff went to Washington D.C., Bobby Tanzilo went to San Diego and on Monday, I’m going to Boston. I have never been there and I’m really looking forward to exploring the city and meeting up with a couple of former Milwaukeeans who are going to show me around the Hub.

Now, I’m compiling my itinerary and trying to load up as many experiences as I can during my short stay. So far, I have the Freedom Trail, a Harpoon or Sam Adams Brewery Tour, the Gardner Museum and Harvard Square on the list. But where else should I go?

There’s no way I will be able to see all -- or even a portion -- of what this amazing city has to offer in my 48-hour time frame, but I’m going to try.

What's your favorite flava?
What's your favorite flava?

Give me custard or give me death

Sunday’s Sound-off article asked if custard was overrated and, according to the majority of Talkbackers, it’s not. In fact, people wrote in declaring their love for very specific custard flavors, including Kopp’s grasshopper fudge.

I remember the first time I went to Kopp’s on Port Washington Road, back when it was adorned with plants and an indoor waterfall. I got a dish of cookies ‘n’ cream and I was instantly smitten. Today, my personal favorite custard flavor is the hyper decadent caramel cashew, but I have high expectations for Kopp’s red velvet cake custard that’s featured again on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

And it's not just Kopp's that dispensing the good stuff. Bella's and Leon's get a shout out, too, along with many other neighborhood custard stands. As a kid, Pig 'N' Whistle on Capitol Drive was another top custard spot for me and my Shorewood-based family.

What are your favorite custard flavors? Tiramisu? Mint chip? Straight up vanilla? Might I see you later in line at Kopp’s or Bella’s? Thought so.

Never take yourself too seriously. At times, we jokingly pretended to be rock stars. Hence, the dry ice.
Never take yourself too seriously. At times, we jokingly pretended to be rock stars. Hence, the dry ice.

Lessons learned from my first gig

The formation of my punk band is the only thing in my life that is happening ahead of schedule.

My friend and I had a long running joke that we were going to fulfill a mutual lifelong dream and start a band when we were 50. However, over time we decided to jump start our rock star status and started messing around with sound more than a decade earlier than originally planned.

There are a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t be in a band. For starters, I have only been playing bass for six months. I practice almost every day, but still, I register pretty high on the Sucktometer. Also, with two kids and a job and so many other responsibilities, the proverbial full plate is more like a teeming trough.

In fact, there are so many other things I could or "should" be doing with my time instead of making bad sounds in my friend’s basement, and yet my two bandmates and I meet religiously every Thursday night.

It all started one frigid evening in mid-January.

There we were, freezing in Renee’s basement, wearing hats and gloves with the fingers cut off so we could stay warm and still play. But despite the missed notes and flat singing, that night, my band was born in a Riverwest basement, joining the ranks of every other Milwaukee band -- spectacular or craptacular -- that has ever existed.

The first few practices were rough. We practiced for four or five hours at a shot, trying to come up with something that sounded remotely like The Cure’s "Boys Don’t Cry." We were officially a Totally Crappy Basement Band.

However, every week we video recorded ourselves playing a song, and by March, when we watched the clips in succession, we realized we were actually getting better. We elevated our band status from Totally Crappy to Sorta Shatty, and we kept going.

Last night we played our first gig at a friend’s birthday party. It was our maiden voyage from the basement, and the only time we played for anyone or anything other than the was…

Read more...
The technical crew works to perfect all 22 of the scenes in "Phantom."
The technical crew works to perfect all 22 of the scenes in "Phantom."
The "Phantom" chandelier is 1,000 pounds.
The "Phantom" chandelier is 1,000 pounds.
Advance stage manager David Hansen heads the team that sets up the stage.
Advance stage manager David Hansen heads the team that sets up the stage.

Backstage with "The Phantom"

"The Phantom of the Opera" officially opens tomorrow and runs through Aug. 30 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Recently, David Hansen, the show’s advance stage manager, gave me a sneak peek of the incredible construction process that takes place in preparation for such an extravagant show.

"It’s a whole different show backstage," says Hansen.

The show travels from venue to venue in 20 48-foot trailers. According to Hansen, it requires 10 days and about 80 people -- 50 of whom are hired locally -- to create the elaborate sets. The largest jobs include hanging and preparing the signature chandelier, which is 1,000 pounds and features 35,000 beads, as well as constructing the black towers and the bridge, called the "travelator," and building 141 candles into the stage floor.

"We’re in a crunch right now," says Hansen.

Hansen says because "The Phantom of the Opera" is an older show, it was created with less technology than what’s available today. Therefore, even though more and more technology gets added every year, the show remains a mix of people and computer power.

"It’s a really cool aspect of this show," he says.

Hansen, who has been on the road with one show or another since 1981, says the behind-the-scene workers pull 16-hour shifts to prepare for the show, working some days from 8 a.m. until midnight.

"But we are all here because we all still love this show," he says.

"Phantom of the Opera" is an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical and the longest running show on Broadway. It tells the story of a disfigured musical genius who becomes obsessed with a beautiful soprano, Christine. The show is based on a French novel by Gaston Leroux, and was made into a film in 2004.

Tickets for the Milwaukee performances range from $20 to $68. Visit the Web site for more information and to buy tickets.

Read more...