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 May 4, 2017
There are many people in Milwaukee who lead very public lives. One of them, surely, is David Stearns, the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. We sat down with him to see what makes him tick.
Published May 2, 2017
With a May 8 deadline looming, the war of words over a proposed strip club Downtown is escalating. A coalition of powerful business interests remain opposed, with the mayor and members of the Common Council on the other side, using Minneapolis as an example.
Published April 30, 2017
Let us all agree about what Junie B. Jones is not. She is not a crook. She is not a nutball. She is not in love with Handsome Warren. What she is, though, is the center of a wonderfully funny story, "Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook."
Published April 29, 2017
Theater can make you feel a lot of things, most of them wondrous, but on rare occasion it can make me feel like a dummy. And that's what I felt like after seeing "Jane Eyre," the final show of the season at The Rep, which opened Friday night.
Published April 27, 2017
It's impossible to stop thinking about the production of "Carnival" currently being staged at In Tandem Theatre, which I reviewed on opening night last week and is a fascinating example of what can happen when you stretch yourself and dream big dreams.
Published April 25, 2017
Start with a girl, beautiful and rich. Then add in her uncle and guardian who wants to marry her so he can get the money and toss in a high-born stranger who also wants the girl's hand in marriage. What you have is Florentine's "Barber of Seville."
Published April 22, 2017
For 15 years, under the guidance of art therapist Lori Vance, ExYoMKE has gone one-on-one with some of the most disaffected children in Milwaukee, children of all races and genders, and tried to help them see the world through the eyes of an artist.
Published April 22, 2017
One of the most wonderful evenings at a theater is when the show starts on a high note and just keeps getting better and better until you get to an ending where your heart is lying on the floor and your eyes are clouded with tears. That's "Carnival."
Published April 21, 2017
"The Fantasticks" is a simple little musical, the longest running in history, about a boy and a girl and being in love. The problem in the Off the Wall Theatre production is that the boy can't hold up his end of the deal, and the whole production suffers.
Published April 20, 2017
When I'm moved, I write, and fortunately, with OnMilwaukee, I have a place for that writing. The series of Uber tales from the road have run intermittently, but this story, more than anything else, proved that words and social media have the power to spark action, to make a real difference.