Date:   6/16/2006

Thrasher Opera House – from Vaudeville to Ventriloquists.

Vaudeville – A stage variety show, with singing, dancing, comedy skits, and animal acts; highly popular in America from the late 1880’s to the 1930’s, when it lost out to movies, radio, and subsequently television.

 

It was exactly ten years ago (1996) that the process began to resurrect one of Green Lake’s most treasured old beauties; Thrasher Opera House (TOH).  After having languished as a warehouse for many years, this old diamond-in-the-rough was painstakingly brought back to life and returned to its proper position in the community.  In 1997, Thrasher came full circle - back to its original purpose as being a musical, cultural and educational venue, as well as providing a community gathering place in beautiful downtown Green Lake.

 

Thrasher originally opened for business in 1910, and interestingly enough, the activities common to the opera house during that era, remain much the same today.  Weddings, lectures and school activities, as well as movies, plays, concerts, and yes, even vaudeville - sans bicycle-riding monkeys – bear witness to the significance of salvaging this historical icon of days-gone-by.  The expression, “history repeats itself,” certainly holds true in this case.

 

Every artist that has performed at TOH has shown a keen interest in its nearly 100-year history and significance to our small community.  They’re all apt to express, in some form or another, the same clear message – that we have an absolute gem here and very fortunate to have salvaged it, as there are not many of these old beauties still in existence.   

 

Without a doubt, Thrasher is once again a center of activity in Green Lake.   In addition to a calendar full of various private rentals, there is schedule of performances for the second half of 2006, so diverse, that we’re certain there is something to please just about everyone. Just take a peek.

 

We began the Summer/Winter season with Missoula Children's Theatre (MCT), the nation’s largest touring children’s theatre.  Offered for years during the winter months, our second MCT summer workshop featuring all local children was as much a success this year as last summer. After a weeklong schedule of practice and fun – children from grades 1-12 enjoyed the fruits of their labor by performing to an eager audience of parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and neighbors.  This special weeklong workshop, offered at no cost to the children, could not be possible without the help of some very special supporters who understand the importance of the arts in our children’s lives. We sincerely thank them for that.

 

Looking ahead to Friday, June 30, at 7:30 p.m., Thrasher is excited to be introducing Native American folk-rock singer/songwriter, and Kerrville New Folk Award-winner, Jackie Tice, to the area.  Radio programmers from New York City and Boston to Chicago and San Francisco have heralded her with banners like, “Best new songwriter,” and “A stand-out!”   With the release of her most recent CD, Second Skin, Tice has made full use of her award winning performing and song writing skills with ten songs spanning pop-rock, jazz and folk styles. 

 

Polka comes to town on Saturday, July 8 – a first for Thrasher.  After numerous requests from locals, we were able to find one of the most recognizable Wisconsin bands in this field; The Don Peachey Band.  From polka, big band, waltzes and the foxtrot, this band delivers an evening of 100% pure fun!  The opera house will be set with tables and chairs, leaving ample room for kicking up your heels.  So dust off those dancing shoes and mark your calendars for a four-hour (7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.) dance extravaganza.  

Lynn Trefzger is a ventriloquist/comedienne extraordinaire, with a trunk full of zany characters that have accompanied her to stages throughout the country - and now, to our stage on Saturday, August 5 at 7:30 p.m.  Her vocal illusion talents were first brought to national audiences on TV’s popular “Star Search” and she has since performed with artists including Jeff Foxworthy, Ray Romano, Smothers Brothers, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Her off-the-wall audience interplay is riotously funny.  Lynn (along with and her many voices) has appeared on ABC, TNN, A&E and Lifetime.  Fact: Your voice is not necessarily your own when you’re in an audience for Lynn Trefzger’s show.  You could find yourself next to a rather cantankerous old man -- or with a new baby you didn’t even realize you had!   

Chance is joined by Randy Sabien as they make a return visit to Thrasher on Saturday, August 26 at 7:30 p.m.  Ed Willett and Cheryl Leah (Chance) have devoted themselves to exploring the wedding between two icons of power and passion, the cello and the human voice. Theirs is a hybrid musical form that springs from classical chamber music, folk, and jazz in an emerging genre known as World Chamber Music.  Renowned jazz violinist, Randy Sabien, once again joins them on stage with his rhythmic, bluesy, swinging style, heavily influenced by the late, great Stephane Grappelli.  Sabien’s style compels people to start tapping their toes and dancing right out of their chairs.  A favorite guest of “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Austin City Limits,” NPR Jazz Profiles best describes Randy as “The past, present and future of jazz violin."

And believe it or not, it's been over 40 years already since harmonicist/pianist/vocalist Corky Siegel and guitarist/vocalist Jim Schwall met as college students and formed The Siegel-Schwall Band, one of Chicago's most beloved blues groups from the mid-1960's through the mid-1970's.   The band recorded ten critically acclaimed albums, toured relentlessly, and shared stages with artists such as The Allman Brothers, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane. In addition to their recordings, the band was renowned for their high energy, good-time live shows.

The latest recording by Siegel-Schwall, Flash Forward (Alligator Records, 2005), featuring Sam Lay (drummer with Paul Butterfield, Little Walter, Howlin Wolf, and Bob Dylan), is their first recording since 1987 and first recording with original material since 1973.  It was nominated for a W.C. Handy award (Blues Music Award), and was listed as #2 in a Billboard Magazine Critic's Choice of ALL 2005 CD releases!

A special two-night engagement has been arranged for Siegel-Schwall’s much-anticipated return.  They’ll be performing on Friday, September 8 and Saturday, September 9 at 7:30 p.m. each night.  In addition, a few of the band members (good sports, as they are), have agreed to be judges at the Wisconsin State Chili cook-off at Deacon Mills Park on Saturday afternoon.  Can you imagine tasting spicy chili all day and then performing a high-energy show all night?   Good sports?  More like, good luck!  

We may not have the variety shows featuring singing, dancing, and comedy skits all on the same stage, same night as described of old Vaudeville – however, there is no disputing the ‘variety’ we bring to today’s stage!  Hold on, there’s more to come.  Many more performances are scheduled throughout the year – everything from a folk-country-pop, rock-Tex-Mex bluegrass & jazz duo, to an all-woman swing band, to a blues band featuring all family members - including a 13 year-old harmonica prodigy, plus, an exclusive two-night holiday performance by a renowned solo pianist.  So please check the website, and check it often – because as one last surprise – we’ll soon be revealing details on the return of one of this area’s most well-loved performers!  For more information visit www.thrasheroperahouse.com or call the office at 294-4279. 

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