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 Sept. 3, 2015
It's fairly easy to understand why there is a mad rush to put body cameras on every police officer who hits the streets in America, including Milwaukee.There have been several incidents around the country, primarily black victims and white cops, that have in large part been responsible for increased cries for police oversight.
Published Sept. 1, 2015
Bob McGinn and Jason Wilde are the two most knowledgable reporters ever to cover the Green Bay Packers. If you want to know about this team, read or listen to them and avoid the silver tongued radio heads.
Published Aug. 27, 2015
With Donald Trump monopolizing the airwaves with his amazing campaign, it's important to recognize that our very own governor is also in this race. It is also important to note that there are significant differences between these two candidates.
Published Aug. 25, 2015
The 2015-16 theater season in Milwaukee is just underway and looking ahead there is promise of outstanding productions that will stimulate audiences to laugh, think and weep.It's an appropriate time to look back at the 2014-15 season that provided so much interesting theater. Milwaukee is fortunate to have so many theater companies, both old favorites and new and bold groups. We have a wealth of great theater that is abundant for a city our size.
Published Aug. 25, 2015
The injury to Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers, as well as other injuries to players on other NFL teams in the last couple of weeks, is a blow to the teams as they approach the regular season.They also point to the continuing folly of having four preseason games, a relic of the past that serves no purpose other than to provide additional revenue to owners of teams in the most popular and highest revenue sport in the country.
Published Aug. 20, 2015
No less an authority than the United States Department of Justice has cracked open the door to allowing tribes, which are sovereign states, to grow marijuana on their reservations. Could this mean more revenue for Wisconsin tribes?
Published Aug. 16, 2015
Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee has theory of evolution, if not about the existence of man, at least about the way one man lives and gets along with another. "Seascape," the third Pulitzer play Albee wrote, opened at American Players Theatre in Spring Green over the weekend and like his other great works, it looks at the evolution of relationships with an unerring eye and sensibility.
Published Aug. 15, 2015
There's this guy, see, and he lives in a hot apartment in Paris and he's got these three ladies, all of whom think he's going to marry them and they drop in and out of his place and he keeps track of all this dropping in and out by using the timetables of the airlines that the three ladies work for.
Published Aug. 14, 2015
Scott Walker is in danger of dropping off the radar screen unless someone lights a fire under him and gives him an injection of passion. He can learn a lot from the world of the theater, things that might actually make him seem like someone who cares.
Published Aug. 14, 2015
Angela Iannone, one of the finest actors ever to grace a stage in Milwaukee, has been engaged in a love affair for the past six years with a man who died when he was only 59 years old.Not only that, but the man died in June of 1893. Edwin Booth was his name, the finest actor of his time, the brother of the man who killed Abraham Lincoln and the object of desire for Iannone who has crafted a series of play about this lover.