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75 Years of Memories

One of many area dinner theaters combining food and shows

Oct. 28, 2009
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Zipping northward up Interstate 43, past the Milwaukee County line to where the gently rolling hills bear late crops, winter wheat or cattle in the remaining days of fall, you’ll find Memories. It’s on the outskirts of Port Washington—the “newest” dinner theater celebrating its 75th anniversary!

OK, so it’s not “new” at 75 years, but it didn’t always bear the name Memories. Actually, it started out as Weiler’s Log Cabin Ballroom in 1934. Locals may even refer to that name today. And yes, it still has its suspended dance floor—so generous on dancing limbs with its “give” that it’s almost the equivalent of waltzing on marshmallows. Some of the structure’s past aliases include Port Zivko and Port Danceland. Renamed Memories in ’95, the dinner theater inaugurates the opening of its 18th consecutive theater season this weekend.

So, respecting the speed limit, less than a 30-minute drive from Milwaukee’s Downtown brings you to the rustic elegance of Memories Dinner Theater. Memories’ season kicks off on Oct. 30 with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s hit musical, Some Enchanted Evening (running for two weekends on Friday and Saturday evenings plus a Sunday matinee). Later in the season come two more musicals alternating with two comedies for a change of pace (one of them, Baggage, is likely a Milwaukee premiere). Patrons will remain seated at the (cleared) dinner tables for the entertainment portion of the evening.

Memories offers other events as well. For Chicken Comedy night, genial host Rob Haswell (meteorologist on Fox 6’s “WakeUp”) presides over nationally known comedians. Alert: The evening includes all the broasted chicken you can eat! Initially a caterer provided the comestibles for Memories, but for the past several years an in-house kitchen staff has whipped up dishes with the freshest foods available. If you’re into astrology, you can attend one or more Psychic and Wellness Fairs. Or you might put some new vigor into your once-sexy tango by brushing up with some ballroom dancing lessons. Possibly planning a spring wedding reception? Or even the wedding itself? Memories has handled both with distinction.

It’s not tricky getting there: Follow I-43 North to Exit 100. Take a right off the expressway, followed by an immediate left at the lights onto County Road LL (all clearly marked). Take LL 3 miles north and the Memories’ sign and building will be on your immediate right at the corner of LL and Lake Drive. You can’t miss it—and there are plenty of parking spaces, too. But first drop in on memoriesballroom.com for programs, tickets and calendar information. Calling (262) 284-6850 also gets results.

Dinner Theaters Carry On Amid Closings

Unfortunately, two local dinner theaters have slipped away from us: Broadway Baby (Mill Road at 52nd), though we hope this is just a temporary hiatus, and Melanec’s Wheelhouse on a Downtown bank of the Milwaukee River. That ship-like structure, cargo-laden most recently with murder-mystery memories involving some diners as suspects, will be razed and the grounds turned into a public park.

In the heart of Downtown, dinner theater continues to flourish in the Stackner Cabaret, part of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater complex. This jazzy little theater’s 22nd season has kicked off and continues with a rousing Soultime: At the Apollo, in honor of the American musical heritage fostered by that entertainment emporium in New York’s Harlem. Then, in time for some great fun around the November and December holiday shopping trips, you’ll find a world premiere musical comedy called Holmes and Watson. What would Holmes and Watson do without the presence of the fiendish Professor Moriarty to set his diabolical traps for the sleuthing duo?

Travel hint: Within an easy drive of Milwaukee are other dinner theaters in Fort Atkinson (Fireside Theatre), the Dells (Broadway Dinner Theatre) and Janesville (the Armory). All of them, too, are part of our rich cultural heritage with gustatory trimmings. (Try the Armory’s ratatouille—ambrosia!)


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