The Tavern

By George M. Cohan

Directed by John Cramer
October 28 to November 13, 2011

Read the Reviews: Waukesha Freeman, WaukeshaNOW

Click on a photo to see a larger image

Photos By Carroll Studios Of Photography

Volunteer of the Production

Dylan Baxter

Director John Cramer Talks About The Show


Scott Allen

Tom Allen

Dylan Baxter


Allison Chicorel

Virginia Lamson

Jon Danner


James Donaldson


Jacqueline Gosz


Jon Jones


Tom Koth


Jacalyn Nolan


John Pfannerstill

Governor Lamson

Sandra Renick

Mrs. Lamson

Jamie Ryan


Michael Schottle


John Sindic


Phil Stepanski


Production Staff 


John Cramer

Stage Manager

Kavyn Tarnowski

Scenic Designer/Set Decorator/Master Carpenter

A.J. Simon

Costume Designer

Sally Burkard

Lighting Designer

Scott Fudali

Sound Designer

Robb Smith

Properties Designer

Shawn Spellman

Sound Board Operator

Sophie Jones

Light Board Operator

Nora Jones

Wig Master

Anthony Mackie

‘The Tavern’ is unique theatrical experience

By Julie McHale - TimeOut Theater Critic
Nov 3, 2011

When one hears the name George M. Cohan, most of us think of Broadway musicals and memorable patriotic songs such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “You’re a Grand Ole Flag,” or “Over There.”

The Waukesha Civic Theatre has unearthed one of his lesser-known works called “The Tavern,” which was first performed to raves and pans in 1920. It was fun to encounter this little treasure – a mystery steeped in melodrama, colorful characters and some clever wordplay.

The scene opens in a rustic inn in Wisconsin (the director took liberties here). A storm rages outside as the innkeeper’s son Zack goes out to the woodshed to gather some logs. He returns frightened, calls upstairs to Sally, the hired girl, and tells her that he saw a shadow on the wall. Hearing the racket, his father, Freeman, comes down, grabs his gun and goes to investigate.

The plot is in place. Is anyone really out there? Hmmm. Who and why? We also quickly learn that Freeman (Jamie Ryan) is a tyrant, and Zack and Sally (Dylan Baxter and Jacalyn Nolan) are attracted to each other, despite Freeman’s objections. Furthermore, we discover that Zack’s fear was not unfounded. There were actually two people taking refuge from the storm in their woodshed.

As the play progresses, we meet a host of engaging personalities, including the centerpiece of the cast, the no-named vagabond, deftly portrayed by James Donaldson. His antics and philosophic musings keep us amused and mystified.

His stranger companion, Violet, is also dramatically rendered by Jacqueline Gosz. Another fascinating and amusing character is Willem, a slow-witted hired boy, nicely depicted by Phil Stepanski.

There is a wealth of drama and comedy already in the mix with just these six characters, but many more characters and unexpected events await us. All this amidst an unabating storm and the insertion of occasional, appropriate dramatic background music.

Enter the governor and his family, hijacked on their way from Kenosha to Madison, seeking temporary exile in the inn. Later, three buffoons, representing law enforcement, join the ensemble, and finally an officer from a mental institution arrives to retrieve a runaway.

Standouts in the minor roles included Allison Chicorel as the governor’s beautiful, flirty daughter Virginia, and Scott Allen as Tom, her befuddled fiancé.

There’s something here for every taste – histrionics, humor, mystery, drama, romance, violence – not to mention a very creative set with special lighting and sound effects to boot.

Director John Cramer must have enjoyed weaving this production together where good casting, apt pacing and a talented production crew – A. J. Simon (set designer), Scott Fudali (lighting design) and Robb Smith (sound design) – all combined to create this entertaining treat. Kudos to all involved in this endeavor.

Review Title

By Reviewer Name
Posted: Month 16, 2011

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Enigmatic stranger drinks up 'Tavern's' mystery

By Marilyn Jozwik - WaukeshaNOW Theater Critic
Nov. 1, 2011

Waukesha Civic Theatre's "The Tavern" is not your typical "whodunit." Rather, it is more a "whoisit." The George M. Cohan melodrama is a departure from his musicals and songs such as "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "You're a Grand Old Flag." He wrote "The Tavern" in 1920.

WCT's "The Tavern" takes place on a dark and stormy night in an inn near Delavan, Wis., in the early 1900s. The sounds of pounding rain, howling wind, claps of thunder and cracks of lightning can be heard as audience members enter the theater building, and continue in the auditorium itself. Flashes of lightning dart across the stage even before actors set foot on a magnificent stage of solid-looking wood beams, a hefty wood entrance doors, guns on the wall, even a roaring "fire" in the fireplace with a deer head above the mantel. It is perhaps the finest of the many wonderful sets A.J. Simon has created for WCT.

The show opens with Zack, the tavern keeper's son (Dylan Baxter), dashing into the inn from the monstrous storm, trembling in fright. He calls for Sally, the hired girl (Jacalyn Nolan), because he has seen a shadowy figure in the woodshed. The commotion rouses Freeman, the tavern keeper (Jamie Ryan), and Willum, the hired man (Phil Stepanski).

A well-dressed man in a cape and hat (James Donaldson) appears at the door and the inn's staff soon realizes he was the man in the woodshed. He is flamboyant and speaks eloquently, but refuses to say who he is. Instead, he speaks in circles and rhymes raising suspicion. The man tells of a woman who is also hiding in the woodshed, and Zack retrieves the woman (Jacqueline Gosz), who is comatose, and brings her into the inn.

The evening turns more complex as Lamson, the governor (John Pfannerstill); his wife (Sandra Renick); Virginia, their daughter (Allison Chicorel); and their daughter's fiancé, Tom Allen (Scott Allen) seek shelter at the inn on their way to Madison. They too are confounded by The Vagabond, who bounds around the stage singing silly ditties, raves about the glorious storm raging outside and meddles in every one's affairs. When the governor screams, "Why don't you answer my questions?" he screams in reply, "Why do you question my answers?"

The Vagabond delights in the tension he has caused at the inn as he sits at table and observes, "To have not been cast in the great drama of life, I am the audience." And he adds that he is "a highly intellectual audience."

So the mystery continues. Who is this man the governor's daughter finds "quaint" and "cute"? Is he connected with the woman also found in the woodshed, who emerges from her coma to make accusations against several characters who do not know her? Why does he speak in double talk, like Shakespeare's Fools, yet is not able to speak of himself? Why does he revel as he observes the drama he's caused, saying, "I am amused, laugh and applaud?"

It is an intriguing tale that the cast, under the direction of WCT's managing artistic director, John Cramer, has kept wound tight.

Donaldson, as The Vagabond," uses every inch of the stage with his grand gestures, impromptu dances, "sword" play and his penchant for riling everyone, then throwing himself to the sidelines to watch and kibitz. It's a fascinating role that Donaldson attacks with reckless abandon.

The entire cast keeps the pace set by Donaldson. Baxter, a junior at Waukesha West, gives a fine, mature performance as the innkeeper's son. Nolan, as the hired girl who is in love with Zack, teeters at the edge of hysteria for much of the show and manages to keep the role from turning comedic.

Ryan is solid as the tavern keeper, while Gosz interjects another layer of mystery with her character. Pfannerstill as the governor is a little stiff at first, but seems to get more comfortable with his character as the play moves along.

Chicorel is suitably coquettish as the governor's daughter. Allen as her fiancé also puts in a fine turn.

Tom Koth, who played the Grinch perfectly in a WCT's holiday show, gets good mileage from his brief stint as the Sheriff.

Cramer does a fine job in keeping the cast firmly entrenched in their characters and eliciting fine performances.

But this ship would have listed badly had not Donaldson kept it right on course, keeping his enigmatic character interesting and mysterious until the very end.

Volunteer of the Production - Dylan Baxter

Dylan’s dedication to the theatre shows in everything he does. He was involved in a production with his high school while rehearsing for this show. And in his free time, Dylan helped with set construction and assisted in the locating of props when needed. One cast mate said that he "… is always cheerful and exuberant." Another said that he "... showed a maturity beyond his 16 years." His positive energy was admired by the cast and crew alike.