Memories of Melody Top: Remembering Milwaukee’s Summer Stock Theatre

1960s Playbills

1963 – Season One

During the very first season, Jay Harnick directed all productions. McLean Stevenson was a featured actor in BRIGADOON. Mr. Ray Morris, president of Metropolitan Cadillac in West Allis, presented Melody Top's first star, Gordon MacRae, with keys to a new 1963 Cadillac. Performers often used these courtesy vehicles to visit area attractions.

1964 – Season Two

One of Broadway’s outstanding director-choreographers and performers, Tommy Tune choreographed WILDCAT during this season. As of 2009, Mr. Tune has been awarded nine Tony Awards for his work on Broadway hits such as NINE, MY ONE AND ONLY, GRAND HOTEL and THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES. A former teacher in Milwaukee, Karen Morrow was featured in LITTLE ME. She would later appear on Broadway in the musicals I HAD A BALL with Buddy Hackett and THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD.


(Click on the program from LITTLE ME to learn more about this production.)

1965 – Season Three

Michael Bennett, the famed director-choreographer of A CHORUS LINE and DREAMGIRLS, helmed the staging of WEST SIDE STORY. Before his impressive movie career began, Christopher Walken played Riff in this same production. Earl Wrightson appeared in his second of eleven musicals at The Top, usually opposite Lois Hunt.

1966 – Season Four

David Davis directed the entire 1966 season; all productions were under the supervision of Robert Simpson. Joseph Campanella played the King opposite Gisele MacKenzie. In a very strange piece of casting, the Puerto Rican-American star Chita Rivera played a Chinese-American showgirl in FLOWER DRUM SONG. Perhaps Melody Top was the first theatre in America to implement non-traditional casting policies!

1967 Season Five

In 1967, Stuart Bishop began his long career with the theatre as director. Tommy Tune choreographed all seven productions and also appeared as Bobby in THE BOYFRIEND; he later appeared in the 1971 film version of the same musical with Twiggy. Kurt Peterson was a member of the resident ensemble this season. In a short time, he would appear in featured roles on Broadway in DEAR WORLD with Angela Lansbury and FOLLIES. It is also important to note that SWEET CHARITY opened at Melody Top while the show was playing its final months on Broadway; a very rare occurrence.


(Click on the programs above to learn more about these productions.)

1968 – Season Six

Anne Jeffreys made her first Top appearance in THE DESERT SONG opposite Bill Hayes and later returned in SONG OF NORWAY, THE KING AND I, FOLLIES and HIGH BUTTON SHOES. Milwaukee native David Holliday made his Top debut in 1968, returning many times to play major male leads. His final role was Emile in 1985's SOUTH PACIFIC. Eileen Brennan co-starred as Amy Spettigue in The Top's first WHERE'S CHARLEY?

1969 – Season Seven

Anna Maria Alberghetti played Rosabella opposite Edwin Steffe's Tony in Frank Loesser's operatic and ambitious musical, THE MOST HAPPY FELLA. Ellen Travolta, John's sister, played Cleo in the same production. The smash of the season was John Raitt (with frequent co-star Linda Michele) in Rodgers and Hammerstein's OKLAHOMA. Gretchen Wyler returned for the second of her five memorable appearances.

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