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

Mimi Hines, making a fourth appearance "under the tent" in Milwaukee, set a box-office record with her portrayal of THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN from July 22 to August 3, 1975. While no longer paired with Phil Ford from previous Melody Top shows, she found a powerful leading man in Milwaukee-born Peter Palmer. After the final performance on Sunday night, producer Martin Wiviott presented his stars the Show Stopper Award for selling $138,485 (adjusted from "over $144,000") in tickets to 28,451 patrons during the two-week run. An audio of the presentation is at the bottom of this page.

Clyde Laurents and Mimi Hines at Melody Top

Clyde Laurents, assistant choreographer and ensemble member, with Mimi Hines "backstage" at the Top during the run of THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN. Photo from the collection of Craig Jacobs.


Photos from THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN

The Unsinkable Molly Brown 1 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 2 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 3 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 4 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 5 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 6 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 7 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 8 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 9 The Unsinkable Molly Brown 10

MOLLY Exudes Color, Spice

By Louise Kenngott, Milwaukee Journal, July 23, 1975

It's not the kind of show that has dozens of hummable songs. But the handful of great tunes and a charming plot make THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN a timeless delight in the world of musicals. Given a fresh-faced, enthusiastic production such as it received at the Melody Top Tuesday evening, Meredith Willson's musical makes for perfect summertime fare.

The tale of Molly, from Hannibal, Missouri, who went on to Leadville and Denver and finally Europe, is pure fun, with a lot of color and spice thrown in. But there's just enough bittersweet to lower the froth level of the plot. And, if it gets a little too self-consciously profound along the way, well, so what?

The story is Molly's and the stage is hers for all but a few minutes of the show. She has to be brassy but ever so sincere, loyal but confused, sweet and good and a little too noisy. With sparkle and wit, Mimi Hines is the complete Molly Brown.

She's got the spunk and character to make the role come alive. Her voice, though it sometimes dips so low that it gets lost, is generally strong and warm. She doesn't belt out her songs, but that great showstopper, "I Ain't Down Yet," comes through loud and clear.

Casting Peter Palmer as Leadville Johnny Brown opposite Miss Hines makes great sense visually alone. Palmer's kind of voice is a rare find on the musical stage. And, more than that, he played his part as though he really was that pine tree-tall Johnny Brown.

Thanks to a large and excellent cast of secondary characters, the show is bright and as tight as the Melody Top's fast-paced style can make it. The first act was a dazzler, but the second, for some reason, slipped a few too many times Tuesday. There were some shaky moments when Miss Hines groped for lines, and some static dialogue that should have been fiery and sharp.

Henri Noel is excellent as the perfectly cultured and charmingly refined Prince Delong. Martha Larrimore is a strong-willed, if not quite indignant enough, dowager as the Denver matriarch of society, Mrs. McGlone. And Joan Carvelle is all polish and gentility, though a little too royally stiff, as Princess Delong.

The show will run until August 3.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown at Melody Top

Mimi Hines (Molly Brown), Didi Hitt (an ensemble member in the background), Clyde Laurents (Monsignor Ryan) and Martha Larrimore (Mrs. McGlone) in the scene preceding "Are You Sure?" from THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN at Melody Top. Photo from the collection of Annie Bruskiewitz.


Mimi Hines Has Romp as MOLLY BROWN

By Jay Joslyn, the Milwaukee Sentinel, July 23, 1975

The frenetic Mimi Hines opened Tuesday night in Meredith Willson's THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN at the Melody Top Theatre and played the title role as through she were auditioning for Meredith Willson's THE MUSIC MAN.

Visually there is no doubt who Molly is. But there is considerable kinship between Miss Hines' rhythmically energetic portrayal and the River City conman.

Miss Hines has a style of her own that reaches out to the audience, insisting that its members have as much fun as she is having. It makes for a very personal theatrical experience.

But the production that director Stuart Bishop has put together for her doesn't carry the drive of her personality.

Her leading man, Peter Palmer, one of Milwaukee's gifts to the theater, exerts his own musical personality on the Johnny Brown role. He does well with his soaring songs, even though his smiling, "shucks"-style of acting does little to help pull the show together.

If all the parts of the show were examined separately, nothing could be found drastically wrong. They just don't fit together.

The usually melodious chorus sounds raucous. Jan Valentine's costumes are beautiful but not exciting. The choreography this time around is antic and catatonic to an incredible degree. Even Bishop's light, comic pacing fails to click consistently.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown at Melody Top

"Up Where the People Are," a dance number set inside a Monte Carlo casino from act two of THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN at Melody Top: Tracy Friedman and Wayne Mattson, Judith Ann Conte and Barry Thomas, Nancy McCloud and Barrett Hong. Photo from the collection of Annie Bruskiewitz.


THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN Cast of Characters

Molly:Mimi Hines
Michael Tobin:Barry Thomas
Aloysius Tobin:Eddie Dudek
Patrick Tobin:Wayne Mattson
Shamus Tobin:Thomas Ruisinger
Christmas Morgan:George Axler
Johnny "Leadville" Brown:Peter Palmer
Mrs. McGlone:Martha Larrimore
Monsignor Ryan:Clyde Laurents
Roberts:Dan Webber
Germaine:Judith Ann Conte
Prince Delong:Henri Noel
Princess Delong:Joan Carvelle
Malcolm Broderick:Roy Neuner
Mrs. Wadlington:Didi Hitt
Maitre D':Barrett Hong

Molly's Friends and Enemies: Robert Alton, Mib Bramlette, Joan Carvelle, Judith Ann Conte, Eddie Dudek, Tracy Friedman, John Ganzer, Didi Hitt, Barrett Hong, Sharon Little, Wayne Mattson, Nancy McCloud, Roy Neuner, Susan Rush, Barry Thomas, Dan Webber.


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