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

Welcome to a Melody Top Tribute!

For twenty-four consecutive summers, from 1963 to 1986, Milwaukee's Melody Top Theatre entertained area audiences with time-honored musicals uniquely presented "in the round." Melody Top presented a mixture of popular musicals and classic operettas, usually with a star performer or two in each production. Legendary performers from Broadway (Chita Rivera and John Raitt), movies (Van Johnson and Jane Powell) and television (Lucie Arnaz and Barry Williams) performed for appreciative audiences at the Top. One of Broadway's current stars, Christine Ebersole, played the leads in both MY FAIR LADY and EVITA. Celebrated directors and choreographers, Michael Bennett and Tommy Tune, started their careers "under the tent" in southeastern Wisconsin. David Holliday, George Lee Andrews and Anthony Crivello — all born in Milwaukee — played prominent roles in many productions.

1963 Poster 1986 Poster

When the theatre first opened for business on the far northwest side of Milwaukee, performances were held inside a completely tented structure. For the start of the 1978 season, a wooden dome was erected as protection from inclement weather. Tenting was still used to enclose the main structure and a few smaller areas. The casual atmosphere of a tent in summer provided the perfect environment for families with children, vacationers and area residents to enjoy an evening of live entertainment on Good Hope Road. As with any structure featuring indoor and outdoor characteristics, the theatre's main performing space provided challenges to those on- and off-stage.

During the middle of the last century, summer stock theatres thrived in such diverse settings as tents, barns, hotels and even sports stadiums. Due to major changes in popular culture and the entertainment industry, most of these venues no longer exist. But for those of us who remember sitting in a tent on a balmy summer evening and watching the great stars of stage and screen sing and dance and carry on, it was a magical experience! Please take a few minutes to browse this website. And if you have a memory about Melody Top you would like to share, click on the contact information link. In the future, this website will provide a forum for sharing stories, and maybe even memorabilia, with others who remember Melody Top Theatre!

Once Upon a Mattress

A rare color photograph of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS (1974). Melody Top favorite Travis Hudson, with her back to the camera, is Queen Agravain. Jerry Clark, in glasses and a light-colored tunic, is Prince Dauntless. Photo from the collection of Nancy McCloud.

©2009-2013 D.G.P., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Please visit the contact information page to address the webmaster.