Brewery, a Fish Fry and FLW
Far End of the Lake
Berghoff & Blues
Green Lake, WI
Green Co, WI
Are We There Yet?
Very recently, a small hole opened in my
schedule and presented itself like a freshly drilled orifice in the ice
of my favorite lake: an opportunity to get away for an "overnighter" and
we were off like a flash to Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Destination?
The Fireside. A good friend had been urging me to go for
almost a year and this time everything fell into place.
It has been a long time since I have
attempted a dinner/theater evening, and this for several reasons.
First, the dinners have generally been in the range of mediocre to
poor... at best. Second, it was always too easy to nod off before
the theater portion was twenty minutes into the not-well-produced and
boring show. And third, the shows were generally too long and
never all that exciting to begin with. Allow me at this juncture
to jump to the end of the story and strongly urge you to pick up the
phone and call the Fireside - immediately - and make a reservation for
one of those experiences that will have you talking about it for a long
time to come. I hope the reason for the urgency will become clear
Ft. Atkinson, Wisconsin is located at the
junction of routes 26 and 12, an easy two hours from Chicago and
surrounding suburbs, an hour from Milwaukee and a mere 45 minutes from
Madison, where I had chosen to stay for the weekend (more on Madison). The town itself is big on amenities and long on
activities; when I revisit the Fireside - which I promised myself would
be very soon - I am going to sample as much as possible of what Money
Magazine calls one of the "Hottest Little Boomtowns".
Importantly, the Fireside brings to Ft.
Atkinson, as well as the entire Midwest, a truly Broadway-caliber
theater that will appeal to all age groups - a fact that was exemplified
by the large number of children that I observed attending the
performance that evening. And those youngsters were having just as
much fun as anyone in the large audience (the Fireside
theater-in-the-round can accommodate up to 650 at a time). The
theater talent is scouted by Artistic Director Ed Flesch, producer of
all the Fireside's roughly five shows per year since coming on board in
1978. When looking for a cast for his show, Flesch heads to New
York where he'll see more than 600 actors auditioning for perhaps 20
parts. The rigorous schedule to which they will commit includes
over 80 performances in a 9-10 week period. This, and all his
shows to be sure, are well-written and masterfully performed. Add
to that the professional costume designers, set and lighting designers
and the musical directors and choreographers and you have a high class
production available in but a few areas of the country.
The show that Heidi and I attended -
Those Fabulous Fifties - was about as fast-paced as any I have ever
witnessed and the energy released was roughly equivalent to that
required by all the air-conditioners of Los Angeles during a summer heat
wave! The Fifties were my years and every song performed
that evening, from television commercials to theme songs to
chart-toppers, were ones to which I knew the lyrics. Ok, so there
were a few to which I couldn't sing along... but at least I knew the
tune! In any case, I would find it extremely hard to believe that
there was even a single droopy eyelid in the crowd that evening.
The music was nothing short of spectacular, the choreography splendid
and finely tuned, and the evening passed very quickly. Even if you
don't remember hula hoops, Ipana toothpaste, Sputnik and TV Dinners,
the music from the Platters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Pat Boone, Ricky
Nelson and a host of others will surely bring your hands together,
tapping to your feet and smiles to your faces. A six-piece band
sounded more like a full orchestra and 11 actors filled the theater with
music, laughter, applause and delight, the likes of which I have not
experienced in quite a while... absolutely top-notch!!
And in case you thought I forgot about
the dinner, I have not. Owners Dick and Betty Klopcic built a
small restaurant in 1964 offering fine food, great service and an
intimate atmosphere. People frequented from miles around on a
regular basis. Over the years, the size of the venue has
increased, now able to accommodate up to 1000 diners. In 1978 a 435 seat
theater was added; later additions increased capacity to 652 seats.
The theater now boasts stat-of-the-art sound and lighting, a hydraulic
lift system in the stage and complete handicap accessibility.
There are also five themed gift shops to browse. Two interesting
things of note. The first is that, for such a huge capacity restaurant,
the size of the place is not immediately obvious. There are
numerous, intimate areas and several levels on which to dine, and one
does not have a sense of the immensity of the structure. Secondly
- and perhaps even more importantly - the food and service are both
exceptional and the prices are very reasonable.
The kitchen staff develops a new menu
with each new theater production. This particular menu featured such
items as Fresh Atlantic Sole Florentine ($28.50 - Heidi's choice),
Wisconsin Duck Montmorency ($28.50 - I had this and it was outstanding),
Beef Wellington ($33.50), Chicken Vienna ($27.50) and New York Strip
Sirloin Steak ($36.50). There was also a New York Style
Lemon Cheesecake for dessert that was, as stated, a Grand Finale.
It is important to note that entree prices include a complete diner:
soup, salad, entree, dessert and coffee, tea or milk. There was
also a tasty Reuben Pate served as an appetizer and freshly baked breads
from the Fireside's own bakery. My compliments to Executive Chef
David Wolfram and his entire staff. The dining tables were all
dressed up in white cloths; fine silver, water and wine glasses and
candles added the touches of class, and the excellent service put the exclamation
point on the dinner experience.
Special Thanks to Fireside President
Rick Klopcic and his entire staff for a marvelous evening, Ed Flesch for
a tremendous production and all the wonderful actors and the incredible
Those Fabulous Fifties!
And as always, a huge thanks to a
special friend, Gary Knowles, for showing me a great place to go for an