Theater, Wisconsin

Oliver! at the Schauer Art Center

Schauer Arts Center Program
The Schauer Center is located at 147 N. Rural Street in Hartford, Wisconsin.

This afternoon, I took my kids to see Oliver! at the Schauer Arts and Activities Center in Hartford, Wisconsin. We’ve been to a number of plays in Milwaukee, but I thought it would be a great experience to visit a new theater. Plus, the Schauer Center has a reputation for offering city-quality shows without the hassle of big city parking.

Located in downtown Hartford, the Schauer Center is attached to the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in a rustic building that reeks of “Up North” ambience. The theater is just as nice as, if not nicer than, some of the venues I had previously attended in Milwaukee.

Side note: speaking of Milwaukee theaters, I would advise that you avoid The Milwaukee Theater unless you can afford front row seats. (Unless, of course, you enjoy watching plays on a stage that appears, from the nosebleed section, to be the size of a postage stamp.)

The Hartford venue was cool and comfy on this stuffy June day, but the musical itself left a lot to be desired. Not being a native Wisconsinite myself, I often had some difficulty understanding the actors with their Wisconsin-inflected British accents. A few of the starring actors did a fine job (the actor playing Bill Sykes, for example,) but several of the other players spoke as if through a mouth full of cotton balls. And Mrs. Sowerberry, although an excellent shrieker, spoke more like a New Jersey Housewife than a British undertaker’s wife.

Oliver at the Schauer Art Center
Oliver at the Schauer Art Center

Unfortunately, I was not the only person in my party to find Oliver! lacking. My 13-year-old actually fell asleep after the intermission, and I secretly entertained the idea of leaving before the show was over. I can’t necessarily blame that on the show, though… I should blame myself for taking a 13-year-old boy who’s too cool for musicals to a musical. I would not recommend this particular show for that particular type of child, if you should happen to be considering weekend entertainment options for your own teenagers.

My 6-year-old, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy the musical. He loves music and spent a great deal of our time at the Schauer Center clapping his hands and bobbing his head to the music. I should also note that the elderly gentleman who sat on the other side of me laughed his head off throughout the play as though he was having the time of his life.

Bottom line: I recommend that you send your elderly parents or grandparents off to see Oliver! with their grandchildren while you go get your nails done. And don’t forget to drop your teenage son off at the skate park on your way to the spa!

~Mandy Webster

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