"Here's to Dubuque! / In the great state of Iowa!"
Iowa theatregoers have been humming that catchy refrain since 1996 and did again this season, June 12-July 11, when the summer entertainment Here's To Dubuque! returned to Five Flags Theatre on Main Street (where else?) in Dubuque.
David Resnick and Paul Hemmer's musical traces the town through 150 years of history, from 18th century drawing rooms to flappers to wartime to the Hippie movement. It is the authors' hope Dubuque will have a life outside...Dubuque. Resnick told Playbill On-Line, "Just after the show closes in mid-July, we're hoping to do a professional cast recording in mid-August, maybe with professional singers helping out."
As the press release puts it, the show "takes its cue from the phrase, `If these walls could talk,' since the whole piece takes place in the drawing room of a grand house. Over the years, the room changes from a socialite's house to a doctor's office, to a speakeasy, to a funeral parlor.
Songs in the show include "Here's To Dubuque!," "The Ladies' Literary Association," "Ungrateful Whiners," "Happy Howl, Erl King;" "Who Needs Light?" and "My Home Is With You." Author and co-producer Resnick, who has directed and/or acted in more than 40 shows over the years, told Playbill On-Line the show came about when his friend, Hemmer, was searching for a show to celebrate Iowa's sesquicentennial in 1996. "I brought him my idea of one play in the same location over periods of time (something like The Dining Room)," said Resnick. "In Dubuque we have some grand old homes that have gone through the kinds of changes as the one in the show. In fact, the show was originally called Sketches From A Drawing Room, and if it ever goes beyond Dubuque, I'd name it that again. But here we call it "Here's To Dubuque!" for the tourists, really."
Resnick and Hemmer are still working on the show. "We made some revisions since last year," Resnick told Playbill On-Line. "Each story ended nice and pat and happy -- which got old. Now it's more real, and (to use a musical reference) not always the tonic chord ending the scene. We've added things that keep the angst up a little bit. Instead of just a boyfriend-girlfriend thing, we have a troubled marriage with a child involved that ups the stakes in a lot of different ways. So the show is light, and not a history lesson, but we take the time periods seriously."
For tickets ($12.50-$20) to Here's To Dubuque! call (319) 589-4258. You can also check out the show's website at http://php.indiana.edu/~miklein/sketches.htm, which features downloadable sound clips of the score.
-- By David Lefkowitz