Back On Stage

new troupe to revive theater at Fanny Hill

Caleb Gerdes

STAGE OF YORE. Plays like this 2011 production of A Very Rudyful Christmas were a fixture at Fanny Hill for decades. A new troupe, South of the River Theatre Company will revive performances at the venue in 2015.
A new troupe – South of the River Theatre Company – will revive
performances at Fanny Hill in 2015.

When I heard earlier this year that the Fanny Hill was closing its dinner theater I felt that maybe the world had changed irrevocably for the worst: There was no longer a place to bring significant others for significant food while being thoroughly entertained by the wonders of the theater.

Earlier this year the owners of Fanny Hill, 3919 Crescent Ave., realizing they could no longer support six-to-eight-week productions made the tremendously difficult decision to close down the theater portion of the establishment. “We all tried a million different things to keep it alive,” said Linda Heyde, who owns Fanny Hill with her husband, Dennis. “It was terribly sad and painful to let it go.” (She was quick to point out that Fanny Hill has continued in its tradition as an amazing upscale casual restaurant.)

However, Fanny Hill has maintained its finger on the pulse of what customers want and made every effort to listen and appease their guests. And so enters the South of the River Theatre Company organized by Amy Reise, the soon-to-be-former executive director of the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie.

“By having a limited two-week run, four nights and two brunches, each month, I believe the productions will fill fast and we will have a win-win situation for both us and our guests,” – Linda Heyde, co-owner, on the revival of theater at Fanny Hill

The new partnership between South of the River and Fanny Hill will provide the Valley with high-quality theater in a sustainable manner. “By having a limited two-week run, four nights and two brunches, each month, I believe the productions will fill fast and we will have a win-win situation for both us and our guests,” Heyde said. The theater productions will share the stage with many different types of performers throughout the year, everyone from the Chippewa Valley Community Television’s The Sue Orfield Show to dueling pianos to a New Orleans Jazz New Year’s to stand-up comedians. “The word seems to be out as we are getting calls from many different groups looking to use the space,” Heyde said. The diversification of the talent and entertainment options may foster a new level of appreciation for the much-loved local treasure.

As for South of the River, expect to find a new level of passion and energy bursting the seams of the Valley’s theater scene. Reise, a longtime lover of all things theater and a very experienced presence in the realm of local theater, will use her passion and expertise to wow and awe guests of Fanny Hill. “We are so glad that Amy came to check out the theater,” Heyde said. “I think it will be an excellent fit for us and the South of the River Theatre Company.”

South of the River has four productions planned so far in the coming year, all of which you will be sorry to miss. A Fanny Hill Christmas will be the inaugural production of the new partnership. The Last Five Years is a musical by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown which features a unique look at a five-year relationship, where one of the characters story moves backward in time and the other moves forward in time. Ten November is a tragic musical about the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior in 1975. And last but not least is a play to be announced at a future time. Which means you will need to do one of a few different things: Either go to Fanny Hill for dinner, taking mouthfuls of great morsels; check out Fanny Hill’s Facebook page/website; or pray to become a theater-specific prophet/prophetess.

The future of Fanny Hill appears to be very bright and Heyde is very excited about the next steps for the wonderful gem of a restaurant. “I think it will definitely help us expand our horizons to other groups who may want to use the theater,” she said.

To learn more about Fanny Hill and its upcoming theatrical productions, go to fannyhill.com.

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