In case you missed it, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater is prepping an original rock musical about “Milwaukee’s infamous femme fatal,” Lawrencia “Bambi” Bembenek. Yes, Run Bambi Run will detail the wild story of the late Bembenek, who was (wrongly?) convicted of shooting and killing her then-husband’s ex-wife in 1981, who professed her innocence for years before escaping from prison in July 1990, and who became an on-the-lamb folk hero (thus the whole “Run Bambi Run” thing) before being captured in October 1990.
The zany story—which also includes crooked Milwaukee cops, naked volleyball parties at Tracks, and a mother of two being shot and killed by someone—is set to premiere in the Quadracci Powerhouse September 13 – October 22. And oh yeah: it will feature original music and lyrics from Violent Femmes frontman Gordon Gano. Because of course it will. (Expect a musical about the Cryptosporidium outbreak of 1993, with songs from the BoDeans, for the Rep’s 2024/25 season.)
Want a taste of those Gano tunes? Here’s the “toe-tapping, head-banging” curtain opener “Innocent Or Guilty.” It sets the table for a story that eventually includes a post-prison Bembenek moving to the West Coast, having part of her leg amputated after falling (jumping?) from a hotel window while waiting to appear on Dr. Phil, and dying of liver and kidney failure at the age of 52 in 2010. “Living in her time and being in shit,” indeed.
And here’s “Polish-American Girl,” a wistful origin story that sounds like Elsa from Frozen singing about being from Milwaukee instead of Arendelle, and shimmying out of a laundry room window at Taycheedah Correctional Institution instead of holing up in an ice palace.
The Rep will have a one-day discounted sale on adult tickets to Run Bambi Run on Tuesday, June 20. Here’s the musical’s full synopsis. This is gonna be weird.
The truth is indeed stranger than fiction in this new musical ripped from the headlines! An outrageous ‘true crime’ saga that took the nation by storm, Lawrencia “Bambi” Bembenek’s fall from Milwaukee Police Department cop to Playboy Bunny lands her in the slammer, convicted of a murder that she didn’t commit. Or did she? Fueled with rock songs and lyrics from Grammy-nominee Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, a captivating book by Academy Award-winner Eric Simonson (Lombardi), and Artistic Director Mark Clements’ directorial showmanship, this rollicking hometown story about the search for truth and justice is a wild ride that you have to see to believe.
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