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One of Chicago’s most popular dinner theaters from the late 1970s through mid-1990s was the medieval-themed King’s Manor, a bawdy musical-comedy review. It was unique entertainment – a six-course banquet-style meal (no silverware allowed) and unlimited beer and wine, served by beautiful singing wenches.
The King’s Manor was co-founded by Evanston resident Steve Ukropen, and his father George Ukropen.
The food was good, the songs were raunchy, and the humor was slapstick and often improvised – all performed by a gifted group of singers, dancers, musicians, and comedians, i.e. the wenches, kings, minstrels, and jesters. One beautiful wench who performed at The King’s Manor regularly throughout the 1980s was long-time Evanston resident Ann Haskel. Mr. Ukropen and Ms. Haskel met at the Manor and subsequently married.
The club closed in 1994, but its unique work environment bred a particularly tight-knit group of friends. Wishing to stage one more show, former cast members visited the original theater space in Chicago for the first time in decades and found that, although it had since been occupied by many restaurants in the intervening years, most of the interior was in the same medieval-castle condition they designed in 1978. They tracked down the old music, gathered the gang together, rehearsed and updated the old jokes and comedic bits, and catered the same hands-only fare of chicken, ribs and corn on the cob.
The invitation-only event immediately sold out.
Steve Ukropen attended, thinking it was for a cast reunion. He was shocked when the curtains parted and the cast started singing “Magic to Do,” like they did thousands of times before between 1978 and 1994. Ann later brought Steve on stage and sang to him a King’s Manor comedic favorite, “When You are Old and Gray,” a classic Tom Lehrer song. Packed with expectant family and old friends, the standing-room-only 2.5-hour performance on Sept 10 was a huge hit.