What’s Going On

For the week of December 16-22…

Avalon Theater Grand Reopening, December 18, 2473 S KK Avenue (neighborhoodtheatregroup.com)

The week the Bay View area has been waiting for since the 90’s arrives with this week’s reopening of the historic Avalon Theater. With the opening, Milwaukee is now bookended by two classic movie palaces; the Oriental on the north side, and the Avalon on the south side. Milwaukee’s Neighborhood Theatre Group, which also manages the Times Cinema in Washington Heights and the Rosebud in Wauwatosa, has taken the longest time to reopen the Avalon. It’s also the most ambitious of the three theater renovation projects undertaken by NTG, and the one requiring the most work. Now that it’s done, one can see the wait was well worth it. It’s now a two-screen venue (The Times and Rosebud are single screens) with both sporting state-of-the-art digital projection equipment. The theater interiors have been completely upgraded, yet the hacienda courtyard and twinkling stars motif have been retained in the main theater. There’s also full food and beverage service, along with a brand-new lounge area which begs comparison to Whitefish Bay’s Fox Bay Cinema, itself a renovation of a 1950’s deco venue. The first two films featured in the new theater are The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies and Night at the Museum 3. Hopefully the Avalon will follow the lead of the Rosebud and Times and occasionally show movie classics as well. But for now, let’s celebrate that Milwaukee movie lovers’ wish has indeed come true: the Avalon is back!!

The Sleighriders, December 22, Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave (shankhall.com)

Once a year, Milwaukee’s biggest rock band takes the stage at Shank Hall and presents a gift to Milwaukee’s music fans, and for decades the show has been a benefit for Variety Club Children’s Charities. Over 40 musicians (including a full horn AND string section!) take the stage, and the set list is a virtual jukebox of pop music genres, truly the ultimate Christmas party! Included on the band roster are Milwaukee music legends Sigmund Snopek, Xeno, Steve Cohen, Warren Wiegratz, Greg Koch, Eddie Butts, and Steve Grimm, plus dozens more! Like other Milwaukee Yuletide traditions like The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, people attend this show year in and year out, and it’s become nothing less than an annual reunion with old friends, both on and offstage. The music rolls at 7 pm sharp, but a note of warning: If you’re not in line when the doors open at 6:30, you will NOT get in!

Also, just a note these Milwaukee holiday shows continue performances…
The Milwaukee Rep’s A Christmas Carol at the Pabst Theater through 12/24 (milwaukeerep.com)
The Milwaukee Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Marcus Center through 12/27 (milwaukeeballet.org)
The Milwaukee Rep’s Harvey at the Powerhouse Theater through 12/21 (milwaukeerep.com)
Who Killed Santa? at Soulstice Theater through 12/31 (whokilledsanta.com)
In Tandem Theater’s A Cudahy Caroler Christmas at 10th Street Theater through 1/4
The Wizard of Oz at Cabot Theater through 1/4 (skylightmusictheatre.org)
Liberace! at Stackner Cabaret through 1/11 (milwaukeerep.com)

And for those of you who are craving to see It’s A Wonderful Life on the Big Screen, the Times Cinema at 5906 W Vliet St grants your wish with screenings at 10 am on 12/20 (Saturday) and 12/24 (Christmas Eve)!

What’s Going On

For the week of December 9-15…

Surprise/Sorpresa, December 11, Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N 4th St (exfabula.com)

Twice a year, Ex Fabula, Milwaukee’s premier storytelling group, presents an All-Star Spectacular that features winners from past StorySlam events. Not unlike the skating exhibition programs seen at the end of the Winter Olympics, these are non-competitive events, but they present the storytellers the opportunity to showcase their talents in a more relaxed format. And like the title of this particular event says, there’s a surprise in store for those attending! For the first time at Ex Fabula, several stories will be presented in a bilingual format, with the stories told in Spanish followed by an English translation. These shows are always well-attended, so if you plan to go, make sure you get there soon after the doors open at 6:30 to get the best seats-or just to make sure you get in!

Who Killed Santa? December 11-31, Soulstice Theater, 3770 S Pennsylvania Ave (whokilledsanta.com)

No sir, nothing says Christmas like a murder mystery, and so once again this year, Neil Haven’s hilarious Avenue Q style send-up (featuring Dan Katula’s great puppets) of both beloved Christmas characters AND murder mysteries is back to give some edge to the usual holiday fare. And this year, the show settles in at its new home at Soulstice Theater. Popular local actor Bo Johnson (Santa) originated the role in 2008, and he’s joined by WKS veterans Nate Press (Frosty), Liz Shipe (Chastity) and Music Director Brian Myers (Music Director). Joining them are WKS newbies T Stacy Hicks (Steve the Little Drummer Boy), Sara Zientek (Rudolph), Kelly Doherty (Tiny Tim) and Gracie Lee (Stage Manager). As if that weren’t enough, the brand-new sketch collection Neil’s Dirty Shorts (featuring the WKS cast members!) will be running concurrently with WKS (but not at the same time!). Apparently, Neil was concerned about lethargy setting in…just kidding! And remember, you in the audience determine the guilty party as well as the ending you see!

The Nutcracker, December 13-27, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (milwaukeeballet.org)

It’s over 35 years running for the Milwaukee Ballet’s annual holiday gift to the community (but hey, who’s counting?). Artistic Director Michael Pink’s setting of Tchaikovsky’s beloved score and E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Christmas fairytale The Nutcracker and the Mouse King has been a solid hit with audiences for a decade now, and like the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Seriously, this show is, year in and year out, one of Milwaukee’s biggest stage productions. It takes nearly 250 people to pull it off, and it definitely shows in the finished production. The magnificent dancing by the MBC, the beautiful playing of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, the gorgeous costumes, the lavish sets and lighting all add up to a Christmas dream come true! Actually, there are some who have literally grown up attending (and in some cases, performing in) this Milwaukee holiday tradition. Fun Fact: Remember when it was learned that dog star Lassie was really a “laddie?” Depending on what performance you attend, the Mouse King character will be really a “Mouse Queen”-namely, the MBC’s Rachel Malehorn!

Coming Next Week: The Return of the Sleighriders…AND the Avalon!

What’s Going On

For the week of December 2-8…

A Christmas Carol, December 2-24, Pabst Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

Starting this week, one of Milwaukee’s crown jewels, the historic Pabst Theater, again plays host to one of Milwaukee’s great holiday traditions, the Milwaukee Rep’s production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This is the Rep’s 39th edition of this beloved Christmas tale, and this year’s cast is headed by veteran Milwaukee actor Jonathan Smoots, who has performed in previous Carol productions, but will be making his debut as miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. As usual, this year’s production features some of the best Milwaukee acting talent, gorgeous costumes, lavish sets, dazzling lighting and stage effects, and arguably more music than you’ll hear in any other production, focusing on the traditional carols popular during Dickens’ time. It all adds up to a truly unique holiday experience that never loses its luster, and one that has drawn many to experience it again and again.

Christmas Choral Concert, December 4-7, Schwan Theater, 8815 W Wisconsin Ave (wlc.edu/arts)

Such is the popularity of Wisconsin Lutheran College’s annual Christmas Choral Concert that the run has been expanded to four days in recent years to satisfy demand. At $5 per ticket, it’s arguably the best bargain for a holiday performance to be had in the Milwaukee area. Also, several years ago, Milwaukee Public Television filmed one of the concerts which was later shown on MPTV, and to the best of my knowledge is still available on the mptv.org archive. It doesn’t take much to see why these concerts are so popular. All of WLC’s choral groups are featured, performing a cappella and with orchestral accompaniment. During transitions to each section of the program, the audience is asked to sing along to several traditional carols, making it possible to present the entire program without intermission. And each year, Choral Director James Nowack always finds surprises to augment old favorites on the program. For 2014, a chorus from Haydn’s oratorio The Creation will be featured, plus some gorgeous arrangements of “Huron Carol,” “Christ the Apple Tree,” “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” “Sussex Carol,” and “Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day,” carols that aren’t as widely heard as they should be, and you have your chance here. This program is guaranteed to light the Christmas spirit in you!

Under the Mistletoe, December 5-7, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Before the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra yields its Uihlein Hall home to the Milwaukee Ballet’s annual Nutcracker production (more on that next week), the MSO will make sure the hall is warmed up with holiday cheer with its always-popular Christmas Pops program. Guest Conductor Steven Reineke will be joined by Broadway star Ashley (Mary Poppins) Brown and the magnificent MSO Chorus. The program is loaded with oodles of holiday goodies, including pop standards like “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “All I Want for Christmas is You,” “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” and “Christmas Time is Here,” along with carols including “I Wonder as I Wander,” “O Holy Night,” and a “Sing We Now of Christmas” medley. By the time the program is capped by a Christmas sing-along, the audience should be sufficiently pumped to eagerly join in on the fun!

Festive Soiree with Robin Pluer, December 5, 6 and 13, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

Along with A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker, Milwaukee (and Bastille Days) chanteuse Robin Pluer’s annual holiday shows at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music have grown to become a tradition. Along with a generous helping of French chansons from her Bastille Days shows, Robin sprinkles in a few holiday favorites, including a version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that will melt your heart. It’s also a rare seasonal program that includes a Leonard Cohen tune (You’ll have to come to the show to see what I mean). As always, Robin gets help from her longtime backing band that includes jazz duo Mrs Fun, guitarist Peter Roller, and former Milwaukeean Juli Wood on sax. Add to that the gorgeous setting of Bader Recital Hall decked out for the holidays, and you can see why these three shows always sell out, so get your tickets early!

Prometheus Trio, December 8-9, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music continues the holiday music parade as its resident piano trio has a special program set for their annual December performances. First, the trio will be joined by guest violinist Margot Schwartz for a program that features music from Mozart and American composer Elliot Carter. And in a nice twist on the Ballet’s Nutcracker, the program concludes with Tchaikovsky’s Trio in A minor. With most people accustomed to hearing lush orchestral music from the Romantic era composer, here’s a rare opportunity to hear one of his chamber pieces. A nice holiday treat from the PT!

What’s Going On

For the week of November 25-December 1…

The Kooky Cooky House, November 25-January 1 (tentative), Discovery World Museum, 500 N Harbor Drive (discoveryworld.org)

During the 1960’s and 70’s, a holiday destination for many kids was Milwaukee’s “fabulous” Captitol Court Mall, the home of the equally fabulous Kooky Cooky House. Ralphie in A Christmas Story never imagined anything like this! Visitors got to tour the house and see how Santa’s robot crew cranked out all those Christmas cookies! And kids knew it was real because they received an actual cookie from the factory after visiting with Santa to wind up the tour. Families from miles around would make special trips to see this Christmas wonder. But like Capitol Court itself, the house vanished in the 80’s and has been absent ever since, a distant Milwaukee Christmas memory like Billie the Brownie. But now, thanks to the tireless efforts of local media personalities Gino Salomone and Jim Stingl, along with many others, the house is back! The KCH has been lovingly reconstructed from original fixtures and blueprints, and is being housed in the Discovery World Museum for the 2014 holiday season! And Santa himself will be there on November 28 and December 6 (St Nick’s Day). So round up the kids and head on down, or just come yourself and be a kid again!

Nod to Bob, November 26, Linneman’s River West Inn, 1001 E Locust St (linnemans.com)
Besides Black Friday sales, football games and family gatherings, Thanksgiving in Milwaukee means the Thanksgiving Eve “Nod to Bob” Dylan tribute show at Linneman’s. Wednesday night, the 16th annual event (a benefit for the Hunger Task Force) takes place, featuring stellar Milwaukee musicians performing their favorite Dylan songs. Among those on this year’s lineup are Byron Wiemann III, Heidi Spencer, Blonde on Blonde, the Whiskeybelles, Bill Camplin, Semi Twang, the Hanson Family, the Riverwest Aces, the Thriftones, Chris Demay, and many more! Cover is $10, or $5 plus 5 cans of nonperishable food. The music starts at 7 pm sharp, and get there early, the club fills up FAST!

A Cudahy Caroler Christmas, November 28-January 4, Tenth Street Theater, 628 N 10th St (intandemtheatre.org)

For over a decade, In Tandem Theatre’s A Cudahy Caroler Christmas has grown from a holiday alternative to a Milwaukee Christmas tradition. Anthony Wood’s hilarious tale of group leader Stasch’s mission to reunite the singing group one last time for a special on a local cable access channel contains such gems as “We T’ree Guys of Cudahy Are,” “O Bowling Night,” “O Little Town of Cudahy” and “O Yah Der Hey (It’s Time to Watch the Packer Game)” (yes, there’s even a soundtrack CD available at all performances!). However, I regret to report that 2014 will be the final season for Stasch (played by In Tandem co-founder Chris Flieller) and the Carolers. So whether you’d like to have one more visit Stasch & Co, or you’ve never seen the show, it’s more important than ever to order tickets early, as all performances sell out! And you wouldn’t want to be stuck outside freezing your toukas off now, enso?

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: The Musical, November 28-December 28, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

Can you believe it’s been 50 years since this holiday classic made its debut as an episode of GE Fantasy Theater on NBC the afternoon of Sunday, December 6, 1964? To celebrate this milestone, First Stage Theater brings back their hit production from 2012. The sets amazingly recreate those on the TV show, and First Stage Artistic Director Jeff Frank and Musical Director Timothy Splain lovingly ensure this stage show is faithful to the original, with all the songs and characters you remember (including Yukon Cornelius, Hermie the Elf, and that awful “bumble”, the Abominable Snow Monster!). And this is no CGI production, either…The actors do their best to mimic the stop-action animation on the original show! In addition to the talented young First Stage performers, the cast includes Milwaukee favorites Karen Estrada, Lee Becker (who also wrote lyrics for A Cudahy Caroler Christmas), Alison Mary Forbes and Matt Daniels, who is directing this production. It’s a great time for kids of all ages, so don’t be a misfit and round up the gang and head on down, or come yourself and step into a time machine that will transport you back to when you were a kid! BTW, with this production Alison Mary Forbes comes full circle, from playing Rudolph in the local holiday murder-mystery Who Killed Santa? to playing Mrs Donner in this show!

Man with a Camera, November 28, Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave (shankhall.com)

Once upon a time, the late 70’s and 80’s to be exact, Milwaukee music legend Sigmund Snopek III fronted a pop quartet simply called Snopek. They released several albums (including Speaking Out Loud and First Band on the Moon) featuring some of the most catchy, yet quirky, tunes you’ll ever hear this side of legendary bands like 10 cc and Jellyfish…and played dozens of gigs as the “house band” at the TV6 Comedy Cabaret at Milwaukee Summerfest! Those songs include “New York Jumpers,” “Hamburger Holocaust,” and a gorgeous romantic pop confection called “Kathleen,” penned by band member Byron Wiemann III. Well, the band split up (but didn’t wind up on VH1 Behind the Music), the members (which also included Jim Gorton (bass) and Mike Lucas (drums)) went their separate ways, with Byron relocating to Germany. But when Byron comes home to visit, he hooks up with Jim and Mike to perform as Man with a Camera (a name taken from the classic 1929 Soviet documentary film recently shown at the Milwaukee Film Festival!). And that’s happening this Friday at Shank Hall! Expect to hear new and recent music, as well as a slew of classic Snopek tunes. Who knows, perhaps even the Big Sig himself may show up!

And finally, my best wishes to you and yours for a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

What’s Going On

For the week of November 18-24…

David Bowie Is…November 19, Oriental Theater, 2230 N Farwell Ave (landmarktheatres.com)

If you’re unable to make it down to Chicago to see this exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art from now till early January and/or couldn’t get in to see this film’s screening at the Downer in September, here’s another chance for you to see this filmed tour of the amazing David Bowie memorabilia show from its initial run at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. After seeing the show and/or film, one can only conclude that Bowie is the ultimate Pack Rat, right up there with Charles Foster Kane. But since he’s sharing his cache with the public, we’re all the better for it! BTW, this screening coincides with the release of the new Bowie 50th Anniversary boxed set retrospective Nothing Has Changed.

Nathan Wessselowski & Friends, November 21, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

The Festival of Music and Trees continues through the 23rd at Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, featuring daily music performances and dozens of awesomely decorated Christmas trees that you can bid on and possibly take home with you! On Friday, local singer and performer Nathan Wesselowski (he was the Evil Professor in Milwaukee Opera Theater’s hit Fortuna! and will also be appearing in MOT’s production of The Mikado in 2015) ramps up for his return run in In Tandem Theater’s Cudahy Carolers’ Christmas (more on that next week!) by rounding some of his favorite musical pals for an evening of Broadway show tunes. Sounds like a great way to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday week!

The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised), November 21-December 14, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)

It’s a big week for Milwaukee theater, as no less than three holiday productions open their runs! First up, we have this exhaustive look at the works of the Bard…Correction, make that exhausting look, as Milwaukee Chamber Theater presents this hilarious farce where Shakespeare’s works are compressed into a two-hour romp (Don’t worry, everything, and I mean everything, is covered!). Although this hilarious revue has been presented previously (most recently at the Rep’s Stackner Cabaret), this production offers an interesting twist. The entire four-member cast (Chris Klopatek, Rick Pendzich, Chase Stoeger and Marcus Truschinski) all met and performed when they were students at UW-Whitewater. I don’t know if this was one of the shows they performed back in the day, but I do know one thing: Prepare to hang on, it’s gonna be a fast and furious ride!

Harvey, November 21-December 21, Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

Speaking of the Rep, their holiday offering is a play that’s closely associated with Jimmy Stewart, whom we usually think of this time of year for his iconic role as George Bailey in the film classic It’s a Wonderful Life. But another of his memorable film roles was as Elwood P Dowd, a man whose boon companion is a gigantic pooka rabbit named Harvey. Unfortunately, nobody else can see this “friend,” which sets the action of this play into motion. The Rep is marking the 70th anniversary of the play’s premiere with this production, which features a cast of Rep “all-stars.” Familiar faces in the cast include Jon Daly (as Elwood), Jim Pickering, Laura Gordon, Deb Staples, Richard Halverson, Kelley Faulkner and Laurie Birmingham. You may not see that “wascally wabbit,” but I assure you’ll see plenty of star power and enjoy plenty of laughs, picking right up where last season’s uproarious Rep production of Noises Off! left off!

The Wizard of Oz, November 21-January 4, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)

Producing a stage version of a classic movie musical like The Wizard of Oz would seem a daunting task for a local theater group. But with Skylight’s record of hit productions of musicals over the past few holiday seasons (including The Music Man, The Sound of Music, and Les Miserables), this production should be a real treat. BTW, Susie Wiedmeyer, who plays Dorothy, stepped in to play Maria in a string of performances of The Sound of Music when Liz Telford came down with an illness. Susie did such a great job that it earned her the role of Dorothy in this production! And like those previous shows, there will be no shortcuts in this production, especially when it comes to the Munchkins (cue groaning here!). And if you find yourself singing along with these familiar songs (Who wouldn’t want to represent the Lullaby Leaves or Lollipop Guild?), I have just the ticket for you! On New Year’s Eve, the Skylight will be offering a special “singalong” performance where the audience is encouraged to sing right along with the actors onstage…and nobody will shush you for doing so! A champagne reception follows the performance to “sing” in the New Year! Also, all Friday and Saturday evening performances (except on Nov 21) will be followed by a free cabaret show in the Skylight Bistro. Things That Go Ding (Dong Merrily on High) is a hilarious holiday revue from Skylight percussionist extraordinaire Mike Lorenz, assisted by pianist Jack Forbes Wilson (currently starring in the hit Liberace! in the Rep’s Stackner Cabaret-my, he’s busier than Santa!) and the Skylight’s Clown Prince of Comedy, Ray Jivoff. Talk about making the season bright!!

Sam Llanas, November 22, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

When he was a member of Milwaukee’s beloved Bodeans, Sam Llanas was accustomed to performing before massive crowds at venues like Summerfest and U2’s gig at LA’s Memorial Coliseum. On Saturday night, you get the rare opportunity to hear Sam and his crackerjack band in the cozy confines of WCM’s Bader Recital Hall during a special performance as part of the Festival of Music and Trees. Sam will be featuring tunes from his brand-new CD The Whole Night Thru, older solo tunes, and Bodeans classics too! This gig will be a sure sellout, so don’t dawdle! For a full schedule of other Festival events, check the Conservatory website (wcmusic.org).

Now if that’s not enough choices for you, keep in mind the downtown holiday season kicks into high gear this week! On Thursday, the City/County Christmas tree will be lighted at Red Arrow Park around 4:45 pm, followed by the Holiday Lights Festival Kickoff at Pere Marquette Park at 6 pm (milwaukeedowntown.com). Following the music program at 6:30, all the holiday lights at Pere Marquette, Cathedral Square, and Zeidler Union Square Parks will be switched on, accompanied by fireworks over the skies of downtown Milwaukee. On Saturday morning, Santa arrives during Milwaukee’s biggest annual parade, the Downtown Christmas Parade (milwaukeeparade.com). And if you’re one of those that can’t get enough of Milwaukee’s summer ethnic festivals, make tracks to State Fair Park this Friday through Sunday for the annual renewal of the Granddaddy of them all, the 71st Holiday Folk Fair International! It’s like having all those summer festivals all rolled into one! More information available at folkfair.org.

What’s Going On

For the week of November 11-17…

Speak No Evil, November 13, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

Fifty years ago, Wayne Shorter was a up-and-coming sax player who had recently joined up with Miles Davis to help form one of the greatest ensembles in jazz history. He also found the time to release an album under his own name called Speak No Evil, and this Blue Note release went on to become one of the most influential jazz albums of the 60’s. On Thursday night We Six, the faculty jazz group at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, celebrates this milestone by performing the album in its entirety. This concert is also the kickoff event of WCM’s annual holiday Festival of Trees and Music, featuring an array of special performances from November 13-22. Check the website for full festival information!

Scheherazade, November 14-15, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Following up last weekend’s great performance, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra returns this weekend with another gem of a program. Guest Conductor Marcelo Lehninger leads a program that includes Stravinsky’s energetic Suite No. 2 for Small Orchestra, is joined by guest soloist Sean Chen for Saint-Saens’ dazzling Piano Concerto No. 2, and concludes with one of the greatest orchestral showcases ever, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, a musical retelling of the Arabian Nights, which features some lovely violin solos from MSO Concertmaster Frank Almond. All in all, an evening of exciting music sure to warm up these chilly fall evenings!

Steely Dane, November 15, Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave (shankhall.com)

For the third straight year, Madison’s Steely Dane takes the stage at Shank Hall on Saturday night. This Steely Dan tribute band features nearly two dozen musicians (many of them members of other Madison-area bands) playing flawless renditions of Dan classics. So many musicians wanted in on this project that the band members play in shifts in order to accommodate everybody! Since last year’s Shank gig, they also performed at the 2014 Summerfest, where they played the classic album Aja in its entirety, a rather amazing feat given the complex music contained therein! Because of the band members’ other commitments, Steely Dane is limited to a handful of gigs annually, so Saturday night’s show is most definitely a rare treat. In other words, if you’re a Steely Dan fan, make sure you don’t miss this show!

Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Extravaganza, November 17-18, Northern Lights Theater, 1721 W Canal St (paysbig.com/shows)

As far as music shows are concerned, the holiday season is here, and things get off to a roaring start with the return of the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s Christmas Extravaganza to the Northern Lights Theater next Monday and Tuesday! For this Christmas music fan, no other holiday music show will surpass this one. Although this will be the 4th straight Christmas the BSO will be playing the NLT, the Stray Cat’s Big Band has been doing their annual Christmas Extravaganza for over a decade! Besides snappy arrangements of holiday favorites old and new, there’s a set that features a rockabilly trio where you’ll hear Stray Cats favorites, and the full band cuts loose on “Rock This Town” and “Rumble in Brighton” mixed in with “Sleigh Ride” and Les Brown’s classic Big Band arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. A couple of other Fun Facts about the Milwaukee shows: The Northern Lights Theater is the smallest venue on the tour, but because Brian and the band love playing the room so much, it’s the only stop on the tour with multiple dates! So whether you’ve seen this show previously or not, act quickly so you don’t get turned away…Santa and the Grinch (both make appearances during the show) would be disappointed!

What’s Going On

For the week of November 4-10…

In the Red and Brown Water, November 6-16, Helfaer Theater, 525 N 13th St (uprootedmke.com)

Marquette University’s Theater Department joins forces with Milwaukee’s Uprooted Theater to present Tarell Alvin McCraney’s powerful play. Directed by Uprooted Artistic Director Marti Gobel, it’s been called the African-American version of Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town. It’s the story of Oya, a local track star who gets a scholarship offer to the state university and a way out of the projects in the Louisiana town where she grew up. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as all that. Local actors Ericka Wade and Ken Williams are joined by 24 MU student actors to fill out the cast of this show that will keep you thinking long after you leave the theater!

Lucy, November 7-9, Tenth Street Theater, 628 N 10th St (milwaukeeoperatheatre.org)

The team that brought the hit Guns N’Rosenkavalier to Milwaukee in 2013 are back with a world premiere opera this weekend. Composer John Glover, librettist Kelley Rourke, and baritone Andrew Wilkowske present this true story of psychologist Maurice Temerlin who adopted a day-old chimp (which he named Lucy) in the 60’s and proceeded to raise her as a human child. The one act opera proceeds to explore the consequences of this experiment. Stage Director Erik Pearson and the cast are musically assisted by California’s Redshift Emsemble in this provocative, intriguing piece.

Liberace! November 7-January 11, Stackner Cabaret, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

In 2010, the Milwaukee Rep premiered Writer/Director Brent Hazleton’s play about this Milwaukee legend who took music lessons at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and grew up to become a show legend icon who inspired Elvis, Elton John and Lady Gaga and earned the title “Mr Showmanship.” It was a runaway smash and earned raves for star Jack Forbes Wilson, thanks to his prodigious musical talents and ability to channel the star’s personality in presenting Liberace’s life story. Responding to public demand, the Rep has tried for several years to revive the show with Forbes, but the actor wasn’t ready to take on this challenging role again until the time was right. That time is now. If you missed it the first time around, or want to revisit the show again, don’t miss this golden opportunity (as Lee himself would probably describe it) to see this gem…It might be your last chance! BTW, the tireless Jack will also be performing in Christmas Things That Go Ding!, the cabaret show that follows Friday and Saturday evening performances of the Skylight’s The Wizard of Oz, beginning on November 22. Jack will be joined by show creator Mike “Ding” Lorenz and the Skylight’s Ray Jivoff.

WMSE Fall Membership Drive, November 7-14, WMSE Radio 91.7 fm (wmse.org)

Following on the heels of last Sunday’s highly successful Big Band Grandstand event featuring the Cab Calloway Orchestra at Turner Hall Ballroom, Frontier Radio WMSE launches its annual Fall Memebership Drive on Friday morning to help raise funds to keep this community treasure on the air for the next six months. In addition to raising the $120K needed to meet operating expenses, the station is also raising funds for its project to digitize its vast jazz and big band music library, the objective being to make the music available to anyone through the station website. As I’ve mentioned many times before, WMSE is truly a community-powered radio station, where the DJ’s are almost entirely volunteers (some have been on the air for over three decades!) that select the music they play, often from their own collections! Also, the Mighty 91 is now Milwaukee’s radio home for Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert broadcasts, which were launched in June. The variety of music genres showcased, the commitment to local music, even a talk show devoted to Milwaukee Pop Culture (Wednesday afternoon’s The Disclaimer)…The thought of losing all this is just too much to bear! So please tune in for the special programming during the drive, and most importantly, pledge your support by calling 414 799-1917 or online at wmse.org. Remember, no pledge is too small!!

Pictures at an Exhibition, November 8-9, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

For this music buff, you just can’t go wrong with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s program this weekend. Guest Conductor Carlos Kalmar opens the festivities with Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony, the Russian composer’s homage to Mozart and one of his most delightful pieces. Also on the program is the world premiere of Marc Neikrug’s Bassoon Concerto, featuring the MSO’s enormously talented Ted Soluri (In fact, Ted’s been known to handle the French horn on occasion!). Wrapping it all up is Maurice Ravel’s magnificent orchestration of Russian composer Modest Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, one of the great orchestral showcases. By the time the piece concludes with the resounding chords of “The Great Gate of Kiev,” you will know you’ve experienced something truly special, a triumph for both Ravel and Moussorgsky.