What’s Going On

For the week of October 28-November 3…

Don Quixote, October 30-November 2, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (milwaukeeballet.org)

If you’re a Milwaukee dance fan, this is a big weekend for you! And it gets underway Thursday night when the Milwaukee Ballet opens their new season with one of the classics. Don Quixote is the legendary Cervantes tale of chivalrous Alonso Quixano and his loyal companion Sancho Panza known to many as the hit Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. The production features MBC Artistic Director Michael Pink’s choreorgraphy, which was first presented in 2006. Pink states that the story has a much lighter tone than the musical, which is probably a result of all the dancing in this show…and the ideal opportunity to showcase the wonderfully talented MBC dancers! Everything you want in a classic ballet is here: A great story, glorious costumes, magnificent sets, marvelous dancing, the live performance by maestro Andrews Sill and the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra…What are you waiting for??

Paleontology of a Woman, October 30-November 1, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (danceworksmke.org)

And for those who prefer modern dance with a bit of an edge, Milwaukee’s feisty Danceworks has just the show for you. It’s a performance art piece that’s a collaboration of Danceworks Artistic Director Dani Kuepper and former “Project Runway” contestant Timothy Westbrook that’s taking place in the cozy confines of Next Act Theater. Now everybody talks about going green, but in this production, Danceworks is doing something about it. The artistic team went around the area collecting trash that was converted into costumes for the show! The only new wardrobe purchased for the show was three pairs of shoes. Plenty of provocative ideas regarding gender perception fill the production, which also features Allen Russell’s original score performed by Tontine Ensemble. Sounds to me like another exciting production for this always adventurous (and fun) Milwaukee dance group.

WMSE Big Band Bandstand featuring the Cab Calloway Orchestra, November 2, Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N 4th St (wmse.org)

The WMSE Radio Fall Fundraising Drive begins this Sunday with a special event at Turner Hall Ballroom that’s a tribute to DJ Dewey Gill, who has been entertaining listeners for over 30 years with his Sunday morning Big Band show. Dewey will be spinning some of his favorite dance band 78’s, Wisconsin Hybrid Theater (which regularly appears live every first Sunday of the month on WMSE’s “Frontier Radio Theater”) will perform skits with a big band theme, and headlining will be the Cab Calloway Orchestra, led by CB Brooks, Cab’s grandson. The band also features many musicians who performed with the man himself, so you can rest assured you’ll hear Cab Classics such as “Minnie the Moocher,” “Jumpin’ Jive,” “Everybody Eats When They Come to My House,” and many more. The dance floor will be open for all you swing dancers, there’s a silent auction (information on the station website), and there will be hors d’oeuvres from Braise. Funds raised will go towards digitizing the station’s vast jazz music library (including the Big Bands), which will allow listeners streaming access to the entire library! Attendees are encouraged to dress 40’s style for the event, so it looks like I better get going so I can dig up that Zoot Suit! BTW, there’s no Packers game this Sunday, so there’s no excuse for missing this!

What’s Going On

For the week of October 21-27…

Crossing Over, October 22, Times Cinema, 5906 W Vliet St (exfabula.com)

Fall is definitely in the air, and Milwaukee’s favorite storytelling group, Ex Fabula, gets its new season into high gear with its first StorySlam session for 2014-15. For the occasion the group returns to one of its most popular venues, the Times Cinema. Perhaps the reason that’s true is the free popcorn for early arrivals…or is it the free movie you can see if you stay after the StorySlam (The current movie is Brad Pitt’s WW II drama Fury)? OK, those are pretty cool incentives, but the real attraction is getting to see the talented storytellers expound on the topic “crossing over” on the Times stage! A big crowd is expected as usual, so make sure to get there early!

NRBQ with Semi-Twang, October 22, Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave (shankhall.com)

The fact that Semi-Twang, one of Milwaukee’s most venerable bands, is the opening act for this show is no accident. They perfectly complement NRBQ, one of the great American rock bands you probably never heard of, but one of the elite few who have appeared on The Simpsons! Led by Terry Adams, they put on a show that’s nothing less than a rollercoaster ride through the history of American music, incorporating elements of jazz, country, and folk under the guise of a party-time rock band. They are indeed one of the most-admired bands whose songs have been covered by scores of other artists…In fact, their song “Me and the Boys” alone has been covered by Bonnie Raitt AND Dave Edmunds! Local musician and DJ Paul Cebar reports this is the band’s first visit to MKE in a decade, so this show is a great way to help celebrate Shank Hall’s 25th anniversary!

Nineteen Thirteen Haunts the Estate, October 24, Jazz Estate, 2423 N Murray Ave (nineteenthirteen.bandcamp.com)

Kick off your Halloween celebrations with a visit to the dark, “haunted” environs of the Jazz Estate this Friday with a special show from Nineteen Thirteen. This local trio featuring cellist Janet Schiff and percussionists Scott Johnson and Victor DeLorenzo is indeed capable of creating some mighty spooky sounds. But if you like music that has an adventurous edge, be sure you make the scene at the Jazz Estate on Friday night! BTW, the band has cleverly included covers of songs like Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” and “The Model” into their sets, but I don’t think I’d bet the farm that “Monster Mash” will make the setlist for this show!

The Gearhead Show Howloween Spooktacular, October 25, 6-9 am, WMSE Radio (91.7 fm or wmse.org)

Regular listeners to this Saturday morning tradition on WMSE know the show’s host Dietrich is crazy about Halloween. It’s no secret it’s his favorite holiday, and his annual “Howloween Spooktacular” show is right up there with Paul Host’s Christmas Eve extravaganza as one of the station’s yearly highlights. The sky’s the limit (Watch out for witches on flying broomsticks!) when it comes to what music will be featured on this year’s show. But it’s a pretty safe bet that Ted Cassidy’s “Do the Lurch,” Buchanan and Goodman’s “The Flying Saucer (Parts 1 and 2),” Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You,” the Swingin’ Neckbreakers’ “No Costume, No Candy,” Deadbolt’s “Psychic Voodoo Doll,” the Guess Who’s “Clap for the Wolfman,” the Dead Elvi’s “The Creature Stole My Surfboard,” along with selections from legendary TV horror movie show host John Zacherle will make the “cut.” I’m not sure if Dr Cadeverino will drop by for a visit…you’ll just have to tune in and find out. Oh, and if you can’t listen “live,” you can catch stream the show on the Archive at wmse.org. But I find it a special treat listening at the hour when Count Dracula calls it a day…or night??

What’s Going On

For the week of October 14-20…

Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars, October 17-November 15,Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

Sherlock Holmes is arguably the world’s first super-sleuth. But in First Stage Theater’s season opening production, you won’t find Basil Rathbone, Robert Downey, Jr…not even Benedict Cumberbatch! You see, in this case, Holmes has disappeared, and his arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, has returned to wreak havoc upon London. So it falls to Holmes’ youthful proteges-a group of street kids known as the Baker Street Irregulars-to jump into the breach to defend the city and also locate Holmes’ whereabouts. Tony Lee’s graphic Holmes novels have been adapted by First Stage Artistic Director Jeff Frank into a show that’s enjoyable for Holmes fans for all ages. The usual cast of talented youthful performers are joined by adult actors (including Mark Corkins and Marcy Kearns), along with period-style music from Frogwater’s John Nicholson, to help bring the stories to life. I can only echo Holmes’ classic exhortation: “Come, Watson: The game’s afoot!!”

Amelia, October 17-November 9, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (r-t-w.com)

When it comes to US History, no period fascinates more people worldwide than the Civil War. And the War Between the States (or the Skirmishes, as it’s called by some Southerners and Brits) is the setting for Renaissance Theaterworks’ season opener, Alex Webb’s Amelia. One of Milwaukee’s most talented actors, Laura Gordon, directs this tale of a newlywed whose husband Ethan goes off to join the Union Army. When Ethan’s letters stop coming, Amelia takes matters into her own hands, going so far as to disguise herself as a Union soldier to find her missing husband. The audience sees the war through Amelia’s eyes (including Gettysburg and Andersonville) as she observes the carnage and danger up close and personal. Will her effort and sacrifice reunite her with her true love? That’s what makes this production a special treat for both Civil War buffs and lovers of great romances. And speaking of special, the play features Casssandra Bissell as Amelia and longtime Milwaukee Rep stalwart Reese Madigan as Ethan. It’s a true tour de force in the intimate Studio Theater!

Smith Uncovered, October 18, Pitman Theater, 3431 S 39th St (alvernopresents.alverno.edu)

Several years back, Juniper Tar’s Ryan Schleicher presented a tribute to the great American composer Stephen Foster as part of Alverno College’s Alverno Presents series. On Saturday, another American music icon gets her due when Patti Smith is celebrated in the show Smith Uncovered. Testa Rosa’s Betty Strigens is curating the program, which will feature her band, as well as Juniper Tar’s Chris DeMay with the Metropolitan Singers, Die Kreuzen, Mark Waldoch and Hello Death, Nineteen Thirteen, and other Milwaukee music luminaries. The objective is to provide a wide-ranging look at this artist’s career, and if it’s anywhere nearly as good as the Foster retrospective, it will be a truly special evening.

Against Type! Roles I’ll Never Play But Could, October 19, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (uprootedmke.com)

As I’ve said before, Milwaukee is truly blessed with many outstanding theater groups, and one of them is certainly Uprooted Theatre. On Sunday, for the fifth year, Uprooted is presenting Against Type!, one of the most unique fundraisers you will ever see. Uprooted’s Marti Gobel has assembled an illustrious group of some of Milwaukee’s finest theatrical talent and turned them loose on roles and plays you would never see them performing in their usual venues. To give you an idea, remember Jim Pickering’s portrayal of Mrs Fezziwig in the Rep’s production of A Christmas Carol last year? Now imagine an entire show like that! And who will be participating in this year’s extravaganza? I’ll never tell, and even if I could, it would take all the fun out of the surprises in store for those in attendance. Be there or be square.

Ruthie Foster with special guest Luther Dickinson, October 19, Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave (shankhall.com)

Last June, Austin, Texas blues dynamo Ruthie Foster headlined Manitowoc’s Metro Jam festival. And considering the majority of the audience probably had never heard of her before the show, she proceeded to blow the crowd away with a show that could certainly be described as a real “Texas Twister.” Now, Milwaukee fans can see and hear for themselves this diminutive performer who’s simply a force of nature (along with her crackerjack band) when she lands at the cozy confines of Shank Hall on Sunday night. If that weren’t enough, joining Ruthie on the bill will be North Mississippi All Stars member Luther Dickinson. It takes a really special show to make it worth going out on a Sunday night…This one qualifies!

We the Economy: 20 Short Films You Can’t Afford to Miss, October 20, Oriental Theater, 2230 N Farwell Ave (landmarktheatres.com)

With economic issues dominating the current election campaign, Landmark Theaters nationwide (including Milwaukee’s Oriental) are presenting a special one-time screening of this unique film on Monday night. It’s comprised of twenty 5-8 minute films, each helmed by an acclaimed director and spanning various genres from animation to live action, with the objective of addressing questions like: What is the economy? What is money? What is the role of the government in the economy? What is globalization? What causes inequality? The films use an entertaining approach in educating the audience on these heavy topics, hopefully leading to making informed choices come Election Day…and you don’t have to show an ID to vote in WI on November 4th!!

What’s Going On

For the week of October 7-13…

Tribute to Horace Silver, October 9, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

After taking a break for the summer, We Six, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s resident faculty jazz combo, returns for another season of shows in the intimate confines of Bader Recital Hall at the WCM campus. Now in their 13th season, charter members Mark Davis (piano), Paul Silbergleit (guitar), Jeff Hammann (bass) and Dave Bayles (drums) are joined by recent additions Eric Jacobson (trumpet) and Eric Schoor (sax). For the season opener, We Six presents a tribute to one of the great figures of jazz, Horace Silver. Silver is probably best known for his standard “Song for My Father,” which was cribbed by Steely Dan for the opening lick of their hit “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Well, there’s more, much more, from this prolific composer, and the group will be serving up a generous helping of his music for their jazz Octoberfest!

Shear Madness, October 9-November 15, Northern Lights Theater, 1721 W Canal St (paysbig.com/shows)

The Northern Lights Theater has seen its share of great music shows during its history, but beginning this Thursday, the venue wanders into uncharted territory when it presents its very first stage production. But it’s a show that will be familiar to Milwaukee theater fans. It’s the show that made irrepressible actor John McGivern a household name to Milwaukee arts followers…I’m talking about Shear Madness, America’s most popular comedy whodunit where the audience helps determine how the show ends. Johnny Mac says this is the last time he’ll be portraying the show’s central character, flamboyant hairdresser Tony Whitcomb. And he’s bringing some friends along for the ride: Norman Moses, Mary MacDonald Kerr, Jenny Wanasek and Patrick Noonan, also familiar names to Milwaukee theater fans who have all performed with McGivern in previous SM productions. Even the show’s original director Bruce Jordan is back at the helm. Hey, if this is the last time around for John as Tony Whitcomb, you may as well go out in a blaze of glory (or laughter)! It all shapes up to be a splendid evening for cast and audiences alike, so don’t wait long to order your tickets…They’re gonna go fast!

Brahms German Requiem, October 10-12, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

From the ridiculous to the sublime, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s new season continues on a roll this weekend when guest conductor Robert Spano leads the MSO and the magnificent MSO Chorus in one of the truly great choral masterpieces, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. With texts based on Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible, the work has become a concert hall staple, like Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Berlioz’ Requiem. The work draws on themes of remembrance, acceptance and resignation to provide consolation for survivors, and its power has inspired audiences for decades. The piece, especially in the capable hands of Spano and the MSO, is a compelling testament for music as the universal language.

The Boy Inside, October 13, Skylight Bar & Bistro, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)

I relish the irony in the fact that during Monday Night Football next Monday, the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre will be presenting the season’s first offering in their Montgomery Davis Play Development Series, a series that presents staged readings of new works to gauge reaction from actors and audience. A number of previous plays have subsequently been greenlighted for full-scale MCT productions. The Boy Inside is a new play from Richard Kalinoski, whose Beast on the Moon was a hit for In Tandem Theater. Like I said, there’s irony in the timing of this presentation, as it’s the story of a Division III college where the school president is at odds with the football coach over the team’s direction. With all the recent attention to safety issues in the NFL, it’s a very relevant story as well. Milwaukee Rep veteran Leda Hoffmann directs a cast which includes Milwaukee favorites Carrie Hitchcock, Dan Katula, Deb Staples and Tami Workentin. It’s a Pay-What-You-Can event, so head over this Monday night…You just might see a future MCT production in the making!

Twang Dragons, 3 Chords and a Lie, (twangdragons.com)

Last Saturday night, guit-steel wizard Junior Brown once again thrilled a packed house at Shank Hall. But the audience got an extra treat, as Milwaukee’s favorite honky-tonk band Twang Dragons opened for JB, and completely won over the crowd. The band featured songs from their recently released album 3 Chords and a Lie, including the 1-2 punch of “A Hard Man is Good to Find” and “I Drink Because I Love You (and I Love You Because I Drink).” Lisa Hannon’s vocals conjure up the image of Janis Joplin fronting a rowdy roadhouse honky-tonk band; in fact, she served up an impromptu rendition of Janis’ “Mercedes Benz” to fill time during a technical interruption! And the good news is the CD really captures the energy and spirit of TD’s live gigs, and you can’t ask for much more than that! Oh, and did I mention the the CD’s songs are band originals??

What’s Going On

For the week of September 30-October 6…

“after all the terrible things I do,” October 3-November 9, Stiemke Studio, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

The Stiemke Studio provides the Milwaukee Rep an intimate space for some of the Rep’s most provocative productions. And so it is for the Stiemke season opener. Rep Associate Artist May Adrales directs this World Premiere of A. Rey Pamatmat’s story of Daniel (Mark Junek), a recent college grad who’s gay and an aspiring writer, who returns to his hometown and takes a job at a local bookstore owned by Linda (Sophia Skiles), an emigre from the Philippines. They soon discover they have more in common than their love for literature. With bullying a constant presence in today’s news headlines, this play confronts the issue head-on, and will leave audiences pondering the topic long after the play is over. In that regard, it’s up to the standards of previous Stiemke productions.

Junior Brown, October 4, Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave (shankhall.com)

A frequent visitor to these parts makes a welcome return to Milwaukee this Saturday when Guit-Steel master Junior Brown returns to Shank Hall. This virtuoso has a cache of great honky-tonk songs to match, among them “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead,” “Highway Patrol,” “Party Lights,” “I Hung it Up,” “Broke Down South of Dallas,” “Cagey Bea,” “Semi-Crazy,” “Gotta Get Up Every Morning (Just to Say Goodnight to You),” “Long Walk Back to San Antone,” just to mention a few. His songs have been an airplay staple at WMSE Radio since the mid-90’s, and if this is your first experience with JB Live, I truly envy you.

And don’t forget the other ongoing events previously mentioned here, including the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival (which continues through the 9th), The Color Purple at the Rep, Cinderella at the Skylight, The Good Father at Milwaukee Chamber Theater, and The Glass Menagerie at In Tandem Theater!

Milwaukee Film Festival Special Edition

2014 Milwaukee Film Festival, September 25-October 9, various locations (mkefilm.org)

Here in Milwaukee, the signs of fall are all around us: Cool, crisp days…the leaves turning color…football season in full swing…and multitudes of film buffs are flocking into local theaters and going on a 2-week popcorn binge. Yes, it’s time for the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival, one of the city’s major cultural events. For the next two weeks at four locations (including vintage MKE movie houses Oriental, Downer, Times and Fox-Bay), nearly 275 films will be shown (many with multiple screenings!). With the huge number of films of every genre imaginable, trying to decide what to see is a daunting task indeed! The following is a list of my personal picks for this year’s fest…Full movie and showtime information available by clicking the link above. Please be aware that purchasing advance tickets is highly suggested, as many of these screenings do sell out in advance!

1971
In March, 1971, a year before Watergate, eight disgruntled citizens fed up with the Vietnam War and the US government in general broke into the FBI office in Media, PA, and took every file they could get their hands on. While they didn’t find much on Vietnam, what they did find were a treasure trove of files on J Edgar Hoover’s illegal surveillance program known as COINTELPRO, which spied on scores of ordinary, law-abiding US citizens, confirming what the group had long suspected. It was a watershed moment in the Freedom of Information movement, and led many to seriously question the government’s motives. The FBI was never able to track down the eight individuals who have maintained their cover, until now. Their story is told in this 2014 release, which plays like a great political thriller.

Mary Poppins Sing-A-Long
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of what the Disney Studio in their publicity called “Walt Disney’s greatest achievement,” which itself was chronicled in the acclaimed 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks. The MFF is bringing back the classic to Big Screen glory, but with a twist. Like other classic musicals like The Sound of Music and Grease, the movie now boasts a sing-along addition where patrons will receive an immersion kit which, according to the festival, will provide the ultimate Poppins experience! I myself have been working on my renditions of “The Life I Lead” and “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank,” but I will be definitely sitting out on “Sister Suffragette!”

Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, it’s also the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s only comedy, but a comedy with very dark overtones. After all, it’s perhaps the only comedy dealing with nuclear Armageddon, which was quite subversive coming in the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Some of the scenes were shot with hand-held cameras, giving portions of the movie a documentary feel. But it’s the performances you’ll remember most (besides the slogan “Peace is our Profession”) from stars George C Scott (as Gen “Buck” Turgidson), Sterling Hayden (Col Jack D Ripper), Keenan Wynn (Maj. “Bat” Guano), Slim Pickens (Major “King” Kong), and especially the tour de force from Peter Sellers, playing three different characters! In fact, in several scenes Sellers actually interacts with himself! Annihilation was never so hilarious!

Alive Inside
This 2014 documentary offers a fascinating look at how music therapy has done amazing things for some patients that are in the horrible clutches of Alzheimer’s Disease. A truly uplifting film.

Man With a Movie Camera
This 1929 Russian film is considered one of the greatest documentaries of all time, providing an impressionistic view of a day in the life of a movie cameraman, providing views of daily life in Soviet Russia. And this festival screening will be a special treat as it will be accompanied by the three-man powerhouse known as Alloy Orchestra. If you’ve attended Alloy’s past festival appearances (Metropolis in 2010 and Blackmail in 2012), you already know why Roger Ebert called them the ultimate silent film accompanists. You will swear a full orchestra is occupying the pit of the Oriental Theater, but it’s only three musicians generating all the sound. I can’t recommend this film strongly enough.

This Is Spinal Tap
It’s the 30th anniversary of director Rob Reiner’s (who himself appears as director “Marty DiBergi”) first film, which chronicled a veteran British metal band on the comeback trail and invented the genre now known as “mockumentary.” Christopher Guest’s “script” features Guest (Nigel Tufnel), Michael McKean (David St Hubbins), Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls), plus an assortment of drummers-which all mysteriously vanish-as the musicians in the band who only use amps that go “up to eleven.” Lots of great cameo guests appear throughout the movie. Once you’ve seen this incredibly hilarious film, you’ll never look at Stonehenge the same way again.

Revival
In the spirit of Spinal Tap is this 2013 comedy from the Czech Republic, which tells the story of the band Smoke, from the glory days of hippiedom, which reunite 40 years after their breakup to cash in on the nostalgia for 70’s bands. When the “Czech Beatles” discover they actually enjoy playing together again, the film becomes a delightful comedy that will evoke memories of the Fab Four’s Hard Day’s Night.

Stop Making Sense
When this classic Talking Heads concert film (in a great 35 mm print) was presented at last year’s festival, it drew a huge crowd at a late-night screening on a Monday night, it had patrons literally dancing in the aisles. Since 1984 is the film’s 30th anniversary, it was a no-brainer to being the movie back for an encore. This time around, it draws a lucrative Saturday late-night slot, plus Talking heads member (and Shorewood native) Jerry Harrison will be on hand for the screening.

Top Secret!
Not to be outdone, Shorewood High alums David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams (collectively known as the hit moviemakers ZAZ) return to their old stomping grounds for this 30th anniversary screening of their followup to their classic Airplane! It’s a great spoof which combines spy films and Elvis musicals. Val Kilmer makes his screen debut as the secret agent disguised as an Elvis-style crooner sent to infiltrate East Germany during an Arts Festival which looks suspiciously like the Olympic Games. Some viewers may wonder why the Shorewood High fight song is passing as the East German national anthem. But it’s just one example of the ZAZ trademark of parody combined with bountiful sight gags that permeate this film. Don’t miss this chance to see it on the Big Screen (something Samuel L Bronkowitz would appreciate), and as previously mentioned, the boys will be on hand to introduce the film and greet fans after the screening.

Hollywood Shuffle
Another great parody, this 1987 gem stars director Robert Townsend and sidekick Kennan Ivory Wayans in this spoof of blaxploitation flicks in which Townsend is a young actor who can only get work in black action films. The movie inspired a whole generation of black filmmakers and is part of the festival’s new Black Lens showcase. The director himself will be on hand to introduce the film and greet fans after the screening.

Sports Shorts
Part of the festival’s popular Shorter is Better showcase, this fascinating program features seven short films which have sports as its unifying theme. Among the films included are The High Five, The Immaculate Reception, Strike: The Greatest Bowling Story Ever Told, and Untucked, the story of Marquette University’s 1977 NCAA championship basketball team, whose players were notorious for wearing their jerseys untucked (Scandalous!).

Take Me to the River
Jerry Harrison returns for this film screening, in his role as the film’s producer. It focuses on the history of the great Memphis R&B label Stax Records by bringing together legendary musicians like Mavis Staples, Booker T Jones, Charlie Musselwhite, Otis Rush, and the late Hubert Sumlin with young musicians like rappers Al Kapone, Yo Gotti and Lil P-Nut. Fans of music films like 20 Feet From Stardom and last year’s festival hit Muscle Shoals will want to seek out this movie.

Finding Fela
Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney directs this documentary on Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Fela! It includes generous archival performance clips and interviews to tell the story of a musician whose influence continues to be felt today. One of the festival’s most anticipated films.

Secundaria

This 2012 US/Cuban co-production has a special Milwaukee connection. It’s a documentary about Cuba’s prestigious National Ballet School (NBS) done in fly-on-the-wall style, similar to a Robert Altman film. It focuses on three NBS students, one of which is Milwaukee Ballet dancer Mayara Pineiro, and you’ll learn how she wound up in Milwaukee (for which we’re all the better). If you loved the movie Black Swan, this movie is the real deal.

Dear MKE
Dear MKE is a local film collective that showcases short films that capture the spirit of this city. This 90 minute program features thirteen of their best productions. Among the titles are Come Sail Away, Cooking with Kumar, Rory: Milwaukee’s Most Famous Cab Driver, Underwater Harvey, Lo with the Fro, and The Right Ingredients. A fascinating smorgasbord of slices of Milwaukee life.

See you at the movies!!

What’s Going On

For the week of September 23-29…

David Bowie Is, September 23, Downer Theater, 2589 N Downer Ave (landmarktheatres.com)

This is a film documentary about the recent David Bowie exhibit at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, which featured artifacts from the Thin White Duke’s entire career. The film is an extraordinary journey through the exhibit, which includes costumes, photos, and other rarities from the massive Bowie archive. In other words, it’s a must for any Bowie fan! The Downer Theater (along with other Landmark Theaters throughout the country) will present a single screening on Tuesday evening. Please be aware that the actual exhibit opens on Tuesday at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art for an open-ended run, and it’s reportedly the largest show in the MCA’s history. But if you would prefer perusing the exhibit from the comfort of a theater seat (and save quite a few $$ in the process), make sure you’re at the Downer on Tuesday night!

The Color Purple, September 26-November 2, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeerep.com)

Since Mark Clements’ arrival as Milwaukee Rep Artistic Director in 2010, musicals (a rarely seen genre at the Rep for decades) have dominated the season opening productions in the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. And they have been memorable: Cabaret, Assassins, and last season’s Ragtime come to mind. The 2014-15 season opener The Color Purple can be added to that list. Based on Alice Walker’s classic book (which became Steven Spielberg’s award-winning film), it’s been a successful Broadway musical (earning 11 Tony Award nominations) co-written by Brenda Russell (Brenda was part of the duo Brian & Brenda Russell, who were signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records in the 70’s!). As usual with Rep productions, there are a number of Milwaukee connections in the talent-rich cast, including brother-sister duo Nate (Crown in Skylight’s 2013 production of Porgy & Bess) and Malkia (First Stage’s 2014 production Midnight Cry) Stampley. Like the previously mentioned musicals, this is also a large production directed by Clements himself, confirming that major musicals with a social conscience have a permanent home at the Rep. To that end, The Rep will hold a number of panel discussions with Color Purple connections throughout the production’s run. Check the Rep website for complete details. Yet another Red Letter Event on Milwaukee’s young theater season!

The Glass Menagerie, September 26-October 19, In Tandem Theater, 628 N 10th St (intandemtheatre.org)

For those of you who couldn’t get enough of Angela Ianonne’s great performance as Maria Callas in Milwaukee Chamber Theater’s recent hit production of Master Class, take heart. She’s back for In Tandem’s season opening performance in a role every bit as great as the opera diva. She plays Amanda, matriarch of the Wingfield family, in Tennessee Williams’ American classic The Glass Menagerie. In Tandem Artistic Director Chris Flieller had only Ianonne in mind when selecting this saga to begin the new season. Amanda is the aging Southern belle who lives with her two adult children, the invalid Laura and breadwinner Tom, in their St Louis apartment. Amanda is desperate to find a suitor for Laura, who’s enchanted with the glass animals of the show’s title. She orders Tom to find a suitable “gentleman caller” for Laura. The supporting cast is most definitely up to the level of the show’s star, beginning with director Mary MacDonald Kerr, herself a longtime Milwaukee favorite. The show also features rising star Grace DeWolff as Laura, John Glowacki as Tom, and another Milwaukee favorite, Rick Pendzich, as Jim. It all takes place in the intimacy of In Tandem’s 10th Street Theater. In other words, the tickets are gonna go fast, so don’t delay for what is certain to be one of the season’s theatrical highlights!

Classical Mystery Tour, September 26-28, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Following two outstanding programs to open the 2014-2015 season, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has its Pops opener this weekend with a program that’s up to its Classical brethren. Classical Mystery Tour is a Beatles tribute band with a twist: The group performs only with full symphony orchestras in order to provide faithful recreations of the Fab Four’s most complex productions. The band has been a hit with audiences all over the country, and their MSO debut comes on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s only Milwaukee show!
The set list spans the Beatles’ entire career, from their Moptop days to their reign as Studio Wizards. It’s a program that’s sure to pack Uihlein Hall for all three shows, so don’t miss your chance to see the closest you’ll get to seeing the pop music icons in their prime!

MASH, September 28 and October 1, AMC Theaters nationwide (including AMC Mayfair Mall) (amctheatres.com)

AMC Theaters’ Fall Classics Series continues with Robert Altman’s 1970 film about an Army medical unit during the Korean War, which inspired the long-running classic TV sitcom. Its anti-war sentiment struck a chord with movie audiences as protests against the Vietnam War was reaching a fever pitch. The movie has all the trademarks of classic Altman: lots of characters and lots of intersecting storylines (along with plenty of criscrossing dialogue!). See how most audiences were first introduced to the beloved characters Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John, Hot Lips Houlihan, Fr. Mulcahy, Major Frank Burns, Col. Henry Blake and Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly (played by Gary Burghoff, the former Delavan resident, who is the only actor to be in both the movie and TV show). You’ll also see early glimpses of stars Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland, Sally Kellerman and Robert Duvall, not to mention one of the craziest football games ever captured on film! Don’t miss the chance to see this American classic in all its widescreen glory in a pristine digital print on the Big Screen!

And speaking of movies, watch for a Special Edition of “Tuning In” featuring a preview of the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival, coming later this week!!