What’s Going On

For the week of April 15-21…

Pioneers of Television, April 15-May 6, PBS-TV

If you love classic TV, make sure to catch the fourth season of the award-winning series that takes a look behind the scenes at television’s greatest programs.  This season’s four new episodes include:

April 15:  “From Standup to Sitcom”-This episode looks at the amazing transformation of standup comedians to classic standup stars, featuring Bob Newhart, Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, Ray Romano, and the king of ‘em all, Jerry Seinfeld.

April 22: “Doctors and Nurses”-One of TV’s most durable formats is the hospital drama, and this episode takes an in-depth look at some of the classics, featuring vintage clips along with new interviews with Chad Everett (his final interview), Noah Wyle, Anthony Edwards, Howie Mandel and Ed Begley Jr.

April 22: “Breaking Barriers”-This look at how minority actors broke through to become stars on mainstream TV includes new interviews with Bill Cosby, Diahann Carroll, Edward James Olmos and George Takei.  The show also spotlights trailblazers including Desi Arnaz.

May 6: “Acting Funny”-The talents of comic actors have become a mainstay of television, and this episode looks at some of the greats, including Jonathan Winters, Robin Williams, Tina Fey, and Cloris Leachman (Emmy’s most-honored comic actor), among many others.

Spotlight on Frank Almond, April 18-19, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Last January’s dastardly attack on Milwaukee Symphony Concertmaster Frank Almond which resulted in the theft of his priceless Stradavarius violin made worldwide headlines.  The good news is that instrument and musician have been reunited, and this weekend’s MSO program is Frank’s annual showcase as guest soloist.  He’ll be performing Bartok’s Rhapsody #2 for Violin and Orchestra and Chausson’s Poeme for Violin and Orchestra.  Guest Conductor Rossen Milanov opens the program with Mendelssohn’s delightful Overture from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  And following the recent performances by the Milwaukee Ballet, the MSO rounds out the program with orchestral highlights from Prokofiev’s “Romeo & Juliet.”  And in an interesting twist, several onstage actors will present Shakespeare’s corresponding dialogue to the scenes being presented musically by the MSO!

Michael Pink’s Peter Pan, April 18, PBS-TV

And speaking of Milwaukee Ballet, their triumphant premiere performances of Artistic Director Michael Pink’s adaptation of the children’s classic were filmed by Milwaukee Public Television and picked up for national broadcast on PBS!  Marc Petrocci as Peter and Valerie Harmon as Wendy head this outstanding cast in a production that will delight viewers of all ages.  A great treat for Easter weekend!

drivin’ n cryin’, April 18, Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave (shankhall.com)

Well, look who’s trailing the Easter Bunny into Milwaukee!  Native son kevn kinney and his veteran alternative band, that’s who!  Though kevn now makes his home in the NYC area, he has made it an annual tradition to return to MKE for a show at Shank Hall that’s also a reunion with friends and family members.  That it just happens to be over Easter weekend makes it extra special!  The place is sure to be rockin’!

Record Store Day, April 19 (recordstoreday.com)

From its humble beginnings seven years ago, Record Store Day has grown to be a worldwide event that celebrates the mom and pop independent record store.  The celebration features literally hundreds of special exclusive limited releases (mostly on vinyl, of course!), along with scores of giveaways and free live performances from local and national acts, along with DJ’s spinning tunes on (what else?) vinyl.  When this event first began, the neighborhood record store was all but given up for dead.  But like the LP itself, the mom and pop stores have seen a resurgence which RSD celebrates in grand style.  Check the website above to find information on the special releases, as well as where you can go join in on the fun!

What’s Going On

For the week of April 8-14…

The History of Invulnerability, April 12-May 4, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

The Rep’s final Powerhouse production of the season is award-winning playwright David Bar Katz’s story about Jerry Siegel, the Jewish kid who created the Superman character in the days prior to World War II as the Holocaust descended upon Europe.  The story takes place on Siegel’s deathbed, as he’s confronted with the legend he created, transported back to 1930′s Cleveland, New York, and the planet Krypton, as well as Hitler’s death camps.  The provocative play shows how Siegel and millions of others vicariously lived through the Man of Steel to vanquish Hitler and other foes of Judaism.  Director Mark Clements’ talented cast includes Milwaukee favorites Angela Ianonne, Gerry Neugent and Kelley Faulkner, along with extensive use of video technology and stage effects to help tell the story.  It’s a fascinating look at how pop culture ingratiates itself into our society, and how it affects those who create it and their audiences.

Lend Me a Tenor, April 11-27, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)

OK, let’s see here.  Already this season we’ve been treated to the Rep’s uproarious production of the classic Noises Off! and Renaissance Theaterworks humor-packed The Understudy.  Now, as their season finale, Milwaukee Chamber Theater presents yet another backstage comedy, and it’s one of the classics:  Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor, the story of a production of the opera Othello that’s like no other.  Included in the MCT cast are Milwaukee favorites Steve Koehler (Captain von Trapp in Skylight’s memorable 2012 production of The Sound of Music), Rana Roman, Rich Pendzich, and Drew Brhel.  And continuing an MCT tradition, the cast includes several students from a local college, this time Marquette University.  Spring is here, and with Lend Me a Tenor, the jokes are bustin’ out all over!

Birthday Bash, April 13, Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall, 1920 S 37th St  (whiskeybelles.com)

The members of those goodtime bands Whiskeybelles and Doghouse Flowers are all great buddies.  And many of the bands’ members have April birthdays.  AND, DHF just released one mighty fine CD called Chasing the Sun.  Why, that’s more than enough reason to throw a party!  And what better place to carry on than Kochanski’s?  And so, this Sunday Funday starting at 2 pm, the revelry gets underway with both bands performing, and there’s no doubt members of each band will join in on the other’s sets!  Some great highfalutin’ tunes and birthday cake (and other libations) to go with them?  Can’t imagine a better excuse to celebrate springtime!

What’s Going On

For the week of April 1-7…

Spring Series, April 3-6, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (milwaukeeballet.org)

Spring is the time of new beginnings, and that’s the theme of this weekend’s Milwaukee Ballet program.  Three exciting new pieces from choreographers Vincente Nebrada, Matthew Neenan and Amy Seiwert make up the program.  And while they may differ from a traditional ballet “book” performance like The Nutcracker or Romeo & Juliet, there are certainly moments of story-telling here too!  And like their recent Pabst Theater show, it’s a great opportunity for these talented dancers to really strut their stuff.  Come and join the celebration!

Beethoven’s 7th, April 4-6, Pabst Theater, 144 E Wells St (mso.org)

Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony conclude their Beethoven/John Adams Festival this weekend at the Pabst, featuring guest Leila Josefowicz as soloist on Adams’ Violin Concerto, plus a short piece by Stravinsky, and featuring Beethoven’s exhilarating 7th Symphony.  Local musician Stefanie Jacob tells the story of when, as a little girl, she would dance around the house to the final movement…and why not?  It’s arguably the most exciting moment in all of Beethoven’s music…and nothing beats hearing it played live in the great acoustics of the Pabst!  And it’s an extra reason to celebrate the recent news that the MSO reached its goal in its emergency fundraising campaign!

Three Views of the Same Object, April 4-27, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water (nextact.org)

Next Act’s season finale is another Milwaukee premiere, Henry Murray’s story of Poppy and Jesse, a couple in their twilight years who made a pact years before that when one died, the other would follow.  Now age and ill health have changed conditions and things may not go according to plan after all.  The possibilities of living, loving and leaving are explored in this powerful vision of life laced with generous amounts of tenderness and humor.  Milwaukee favorites Jim Pickering and John Kishline lead a strong cast in what looks to be another triumph for Next Act!

Skin Tight, April 5-27, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (r-t-w.com)

It’s a rarity indeed when the entire team behind a theatrical production is reunited intact…especially when the original was staged ten years ago!  But that’s the happy circumstance presented us in Renaissance Theaterworks’ season finale.  Laura Gordon directs Leah Dutchin and Braden Moran in Gary Henderson’s story of Tom and Elizabeth and their life-long love affair.  It’s an intimate portrayal of  passion, struggle and undying devotion with erotic abandon.  If you missed it in 2004, don’t let this second chance go by!  As for the rest of you…need I say more??

What’s Going On

For the week of March 25-April 1…

Beethoven’s Eroica, March 27-30, Pabst Theater, 144 E Wells St (mso.org)

Following last weekend’s magnificent performances of Beethoven’s 9th and John Adams’ The Wound-Dresser, the Milwaukee Symphony’s Beethoven/John Adams Festival moves to the MSO’s original home, the historic Pabst Theater, for this weekend’s program.  The program includes Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony (“Eroica”) and its famous 2nd movement “Funeral March.”  It was the music the Boston Symphony played on 22 November 1963, immediately after the matinee audience was informed of JFK’s assassination.  Also featured is John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto, truly a symphony concert rarity featuring soloist Timothy McAllister, plus Stravinsky’s Concerto for String Orchestra thrown in for good measure.  Once again, Music Director Edo de Waart has assembled a gem of a program, made even more special in this great venue.

Jesus Christ Superstar, March 28-30, Calvary Church, 935 W Wisconsin Ave (intandemtheatre.org)

Once again, Calvary Church plays host for its neighbor In Tandem Theatre’s fundraising concert performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s first hit musical.  Heading the talented cast are Ryan (Independent Idols) Charles, Tommy (Revolush) Hahn, and Skylight Theater favorites Alison Mary Forbes and Ray Jivoff.  Seeing the last In Tandem performance of JCS several years ago, I can assure you this is a special performance you will not forget. 

Rep Lab, March 28-31, Stiemke Studio, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

One of the best things about the Milwaukee Rep is its great Intern program.  These young professionals spend the season cutting their teeth performing in various Rep productions, and in what’s become a Rep tradition, they get their own showcase in the annual Rep Lab performances in the cozy Stiemke Studio.  For $10, you’ll see ten short plays in the two-hour program that run the gamut from hard-hitting drama to hilarious comedy.  And who knows?  You may well be seeing some future Rep stars in the process!

Crash, March 28-April 13, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

It’s always been part of First Stage Theater’s mission to present plays that educate its target family audiences.  And I mean the entire audience!  Such is the case with First Stage’s latest production, based on Jerry Spinelli’s novel.  Crash is a kid who has everything…except the attention of his always-busy dad and Jane, the cute new girl in town.  Crash channels his energy into bullying neighbor kid Penn, who has a happy family life…and Jane’s friendship.  What happens to transform Crash provides a lesson for audiences of all ages.  As always, director Jeff Frank’s cast features a number of talented young actors alongside veteran adult performers. 

The Gearhead Show, March 29, WMSE Radio (91.7 fm or wmse.org)

On the eve of Opening Day at Miller Park, it’s time for Dietrich’s annual Baseball Music special on his Saturday Morning Cartunes Show on WMSE.  He’ll be joined by a guest DJ who’s an expert on baseball-related music, and for three solid hours they’ll be delivering the tunes with the consistency of a cleanup hitter!  Now, if getting up at 6 am CDT on Saturday is not your cup of tea, not to worry.  You can catch the show in its entirety later on the archive on the station’s website.  Either way, it’s a “rite of Spring” that’s not to be missed!

What’s Going On

For the week of March 18-24…

Ain’t Misbehavin’, Now-May 28, Stackner Cabaret, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

Yes indeed, the Stackner Cabaret is indeed jumpin’ with their sizzling production of the Broadway hit Ain’t Misbehavin’, a celebration of the life and music of jazz legend Thomas “Fats” Waller.  All the classics (the title song, “Honeysuckle Rose,” “The Joint Is Jumpin’,” I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” “Your Feet’s Too Big,” “The Jitterbug Waltz,” et al) are here, along with many other lesser-known gems, including an a cappella rendition of the chilling “Black and Blue.”  Once again, the Milwaukee Rep has taken a Broadway hit and made it even better in the cozy confines of the Stackner.  The five member cast sings, dances, and provides accompaniment on a vast array of instruments…all brilliantly!  So do I recommend this show?  As Fats himself might say, “If you got to ask, you ain’t got it!”

All Our Own, March 20, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

The We Six, the resident jazz combo at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, presents its annual showcase of music composed and arranged entirely by members Mark Davis, Eric Jacobson, Eric Schoor, Paul Silbergleit, Jeff Hamann, and Dave Bayles.  And the quality is up to the high standards heard on their usual programs of classics by the jazz greats.  Only one more We Six gig will be left this season after Thursday’s gig, so come and dig the sounds!

Beethoven’s 9th, March 21-23, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra launches its Beethoven Festival with performances of Beethoven’s final symphony, featuring the mighty choral section “Ode to Joy,” an inspiration to countless millions around the world that is truly best experienced live.  While the MSO is marketing these programs as its Beethoven fest, Music Director Edo de Waart has cleverly included pieces by John Adams, arguably America’s greatest living composer, on each concert.  Performed alongside the 9th is The Wound-Dresser, a piece for baritone soloist and orchestra based on Walt Whitman’s poem, inspired by his experiences working as a nurse during the Civil War.  It serves as a great table-setter for the monumental Beethoven symphony, for which the orchestra will be joined by the always-marvelous MSO Chorus.  These concerts are certain to be musical high points of the season.

What’s Going On

    Before going into this week’s events, just a quick headsup that you still have time to take advantage of advance discount tickets for this Sunday’s 12th Annual WMSE Rockabilly Chili Contest at the Kern Center, 1245 N Broadway, on the MSOE campus.  The forecast calls for a cloudy, chilly day…perfect chili eatin’ weather!  You have till 6 pm Friday to order your discount tickets (plus 4 free chili sample tickets!) at wmse.org.  Join 3000 of your closest friends for one of Milwaukee’s biggest parties all year!  And now…

For the week of February 25-March 3…

Anatole, now-March 16, Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

Just because Milwaukee’s First Stage theater produces shows for family audiences doesn’t mean the productions aren’t up to the high standards of some of the more “adult” companies in town.  A perfect case is their current production, the world premiere musical Anatole.  This story of the heroic French mouse based on Eve Titus’ books, features music by James Valcq (The Spitfire Grill).  Directing the show is Molly Rhode, who was behind Skylight Theater’s smash hit productions of Les Miserables and The Sound of Music.  And there’s a mighty talented cast on board, including Milwaukee Rep favorite Gerry Neugent in the title role, Rick Pendzich as his companion Gaston, plus great support from Karen Estrada, Drew Brhel, and the usual talented young actors that abound in First Stage shows.  It’s another special treat that’s great for kids…of all ages!

Eric Schoor Trio, February 27, Transfer Pizzeria, 101 W Mitchell St (transfermke.com)

For most of its 10 year existence, Milwaukee’s popular Transfer Pizza has presented free live jazz every Tuesday night, courtesy of the Transfer House Jazz Band featuring Neal Chandek.  Starting this Thursday for the next four months, Transfer will be expanding its free jazz offerings by presenting the Eric Schoor Trio every 4th Thursday of the month.  The talented young saxman will be joined by We Six bandmate Jeff Hamann on bass, along with legendary Milwaukee guitarist Manty Ellis.  Great comfort food and warm jazz sounds on a cold winter’s night…you best get there well before the 7:30 starting time to make sure you don’t get squeezed out!

An Iliad, February 28-March 23, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

There’s no arguing that Homer’s Iliad, the epic poem chronicling the Trojan War, is a classic of world literature.  But a night of great theater?  Before you pooh-pooh the idea, consider this:  the Milwaukee Rep recently staged Shakespeare’s Othello using Harley-Davidson motorcycles; in fact, the scenery for this show looks like it was recycled from Othello.  No, there won’t be any rumbling Harleys here, but this Iliad definitely has a more contemporary look to it.  Add to that the fact that this show is a tour de force for Jim DeVita, one of this region’s great actors, and you know you’re in for an evening of truly riveting drama.  Word of mouth buzz will make this show a hot ticket indeed, so like they say, “Get your tickets now to avoid disappointment!”

What’s Going On

For the week of February 18-24…

Indie MKE 2, February 19, Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N 4th St

Celebrating the release of Indie MKE 2, a 20-track sampler CD featuring many of Milwaukee’s best bands, this concert showcases a number of those bands… and your $10 cover earns you a copy of the CD!  And we know how much Milwaukeeans love a deal!  Acts on the bill include Semi-Twang, John Sieger & Greg Koch, Annie B & the Complication (the CD compilation was her idea!), Panalure, and Crooked Keys.  Come early and stay late to catch all the music…and then take it home with you on your free CD!

October, Before I Was Born, February 20-March 9, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)

Milwaukee Chamber Theater presents the Midwest Premiere of Wisconsin playwright Lori Matthews’ story set against the 1960 explosion at the Tennessee Eastman Company.  Three family members anxiously await word from their loved ones in this heartwarming and often humorous new play.  It’s the kind of production that’s typical of MCT’s well-deserved reputation for showcasing exciting new works.

Chesapeake, February 21-March 16, 10th Street Theater, 628 N 10th St (intandemtheatre.org)

A liberal performance artist (Ever heard of a conservative performance artist?), played by Milwaukee favorite Matt Daniels, takes on an (unseen) conservative Senator and his plans for federal funding cuts.  How?  By kidnapping the Senator’s beloved dog (also unseen!).  Once again, Matt is back on the comedy trail, but this time he’s the star of Lee Blessing’s one-man “tail” that’s sure to set off howls of delightful laughter!

Styx, February 20-22, Northern Lights Theater, 1721 W Canal St (paysbig.com/shows)

Cheap Trick, February 21, Bradley Center (milwaukeeadmirals.com)

Two icons of 70′s rock visit Brew Town (a frequent stop for these Midwest bands during their halcyon days) this weekend.  The blue-collar prog rock anthems of Styx fill the NLT for three nights in a rare opportunity to catch the band in an intimate setting!  While both bands played their share of hockey arenas back in the day, it’s only fitting Cheap Trick appears Friday night as part of a Milwaukee Admirals game at the Bradley Center!  That’s right, Rick and the Boys will do their show immediately after the Admirals-Iowa game that night.  And BTW, the following night the Admirals will have a “90′s Night” featuring a post-game performance from Coolio!

12th Annual WMSE Rockabilly Chili Contest, March 2, MSOE Kern Center, 1245 N Broadway (wmse.org)

Yes, I realize this event isn’t coming up till March 2nd, but you only have until this Friday (2/21) to take advantage on advance discount tickets for Milwaukee’s biggest and best chili event!  And the 2014 edition will truly be bigger and better than ever!  Even the Kern Center’s arena floor can no longer hold the over 50 vendors participating, so the event is expanding to the KC’s 2nd floor, opening more dining space for all you chili fans!  And back once again are WMSE DJ’s Jonny “Chickenshack” Z and Dietrich of “Saturday Morning Cartunes” fame to spin hot tunes to match the chili.  Also new this year will be live music from local rockabilly band the Kevin Fayte Rock and Roll Trio, as well as chili pepper races modeled after the Sausage Races at Miller Park.  AND for the first time, six companies from the Milwaukee Fire Department will enter their favorite chili recipes, with a panel of celebrity judges deciding who has Milwaukee’s best Firehouse Chili!  Of course, you chili lovers still get a voice in determining the best meat, veggie, and hottest chilis.  So get to the WMSE website or the station offices at 820 N Milwaukee St and get those advance tickets (with four free chili sample tickets) before it’s too late!  Be there or be square, pardner!