What’s Going On

For the week of May 17-23…

Alice (in wonderland), May 19-22, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (milwaukeeballet.org)

What’s that you say?  You can’t wait to see Disney’s upcoming flick Alice Through the Looking Glass?  Well, following up their hit productions of Peter Pan, Cinderella and Mirror Mirror, the Milwaukee Ballet again turns to classic fairytales for their season finale this weekend.  And rest assured that this rendering of Lewis Carroll’s tale (which was first staged by the Washington (DC) Ballet) will be just as spectacular as those previously mentioned shows.  AND it’s the perfect family-friendly show!  It should also be noted that this will be the final MBC production for veteran dancers Susan Gartell, Valerie Harmon and Marc Petrocci.  A heartfelt congrats and thank you to these talented performers and much success in their future endeavors!  Milwaukee’s arts scene is a better place because of you!

Pirates of Penzance, May 20-June 12, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)

First off, let’s just say that nobody, but nobody, does Gilbert & Sullivan operettas better than the Skylight.  It’s a thread that runs throughout the long history of this organization.  This 1879 gem is arguably the most enduring of the G&S operettas, and many people are familiar with it through the 1980’s filmed version which starred Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith (remember him?).  In fact, this is Skylight’s ninth staging of the show, and it’s loaded with gorgeous costumes and sets, catchy songs (easy to see where the Marx Brothers got their inspiration), snappy repartee, political satire (much of it tailored to fit current events and personalities!), and the usual G&S plot twists (see the film Topsy Turvy, the docudrama about librettist WS Gilbert and composer Sir Arthur Sullivan).  Throw in the fact that it’s about pirates, after all, and thanks to the wildly successful Pirates of the Caribbean movie series, they’re more popular than ever, making this  another great family-friendly show!  I’ve been informed tickets are moving quickly, so don’t wait too long to get yours…Performances later in the run will sell out!

So everybody, all together now:  Eye….Arrrrr…..Eye….Arrrrr!

Impressions of Switzerland, May 22, Pius XI High School, 135 N 76th St (mfbrass.org)

Milwaukee’s premiere brass ensemble (which recently took First Place at the National Brass Convention in Fort Wayne!) concludes its season with this program consisting entirely of works, both classical and contemporary, by Swiss composers.  Yes, Harry Lime, there’s definitely more in Switzerland than cuckoo clocks!  Come help this award-winning group celebrate their achievement with this enjoyable Sunday afternoon program in the perfect venue for brass music!

1776, May 23, Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N 4th St (milwaukeeoperatheatre.org)

Although this 1969 musical won three Tony awards (including Best Musical) and was made into a movie in 1972, you just don’t see it performed very often compared to other classic musicals that seem to be revived every few years.  But then again, it’s pretty difficult to get one’s arms around a musical about the creation of the Declaration of Independence.  Enter Jill Anna Ponasik, the intrepid Artistic Director of Milwaukee Opera Theater, whose previous productions included a staging of Gilbert & Sullivan’s (there they are again!) Mikado with toy instruments and a recent co-production with In Tandem Theater of a musical based on Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Ernest.  With veteran local director Paula Suozzi (formerly of Milwaukee Shakespeare) in charge, MOT will be presenting a concert staging of 1776 at Turner Hall Ballroom this Monday night.  This immersive production features a raft full of familiar Milwaukee theater talent, including Alison Mary Myers, Jonathan West, David Flores (who was also in Ernest in Love), Karen Estrada, Marti Gobel and Natalie Ford (the Skylight’s Eliza in My Fair Lady), many of them playing roles you might not expect.  And throw in Jack Forbes Wilson (Liberace in not one, but two hit Rep productions!) on piano for good measure.  Turner Hall Ballroom will be set up so the characters will be actually sitting and performing alongside audience members…even the violinist and cellist are cast as congressional delegates!  It’s a pretty safe bet this one night only performance will be a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience!


What’s Going On

For the week of May 10-16…

All Our Own, May 12, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

We Six, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s resident Faculty Jazz Ensemble, winds up its season by presenting its annual showcase of original compositions.  Not only are the group’s members (Mark Davis, Paul Silbergleit, Eric Schoor, Eric Jacobson, Jeff Hamman and Dave Bayles) exceptional musicians, but they’re accomplished composers as well!  And most of the music on this program is brand-spanking new, so new that the ink will be still drying on the paper at showtime.  So if you’re up for something new and exciting, head over to the cozy Bader Recital Hall Thursday night for the We Six spring sendoff!

WMSE 35th Anniversary Membership Drive, May 13-20, WMSE Radio (91.7 fm or wmse.org)

Starting on Friday the 13th (Tempting fate?  Nah!), it’s WMSE’s Spring 2016 Membership Drive, celebrating “Frontier Radio’s” 35th anniversary.  Since the majority of the station’s operating funds come from listener support, it’s crucial that this membership drive reaches its $81,000 goal to keep the station going strong with its amazing variety of music, where one can hear everything from rockabilly, alternative, classical, big band, old skool, reggae, metal, jazz, country, R&B, prog, New Age…and good old rock & roll.  The volunteer DJ’s program their own music, much of it from their private collections, making the station a true community treasure!  And since it is the 35th anniversary, lots of really cool thank-you gifts are available for your pledge of support.  There’s a 35th anniversary CD featuring performances recorded live at the WMSE Studios, a snazzy red 35th Anniversary T-shirt, a brand-new WMSE Sweatshirt, and last but not least, the return of the legendary WMSE satin Guitar Smasher baseball jacket!  So remember to tune in for the special programming during Pledge Week, and most importantly, don’t forget to pledge your support via phone (414-799-1917) or online (wmse.org)!

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, May 13-June 12, Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N Water St (firststage. org)

Milwaukee’s premiere family theater wraps up the current season with this adaptation of Wisconsin author Kevin Henkes’ book, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.  It’s the story of irrepressible Lilly, who has her beloved musical purple purse taken and joins forces with a variety of new friends who help her get it back!  Like most First Stage shows, the cast is a mix of veteran adult actors and young performers, many getting their first taste of theatrical performance.  Director Marcy Kearns’ cast includes veteran actors Chike Johnson, Bo Johnson, and Elyse Edelman, as well as the talented kids in the “Purple” and “Plastic” casts.  And like other First Stage shows, Lilly offers life lessons in a most clever way, connecting with both kids and adults, making it a perfect show for the entire family!

And speaking of anniversaries, here’s a shout-out to the Rave nightclub (recognized by the Academy of Country Music as Best Club Venue), celebrating its 15th anniversary this weekend with shows featuring the Used on Friday and Saturday!

What’s Going On

For the week of May 3-9…

Song From the Uproar, May 6-8, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeeoperatheatre.org)

An opera that tells the story of Swiss explorer Isabelle Eberhardt, who packed lots of living into her 27 years, would have to be epic.  And so this weekend, Milwaukee Opera Theater joins forces with Wild Space Dance to present Missy Mazzoli’s Song From the Uproar.  Mezzo soprano Colleen Brooks portrays Eberhardt in this multimedia production, and she’s joined by a five-voice chorus, a quartet of dancers and an instrumental quintet.  The opera’s libretto is drawn entirely from Eberhardt’s journals, as well as the story of how survivors of the flood which claimed Eberhardt’s life scrambled to save her writings from being destroyed in the flood.  MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik and her team promise an awesome theatrical experience.

Brahms Festival II, May 6-7, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

After last weekend’s fabulous program of the first two Brahms symphonies, Edo de Waart wraps up his second last season as Music Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra this weekend with the second half of the Brahms Festival with performances of the Third and Fourth Symphonies.  Those who attended last weekend have likely already made plans to attend.  If you missed it, make sure your face is in the place for these superb performances of these towering works of symphonic repertoire!  All you prog rockers, take note:  Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman adapted the 3rd movement of the 4th Symphony for the song “Cans and Brahms” on the band’s 1972 Fragile album!

Spring Choral Concert, May 6, Schwan Concert Hall, 8815 W Wisconsin Ave (wlc.edu/arts)

One of the area’s outstanding choral groups wraps up the season this Friday when the Wisconsin Lutheran College Chorus performs its annual Spring concert at magnificent Schwan Hall on the WLC campus.  The program promises outstanding performances of a mix of sacred and secular music, classical and contemporary, which also marks a sendoff for this year’s seniors. It’s a great way to celebrate spring, another great WLC Chorus season, and the contributions of these talented singers over the past four years!



What’s Going On

For the week of April 26-May 2…

Fences, April 29-May 22, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep .com)

The final production of the Milwaukee Rep’s 2015-16 season is a play by the great American playwright August Wilson.  The Rep previously staged a fantastic production of Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a story about the legendary blues singer.

Fences is the story of Troy, a former Negro League baseball star and takes place in 1957, ten years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in the big leagues, and the year Milwaukee Braves star Hank Aaron helped lead the team to a World Series victory over the New York Yankees.  In the meantime, the limelight has come too late for Troy, who has been relegated to a Pittsburgh sanitation worker and unleashes his frustrations on his family.  At the same time, Troy’s son Cory is a high school football star who is eyeing a college scholarship and possibly a pro football career.  Concerned his son would experience the same frustration and heartbreak he did, Troy insists that, rather than pursue his dreams of college, Cory immediately gets a job after high school. And thus you have the tension that permeates this work.  Director Lou Bellamy, who has worked with Wilson numerous times during his career, leads a strong cast in this production, which will remind many of the Rep’s great production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman from several years back.

Brahms Festival, April 30-May 1, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

German composer Johannes Brahms is recognized as one of the true greats of symphonic repertoire, but his First Symphony was a long time coming.  While many of his predecessors completed their initial symphonies in their teens, they did not have the giant shadow of Beethoven’s monumental 9th Symphony over them as Brahms did.  As a result of his doubts about whether his work would compare favorably with Beethoven’s masterwork, Brahms spent 22 years completing his first symphony, which received its premiere in 1876 when the composer was 42.  Encouraged by the positive public reaction to his work, Brahms would compose three more symphonies between 1877-85.  Together, they stand as one of the greatest sets of symphonies by any composer.  Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Music Director Edo de Waart makes his final appearances of the current season by conducting all four symphonies over the next two weekends, beginning with the first two symphonies this Saturday and Sunday.  It’s a fantastic opportunity to hear these outstanding works performed by a world-class conductor leading a truly first-class orchestra.

Tweed Funk, Come Together (tweedfunk.com)

Summertime may not arrive for a while (but it will get here, trust me), but the hot fun has already arrived with the release of Milwaukee funk outfit Tweed Funk’s second album.  Following on the promise of its previous album First Name Lucky, the album’s ten tracks run the gamut from heartfelt ballads to all-out dance floor fillers.  The horn-based band, fronted by Smokey Holman’s powerful vocals, revels in 1960’s R&B showband glory, providing enough fuel to power any house party, even before summer arrives!  And there are special guests on board to provide extra party juice, including Roomful of Blues trumpet man Doug Woolverton and no less than Milwaukee’s Whiskeybelles, who provide great backing vocals on half the album’s tracks!  It’s the perfect complement to the James Hunter Six’s recent Daptone release Hold On! and that’s righteous praise indeed!  You can get the album by going to the band’s website listed above;  you can also get information on the band’s upcoming gigs, videos, etc., on the same website.

What’s Going On

For the week of April 19-25…

Ernest in Love, April 22-May 15, 10th Street Theatre, 628 N 10th St (intandemtheatre.org)

“What’s this:  A musical version of Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Bring Ernest?  What are they thinking?”  That reaction to In Tandem Theater’s final production this season would sound like one that greeted another musical production:  “A musical based on Shaw’s Pygmalion?  What on earth are Lerner and Loewe thinking??”  Well, My Fair Lady was successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and while Ernest in Love may not rank quite as high as that classic, it has plenty to offer.  In fact, it’s In Tandem’s largest production ever, and director Jane Flieller has called in reinforcements to help pull it off.  It’s actually a co-production with Milwaukee Opera Theater, and MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik and veteran local choreographer James Zager have come aboard to assist.  And the strong cast is topped by the irrepressible Angela Ianonne as Lady Bracknell!  And though it is a huge production by In Tandem standards, it’s still being staged in the cozy confines of In Tandem’s home, the 10th Street Theater. And it’s coming right on the heels of the Milwaukee Ballet’s wildly successful world premiere of Michael Pink’s adaptation of Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray!   So don’t miss this special treat!

Francesco Returns!  April 22-23, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Many Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra fans were disappointed when it was announced that Associate Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong was leaving the MSO to take a similar post with the Pittsburgh Symphony.  Well, I guess turnabout is fair play:  Several years back, the MSO plucked the PSO’s then-Associate Conductor, Andreas Delfs, as Music Director…and the rest is history!  Anyway, the good news is Francesco will be back to conduct this weekend’s MSO program.  AND he’s brought a special guest to the party!  Sensational young Russian pianist Natasha Paremski will be making her Milwaukee debut as soloist on The Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto, considered by many the “Everest of piano concertos” (and also the focus of the award-winning film Shine).  Rounding out the program is Samuel Barber’s Essay No. 1 and Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Symphony, an early work from the master of 20th century Russian music.  Now that’s what I call a homecoming!

2016 Italian Film Festival, April 22-24, Union Cinema, 2200 E Kenwood Blvd (italianfilmfests.org)

2016 marks the 10th annual Italian film festival hosted by the UWM Union Cinema.  Eight recent films will be screened for free from Friday through Sunday, all of them making their Milwaukee premieres.  For many of the films, it may be the only chance Milwaukee audiences will get to see them, as they are not currently available on DVD, Netflix, etc.  They run the gamut from documentaries (a look at Italian cinema during the Fascist Era), dramas, and comedies.  Click the above link for full film and schedule information.  When you have the opportunity to see outstanding Italian films for free, wouldn’t you rather enjoy them on the Big Screen?  Ciao!

What’s Going On


For the week of April 12-18…

Fallen Angels, April 15-May 1, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.org)

To wrap up its current season, Milwaukee Chamber Theater takes over the Cabot Theater to present the delightful musical comedy Fallen Angels.  It’s the work of legendary English playwright (and frequent guest of the Lunts at their Ten Chimneys retreat in Genessee Depot) Noel Coward, the master of the drawing-room comedy.  It’s set in the 1920’s and the three main characters of the title are portrayed by veteran Milwaukee actors Kay Allmand, Beth Mulkerron and Molly Rhode, and they’re joined by a supporting cast of other familiar faces.  A stylish stage, gorgeous costumes and (of course) a story filled with plenty of Coward’s timeless wit plus catchy musical interludes combine for a perfect springtime production!   And if you’re attending on April 22nd, stick around after the show and head to the Bistro upstairs for a free cabaret show from Kelly and Marcee Doherty.  They Dohertys are joined by pianist Ryan Cappleman, and from the leadoff rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Sisters,” the duo are off on a rollicking musical journey through the world of the theater.  It’s definitely reminiscent of the classic Carnegie Hall stage shows of Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett from back in the day, and that’s high praise indeed!

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II, April 15-17, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

First, there was Bugs Bunny on Broadway.  Then there was Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.  This weekend, nearly 25 years after the first show made its Broadway debut, Maestro George Daugherty returns to the Milwaukee Symphony Pops to present his latest show in which classic Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons such as What’s Opera, Doc? and Rabbit of Seville are shown on the Big Screen above the stage while the MSO plays the cartoon scores live on stage.  The music includes themes from greats like Liszt (“Franz Liszt?  Sorry, never heard of him…Wrong number”), Rossini and Wagner as well as the familiar cartoon themes of the great Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott (John Williams’ father once played in Scott’s own orchestra!).  These shows have thrilled cartoon fans from Moscow to the Hollywood Bowl, and you can get in on the fun at the Marcus Center this weekend!  But better hurry Doc, all three performances are certain to be sellouts!

2016 Record Store Day, April 16, various locations (recordstoreday.com)

Saturday marks the eighth Record Store Day, an event celebrating that venerable pop culture institution, the Mom and Pop record store.  From its humble beginnings, it has become a worldwide celebration, once again featuring oodles of brand-new vinyl collectibles along with live in-store music performances and DJ record spins, plus other surprises.  Many stores will be opening as early as 7 am, so hook up with your fellow music lovers and celebrate (and score some new slices of “Licorice Pizza” for your turntable)!  In the Milwaukee area, Exclusive Co. locations, Rush Mor and Acme Records in Bay View are expected to participate.  For other areas, click the above link for a complete list of participating stores!

What’s Going On

For the week of April 5-11…

Once, April 5-10, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

The Tony-Award winning musical Once is the latest show to grace the Uihlein Hall stage in the Broadway in Milwaukee series.  It began as a 2006 Oscar-winning movie about a busking Irish musician who meets and falls in love with a Czech girl living in Dublin  who’s a single mom and a musician as well!  This sweet, heartwarming story made a successful transition to Broadway with more songs added along the way.  It’s a charming story filled with great songs that captures life in contemporary Ireland,  sure to be a treat for all musical fans!

Mozart’s “Jupiter”, April 8-10, Pabst Theater, 108 E Wells St (mso.org)

The Milwaukee Symphony continues its two week residency at the Pabst Theater with another program dominated by the music of Mozart.  Irish Conductor Courtney Lewis leads the MSO in Mozart’s 41st and final symphony, nicknamed “Jupiter” and is considered one of the mightiest works in the symphonic repertoire.  Mozart’s Symphony #28 leads off the program, and Stravinsky’s Apollon musgate, an early composition for ballet, rounds out the lineup.  Sounds like yet another delightful MSO concert at the Pabst!

Motherhood Out Loud, April 8-May 7, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (nextact.org)

With Mother’s Day on the horizon, Next Act winds up the current season with this production devoted to mom.  It’s an anthology of 14 pieces on the subject, and among those whose work is included are Beth Henley, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe and Theresa Rebeck.  Director Laura Gordon (also a fine actor in her own right) rounds up three of her distinguished colleagues to being life to the stories:  Deborah Staples, Tami Workentin and Michelle Lopez-Rios.  And given the subject at hand, humor and pathos are sure to abound throughout this show, one you might want to bring your own mother to see!

Spring Concert, April 11-12, Bader Concert Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

The Prometheus Trio, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s resident Piano Trio, winds up its 16th season with a program of Mozart, Alfred Schnittke, and Brahms.  And for the 2nd half of the program, the trio will be joined by guest violinist/violist Emmy Tisdel, daughter of PT members Stefanie Jacob (piano) and Scott Tisdel (cello).  Emmy will join the trio for Schnittke’s Moz-Art for Two Violins and Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C Minor, a rousing finale for a great program and another great PT season!