What’s Going On

For the week of December 5-11…

This week I’m looking at the shows lighting up Milwaukee’s theater scene this holiday season!

The Secret Mask, now-December 10, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (nextact.org)

It’s a well-known fact among Milwaukee theatergoers that Jim Pickering is a true cultural treasure, and he proves it again in this US premiere now playing at Next Act.  Pickering plays Ernie Ryan, a recovering stroke victim who’s visited by his estranged son George (Drew Parker) who has plenty of issues with his own family.  Parker and Pickering’s wife Tami Workentin are great in their supporting roles, but it’s Pickering whose performance must be numbered among his very best, and that’s saying a lot.  He truly engages the audience as Ernie struggles to regain his speech and thought processes.  This is a real highlight of Milwaukee theater in 2017.

Miracle on South Division Street, now-December 17, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)

Another family-themed play is the Chamber Theater’s holiday offering.  Although this story is set in Buffalo, NY, this heartwarming tale of a devout Catholic patriarch and her three adult children could just as easily take place right here in Milwaukee.  Raeleen McMillion is delightful as the mom who at times comes off as a female Archie Bunker.  Josh Krause, Kat Wodtke and Greta Wohlrabe offer solid support as the kids who have plenty of ideas of their own.  It’s a fun, thought-provoking show perfect for the holiday season.

Holmes & Watson, now-December 17, Quadaracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

The Rep’s holiday production is a murder-mystery that does justice to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters of super sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick Dr Watson (Milwaukee favorite Norman Moses).  After Holmes vanishes, Watson is summoned to a Scottish sanitarium to help determine which of three pretender/patients might be the real Sherlock.  In the best whodunit tradition, this show challenges the audience to match wits with Watson to solve the mystery, but careful…Things aren’t always what they seem!

A Charlie Brown Christmas, now-December 31, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

After its smash debut in 2015, First Stage’s stage adaptation of the beloved holiday TV classic returns for another go-around.  And the great news is Matt Daniels (Snoopy) and Music Director Jack Forbes Wilson both return along with a new crew of delightful young performers.  In addition to presenting the entire story from the TV show, other classic moments from other “Peanuts” specials are worked into the plot.  Wilson obviously relishes performing the iconic Vince Guaraldi musical themes, and his kazoo duet with a ukelele-playing Snoopy alone is worth the price of admission!  Fortunately, First Stage’s ticket prices are most reasonable!

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

For the 42nd consecutive year, the Milwaukee Rep presents one of Milwaukee’s true holiday treasures.  After its smash debut last year, Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements’ new adaptation of Dickens’ classic Christmas tale is back  (with Jonathan Wainwright as Scrooge along with many of the cast members from the 2016 production).  And the good news is it’s even better this year!  The fabulous sets, costumes, special effects and music are all there, and subtle tweaks to Clements’ script have helped to make the story more cohesive.  For a massive dose of Christmas spirit (times 3!), you can’t do better than the Rep’s Christmas Carol!

Scrooge in Rouge, now-January 7, 10th Street Theater, 628 N 10th St (intandemtheatre.org)

And for something completely different, this hilarious spoof of Christmas Carol returns to the In Tandem stage after an absence of several years.  Food poisoning strikes an English music hall troupe at a cast party on the eve of the premiere of their musical version of the story, rendering all but three of the cast members unable to take the stage.  But the show must go on, so all the roles are played by Elyse Edelman (as male impersonator Vesta), Nathan Marinan (female impersonator Lottie), and In Tandem co-founder Chris Pflieller (all the remaining parts), ably accompanied by Josh Robinson (as Alfred the pianist).  Plenty of belly laughs and not a few groans are on tap in this rollicking romp, and beware: You may be recruited to play Tiny Tim for a crucial scene in the show!

Annie, now-December 27, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of this Broadway landmark about the red-headed orphan and her Daddy Warbucks, Skylight Music Theater offers this sparkling production for the holidays.  Veteran Director Molly Rhode leads a talented cast featuring Milwaukee favorites Andrew Varela, Carrie Hitchcock, Diane Lane, Samantha Sostarich, Doug Clemons and Kelly Doherty as well as many delightful kids and dogs!  Add on an irresistible story and score with a set and costumes to match, and you have the perfect mix for a show that will enchant kids of ALL ages!  But hurry…extra performances have been added, and tickets are going FAST!

Murder for Two, now-January 14, Stackner Cabaret, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

If you haven’t gotten your fill of mystery with Holmes and Watson, the Rep has more for you with this hilarious murder musical that has been delighting audiences since mid-November!  Co-written by Milwaukee School of Arts grad Joe Kinosian, it’s a nonstop 90 minute rollercoaster ride that pays homage to both Agatha Christie and the Marx Brothers!  Marcus Edmonds plays the would-be flatfoot attempting to solve the murder, while Kinosian himself plays the suspects…all of them.  And we’re talking nearly two dozen characters here!  So whodunit?  Are you kidding?  You need to see this and find out for yourself!  The breakneck pace and amazing energy of the actors make this production a stage version of a Ramones concert!  Gabba Gabba Hey!!

More holiday offerings coming up next week…Stay tuned!

 

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What’s Going On

For the week of November 28-December 4…

Well, downtown Milwaukee is lit up for the holidays, and so are Milwaukee’s performance stages with plenty of Yuletide treats! Today, we’ll take a look at some of the Christmas concerts that are on Santa’s list…

Holidays in Brass, St Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 1615 N Wauwatosa Ave, Wauwatosa (mfbrass.org)

The National Champion Milwaukee Festival Brass celebrates the season with their annual Christmas concert this Saturday, as well as the release of their long-awaited Christmas CD!  The concert will feature many of the selections from the CD (some familiar, some which may be new to you but will quickly become favorites!),  plus other great seasonal music. It’s been said nothing expresses the sound of Christmas better than brass…Come to this concert and find out why!

Christmas Pops, December 1-3, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

One of Milwaukee’s longest-running holiday music traditions is the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s annual Christmas Pops concert.  Along with the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus and Milwaukee Handbell Ensemble joining the MSO for the festivities, this concert marks the return of former MSO Music Director Andreas Delfs to lead his first MSO Pops program ever!  The joyous “setlist” is filled with popular and traditional favorites with something for music lovers of all ages! Demand has been so strong that a special performance has been added for Sunday evening!  Bottom line: Get your tickets now to avoid disappointment!

Christmas Choral Concert, November 30-December 3, Schwan Concert Hall, 8815 W Wisconsin Ave (wlc.edu/arts)

Another great Milwaukee Christmas music tradition is the annual Christmas Choral concert at Wisconsin Lutheran College.  Once again Prof Jim Nowack will be leading the Concert Chorus and Chamber Singers in the program which features a variety of traditional carols and exciting contemporary pieces as well!  The joy of the season is so palpable that you will be truly filled with the Christmas Spirit!

Beethoven and Messiaen, December 4-5, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

Another December music tradition in Milwaukee is a performance from the Prometheus Trio, and this year is no exception!  The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Resident Piano Trio’s program features one of the great Beethoven Trios plus 20th century French composer Olivier Messiaen’s monumental eight-movement Quartet for the End of Time. For this piece, the trio will be joined by Milwaukee Symphony clarinetist Benjamin Adler.  Messiaen composed the piece in 1940-41 while a POW in a Nazi prison camp.  In fact the piece had its world premiere in the camp!  While the circumstances might suggest the piece is of a somber nature, quite the opposite is true.  The piece was inspired by the biblical book of Revelation and is a strong testimony to the composer’s devout Catholic faith. Music of the season comes in many forms, and this concert is proof! Take some time from your busy holiday schedule for an evening of truly great music-making!

WMSE 4th Annual Big Band Grandstand, December 3, Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N 4th St (pabsttheatre.org)

Another annual event that’s quickly becoming a new Milwaukee holiday music tradition is the WMSE Big Band Grandstand at historic Turner Hall Ballroom, hosted by venerable DJ Dewey Gill.  The star attraction on this year’s show is the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, one of the greats of the Big Band era, with numerous hits including “Opus #1,” “Yes Indeed,” and the band’s theme song “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.”  Also on the bandstand will be the Jazz Band from the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra! Come down and see Dewey in a tux and cut the rug with some swingin’ tunes!!

And speaking of WMSE, let me take a moment to give a shout-out to the listeners and volunteers of the Mighty 91 for helping  the station reach its fundraising goal during the recent Fall Membership Drive!  These funds help keep programs like Dewey’s Sunday Morning Big Band show going strong (and in the case, over 30 years for Dewey’s show)!

Next week, I’ll be checking out the holiday theater offerings gracing Milwaukee’s stages!

 

What’s Going On

Before I begin this week’s list, I want to take a moment to recognize the just-concluded 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival.  A plethora of great movies showing in venerable Milwaukee  theaters combined with the very helpful army of volunteers helped make the festival a very special experience for the thousands who attended the screenings.  Special mention should be made of the many well-attended weekday matinees that were offered.  A number of seniors expressed to me their appreciation for these showings, which provided them ample opportunities to enjoy these great movies!  Bravo, Milwaukee Film Festival!!

For the week of October 17-23…

Sex with Strangers, October 20-November 12, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (r-t-w.com)

OK, the title probably got your attention, but this Laura Eason play is the provocative season opener for Renaissance Theaterworks.  It’s the story of middle-aged writer Olivia (played by Milwaukee favorite Marti Gobel) who hooks up with younger blogger Ethan (Nick Narcisi) who’s known more for his sexual prowess than his prose.  Expecting a one-night stand, things take a few unexpected turns for this couple in the production directed by RTW’s Mallory Metoxen.  It’s an adult entertainment that the Hollywood Reporter calls “sexually and intellectually provocative…and a hell of a lot of fun!”  And it goes to show you can’t judge a book by its author.

The Merry Widow, October 20 & 22, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (florentineopera.org)

Many people who say the don’t like opera have probably never seen Franz Lehar’s classic which opens the Florentine’s new season.  Ever since its 1905 opening in Vienna, this irresistible story of Hanna, the gorgeous widow who leaves her home country of Ponteverdo for the bright lights of Paris, has become a worldwide favorite.  The opulent sets and costumes along with the Paris scenes provide the opportunity for Milwaukee Ballet dancers to join in on the fun and the entire production will be backed by the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra.  Because of the Ballet’s participation, the Florentine’s production will be performed in English as the Ballet’s dancers will be singing as well as dancing!  The opera is filled with comedy as well as catchy melodies, making it the closest opera gets to a classic Broadway musical.  So come this weekend for a production sure to delight everyone!

Stories in Brass, October 21, St John’s Lutheran Church, 20275 Davidson Road, Brookfield (mfbrass.org)

Milwaukee’s National Champion Festival brass ensemble opens their new season with a program showcasing music that tells or is inspired by stories.  Music Director Mark Taylor promises a diverse lineup featuring an Irving Berlin standard, a Finnish hymn featuring cornet soloist Marty Kuphall and a piece by British composer Dan Price which reflects on the American Civil War.  Also on the program is a preview of the band’s performance at the upcoming US Open Brass Band contest in November.  As always, the performances by this virtuoso ensemble are not to be missed!

2017 Fall Membership Drive, October 20-27, WMSE 91.7 fm (or wmse.org)

To wrap up this week’s list, I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the semi-annual on-air fundraising drive for Milwaukee’s venerable public radio station (especially since I myself am a member of the Team WMSE volunteers!).  From now until 6 pm on the 27th, the station will feature special editions of their regular programs to get you listeners to provide the financial support to keep Frontier Radio going strong!  You can donate by calling the Drive Line at 414-799-1917 and speak with one of our phone volunteers, or pledge securely online at wmse.org.  And there are some mighty nice Thank You gifts available as well (I myself am quite fond of the WMSE Soccer Scarf!) at various pledge levels.  The full list can be seen at the station website listed above.  So whether you call in your donation or pledge online, please don’t forget to make your support count!  The incredible diversity of WMSE’s musical offerings (curated by its army of volunteer DJ’s) make it a community treasure that deserves your help!

What’s Going On

For the week of October 10-16…

Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, October 11, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

Jazz great Wynton Marsalis leads the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra into the Marcus Center this Wednesday for a show that will certainly be a high point for 2017.  With 15 virtuoso musicians (including Oak Creek’s Dan Nimmer on piano!) on board, the LCJO has grown in its 30 years of existence to become the world’s greatest jazz big band!  With a program that includes group originals mixed with classics from giants like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and many others, big band jazz just doesn’t get any better!

Young Frankenstein, October 14, Avalon Theater, 2473 S KK Ave (avalonmke.com)

This month’s Second Saturday Classic at the Avalon also coincides with the Bay View theater’s Shocktober festival leading up to Halloween! And while most of the fest’s offerings would receive the “Very Scary” rating from Count Floyd, this Saturday’s show will draw more guffaws than gasps!  It’s Mel Brooks’ classic 1974 valentine to the Universal Pictures horror classics of the 30’s and 40’s.  Starring Milwaukee’s late, great Gene Wilder in the title role (he also co-wrote the script with Brooks), this movie is packed with so many gags that the Avalon is showing it twice!  The showings are at 10:30 am and 1 pm and remember to ask for Abby Normal!  And watch for Gene Hackman in one of the greatest movie cameos ever!

Speaking of movies, the 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival is in the home stretch, winding up this Thursday,  There are still plenty of movies for you to check out, so go to mkefilm.org to check out the schedule and get in on the fun!

What’s Going On

For the week of October 3-9…

This Above All, October 4, Charles Allis Art Museum, 1801 N Prospect Ave (charlesallis.org)

The Allis Art Museum’s Movie Time’s series on wartime drama and romance continues with this 1942 movie based on the book by Eric Knight (author of the Lassie books).  It takes place in England in the early days of WW II and stars action star Tyrone Power in a rare dramatic performance as a soldier who becomes a conscientious objector.  Also in the cast are Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine (Rebecca), Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy from It’s a Wonderful Life)  and Nigel Bruce (Dr Watson in the Sherlock Holmes movie series with Basil Rathbone).  It’s a great opportunity to see this rarely seen gem!

Keeper of the Bebop Flame:  The Music of Barry Harris, October 5, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s resident jazz ensemble opens their new season with a tribute to this jazz master.  This pianist/composer whose influences include Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Coleman Hawkins was a mainstay of the 1950’s Detroit jazz scene and went on to mentor many other jazz musicians, including We Six pianist Mark Davis!  Come on down for an evening of great jazz in the cozy confines of Bader Hall!

Rent 20th Anniversary Tour, October 3-8, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

You read that right:  It’s been 20 years since this landmark rock musical inspired by the classic opera La Boheme and set in modern day New York City made its Broadway bow!  And to celebrate, a national tour is underway, which makes a stop at the Marcus Center this week as the season opener of the Broadway in Milwaukee series!  But it’s only here for a week, so hurry to avoid disappointment!

All the Great Books (Abridged), October 6-29, 10th Street Theater, 628 N 10th St (intandemtheatre.org)

It’s an hour before graduation when the class discovers they haven’t passed their English finals!  So the drama professor (Ryan Schabach), gym coach (Doug Jarecki) and student teacher (Chris Goode) take it upon themselves to present reams of material in 60 minutes to ensure the class graduates on time!  If you’re a fan of the hit show The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), you know where this is heading.  Hilarity and hijinks abound in In Tandem Theater’s season opener!  And boy, we can sure use the laughs now!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, October 6-November 5, Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

Most people associate the name Ian Fleming as the creator of British Super Agent 007 James Bond.  But for generations of kids, Fleming is the author of this delightful tale of an eccentric inventor, his kids and their magical car and their mission to rescue the kids of Vulgaria from the dastardly Baron Bomburst!  The First Stage Family Theater’s season opener is adapted from the 1968 movie starring Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes and featuring songs written by the Sherman Brothers (Mary Poppins).  Local favorites Drew Brhel, Malkia Stampley, Nathan Wesselowski, Elyse Edelman and Rick Pendzich are joined by the enormously talented young actors that make Fist Stage productions so special!  It’s a guaranteed fun time for kids of all ages!  And take note:  A special Pay-What-You-Can performance takes place at 7 pm on October 10!

Finally, if you haven’t checked out my special blog on the 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival, make sure you do!  There’s still over a week and hundreds of screenings yet to come, including additional screenings of films you may have missed earlier that are creating lots of buzz around town!  Go to mkefilm.org for all the info!

 

Special Edition: The 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival

2017 Milwaukee Film Festival, now-October 12, various venues (mkefilm.org)

For the past several months, Milwaukee has had a parade of festivals that make the city’s summer special.  But now the calendar has turned to autumn (although the thermometer would make one think otherwise), and the festival going has moved indoors with the 9th Milwaukee Film Festival.  This event has the same scope of the aforementioned summer fests, with five historic movie venues hosting screenings of nearly 300 films over two weeks.  Since this blog focuses mainly on music-oriented events in the area, the following is a list of personal recommendations of festival offerings that feature music in one form or another.  The website link above provides information on all the films and events included in this year’s fest.  So without further ado, here are my choices for films that are “must-see”…

The Lost World, October 3, Oriental Theater

In what has become a festival tradition, this year’s special silent film classic is the 1925 adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale of the prehistoric world, featuring the pioneering special effects work of Willis O’Brien (preceding his Hall of Fame work on King Kong in 1933).  And once again, Alloy Orchestra will be on hand to provide the musical accompaniment for the film, and it’s certain the results will again be stunning.  When you’re aware that all this sound is generated by just three musicians who perform non-stop during the entire movie, it’s easy to see why this is a one-time only screening that’s not to be missed!

Score:  A Film Music Documentary, October 4, Fox-Bay Cinema Grill

And speaking of movie music, here’s a fascinating look at the composers whose work has provided the accompaniment to films since the beginning of talkies.  And speaking of King Kong, director Matt Schrader’s film acknowledges Max Steiner’s pioneering work that made King Kong an all-time classic.  Scores (pun intended) of composers including giants John Williams and Hans Zimmer appear onscreen along with many of their contemporaries to offer their thoughts on their own work, along with comments on their fellow composers and the great predecessors (ie, Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North) that influenced them.  Of course there are plenty of classic clips to complement the comments, making Score “nothing short of nirvana for cinephiles,” according to the festival’s program notes.

Stop Making Sense, October 7, Oriental Theater

In memory of late director Jonathan Demme, the Film Festival once again presents a Saturday night screening of his 1984 Talking Heads concert film, arguably the greatest rock music film ever made.  Band member David Byrne and Demme set out to construct a movie that was a film first, not just a filmed concert performance, and in the process set the template by which all succeeding concert films are measured.  And it’s a good thing it’s being screened in the historic Oriental, whose wide aisles provide plenty of room for dancing, which this film makes impossible to resist!

Aladdin, October 8, Oriental Theater

It’s Family Sunday at the Film Festival, and rest assured there will be another full house at the Oriental for this one-time 25th anniversary screening of the Disney classic.  It’s one of the quartet of films comprising the Second Golden Era of Disney Animation which also includes The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. But it’s the only one featuring the manic voice performance of the late Robin Williams as the Genie.  It’s jaw-dropping to see how the Disney artists took the challenge of Williams’ work to create animation that’s totally complementary.  It’s also the final work of the great songwriting team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.  Seeing it again on the Oriental’s big screen is a treat for kids of all ages!

Rumble:  The Indians Who Rocked the World, October 9, Oriental Theater

In what might be the festival’s most revealing music film, directors Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana do a stellar job in demonstrating the pervasive influence of Native Americans in American Pop music.  The film’s title comes from the Link Wray guitar shredding classic which had its roots in tribal music, and is the only instrumental record ever banned by radio stations which feared it would incite their young audiences.  Others who get their due are Jimi Hendrix, jazz singing pioneer Mildred Bailey, blues pioneer Charlie Patton, guitar wizard Jesse Ed Davis (whose story will move you to tears), 70’s rock band Redbone (“Come and Get Your Love”), folk legend Buffy Sainte-Marie, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Robbie Robertson (Bob Dylan, the Band) and rock drumming greats Randy Castillo (Ozzy Osbourne) and Robert Trujillo (Metallica).  Among those providing commentary are Tony Bennett, Taj Mahal (repeating his performance from the recent TV music documentary series American Epic), and legendary director Martin Scorsese (The Band’s classic concert film The Last Waltz and Bob Dylan:  No Direction Home).  If that sounds like there’s a lot jammed into this film’s 103 minutes, you’re right!  For any pop music fan, this is a film that is not to be missed.

Well, that should get you started…Remember, this is just a small sampling of the vast array of movies on the festival program, embracing a plethora of genres.  Program guides are available at the festival venues (Oriental Theater, Downer Theater, Avalon Atmospheric Theater, Fox-Bay Cinema Grill and Times Cinema) and all Milwaukee Public Libraries, or as I mentioned before at the festival website mkefilm.org.

See you at the movies!

What’s Going On

For the week of September 26-October 2…

The Who and the What, September 27-November 5, Stiemke Studio, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

When it comes to the hot names in contemporary American theater, nobody has been attracting more buzz these days than playwright Ayad Akhtar, whose previous plays (and Rep productions) Disgraced and The Invisible Hand have earned Pulitzer prizes and worldwide praise.  He’s also a hometown guy, born and raised in Brookfield and is an Artist Associate with the Milwaukee Rep who’s been commissioned to create a piece for the Rep.  In the meantime, the Rep Studio season opens with another recent Akhtar play that could pass as a Muslim sitcom.  It’s about the family of Afzal, a widowed father.  But instead of My Three Sons, he’s raising two headstrong daughters, Zarina and younger sister Mahwish.  Mahwish has a longtime boyfriend and is eager to get married but Afzal (who Akhtar says was inspired by Archie Bunker) won’t give his blessing until her older sister gets married first.  Sound familiar?  Remember Fiddler on the Roof?  In the meantime, Zarina has been busy preparing a manuscript that calls into question no less than the prophet Muhammad.  And she has indeed met somebody, a convert named Eli who doesn’t quite meet Afzal’s standards for a husband for his daughter, to put it mildly!  Well, not to give too much away, but suffice it to say it’s a comedy that could be truly described as an Islamic All in the Family.  And the cast of Brian Abraham (Afzal), Soraya Broukhim (Zarina), Nikita Tewani (Mahwish), and Ben Kahre (Eli) deliver the goods!  If you felt Akhbar’s previous plays might have been a bit too intense, don’t hesitate to see this show, which will make you laugh and think at the same time!

Hot Mikado, September 29-October 15, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)

If you enjoyed the Milwaukee Opera Theatre’s acclaimed staging of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado in which the characters appeared in contemporary dress and played toy instruments, get ready for another re-working of the classic operetta as Skylight Music Theatre opens its new season with Hot Mikado, which was inspired by a 1930’s show starring the legendary Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.  WS Gilbert’s story and the G&S songs remain intact, but the setting is a 1940’s nightclub called the Hot House, and the songs have taken on arrangements worthy of the Golden Age of Swing!  Local theater favorites Rana Roman and Chris Klopatek are featured in the strong cast, which should help make this show every bit as fun as MOT’s production!  Sounds like a nice complement to the Rep’s current hit production of Guys and Dolls!

Silent Sky, September 29-October 22, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (nextact.org)

Are you a fan of the recent hit movie Hidden Figures?  Then make sure you head to Next Act’s season opening production.  As the movie told the story of the women who played a key role in the early days of the American space program, Laura Gunderson’s play tells the story of a group of women in the early 1900’s who work as human “computers” studying astronomy at Harvard.  The group is headed by Henrietta Leavitt (Deborah Staples), who is bound and determined to bring her female colleagues along with her as they enter a world long considered a men’s club much like NASA in Hidden Figures.  Along with Ms. Staples, director David Cescarini’s cast is filled with Milwaukee theater favorites, including Karen Estrada, Reese Madigan, Carrie Hitchcock and Kelly Doherty.  Yet another strong production on the Milwaukee theater scene this fall!

Edo Returns, September 29-30, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

The worst part of the past Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s season was that it brought to a close Edo de Waart’s tenure as the MSO’s Artistic Director, during which he helped transform the MSO into one of the world’s truly great orchestras.  However, de Waart was named Conductor Emeritus before he departed, and it is in that role he returns to conduct this weekend’s MSO performances.  And it’s a delightful program that’s in store, featuring works of Mozart, Haydn and American composer Charles Ives (continuing the MSO’s programming of American music in every program this season in celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday).  Ives’ short piece The Unanswered Question opens the program, followed by Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante, which spotlights a number of the MSO’s finest, including Associate Concertmaster Ilana Setapen (who’s also currently performing in the orchestra for the Rep’s Guys and Dolls!), cellist Susan Babini, oboist Katherine Young Steele and bassoonist Catherine Chen.  The program concludes with Mozart’s Symphony No. 39, one of his great final symphonies, making this a most welcome return for Maestro de Waart indeed!

And if that weren’t enough, be on the lookout for a Special Edition featuring the 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival, coming later this week!!