What’s Going On

For the week of February 14-20…

Robin Hood, February 17-March 12, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

For its 60th World Premiere production, First Stage applies the formula successfully used in their recent hit The Baker Street Irregulars:  Take a classic literary figure (Sherlock Holmes) and populate the cast with mostly young actors from the talented First Stage crew.  This time, Robin of Sherwood is surrounded, not by Merry Men but Marian and the Merry Kids of Sherwood Forest as they set out to rescue the kidnapped Robin, Little John and Friar Tuck.  Sounds like a jolly romp is in store, and if you’re looking for a bargain, keep in mind the 7 pm performance on the 21st is Pay What You Can!

20th Annual Festival of Films in French, February 17-26, Union Cinema, 2200 E Kenwood Blvd (uwm.edu/french-film-festival)

This is one of the best times of the year for Milwaukee film buffs.  For the 20th year, the UW-Milwaukee French Department and Union Cinema present a package of acclaimed French language films new and old FREE to the public!  Twenty films will be screened from the 17th through the 26th, and the films come from Canada and Africa as well as France, so there’s a wide range of genres featured.  It gets underway Friday night with the Journey Through French Cinema, the French version of Martin Scorsese’s history of Hollywood from a few years back.  Your tour guide for the 3 hour-plus journey is acclaimed director Bertrand Tavernier, who injects personal insights as he presents clips from classic French movies, many of which you may recognize.  Another highlight, sure to delight family audiences, is Belle and Sebastian:  The Adventure Continues, with matinee showings on February 19 and 26.  It’s a sequel to the Festival hit from several years back, featuring young lad Sebastian and his faithful dog.  This time the pair sets out to rescue Resistance fighter Angelina whose plane crashes on her way  home following the end of World War II.  Like the first film, it’s sure to please young and old alike…and that’s just a couple of the featured films!  Go to the link above for the complete list of featured films and screening times.  It’s one of Milwaukee’s best movie deals, and with that comes the caveat that you arrive early as the cinema usually is filled to capacity and latecomers  wind up getting turned away…Don’t say you weren’t warned!

What’s Going On

For the week of February 7-13…

Top Brass, February 11, Carney Performing Arts Center, 135 N 76th St (mfbrass.org)

For their first concert of 2017, the National Champion Milwaukee Festival Brass begin preparing to defend their title in Fort Wayne this spring with this program that showcases the virtuosity of this ensemble’s members and also features selections they’ll perform for their title defense.  The program covers a wide range from stirring marches to film scores, including music Richard Wagner’s towering opera Lohengrin…No, that’s not a misprint:  Opera music at a brass concert!  After all, opera excepts were standard repretoire of John Philip Sousa’s renowned band during its heyday.

Also on the program is Joy Webb’s “Share My Yoke,” featuring the MFB’s new Principal Cornet Krystal Esty, and a section of Chris Brubeck’s (Son of jazz great Dave) Concerto for Bass Trombone, which spotlights MFB member Kelly Eshbaugh.

While it may be cold outside, the playing will be hot inside!

What’s Going On

There’s so much happening on Milwaukee’s arts scene this week even Mr Groundhog is stepping out!

For the week of January 31-February 6…

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, February 3-19, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)

Not only is it Groundhog Day this week, but Valentine’s Day is right around the corner!  So instead of chocolate and flowers (or in addition to them!), how does a nice romantic night at the theater sound?  Skylight Theater is here to grant your wish with this production of the second-longest running (over 5000 performances) off-Broadway musical of all time!  This musical traces the ins and outs of romantic relationships (Think the Carl and Ellie sequence in the movie Up), from young love to senior pick-up lines, utilizing all types of songs throughout.  Best of all, the show features a quartet of Milwaukee’s most talented actors:  Karen Estrada, Kathryn Hausman, Rick Pendzich and Doug Clemons.  Another Milwaukee favorite, Jack (Liberace!) Forbes Wilson, is the show’s Musical Director.  Sounds like the perfect show for Valentine’s Day…or any Date Night!

The Other Place, February 3-26, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (nextact.org)

A cold winter’s night is the perfect time for an engrossing mystery.  Obviously the folks at Next Act Theater had that idea in mind when they scheduled this psychological thriller starring local favorite Deborah Staples as a researcher poised to make a clinical breakthrough.  When she goes to present her findings to her colleagues at a conference, something happens to her that causes her entire world to begin unraveling.  Like classic Hitchcock, this story will grab you by the neck and won’t let go until its shattering conclusion!  The intimate setting of Next Act’s venue only adds to the ambience of this story!

The Music of John Williams, February 3-5, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

When the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra made their historic Lambeau Field appearance during last October’s Packers-Bears game, their halftime show featured John Williams music that will be on this weekend’s Pops program led by MSO Associate Conductor Yaniv Dinur.  So if you weren’t at the game (and the MSO’s performance wasn’t shown on TV), here’s your chance to hear the music thousands enjoyed at Lambeau.  Lots of the great Williams film music is promised, including selections from Star Wars (natch!), Superman, Harry Potter and E.T.  If I had my druthers, I would hope the program would include the poignant “Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan, the emotionally gripping Theme from Schindler’s List and the inspiring music from Lincoln.  But this is a Pops concert, after all, but then again, Dinur doesn’t hold back on unpredictable programming choices, so we’ll see.  Either way, it should make for a great show!

Winter Recital, February 6-7, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

Mozart!  Shostakovich!  Need I say more??  Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s resident Piano Trio draws from music giants for their winter program, sure to heat up Bader Hall!  Please note that the performance on the 7th is PT’s annual matinee at 11 am, so if you’re more apt to venture out during the daytime over the winter, here’s your chance!

Deconstructing the Beatles:  Sgt Pepper, February 6, Oriental Theater, 2230 N Farwell Ave (landmarktheatres.com)

Following up on last November’s film about the making of the Beatles’ White Album, Fab Four expert Scott Freiman continues his series Monday night at the Oriental as he examines what went into the making of the historic album Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.  2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the album’s release, so the timing couldn’t be better.  While many of the anecdotes in this story will be familiar to longtime fans, count on Freiman to dig up interesting factoids bound to amaze even the most diehard Beatlemaniacs!  And remember, this show is One Night Only!

And speaking of recordings, Milwaukee PBS will be repeating the groundbreaking six-part series Soundbreaking for the next three Wednesdays beginning February 1st at 8 pm on channel 36.1.  Two episodes will be shown each evening, so if you missed this look at the history of pop music production when it had its premiere last November, don’t pass up your chance to catch this encore telecast!

What’s Going On

The January Thaw has arrived in Milwaukee, and the Milwaukee theater scene is heating up, including 2 new shows at the Milwaukee Rep…Check it out!

For the week of January 17-23…

Disgraced, January 20-February 12, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

Milwaukee native Ayad Akhtar is the hottest playwright working today, so much so that the Milwaukee Rep has made him an Artist-in-Residence and commissioned a new play that will be presented during the 2017-18 season.  In the meantime, the Rep is staging the play that earned Akhbar the Pulitzer Prize and a smash run on Broadway!  Disgraced is a searing look at modern America through the eyes of Amir, a successful Pakistani-American lawyer.  When he and his Caucasian wife invite his African-American co-worker and her Jewish husband over for a dinner party, the stage is set for racial and cultural differences to bubble to the surface, leading to confrontations that will leave audiences thinking long after leaving the theater.  Prepare for the premiere of Akhtar’s new play by seeing this production of one of the most celebrated plays in recent memory!

McGuire, January 20-March 19, Stackner Cabaret, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

The Stackner’s latest offering celebrates 100 years of Marquette University basketball and 40th anniversary of MU’s NCAA championship.  It’s a showcase of one of Milwaukee’s most beloved and complex figures, the late coach Al McGuire, whose coaching career was eclipsed by his many years as TV commentator for NBC and CBS.  His longtime partner, Dick Enberg (himself a sportscasting legend), wrote this one-man play that explores the many sides that made up the man, brilliantly mixing humor and pathos in the process.  Tony-award winning actor Anthony Crivello (himself a MU alum and a cheerleader for the ’77 basketball team) fulfills Enberg’s desire to make his play a vehicle to bring “Give ‘Em Hell” Al back to life.  Enberg would also like to see this play produced on Broadway, and given the fact a play about Vince Lombardi has been staged on the Great White Way, I’d say the chances of that happening are good indeed.  Not to be missed, and since over 80% of all the tickets available for the show’s run are already gone, he who hesitates is lost!

Luna Gale, January 20-February 12, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (r-t-w.com)

Renaissance Theaterworks’ first production of 2017 is a play that’s as current as today’s headlines.  Director Mary MacDonald Kerr leads a powerful cast in a story that examines the state of the foster care system.  Veteran Tami Workentin is Caroline, a case worker pushed to the limits who is in the process of placing a baby girl (named Luna Gale) with the baby’s grandmother.  But upon discovering the grandmother’s religious fervor may not be in the child’s best interests, Caroline attempts to return the baby to parental custody.  One can see the troubles to come, and like Disgraced, audiences will be contemplating this story long after the play is over.  The conflicts raised here bring to mind last season’s Renaissance production of Agnes of God.

Die Magic Flute, January 20-29, Tripoli Shrine Temple, 3000 W Wisconsin Ave (milwaukeeoperatheatre.org)

Magic Flute is one of Mozart’s most beloved and popular comic operas, but in the hands of Milwaukee Opera Theater Artistic Director Jill-Anna Ponasik, this new production will head in directions that are definitely new territory.  Take the venue for example.  Previous MOT productions have been staged in a local bookstore and the Wauwatosa Women’s Club assembly hall, and given Mozart was a Freemason and Masonic imagery permeates this opera, it only seemed natural that MOT would select the Tripoli Shrine Temple as the venue for this production.  MOT joins up with Quasimodo Physical Theater and Candance Collective for this new English language adaptation, and the thought of Papagena entering on roller skates could alone make this worth the price of admission!

What’s Going On

For the week of January 10-16….

Blue Oyster Cult/The Tubes, January 13, Northern Lights Theater, 1721 W Canal St (paysbig.com/shows)

Friday the 13th is a lucky day for Milwaukee’s Classic Rock fans with a great double bill in the intimate Northern Lights Theater!  Headlining will be Blue Oyster Cult, whose massive 70’s hit “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” made the phrase “More cowbell” part of the pop culture lexicon.  Opening the show are the kings of theatrical rock, the Tubes, with their irrepressible leader Fee Waybill.  The band is part of an elite group of rock acts that were the guests of “Fishin’ Musician” Gil Fisher at the Scuttlebound Lodge on the classic SCTV series!  Atta boy, Shadow…Talk to ya later!!

Scheherazade, January 13-14, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Conductor JoAnn Falletta, Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and Virginia Symphony, began her career as Associate Conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra from 1985-88.   This weekend, she returns to lead the MSO’s brilliant program which leads off with a short piece from contemporary American composer John (The Red Violin) Corigliano.  The program continues with another MSO returnee, cellist Zuill Bailey, as soloist in Saint-Saens’ dazzling Cello Concerto #1.  Winding up the festivities is Rimsky-Korsakov’s crowd-pleasing tone poem Scheherazade, a musical setting of the Tales of the Arabian Nights featuring solo violin passages from MSO Concertmaster Frank Almond.  All great music to warm up a chilly winter’s evening!

Welcome to Bronzeville,  January 13-February 5, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

Family theater First Stage’s first production of 2017 is this original play from writer/director Sheri Williams Pannell that celebrates the neighborhood that was once the hub of Milwaukee’s African-American community.  The time is 1957, and the show is populated by a wide cross-section of characters (inspired by actual residents) that were all integral to this close-knit area.  Even legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday (Malkia Stampley) is on hand for a gig at a local club!  The show is a poignant reminder for all ages of what for decades was a thriving part of Milwaukee.

Melodies and Memories:  200 Years of Milwaukee Music, now-April 29, Milwaukee County Historical Society, 910 N Old World 3rd St (milwaukeehistory.net)

You can bet the sounds of Bronzeville are among those heard in this ambitious special exhibit at the MCHS.  Like the name says, it’s a wide-ranging look at the wide range of music embraced by Milwaukee through the decades, from classical to ethnic to folk to jazz to pop and everything between.  Vintage musical instruments are on display, and Milwaukee music-related businesses like Hal Leonard Publishing and Koss Stereophones are represented too.  And since music is most definitely an active art form, there’s plenty of interactive opportunities available, including instruments from Brass Bell and Cascio Music as well as listening stations where one can sample various types of Milwaukee music down through the years, complementing the visual artifacts on display.  Bottom line:  If you’re a music buff, this is a must!!


What’s Going On

For the week of January 3-9…

Welcome to the first post of 2017!

The Sound of Music, January 3-8, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

It’s pretty amazing to know that The Sound of Music, one of the most beloved musicals of all time, has had only one Broadway revival (1999) since its original 1959 production, thanks to the incredible popularity of the Oscar-winning 1965 film version. That could change with the touring production playing Milwaukee from Tuesday through Sunday.  The aim is to make this production Broadway-bound when its road tour ends, and the show’s director, Broadway veteran Jack O’Brien (Tony winner for Hairspray) just might pull it off.  Much like the recent revival of West Side Story, O’Brien has tweaked the story to make it more relevant to contemporary audiences.  Most notably, he has made Maria more age-accurate.  In the actual story, she was only 5 years older than eldest Trapp daughter Liesl when she went to work as the Trapp children’s governess (O’Brien notes when he saw the original Broadway production, Mary Martin was 46!).  And speaking of Liesl, O’Brien has made her any boyfriend Rolf into characters that behave like actual teenagers  (The younger Trapp kids share similar characteristics), giving their spotlight song “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” new meaning.   And the budding romance between Maria and Captain von Trapp definitely smolders.  In many ways, this production has many similarities to Maria Rhode’s landmark production at Skylight Theater several years back.  And that’s a good thing!  Seeing this production provides relevancy to current events of today, a trait shared by other revivals of classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals.  So check it out…you may be seeing a Broadway production before it opens on the Great White Way!

And though the calendar says the holidays are over, 2 local holiday productions are still running.  In Tandem’s hilarious spoof Holiday Hell:  The Curse of Perry Williams plays through Sunday, and the Rep’s dazzling Irving Berlin tribute I Love a Piano continues at the Stackner Cabaret through the 15th.  If you’ve been to busy to check them out, don’t miss your chance to see them now!

What’s Going On

For the week of December 13-19…

Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue, December 14-18, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

While they may not be as long-running a Milwaukee holiday tradition as the Rep’s Christmas Carol or the Ballet’s Nutcracker, this iconic Chicago improv comedy troupe returns for yet another Christmastime visit to our fair city this week.  For those of you who didn’t get enough irreverent holiday humor from In Tandem’s just-opened Holiday Hell:  The Curse of Perry Williams, rest assured Second City is here to provide more.  But remember, they’re here only till Sunday!

The Right Stuff, December 14-15, AMC Theaters nationwide (including  AMC Mayfair Rd, Mayfair Mall) (amctheatres.com)

In tribute to the recently passed John Glenn, AMC Theatres have brought back the 1983 film version of Tom Wolfe’s classic book about Chuck Yeager’s quest to break the sound barrier and the astronauts (including Glenn) who were America’s first men in space.  This is a great opportunity to see this gem on the Big Screen, where it deserves to be seen.  The eye-popping effects are complemented by splendid ensemble acting, from a cast that includes Sam Sheppard, Barbara Hershey, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Scott Glenn, Harry Shearer, Jeff Goldblum, the Band’s Levon Helm (!), and Chuck Yeager himself (Keep your eyes peeled!).  The launch of Glenn’s Friendship 7 spacecraft to the accompaniment of Gustav Holst’s classic suite The Planets is one of the most heart-stopping sequences ever captured on film.  Also watch for cameos from veteran CBS newsman Eric Sevareid and Jose Jimenez.  It’s a three-hour plus film that literally flies by!

White Christmas, December 17, Avalon Theater, 2473 S KK Ave (avalonmke.com)

Also back in its widescreen glory is this 1954 Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye musical, showing this Saturday morning as part of the Avalon’s “5 Days of Christmas” series.  Like the Rep’s current Stackner Cabaret show “I Love a Piano,” this movie is bursting with tunes written by Irving Berlin.  They range from a touching rendition of the title classic, to “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep),” “Choreography” (must be seen to be believed), “Sisters,” “Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army,” “What do You do with a General?” “Snow,” “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing”…Well, you get the idea.  One of the first Big Screen musicals, the movie was a big hit when initially released, and it’s still fun watching today (even if the plot is a bit on the corny side, but the presence of Bing and Danny’s co-stars Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt) and Vera-Ellen compensate for that).

Haunted Screens, now-January 22, Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N Art Museum Drive (mam.org/haunted-screens)

An exhibit about the German Expressionist film movement of the 1920’s and 30’s may not be the first thing that comes to mind as a holiday time diversion.  But for cinema buffs, this current special presentation at the Milwaukee Art Museum is a real treat.  Lots of artifacts from classics including The Blue Angel, Metropolis (recently screened at the Milwaukee Film Festival), The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, M, Nosferatu and many more are here for your perusal.  After that, if you’re still seeking more traditional holiday fare, head over to the Kooky Cooky House at Discovery World next door!