What’s Going On

Plenty of great arts performances to be thankful for , including a bunch coming up this Thanksgiving week, so let’s see what’s up…

For the week of November 24-30…

Colors and Chords, November 24, Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N 4th St (pabsttheater.0rg)

Testa Rosa members Damian and Betty Strigens are the prime catalysts for this show, which brings together eight of Milwaukee’s best acts in a benefit for Islands for Brilliance, a group which brings together autistic kids and young adults with professional creative mentors.  Some results of their work will unfold as the concert proceeds, as group members will create visual art projected on a backdrop to the musicians on stage as a response to their music; which in turn may influence the music being heard on stage.  An exciting concept, and a great way to start the Thanksgiving holiday.

Doghouse Flowers, November 25, Fire Pit Side Bar, 1721 W Canal St (thedoghouseflowers.com)

So you’ve got a pile of out-of-town guests arriving Wednesday for the holiday, and you’re in a quandary about what to do on Thanksgiving Eve.  Here’s a solution:  Bring everybody over to Potawatomi Hotel Casino and head to the Fire Pit Side Bar for a special (FREE) show from Milwaukee’s best Americana band, the Doghouse Flowers.  WMSE “Chicken Shack” DJ Jonny Z is a featured member of the group, who are celebrating the release of their new CD Cold Comfort.  Rest assured, a splendid time will be had by all…and you may not even hit the slots!

Love Stories, November 27-December 20, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)

Real life couple Jim Pickering and Tami Workentin are longtime fixtures of the Milwaukee theater scene, and Milwaukee Chamber Theater’s holiday production is a special treat which features the duo in stories by George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht and Dorothy Parker.  While it may appear that you’re watching a staged rehearsal, director Paula (Milwaukee Shakespeare) Suozzi definitely gives the show shape and direction.  In this fun production, it will be difficult to tell when reality ends and the onstage theatrics begin!

Charlie Brown Christmas, November 27-January 3, Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

If ever there was a story that was a perfect match for Milwaukee’s First Stage family theater, it’s this TV special which had its premiere 50 years ago this year.  In keeping with the spirit of the TV show, which had real kids doing the voices of the child characters, the First Stage production will have young actors portraying the “Peanuts” kids.  In fact, the only adult actor in the cast is Matt Daniels (director of First Stage’s recent hit James and the Giant Peach) as Snoopy.  And the show’s trademark Vince Guaraldi jazz score will be played by Milwaukee favorite Jack Forbes Wilson (the Rep’s “Liberace”).  After last season’s great production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, many wondered what First Stage would do for an encore this holiday season.  Here’s the answer!

Home Alone, November 27-28, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Since its 1990 release, the John Hughes-written, Chris Columbus directed film Home Alone has gone on to become a Christmas classic.  To celebrate its 25th anniversary, this weekend  the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra presents two showings on the Marcus Center’s big screen, while the MSO plays the John Williams score live!  A fun treat for the holiday weekend, and a great way to warm up for next weekend’s MSO Holiday Pops shows!

Frogwater CD Release Party, November 28, Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company, 224 W Bruce St (frogwater.us)

It’s been a long time since Milwaukee’s favorite Celtic/folk duo Frogwater released their last CD Sparkle and Shine.  During last summer’s Irish Fest, copies of a new Frogwater CD surfaced at the festival.  And this Saturday marks the official release of Wide Rivers, a generous sampling of the group’s original (including the infamous “Opal’s Runaround” and “Waiting for Flynn”) and traditional reels, jigs and airs.  With the setting being Anodyne’s new cafe in Walker’s Point, it should make for a grand night of revelry and working off that Thanksgiving turkey!

2nd Annual Big Band Bandstand, November 29, Turner Hall Ballroom, 1040 N 4th St (wmse.org)

And if Frogwater didn’t help totally work off those calories, head over to Turner Hall Ballroom Sunday evening for WMSE Radio’s 2nd annual Big Band Bandstand show!  Following up last year’s great Cab Calloway band show, this year we have Festa Italiana favorite Louis Prima Jr and his band, playing the high energy swing of Louis Sr (“Just A Gigolo,” “Jump Jive An’ Wail,” “I Wanna Be Like You” (from Dinsey’s Jungle Book, where Louis did a memorable turn as the voice of King Louie!), as well as the band’s originals.  Opening the show will be Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Rhumba ensemble.  And between sets, veteran WMSE Sunday Big Band DJ Dewey Gill will be spinning tunes from from his exhaustive collection of Big Band 78’s!  With appetizers from Braise and a cool silent auction benefiting the station completing the scene, it’s a great way to wrap up the long holiday weekend!

What’s Going On

For the week of Nov 17-23…

Bravo Caruso, now-December 6, Next Act Theatre, 255 S Water St (nextact.org)

A backstage story about an opera singer on the surface would not seem to be the best theme for a holiday theater offering.  But when the singer is legendary tenor Enrico Caruso, and the setting is backstage at the Met on Christmas Eve 1920 at what would be his final performance, it definitely adds up to holiday magic.  And so it is with this show at the intimate Next Act Theatre, in which Next Act Artistic Director David Cecsarini gives a brilliant performance as the Great Caruso.  Now Cecsarini doesn’t actually sing, but a generous sampling of actual Caruso recordings (he’s acknowledged to be the very first recording star) provide the musical backdrop.  Complementing Cecsarini perfectly is Christopher Tramantana as Caruso’s longtime valet Mario Fantini, who’s been with the Maestro so long he’s able to correct forgotten details on Caruso’s oft-repeated stories.  A fascinating theatrical treat for the holiday season.

Midtown Men, November 20, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

So you’ve wanted to see the original Jersey Boys but just couldn’t make it to Broadway?  Fear not, the folks at the Marcus Center have come to your rescue.  The original stars of the smash hit musical have taken their act on the road and will be here for a one-night-only performance this Friday!  While there will be plenty of Four Seasons hits on the setlist, the show is a celebration of the music of the 60’s, so you’ll hear many more songs than you heard in Jersey Boys.  It’s such a fun show the urge to sing along will be irresistible!

The Mousetrap, November 20-December 20, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running play in theater history (over 60 years in London’s West End!), and now the Rep presents Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery as a special holiday treat in celebration of the author’s 125th birthday.  The stellar cast includes Rep favorites Jon Daly, Laura Gordon, Kelley Faulkner and Greta Wohlrabe, and of course there’s the trademark Christie plot twist!  Suffice it to say that once you see this play, the people you think you know, well,  you may not be so sure about them after all!

My Fair Lady, November 20-December 27, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)

The Skylight continues its run of high-class productions of classic musicals (The Music Man, The Sound of Music, Les Miserables, The Wizard of Oz)  with the Lerner & Loewe musical that made a star of Julie Andrews.  Skylight’s cast is headed by Natalie Ford as Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl who is transformed into a London socialite.  She’s joined by Milwaukee favorite Norman Moses (Harold Hill in The Music Man) as Professor Henry Higgins, the linguist who accepts a bet that he can make Eliza into a refined member of London society.  Other Milwaukee favorites in the cast include Rick Richter (Col. Pickering), Joel Kopischke (Alfred Doolittle), Diane Lane (Mrs Higgins) and David Flores (Karpathy Zoltan).  The jaw-dropping costumes and sets don’t take a backseat to any other production of MFL, and of course the show is packed with one memorable song after another (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “The Rain in Spain,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “With a Little Bit of Luck,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “Get Me to the Church on Time,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”).  Yes, this show comes from the Golden Era of Broadway Musicals where every show had at least a half-dozen hit songs, and Skylight is bringing them all to you for Christmas!  Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have the urge to fire up Frank Sinatra and Count Basie’s rousing rendition of “Get Me to the Church on Time!”

Holiday Folk Fair, November 20-22, Wisconsin State Fair Expo Center (folkfair.org)

Long before the parade of Milwaukee summer ethnic festivals arrived on the scene, there was another event that had all the festivals rolled up into one!  And it’s back this weekend at State Fair Park with the Holiday Folk Fair,  which was born of the ashes of World War II to present the opportunity to showcase Milwaukee’s diverse ethnic community.  Once again, dozens of Milwaukee’s ethnic communities will be on hand to feature native music, dance, food and crafts.  It’s truly a Milwaukee treasure for all to enjoy!

Downtown Christmas Parade, November 21, Downtown Milwaukee (milwaukeeparade.com)

Speaking of Milwaukee treasures, how about the city’s biggest and longest-running parade?  The parade, a tradition since 1927, steps off through the streets of downtown Saturday morning.  Marching bands, giant helium balloons, floats and local celebrities are all part of the festivities, topped by the arrival of Santa Claus in downtown Milwaukee.  And word has it the Big Guy will be bringing along snow to really make it a White Christmas!  So bundle up the kiddies and head on down, and remember:  No snowball fights!  After all, Santa (and his helpers stationed throughout the parade route collecting donations for Hunger Task Force) will be watching!  And if the weather seems too daunting, FOX 6 will once again televise the parade live (with an encore telecast on Christmas Day).

Oh, and by the way, BIG FM 95.7 has made the switch to all-Christmas music, all the time from now through Christmas Day!


What’s Going On

Well, what’s going on hasn’t been much since I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus here.  But the fall arts season has heated up so I’m finally back!  Before looking at what’s out there right now, I need to catch up with some kudos for some recent events…

First, congrats to Milwaukee Ballet for their fantastic production of Dracula last month!  Even though it’s the 3rd MBC production of Artistic Director Michael Pink’s rendering of the horror legend, it just seems the Count is hotter than ever!  Dancers, choreography, sets, costumes, orchestra…all united for a show that was simply sensational!  Bravo!!

Next, bouquets to all those involved in making the 2015 Milwaukee Film Festival a smashing success!  This 7th Edition had more films screened than ever before thanks to the addition of a new venue, Bay View’s newly renovated Avalon Theater.  My personal favorites were The Wrecking Crew, the documentary about the LA session musicians whose work was heard on tons of classic pop hits during the 60’s and 70’s (with comments from Wrecking Crew alumni Glen Campbell and Leon Russell); The Winding Stream, the documentary about country music legends the Carter Family which included the final interview with Johnny Cash, who was married to June Carter.  A great depiction of a major chapter in American music history; plus the special showing of Harold Lloyd’s silent comedy classic Safety Last in the historic Oriental Theater featuring live music accompaniment from the Oriental’s mighty Kimball Theatre Pipe Organ!!

Finally, a special mention to the Milwaukee Rep, which had 3 great shows running throughout September and October:  Back Home Again:  On the Road with John Denver, the Stackner Cabaret show that told the story of the folk-pop legend through the eyes of a longtime friend and backup musician, featuring many Denver classics in duo arrangements that showed what a fine singer/songwriter he was;  the Stiemke Studio’s The Lion, singer/songwriter Benjamin Scheuer’s brutally honest autobiographical musical in which he was the sole performer;  and the Powerhouse theater’s knockout production of the Broadway classic Dreamgirls with a superb cast and an intimate setting that put the audience in the middle of the action!  Not only were they all great shows, but they made Rep history as well, as it was the first time MRT had three musical productions simultaneously!  Come December, the Rep will showcase more music in its 40th Anniversary production of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol…Stay tuned!

And now, on to the current shows…

For the week of November 10-16…

James and the Giant Peach, now-November 15, Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

Milwaukee’s First Stage family theater opens its new season with this musical adaptation of author Roald Dahl’s “other” great children’s book (along with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).  Director Matt Daniels’ production features the usual First Stage of the area’s most talented performers along with veteran Milwaukee actors Andrew Varela, Jenny Wanasek, Amber Nicole Dilger, Beth Mulkerron, Doug Clemons and Rick Pendzich.  The costumes, actors and sets combine for a tale that will delight audiences of all ages!

The Ballad of Emmett Till, now-November 15, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (r-t-w.com)

In what could be called America’s version of The Diary of Anne Frank, Renaissance Theater’s season opener also marks director Marti Gobel’s first production since the demise of her late lamented Uprooted Theatre.  It’s the story of the young African-American man whose tragic death in Mississippi is considered by many as the start of the American Civil Rights movement in 1954.  The Anne Frank comparisons come in how both stories begin upbeat, almost jaunty before their inevitable sad conclusions.  The great cast conveys the drama of the story as well as contributing spirited musical performances, backed by an offstage trio that includes Frogwater’s John Nicholson!  A true highlight of the fall season, not to be missed.

Wicked, now-November 15, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

Is it really the third time in five years that this Broadway classic has come to Milwaukee?  No matter, as evidenced by the packed houses showing up night after night at the Marcus Center.  Alyssa Fox (as Elphaba) and Carrie St Louis (as Glinda) head a delightful cast in a production that features great sets, costumes and a knockout orchestra several cuts above the usual touring Broadway shows!  On the surface it’s the story of the witches of Oz before Dorothy blew in, but it’s also a story of friendship and tolerance that likely accounts for its enduring popularity (to borrow a word from Glinda’s showstopping number!).

Guys on Ice, November 13-January 17, Stackner Cabaret, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

The holidays are on the horizon, so what better way to celebrate the season than to spend an evening with 3 guys enjoying that Wisconsin winter tradition, ice fishing?  Apparently Milwaukee audiences think so since this the Rep’s holiday Cabaret show is the umpteenth local production of the uproarious comedy that will definitely take the bite off the chill outside!  Veteran Guys Steve Koehler (Captain von Trapp in Skylight’s memorable production of The Sound of Music several Christmases back) and Doug Mancheski are joined by newcomer and Who Killed Santa? star Bo Johnson for the trip Upnorth!

Festival of Trees and Music, November 12-22, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

For the 3rd year, the mansion at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music takes on an elegant glow for the holiday season with beautifully decorated trees abounding in the halls and a festival of music in the ballroom that is the Bader Recital Hall.  Here’s what’s on the music menu:

Nov 12:  Mission River Band, a group of downtown Milwaukee businessmen who get together to play the Best of Classic Rock after the sun goes down!

Nov 13:  A program of arias with Alisa Jordheim

Nov 14:  An evening of Flamenco Music featuring new WCM Faculty member, guitarist Marija Temo

Nov 15, 3 pm:  I’m Not a Pilot, alternative music from the band that features MSO cellist Peter Thomas

Nov 16:  A special performance from Philomusica Quartet, The WCM’s resident string quartet!

Nov 17:  A special performance from WCM’s resident piano trio Prometheus Trio with special guest MSO oboist Margaret Butler!

Nov 18:  A special festival show from the WCM’s resident jazz ensemble We Six!

Nov 19:  A recital from trumpeter David Cohen

Nov 20:  Doug Clemons & Friends present the Best of Broadway…And what friends will Doug have in tow?  You’ll just have to come and find out, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

Nov 21:  A Classical Guitar recital from Rene Izquierdo

Nov 22, 3 pm:  “Faculty Cornucopia,” a holiday stocking full of mirthful music from a potluck assortment of the very talented WCM faculty!

All shows at 7:30 pm unless otherwise noted…Full details available at the website listed above!

Liz Carroll, November 14, Irish Cultural and Heritage Center, 2133 W Wisconsin Ave (ichc.net)

If you’re still having post-Irish Fest letdown, your cure is arriving Saturday night when Liz Carroll performs at ICHC’s Hallamor Fall Concert series!  Since she became the youngest winner of the All-Ireland Fiddle Championship as a teenager, Chicago gal Liz has been dazzling audiences worldwide with her amazing musicianship!  An Irish Fest favorite, she performed at the very first Irish Fest 35 years ago (and there’s YouTube video to prove it!).  For this gig, she’ll be joined by Chicago musicians Pat Broaders and accordion master Jimmy Keane (another Irish Fest favorite!). Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see Liz performing a Milwaukee gig that isn’t Irish Fest!!

…and there’s more coming up next week!!

What’s Going On

For the week of August 24-30…

Boeing Boeing, now-August 30, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)

The approach of autumn is in the air…Cooler temperatures have settled into the area, kids are heading back to school…and Milwaukee’s new arts season has gotten underway with the Milwaukee Chamber Theater’s hilarious production of the 1960’s classic Boeing Boeing, which is playing at the Third Ward’s gorgeous Cabot Theater through Sunday.

Director Michael Cotey’s staging of this retro comedy tells the story of American bachelor Bernard (Brian J Gill) who’s enjoying the good life living in Paris, a life enhanced by the fact he’s engaged to three different women!  And they’re air hostesses:  American (New Yawker) Gloria (Anne Walaszek), Italian Gabrielle (Amber Smith) and German Gretchen (Samantha Sostrich).  Thanks to nimble use of the airlines’ timetables (Who needs the Internet??), Bernard is able to juggle schedules so only one girl shows up at his apartment while they’re on layover, often within hours of each other.  And it’s up to Bernard’s befuddled housekeeper Berthe (a deadpan but hysterically funny Marcy Kearns) to keep everything in order and prepare meals catering to each fiance’s preferences (and also wear aprons to match the specific guest!).

To add a little spice to the proceedings is a surprise visit by Bernard’s longtime buddy Robert (Ryan Schabach), who can hardly believe his friend’s incredible skill (and luck) in pulling off this scheme.  That is, of course, until one of the trans-Atlantic flights encounters nasty weather and is forced to return to Paris.

To reveal any more of the plot would only spoil the fun, but suffice it to say the entire cast does a splendid job in maintaining the high energy of the script  throughout the entire three hour show.  Please don’t let the show’s length scare you as the time literally “flies” by!  In fact, things get so crazy you will welcome the midpoint intermission when it arrives!  Also, special kudos on the set design (including Eleanor Cotey’s fabulous stewardess costumes), an eye-popping retro delight.

So if you can use a load of laughs (and who wouldn’t?), hurry down to the Cabot Theater before the show closes on Sunday!  It may be, to quote Berthe, a “bumpy ride,” but one you’ll love taking!

So after taking a break for summer holiday, it’s great being back and looking ahead to what looks to be a great fall season.  I would like to take a moment to express my appreciation for all involved with Milwaukee’s recent Irish Fest XXXV.  Despite the oppressive heat wave gripping the area plus competition from the Wisconsin State Fair, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, and a Milwaukee Brewers homestand, the fest was well-attended which no doubt inspired the many acts to deliver performances that went well beyond the “call of duty,” to which audiences responded in kind.  Many favorites, old and new, were here to help celebrate the occasion, but special mention must be made of the return appearance by the Omagh Community Youth Choir from Northern Ireland.  The group was born of a tragedy, the 1998 terrorist bombing of the town marketplace, resulting in scores of casualties.  A group of local music educators (including director Daryl Simpson) set about to form a group of local youth, both Catholic and Protestant, not only to help the healing process in the aftermath of the bombing, but to demonstrate these young people could not only coexist, but actually thrive through the power of music.  From Day One, the choir has had a special relationship with Milwaukee Irish Fest, and it was truly inspiring and thrilling to have them back with us for this very special Irish Fest.  Hopefully, the heat and humidity wasn’t too much of a strain, and I understand the group was overwhelmed by the fireworks show (disguised as a whopper of a thunderstorm) that swept through the grounds on Friday night!  You can read more about the choir at ocyc.co.uk.

Midsummer Classic Extra!

Midsummer Night’s Dream, July 16-19, Kadish Park (optimisttheatre.org)

Yes, the 2015 MLB All-Star Game has come and gone, but another midsummer classic continues this weekend at Milwaukee’s Kadish Park when Optimist Theater offers FREE Shakespeare-in-the-Park for the sixth consecutive year.  One of the Bard’s most beloved comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will fill Milwaukee’s summer skies, but don’t look for the Athenian forest setting and Elizabethean costumes you might expect.  Director Ron Scot Fry has put an interesting spin on this production, where one might expect to hear Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead as background music in lieu of classical motets.  Given the urban venue, the play has been transported to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district circa 1968, and the actors are costumed appropriately, while Shakespeare’s words remain completely intact!  And this tale of starcrossed lovers and mistaken identities has a cast that features many familiar Milwaukee actors ie, Tom Reed, Chris Flieller (a hilarious Bottom!), Rachael Zientek, Samantha Sostarich, Malkia Stampley, Brian Miracle and Kat Wodtke (to name but a few!).  And when everything is said and done, the bottom line is, in the words of another English classic, “Love is all you need!”

What’s Going On

For the week of July 7-13…

Motown The Musical, now-July 12, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

It may be summertime in Milwaukee, but the Marcus Center’s Broadway Series has moved the party inside with this week’s run of this Broadway hit.  In telling the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy (or “Junior” to his family members), the huge cast performs a whopping 60 classics from the Motown songbook, as well as 2 brand-new songs co-written by Gordy especially for this show.  Cast members portray music icons including Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and many other Motown stars.  The story ends in 1983 on the occasion of the label’s legendary 25th Anniversary Special (but don’t look for the King of Pop’s Moonwalk here:  “Billie Jean” was not his lover, and it also wasn’t a Motown song!), and while the show does slow the pace for a ballad or two (including Diana’s show-stopping rendition of “(Reach Out and Touch) Somebody’s Hand”), the cast provides so much energy that they really do light up downtown Milwaukee!  Young Leon Outlaw Jr’s performances as Michael Jackson on the early Jackson 5 hits simply bring down the house!  Indeed, “Motown” has brought Milwaukee the rockingest party of the summer complete with “dancing in the street!”

Bastille Days Festival, July 9-12, Cathedral Square Park (bastilledaysfestival.com)

Now that Summerfest 2015 is in the books, the attention turns to Milwaukee’s East Town for its annual celebration of Bastille Day, featuring all things French and French-connected (ie, lots of zydeco and cajun music in the lineup!).  It’s Milwaukee’s only summer ethnic festival that’s held in the heart of downtown…and it’s FREE!  5000 runners kick things off with the 5K Storm the Bastille Run through Milwaukee’s streets on Opening Night, and things just keep rolling from there!  Nationally known acts such as Aluar Pearls, Rockin’ Pinecones, Tinker Boys, Mingo Fishtrap, Lost Bayou Ramblers and Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience are joined by returning favorites including Milwaukee’s favorite chanteuse Robin Pluer singing chansons from the likes of Edith Piaf and Madame Gigi’s Outrageous French Cancan Dancers, hailing from that bastion of French culture, Dayton, Ohio…but trust me!  Robin and the dancers will transport you to the streets of Paris!  Plenty of kids’ activities, craft and clothing vendors, along with a wide array of food and beverage available, including those ubiquitous beignets!   Vive la France!

What’s Going On

For the week of June 16-22…

“Carmina Burana” and Frank Almond, June 19-21, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

This weekend, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra welcomes back an old friend as Conductor Emeritus Andreas Delfs leads a spectacular season-ending program.  First up, Concertmaster Frank Almond (and his now-famous Lipinski Strad) is soloist in Bruch’s Violin Concerto, one of the most popular pieces in violin repertoire, and one of the greatest showcases for the instrument.  Then, the Main Event:  Carl Orff’s mighty Carmina Burana, the choral work based on (bawdy) Latin poems composed by medieval German monks (!), and perhaps the single piece most identified with Maestro Delfs’ tenure as MSO Music Director.  I saw his first performance of the piece in the season-ending concert in 1998, and this weekend marks the 6th time I will hear Delfs lead the MSO in the cantata.  That should tell you something:  With a full-scale orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, the Milwaukee Children’s Chorus AND vocal soloists, Carmina is one piece that must be experienced in live performance, regardless of how great your home stereo system sounds!  That is why the MSO scheduled it as a special non-subscription season ending concert.  Past performances have always been sellouts…I look for a repeat for all 3 performances this weekend!

Greek Fest, June 19-21, State Fair Park (annunciationwi.org)

Next Wednesday, Summerfest begins its 11-day run at Milwaukee’s Lakefront, leading off the annual parade of summer lakefront festivals that includes Festa Italiana, this year celebrating a remarkable 35th anniversary.  But before that, over at State Fair Park, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church (yes, the one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) presents-ta da!-the 50TH anniversary Greek Fest, the granddaddy of all Milwaukee summer ethnic festivals!  And like the previous 49, it promises to offer the usual attractions of music, dance, food (gyros, baklava, lamb dinners, Greek chicken, loukoumades…need I say more??)…and of course, the always-popular midway carnival rides.  And oh…did I mention admission is FREE?  Opa!

Metro Jam, June 19-20, Manitowoc’s Washington Park (metrojam.org)

This weekend marks the official arrival of summer, and what better way to celebrate than to head up I-43 to Manitowoc for the 37th annual Metro Jam, a festival that’s offered 2 days of great national and regional talent to the cozy Washington park bandshell…and the music is all FREE!  Friday’s lineup is capped by Milwaukee’s own American Idol star Naima Adedapo (and the only singer I know named after a John Coltrane song!), and the festival closes Saturday night with Black Crowes founding member and lead guitarist Rich Robinson and his band!  Other acts on the lineup include the AJ Ghent Band (think Robert Randolph!), the Americana rock of Pill Hill, the neo-surf sounds of the Revomatics, and much, much more!  Click the link above for the full music lineup!  Plenty of libations of the food and drink variety are also available (you gotta pay for those, but it’s a fundraiser for the local Jaycees!)…All in all, it’s one of the best block parties one could want!  Welcome Summer!