What’s Going On

For the week of June 28-July 4…

Summerfest, June 29-July 3 and July 5-10, Maier Festival Park (summerfest.com)

What began as an idea by Milwaukee mayor Henry Maier to replicate the Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich in 1968 in the wake of Milwaukee’s racial riots the previous summer, has become in its 49th year the “World’s Largest Music Festival”, a claim few would dispute.  For 10 solid days (with a break for the 4th of July), Milwaukee’s lakefront explodes with music, food, and other libations.  And while the big star attractions like Paul McCartney are already well-known, Summerfest also provides big time exposure for many of the area’s most talented acts.  For many of them, their Summerfest gig will be their greatest highlight.  With that in mind, I am listing some of those acts along the dates they’ll be performing.  They are all deserving of your support!

June 29:  Leroy Airmaster with Junior Brantley

June 30:  GGOOLLDD, Evan Christian, Jon Paris, Bad Boy

July 1:  Sammy Llanas, Trapper Schoepp, Consult the Briefcase, Willy Porter

July 2:  Peter Mac, Naima Adedapo, Clyde Subblefield All-Stars

July 3:  Mrs Fun, Bodeans, Streetlife

July 5:  Tallan Noble Latz, Tritonics, Doghouse Flowers, The Cavewives

July 6:  52nd Street-A Billy Joel Tribute, Southbound, Nora Collins, Jaill

July 7:  Violent Femmes, Tweed Funk, Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds, Colin O’Brien, Greg Koch

July 8:  Dr Woo, Joe 2.0, 5 Card Studs, Litmus Vinyl, Katie Mack and the Moan

July 9:  Reyna, Sigmund Snopek, Mike Benign Compulsion, Failure to Launch, Gabriel Sanchez and the Prince Experience, De La Buena

July 10:  Jesus on the Mainline, Whiskeybelles, Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound

For full festival and schedule information, check the link listed above!

Here’s Doc!, July 1-3, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

While most of the musical action is taking place at Summerfest this week, downtown’s Marcus Center will be hosting a very special concert this weekend as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra winds up its season by welcoming back former Principal Pops Conductor (and music legend) Doc Severinsen, celebrating 60 years in show business!  Doc will lead the orchestra along with showcasing his always impeccable trumpet!  As usual, the program is a secret with Doc, but rest assured there will be the usual surprises for the audience!  So be a cool cat (figuratively and literally!) and head over for some musical fireworks from Doc and the MSO!

Have a Safe and Happy Fourth, Everybody!

What’s Going On

For the week of June 21-27…

MSO at Chill on the Hill, June 21, Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park’s Chill on the Hill launched its 2016 season a few weeks ago, and this Tuesday the free festival presents one of the highlights of the season when the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra makes its annual appearance.  MSO Associate Conductor Yaniv Dinur leads the program which features music from Dvorak, Bernstein, Piazzolla and many more.  It’s not too often you can enjoy a picnic lunch with a world-class orchestra, so come on down and celebrate summer with music under the stars!

Thank You.  Next?, June 23-26, 10th Street Theater, 628 N 10th Street (milwaukeeoperatheatre.org)

Fresh from its sensational performance of 1776 at Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee Opera Theater winds up its current season with a world premiere production at In Tandem Theater’s home at the cozy 10th Street Theater.  Thank You.  Next? is Alicia Berneche and Tim Rebers’ story about…auditioning for an opera!  Eleven singers take their turns performing before a judges’ panel and along the way we learn about that gut-wrenching path to the big moment!  MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik and veteran Milwaukee actor David Flores co-direct the production, and the talented cast includes Milwaukee favorites Natalie Ford, Diane Lane and Nathan Wesselowski, accompanied by Milwaukee’s “Liberace,” Jack Forbes Wilson (who was also Music Director for 1776).  The score includes a mix of familiar arias along with new music from the Berneche-Rebers duo.  Not to be missed!

All-Tchaikovsky Spectacular, June 24-26, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra literally finishes its classical season with a bang with this weekend’s performances which feature Tchaikovsky’s immortal 1812 Overture!  It’s pretty amazing that a piece which celebrates the Russian army’s victory over Napoleon would become an American 4th of July tradition, thanks to the Boston Pops’ annual performances along the Charles River Esplanade, assisted by US Army howitzers and surrounding church bells!  Now the howitzers may not be part of the MSO’s performance, but rest assured Uihlein Hall will be rockin’ nonetheless!  And that’s not all!  Guest Conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto welcomes back virtuoso pianist Joyce Yang (who has previously performed the Rachmaninoff concerto cycle with the MSO) as soloist on the composer’s First Piano Concerto, sure to set off more musical fireworks!  Rounding out the program is the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin along with the lovely yet seldom-heard First Symphony (Winter Daydreams), making for an unforgettable way to ring down the curtain on the 2015/16 season!

Greek Fest, June 24-26, State Fair Park (annunciationwi.org)

Before there was Festa Italiana, German Fest, Irish Fest and all the other ethnic fests that are part of Milwaukee’s summer landscape, there was the granddaddy of them all, and that’s Greek Fest!  And, along with Bastille Days, it’s the only free festival on the schedule, and it’s back this weekend at State Fair Park!  So chow down on the lamb gyros and baklava,  and enjoy the Greek music and dancing (not to mention the carnival rides!) this Friday through Sunday!  Full information available at the above link!  Opa!!

What’s Going On

For the week of June 14-20…

Rhapsody in Blue, June 17-19, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra winds down its season with three straight weekends of concerts  beginning this Friday with a crowd-pleasing program with guest conductor/piano soloist Jeffrey Kahane.  The music includes George Gershwin’s headlining classic mashup of classical and jazz, along with his friend Maurice Ravel’s equally jazz-influenced Piano Concerto in G., both featuring guest conductor Kahane at the keyboard as well!  The balance of the program includes Aaron Copland’s majestic tone poem Appalachian Spring (with its majestic “Shaker Song” conclusion) and Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story”, the composer’s setting of familiar themes from the classic musical for full orchestra.  What a rousing way to welcome summer!

2016 Metro Jam, June 17-18, Washington Park, Manitowoc, WI (metrojam.org)

For 38 years, “Manty’s” Washington Park has been the setting for one of the best free summer music fests in the state, and this weekend’s event promises more of the same!  This year’s fest headliner is the Pat Travers Band, a classic band from the golden days of Album Rock radio with their anthem “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights).”  The good news is that he’s still layin’ down the riffs and releasing fine new blues albums, and I’m certain we’ll be hearing material both old and new on Saturday night!  Also on the festival bill are several acts familiar to Milwaukee audiences.  The great classical rock band Joe 2.0 (featuring a string quartet, rock rhythm section and Bad Boy’s Xeno on vocals) tops the bill on Friday night, while Brew City power pop icons the Mosleys and Americana/Roots band Devil Met Contention hold down the fort Saturday afternoon.  Preceding the Travers Band Saturday evening are the sounds of Austin Texas retro Soul/R&B act the Greyhounds and hot Nashville Cat guitarist JD Simo.  Imagine all these acts (and more) playing to a gathering that more closely resembles a neighborhood block party than a big time summer  music festival, and you pretty much have the picture of what you’ll get at Metro Jam!  No wonder the Green Bay Press-Gazette calls it “a musical oasis on the Wisconsin festival scene!”  And remember…it’s all free!!

What’s Going On

For the week of June 7-13…

Chill on the Hill, June 7-August 30, Humboldt Park (bayviewneighborhood.org)

With last week’s opening of Jazz in the Park, the 2016 Milwaukee outdoor free festival season is off and running, and we have several more getting underway this week.  First up is Chill on the Hill, the Tuesday evening programs held in the natural bowl in Humboldt Park’s bandshell in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood.  For thirteen weeks, a wide spectrum of music will be presented, including a return visit from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra on June 21!  Kicking off this year’s lineup is Milwaukee’s iconic power pop trio the Mosleys.  The Bay View High School Drumline will get things off to a rollicking start at 6 pm.  When it’s summer in Milwaukee, you don’t have to wait till the weekend to party!

River Rhythms, June 8-August 31, Marquette Park, 950 N Old World 3rd St (westown.org)

On Wednesday night, The 2016 River Rhythms season gets underway.  The shows take place on Wednesday evenings at Marquette Park in the heart of downtown Milwaukee.  Up first this year is Shonn Hinton & Shotgun, providing a healthy dose of funky R&B to move you on Hump Day!  And there’s plenty more coming after that, so check the link above for the full lineup!

Mel Brooks Presents “Blazing Saddles”, June 11, Riverside Theater, 116 W Wisconsin Ave (pabsttheatre.org)

A rare treat for comedy fans and cinephiles is coming up Saturday night when legendary Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy (EGOT) winner Mel Brooks comes to town to present his classic 1974 Western send-up Blazing Saddles at the historic Riverside Theater. The timing is great since June 11 is also the birthday of movie co-star, frequent Brooks cohort AND Milwaukee native Gene Wilder (The Waco Kid)!  After the movie screening, Mel will host an audience Q&A session (Don’t worry, Mel won’t ask the questions, you will!).  Between that and the actual movie, the venerable vaudeville house will be rockin’ with laughter!

Locust Street Festival of Music & Art, June 12, Locust Street between Humboldt and Holton (locuststreetfestival.org)

Riverwest gets to weigh in to the Milwaukee summer festival lineup on Sunday with this event running the length of Locust Street from Humboldt west to Holton Ave.  The successor to the late, lamented Brady Street Festival of the 70’s, the Locust Street event is celebrating its 40th anniversary in a big way:  Six music stages with free performances from dozens of great local acts, along with a multitude arts and crafts vendors and several children’s areas!  From the music lineup, I would personally recommend Sigmund Snopek’s Beer Show (perhaps the one guy who’s performed at all 40 festivals!), Chicken Wire Empire, Extra Crispy Brass Band, The Mosleys (there they are again!), Tweed Funk, the Whiskeybelles and Delta Routine.  But seriously, you really can’t go wrong with any of the acts, so check the link above for the full lineup and schedule information.  Hmmm…perhaps the Belles will join Tweed Funk for some backup vocals during their show, just like they did on TF’s great new album Come Together! 

What’s Going On

For the week of May 31-June 6…

Kinky Boots, May 31-June 5, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

The Broadway in Milwaukee series concludes its current season with the Milwaukee premiere of the Tony-Award winning musical featuring a score composed by Cyndi Lauper.  I’m not giving away any plot spoilers here, but suffice it to say tickets are going like hotcakes, so check out the website listed above for more show information…and don’t delay!!

Jazz in the Park, June 2-September 1, Cathedral Park (easttown.com)

The granddaddy of Milwaukee’s free weekly music festivals returns for its 25th anniversary season this Thursday!  Lots of great music on tap (including Leroy Airmaster, Paul Cebar and the Charles Walker Band)…Check the website listed above for the full lineup!  The music gets underway at 6 pm each week, so make sure to get there early!!

Downtown Dining Week 2016, June 2-9, various locations (milwaukeedowntown.com)

It’s a sure sign of summer that the annual Downtown Dining Week returns this Thursday!  It’s your opportunity to sample some of Milwaukee’s finest downtown restaurants (lunch and dinner) for a mere pittance!  The lunch specials for $12.50 are an incredibly great deal!  Check the website listed above for the full lineup of restaurants featured for this year’s event…Bon appetit!

Bay View Jazz Festival, June 3, various locations (MKEjazzvision.org)

Coinciding with Bay View Gallery Night, the free Bay View Jazz Festival returns for its third year this Friday!  Dozens of Milwaukee’s finest jazz acts will be showcased throughout the heart of Bay View starting at 5 pm.  Check out the website above for a full listing of performers for the 2016 event…It’s like a jazz Summerfest!!

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!