What’s Going On

Due to my continuing recovery from the assault and robbery I suffered a month ago, this blog has been on hiatus.  But as the old adage goes, “The show must go on,” and so I’m back with a truncated version to be sure, but I wanted to make you aware of some great events coming up this week, and so…

For the week of May 15-21…

Urinetown, May 18-June 10, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)

For its final production this season, the Skylight presents this multiple Tony Award winner that’s a clever political satire AND a spoof of Broadway musicals!  With a sterling cast under the direction of Skylight Artistic Director Ray Jivoff, this production is sure to make for a ripping good time at the theater (and boy, we can sure use it now)!  And remember, Skylight brought you a hit production of Avenue Q (another quirky satirical musical) a few seasons back!

Sensuous Ravel, May 19-20, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

French composer Maurice Ravel is one of the 20th century’s great composers.  But rather than performing warhorses like Bolero, La Valse or Ravel’s classic orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will be featuring the rarely performed Daphnis et Chloe Suite #2 this weekend.  Like the early works of Ravel’s contemporary Stravinsky, this music was composed for the ballet.  Guest conductor Ken-David Masur will be joined by the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus along with the MSO to perform this breathtaking music.  Also on the program:  MSO Principal Clarinetist Todd Levy continues his exploration of pieces for solo clarinet and orchestra with a performance of Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, commissioned by “King of Swing” Benny Goodman; MSO Prinicpal Violist Robert Levine is featured on Ralph Vaughan Williams’ sensuous Flos Campi, a work inspired by the Bible’s Song of Solomon; and opening the program is the MSO premiere of American composer Augusta Read Thomas’ 2010 piece Radiant Circles.  The season may be winding down for the MSO, but the great music keeps coming!

Festival City Postcards, May 20, Carney Performing Arts Center, Pius XI High School, 135 N 76th St (mfbrass.org)

For the final concert of its 33rd season, the two-time National Champion Milwaukee Festival Brass presents a concert that promises to be unique and entertaining.  With a nod to Milwaukee’s upcoming festival season, the MFB presents a program that features music associated with Milwaukee musicians and composers, along with music that’s identified with Milwaukee’s summer ethnic festivals.  The music runs the gamut from Al Jarreau to the Violent Femmes…Heck, hearing a brass band rendition of “Blister in the Sun” (although that may not be the song performed) would be worth the price of admission alone!



What’s Going On

For the week of April 10-16…

April showers bring more great arts events!!

Last Straw, April 10, Times Cinema, 5906 W Vliet St (exfabula.com)

Hard to believe, but Milwaukee’s favorite storytellers group will soon wrap up its 9th season!  This season’s final StorySlam takes place on the 10th at the friendly confines of the Times Cinema in Washington Heights.  The contestants will present monologues (or possibly dialogues) on the theme “The Last Straw.”  After the presentations, audience members will vote for their favorite!  The winner advances on to the Ex Fabula All Stars show at Turner Hall Ballroom in May!  The storytellers and their stories make for an evening well spent!

Our Town, April 13-May 13, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

The final production of the Milwaukee Rep’s season is Wisconsin playwright Thornton Wilder’s gem of American theater, which the Rep is staging for the fourth time in its 65 year history.  The story of life in the fictional town of Grover’s Corners in a bygone era has been performed all over the world, and this production boasts one of the largest casts in Powerhouse Theater history.  Director Brent Hazelton’s cast includes a veritable “Who’s Who” of Wisconsin theater, including Laura Gordon (in the key role of the Stage Manager), James Ridge, Carrie Hitchcock, Jonathan Smoots, Rana Roman, Chike Johnson, DiMonte Henning, Elizabeth Ledo (seen recently in Renaissance Theaterworks’ Russian Transport), Jim Pickering and Jonathan Wainwright (Scrooge in recent productions of the Rep’s Christmas Carol).  In addition, the current members of the Rep’s Emerging Professional Residents program are represented in the cast.  In short, even if you’ve seen this play elsewhere in the past, you can rest assured this Rep production will truly be a Grand Finale to the 2017-18 season!

Doubt, April 13-29, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)

John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play that became the acclaimed 2008 film starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman wraps up Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s season.  MCT Artistic Director C. Michael Wright leads a great cast in this story of an unfolding scandal at a Catholic high school in the Bronx circa 1964.  Featured are MCT veterans April Paul and Marcus Truschinski, along with MCT debuts from Colleen Madden (recently seen in the Rep’s hit Black Pearl Sings!) and veteran Milwaukee actor/director Malkia Stampley.  Don’t miss this stunning tale of deception and intrigue in the magnificent Cabot Theater!

The Wizard of Oz, April 14, Avalon Theater, 2473 S KK Ave (avalonmke.com)

Yes, April IS Tornado Awareness Month, and that means it’s time once again for Bay View’s magnificent Avalon Theater to present the 1939 classic musical (in a 4K restoration, no less!) as part of its Second Saturday Classics series!  Join Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Robert Morgan, Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton and the Munchkins for this amazing, colorful and tuneful journey down the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City!  Due to popular demand, there will be two screenings this year-at 10:30 am and 1 pm!  A little bird also tells me a group of Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra musicians will be performing in the Avalon lobby between performances!  But remember this is one of the Avalon’s most popular classic presentations, so get your tickets early so you don’t get “blown away” at the door!

Prometheus Trio Spring Concert, April 16-17, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

You’ve heard them perform with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, now hear these virtuoso musicians perform their final concert of the season in the cozy confines of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Bader Recital Hall!  As usual, the program is a cornucopia of chamber music delights old and new!  Shulamit Ran’s 1997 Soliloquy is joined by Julius Klengel’s Kindertrio in D Major, Joaquin Turina’s Trio No. 2 in B Minor and Robert Schumann’s Trio in D Minor.  It’s another fine showcase that wraps up another great PT season!

What’s Going On

Even though the thermometer may not show it, Spring is busting out all over, especially on the Milwaukee theater scene!  Three new shows open this week!

For the week of April 3-9…

Top Girls, April 6-29, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (r-t-w.com)

Renaissance Theaterworks wraps up its 25th season with a show that is very faithful to its mission to present plays written by women, featuring strong female characters, for everybody.  And even though Caryl Churchill’s play made its debut in 1982, it’s very relevant in 2018.  It’s the story of Marlene, who’s just been promoted to Managing Director over her senior male colleagues.  She celebrates by hosting a dinner party to which she invites five of the greatest women in history.  These legends transform into Marlene’s co-workers, clients and relatives, all of whom celebrate their accomplishments while at the same time lament the sacrifices they made to achieve them.

The 1983 Obie Award winner for Best Play, Top Girls is sharp, imaginative and offers a profound examination of the choices women face even today.  And RTW’s production is a perfect match, with Artistic Director Suzan Fete leading a strong cast which includes Libby Amato, Cassandra Bissell, Grace DeWolff, Elyse Edelman, Mary MacDonald Kerr, Karissa Murrell Myers, Jenny Wanasek and Rachael Zientek.  What a great sendoff for RTW’s 25th!

Antarctica, WI, April 6-22, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

Hot on the heels of its hit production of The Wiz, First Stage presents the latest in its series of world premiere productions.  Tasmanian playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer was drawn to Milwaukee in the aftermath of the Sherman Park unrest several years ago and interviewed local residents for the research that became this play.  While the setting’s not Milwaukee per se, Milwaukeeans will detect Cream City characteristics in the story, while maintaining relevance for audiences who have never set foot in Milwaukee.  Veteran local theater performer Malkia Stampley directs the production, which features First Stage’s usual mix of adult and talented young performers.  The result is the story of a boy who loves his city but also sees the fractures that threaten to tear it apart, represented by icebergs that are bearing down on the city (hence, the title).

Please note a special Pay What You Can performance will be held at 7 pm on April 10, and be aware that the PWYC performance of The Wiz was a sellout, so make sure to get there early to take advantage of this special opportunity!

I and You, April 6-29, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (nextact.org)

Young people are also at the core of Next Act’s final production this season. Acclaimed playwright Lauren Gunderson’s play is the story of Anthony (Ibraheem Farmer in his Next Act debut) and Caroline (Cristina Panfilio, who was previously seen in Next Act’s The Other Place) as two teens thrown together to work on a school poetry project.  But there’s much more at hand as the pair discover a much deeper mystery that has brought them together.  Next Act Artistic Director David Cecsarini directs the production that promises abundant humor and insight, with a conclusion that’s both exhilarating and heartbreaking at the same time.  Sounds like the perfect season finale at the intimate Next Act Theater!



What’s Going On

For the week of March 27-April 2…

Les Miserables, March 27-April 1, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcus center.org)

A very special Easter treat has arrived at the Marcus Center in the form of the National Touring Production of Les Miserables, the 5th longest-running musical in Broadway history which is popular worldwide, and is here this week as part of the Broadway in Milwaukee series.  This adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic tale is arguably the most impressive Broadway production ever seen on the Uihlein Hall stage.  It is indeed like seeing the show on Broadway without ever leaving Milwaukee.  It features a powerhouse cast backed by a full orchestra, lavish sets and costumes, and breathtaking special effects.  Of course, all of this would be for naught if not for the knockout performances of the memorable score (including the classics “I Dreamed a Dream” and “Bring Him Home”) from the main characters that drew rousing ovations from the sold-out Opening Night audience.  And the many choral ensemble performances sent shivers up my spine.  This is certainly the loudest musical I’ve seen at the Marcus Center, yet the full force of the orchestra never overwhelmed the cast (including the very youngest actors).  In one word, “Wow!”  Please be aware that most of the performances are nearly sold-out;  Your best bet for tickets is the evening performance on April 1st (Easter Sunday and the final performance of the Marcus Center run).  But don’t let that deter you from seeking out tickets to this absolute gem; Your effort will be well-rewarded!

The Gearhead Show, March 31, 6-9 am, WMSE (91.7 fm or wmse.org)

Regardless of the weather, the Milwaukee Brewers’ home opener vs NL Central Division rivals St Louis Cardinals is Monday, April 2 at Miller Park.  For the past several years, WMSE’s Saturday morning Gearhead Show (aka Saturday Morning Cartunes) has devoted its entire show prior to the home opener to songs about baseball.  No other sport has arguably had more songs written about it than baseball, and once again this year, program host Dietrich welcomes baseball musicologist Alan Anthony who will offer his usual plethora of songs and other recordings drawn from the National Pastime.  Some will be familiar (Who could ever tire of hearing Abbott and Costello’s hilarious “Who’s on First” routine?), but many more are delightful surprises (Jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco’s swingin’ B-3 rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”), accompanied by Dietrich and Anthony’s informative comments on the songs and performers.  This show has become an annual highlight on the WMSE schedule…and remember, you can download the entire program by visiting the archive at wmse.org!

What’s Going On

For the week of March 20-26…

Tales of Hoffmann, now-March 29, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)

Throughout its illustrious 60 year history, the Skylight Music Theatre has never mounted a production of Jacques Offenbach’s 19th-century classic Tales of Hoffmann, based on the life of poet E.T.A. Hoffmann,  best known as the author of the story that became Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday classic The Nutcracker.

It’s also the source of “Barcarolle,” the famous melody that’s graced many Pops concerts through the decades.  It’s just a small sample of the glorious music that’s heard in Skylight’s current co-production with Milwaukee Opera Theater.  MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik has managed to trim the opera to a 2 hour running time and staged the production in English.  Most of all, she’s managed to transform this grand opera to a highly impressive production on the intimate Cabot Theater stage.  The lavish sets and costumes are worthy of this opera, and the orchestra (featuring the percussive wizardry of Mike “Ding” Lorenz) more than fills the bill as accompaniment in place of the usual full symphony orchestra.

Of course, none of this would make this show click without the talents of the singers filling the various roles of the characters in Hoffman’s tales, led by John Kaneklides as Hoffmann himself.  Other standouts in the cast include Diane Lane, Cecilia Davis, Susan Wiedmeyer, Carol Greif, and Ariana Douglas.  The blend of Offenbach’s glorious music and storytelling result in performances that are simply irresistible.  But a word of caution:  This production is a very limited run which must end on the 29th.  So run, don’t walk to make sure you don’t miss this opera treasure!

Until the Flood, now-April 22, Stiemke Studio, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

Continuing its mission of staging plays that address social issues that encourage audience feedback, the Milwaukee Rep presents Dael Orlandersmith’s one-woman play inspired by the recent racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in the intimate Stiemke Studio.  Orlandersmith portrays eight characters, black and white, whose dialogue was fashioned from interviews the actress conducted with residents of Ferguson and St. Louis in the wake of police officer Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown in 2014.  The characters are composites drawn from those interviews, with this exception:  Brown’s parents Michael Sr. and Calvina.  Each performance of this gripping drama is followed by the interactive “Act II,” in which the audience is invited to offer feedback and engage in small group discussion about the play.  Several performances will also feature guest responders drawn from the community.  Check the Rep’s website for a full list of the guest responders.

Always…Patsy Cline, March 23-May 20, Stackner Cabaret, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

Back by overwhelming popular demand, this hit 2012 production (with completely sold-out performances) returns as the Rep’s final Stackner Cabaret show this season.  Kelley Faulkner is back as singer Patsy Cline, who’s not only a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, but is one of the most influential singers in pop music history!  This show, which is officially licensed by the Patsy Cline Estate, tells the story of Cline’s long friendship with Louise Seger, portrayed by Milwaukee favorite Tami Workentin.  Interspersed throughout the story are no less than two dozen classic Patsy Cline songs.  All the memorable songs are here:  “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray,” “She’s Got You,” and on and on…Nuff said?  Faulkner’s performances are simply mesmerizing, so if you’re a Patsy Cline fan (or just a fan of great pop music), you won’t want to miss this!

What’s Going On

For the week of March 6-12…

Rhapsody in Blue, March 9-10, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

This weekend, Milwaukee Symphony Associate Conductor Yaniv Dinur welcomes guest soloist Drew Petersen, recent winner of the American Pianists Association competition.  He makes his MSO debut performing George Gershwin’s beloved Rhapsody in Blue, the jazzy showcase for piano and orchestra that’s become a standard crowd-pleaser in both pops and classical programs.  Also on the program is Prokofiev’s triumphant 5th Symphony, which had its world premiere in Moscow on the day in 1945 that Soviet troops entered Nazi Germany.  And opening this exciting program is Milwaukee composer Emily Cooley’s Green Go to Me.

Singin’ in the Rain, March 10, Avalon Theater, 2473 S KK Ave (AvalonMKE.com)

This month, the Avalon Theater’s Second Saturday Classics series presents the musical many consider the greatest ever:  1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly (who also co-directed), Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor and Oscar nominee Jean Hagen.  Like many Hollywood classics, this is a movie about making movies.  It’s set at the dawn of the Talkies Era, when Hollywood studios scrambled to find singers and hoofers to cast in the multitude of musicals the public demanded.  The story is a hoot, the songs are great, and the performances are a total delight.  In short, it’s a movie treasure!  In fact, the Avalon has scheduled two screenings to accommodate anticipated demand.  Don’t miss your chance to enjoy this gem along with fellow movie lovers on the big screen!!

Finally, just a quick reminder the 16th annual WMSE Rockabilly Chili contest is this Sunday!  If you still need to get tickets, you can get them online at wmse.org.  And don’t forget to spring ahead to Daylight Savings Time this Sunday…You don’t want to miss a minute of this Milwaukee spring party tradition!!

What’s Going On

For the week of February 27-March 5…

One House Over, March 2-25, Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

Current immigration issues are the driving force behind the timing of this World Premiere production opening this week at the Milwaukee Rep.  Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements this poignant comedy from Catherine Trieschmann (The Rep staged her play How the World Began in 2013).  It’s the story of Joanne, a suburban Chicago violin teacher who’s caring for her ailing father, who immigrated to the US from Czechoslovakia in 1939.  Since she works out of her home studio, she needs help in caring for her father, so she hires Camila and her husband Rafala, who become live-in caretakers who move into Joanne’s basement apartment.  It turns out Camila and Rafala are undocumented Mexican immigrants and it isn’t long their presence arouses suspicions in the suburban neighborhood.  Based on actual people from Trieschmann’s own life, this play is a reminder that we are indeed a nation of immigrants.  It’s also certain this play will stay with you long after you leave the theater.

Symphonie Fantastique, March 2-4, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Hector Berlioz’ groundbreaking Symphonie Fantastique expanded on what Beethoven had begun and brought the symphony to a whole new plateau.  This mind-blowing work headlines this weekend’s Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra program.  Guest Conductor Joshua Weilerstein also welcomes back exciting young violinist Karen Gomyo as soloist on Prokofiev’s dynamic First Violin Concerto.  March is indeed coming in like a lion this weekend at Uihlein Hall!

16th Annual Rockabilly Chili Contest, March 11, Kern Center, 1245 N Broadway (wmse.org)

That’s right, the 16th annual WMSE Rockabilly Chili contest (Frontier Radio’s largest annual fundraising event) is under two weeks away!  And I’m posting this now because the tickets may be sold out by the time I send out my next post!  It wouldn’t come as no surprise, when you have 50-count ’em-50 vendors plus several MFD firehouses tempting your tastebuds with their tantalizing recipes for this All-American favorite!  In addition to the chili cornucopia, the popular Racing Chili Peppers will return, along with live performances from Milwaukee’s favorite surf music band the Exotics, plus WMSE DJ’s Dietrich and Jonny Z will be spinning all day!  So head over to the WMSE website now to score your tickets and make sure you’re among the thousands who have made Rockabilly Chili the way to welcome Spring to Milwaukee!  And remember, bring at least two non-perishable food items for Hunger Task Force to score two free chili sample tickets…and don’t you dare leave the festivities without voting for your favorites!