What’s Going On

For the week of May 3-9…

Song From the Uproar, May 6-8, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeeoperatheatre.org)

An opera that tells the story of Swiss explorer Isabelle Eberhardt, who packed lots of living into her 27 years, would have to be epic.  And so this weekend, Milwaukee Opera Theater joins forces with Wild Space Dance to present Missy Mazzoli’s Song From the Uproar.  Mezzo soprano Colleen Brooks portrays Eberhardt in this multimedia production, and she’s joined by a five-voice chorus, a quartet of dancers and an instrumental quintet.  The opera’s libretto is drawn entirely from Eberhardt’s journals, as well as the story of how survivors of the flood which claimed Eberhardt’s life scrambled to save her writings from being destroyed in the flood.  MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik and her team promise an awesome theatrical experience.

Brahms Festival II, May 6-7, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

After last weekend’s fabulous program of the first two Brahms symphonies, Edo de Waart wraps up his second last season as Music Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra this weekend with the second half of the Brahms Festival with performances of the Third and Fourth Symphonies.  Those who attended last weekend have likely already made plans to attend.  If you missed it, make sure your face is in the place for these superb performances of these towering works of symphonic repertoire!  All you prog rockers, take note:  Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman adapted the 3rd movement of the 4th Symphony for the song “Cans and Brahms” on the band’s 1972 Fragile album!

Spring Choral Concert, May 6, Schwan Concert Hall, 8815 W Wisconsin Ave (wlc.edu/arts)

One of the area’s outstanding choral groups wraps up the season this Friday when the Wisconsin Lutheran College Chorus performs its annual Spring concert at magnificent Schwan Hall on the WLC campus.  The program promises outstanding performances of a mix of sacred and secular music, classical and contemporary, which also marks a sendoff for this year’s seniors. It’s a great way to celebrate spring, another great WLC Chorus season, and the contributions of these talented singers over the past four years!



What’s Going On

For the week of April 26-May 2…

Fences, April 29-May 22, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep .com)

The final production of the Milwaukee Rep’s 2015-16 season is a play by the great American playwright August Wilson.  The Rep previously staged a fantastic production of Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a story about the legendary blues singer.

Fences is the story of Troy, a former Negro League baseball star and takes place in 1957, ten years after Jackie Robinson broke the color line in the big leagues, and the year Milwaukee Braves star Hank Aaron helped lead the team to a World Series victory over the New York Yankees.  In the meantime, the limelight has come too late for Troy, who has been relegated to a Pittsburgh sanitation worker and unleashes his frustrations on his family.  At the same time, Troy’s son Cory is a high school football star who is eyeing a college scholarship and possibly a pro football career.  Concerned his son would experience the same frustration and heartbreak he did, Troy insists that, rather than pursue his dreams of college, Cory immediately gets a job after high school. And thus you have the tension that permeates this work.  Director Lou Bellamy, who has worked with Wilson numerous times during his career, leads a strong cast in this production, which will remind many of the Rep’s great production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman from several years back.

Brahms Festival, April 30-May 1, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

German composer Johannes Brahms is recognized as one of the true greats of symphonic repertoire, but his First Symphony was a long time coming.  While many of his predecessors completed their initial symphonies in their teens, they did not have the giant shadow of Beethoven’s monumental 9th Symphony over them as Brahms did.  As a result of his doubts about whether his work would compare favorably with Beethoven’s masterwork, Brahms spent 22 years completing his first symphony, which received its premiere in 1876 when the composer was 42.  Encouraged by the positive public reaction to his work, Brahms would compose three more symphonies between 1877-85.  Together, they stand as one of the greatest sets of symphonies by any composer.  Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Music Director Edo de Waart makes his final appearances of the current season by conducting all four symphonies over the next two weekends, beginning with the first two symphonies this Saturday and Sunday.  It’s a fantastic opportunity to hear these outstanding works performed by a world-class conductor leading a truly first-class orchestra.

Tweed Funk, Come Together (tweedfunk.com)

Summertime may not arrive for a while (but it will get here, trust me), but the hot fun has already arrived with the release of Milwaukee funk outfit Tweed Funk’s second album.  Following on the promise of its previous album First Name Lucky, the album’s ten tracks run the gamut from heartfelt ballads to all-out dance floor fillers.  The horn-based band, fronted by Smokey Holman’s powerful vocals, revels in 1960’s R&B showband glory, providing enough fuel to power any house party, even before summer arrives!  And there are special guests on board to provide extra party juice, including Roomful of Blues trumpet man Doug Woolverton and no less than Milwaukee’s Whiskeybelles, who provide great backing vocals on half the album’s tracks!  It’s the perfect complement to the James Hunter Six’s recent Daptone release Hold On! and that’s righteous praise indeed!  You can get the album by going to the band’s website listed above;  you can also get information on the band’s upcoming gigs, videos, etc., on the same website.

What’s Going On

For the week of April 19-25…

Ernest in Love, April 22-May 15, 10th Street Theatre, 628 N 10th St (intandemtheatre.org)

“What’s this:  A musical version of Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Bring Ernest?  What are they thinking?”  That reaction to In Tandem Theater’s final production this season would sound like one that greeted another musical production:  “A musical based on Shaw’s Pygmalion?  What on earth are Lerner and Loewe thinking??”  Well, My Fair Lady was successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and while Ernest in Love may not rank quite as high as that classic, it has plenty to offer.  In fact, it’s In Tandem’s largest production ever, and director Jane Flieller has called in reinforcements to help pull it off.  It’s actually a co-production with Milwaukee Opera Theater, and MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik and veteran local choreographer James Zager have come aboard to assist.  And the strong cast is topped by the irrepressible Angela Ianonne as Lady Bracknell!  And though it is a huge production by In Tandem standards, it’s still being staged in the cozy confines of In Tandem’s home, the 10th Street Theater. And it’s coming right on the heels of the Milwaukee Ballet’s wildly successful world premiere of Michael Pink’s adaptation of Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray!   So don’t miss this special treat!

Francesco Returns!  April 22-23, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Many Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra fans were disappointed when it was announced that Associate Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong was leaving the MSO to take a similar post with the Pittsburgh Symphony.  Well, I guess turnabout is fair play:  Several years back, the MSO plucked the PSO’s then-Associate Conductor, Andreas Delfs, as Music Director…and the rest is history!  Anyway, the good news is Francesco will be back to conduct this weekend’s MSO program.  AND he’s brought a special guest to the party!  Sensational young Russian pianist Natasha Paremski will be making her Milwaukee debut as soloist on The Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto, considered by many the “Everest of piano concertos” (and also the focus of the award-winning film Shine).  Rounding out the program is Samuel Barber’s Essay No. 1 and Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Symphony, an early work from the master of 20th century Russian music.  Now that’s what I call a homecoming!

2016 Italian Film Festival, April 22-24, Union Cinema, 2200 E Kenwood Blvd (italianfilmfests.org)

2016 marks the 10th annual Italian film festival hosted by the UWM Union Cinema.  Eight recent films will be screened for free from Friday through Sunday, all of them making their Milwaukee premieres.  For many of the films, it may be the only chance Milwaukee audiences will get to see them, as they are not currently available on DVD, Netflix, etc.  They run the gamut from documentaries (a look at Italian cinema during the Fascist Era), dramas, and comedies.  Click the above link for full film and schedule information.  When you have the opportunity to see outstanding Italian films for free, wouldn’t you rather enjoy them on the Big Screen?  Ciao!

What’s Going On


For the week of April 12-18…

Fallen Angels, April 15-May 1, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.org)

To wrap up its current season, Milwaukee Chamber Theater takes over the Cabot Theater to present the delightful musical comedy Fallen Angels.  It’s the work of legendary English playwright (and frequent guest of the Lunts at their Ten Chimneys retreat in Genessee Depot) Noel Coward, the master of the drawing-room comedy.  It’s set in the 1920’s and the three main characters of the title are portrayed by veteran Milwaukee actors Kay Allmand, Beth Mulkerron and Molly Rhode, and they’re joined by a supporting cast of other familiar faces.  A stylish stage, gorgeous costumes and (of course) a story filled with plenty of Coward’s timeless wit plus catchy musical interludes combine for a perfect springtime production!   And if you’re attending on April 22nd, stick around after the show and head to the Bistro upstairs for a free cabaret show from Kelly and Marcee Doherty.  They Dohertys are joined by pianist Ryan Cappleman, and from the leadoff rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Sisters,” the duo are off on a rollicking musical journey through the world of the theater.  It’s definitely reminiscent of the classic Carnegie Hall stage shows of Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett from back in the day, and that’s high praise indeed!

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II, April 15-17, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

First, there was Bugs Bunny on Broadway.  Then there was Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.  This weekend, nearly 25 years after the first show made its Broadway debut, Maestro George Daugherty returns to the Milwaukee Symphony Pops to present his latest show in which classic Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons such as What’s Opera, Doc? and Rabbit of Seville are shown on the Big Screen above the stage while the MSO plays the cartoon scores live on stage.  The music includes themes from greats like Liszt (“Franz Liszt?  Sorry, never heard of him…Wrong number”), Rossini and Wagner as well as the familiar cartoon themes of the great Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott (John Williams’ father once played in Scott’s own orchestra!).  These shows have thrilled cartoon fans from Moscow to the Hollywood Bowl, and you can get in on the fun at the Marcus Center this weekend!  But better hurry Doc, all three performances are certain to be sellouts!

2016 Record Store Day, April 16, various locations (recordstoreday.com)

Saturday marks the eighth Record Store Day, an event celebrating that venerable pop culture institution, the Mom and Pop record store.  From its humble beginnings, it has become a worldwide celebration, once again featuring oodles of brand-new vinyl collectibles along with live in-store music performances and DJ record spins, plus other surprises.  Many stores will be opening as early as 7 am, so hook up with your fellow music lovers and celebrate (and score some new slices of “Licorice Pizza” for your turntable)!  In the Milwaukee area, Exclusive Co. locations, Rush Mor and Acme Records in Bay View are expected to participate.  For other areas, click the above link for a complete list of participating stores!

What’s Going On

For the week of April 5-11…

Once, April 5-10, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

The Tony-Award winning musical Once is the latest show to grace the Uihlein Hall stage in the Broadway in Milwaukee series.  It began as a 2006 Oscar-winning movie about a busking Irish musician who meets and falls in love with a Czech girl living in Dublin  who’s a single mom and a musician as well!  This sweet, heartwarming story made a successful transition to Broadway with more songs added along the way.  It’s a charming story filled with great songs that captures life in contemporary Ireland,  sure to be a treat for all musical fans!

Mozart’s “Jupiter”, April 8-10, Pabst Theater, 108 E Wells St (mso.org)

The Milwaukee Symphony continues its two week residency at the Pabst Theater with another program dominated by the music of Mozart.  Irish Conductor Courtney Lewis leads the MSO in Mozart’s 41st and final symphony, nicknamed “Jupiter” and is considered one of the mightiest works in the symphonic repertoire.  Mozart’s Symphony #28 leads off the program, and Stravinsky’s Apollon musgate, an early composition for ballet, rounds out the lineup.  Sounds like yet another delightful MSO concert at the Pabst!

Motherhood Out Loud, April 8-May 7, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (nextact.org)

With Mother’s Day on the horizon, Next Act winds up the current season with this production devoted to mom.  It’s an anthology of 14 pieces on the subject, and among those whose work is included are Beth Henley, Lisa Loomer, Michele Lowe and Theresa Rebeck.  Director Laura Gordon (also a fine actor in her own right) rounds up three of her distinguished colleagues to being life to the stories:  Deborah Staples, Tami Workentin and Michelle Lopez-Rios.  And given the subject at hand, humor and pathos are sure to abound throughout this show, one you might want to bring your own mother to see!

Spring Concert, April 11-12, Bader Concert Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

The Prometheus Trio, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s resident Piano Trio, winds up its 16th season with a program of Mozart, Alfred Schnittke, and Brahms.  And for the 2nd half of the program, the trio will be joined by guest violinist/violist Emmy Tisdel, daughter of PT members Stefanie Jacob (piano) and Scott Tisdel (cello).  Emmy will join the trio for Schnittke’s Moz-Art for Two Violins and Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C Minor, a rousing finale for a great program and another great PT season!

What’s Going On

Whoa, lots of arts goodies in the Easter Basket, so let’s hop to it!

For the week of March 29-April 4…

Sirens of Song, now-May 29, Stackner Cabaret, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

For the Rep’s final Stackner Cabaret show this season, we have a world premiere inspired by those legendary characters of Greek mythology, the sirens.  Three talented actresses take the audience on a journey through the 20th century through female eyes and American history.  The stories are juxtaposed with great pop songs of the century, which in turn have made their impact on world culture.  And what a lineup it is:  Showstopping performances of classics including “Over the Rainbow,” “I Will Survive,” “I Am Woman,” “St Louis Blues,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Hot Stuff,” just to name but a few.  So settle in to the cozy confines of the Stackner and enjoy a thrilling showcase of some of the greatest pop standards of all time!

Kaleidoscope Eyes, March 31-April 3, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (milwaukeeballet.org)

The Milwaukee Ballet’s annual Mixed Repertory showcase features as its centerpiece Trey McIntyre’s A Day in the Life, which features dance interpretations of 12 Beatles classics, which has now become a tribute to the recently departed Sir George Martin, the musical genius who was the producer behind all the Beatles records.  I won’t spoil the fun by listing all the songs in the “playlist” here, but suffice it to say it runs the gamut of the Fab Four’s music.  But don’t look for any dancers in collarless suits, but plenty of Mod attitude!  The balance of the program features two world premiere works.  MBC dancer and choreographer-in-residence (and past Genesis Competition winner) Timothy O’Donnell’s The Sixth Sin concerns itself with the growing obsession with body image in our society, using as its catalyst how people’s thoughts seem to be dominated by the overriding theme,”If I only had…”  2015 Genesis winner Garrett Smith’s Addendum completes the program.  It’s an exploration which features dancers and chairs, backed by the music of cellist Zoe Keating.  Following up their sensational premiere of Artistic Director Michael Pink’s Picture of Dorian Gray recently, this program serves to reinforce that whether it’s classic ballets like The Nutcracker or the frontiers of contemporary dance, the Milwaukee Ballet always knocks it out of the park (Yes, the Brewers’ season opens Monday, April 4, at Miller Park)!

Mozart and More, March 31-April 2, Pabst Theater, 108 E Wells St (mso.org)

While the Ballet is busy at the Marcus Center’s Uihlein Hall, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra heads down the street for a two week residency at their original home, the glorious Pabst Theater (where the MBC did their performances of Dorian Gray).  Guest conductor Ben Gernon leads the MSO in two Mozart symphonies (Nos. 29 and 31 (“Paris”)).  Between the Mozart pieces are Stravinsky’s classically-inspired Symphony in C major and Tchaikovsky’s lovely Variations on a Rococo Theme, featuring guest cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan.  It’s a fine program to welcome Spring in the intimate setting of the Pabst!

Paul Rodgers, March 31-April 1, Northern Lights Theater, 1721 W Canal St (paysbig.com/shows)

Legendary British vocalist Paul Rodgers, who has fronted the great bands Free and Bad Company, still possesses some of the best pipes around.  Ramping up to Bad Co’s upcoming tour with Joe Walsh, Rodgers is bringing his solo band to the intimate Northern Lights Theater for a pair of shows this weekend.  The show will be packed with classics from both bands, along with a healthy serving of the blues standards that have been a lifelong passion.  A Hall of Fame singer in a great venue is a combination that can’t be beat!

Censored on Final Approach, April 1-24, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (r-t-w.com)

World War II history buffs should be heading to Renaissance Theaterworks’ final production of the season.  It’s the rarely told story of the American female pilots (known as WASPs) who served during the war.  Prohibited from serving in active combat, they provided valuable services (including test piloting, instructor piloting, towing targets for air-to-air gunnery practice and transporting personnel and cargo- including parts for the atomic bomb) which freed male pilots for combat duty.  In spite of that, the WASPs shared a similar fate to their brethren, the black Tuskegee Airmen-the military brass were not fans of either.  To compound matters, the WASPs were often provided aircraft that were badly in need of repairs or should have been removed from action altogether.  As a result, many of the women pilots were killed or injured performing their duties.  That’s the crux of director Leda Hoffmann’s story, which is a Renaissance co-production with Marquette University’s Theatre Department.  It’s also one of the largest productions in Renaissance history, with nearly a dozen characters in the cast, a mix of familiar Milwaukee actors and MU students, both onstage and behind the scenes.  Not to be missed.

Ella Enchanted, April 1-May 1, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)

Author Gail Carson Levine’s “reboot” of the Cinderella story becomes a world premiere musical for First Stage, Milwaukee’s premiere family theater.  It’s the story of Ella of Frell, who is cursed at birth with a spell which prevents her from disobeying any order, no matter what, even chopping off her own head!  Knowing better (and preventing this from being a very short show indeed!), Ella embarks on a quest to get the spell reversed, encountering all manner of ogres, monsters, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers…and a handsome prince (yes, it IS a Cinderella reboot!).  And in the talented hands (and voices) of First Stage’s young performers, the result is a production that will captivate the entire family.  And here’s an Inside Tip:  First Stage is offering a “Pay What You Can” performance at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 6!  Tickets will be available beginning at 6 pm that evening.


What’s Going On

For the week of March 15-21…

March Madness is underway and there’s plenty happening on the local arts front too!

US Air Force Mid-America Concert Band, March 16, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

The USAF Mid-America Concert Band’s mission is to serve as ambassadors for the USAF throughout the Midwest, and the 46 member strong ensemble makes a stop on Wednesday at the Marcus Center’s Uihlein Hall for a free concert.  (No tickets required-doors open at 6 pm for general admission seating)  The band’s repertoire runs the gamut from Puccini to Leonard Bernstein to John Williams to Francis Scott Key (Hmmm…Wonder which of his songs will the band play?).  Celebrate Hump Day by heading down and treating yourself to some of the finest wind ensemble playing anywhere!

Frogwater, March 17, various locations (frogwater.us)

Milwaukee’s favorite Celtic duo is constantly performing around the state (and John was one of the featured musical performers in Renaissance Theatreworks’ hit production Ballad of Emmett Till last fall), but like most other local Celtic music acts, St Patrick’s Day is annually one of the year’s busiest days, and guitar/banjo/mandocello man John and fiddlin’ Susan will be playing three gigs on Thursday.  The fun starts at 1 pm when they’ll be making their annual St Paddy’s appearance at O’Lydia’s, 338 S 1st St, where they’ve performed every St Pat’s Day going back to the days when the pub was Slim McGinn’s;  then they’ll head down to Kenosha for a Happy Hour gig at Ashling on the Lough, 125-56th St; finally, they’ll wind up the day by their traditional closing at East Town’s County Clare, 1234 N Astor St.  So if you’re going out to celebrate, you won’t do better than raising a pint (or two or three) to the sounds of Frogwater!

WCM Jazz Festival, March 18, Weasler Auditorium, 1506 W Wisconsin Ave (wcmusic.org)

Following up last year’s event which included a sold-out performance featuring the late Phil Woods, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s Jazz Festival is back for its second year.   This year’s headline event is a special concert Friday night at Marquette University’s Weasler Auditorium, featuring the legendary Benny (“Killer Joe”) Golson and Grammy-winning WCM alum Brian Lynch backed by the WCM’s resident faculty jazz sextet We Six.  The fun continues Saturday over at the WCM Prospect Avenue campus with workshops and showcases for area youth jazz ensembles.  It’s March Madness for jazz lovers!

American Song, March 18-April 10, Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

The Milwaukee Rep takes on the hot-button issue of guns in America with this world premiere production from playwright Joanna Murray-Smith (she also wrote Renaissance Theatreworks’ hit production Honour).  Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements directs Jim DeVita in this one-man play;  DeVita is following up his tour de force one-man performance in the Rep’s An Iliad in 2014.  This time around, DeVita portrays Wisconsin dad Andy Mancheski who sees his teenage son Robbie off to school one typical morning before heading off to work.  By the time he returns home that evening, Andy’s world has been shattered, the result of Robbie’s unspeakable act of terror and tragedy at school.  Rather than making statements about gun control and such, Andy takes the audience on a journey through his own life, pondering how his background shaped his role as a parent, and what he might have done differently that might have prevented this tragedy.  Like many of the best Rep productions (many of Next Act’s shows should be included here as well), the play leaves the audience with no clear-cut answers but forces it to consider the myriad of issues confronting parents and kids in America today.  After DeVita’s 90 minutes on stage, each performance is followed by a response from a local community leader (ie, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett).  In Act II, the audience is broken up into groups of 6-8, each led by a professionally trained facilitator, to contemplate and engage in dialogue about the play they have just seen.  For this production is more than about what’s onstage, but also bringing the play’s topics into community discussion, making it one of the most important Milwaukee theatrical events of 2016.

Around the Corner with John McGivern Premiere, March 21, Oriental Theater, 2230 N Farwell Ave (mptv.org)

Each new episode of Milwaukee Public Television’s award-winning Around the Corner with John McGivern is preceded by a (free) premiere screening in the area being featured in that episode.  For the March 24 episode featuring Milwaukee’s East North Avenue neighborhood, the screening will be truly special.  It takes place at Milwaukee’s historic Oriental Theater, one of this city’s crown jewels.  Anticipating a large turnout, the doors open at 6 pm.  The fun begins at 6:30 when members of the Kimball Theater Organ Society have a pre-show concert on the Oriental’s mighty Kimball organ.  The screening itself is at 7 pm;  afterward, as per custom with the show’s other screening events, several food vendors featured in the episode will be on hand with their wares for you to sample.  But remember, don’t be disappointed…get there early, and enjoy the rare opportunity to explore the Oriental’s design and décor!