For the week of May 19-25…
The Book of Mormon, now-May 31, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)
On the surface, it sounds like something you’d see in a Mel Brooks movie…A Broadway musical about Mormon missionaries in Uganda written by the duo behind the classic TV series “South Park”…which naturally goes on to win 9 Tony awards, including Best New Musical, and (like the show “Springtime for Hitler” in Mel’s first movie The Producers) becomes the hottest show on Broadway! And following in the tradition of Wicked and Jersey Boys, which have enjoyed amazingly long runs in Chicago, The Book of Mormon has been enjoying similar success in Chi-Town with no signs of letting up! Now it’s Milwaukee’s turn, as the national touring company has decamped at the Marcus Center’s Uihlein Hall through the end of the month. And Chad Burris, who succeeded Josh Gad as Elder Cunningham on Broadway, heads up this outstanding cast! But keep in mind, the show’s co-writers also include Robert Lopez, the award-winning composer of the R-rated Sesame Street parody Avenue Q, and like that show, it’s best to leave the kiddies at home. But this fan observed a packed house give an absolutely roaring ovation to the cast the other night as they took their curtain calls, and deservedly so, for the performances in this high energy show, which absolutely must end on the 31st…Don’t say I didn’t warn you! And by the way, those aren’t show cast members greeting fans as they’re arriving for the show…those are actual Mormon missionaries!
Into the Woods, May 22-June 14, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylighmusictheatre.org)
One of the biggest hit movies last Christmas was Disney’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway classic Into the Woods, the biggest mashup of fairytale characters this side of Shrek. In this show, characters from The Baker and His Wife, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Cinderella (in yet another Milwaukee production!), and Little Red Riding Hood interact, and in the second act we find out if everybody really does live happily ever after! But as so often happens when Broadway hits make the jump to the Big Screen, tweaking takes place that results in the movie being not quite the same as the Broadway show. So starting this weekend, the Skylight’s season finale sets out to rectify the situation by presenting the show the way Sondheim intended it. And like previous productions of classic musicals including The Music Man, The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz and Sondheim’s own Sunday in the Park with George, the Skylight actors (packed with great local talent) and creative team has a production that is first class all the way! And yes, the kids are most welcome to this show!
Lambert and Stamp, opening May 22 nationwide (sonyclassics.com/lambertandstamp)
Once upon a time in Swinging London, there was a band of local lads called the High Numbers, whose specialty was high-energy rockin’ covers of American R&B hits like “Shout!” Enter a couple of aspiring managers (at least they fancied themselves managers like the Beatles’ Brian Epstein-and there’s a movie about him in the works!) called Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, who don’t know the first thing about managing a rock band but are intrigued by this bunch of scruffy lads. So the duo (whom Roger Daltrey calls the main reason for the band’s success) make them clients and re-christens them The Who. And the rest, as they say, is history, history that is captured vividly in this new movie that was a hit at this year’s Sundance Festival and is now opening nationwide (including Milwaukee’s historic Oriental Theater). Lots of great retro footage plus new interviews with Daltrey and Pete Townshend, along with others who were there. There’s been a strong crop of recent rock documentaries, but Lambert and Stamp truly stands out.
Jeff Beck, May 22, Riverside Theater, 116 W Wisconsin Ave (pabsttheater.org)
Booker T, May 22, Northern Lights Theater, 1721 W Canal St (paysbig.com/shows)
On Friday evening, Milwaukee’s Classic Rock fans will have the opportunity to see not one, but two members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, both performing at the same time at different venues. In one corner, Hall of Fame guitarist Jeff Beck will be lighting up the historic Riverside Theater with a dazzling array of songs that span five decades! JB would be delighted to know he’s playing in the same venue where Les “Wizard of Waukesha” Paul once thrilled fans while JB was attending grade school! Across town, the intimate Northern Lights Theater will be presenting the Pride of Memphis, Booker T Jones, the man behind the worldwide rock anthem “Green Onions!” This maestro of the Hammond B-3 organ also can draw on five decades of music as well. And both of them continue to record and release new music well into their 70’s, and the good news is it’s fantastic! Bottom line: You can’t go wrong by attending either of these dynamite shows Friday night!
Junior Brantley with Leroy Airmaster, May 24-25, Fire Pit Side Bar, 1721 W Canal St (paysbig.com/shows)
What a way to celebrate Memorial Day weekend by seeing one of Milwaukee’s own playing for FREE at the cozy Fire Pit Side Bar inside Potawatomi Casino! Certainly one of Brew Town’s Rock and Blues Hall of Famers, Junior earned a place in the hearts of thousands of local music fans fronting legendary band Short Stuff. For this occasion, he’ll be backed by another venerable Milwaukee band, namely blues greats Leroy Airmaster featuring harmonica maestro Steve Cohen. And when you combine Steve’s wailing harp with JB’s keys and blues shouting, it adds up to what should be 2 nights to remember! And did I mention this was a FREE show??
Against Type!, May 24, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (uprootedmke.com)
Like I mentioned last week, Milwaukee’s innovative Uprooted Theater will be closing its doors after Sunday’s final performance of Suddenly Last Summer. But they’re going out with a bang with one last fundraising edition of Against Type!, where a slew of Milwaukee’s most talented theater actors let down their guard and perform works they likely would never get to do in their usual gigs. Come on out, be amazed, and bid a fond farewell to one of Milwaukee’s theatrical milestones (I’m talking about Uprooted…but I might be talking about “Against Type!” as well!).