What’s Going On

For the week of August 15-21…

Milwaukee Irish Fest, August 17-20, Maier Festival Park (irishfest.com)

The Wisconsin State Fair wrapped up another successful run on Sunday, but there’s a palpable sense of anticipation in the air around Milwaukee this week.  That’s because the world’s largest showcase of Celtic culture gets underway on Thursday at Milwaukee’s lakefront!  “Live & Legendary” is the theme for the 37th edition of the festival, with over 100 acts performing on 17 stages!  Many Irish Fest favorites will be back, including Gaelic Storm (including a special Thursday evening performance!), Eileen Ivers, We Banjo 3, Skerryvore, Liz Carroll, JigJam, the High Kings, Makem & Clancy, along with local acts Frogwater, Whiskey of the Damned, Leahy’s Luck, Athas, 3 Pints Gone and Myserk.  All of the local Irish dance academies will be represented of course, and there are several special treats in store for the 2017 fest!  The world’s largest trad fest is heading for Irish Fest as the famous Dublin TradFest brings eight acts for a special showcase during the entire weekend!  And on Sunday night, Leinie’s Celtic Rock stage comes alive with “The Beatles-Celtic Style,” a one-time special show featuring We Banjo 3, Skerryvore…”and friends!”  The Celtic Canines will be back to delight dog lovers of all ages, and the Jameson flavored Gilles custard is back by popular demand!  Several huge marketplaces, plenty of food options (baked potatoes, fish & chips and Irish stew in abundance!), and the Irish Cultural Village will be returning as well.  And there are several ways you can save a bit o’green on fest admission too!  Check the website listed above for more details!

Cead mile failte!!

What’s Going On

For the week of August 8-14…

Deathtrap, August 11-27, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)hilar

Yes, it’s still summer, and State Fair and the lakefront ethnic festival season are in full swing, while many of our talented theater actors have been busy performing in Spring Green and Door County.  But don’t look now, but Milwaukee’s new theater season gets underway this week as Milwaukee Chamber Theater opens up with Ira Levin’s dark comedy Deathtrap.  Director Michael Cotey (who also directed MCT’s hilarious hit production of Boeing Boeing a few seasons back), returns to direct this Broadway hit about a veteran playwright struggling to come up with a hit show in the twilight of his career.  When his former protege brings him a knockout script for his perusal, he comes up with the sinister idea of knocking off said protege, taking control of the script and claiming the credit for a brilliant comeback.  Ah, but you know what becomes of the best laid plans of mice and men, as one complication after another ensnares our hero and his “foolproof” plan.  If this story sounds familiar, this play became director Sidney Lumet’s 1982 film starring Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve and Dyan Cannon.  But believe me, nothing beats a summer’s evening enjoying the live energy of a great murder mystery.  And MCT’s production takes place in the Third Ward’s gorgeous Cabot Theater!

Oklahoma! August 12, Avalon Atmospheric Theater, 2473 S KK Ave (avalonmke.com)

For the next installment of the Avalon’s Second Saturday Classics series, the 1955 film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first Broadway hit is being shown in a gloriously restored 4K Todd-AO widescreen print.  The original Broadway show revolutionized musical theater in the 1940’s, and director Fred (High Noon) Zinnemann’s movie stars Gordon MacRae as Curley and a very young Shirley Jones as Laurey, the object of his affection.  Also in the cast are Rod Steiger (In a musical?  Yes!), Gloria Grahame (Violet Bick in It’s a Wonderful Life), and Eddie Albert (in a role that prepared him well for his future role as Oliver in the long-running sitcom Green Acres).  And oh, the R&H songs (“Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “People Will Say We’re in Love,” “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No,” and of course, the famous title song) and Agnes deMille’s exuberant choreography that set the tone for all the musicals that came after it.  So come and enjoy this classic musical under the star-studded ceiling of the Avalon (BTW, if popcorn and jujubes aren’t to your liking on a Saturday morning, breakfast packages are available!).

Oklahoma??  OK!!

Watch this space next week for a special preview of the 2017 Milwaukee Irish Fest, the world’s greatest showcase of Celtic culture!


What’s Going On

For the week of July 11-17…

Bastille Days, July 13-16, East Town area (easttown.com)

While Maier Festival Park recovers from 11 days of Summerfest 50 and recharges for the parade of ethnic festivals that begins with next weekend’s Festa Italiana, the East Town area is in the spotlight this weekend as it presents (for the 34th year!) Milwaukee’s largest downtown summer festival, the free-admission Bastille Days.  Timed to coincide with France’s biggest national holiday, the festival celebrates all things French-or French influenced.  So any area where French is a primary language is fair game for inclusion for music and food here.  So in addition to returning treats like Robin Pluer’s delightful performances of chansons (particularly songs made famous by France’s beloved “Little Sparrow,” Edith Piaf) and the sassy performances of Madame Gigi’s Outrageous Cancan Dancers all the way from Gay Paree (or thereabouts), the five music stages will provide performances from acts from locales like Quebec and the Big Easy (sure to be provide your minimum daily requirement of Cajun music-and food to go with it), as well as Africa and the Caribbean.  Special events include the annual Opening Night Storm the Bastille fun run through the streets of downtown Milwaukee, Friday night’s Mardi Gras parades around the festival grounds, and Saturday morning’s Family Day beginning at 10 am, featuring special food and activities for the kids.  You can get full lineup information by clicking the link above; however, I would personally recommend the Classic Rock sounds (with an actual string quartet!) of Joe 2.0 on opening night, as well as Friday night’s Happy Hour show from Milwaukee’s favorite folk duo Frogwater (and you can bet they’ll be throwing down the Cajun sounds, including a healthy helping of “Jambalaya!”).

So Thrive My Soul, July 13-16, Stiemke Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

Just down the street from Bastille Days, the Milwaukee Rep is unveiling an exciting new project.  About a year ago, hundreds of Wisconsin teens auditioned for a spot in the Rep’s new Professional Training Institute (PTI), giving the dozen young actors selected the great opportunity to work with the Rep’s professionals.  So after nearly a year of mentoring from the pros, the PTI crew is eager to share their first public performance with the theater-loving public this weekend.  The play is So Thrive My Soul, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo & Juliet adapted and directed by Ryan Quinn.  It’s described as a hybrid of the musical Spring Awakenings, Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam and Thornton Wilder’s theatrical classic Our Town (which is actually on the Rep’s schedule next season!).  Now that I’ve piqued your interest, make plans to head down and see the future of theater right before your very eyes!

And don’t forget, the Optimist Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park performances of the rollicking comedy Much Ado About Nothing continue through the 22nd in the Peck Pavilion at the Marcus Center.  Remember, “The play’s the thing!”

What’s Going On

For the week of July 4-10…

Much Ado About Nothing, July 6-22, Peck Pavilion, 929 N Water St (optimisttheatre.org)

Yes, Summerfest 50 continues its run through Sunday, but that doesn’t mean the Milwaukee performing arts scene goes on summer vacation, not by a long shot!  For the eighth straight year, Optimist Theatre’s free Shakespeare in the Park is back, and don’t let the title fool you:  This year’s production is a big deal indeed!  This is the festival’s first production in the Peck Pavilion downtown, adjacent to the Marcus Center.  That’s right, it’s the first production to be performed in an actual theater setting!  And it’s still free!  The play itself is one of the Bard’s greatest comedies, and you don’t need to be a Shakespearean scholar to thoroughly enjoy it!  SIP veterans ML Cogar and Tom Reed are co-directing, and many names familiar to Milwaukee theater fans are in the cast, including Jim Pickering, Kelley Faulkner,Todd Denning, Michael Stebbins, Jonathan Wainwright, David Flores and Kat Wodtke.  And for those concerned with interference from nearby traffic on Kilbourn Avenue, Sound Designer Megan Henninger assures us the actors will be miked so traffic shouldn’t be an issue.  So get thee down to the Peck Pavilion for an enjoyable evening of great theater for one and all!  A couple notes:  There will be a matinee performance at noon on July 18, and if you’re coming on the play’s final weekend July 20-22, be sure to get there well before the 7:30 curtain time to assure yourself seating…or pack some lawn chairs to be on the safe side!

Hello, Dolly! July 8, Avalon Theater, 2473 S KK Ave (avalonmke.com)

As you may know, the new Broadway revival of Jerry Herman’s classic show cleaned up at the recent Tony Awards, scoring wins for Best Revival Musical and Bette Midler for Best Musical Actress.  The folks at Bay View’s historic Avalon Theater certainly took note of it, and for this month’s Second Saturday Morning classic, the Gene Kelly-directed 1969 film version is being featured.  Arguably the last of the classic musicals, the film stars Barbra Streisand in the title role.  Need I say more?  OK, it’s also Wall-E’s favorite movie, as depicted in the Disney/Pixar classic.  And if you want to make it a double feature day at the Avalon, stick around for the screening of the new and highly buzzed Spiderman:  Homecoming which immediately follows (separate admission), and enjoy two movies under the “stars” of the Avalon!

What’s Going On

For the week of June 27-July 3…

Summerfest, June 28-July 2, July 4–9 (closed on July 3), Maier Festival Park (summerfest.com)

The World’s Largest Music Festival celebrates 50 years beginning on Wednesday, which will culminate with the Opening Night Big Bang fireworks show (and Milwaukeeans love their fireworks!).  Rather than try to sort through the 800 musical acts over the festival’s 11 days (You can do that by clicking the festival website link listed above),  I wish to address another festival-related issue.  Many of us “old-timers” who recall the days of yore when it cost a mere pittance to gain admission to the festival have personally expressed frustration to me over the “outrageous” admission ticket prices to recent fests (And I’m not talking about prices to headliner shows in the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, that’s a subject for another column altogether).  Well, guess what?  Summerfest has devised a number of ways that you can get into the fest without spending a dime!  Here’s the list of those special days, so take note!

June 28-Stomp Out Hunger Day

In what has become an Opening Day tradition, those who bring three non-perishable food items to any of the three festival gates from noon-3 pm will get in free!  Lots of folks enjoy Opening Day free, and the Hunger Task Force gets a huge shot in the arm for their local food pantries!

June 29-Throwback Thursday

If you’ve spent at least $50 on any shopping trip to Pick & Save/Metro Market/Copps stores in the past several months, your receipt contains a voucher for 4 tickets to enter the fest from noon-6 pm today.  Even if you don’t have the voucher, anyone can still get into the fest for $5 from noon-6 pm on Throwback Thursday!

June 30-Go Red Day

Coinciding with a UW pep rally in the BMO Harris Pavilion at 2:30 that features Bucky Badger and the UW Pep Band, anyone showing up at the Mid-Gate wearing a red shirt from noon-3 pm gets in free!  It’s enough to make you want to “jump around!”

July 2-Turning 50 During the 50th

If you, like Summerfest, turn the Big Five-Oh during 2017, show up at any gate with ID between noon-8 pm and you’re in!

July 5-Children’s Fest Day

Also known as Family Day, this long-standing Fest tradition welcomes everyone for free from noon-3 pm!  There are also discounts on food and beverage items during that time!

July 6-Seniorfest Day

If you’re 60 or better, this day is for you!  Show up at any gate between noon-4 pm and you’re in!  You’ll also get a $2 voucher good towards any food purchase of $10 or more during that time!

July 9-Fan Appreciation Day

Otherwise known as “Thank You Day,” everybody gets in free on Summerfest’s final day from noon-3 pm!

Hope you find these tips will help you to join in the fun at Summerfest’s Golden Anniversary celebration!

And remember, Summerfest takes the day off on Monday, July 3, but it will be back to business as usual on the 4th!  Have a Safe and Happy Fourth, everybody!

What’s Going On

For the week of June 20-26…

Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical, June 20-25, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

This Tony Award-winning show winds up the Marcus Center’s current season of touring Broadway shows.  It’s the story of rock & roll as told through the eyes of this member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, from the hits she co-wrote in the 50’s and 60’s to the music of her classic 1971 album Tapestry, to the present day.  If you’re not familiar with her story, you’ll be amazed how many pop standards she’s written because you’ll hear them throughout this show!  So get your “locomotion” on and get your tickets, because they’re going fast!

MSO at Chill on the Hill, June 20, Humboldt Park Bandshell (mso.org)

One of the most anticipated programs of the Humboldt Park’s free summer concert series is the annual appearance of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.  MSO Associate Conductor Yaniv Dinur leads the program, and promises an eclectic lineup that includes Pops favorites like Leonard Bernstein’s bubbly Candide Overture and John Williams’ Music from E.T. to classical music from Brahms.  So pack your picnic and head for the hillside for an evening under the stars with the MSO!

La La Land in Concert, June 23-24, Riverside Theater, 116 W Wisconsin Ave (mso.org)

One of the most acclaimed movies of 2016 was this Oscar-winning musical composed by Milwaukee area native Jason Hurvitz.  This weekend, you can see this hit film on the big screen featuring the music score performed live by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra!  Plus several of the musicians who played on the original soundtrack will be joining the MSO for the performances.  No, that doesn’t mean Ryan Gosling will be here to recreate his jazz piano performances, but the guy who actually plays those awesome solos will!  The MSO just wowed audiences with this show at Chicago’s legendary Ravinia Festival, but you’ll get to see it in the confines of a classic Milwaukee movie palace!

Oriental Theater 90th Birthday Celebration, June 25, Oriental Theater, 2230 N Farwell Ave (landmarktheatres.com)

Speaking of classic Milwaukee movie palaces, what a week for the venerable East Side theater!  First, it was announced that Milwaukee Film (the folks behind the Milwaukee Film Festival) signed a 31 year lease to operate the theater beginning in 2018!  And this Sunday, the Oriental will be celebrating its 90th birthday (Try and see how many movie theaters can make that claim!), and you’re invited!  The festivities begin at 6 pm with birthday cake from Eat Cake (yum!), followed by a stage show from magician Greg Gerard from Dead Man’s Carnival, concluding with a screening of the 1943 Oscar winning Best Picture Casablanca, the Humphrey Bogart classic.  In other words, you’ll see a program reminiscent of what audiences got in the days when the Oriental was new.  And though it’s a special event, regular ticket prices will apply!  To paraphrase Bogie, “Here’s looking at you, Oriental!”

What’s Going On

For the week of June 6-12…

Chill on the Hill, June 6-August 29, Humboldt Park (bayviewneighborhood.org)

Milwaukee’s summer festival continues to heat up with this week’s opening of one of the best,  Bay View’s Chill on the Hill.  Every Tuesday evening, from D’Amato tonight to fest closers De La Buena on August 29 (except July 4), the permanent stage in the park’s bowl plays host to multiple acts each week…and all performances are FREE!  Once again, one of the highlights of the lineup is the festival’s annual appearance by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, which takes place on June 20.  It’s sure to draw one of the festival’s largest crowds, but all programs are well-attended, so make sure you arrive in plenty of time when the weekly festivities get underway at 6 pm!  Full festival lineup information is available by clicking the above link!

Tango Caliente, June 9-11, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

The weather won’t be the only thing heating up this weekend at the Marcus Center!  The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra winds up its Pops season by welcoming this Argentine dance troupe, who will mesmerize audiences with their sultry, seductive performances of tangos played by the MSO.  The program will feature a several tangos composed by Astor Piazzolla, considered the Master of the Tango.  From the buzz I’ve been hearing, this promises to be one of the most popular shows of the Pops season…Arriba!

Bye Bye Birdie, June 10, Avalon Theater, 2473 S KK Ave (avalonmke.com)

A perfect summertime treat, the Avalon Theater’s Second Saturday Classics series presents the 1963 movie version of the hit Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie this Saturday!  The tuneful score includes the standard “Put on a Happy Face,” and the cast features Ann-Margret, Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh…and TV legend Ed Sullivan as himself (obviously the film’s producers felt that only the Real Ed could fill the role)!  The film’s plot focuses on rock & roll star Conrad Birdie who’s been drafted into the Army (inspired by the real-life story of Elvis Presley).  It’s a hilarious backstage story which is further enhanced by legendary Hollywood Square Paul (“Uncle Arthur”) Lynde as the bewildered dad and his showstopping number “Kids.”  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along with “We love you Birdie, oh yes we do!”