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!”

What’s Going On Extra!

Bay View Jazz Festival, June 2, various locations (mkejazzvision.org/bvjf)

This Friday is the first Friday in June, and that means it’s time again for Gallery Night in the Bay View neighborhood, held in conjunction with the 4th annual Bay View Jazz Fest (How could I forget?  Call it a senior moment, I guess)!  For the 4th consecutive year, 12 venues in the KK-Lincoln area will not only showcase outstanding local visual art, but will host some of the area’s best jazz acts!  The music starts at 5 pm and rolls on all night long…and it’s all FREE!  And don’t forget it’s Food Truck Friday in Morgan Park on KK and Holt…sixteen of the area’s most popular food trucks will be ready and waiting to satisfy your culinary desires!  For a full lineup of music acts and venues, check the link listed above…Let the good times roll!

What’s Going On

For the week of May 30-June 5…

Mirror Mirror, June 1-4, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (milwaukeeballet.org)

The Milwaukee Ballet concludes its season with the return of Mirror Mirror, Artistic Director Michael Pink’s brilliant reimagining of the classic Snow White tale.  And even if you saw the production’s 2014 debut, Pink assures us the tweaking that’s been done for this engagement will make a return viewing very worthwhile indeed.  Considering how great the original staging was, that’s truly awesome news!  And don’t forget this production is suitable for the entire family, so come this weekend to revel in the music, dancing, costumes, sets and storytelling magic that is the Milwaukee Ballet’s Mirror Mirror!

Jazz in the Park, June 1-August 31, Cathedral Park (easttown.com)

Milwaukee’s  outdoor festival season gets underway this week as the East Town Association kicks off its 26th season of bringing free weekly jazz shows to Cathedral Park in the heart of downtown Milwaukee.  Getting the party started this Thursday are local favorites Extra Crispy Brass Band and their New Orleans spin on favorites old and new.  I’ll be spotlighting upcoming acts as the season moves along, or you can check out the entire lineup right now by going to the East Town website listed above!

Downtown Dining Week, June 1-8, various locations (milwaukeedowntown.com)

The calendar says its the first week of June, so once again it’s time for Downtown Dining Week!  For the 12th year, many of the most popular downtown Milwaukee restaurants are offering you the opportunity to sample their wares (both lunch and dinner) for very attractive prices!  In fact, you just can’t beat a full lunch meal for $12.50 per person!  Most of the past participants are back, along with five new additions to the lineup!  For a full list of restaurants, locations and what they’re offering, go to the link listed above.  Phone numbers are also included as advance reservations are strongly recommended.  Bon Appetit!

And you work off the calories from your meal at the UPAF Ride for the Arts this Sunday throughout southeastern Wisconsin.  There are courses of varying lengths you can select from (information available at upaf.org), and the event has become a huge fundraiser for Milwaukee’s performing arts organizations…So get on your bikes and ride!!


What’s Going On

For the week of May 23-29…

Sweeney Todd, now-June 11, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)

Several weeks ago, the Florentine Opera presented a delightful production of Rossini’s Barber of Seville;  now, Skylight Music Theatre concludes their season with a show about a different kind of barber.  Yes, I’m talking about Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  It’s among the legendary Stephen Sondheim’s most popular musicals, borne out by the fact this is Skylight’s third production of the show (it was previously staged in 1987 and 1997), and it’s one of the few Sondheim musicals to be made into a movie (Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter starred in Tim Burton’s 2007 film).  This terrifying yet funny musical demands much of its actors, and the Skylight’s cast is up to the task.  Heading the cast is Andrew Varela as the title character (he was previously featured as Jean Valjean in Skylight’s production of Les Miz and a hilarious Cowardly Lion in Skylight’s Wizard of Oz) and Skylight newcomer Christina Hall as Mrs Lovett, whose pies will never be confused with Mrs Wagner’s or Dolly Madison’s.  In a nice twist, director Matthew Ozawa brings a touch of humanity to these diabolical characters; combined with an eye-popping stage set and the always-reliable Jason Fassl’s effective lighting design (and the memorable Sondheim score, of course), the result is a triumphant final production for Skylight’s season!

Edo’s Farewell, May 26-28, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Maestro Edo deWaart concludes his tenure as Milwaukee Symphony Artistic Director with this weekend’s program.  During his time with the MSO, he has elevated the orchestra to the upper tier of America’s orchestras.  It’s a fact borne out with this program featuring Gustav Mahler’s magnificent 3rd Symphony (a personal deWaart favorite), in which Mahler sets out to translate the whole of nature into music.  Vocalist Sasha Cooke, the MSO Women’s Chorus and the Voices of Eterna from the Milwaukee Children’s Choir  join the orchestra for a truly grand finale.  Maestro deWaart has prepared the MSO well for its next Artistic Director, whose tenure is likely to include the orchestra’s move into its new home, the renovated Grand Theater on Wisconsin Avenue.  In the meantime, don’t miss this weekend’s colossal program!

Finally, best wishes for a safe Memorial Day weekend, and please keep in mind those who gave the last ounce of devotion (as well as those who presently serve) to give us the freedom to enjoy the bounty of great performances in our community!

What’s Going On

For the week of May 2-8…

Deconstructing the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, May 3, Oriental Theater, 2239 N Farwell Ave (deconstructingthebeatles.com)

The 4th and final chapter of Beatles expert Scott Freiman’s series on the making of classic Beatles albums takes place on Wednesday night at the Oriental.  This film examines 1965’s Rubber Soul, which many consider the Fab Four’s finest hour, and an album that was made under considerable duress.  In the fall of 1965, the band had just come off a grueling world tour which coincided with the release of their second film Help!, and which included their historic show at New York’s Shea Stadium.  Having barely enough time to catch their collective breath, they were informed by their label a new album was needed to coincide with the upcoming Christmas holidays.  Bottom line:  the band (along with producer George Martin) had roughly 30 days to compose, record, mix and deliver a brand-new album to EMI.  The result was an album that’s even more remarkable considering the classic songs  (“Drive My Car,” “Norwegian Wood,” “If I Needed Someone,” “In My Life,” “The Word,” to name just a few) included.  In addition, two songs from the sessions (“We Can Work It Out,” “Day Tripper”) were held back for a double A-side single released around the same time.  Like the previous films, Freiman offers plenty of insights for both neophytes and diehard Beatlemaniacs.  Trust me, even if you think you know everything there is to know about this album, Freiman manages to dig up some real nuggets that will only enhance your appreciation of this classic!

All Our Own, May 4, Bader Recital Hall, 1584 N Prospect Ave (wcmusic.org)

After a lengthy absence, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music’s veteran resident Jazz Sextet We Six are back for their final show of the season in the cozy confines of the WCM’s Bader Recital Hall.  And in an annual tradition, the group (Dave Bayless, Mark Davis, Jeff Hamman, Eric Jacobson, Eric Schoor, Paul Silbergleit) will be featuring all-original selections on this program.  Some go back a few years, others are brand-new and will be heard here for the first time!  So if you’re looking for an evening of great jazz in a really classy setting, this is truly the place to be!

The Barber of Seville, May 5 & 7, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (florentineopera.org)

If there’s an opera that could be described as a screwball comedy, Rossini’s comic treasure surely fits the bill (It also inspired one of the greatest Bugs Bunny cartoons, Chuck Jones’s “Rabbit of Seville”).  Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera concludes its current season with this classic that’s filled with joyous melodies and a hilarious story filled with mistaken identities that would give Monty Python and Gilbert & Sullivan a run for their money!  And despite Bugs’s famous quote “Whoever heard of an opera with a happy ending?” in “What’s Opera, Doc?”, come and see the Florentine prove him wrong!  Make an appointment with the “Barber” this weekend!

Home Concert, May 5, Schwan Concert Hall, 8815 W Wisconsin Ave (wlc.edu/choir)

Before embarking on their tour of Washington and Alaska, Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Chorus presents its final campus performance of the season on Friday evening.  This talented ensemble’s repretoire ranges from classical to contemporary, embracing music from all over the world, and it’s certain selections from their upcoming tour will be on Friday night’s program.  Best of all, admission is FREE, but you do need tickets for the event.  You can get yours by going to the link listed above!

High Fidelity, May 6, UWM Union Cinema, 2200 E Kenwood Blvd (cinema.uwm.edu)

While Record Store Day celebrated its 10th anniversary several weeks ago, the indie record store is a rarity in this online world.  But it’s celebrated in this 2000 film based on Nick Hornby’s hit novel.  The setting has been moved from London to East Lansing, Michigan, but the story’s the same.  John Cusack stars as Rob, an indie record store owner who’s been unlucky in love, who applies his skills in compiling music lists in an attempt to find out why.  The movie co-stars Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Lisa Bonet and Tim Robbins, and as a rare treat in these days of digital, it’s being shown in a special 35mm print!  With a great soundtrack to boot, it’s a not-to-be-missed film for music and/or comedy fans!

Last, but certainly not least, Frontier Radio WMSE’s on-air Spring Membership Drive is running from May 5-12.  As usual, lots of special programming is on tap until 6 pm on the 12th, all in an effort to raise funds to keep the Mighty 91 going strong!  So be sure and tune in (91.7 fm or wmse.org), and more importantly, take a moment to pledge your tax-deductible support, either by calling one of our dedicated pledge-takers at 414-799-1917 or pledging securely online at wmse.org.  Either way, you’ll be helping secure a bright future for one of Milwaukee’s cultural treasures!