What’s Going On


For the week of September 13-19…

The Marriage of Figaro, September 17, 18 and 20, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

Music Director Edo de Waart begins his final season as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director in grand style with this weekend’s performances of the final opera of Mozart’s trilogy of comic operas he composed with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (Previously performed were Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte). Taken together, they are considered one of the greatest opera trilogies ever.  Maestro de Waart says Figaro …”is the opera I know best and have done the most.  Every number is a masterpiece.”

Like the previously performed operas, the performances of Figaro will be “semi-staged” under the direction of Robin Guarino, which means the characters will be performing on a stage with very few props, with the characters themselves dressed in contemporary style.  The MSO will be the pit orchestra, but the pit will be semi-raised so the orchestra will be visible to the audience.  While some patrons may bemoan the lack of a “grand opera” production, many have applauded the previous productions for their focus on the music and characters over sets and costumes.  Indeed, Mozart’s glorious music is enough of a reason not to miss this special event, sure to be one of Milwaukee’s great cultural highlights of 2016!

Speaking of season openers, I must take a moment to mention that my pal Sandy Maxx and her team is back with a new season of Milwaukee Public Television’s fine long-running program The Arts Page, which focuses on the Milwaukee area’s cultural scene.  For the new season there are new show times, which are the following:  Thursdays at 6:30 pm on channel 36.1 and 10 pm on channel 10.1; Fridays at 12:30 am on channel 36.1; and Saturdays at 11 am on channel 36.1.  Of course, you can always stream the program episodes anytime at mptv.org!

With the arrival of fall is the return of another Milwaukee tradition:  This Saturday and Sunday marks the sixth Doors Open Milwaukee weekend.  This popular event allows the public rare access to hundreds of iconic Milwaukee structures and sites.  Many of the tours and events are free, but because of demand and limited availability, tickets must be obtained for access to some of the most popular sites.  For a full schedule and to order tickets (if necessary), go to historicmilwaukee.org.

In next week’s edition, we’ll preview another Milwaukee Fall tradition:  the 2016 Milwaukee Film Festival!!

Happy Autumn!

What’s Going On

For the week of September 6-12…

Mavis Staples w/the Family Stone, September 9, Northern Lights Theater, 1721 W Canal St (paysbig.com/shows)

Fresh from her triumphant performance at Chicago’s legendary Ravinia Festival, R&B/Gospel great Mavis Staples headlines this Friday at the intimate Northern Lights Theater.  Her show will range from Staple Singers classics like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself” to songs from her recent acclaimed albums We’ll Never Turn Back, You Are Not Alone, One True Vine, and 2016’s Livin’ on a High Note.  And her shows prove she’s a true force of nature even as she’s pushing 80…No wonder Bob Dylan had a crush on her back in the day (and she opened for him at Ravinia)!

Opening for Mavis at NLT are The Family Stone (as in Sly and…), who will “take you higher” with classics like “Dance to the Music,” “Everyday People,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” and “Thank You (falettin me mice elf agin).”  Sounds like the perfect double bill to me!  Not to be missed!

Mr Smith Goes to Washington, September 10, Avalon Theater, 2473 S KK Ave (AvalonMKE.com)

Jimmy Stewart and director Frank Capra will always be remembered for their holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life, but it’s not the first time they worked together.  For this month’s Second Saturday Classic at Bay View’s Avalon Atmospheric Theater, it’s the 1938 classic where Jimmy plays the idealistic former Boy Scout who’s been appointed to fill out the term of a senator because he won’t make waves with the political machine running his state.  Or so the bosses think.  Also in the marvelous cast are Jean Arthur (the hardnosed insider who falls for Jimmy), Claude Rains (who also appeared as Louis Renault in a previous Saturday Classic, Casablanca), Beulah Bondi (who also played Jimmy’s mom in Wonderful Life!), and Thomas Mitchell (as a hard-boiled newspaperman best remembered for playing Pa O’Hara in Gone With the Wind).  The story goes that in 1940, as the invading Germans were on the verge of overrunning Paris, local cinemas ran Mr Smith before Hollywood movies were confiscated by the Nazis.  You can start your weekend by seeing the perfect movie for this election year on Saturday morning at the Avalon!

2016 WMSE Backyard BBQ, September 10, Humboldt Park, 3000 S Howell Ave (wmse.org)

Bay View’s popular Chill on the Hill Festival may have ended for 2016, but the music at the Humboldt Park bandshell has not.  On Saturday, WMSE Radio will be bringing their 7th Backyard BBQ summer send-off to Humboldt Park for the first time, after holding the earlier festivals at downtown’s Cathedral Park.  Besides offering more room to roam (not to mention more parking!), the bandshell’s magnificent stage is big enough to hold all the great music on the lineup!  Festivities get under way at noon with the Americana sounds of Milwaukee’s Doghouse Flowers, followed by the multi-genre rock sounds of Midwest Death Rattle, Milwaukee’s own acclaimed singer-songwriter Trapper Schoepp, the Black Keys-like rockin’ sounds of Connecticut’s Balkun Brothers, and capped by the Twin Cities’ mighty show band Sonny Knight and the Lakers to wrap things up with a bang! Plus MSE DJ’s Sonia, Jerry and Good John will be spinning between sets! And by the way, this FREE festival is the station’s gift to its listeners and supporters, so come on down and party!!

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, September 11-October 30, Stackner Cabaret, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)

The Rep’s Stackner Cabaret opens its new season by bringing back a previous hit production that presents the songs of Billie Holiday, one of America’s greatest jazz singers, as well as telling the story of the demons that dogged her personal life that eventually killed her at 44 in 1959.  And director Leda Hoffman cast the perfect actor to portray Lady Day.  Alexis J Roston, already familiar with Rep audiences for starring in the recent sensational production of The Color Purple, has also starred in Chicago’s Porchlight Theater’s award-winning production of the show.  Add the intimate setting of the Stackner, and you have an musical experience you won’t soon forget!


What’s Going On

For the week of August 23-29…

Milwaukee Fringe Festival, August 27-28, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St and Pere Marquette Park, 900 N Plankinton Ave (mkefringe.com)

As summer winds down, so is Milwaukee’s festival season.  But wait!  There are still some goodies left in the bag, including this weekend’s ever-popular Mexican Fiesta at Maier Festival Park (mexicanfiesta.org).  And there’s a brand-new festival having its maiden voyage this Saturday and Sunday, which gets its inspiration from a festival first staged in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1947.  Yes, this weekend marks the first Milwaukee Fringe Festival, taking place at the Marcus Center and Pere Marquette Park, which is directly across the river.  Local theater, music and dance groups will presenting performances, many of them FREE!  One of the highlights will be the Milwaukee premiere of Renaissance Theaterworks’ Lucky Numbers, Madison playwright Gwendolyn Rice’s piece which RTW triumphantly premiered Off Off Broadway in New York last year.  The performance takes at 6:15 pm Saturday in the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater (usually the home of First Stage Theater).  Putting it another way, the festival is like Gallery Night and Day for performing arts groups.  So your best bet is to click the link above for the festival website to get full performance information…and support Milwaukee’s performing arts scene!

What’s Going On

For the week of August 16-22..

Sonia and Vanya and Misha and Spike, now-August 28, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)

Three of the titular characters’ names are taken from Chekhov, but there are plenty of laughs to be found in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s season opener, which is MCT Associate Artistic Director Marcella Kearns’ rollicking staging of Christopher Durang’s Tony-winning comedy.

Baby boomer siblings Sonia (Jenny Wanasek) and Vanya (MCT Artistic Director C Michael Wright) reside in a country house in Bucks County, PA, bought and paid for by their movie-star sister Misha (Carrie Hitchcock).  They lead rather humdrum lives which are broken up by visits  from their clairvoyant housekeeper Cassandra (the uproarious Rana Roman) but things get stirred up in a hurry when Misha arrives for a visit with her “Boy Toy” Spike (JJ Phillips).  Hunky Spike’s main claim to fame is auditioning for the second season of Entourage, and his wandering eye quickly turns its attention to aspiring actress Nina  (Elodie Senetra), Sonia and Vanya’s neighbor who’s also named after a Chekhov character.  Nina, on the other hand, seems more interested in the play “Uncle” Vanya has been working on, a staged reading starring Vanya, Nina and Cassandra  forms the climax of the show.  Oh, and there’s a costume party where Sonia indulges her inner Maggie Smith.  After watching the show, I could just imagine Sonia starring on Downton Abbey and Cassandra as a meteorologist on local Milwaukee TV!

The characters’ idiosyncrasies combined with abundant pop culture references make for a late-summer treat.  Or as Cassandra might put it, “Beware if you fail to see this show!”

The Whiskeybelles, August 16, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

No, the Belles don’t come out only at night, as Milwaukee’s favorite Americana trio will be featured this week during the Marcus Center’s free Lunchtime Tuesdays series at the Peck Pavilion.  If you’re downtown, make sure to stop by for a generous helping of their spirited covers and originals.  And given they just opened for Charlie Daniels’ appearance at the Ozaukee County Fair, don’t be surprised to hear a rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia!”

Irish Fest, August 18-21, Maier Festival Park (irishfest.com)

For the 36th year, Milwaukee Irish Fest returns this weekend to the lakefront.  Arguably the world’s largest Celtic festival, for my money it’s Milwaukee’s best ethnic music festival.  From traditional to rock, Irish Fest’s music runs the gamut.  And there are plenty of acts to choose from:  returning stars like Gaelic Storm and Red Hot Chili Pipers, local favorites (including Frogwater, Reilly, Athas, Leahy’s Luck), popular acts returning after a lengthy hiatus (Solas, along with Clannad vocalist Moya Brennan’s band De Barra) and the usual complement of first-time acts at the Fest eager to make a great impression (Wrigley Sisters, Dallahan, Runa, Jigjam, Barrule and Next Generation Leahy).  Music and dance may be the main stars of Irish Fest, but by no means the only ones:  the Irish Cultural Village features a plethora of theatrical plays performed by groups from both here and across the pond.  And don’t forget to visit the Celtic Canines near the lagoon on Saturday and Sunday!  And if you’re not partial to Irish Soda Bread, Corned Beef or Irish Stew, Wong’s Wok will be on hand with their Chinese version of fast food!  And if you being several non-perishable food items (boxes of Mac & Cheese are always a winner) to Sunday morning’s mass at the Marcus Amphitheater, you’ll get free admission to the fest after mass!  Also new for 2016:  $10 discount tickets are available all day Friday!

What’s Going On

For the week of August 2-8…

Julius Caesar, August 4-7, 11-14, 18-21, Selig-Joseph Holz Amphitheater at Kadish Park, 308 E Lloyd St (optimisttheatre.org)

Besides the much-publicized (and deservedly so) Wisconsin State Fair, another Milwaukee summer tradition of more recent vintage gets underway on Thursday.  Optimist Theater’s annual FREE Shakespeare-In-The-Park series presents its 2016 production of Julius Caesar, the classic tragedy of political intrigue during the days of the Roman Empire.  Optimist’s always top-notch productions boast great casts drawing from the cream of Milwaukee’s theatrical talent, and this year is no exception.  Allen Edge has the title role, and he’s joined by many local theater favorites, including Laura Gray, Angela Ianonne, Libby Amato, Leslie Fitzwater, and many more.  If you’re a first-timer to the Kadish Park experience, it is highly suggested you check out the group’s website (listed above) for information on how to get to the park, seating, when to arrive, etc.  If you enjoy seeing classic theater performed under starry summer skies (except for the brunch matinee on August 14), you are in for a real treat!

Milwaukee Festival Brass, August 7, Peck Pavilion at Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (marcuscenter.org)

Fresh from their gold-medal winning performance (in keeping with the Olympics opening on Friday) at recent National Brass Band Convention, Milwaukee’s Festival Brass presents a special FREE outdoor performance on Sunday at Marcus Center’s Peck Pavilion along the Milwaukee River in downtown Milwaukee.  Although the group’s programs is a guarded secret, rest assured the repertoire will run the gamut from Sousa marches to John Williams showpieces, from modern pieces to classics from the revered British Brass Band literature (including compositions from esteemed English composer Gustav “The Planets” Holst!).  It’s part of Marcus Center’s Summer Festival of free events that includes Sunday afternoon band concerts, Tuesday lunchtime shows and Friday Family Film Favorites under the stars!  Check the Center’s website above for the full lowdown on festival events!

What’s Going On

For the week of June 28-July 4…

Summerfest, June 29-July 3 and July 5-10, Maier Festival Park (summerfest.com)

What began as an idea by Milwaukee mayor Henry Maier to replicate the Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich in 1968 in the wake of Milwaukee’s racial riots the previous summer, has become in its 49th year the “World’s Largest Music Festival”, a claim few would dispute.  For 10 solid days (with a break for the 4th of July), Milwaukee’s lakefront explodes with music, food, and other libations.  And while the big star attractions like Paul McCartney are already well-known, Summerfest also provides big time exposure for many of the area’s most talented acts.  For many of them, their Summerfest gig will be their greatest highlight.  With that in mind, I am listing some of those acts along the dates they’ll be performing.  They are all deserving of your support!

June 29:  Leroy Airmaster with Junior Brantley

June 30:  GGOOLLDD, Evan Christian, Jon Paris, Bad Boy

July 1:  Sammy Llanas, Trapper Schoepp, Consult the Briefcase, Willy Porter

July 2:  Peter Mac, Naima Adedapo, Clyde Subblefield All-Stars

July 3:  Mrs Fun, Bodeans, Streetlife

July 5:  Tallan Noble Latz, Tritonics, Doghouse Flowers, The Cavewives

July 6:  52nd Street-A Billy Joel Tribute, Southbound, Nora Collins, Jaill

July 7:  Violent Femmes, Tweed Funk, Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds, Colin O’Brien, Greg Koch

July 8:  Dr Woo, Joe 2.0, 5 Card Studs, Litmus Vinyl, Katie Mack and the Moan

July 9:  Reyna, Sigmund Snopek, Mike Benign Compulsion, Failure to Launch, Gabriel Sanchez and the Prince Experience, De La Buena

July 10:  Jesus on the Mainline, Whiskeybelles, Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound

For full festival and schedule information, check the link listed above!

Here’s Doc!, July 1-3, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

While most of the musical action is taking place at Summerfest this week, downtown’s Marcus Center will be hosting a very special concert this weekend as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra winds up its season by welcoming back former Principal Pops Conductor (and music legend) Doc Severinsen, celebrating 60 years in show business!  Doc will lead the orchestra along with showcasing his always impeccable trumpet!  As usual, the program is a secret with Doc, but rest assured there will be the usual surprises for the audience!  So be a cool cat (figuratively and literally!) and head over for some musical fireworks from Doc and the MSO!

Have a Safe and Happy Fourth, Everybody!

What’s Going On

For the week of June 21-27…

MSO at Chill on the Hill, June 21, Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park’s Chill on the Hill launched its 2016 season a few weeks ago, and this Tuesday the free festival presents one of the highlights of the season when the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra makes its annual appearance.  MSO Associate Conductor Yaniv Dinur leads the program which features music from Dvorak, Bernstein, Piazzolla and many more.  It’s not too often you can enjoy a picnic lunch with a world-class orchestra, so come on down and celebrate summer with music under the stars!

Thank You.  Next?, June 23-26, 10th Street Theater, 628 N 10th Street (milwaukeeoperatheatre.org)

Fresh from its sensational performance of 1776 at Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee Opera Theater winds up its current season with a world premiere production at In Tandem Theater’s home at the cozy 10th Street Theater.  Thank You.  Next? is Alicia Berneche and Tim Rebers’ story about…auditioning for an opera!  Eleven singers take their turns performing before a judges’ panel and along the way we learn about that gut-wrenching path to the big moment!  MOT Artistic Director Jill Anna Ponasik and veteran Milwaukee actor David Flores co-direct the production, and the talented cast includes Milwaukee favorites Natalie Ford, Diane Lane and Nathan Wesselowski, accompanied by Milwaukee’s “Liberace,” Jack Forbes Wilson (who was also Music Director for 1776).  The score includes a mix of familiar arias along with new music from the Berneche-Rebers duo.  Not to be missed!

All-Tchaikovsky Spectacular, June 24-26, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra literally finishes its classical season with a bang with this weekend’s performances which feature Tchaikovsky’s immortal 1812 Overture!  It’s pretty amazing that a piece which celebrates the Russian army’s victory over Napoleon would become an American 4th of July tradition, thanks to the Boston Pops’ annual performances along the Charles River Esplanade, assisted by US Army howitzers and surrounding church bells!  Now the howitzers may not be part of the MSO’s performance, but rest assured Uihlein Hall will be rockin’ nonetheless!  And that’s not all!  Guest Conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto welcomes back virtuoso pianist Joyce Yang (who has previously performed the Rachmaninoff concerto cycle with the MSO) as soloist on the composer’s First Piano Concerto, sure to set off more musical fireworks!  Rounding out the program is the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin along with the lovely yet seldom-heard First Symphony (Winter Daydreams), making for an unforgettable way to ring down the curtain on the 2015/16 season!

Greek Fest, June 24-26, State Fair Park (annunciationwi.org)

Before there was Festa Italiana, German Fest, Irish Fest and all the other ethnic fests that are part of Milwaukee’s summer landscape, there was the granddaddy of them all, and that’s Greek Fest!  And, along with Bastille Days, it’s the only free festival on the schedule, and it’s back this weekend at State Fair Park!  So chow down on the lamb gyros and baklava,  and enjoy the Greek music and dancing (not to mention the carnival rides!) this Friday through Sunday!  Full information available at the above link!  Opa!!