For the week of February 24-March 2…
13th Annual Rockabilly Chili Contest, March 1, Kern Center, 1245 N Broadway (wmse.org)
So are you finally fed up with this seemingly never-ending winter? If you are, there are 50 area restaurants and 7 MFD firehouses that agree with you! And on Sunday they will join forces with WMSE Radio to present (for the 13th time) Rockabilly Chili. It’s Milwaukee’s biggest party since New Year’s, and it will take MSOE’s entire Kern Center to hold it all! If there’s anything that can lure Milwaukeeans out of their cabin fever, it’s chili…lots of chili! Every kind of chili is there for you to sample…traditional chili, veggie chili, super hot chili! And after making their debut last year, 7 MFD firehouses will be back for their own competition, and as most of you know, firefighters know how to cook up great chili! Both the fieldhouse and arena levels of the Kern Center will be utilized for the party…Veteran WMSE DJ’s Dietrich and Jonny Z will be spinning tunes, and hot local band Split Lip Rayfield will be playing live…and back by popular demand, the Racing Chili Peppers will return for a renewal of their rivalry, with several heats (good one there!) preceding the final race around the fieldhouse running track! And the popular Kids Area is back to keep the young’uns occupied while their elders are imbibing in the chili. And the chili loving public will have the opportunity to vote for the best traditional chili, veggie chili, hottest chili, booth display, and firehouse chili too! Most importantly, it’s the station’s biggest single day fundraising event of the year, which goes a long way to keep this Milwaukee cultural treasure going strong! Yours truly will be part of the volunteer army to ensure the event goes smoothly, so I hope to see your face in the place this Sunday! Yes, there are other chili cookoffs around town, but there’s only one Rockabilly Chili!!
All-Strauss Program, February 27-28, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (mso.org)
Celebrating the 150th birthday of the “other Strauss,” or the composer not known as the “Waltz King,” Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s weekend program consists entirely of some of Richard Strauss’ most audience-pleasing works. Headlining the concert is the magnificent tone poem Don Quixote, which features MSO principal cellist Susan Babini and principal violist Robert Levine in a musical retelling of the legend of Don Quixote and his faithful companion Sancho Panza and their quests of chivalry (which would later form the basis of the classic Broadway musical Man of La Mancha). Also on the program, Katie Young Steele is featured soloist in the composer’s Oboe Concerto, the kind of showcase you don’t hear every day. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find another piece in which the instrument is featured so prominently, unless you count the Duck character in Peter and the Wolf! Along with the opening Metamorphosen for String Orchestra, it’s not only a showcase for this great Romantic Era composer, but also for the wonderful MSO!
Big Nate the Musical, February 27-March 29, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)
The Battle of the Bands is a time-honored tradition of Rock & Roll, and it’s also the basis for First Stage Family Theater’s World Premiere production based on the popular comic strip. Sixth grader Nate’s band Enslave the Mollusk! seems like a shoo-in to take the crown at the school’s contest. But Nate has also racked up lots of detention time. Can he keep on the straight and narrow through the championship round, or will he knock himself and his band out of the running? The suspense is killing me! Once again, First Stage’s skillful mix of adult and youth performers will ensure this garage band battle will engage rockers of all ages!
Come Back, February 27-March 22, 10th Street Theater, 628 N 10th St (intandem.org)
Following up their rollicking holiday hit A Cudahy Caroler Christmas, In Tandem Theater presents a world premiere of a new musical from Neil Haven, the composer of another Milwaukee holiday favorite, the murder mystery musical Who Killed Santa? In Tandem describes the play as a “quirk comedy about grief, understanding and moving forward.” Without giving away too much of the story, let me say I couldn’t have put it better myself! The cast includes Milwaukee favorites Karen Estrada, Carrie Hitchcock and T Stacy Hicks. So if you enjoyed the Cudahy Carolers, “come back” to the 10th Street Theater for more hilarity!
The Train Driver, February 27-March 15, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)
Milwaukee Chamber Theater Artistic Director (and director of this show) C Michael Wright feels a special kinship to this latest play from the great South African playwright Athol Fugard. Back in the 80’s, Wright performed alongside Delroy Lindo and James Earl Jones in the Broadway production of Fugard’s classic Master Harold…and the Boys. Despite the fact apartheid ended in South Africa in 1990, Fugard continues to find dramatic grist for the mill. This is the story of white train driver Roelf, whose train accidentally struck and killed a black woman and her child. He embarks on a search to find the graves and identity of the pair, which leads him to the elderly black man Simon, a gravedigger who works in a squatter camp outside Port Elizabeth. The ensuing confrontation between the pair results in one of Fugard’s most powerful works, perfectly suited to the Studio Theater’s intimate setting. In a New Year already loaded with many powerful theater dramas, add The Train Driver to the list.