For the week of May 14-21…
Ex Fabula All-Star Spring Spectacular, May 16, Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N 4th St (exfabula.com)
Not far from where Da Crusher and Mad Dog Vachon once did battle, Ex Fabula’s version of a Battle Royal happens Thursday when all the Story Slam winners from the past season compete on one stage to determine who will take the crown as undisputed champ (and they really do get crowned…no championship belt a la Aaron Rodgers yet, but I’m sure Ex Fab is working on it)! The theme for the evening is “Lost in Translation,” and all proceeds from ticket sales go towards funding Ex Fab’s 5th season starting in the fall! So come out and make sure you get your story fix!
Swan Lake, May 16-19, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (milwaukeeballet.org)
Ask the average person to name a ballet, chances are the answer will be Swan Lake. Tchaikovsky’s classic is, in the words of the Milwaukee Ballet, “the world’s most popular ballet.” And thanks to its connection to the recent hit movie Black Swan, it’s more popular than ever! And since the Ballet last performed it in 2007, it seems like the perfect time for an encore of Artistic Director Michael Pink’s production. As I recall, the previous production was the hottest ticket in town, and with the dynamic dancers of MBC, the lavish sets, and the beautiful playing of Andrews Sill and the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, rest assured this will be one of the high points of Milwaukee’s arts season!
Porgy and Bess, May 17-June 9, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)
Speaking of high points, Skylight’s production of George and Ira Gershwin’s classic opera not only brings down the curtain on a great season, but it also truly marks the end of an era. This production will Artistic Director Bill Theisen’s final show of his tenure, and he will be at the helm to direct the production of a work he has long wanted to present at Skylight. What Swan Lake is to ballet, Porgy and Bess is to American opera, as it’s what the average person worldwide will respond when asked to name an American opera. Not only is it one of the great love stories of musical theater, but its score is filled with standards like “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “I Got Plenty of Nothin’,” and the immortal “Summertime” (which you can also hear “Janis” perform now at the Rep’s An Evening with Janis Joplin). In fact, one of the all-time great jazz albums is Miles Davis’ Porgy and Bess, featuring Gil Evans’ brilliant arrangements of George Gershwin’s music. This show certainly belongs in the “can’t miss” category. And as an additional treat, all Friday and Saturday evening performances (except on 5/18) will be followed by the free cabaret show Goin’ Up North in the Skylight Bistro. Porgy assistant director (and First Stage mainstay) Sheri Williams Pannell created this show, which is a humorous telling of a couple’s move from Louisiana to Milwaukee during the turbulent 60’s (and sounds a lot like the story of Sheri’s own family!). The show’s dynamite cast performs great R&B and gospel tunes from the period, making it the perfect complement to Porgy and Bess!
drivin’ n cryin’, May 19, Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave (shankhall.com)
Local boy made good Kevn Kinney makes his annual pilgrimage back to his hometown when his band performs this Sunday at Shank Hall as part of their spring tour. From his humble beginnings as a warehouse worker at the late, great Radio Doctors (and a regular at the Starship as a member of the punk band the Prosecutors) in the early 80’s, the musician who went by the handle “Larry Mondello” headed down to Georgia to immerse himself in the hot music scene that spawned bands like REM and the B-52’s. Settling in Atlanta, he helped form the band that was buzzworthy enough to land a contract with the great British indie label Island Records and scored an MTV hit with their classic “Fly Me Courageous.” And the rest is history that continues to be written, as KK has become a mainstay of the New York folk scene recording under his own name, as well as frequent reunions with the band. The homecoming shows are always memorable occasions, and Sunday night’s promises to be no exception.