By Mary Boyle
There are percussionists, and then there is Michael (Ding) Lorenz. A resident of Oak Creek, Lorenz has been playing and collecting percussion instruments since the age of 5, beginning with being a member of the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps and moving on through a variety of music groups, from R&B bands to orchestras, including over 40 years at Skylight Music Theatre where, in 2012, Artistic Director Ray Jivoff and their friend and musician, Jamie Johns, put together a special show featuring Lorenz's passion for percussion called Things That Go Ding! The show was such a hit, it is returning to Skylight for a limited engagement (and even more percussion instruments!) through March 3rd in Milwaukee.
One part concert, one part vaudeville act, one part theatre, and one part variety show, Things That Go Ding! is really an homage to the three performers common roots in musical theatre, combined with some classical favorites, a bit of musical history, a good dose of comedy, and a liberal amount of percussion instruments, "Liberal" actually doesn't cover it; the entire stage of the Cabot theatre is packed full with every kind of percussion instrument you can imagine (and some you couldn't possibly) — they literally even threw in the kitchen sink! All of the instruments belong to Lorenz, and it took about a week to get them all set up on stage.
Jamie Johns, a talented musician and composer who hails from Milwaukee but is currently making a stop from over 5 years on tour with Phantom of the Opera, plays both organ and piano, as well as contributing a bit of singing and witty banter. Skylight regulars are used to seeing Artistic Director Ray Jivoff at performances, but seeing him perform was a special treat: he has an incredible voice, and you simply don't want to miss his performance of the Modern Major-General's Song from Pirates of Penzance or taking his turn at being Mister Rogers. The camaraderie between the three performers makes for a fun show, and the sheer amount of combined talent is breathtaking, but properly leveled by a heavy dose of rubber chickens and terrible puns. This is a one-of-a-kind, not-to-be-missed production.
Things That Go Ding! runs through March 3rd at the Cabot Theatre, located within the Broadway Theatre Center at 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Broadway Theatre Center BoxOffice, 158 N. Broadway, by calling (414) 291-7800, or visiting www.skylightmusictheatre.org
About Skylight Music Theatre
Skylight Music Theatre's mission since 1959: To bring the full spectrum of music theatre works to a wide and diverse audience, in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts and their reflection of the human condition. Skylight presents productions "Skylight Style" – bringing fresh approaches or interesting twists to music theatre works, creating meaningful connections, not only between the characters on stage, but with the audience, as well.
By Mary Boyle
One thing that people really don't like to talk about is aging. Planning for the end of one's life just isn't a very happy subject, of course, but avoiding the subject and not making your wishes clear very early on can lead to a lot of family drama in the future — though hopefully not as much drama as Alexandra experiences in The Velocity of Autumn, a new play by Eric Coble, being staged by In Tandem Theatre in Milwaukee through March 17th at the intimate and casual Tenth Street Theatre.
Eighty years old and widowed, Alexandra lives alone in a classic brownstone in Brooklyn; the place where she raised her three children, the place where she made her art, and the place where she fully intends to continue living alone until she dies. The trouble is, her two oldest children are not on board with her plan, and they have reached a rather extreme stand-off: Alexandra has barricaded herself in her home, threatening to blow the place up if anyone should try and remove her. Chris, Alexandra's youngest son who hasn't been home in 20 years, is sent in through a window to be a negotiator; not exactly the scene of a happy family reunion.
Directed by Chris Flieller, The Velocity of Autumn is not, in itself, a terribly remarkable play as far as the writing goes, but it does draw forth some hard truths, in an often funny way, about aging, bringing about discussion on a difficult topic in the way that theatre is so brilliant at doing. What makes this particular production worth seeing is the cast. When it comes to Milwaukee’s finest actors, Angela Iannone is arguably one of the finest. A regular on Milwaukee stages and beyond, Iannone has been seen for the past few year’s on The Milwaukee Rep’s stage in A Christmas Carol, and has had multiple roles at In Tandem; she brings to life any character she plays, and she is a fascinating actor to watch. Steven Marzolf, who plays Chris, is an accomplished actor and director in his own right, and makes his return to the In Tandem stage over a decade after appearing in Two Rooms. Together, they take two underdeveloped characters and a somewhat predictable script and make it worth watching.
The Velocity of Autumn runs through March 17th at the Tenth Street Theatre, located at 628 N. 10th St. in Milwaukee. Tickets are available by calling the Tenth Street Theatre Box Office at (414) 271-1371 or online at http://www.intandemtheatre.org. Join In Tandem for Giggles for Grown ups on Saturday, April 6th; a special fundraiser featuring a silent auction, wine pull, 50/50 raffle, cash bar, heavy appetizers and comedy & improv, galore!
About In Tandem Theatre
In Tandem Theatre, a 501(c)3 non-profit, was founded in 1998 with the commitment to produce exciting, innovative and professional live theatre by presenting creative and eclectic programming that enlightens, inspires, provokes and entertains a diverse audience in an intimate atmosphere. Its name, In Tandem Theatre, reflects the connection between audience and actor, the audience and the written word – an intimate experience obtained when live audiences are engaged in strong storytelling.
Left to Right: Rahim Keval, AVP Business Development Officer, Partnership Bank; Tom Stanton, Executive Director, Mel’s Charities; Mikko Hilvo, Cedarburg Parks and Forestry Superintendent; Alex Uhan, Organizer/Promoter, Country in the Burg; Randy Groth, Partner, Country in the Burg; Michael O’Keefe, Cedarburg Mayor; David Braaten, CEO, Partnership Bank.
By Mary Boyle
Growing up in Thiensville, Alex Uhan's parents exposed him to all kinds of music, but the stuff that really stuck was the Country. His passion for the genre has brought him into close contact with some big name artists over the years, taking him on tour buses, and even on the stage. Fast forward to 2014, when this Homestead High School graduate who had relocated to Cedarburg came up with an idea for a Country Music concert to be performed locally, and in a smaller, more intimate venue than the artist would normally play. The Summer Sounds concert series at Cedar Creek Park introduced him to just the right location and, in 2017, Uhan ran the idea past the Cedarburg Common Council, who were in full support. Country in the Burg was born.
"I wanted to organize a concert that would do two things: bring in a Country artist who wouldn't normally come to our little town and benefit a charity," Uhan explained.
Three charities, actually. The first was a no-brainer: Mel's Charities has been raising money for Ozaukee causes for the past 20 years, donating over one million dollars locally through their "great times for great causes." The second charity was Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, who have been providing healthcare solely for children for 125 years. Finally, Uhan also chose the Wounded Warrior Project, in honor of family members and friends who have served in the military. The WWP serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wounds while serving in the military on or after September 11, 2001.
Uhan knew he had the City behind him, and he already had artists on board, but he wanted to gauge the interest of the community. This past March, he created a Facebook Event for the concert and, in just 2 months, over 2,000 people were interested. Now, nearly a year later, the event is closing in on 9,000 - double the number of people than there are tickets to the event, which will take place on August 24th at Cedar Creek Park.
"There are a limited amount of General Admission tickets left, and I expect to sell out long before the concert — Kip Moore (the headliner) is huge," Uhan chuckled. Huge, indeed; Moore incurred a fine for playing past curfew at Summerfest this past season because the adoring audience demanded more.
Opening for Moore are Cedarburg native, Josh Thompson, who has written songs for the likes of Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, and Darius Rucker, as well as having a successful Country Music career of his own, and David Nail, whose latest album, Only This And Nothing More, was included in the Rolling Stone Magazine list of "12 New Albums to Stream Now." Originally, the band Love and Theft were scheduled to play, but then a scheduling conflict took them out of the line-up; however, Uhan is thrilled to have a Cedarburg hometown boy in their place.
Unlike the Summer Sounds concert, Cedar Creek Park will be completely fenced in for Country in the Burg. Those with VIP tickets, at a cost of $89, will be center stage, with access to their own beer vendor and bathrooms. General Admission tickets, which are $59, allows you to bring in a chair, but it's expected that most people will be standing for the entire event. While there will be lots reserved for parking, Uhan doesn't expect it to be a problem, stating: "Strawberry Festival brings far more people into town than this concert will, and there is no special parking lot for that."
Uhan hopes that the event will create an atmosphere similar to "Country Thunder" — a music festival that takes place in Twin Lakes, WI — although much smaller. More importantly, he hopes attendees will feel good that their ticket purchase will not only allow them to see three great artists in a great venue with a great view, it will also help three great charities.
Country in the Burg will take place on Saturday, August 24, 2019, from 5-11 p.m. at Cedar Creek Park in Cedarburg, WI. A limited number of General Admission tickets are available, and may be purchased at: tickets.midwestix.com/event/country-in-the-burg-2019/.
By Mary Boyle
Most children in public schools in America take a US History class. If I mention the words "Manifest Destiny," "Transcontinental Railroad," and "Gold Rush," most people will have at least a hazy recollection of learning about these things in class. You may remember that many of the workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad, for instance, were Chinese, and that many of those workers came here by the lure of California's Gold Rush but, as far as the Chinese in America are concerned, that's about all your average person would know. Digging into that history a bit further is what inspired playwright Lloyd Suh to write The Chinese Lady, which premiered just last July in Massachutses, then in New York this past October, and now continues its journey on The Rep's Stiemke Studio stage as part of the John (Jack) D. Lewis New Play Development Program.
Directed by May Adrales, who also directed In the Heights earlier this season at The Rep, The Chinese Lady is based on the true story of Afong Moy, who was brought to the US by the Carne Brothers, importers of Chinese goods, in 1834 when she was just 14 years old. She was set up as an exhibit in the Peale Museum in New York in a room furnished with the very goods that the Carne Brothers imported (and which were conveniently available for purchase after the show). Audiences paid to watch Moy eat with chopsticks, drink tea in a ritualistic manner, and walk about on her tiny, bound feet. This was the age of P.T. Barnum, whose American Museum in New York featured a number of physically or culturally different people in what was very much a human zoo and, while the supposed point of these exhibitions was education, in truth, the people in the exhibits, like Afong Moy, were being exploited.
Lisa Helmi Johanson delivers a moving performance as Afong Moy, who is assisted by her translator and helper, Atung, played by Jon Norman Schneider. Moy begins her time in America when China's contact with the Western world is limited; she is a true anomaly and views herself as an ambassador of her culture and a potential bridge between China and America. When the people see her, they will see a true Chinese lady. As time moves on, the relationship between China and America changes through economic and political changes of which Moy isn't even aware, but which affect how she is viewed by audiences, as well as her value to her employers. Racism, sexism, imperialism, cultural appropriation — The Chinese Lady touches on all of these topics while providing the US History lesson we all missed out on, and yet, the play is not about these things, but about really seeing one another. Timely and exceptionally well-written, Milwaukee audiences are privileged to be among the first to see this play, thanks to The Rep's commitment to new work — don't miss the opportunity.
The Chinese Lady runs through March 24th at the Stiemke Studio, located within the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex at 108 E. Wells St. in Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased by calling (414) 224-9490, in-person at the Box Office, or online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com.
About Milwaukee Repertory Theater
The Milwaukee Rep is the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin, in terms of audiences served, and one of the largest professional theaters in the country. Each year, The Rep welcomes up to 275,000 people at nearly 700 performances of 15 productions, ranging from compelling dramas, powerful classics, new plays, and full-scale musicals in its three unique performance venues: the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio, and Stackner Cabaret. Now in its 65th Season, The Rep has gained a national reputation as an incubator of new work, an agent of community change, and a forward-thinking provider of .vital arts education programs. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Clements and Executive Director Chad Bauman, Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee's rich diversity.
By Mary Boyle
Even if you've never seen a production of Fiddler on the Roof, it's highly likely that you've heard the music: "Tradition," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker" and, of course, the quintessential "If I Were A Rich Man." Opening on Broadway in 1964, Fiddler was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and won 9 of them, including one for Best Musical. It was the first musical to surpass 3,000 performances, held the title of Longest Running Broadway Musical for nearly a decade, has seen numerous revivals, and is often seen on high school and community theatre stages. Clearly there's a reason this production has become a Broadway classic, and now you can see why for yourself, as the Broadway at the Marcus Center series presents Fiddler on the Roof through February 17th.
Based on the turn-of-the-twentieth-century stories of the Jewish settlements in Imperial Russia by Sholom Aleichem, Fiddler is the tale of Tevye (Yehezkel Lazarov), a poor dairyman struggling to keep his wife, Golde (Maite Uzal), and his five daughters fed, clothed, and raised according to their tradition. Their life, Tevye says, is "as precarious as the perch of a fiddler on a roof." Tevye's oldest daughter, Tzeitel (Mel Weyn), is ready to wed and, according to tradition, she must accept whoever the Matchmaker Yente (Carol Beaugard), chooses for her, but the matchmaker is not known for her good choices. In her mind, "A bad husband, God forbid, is worse than no husband, God forbid." Torn between his faith and what his daughters truly want, Tevya seems to be pushed further and further from the tradition that binds their community together, while the community, itself, is being pushed by the Russians.
With book by the Joseph Stein, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and choreography inspired by the original Broadway Director and Choreographer, Jerome Robbins, this 2015 revival of Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Bartlett Sher and choreographed by Hofesh Shechter, is steeped in a tradition of its own. The cast is unbelievably talented, led by Yehezkel Lazarov as Tevye, who delivers a brilliant performance. Though the music of Fiddler is familiar to most, the dancing in the production is equally impressive and inspiring. From set design to costumes and orchestra to cast, this production has that "larger than life" feel to it that a true Broadway production should have. If seeing a "real" Broadway show is on your bucket list, don't miss this one.
Fiddler on the Roof runs through Sunday, February 17th at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts Uihlein Hall, located at 929 N. Water St. in Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased by calling 414.273.7206 or online at: https://www.marcuscenter.org/show/fiddler-on-roof
The 2018/19 Broadway at the Marcus Center series has more great shows coming up this season! Join them for Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, Come From Away, and Anastasia. The 2019/20 Broadway at the Marcus Center series has just been announced, and includes Hamilton, My Fair Lady, The Lion King, and Dear Evan Hansen!
This February 14th is Valentine's Day and, though many consider it a "Hallmark" holiday, the celebration actually dates back to Roman times; a fertility festival called "Lupercalia."
Times have certainly changed. Today, Valentine's Day is celebrated by friends, family, and lovers, alike, and whether you need a treat for your kids or a romantic gift for your significant other, there are plenty of great, local choices in Oz.
Chocolate Chisel in Port Washington is celebrating ten years in business this Valentine's Day, and they always have fresh chocolate covered strawberries available for the occasion, as well as a wide variety of milk and dark chocolates to choose from. CoCa LeNa, also in Port, can help you send a special Valentine Box all over the country!
A beautiful caramel apple from Amy's Candy Kitchen in downtown Cedarburg makes a wonderful Valentine's gift and, while you're in town, make it a gift from Cedarburg with something from Ashley's Confectionery, too!
If you're in the Grafton area, stop into Sweet Trio for a delicious variety of chocolates, candy and caramel apples, or, if you're in the southern Ozaukee neck of the woods, Mequon has Get Happy.
It's hard to believe, but some people don't like chocolate and candy. If flowers are what you're looking for, you're in luck! There are plenty to choose from in Oz. In Saukville, try Lighthouse Florist; in Grafton, there's the Bloomin Olive. Cedarburg has Rachel's Roses, while Mequon has A Floral Affair or Fantasy Flowers.
Perhaps the lovely lady in your life has jewelry in mind? You can't go wrong with Armbruster Jewelers in Cedarburg or Sharbuno Jewelers in Port Washington; both family businesses who have been in their community for many years.
Looking for a special dinner out? There's Twisted Willow or Newport Shores in Port, and Galioto's Twelve21 in Cedarburg. Over Valentine's weekend, Shully's Cuisine in Thiensville is offering five course dinners inspired by The Orient Express. No No's in Newburg is another consideration.
However you share the love, put some Oz into it! Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.
By Mary Boyle
There is a song, performed most notably by the great Billie Holiday, called "Strange Fruit," written in 1937 by New York teacher and racial justice advocate Abel Meeropol. The song was written as a protest to American racism, with a particular focus on the lynching of African Americans in the south. Holiday would close her shows with it; the room in darkness except for a spotlight on her, singing it like a prayer.
Southern trees bear strange fruit
The song is where Dominique Morisseau found the title for her play, before she even wrote the play, itself. The story of the Jena Six inspired the rest. The result is Blood at the Root, on stage at Next Act Theatre in Milwaukee.
The Jena Six are the six African American high school boys from Jena, Louisiana who were charged, initially, with the attempted second degree murder of a white student in 2006. The event sparked one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in US History, with protesters claiming that the six were being treated unfairly, based on their race, and that the charges were far too serious. Further investigation revealed a series of altercations in the school between black and white students, including the hanging of nooses on a tree in the school's courtyard, that suggested that the fight was the result of ongoing, unresolved racial tension.
Directed by Marti Gobel, Blood at the Root has a cast of six, interestingly, but not the six. Chantae Miller, who was recently seen in Fun Home at Forward Theater, delivers a powerful performance Raylynn, an African American high schooler in Jena who finds herself at a crossroad on the anniversary of her mother's death. Feeling a sudden need for change, Raylynn sits under "old devoted," the big tree where the white students have always congregated at school. Her simple act of defiance sets off a series of events that shakes her whole community to its core. First Stage Fellows, Justin Lee and Ibraheem Farmer are excellent as De'Andre and Justin, respectively. Casey Hoekstra makes an impressive Next Act debut as Colin, following three seasons with APT, and Milwaukee actor, April Paul, also makes a great debut as Asha. Finally, Milwaukee actor and educator, Grace DeWolff, who has normally been seen working with Next Act's Next Actors: Summer Theatre for Teens, now takes her turn on the Next Act stage as Toria.
Originally written for Penn State graduate acting students, Blood at the Root is intended for high school audiences, but is perfectly suited for Next Act Theatre's mission to "produce dramatic material that brings social, cultural and political issues to the center of the community debate, reflecting the universal needs and aspirations of our fellow human beings." Like the song that inspired it, Blood at the Root is rhythmic, musical, and poetic. This play examines the complexities and the long history of the racial divide that still exists in our country. While it provides no real answers, it forces us to consider the questions from a much broader perspective, which is certainly an exercise we all need to commit to.
Blood at the Root runs through February 24th at Next Act Theatre, located at 255 S. Water Street in Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased by calling (414) 278-0765 or online at https://nextact.org/.
About Next Act Theatre
Next Act Theatre engages the hearts and minds of audiences with intimate, compelling productions intended to stimulate thought, foster the exchange of ideas, and promote the development of new perspectives and understanding. Led by Producing Artistic Director, David Cecsarini, Next Act continues its tradition of creating high-quality, professional theatre in Milwaukee. The past 28 seasons have earned the company its strong reputation for producing engaging work that feels intimate, powerful and personal. The plays presented are passionate, often bold, sometimes humorous, and always up-close-and-personal presentations of life. A strong, vibrant and financially stable company, Next Act produces a four-show season of contemporary drama. The company is particularly noted for its acting excellence, accessible performance style, and for a varied and consistently interesting selection of plays, chosen from the best new works and off-Broadway hits. Next Act has mounted more than 100 main stage productions, including over 100 area premieres and six original scripts.