T-Bone Burnett, John Mellencamp, Stephen King.
Ghost Brothers of Darkland County at the Riverside Theatre
Why? Southern Gothic. John Mellencamp. Stephen King. Any questions? And pay no attention to the roster of names on the CD/DVD associated with this project (Elvis Costello, Neko Case, Rosanne Cash). You won’t see them in this touring stage production. But what you will see is a first-rate musical that originated at the excellent Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, and directed by the talented Susan Booth. King isn’t a playwright, and the book of this musical has been faulted for flabbiness. But Mellencamp’s music is first rate.
Concord Chamber Orchestra
The Concord Chamber Orchestra at St. Matthew Church in Wauwatosa
Why? Because it’s a good weekend to enjoy music by Jamin Hoffman’s terrific orchestra, which presents a program devoted to “military”-themed music, like Haydn’s “Military” Symphony and Heinrich Von Biber’s “Battalia” (no relation to Justin). But the highlight should be the world premiere of Sean O’Boyle’s “Conflict, Sadness, Victory & Resolution,” a setting of four songs, including two by the WWI-era poet Rupert Brooke. Soprano Suzanne Kompass is the featured soloist.
The Divine Sister at Off The Wall Theatre
Why? Because you’ve seen Doubt, sniffled through Going My Way, and can hit that long operatic high note at the end of “Climb Every Mountain.” So you should be primed and ready for Charles Busch’s irreverent satire of Hollywood/Broadway’s take on the divine sisterhood, otherwise known as nuns. Known for his gleefully campy, cross-dressed comedies (such as Psycho Beach Party and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom), Busch is said to be in peak form here. When it played New York in 2010, it was called his “freshest, funniest work in years, perhaps decades.”
Forever Plaid at the Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret
Why? Because if High Camp isn’t your thing, perhaps you prefer a little corn (with just a sprinkling of camp). Milwaukee has hosted tours of this popular jukebox pocket musical in years past, and here it returns with a home-grown Milwaukee Rep production that should fill the seats in the Stackner Cabaret for its holiday run. A popular 1950s vocal quartet (think The Lettermen or The Four Freshmen) has its career cut short due to a car crash, but it is granted one final heavenly concert. A talented cast (including the man-about-Milwaukee Paul Helm) delivers the old-fashioned comedy and tight harmonies with ease.
Bel Canto Chorus
The Bel Canto Chorus at Christ King Parish in Wauwatosa
Why? Because when it comes to 20th-century choral music, the French had their merde together (excuse my French!). Bel Canto’s Richard Hynson brings two modern choral masterpieces together in the same program: Francis Poulenc’s jazzy and vibrant Gloria and Maurice Durafle’s introspective Requiem. Hynson conducts his chorus and the Milwaukee Symphony in a program that should be one of the highlights of the concert season.