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The Friday Five for November 22nd
Some choice music and theater before everything turns to sugarplums and roast goose.

Florentine Studio Artists

Florentine After Dark at the Florentine Opera Center

Why? Because the venerable Milwaukee opera company knows how do to “grand,” as their recent production of La Traviata demonstrated. But it also likes to “get small” in its “@ the Center” series, held in their Riverwest office and studio complex. Here, the talented Florentine Studio Artists dig in to some French and German cabaret music—no word if there will be bier and vin rouge go along with the tunes.

Bruce Murphy

The Old Garde at the Boulevard Ensemble Studio Theatre

Why? Because you have a soft spot for some of those golden days of the Milwaukee avant-garde, when Theatre X was an internationally celebrated theater company. And you mourned the company’s implosion almost 10 years ago. Milwaukee journalist and playwright (disclosure: and former Milwaukee Magazine editor) Bruce Murphy’s play is inspired by those events, but it’s a savvy and funny story of the challenges of bringing people together to make art.

Hans Graf 

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center

Why? Because the MSO has one more subscription classical concert before the holiday spirit takes over, and it’s a good one. Australian conductor Hans Graf spent some time in Salzburg in his early career, so it’s not surprising that he’ll conduct a Mozart Symphony here (No. 39 in E-Flat Major). But the highlight of the program is Franz Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E-Flat Major, a late work that some consider the pinnacle of his career. Five vocal soloists and the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus join the party.

Caroline Shaw

Present Music’s Thanksgiving Concert at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

Why? Well, you like the tradition, of course: the cathedral, the invocation and final dance courtesy of Bucks Native American Singing and Drumming Group. But this year’s Thanksgiving concert offers something special. Present Music’s new vocal ensemble, Hearing Voices, will debut with several selections from this year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize for music, Caroline Shaw, the youngest person ever to receive that honor. The concert will include several of her pieces, and also choirs from around the city will join Hearing Voices to perform David Lang’s “I Never,” a modern response to Thomas Tallis’s 17th Century masterpiece, “Spem in Alium.”

Skylight’s Les Miz

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s Things Being What They Are, Skylight Theatre’s Les Miserables at the Broadway Theatre Center and Noises Off at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre

Why? Because it’s that most wonderful time of the year, when even the curmudgeonly stay-at-homes are looking for a chance to get out and celebrate. Local companies are happy to offer some big shows with mass appeal, some even with a imprimatur of Christmas tradition. Those are still to come, but the city’s largest theater companies get pumped up for the holidays with crowd pleasers. Skylight’s Les Miz is in the capable directing hands of Molly Rohde, who brought some real humanity to last year’s Sound of Music. Vocal powerhouses are everywhere in this cast. The Rep turns the stage over to Michael Frayn’s hilarious farce about a dysfunctional theater troupe. After directing a powerful Diary of Anne Frank last season, KJ Sanchez switches gears and leads a cast that includes several Rep Associate Artists, who you might remember from the Rep’s last production of Noises Off fourteen years ago. MCT’S comedy by Wendy MacLeod isn’t exactly a familiar title, but it boasts a funny, timely script, two talented comedic actors (Dan Katula and Ryan Schabach), and one of the city’s bright young directors, Michael Cotey.

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