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A Heapin' Helpin' of Happenin's
The Friday Five for Jan. 18.

Classical-pop crossover Gabriel Kahane plays Shank Hall on Monday. 

After the holidays, it’s time for the arts season to kick into gear again, with performances of all stripes opening this weekend and next. Pick a few, and be sure to visit your favorite galleries on Gallery Night (Friday) before the show. In no particular order...

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center.

Why? Come for the Gershwin, stay for Copland, Sibelius and even Jeffrey Mumford. Assistant Conductor—resident wunderkind—Francesco Lecce-Chong directs his first subscription concert with a great blend of American and European music. Stephen Bues—fresh from his great chamber music performance this week—plays Rhapsody in Blue. Mayor Tom Barrett takes the stage to read from Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. The orchestra also plays Jean Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, and performs a brand new work by Washington D.C.-based composer Jeffrey Mumford.

Renaissance Theatreworks’ Educating Rita at the Broadway Theatre Center.

Why? Because you might know the classic Michael Caine-Julie Walters movie adaptation of Willy Russell’s 1980 comedy about a working-class woman who signs up for an English Literature class with a down-and-out professor. But watching their relationship unfold with live actors is essential to Russell’s generous vision of humanity. We’re betting that Jonathan Smoots and Cristina Panfilio will capture the humor and warmth of this unlikely pair. Jenny Wanasek directs.

The Milwaukee Rep’s How the World Began at the Stiemke Theatre.

Why? Because Catherine Treischmann’s play has made a quick and bold impression on theater audiences from New York to Los Angeles to London. And that’s not surprising, since the play takes on one of America’s most divisive issues—the conflict between science and religion. Rep veteran Deborah Staples plays an East Coast science teacher who relocated to Texas, and meets a surprising amount of resistance to Charles Darwin and friends. Brent Hazelton adds another notch to his directing bedpost.

Three Days of Rain at Carte Blanche Studios.

Why? Because you are ready to expand your theater horizons, and the small and spunky Carte Blanche Studios is a great place to start. Local favorite Bo Johnson directs this 1997 Pulitzer Prize nominee by Richard Greenberg about three people and how their relationships were affected by the previous generation. The play’s three actors portray Manhattanites in 1995, as well as their parents in 1960.

Gabriel Kahane and Aoife O’Donovan at Shank Hall.

Why? Because these names may sound familiar if you follow certain indy pop charts, but they also may ring a bell if you are a habitué of classical concert halls. Kahane has written works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Kronos Quartet, is working on a Broadway-style musical for the Public Theater, and has a few pop recording to his credit. O’Donovan crosses similar boundaries in her music—she was recently featured in Chris Thile’s cross-genre recording The Goat Rodeo Sessions, along with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer.

Uprooted Theatre’s The Philadelphia Story at Ten Chimneys.

Why? Because Milwaukee’s Uprooted Theatre specializes in African-American ideas and themes, so they should put an interesting spin on Philip Barry’s classic from the golden days of Broadway. While you’re there, spend some time exploring the exhibits at the former Lunt-Fontanne estate.

Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God in Christ, 3500 Mother Daniels Way.

Why? Because tribute is due, and there’s no better way than this event—now in its second year—featuring the Bel Canto Chorus and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra. Featuring music, readings and artwork by Reginald K. Gee, it should be a beautiful and inspiring event for everyone.

Richard Lewis and Susie Essman at the Jewish Community Center.

Why? Because you couldn’t find a more appropriate two-some to host an anti-bullying benefit—Richard Lewis and Susie Essman, the kvetch-er and the Queen. Known for their regular guest spots on HBO’s The Larry David Show, the two are also experienced stand-up icons in their own right, So the JCC fundraiser, “Laugh It Up, Milwaukee. Stand Up to Bullying!,” should be one of the best comedy tickets in town. 

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