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A Balm for Election Burnout
The Friday Five for Nov. 9

"Rock of Ages" thunders in to the Marcus Center.

Take a break for exit polls, flip-flops and swing states this week. No polemics. No talking points. Just music—mostly—and a timeless tale that doesn’t lose its relevance with the changing news cycle.

#5: Milwaukee Symphony at the Marcus Center.

Why? Because there’s a little something for everyone in this concert, lead by German-born conductor Christoph Konig. Some splash and dazzle in the well-known Lizst Hungarian Rhapsody. The comfort food of the familiar Schubert “Unfinished” Symphony. And the challenging modernism of Lutoslawski’s mid-20th-Century Concerto for Orchestra, which slices and dices Polish folk tunes to within an inch of their life. It fits Konig’s profile, a young conductor who didn’t make his U.S. debut until 2010, and has made a name for himself in both opera and the concert hall.

#4: Fine Arts Quartet at UWM’s Zelazo Hall.

Why? Because there’s no slashing in the shower, but Bernard Herrmann’s music can be just as engaging in the concert hall as it is in a Hitchcock film like Psycho. You may notice a touch of the Vertigo score in Herrmann’s evocative Clarinet Quintet, subtitled “Souvenir du Voyage.” But it’s best to take the music on its own terms, lovely an autumnal—perfect for the season. Also on the program, Amy Beach’s 1929 quartet in one movement, and the pioneering 13th quartet of Beethoven, one of the composer’s most adventurous and ambitious pieces. Clarinetist Michel Lethiec joins the quartet for “Souvenir.”  

#3: Watershed at Woodland Pattern’s “Alternating Currents Live.”

Why? Because improvised music in the tradition of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians isn’t dead. It’s just a little harder to find. Thank goodness A/C Live’s Hal Rammell knows where to look. Percussionist Denis Fournier founded Watershed last year to bring together musicians from Europe and America. Expect sonic invention and creative interplay, and sounds you probably haven’t heard in a long time.

#2: King Lear at UWM’s Mainstage Theatre.

Why? Because Lear is Lear. And there’s no reason to miss a production of one of the greatest plays ever penned. But the Peck School’s production has much to offer, including one of the finest Shakespearean actors in the country, Dennis Krausnick, in the title role. A collaboration between UWM and Massachusetts’ Shakespeare and Company, Rebecca Holderness’s production is set in pre-revolutionary Russia, and features UWM faculty and students in the supporting roles.

#1: Rock of Ages at the Marcus Center.

Why? Because a show about ‘80s arena rock deserves to be seen in an arena, or at least a big room with live actors and music. So don’t wait for Hollywood’s version of this hit Broadway musical (even if it does feature a long-haired, bare-chested Tom Cruise). Instead, power pop your way over to the Marcus Center, where the songs of Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon and, yes, Twisted Sister, will thunder forth in this story of a young Los Angeles rocker who dreams big (and we’re not just talking hairstyles). It seems like a cynical money-minded knock off, but reviews of the show praise it for its irresistible story and infectious energy. And it doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

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