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The Friday Five for Jan. 31
A different kind of all-American.


5: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center.

Why? Because the world will be celebrating that star-spangled holiday known as Super Bowl Sunday. And you might want to explore some subtler shades of the American character. MSO Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong has just the concert for you, a triple threat of American composers. The styles run the gamut from Former MSO Music Director Lucas Foss’s philosophical and sonically adventurous Time Cycle, to Samuel Barber’s meditative Knoxville: Summer of 1915 to film music suites by Leonard Bernstein, the ebullient On the Town to the majestic On the Waterfront. Georgia Jarman, familiar to Florentine Opera audiences, is the featured soprano soloist.

4: Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio at Alverno’s Wehr Hall.

Why? Because he is the living master of the Hammond B-3 organ, and he got there by redefining the instrument and that “jazz-organ” sound. It started with the ultra-cool of the Blue Note guitar-organ trios of the '50s, and Smith started shortly after that, learning from Jack McDuff and teaming with the pre-masquerade guitarist George Benson. Since then, he’s been expanding the jazz spectrum with a cranking technique and a sensitive soft side that goes way beyond the retro smooth jazz clichés. Don’t miss him.

3: Race at Next Act Theatre.

Why? Because—love him or hate him—he’s still David Mamet—the poet of profanity and, sometimes, a keen observer of American capitalism at its most brutal. These days, he’s become quite the feather-ruffler, taking political stands that seem to prepare the way for a permanent spot on Fox News. But his 2009 play, about a trio of interracial lawyers defending a man accused of rape, is smarter than that. As the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones wrote, reviewing the recent Chicago production, Mamet is the “new Roger Ailes of the Great White Way, only smarter and yet more determined to escape the confining pins of ideological definition.”

Edward Morgan directs a cast that includes David Cecsarini, Lee Palmer, Jonathan Smoots and Tiffany Renee Johnson.

2: Skylight Theatre’s In the Heights at the Broadway Theatre Center.

Why? Because “in the where?” might be the first question in your mind when you hear the title of Skylight’s latest show, but if you’ve never heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 musical, you’re in for a terrific surprise. “The Heights” is Washington Heights, the Domincan-American neighborhood on the very tip of Manhattan. And the neighborhood comes alive in Miranda’s portrait (created with the help of playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes of his home turf. The score buzzes with the energy of Latin rhythms and rap, and the story is powerful enough to have earned the show both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize.  

Wild Space Dance Company’s Sight Readings at UWM’s INOVA Gallery.

Why? Because Debra Loewen has a knack for turning spaces inside out, and her latest project turns her company of find dancers loose in the pristine space of UWM’s INOVA Gallery. Who is looking at who or what?—that is the question. And there are pleasures galore to be found wandering through the rooms that are charged with Loewen’s choreography. For more, go here.

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