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Phenomenal and "Fly"
The Friday Five for the First of February.

Marti Gobel and James T. Alred in the Milwaukee Rep's "Clybourne Park."
(photo by Michael Brosilow)

Fabulous! Phenomenal! Five-Star! Fly! Whatever your preferred argot, the Friday Five for February First (I just like saying that to myself) offers some of the most anticipated events of the season in one weekend. Take a deep breath….and go!

#5:  Serendipity at Danceworks

Why? Because the fine dancer-choreographers of the Danceworks Performing Company are taking a flying leap—of sorts—into the unknown. Often known for its playful theatricality, building dance-evenings on themes from famous movie scenes to the history of the brassiere, Danceworks does a 180 with this concert, which is built around the time honored dance tradition of improvisation. Perhaps chalk up this inspiration to the newest member of the Danceworks clan, Joelle Worm, who spent several years with the improvisation-minded New York company, De Facto. She’s one of the featured choreographers in the program, which also includes work by Dani Kuepper, Kim Johnson-Rockafellow and Emma Draves, a Chicago-based choreographer whose work combines Western and South Indian dance traditions.

#4:  The Clockmaker at Next Act Theatre

Why? Because Next Act’s David Cecsarini knows an interesting playwright when he finds him. Next Act’s production of Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte’s Mary’s Wedding was a touching and engaging meditation on love. Now, Next Act moves more deeply into the fantasy world of Massicotte’s The Clockmaker, which one reviewer called a blend of Frank Capra and Franz Kafka. As usual, Next Act assembles an impressive cast, including Richard Halverson, Drew Brhel, Molly Rohde and Dan Katula. Mary MacDonald Kerr directs.

#3: The Foster Project at Alverno Presents

Why? Because Stephen Foster was America’s first rock star, selling millions of copies of his songs (in sheet music form) to a nation who spent evenings gathered around the parlor piano. Ryan Schleicher, of Juniper Tar fame, explores Foster’s legacy as both a songwriter, and as a reflection of America’s racist legacy. To do so, Juniper Tar will be the “house band” for guest performers ranging from Jon Langford, Robbie Fulks, the Ohio-based hip-hop artist Blueprint, and Chicago soul singer Bethany Thomas. See my interview with Schleicher here.

#2: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center

Why? Because February is a great time for Beethoven—the warmth, the fire, the pizazz. And the MSO indulges you with a full program of Beethoven symphonies and overtures. Edo de Waart conducts the Coriolan and Egmont overtures, the Second Symphony. And rounds out the program with the Fourth Symphony. If that first movement transition from “adagio” to “allegro vivace” doesn’t get the blood flowing, you should probably hibernate until April.

#1: Clybourne Park at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre

Why? Because Bruce Norris’s award winning play is both ingenious and powerful. Taking cues from the neighborhood which inspired the American classic, A Raisin in the Sun (which the Rep will stage next month), Clybourne Park looks at the legacy of racism in a major American city—contrasting a “changing neighborhood” of today with the same neighborhood 50 years ago. Mark Clements directs a fine and mostly familiar cast, which includes Lee Ernst, Marti Gobel, Jenny McKnight and Gerard Neugent. This should be one of the most talked about plays this season.

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