#5: Anatole at First Stage Children’s Theatre.
Why? Because we cheeseheads should feel a special affinity toward a brie-loving, resourceful French rodent. And because First Stage has assembled an impressive lineup of artists to bring Eve Titus’s beloved story of this Parisian mouse to the stage. The script is by First Stage’s John Maclay and Wisconsin Folklore Theatre’s Lee Becker. The music is by James Valcq, composer of The Spitfire Grill. Molly Rhode directs a cast that includes Gerry Neugent, Rick Pendzich, Karen Estrada and Drew Brehl. It's a world premiere.
#4: Milwaukee Gospel Jubilee at the Pabst Theater.
The Masonic Wonders.
Why? Because it’s an impressive lineup of roof-raising, glorifying Gospel choirs, who are seldom heard outside of their Milwaukee home churches. The biggest name here is the Masonic Wonders. But the program also includes the Victory in Praise Youth Choir, a quartet of teen siblings, as well as The Sharon Travelers and the Genesis Singers. The concert benefits Progressive Community Health Centers, which is building a new clinic at 35th Street and Lisbon Ave.
#3: Chesapeake at In Tandem Theatre.
Why? Because you remember the 1990s, when the National Endowment for the Arts came under fire for supporting performance artists like Holly Hughes and John Fleck (conservatives objected to “obscene” content and "gay agendas"). Well Lee Blessing does. And he particularly remembered it in 1999, when he penned this one-person show about the conflict between a performance artist and a Jesse Helms-like southern politician. Can they reconcile? Agree to disagree? Find common ground? Well, it’s all up to Lucky, who happens to be a Labrador retriever. The always fine Matt Daniels plays the title role (and others). Chris Flieller directs.
#2: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center.
Why? Because there seems to be good news on the horizon from the MSO. Not only has Concertmaster Frank Almond been reunited with his stolen Lipinsky Stradavarius. But the orchestra’s $5-million emergency fund drive appears to have been successful, insuring that the show will go on. If you need reasons why that’s a good thing, start with this weekend’s program, which features one of the world’s hottest young conductors Santtu-Matias Rouvali (he’s 28 years old), performing the music of his Finnish countryman, Jean Sibelius. A fellow Scandinavian (and Millennial), Andreas Brantelid, joins him as the soloist in Shostakovich’s Cello Concert No. 1.
#1: October, Before I Was Born at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre.
Why? Because MCT’s Monty Davis Play Development series has brought some great Wisconsin voices to the stage, nurturing and staging premieres by state playwrights. Lori Matthews lives in Wisconsin now, but grew up in Tennessee. And her family has intimate connections with the 1960 chemical plant explosion at the Tennessee Eastman Company, which killed 16 people. The fictional play--a world premiere--is inspired by her family’s experiences. MCT Artistic Director C. Michael Wright directs a cast that includes Raeleen McMillion, April Paul and Ken T. Williams.