#5: Baby Wants Candy at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.
Why? Because it’s one of the funniest hour-long pieces of musical theater that you’ll ever see. What’s it about? Well, we’re not quite sure. This is improv, you see. The title and subject of the musical is chosen by the audience when they show up, and the fun begins. One of Chicago’s longest-running improv shows, it boasts alumni that include Seth Myers, Rachel Dratch, and Jack McBrayer. And it’s in Milwaukee for one night only.
#4: Glengary Glen Ross at Off the Wall Theatre.
Why? Because David Mamet is David Mamet. And with two of his shows currently running on local stages (Next Act Theatre opened Race last weekend), why not make it a Mamet festival. Here, in Off The Wall’s intimate space, you’ll be able to smell the desperation as a group of huckster real estate salesman try to win the Cadillac—the first prize bonus in the office’s sales competition. And try to avoid winning third prize, which is—in the words of office manager John Williamson—“You’re fired.”
#3: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Zelazo Center.
The MSO's Sonora Slocum.
Why? Because the program might be called “Baroque and Beyond,” as it features the three patron saints of pre-classical styles—Bach, Handel and Vivaldi—along with modern takes on the transparent textures in 17th-century music: Stravinsky’s “Dumbarton Oaks” chamber concerto from 1937, and Argentinian Alberto Ginastera’s “Variaciones Concertantes” from 1953. It’s another imaginative program from MSO Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, and features three principal MSO woodwind players as soloists: Sonora Slocum, flute; Jennifer Bouton Schaub, piccolo; and Katherine Young Steele, oboe.
#2: The Chairs at Alchemist Theatre.
Why? Because Leda Hoffman was behind two of the most memorable productions last year—the outdoor Penelopiad and King Lear at Alchemist—and she returns to Alchemist with another adventurous offering. Eugène Ionesco’s The Chairs is a 20th-century classic, an absurdist “tragic farce” about an elderly couple who want to assemble an audience to hear an orator describe the man’s recent monumental discovery, which just may be the meaning of life. Kelly Doherty and Tim Linn play the couple. And the de rigeur post-show discussion happens nightly at the Alchemist Bar.
#1: The Whipping Man at The Milwaukee Rep.
Image by Michael Brosilow.
Why? Because it seems a little far fetched—a Confederate soldier returns to his war-torn homestead to celebrate Passover with the two remaining residents—the estate’s two former slaves. But Matthew Lopez is able to draw dramatic power and social resonance from the situation, which is why it’s been one of the most produced plays on American stages since its New York premiere in 2011. The talented Brent Hazelton directs a cast that includes Josh Landay, last seen in as Tateh in The Rep’s explosive production of Ragtime.