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I [heart] Milwaukee Cult-Chah
The Friday Five for Feb. 8.

Ignat Solzhenitsyn plays piano and conducts at the Milwaukee Symphony's concert of Russian music. 

#5: “InterACT Theatre” at the Plankington Arcade.

Why? Because you shouldn’t be put off for the event’s tagline: “A Night of Immersement Collaborative Theatre.” Whether it’s “immersement” you’re looking for, or just a grand old time, this collaboration by several Milwaukee theaters will present the various “playlets” of David Ives’s hilarious All in the Timing in different locations at the Plankinton Building of Grand Avenue Mall. You can see the plays in any order, moving around the building, while sampling tastings by Point Beer, food from Jake’s Deli and Potbelly, and music by the Skylight Music Theater and Jazz Orgy.

#4: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center.

Why? Because you think that Russian music has no sense of humor, and are willing to be pleasantly surprised. Shostakovich’s Piano Concert No. 1 is full of parodies and ironic quotations, and is something of a musical funhouse for piano, trumpet and orchestra. Here, Ignat Solzhenitsyn plays the piano part, and former lead trumpeter Mark Niehaus (now Executive Director of the MSO) steps out from behind the desk to play the sardonic trumpet part. Then Solzhenitsyn takes the conductor’s podium to play two other Russian masterpieces, Anatoly Liadov’s short tone poem Baba-Yaga and Serge Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony. Be sure to plan on attending discussions of the music both before and after the concert, with Soviet music scholar Laurel Fay.

#3: Florentine Opera’s “That’s Amore” at the Marcus Center.

Why? Because your sweetie had the snow all shoveled by the time you came home from work, and he or she deserves a little advance Valentine’s Day treat. Get a jump on the Sweetheart rush with a concert of dazzling love songs by composers of all stripes, but mostly American classics that will set your hearts aflutter. There’s some solos and some four-part harmony in store, all featuring the Florentine Studio Artists -- soprano Alisa Suzanne Jordheim, mezzo Kristin DiNinno, tenor Kevin Newell, and baritone Carl Frank.

#2: Theatre Gigante’s Dust at UWM’s Kenilworth Building.

Why? Because you can always expected the unexpected from, Gigante, a company that tackles big ideas (European style) with a blend of theater, dance and music. Here, they bring a rarely performed play by acclaimed Hungarian author György Spiró, which was first translated into English only a few years ago. Dust explores what happens when a couple who has lived most of their lives under communism wins $3 million in the lottery. John Kishline and Isabelle Kralj star, and Mark Anderson directs.

#1: The Milwaukee Ballet at the Pabst Theatre.

Why? Because it’s Genesis time again, and the three choreographers vying for the prize in the Genesis Choreographic Competition are bringing their best stuff to brand new creations for the superb dancers of the Milwaukee Ballet company. Each choreographer gets eight dancers and three weeks of rehearsal to create a brand new work. And as per usual, the choreographers come from a variety of backgrounds, which promises an interesting evening of contrasts. Laura Edson is an Idaho native with time-served with Trey McIntyre Project. James Gregg has spent time in Chicago, but it now resident choreographer at L’Ecole Superieure de Danse de Quebec. Gabrielle Lamb is a New Yorker with experience as both dancer and filmmaker.

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