#5: Cimarrón at Latino Arts.
Why? Because you’ll have your fill of drunken Irish ballads soon enough, and there’s no better preparation for spring than the music of this Grammy-nominated ensemble that specializes in the music of the plains of Columbia. Musica Llanera is traditionally played by the cattle herders and farmers around the Orinoco River. But this charged, guitar-driven music is galloping and ferocious. While you are there for the concert, stop by the opening of Latino Arts’ latest gallery show, “Ni De Aquí Ni De Allá” (“From Neither Here Nor There”), Raoul Deal’s series of woodcuts that examine the experience of Mexican immigrants in Milwaukee.
#4: The Man in the Glass Booth at Off the Wall Theatre.
Why? Because Off The Wall’s intrepid leader Dale Gutzman likes to think big when he’s putting together a show or a season, even for OTW’s small storefront space. Sometimes that means a Broadway musical imaginatively scaled down to chamber music size. And sometimes it means tackling a Big Idea play with imagination and gusto. Here, it’s the latter. Robert Shaw (yes, the ol’ Jaws-hunter himself) adapted his novel about the trial of a possible Nazi war criminal for the London and Broadway stages. It was directed by none other than Harold Pinter, who Shaw himself said is responsible for the dramatic adaptation. It stirred quite a bit of controversy on both sides of the Atlantic – some claimed it was shattering drama, others claimed it was outrageous melodrama. But the man at the center is one of the chewiest parts of recent dramas (Donald Pleasance was celebrated for his performance). Here, Gutzman directs and plays the lead role.
#3: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center.
Why? Because Bluebeard is back. And Bela Bartok besides. It’s the return of the semi-staged version of Bartok’s opera about the notorious lady’s man, featuring original glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly. It was one of the big hits of Edo de Waart’s inaugural season as MSO Music Director, and it returns here with different, but equally stellar singers in the two roles. As an extra bonus, the orchestra starts things off with one of Mozart’s sublime Horn Concertos, featuring the MSO’s own Matthew Annin as the soloist.
#2: Raisin in the Sun at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.
Why? Because Lorraine Hansberry’s classic American drama is always worth seeing, even as the decades open up between its 1959 premiere and our post-Obama election America. It’s familiar enough to have been parodied way back in 1989 (George Wolfe’s “Last Mama on the Couch Play”), but it still has the bite of truth. And the Rep’s production should have a particular bite if you’ve seen Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park, a play inspired by the circumstances of Raisin’s story of struggle and integration in a Chicago neighborhood. Ron OJ Parsons, who directed The Rep’s searing production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, returns to direct a cast the includes Chike Johnson and Greta Oglesby.
#1: Wild Space Dance Company at the Steimke Theatre.
Why? Because Wild Space’s annual “indoor” show at the Milwaukee Rep’s Steimke Theatre is bound to live up to its name. To create the dances for “Luscious,” Wild Space’s Deborah Loewen turned for inspiration to sensory pleasures such as chocolate, odalisques, the musical improvisations of composer Tim Russell, the haunting voice of Amanda Schoofs, and, of course, the inspired work of her dancers. There will be chocolate to munch on, as well.