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The Friday Five for March 28th
Music Treasures--Old and Really, Really New

#5: Romeo and Juliet at the Off The Wall Theatre.

Why?  Because it isn’t the first time Shakespeare’s tragedy of young love has been staged with a couple “of a certain age” as the leads. But leave it to Dale Gutzman and his adventurous Off the Wall company to bring the idea to Milwaukee. Gutzman will be joined by his long-time collaborator Marilyn White as the doomed couple. Here, he sets the play in an Italian nursing home, where the residents are putting on a production of Shakespeare’s play. David Flores also stars.

#4: Crash at First Stage Children’s Theatre.

Why? Because a lot of people seem to be talking about the problem of “bullying” in schools these days. And First Stage is presenting Y. York’s play as a way of starting discussion. But as with all First Stage productions, the story and fun come first, and fun should be plentiful in this story about a teen football star and his friends who negotiate the perils of middle-school with spirit and humor. Based on the popular book by Jerry Spinnelli, the play is directed by the talented Mary MacDonald Kerr. The Sunday afternoon performance features a post-show talkback with a real football star, Leroy Butler.

#3: Unruly Music at the UW-Milwaukee Music Recital Hall.

Why? Because maybe you’ve been immersing yourself in Old Fashioned orchestra music lately (Beethoven), or in New-Fashioned, Old-Fashioned orchestra music (John Adams). Composer and New Music impresario Christopher Burns would like to offer you three evenings of Something Completely Different. Thursday and Friday evening offers two ensembles (Zeitgeist and the Bent Frequency Duo) performing local and Wisconsin composers. And Saturday features the San Francisco ensemble Wrack, which performs a “free jazz phantasmagoria” based on the novels of Thomas Pynchon.

#2: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Pabst Theater.

Why? Because you’ve heard of orchestras that use “original instruments” to capture the authenticity of a 18th- or 19th-century piece of music. Here, the MSO takes the idea one step further, performing in theater that resembles the early 19th-century halls where Beethoven’s symphonies were first heard. It’s still the same MSO—glorious of sound on its members’ mostly modern instruments. But it will surely add some atmosphere to see the bust of Ludwig Van staring down at you from the Pabst’s gilded niches. As with last week’s concert, Edo de Waart pairs a Beethoven symphony (the 3rd) with a piece by contemporary composer John Adams (his brand-spankin’ new Saxophone Concerto).

#1: The Florentine Opera’s Julius Caesar at the Marcus Center.

Why? Because it’s hard to find more exuberant music than Handel’s operas, and Giulio Cesare in Egitto is Handel’s most performed and arguably best opera. Don’t mistake it as  the political tragedy made famous by Shakespeare. Handel’s Caesar has some serious things to say (it’s often set in more modern times to comment on 19th- & 20th-century imperialism), but it’s also intoxicatingly entertaining, due primarily to the spirited music. It’s in good hands with conductor William Boggs, who helmed the Florentine’s award-winning production of Elmer Gantry. And the cast is a talented group of both Florentine veterans and singers making their Milwaukee debut. 

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