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I Was Born in a Small Town
The Friday Five for March 8.

Ballake Sissoko and Vince Segal play at Alverno's Wehr Hall.
Two musical portraits of small-town life open this weekend. Plus the usual dose of lovely music and comic shenanigans. 

#5: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra plays Dvorak at the Marcus Center.

Why? Because a chestnut is a chestnut, sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth hearing on occasion. And it’s hard to think of a better way to become reacquainted with Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony and Bruch’s Violin Concerto. Edo de Waart leads the MSO in Dvorak’s masterful tribute to American “folk” music of his era. And Bruch’s concerto will be played by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, whose recording of the concerto nearly 25 years ago (with de Waart and the Minnesota Orchestra) is an acknowledged classic.

#4: Comedy Overkill at the Pabst and Riverside Theatres.

Why? The comedy planets align this weekend to offer three A-list stand ups. Amy Schumer is justly famous for her appearances on Comedy Central roasts, which of course means she’s a bit of a potty mouth. Bill Burr does the Angry-Middle-Aged-Man better than most. And everyone remembers Chris Tucker for his squeaky, motor-mouthed rants opposite Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour movies. Take your pick, there’s a laugh-engine for every taste.

#3: Florentine Opera’s Albert Herring at the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall.

Why? Because the ever-creative Florentine again leaves the war horses in the stable and takes on Benjamin Britten’s mid-20th-century masterpiece, a comic look at small-town life in the English countryside. The very British mayhem starts when the town leaders of Loxford, England, can’t seem to find a woman, um, appropriate to be crowned this year’s May Queen. They opt for a May “King” instead, and shenanigans ensue. There are no pratfalls in Britten’s score, however, which is famous for its comic touch and inside-joke allusions to other composers. William Florescu directs the production, which features some familiar faces, including tenor Rodell Rosel (The Magic Flute), Andrew Wilkowski (Skylight Theatre’s The Rivals and Barber of Seville), and local gal Kathy Pyeatt. Christopher Larkin returns to the conductor’s podium after leading the Florentine’s terrific baroque double bill two years ago.

#2: Skylight Theater’s Pump Boys and Dinettes at the Broadway Theatre Center.

Why? Because this’80s Broadway sleeper isn’t well remembered, but it’s time has come again. No greater proof lies in the recently announced Broadway revival, directed by the hottest musical theater director of the moment, John Doyle. Here, Bill Theisen leads a great cast—including Molly Rhode and Paul Helm—who accompany their own country-flavored songs in a show that, according to a review of the original production, “doesn’t merely celebrate the value of friendship and life's simple pleasures, it embodies them."

#1: Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal at Alverno College’s Wehr Hall.

Why? Because you love David Ravel’s taste in world music, and you’ve made Alverno Presents’ “Global Union” concert—with its get up and dance international beats—a regular part of your autumn. But World Music isn’t just about throwing off your Birkenstocks and grooving on the outdoor dance floor. Sissoko is from Mali, and a virtuoso on the kora, a traditional instrument that sits somewhere between the harp and guitar. Segal is a cellist from Italy. And together, they reach across the Mediterranean to create lush, meditative music that has both gentleness and bite. Alverno’s intimate Wehr Hall is a perfect venue. 





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