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The Friday Five for April 5th
Meet the new principal cellist of the Milwaukee Symphony and see "Grace" at Next Act.

#5: The Philomusica Quartet at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music

Why? Because it’s your chance to meet the new principal cellist of the Milwaukee Symphony, up close and personal. Susan Babini joins the resident quartet of the Wisconsin Conservatory for Franz Schubert’s glorious String Quintet in C Major, one of his last works and a masterpiece of chamber music. The quartet opens with another classical chestnut, Beethoven’s “Serioso” quartet and gets modern with Arvo Part’s brief and mournful “Summa,” originally written for voices, but later arranged by Part for strings.

#4: UW-Milwaukee’s Unruly Music at the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall

Why? Because there’s an App for that. For inventive, adventurous music, that is. Christopher Burns’ great series of contemporary music splits the remaining performances of the weekend between the digital and the analog. Friday, it’s an improv summit with musicians from the Milwaukee Laptop Orchestra, the TC-11 Orchestra (an amazing iPad application that has to be seen and heard to be believed) and Hal Rammel’s Great Lakes Improvising Orchestra. Saturday, things are relatively acoustic, with a performance of Elliot Carter’s ground-breaking second string quartet, and works composed by UWM faculty and students.

#3: Gerald Clayton at Alverno Presents

Why? Because when The New York Times wanted to discuss the future of jazz piano, it turned its attention to the 27-year-old Clayton, a musician who looks ahead while being rooted in tradition. He’ll bring his trio to town, just before he plays an important gig at New York City’s Village Vanguard, and will undoubtedly highlight standards, as well as some of the original compositions that make up his new album, “Life Forum.” Held at Alverno’s intimate Wehr Hall, this is one of the “don’t miss” music events of the year.

#2: Grace at Next Act Theatre

Why? Because Craig Wright’s 2004 play was eventually deemed important enough to draw heavyweight actors like Paul Rudd, Ed Asner and Michael Shannon when it opened on Broadway last October. And it’s no surprise that its dark take on the intertwined forces of American religion and capitalism caught the interest of Next Act’s David Cescarini. Milwaukeeans know Wright via The Pavillion, which Next Act staged in 2009. But everyone knows him as the mind behind the HBO series Six Feet Under. Here, he tells the story of Christian real estate developers on the cusp of a big deal. Cescarini directs a great cast that includes Libby Amato, Rick Pendzich, John Kishline and Jonathan Wainwright.

#1: Renaissance Theatreworks’ The Road to Mecca at the Broadway Theatre Center

Why? Because it’s not too late to celebrate the 80th birthday of Athol Fugard (June 11th of last year), one of the world’s great living playwrights, with this powerful examination of mortality and the legacy of a creative life. The main character – based on a prominent South African “outsider” artist at odds with her conservative neighbors – bears a striking resemblance to our own Mary Nohl, who created a personal sculpture garden at her Fox Point home. For the production, Renaissance has collaborated with UWM’s Peck School to create sculptures. And it has assembled a first-rate cast, including Linda Stephens as the embattled artist.

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