#5: Jackie Evancho at the Pabst Theater.
Why? Because seeing Jackie Evancho’s name on this list has likely prompted you to think one of two things: “Who?” if you are not a regular witness to the yearly America’s Got Talent spectacles, and don’t recall this 10-year-old pulling a Susan Boyle with a rendition of Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro” (from Gianni Schicchi, for those keeping score at home). Or “What?” if you are a little shocked to see the now 13-year-old Jackie in the company of august ensembles like the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Fine Arts Quartet. Well, hell. It’s the end of May. And before you get all snooty, remember that Beverly Sills herself was wowing audiences in her tween years, though I don’t think it was Howie Mandel that gave her the imprimatur of “rising star” that would carry her on to Metropolitan Opera stardom. This concert will feature her renditions of Hollywood hits backed by a symphony orchestra.
#4: Summerdances at UW-Milwaukee Mainstage Theatre.
Why? Because while they have been grading papers and turning in final grades, members of the dance faculty of UWM’s Peck School of the Arts have also been creating and rehearsing and preparing for this annual concert. Here, the work is by faculty members Ferne Bronson, Maria Gillespie, Elizabeth Johnson and Dani Kuepper. And it includes special appearance by MFA alumni Rebecca Stenn, whose New York company is celebrated for its humor and gutsy passion.
#3: Follies at the Soulstice Theatre.
Why? Because at age 84, Stephen Sondheim is having a moment. His open-hearted and brutally honest two-volume “creative memoir” (Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat) has been on the shelves for a while. The HBO documentary has thrilled fans with its archival footage of productions and candid interviews over the last 50 years of his career. So there’s no better time for Soulstice Theatre to mount one of its terrific “concert” productions of a Sondheim musical. And this time, it's Follies, one of his greatest. It’s ostensibly about the reunion of performers at a theater facing the wrecking ball, but it’s really about life, love, shattered ideals, and that old showbiz razz-a-ma-tazz. Laura Monagle and David Ferrie lead the cast.
#2: The Fine Arts Quartet at the Zelazo Center.
Why? Because the sounds of the season are upon us, and it isn’t all just the hissing of summer lawns (not to mention power mowers, thumping subwoofers and chain saws). This weekend marks the Summer Evenings of Music series, four concerts in one month taking place in the quiet and elegant confines of the Zelazo Center. Guests are due for future programs, but this week the quartet goes it alone, performing Haydn, Schumann and the short but deeply felt 7th Quartet of Shostakovich, which was dedicated to the composer’s late wife.
#1: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center.
Why? Because marking a season’s end often means a massive and weighty masterpiece—a Mahler symphony or perhaps a requiem mass. But the sun is shining and the trees are in bloom, it seems like a perfect time for Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, Op. 44, eight exuberant, colorful and very Czech miniatures that will surely show off the sound of the MSO at its best. To open the concert, MSO cellist Susan Babini tackles the lyrical Schumann Cello Concerto. Gilbert Varga conducts.