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The Friday Five for Sept. 20
Ragtime, gospel, The Detective's Wife and Beethoven by way of Bollywood.

“Another opening, another show,” as the old song goes. Or five. Or six. Or seven. Even Cole Porter’s Broadway troupe might not have imagined a weekend like this, in which, it seems, every performing group in Milwaukee decided to kick off its season. To give attention to the lot, I’ll eschew the usual Friday Five countdown this week. If you’re like me, you should be pretty booked for the weekend. But thankfully several shows will run for a few weeks to come.

(photo by Michael Brosilow)

Ragtime at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre

Why? Because it’s one of the largest shows—in pure man/woman-power—ever mounted in The Rep’s history. Appropriately so, since when it premiered in Toronto in 1996, it was one of the largest and most expensive musicals every produced.  Based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow, the play—a pop-opera, really—weaves together real and fictional characters from the early 20th century in search of the echt American experience. As you might guess, it turns out differently depending on the color of your skin or the homeland of your ancestors. Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements with his usual band of musical-theater wiz-kids.

Masonic Wonders

Alverno Presents’ Global Union at Humboldt Park

Why? Because you’re a little eclectic, and not really one for the usual Top-40 stadium shows (if there even are such things any more). And because you can’t think of a nicer way to spend a Saturday afternoon than lounging in one of the city’s most beautiful parks, listing to music from Sierra Leone and Pakistan. And are curious about what exactly is “multi-lingual, multi-cultural” Hip Hop (Montreal’s Nomadic Massive). And are particularly jazzed about hearing Milwaukee’s own Masonic Wonders, who have been singing gospel since 1956. Global Union earns its name once again.

(photo by Matt Schwenke)

Wild Space Dance Company’s Acts of Wilderness at Menomonee Valley Three Bridges Park

Why? Because the summer has seen some memorable outdoor performance experiences, and there’s no better way to end the season than with Wild Space, which has made several sites in Milwaukee come alive with the company’s poetic theatricality. Here, the site is the county’s newest park, located near the Mitchell Domes (park there for the performance). And again, be prepared to wander along with the dancers as they allow you to see things in brave new ways.

Andreas Delfs

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center

Why? Because the orchestra is playing better than ever, and they’ve decided to start the season with a bang.  There are no cannons in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, but count on Andreas Delfs, the supercharged former music director of the MSO, to create considerable fireworks. And there isn’t a more thoughtful pianist around than Jeremy Denk (read his blog or his New Yorker musings if you don’t believe me), who will play Liszt’s knuckle busting First Piano Concerto. And don’t miss Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong’s pre-concert talk, the first of a series of presentations about “orchestration” in symphonic music.

Viswa Subbaraman

Skylight Theatre’s Fidelio at the Broadway Theatre Center

Why? Well, there’s this: You’re a new guy in town, arriving to lead one of the city’s most beloved performance institutions. You’re a director and conductor known for imaginative and tradition-breaking approaches to music-theater and opera, and you want to make your mark. Well, how about taking Beethoven’s only opera, known for its glorious music and less-than persuasive dramatic story, and staging it in the style of a Bollywood musical. The Skylight’s new artistic director, Viswa Subbaraman, will do exactly that, in what should be one of the most discussed debuts in the opera world.

Mary MacDonald Kerr

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s The Detective’s Wife at the Broadway Theatre Center

Why? Because hard financial times for local theater can mean the loss of many things, but there is something to be said for the way it is giving local A-list local the chance to strut their stuff in solo performances. Last year gave us James Ridge's extraordinary performance in MCT’s Underneath the Lintel. This year James DeVita goes solo in An Iliad. And Mary MacDonald Kerr stars in Keith Huff’s one-hander about a woman exploring the mysteries behind her policeman husband’s death. Jim Tasse directs.

Perfect Mendacity at Next Act Theatre

Why? Because Next Act’s David Cecsarini always mounts a season of trenchant, topical and contemporary dramas and comedies that typically don’t pull punches in their assessment of life as we know it. And the opening play of this season is no exception. Jason Wells’ drama tells the story of a scientist who is forced to take a lie detector test by his employer when it finds out a confidential memo has been leaked to the press. Corporate America. Lies, and damn lies. Suspense and intrigue. It’s all in Next Act’s wheelhouse. 

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