Best of Cream City 2020 | Arts & Entertainment

Everything you need to know about where to arts and entertainment in Milwaukee.

BY CHRIS DROSNER, LINDSEY ANDERSON, ANN CHRISTENSON, ARCHER PARQUETTE, CAROLE NICKSIN, JUDE CRAMER, MARLA HILLER AND PATSY NEWITT

Readers’ Choice | Music

MUSIC CLUB

The Jazz Estate

This East Side club – known for its neon sign and retro ambiance – looks almost as good as the musicians who play here sound, and that’s saying something.

MUSIC VENUE

The Pabst Theater

One of the largest and most historic of Milwaukee’s venues, the Pabst books everything from nationally touring musicians to local performing arts groups’ holiday shows.

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LOCAL MUSICIAN

Willy Porter

Over the course of two decades, Wisconsin troubadour Willy Porter has released 11 albums – and traveled the world with his acoustic guitar.

BEST ATHLETE

Giannis Antetokounmpo

There’s fierce competition with that other league MVP, Christian Yelich, locked up in Milwaukee long-term, but Giannis is already one of the best players of his generation, and his talent is still on the rise.

Photo by Getty Images

Editors’ Picks | Pandemic Awards

BEST OUTDOOR ART

Sculpture Milwaukee and Lynden Sculpture Garden

The Lynden Sculpture Garden, a 40-acre outdoor art park in River Hills, has long been something of a hidden gem. But it’s been an especially bright spot in the local art landscape this year, since it opened its grounds to visitors for free, self-guided walking tours. Similarly, Sculpture Milwaukee – a free, outdoor exhibition – gave us another great reason to get out and explore our city. The artworks on view have mostly been installed along Wisconsin Avenue Downtown, but some can be found in the Third Ward, as well.

Photo courtesy of Lynden Sculpture Garden

EXCUSE TO BUST A MOVE

Danceworks

Soon after the pandemic set in, this long-running dance company decided to help out locals who might be getting a little stir-crazy cooped up in their homes by creating a series of free, virtual dance classes led by many of the company’s talented members.

FAMILY RESOURCE

First Stage

Long a great resource for local families, this children’s theater really outdid itself this year, when it began posting free educational activities, scripts and virtual classes to its website just when the kids needed a distraction.

BEST DEBUT NOVEL

My Dark Vanessa

A victim of sexual abuse who wants to see herself as anything but, Vanessa Wye is a conflicted and compelling heroine for the #MeToo era. She’s also proof that Wisconsin novelist Kate Elizabeth Russell, who introduced the world to her protagonist this spring, deserves all of the accolades she’s received for her spare, sharply focused prose style.

Photo courtesy of Harper Collins

REASON TO STAY IN 

Milwaukee Film

Most of Milwaukee’s movie theaters may be closed. But Milwaukee Film has found a way to brighten up the lives of local cinephiles, through its Sofa Cinema series – a highly curated selection of indie films that you can stream from the comfort of your couch.

LIVE STREAM

The Pabst Theater Group

Performers are struggling right now. So we were thrilled to hear about the Pabst Theater Group’s ReviveLiveMKE programming, a special series of virtual concerts with both local and national headliners.

BEST BREAKOUT TALENT

Wes Tank

Sometimes unexpected pairings work wonderfully. Chicken and waffles. Chocolate and chili peppers. Dr. Dre and Dr. Seuss.

Local musician Wes Tank racked up millions of views on YouTube this year by setting Seuss’s rhymes to Dre’s beats. You might think the resulting songs would sound gimmicky. But they’re genuinely great: lyrically dense and catchy as all get out.

Best of all? People of all ages and backgrounds seem to love them. Tank’s YouTube channel is full of comments like this one: “I just wanted to let you know that my 5-year-old asks to watch this before bed, and it always puts a big smile on his face. He hasn’t left our block in six weeks, nor been to a playground, nor pet a dog. He misses his teachers and friends. So anything that brings a big cheesy grin to his face is priceless to me. Thank you so much.”

Photo courtesy of Wes Tank

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s September issue.

Find it on newsstands or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop

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