Fall Arts Guide 2016

The summer may be over, but a season of culture is just beginning. We act as your docent on dance, art, music and theater.


Sept. 2
Guitar Wolf, Japan
Cactus Club
This three-piece hasn’t just carried the torch for punk and rockabilly groups like The Ramones for the past 20 years; Guitar Wolf spits gasoline on the flame. Only in person can you experience the unyielding style they’ve dubbed “jet rock ‘n’ roll.”

Sept. 8-14
Into the Garden
Villa Terrace
Debra Loewen and the Wild Space Dance Company have created dramatic, site-specific dances in construction zones and atop parking ramps. This year, they start their season in the posh environment of Villa Terrace’s Renaissance Garden, with the company set to dance around arbors and flower beds, the Neptune Gate, the garden’s “water stairway” and Roy Staab’s elegant, willow branch sculpture, Shadow Dance.

Sept. 15
Echo and the Bunnymen, England
Turner Hall Ballroom
As the fall equinox nears, put on your dark T-shirt and embrace the season with morose post-punk group Echo & The Bunnymen. The big draw here is 1984 hit “The Killing Moon,” a sinister song that conjures chilly autumn nights.

Sept 17-20
The Marriage of Figaro
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
Music Director Edo de Waart starts his final year with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as he began the two previous years: performing a staged version of a Mozart-Da Ponte opera with impeccable singers. This year, it’s staged by the talented Robin Guarino.

[toggler title=”Click for a Q&A with MSO Assistant Conductor Yaniv Dinur” ]

0916-MSO_Conductor_Yaniv_DinurWhat was it like serving in the Israeli army’s Excellent Musicians unit?
“We performed for soldiers all over the country … I made music every day … [and] other tasks like guard duty at bases or bus stations.”
What does it mean to work and perform in Milwaukee?
“Being surrounded by such high-level players is amazing. I’m inspired by them, and hopefully I can inspire them, too. I always thought about what would make me happy, and performing with them makes me happy.”


Sept. 20
Peaches, Canada
Turner Hall Ballroom
Merrill Nisker’s crude electro-punk persona, Peaches, is sure to shock, but her minimalistic and infectious rhythms will have you dancing up a storm.

Sept. 20-Oct. 30
Man of La Mancha
Milwaukee Reperatory Theater
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has brought a string of innovative musicals to its main stage in recent years, including Assassins and Ragtime. Here director Mark Clements goes old school, offering the 1964 classic by Dale Wasserman, Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion. Nothing wrong with a look back if it means bringing Broadway actor Nathaniel Stampley home to sing classics like “The Impossible Dream” and “Dulcinea.”

[toggler title=”Click for a Q&A with Nathaniel Stampley” ]

0916-Stampley_Nathaniel_ManofLaManchaYou’ve gone national, what’s it like coming back to Milwaukee?
“Any time I get to perform in front of friends and family is ideal … To have a community that’s seen me on stage since I was a little boy … is a good thing.”






Sept. 23
Blind Guardian, Germany
The Rave
“Game of Thrones” fans will appreciate the influential metal group Blind Guardian, who have written songs based on the stories of George R.R. Martin. Worry not – this “speed metal” group produces headbangers slightly faster than the author.

Photo by Hans-Martin Issler.
Blind Guardian. Photo by Hans-Martin Issler.

Sept. 25
, Scotland
Riverside Theater
Sophomore albums can be stubborn affairs, where buzz bands bristle against what made them so popular. Not the case for CHVRCHES, whose synth-pop melodies will be the best dance party of the month.

Lamar Jefferson photo courtesy of Skylight Theatre.
Lamar Jefferson. Photo courtesy of Skylight Theatre.

Sept. 30-Oct. 16
Broadway Theatre Center
There will be much hoopla about the Skylight Music Theatre’s holiday production of La Cage aux Folles later in the year. But don’t let this small show escape your attention. Violet travels south in 1964 in search of a faith healer and meets an African-American soldier on the bus. It’s the first original musical (1997) by Jeanine Tesori. Sheri Williams Pannell – who helmed Crowns last season – directs.


Oct. 6-30
Dracula vs. The Nazis
In Tandem Tenth Street Theatre
Vampires! Hitler! British secret agents! Part Charles Ludlam camp and part Marvel Comics adventure, local playwright Michael Neville’s story – Dracula is enlisted to prevent the Nazis from acquiring immortality – could easily set Hollywood moguls planning a big-budget blockbuster. Instead, 20+ characters are played by two actors in a rapid-fire frenzy.

[toggler title=”Click for a Q&A with Michael Neville” ]

The play is 20-plus years old. Will contemporary audiences still be able to connect?
“It’ll be interesting to see. I wrote it with a younger audience in mind. And I was a younger, goofier person [when I wrote it].”
What should audiences look for in it?
“A goofy comedy, and it’s got heart. Dracula is more sympathetic. Hitler is not sympathetic at all of course.”


Sister Carrie's Adriana Zabala, photo couresy of Florentine Opera Company.
Sister Carrie’s Adriana Zabala, photo couresy of Florentine Opera Company.

Oct. 7, 9
Sister Carrie
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
In recent years, the Florentine has kept opera in the 21st century by embracing new work by living composers. After a major success with Elmer Gantry, which won two Grammy Awards, the Florentine turns to the same composer-librettist team – Robert Aldridge and Herschel Garfein – to create a new work based on Theodore Dreiser’s tragedy about a young Wisconsin woman lost in the chaos of fin de siècle Chicago.

Photo by Bridget Wong.
The Philomusica String Quartet. Photo by Bridget Wong.

Oct. 10
Death and the Maiden
Wisconsin Lutheran College
The Philomusica String Quartet continues its concert series at the venue noted for pristine acoustics. This time, it’s Schubert’s great quartet, composed when he learned he was dying of syphilis. It’s paired with a spritely Haydn quartet to lighten the mood.

Oct. 20-23
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
The simplicity of American Shakers meets the fairy-tale opulence of ancient Persia in the Milwaukee Ballet’s season opener. Rather than reconstructing the 1910 Ballet Russes Scheherazade, the MB asked choreographer Kathryn Posin for a new version, which premiered here in 2003. For contrast, MB director Michael Pink chose to pair it with Mark Godden’s Angels in the Architecture, a dance inspired by Shaker culture and set to Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

[toggler title=”Click for a Q&A with new MKE Ballet leading artist Jonathan Batista” ]

Who do you look up to as a dancer?
“As a black man, I have always been drawn to other black dancers. One of those was Carlos Acosta, a Cuban dancer who was a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. He’s my idol, and I had many opportunities to watch him when I was in school in England.”





Itzel Hernandez and Davit Hovhannisyan tell Scheherazade's story through movement. Photo by Tom Davenport.
Itzel Hernandez and Davit Hovhannisyan tell Scheherazade’s story through movement. Photo by Tom Davenport.

Oct. 21-Nov. 13
The Drowning Girls
Broadway Theatre Center
Renaissance Theaterworks gets in the Halloween spirit with this play by Canadians Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson and Daniela Vlaskalic based on true-life Brides in the Bath murders. In early 20th century England, George Joseph Smith married and murdered three “spinsters” for their fortunes. This blend of fact and fantasy features the victims, rising from their soapy graves to tell their stories.

Oct. 22-23
The Glory of the Basilica
St. Josaphat’s Basilica
The MSO moves to the basilica to present one of the most celebrated compositions in recent years. Become Ocean is a meditation on the prospect of rising ocean levels, but its tumultuous climaxes are balanced by shimmering tenderness. New Yorker critic Alex Ross compared it to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, saying it may be “the loveliest apocalypse in musical history.”

Oct. 27-30
Victory for Victoria
Wauwatosa Women’s Club
In May, Milwaukee Opera Theatre assembled an impressive collection of 25 actor-singers in a tribute to the founding fathers (1776). Now, two weekends before the election, it presents this original musical about the first woman to run for President. Not Hillary Clinton, but Victoria Woodhull, who threw her bonnet into the ring in 1872.


This season Danceworks celebrates 20 years of turning heads through movement. Photo by Deone Jahnke.
Danceworks. Photo by Deone Jahnke.

Nov. 3-6
Dance In or Take Out
Next Act Theatre
Danceworks Performance Company celebrates its 20th anniversary this fall, staging pop-up performances at locations all over Milwaukee and hosting a special concert weekend (Nov. 3-6) at Next Act that digs into the company’s past and celebrates its future. Highlights include Li Ciao Ping’s “Refrain,” which Artistic Director Dani Kuepper danced at her first appearance with the company; Emma Draves’ “The Violet Hour”; and Sean Curran’s high octane “The Force of Circumstance.” A new work by Christal Wagner, first staged near the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, will be “translated” for the indoor space.

Nov. 17-Dec. 11
unSilent Night
Next Act Theatre
Good plays are worth the wait. John Kishline’s original, holiday-themed drama – originally scheduled
at Next Act Theatre last season – makes it to the stage after a yearlong delay. It unfolds as a radio host
receives a troubled visitor as he’s wrapping up his Christmas Eve broadcast. And like any respectable
media man, he opens up the phone lines to hear suggestions from his audience. Edward Morgan directs a cast that includes David Cecsarini and Molly Rhode.

Nov. 19
Wisconsin Lutheran College
Talk about golden oldies. This concert by Early Music Now goes back even earlier than usual, to the chants of pre-13th-century monks. As you might guess from the title — “Monks Singing Pagans” — their subject matter wasn’t always devoted to spiritual matters.

Photo by Johannes Ritter.
Sequentia. Photo by Johannes Ritter.

Nov. 21
Guitar Center
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Earlier this year, Frank Almond featured the accordion-like bayan of Stas Venglevski as a soloist among the more traditional classical instruments. This year, the MSO concertmaster mixes guitar in with the violins and cellos for one of his listener-friendly chamber programs. Guitarist René Izquierdo joins Almond and friends in a program that includes work by violin master Niccolò Paganini, guitar god Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and the nuevo tango bandoneon player Astor Piazzola.

Nov. 29-Dec. 24
A Christmas Carol
Pabst Theater
If you’ve been to the Milwaukee Rep’s holiday classic, chances are you’ve heard the words of Charles Dickens as selected and shaped by Joseph Hanreddy and Edward Morgan. This year, the theater unveils a new version, penned by Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements. Expect plenty of great storytelling and holiday spirit.


Dec. 5-6
Prometheus Trio
Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
The WCM’s resident chamber ensemble is known for thoughtful programming and spirited performances. This concert should be a special treat as the trio welcomes the celebrated violist Wendy
Richman for music by Ernö Dohnányi and Gabriel Fauré.

The Prometheus Trio.
The Prometheus Trio.

Dec. 12
Gift, Joy and Celebration
Wisconsin Lutheran College
Celebration, sure. But don’t expect holiday staples in this concert by Milwaukee Musaik, MKE’s newest ensemble. This time, it features works for piano quintet, including the famous (Franz Schubert’s “Trout”), the rare (Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Quintet in E-flat) and the downright unusual (an arrangement of Richard Wagner’s lovely “Siegfried Idyll”).

[toggler title=”Q&A with Milwaukee Musaik president and violinist Alexander Mandl” ]

0916_Musiak_Alexander-Mandl_8What’s Milwaukee Musaik’s main objective?
“Performing great music on a very high level and providing an outlet for other musicians to have opportunities to play certain repertoires that they otherwise would not be doing.”
How is this ensemble different from the Chamber Orchestra?
“People tend to play better when they’re their own boss … Right now we have musicians at the helm.”





“Fall Arts Guide 2016” appears in the September issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the September issue on newsstands beginning August 29, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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Paul Kosidowski is a freelance writer and critic who contributes regularly to Milwaukee Magazine, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and national arts magazines. He writes weekly reviews and previews for the Culture Club column. He was literary director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from 1999-2006. In 2007, he was a fellow with the NEA Theater and Musical Theater Criticism Institute at the University of Southern California. His writing has also appeared in American Theatre magazine, Backstage, The Boston Globe, Theatre Topics, and Isthmus (Madison, Wis.). He has taught theater history, arts criticism and magazine writing at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.