Friday Five: One Weekend Only

Three big theater openings, including Milwaukee Rep’s ‘Dreamgirls,’ lead the Friday Five for this week.

#5: Hyperlocal #6—Liminal at the Friends Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Place

Why? Because small can be beautiful. And spontaneous, too. Marie Gillespie and Tim Russell’s improvised dance/music performances brings local artists together to explore musical and movement ideas around a theme. And the results are as beautiful as they are surprising. Performers this week include Joelle Worm, Daniel Burkholder and Dawn Springer.


#4: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at the Marcus Center

Why? Because you might still be glowing from last weekend’s MSO performance of Cosi fan tutte, but there’s good reason to return to Uihlein Hall for more music. Edo de Waart conducts an entirely American program, including Gershwin’s tone poem, An American in Paris. If imagining Gene Kelly kicking up his heels to George’s lively rhythms isn’t enough, the MSO throws in one of the American canon’s symphonic masterpieces, William Schuman’s Symphony No. 6. And Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, played by the incomparable Todd Levy.

Cassandra Black
Cassandra Black

#3: Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s Dear Elizabeth at the Broadway Theatre Center

Why? Because you might not be in the mood for orchestral splendor (see above), or Grand Opera or big Broadway (see below). Instead of splash and dazzle, MCT offers a chance to revel in sestinas and dactyls through the fascinating and touching relationship of two of the great American poets. Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell struck up an intimate friendship—mostly through letters—from 1947 until Lowell’s death in 1977. Sarah Ruhl’s play chronicles that relationship entirely through the poets’ own words. Not a liability at all, of course. Maria Kohler directs Carrie Hitchcock and Norman Moses.

#2: Skylight Theatre’s Tosca at the Broadway Theatre Center

Why? Because even if you’ve seen Puccini’s great tale of tragic jealousy several times, you will certainly discover something new in the Skylight’s new production. The look is spare and modern. The story is told both in English and subtitled Italian (the Skylight wisely chose not to translate the better known arias). And the cast is first rate: Cassandra Black as Tosca, Chas’men Williams-Ali as her lover Cavaradossi, and David Kravitz as the evil Scarpia. Viswa Subbaraman conducts and Jill Anna Ponasik is the stage director.

Malkia Stampley
Malkia Stampley

#1: Dreamgirls at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Why? Well, it’s not “One Night Only” as the climatic number of Tom Ewen and Henry Krieger’s Mo-town inspired musical goes. The Rep—which opens its season with a Broadway-style musical–devotes several solid weeks to this production. And for good reason. There’s a dazzling blend of local and national talent here, including Nova Y. Payton and Cedric Neal, who have wowed audiences in recent Dreamgirls productions, and Nathaniel Stampley, a Milwaukee native last seen here in The Rep’s A Color Purple. Milwaukee audiences will recognize Malkia Stampley, Raven Dockery and Di’Monte Henning, as well as director Mark Clements’ innovative way of using the intimate Milwaukee Rep stage in large-scale productions.



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.