Milwaukee Fall Arts Guide 2019: November

Newsies comes to town, Elf the Musical is here to entertain and more this month in fall arts.

By Lindsey Anderson, Matt Hrodey, Adam Rogan and Madaleine Townsend

Can’t-Miss Events This Month


The Broadway musical gets the full Skylight treatment. The family-friendly show follows a group of downtrodden newsboys who go on strike while wearing little hats, as happened in real life in New York, 1899. The factional newsboys put aside their differences and publish a flyer that wins the sympathies of other child workers.

Nov. 15-Dec. 22 at Skylight Music Theatre

Photo courtesy of Fathom Events and Disney Theatrical Productions

Elf the Musical 

Elf began life as a Hollywood movie, then became a Broadway musical, and is now a First Stage show aimed at families with children 8 and up. Can Buddy the Elf (who is actually a human impostor) rekindle the Christmas spirit in New York and find his real human father? A pay-what-you-choose performance is scheduled for Nov. 26.

Nov. 23-Dec. 31 by First Stage at the Marcus Center

Lewis Black

The baron of blowhards returns to the city with a few more gray hairs in his increasingly frosty bouffant. Prepare for a solid repertoire of booze jokes; it’s one of his favorite topics, especially here. According to Black, Wisconsinites are not alcoholics; we’re drinking professionals.

Nov. 8-9 at the Pabst Theater

The Nerd

The Rep first staged this comedy in 1981, before it went on to be a London hit in the mid-1980s and a Broadway one during the late 1980s. Known for eliciting yuks, the play centers on Willum Cubbert, a young architect in Terre Haute, Indiana. Over the course of the play, Cubbert must learn to stand up for himself and go after his crush, Tansy. Andy Nagraj plays the title role.

Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Repertory Theater website

Nov. 12-Dec. 15 at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Jeeves at Sea

This multilayered cake of cheery British humor, adapted from a P.G. Wodehouse title, stars characters named Sir Percival Everard Crumpworth and Bertie Wooster, plus a boat. The story is streaked with skulduggery, gin and a dastardly duel, not to mention rampant impersonation. Bob’s your uncle!

Nov. 22-Dec. 22 at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

“Magic: the Gathering” Exhibition

The art of the long-running fantasy card game takes center stage, buttressed with materials showing how the artists created the series’ many illustrations. This is the fourth such exhibition to be staged around the country and the first in an art school. Some MIAD students will also make “Magic”-inspired works.

Nov. 11-Jan. 11 at Milwaukee Institute For Art and Design

Contemporary Craft Exhibition and Sale

View and purchase a wide variety of student works in the Kenilworth Square East Gallery on the East Side. Prints, photographs, sculptures, jewelry and metal works will be available. A preview will be held Nov. 15, followed by sales Nov. 16 and 17.

Nov. 15-17 at UW-Milwaukee School of the Arts

Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee website

Poetic Justice

Local lit lovers, rejoice! The Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books celebrates its 10th anniversary Nov. 1-2 at UW-Waukesha. And the state’s current poet laureate, Margaret Rozga – a writer and activist who has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize – will be delivering one of its two keynote addresses.

In honor of the occasion, we asked Rozga for permission to publish an excerpt from one of her poems. You can read the full version online. And, if you like it, consider booking it to her free presentation on Nov. 2. There’ll be writing contests, book signings, panel discussions and a writers marketplace at the event, too.

— Lindsey Anderson

Photo by TJ Lambert, Stages Photography

A poem for two voices

I hope words don’t fail me
I hope I don’t fail words
don’t forget what goals I set
don’t forget to set grand goals
Don’t forget little ones,
the fun of playing in snow despite the cold,
of cold water from a summer’s sprinkler,
of listening to the grown-ups when they think
they’re unheard or the message missed
Don’t forget to tell the little ones

Theater Kids

Since 1930, our state has been shining a spotlight on its best student thespians and theatrical technicians. This year, the Wisconsin High School Theatre Festival will be taking place right here in Milwaukee. And it’s sure to contain just as much drama and joy as any show on Broadway right now. 

Who? More than 1,500 students register for the event each year. And friends, family and community members can cheer them on during their showcases.

What? Two days of workshops, exhibits and competitions for the students. Plus, theatrical showcases – which run the gamut from short monologues to fully staged one-act plays – that anyone willing to pony up the $9 ticket price can enjoy.

When? Nov. 21-23

Where? UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts

Why? Because it’s like watching a live-action version of “Glee!” and the kids deserve our support!

A Grand Makeover

This time next year, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s $140 million renovation
of the Warner Grand Theatre on Wisconsin Avenue will be complete, and the new concert hall will likely be just as grand as the original. Here’s a by-the-numbers breakdown of what audiences can expect from the space.

IN THE MEANTIME … MSO’s new home won’t be ready for strings until fall 2020, so head to the Pabst Theater on Nov. 1 or 2 to hear Music Director Ken-David Masur conduct Beethoven’s first and second symphonies, with a rare piece by Schumann sandwiched in between.

More to Explore

Celine Dion

With over 50 performances planned across the U.S. and Canada, multi-award-winning artist Celine Dion will be stopping in Milwaukee as part of her Courage World Tour. This is Dion’s first U.S. tour in over a decade, and it will be accompanied by a new record of the same name. Tickets are on sale at Fiserv Forum now, so we suggest getting yours soon before they’re gone.

Nov. 3 at Fiserv Forum

“Revealing the Eclectic Body”

Audience members will be able to meet the dancers at this event in an intimate and up-close performance. The event doubles as the unveiling of Danceworks’ 2019-20 cohort, comprised of both experienced dancers and newcomers.

Nov. 7 by Danceworks at Saint Kate

“A Modern Vision: European Masterworks From the Phillips Collection”

Monet, van Gogh, Picasso and several other famous European artists will be featured in this modernist art exhibit. Presenting some of the most iconic pieces spanning the early-19th to mid-20th centuries, this collection will be on display for only a few months, so be sure to see it before it’s gone.

Nov. 15-March 22 at Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee Children’s Choir

Come out to hear the talented voices of the Milwaukee Children’s Choir at the historic St. Sebastian Parish, which has been a landmark in Washington Heights for over a century. The concert will spotlight the combined talents of the Milwaukee Youth Chorale, Lyric Chorale, the Preparatory Choir and the Introductory Choir.

Nov. 16 at St. Sebastian Parish


Ring in the Thanksgiving season by attending Present Music’s annual Thanksgiving concert. It will include many of the organization’s traditions, such as the community Friendship Dance led by the Bucks Native American Singing & Drumming Group, cathedral choir music and more.

Nov. 17 by Present Music at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

“John Wilde – 100”

John Wilde, one of Wisconsin’s most celebrated artists, would have turned 100 this year, so the Tory Folliard Gallery will be celebrating the centennial of his birth with an exhibit showcasing much of his best work. Known for his fascinating Magic Realist style, Wilde often placed uncommon objects in uncommon landscapes.

FREE; Nov. 29-Dec. 28 at Tory Folliard Gallery

More Fall Arts Guide

“Fall Arts Guide” appears in the September 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning September 2, or buy a copy online.

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