Milwaukee Fall Arts Guide 2019: October

Hamilton arrives, Elton John’s in town and more this month in fall arts.

By Lindsey Anderson, Matt Hrodey, Adam Rogan and Matt Martinez

Can’t-Miss Events This Month


Just as the Founding Fathers imagined it, modern Americans are learning our history through rap lyrics. Hamilton has been selling out so many stages that two separate touring casts are needed for worldwide tours. In Milwaukee, the “Philip Cast” will perform 32 shows in 27 days and will likely fill the 2,305-seat Uihlein Hall every time.

Oct. 22-Nov. 17 at the Marcus Center

Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus and Company

11th Annual Milwaukee Film Festival

Last year, our city’s film festival ranked among the top 10 most attended in the country – welcoming almost 80,000 people. Now in its second year after taking over the Oriental Theatre, the festival is poised to reach even more people, thanks to community partnerships, non-esoteric choices of flicks and bite-size ticket packages: six movies for only 72 bucks.

Oct. 17-31 at various locations

Milwaukee Film Festival; photo courtesy of Milwaukee film

Elton John’s Farewell Tour

Since we learned last year that Ken-David Masur had been named the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s new director, we’ve been awaiting his first concert of the inaugural season. And here it is. Tonight he’ll be conducting pieces – like Schumann’s only piano concerto – that inspire him personally.

Oct. 19 at Fiserv Forum

The Russian Ballet Theatre presents Swan Lake

When Tchaikovsky’s magnum opus premiered in Moscow in 1877, one critic called it “too noisy.” Proving that naysayer wrong, Swan Lake has become perhaps the most popular ballet ever. The Russian Ballet Theatre’s current interpretation – which features an award-winning set designer and a renowned special effects makeup artist – aims to create an experience unlike any rendition that’s come before it.

For every ticket sold at the one-night only performance at the Pabst, $1 will be donated to fund Milwaukee Public Schools teachers’ needs.

Oct. 27 at the Pabst Theater

Photo courtesy of the Russian Ballet Theatre

The Roommate

“Everyone has a bad roommate story,” writes a critic for The Theatre Times about this one-act dramedy. It’s one of those stories centered around an unlikely pairing, à la The Odd Couple. This one is about a homely Iowan divorcée who takes in a gay, vegan slam poet who may or may not be growing weed.

Oct. 18-Nov. 10 by Renaissance Theaterworks at the Broadway Theatre Center

Singing For His Supper

Because their careers depend on their vocal chords, opera singers have to be deliberate with their choices in the lead-up to performances. Not obsessive, but diligent.

“You have to be smart – get enough sleep, get enough water,” says Calvin Griffin, the 30-year-old Ohioan-turned-Atlantan who will play the title role in The Marriage of Figaro on Oct. 11 and 13 at the Marcus Center’s Uihlein Hall.

Griffin, the son of two choir directors, is a newcomer to our city. But he’s no stranger to the operatic stage, having traversed the southern half of the U.S. to fill roles in greats like Falstaff and Don Giovanni over the last few years, as well as the 2019 premiere of a new opera, The Fix, in Minnesota.

We spoke with Griffin in advance of his start turn with the Florentine to ask him how he got into opera, and how he keeps his voice production ready. — Adam Rogan

Photo by Ketaro Herada
On falling in love with music:

My mom and dad were both choir directors. So I was always singing around the house, at church, at school – in various choirs. I was also in bands, just surrounded by music. And in high school I was in a bunch of musicals. So when it came time to decide what I wanted to major in, there was just one thing that I truly loved, and that was music.

On deciding to pursue a career as an opera singer:

I’d been taking voice lessons since about high school, and I knew that the musical theater route wasn’t quite right for me … you focus more on the dancing, on a different style of a music that I hadn’t really been trying to perfect. It’s just a different vocal aesthetic. 

On the rehearsal process:

The first day, we’ll sing through the entire show together, with everybody. That way, the maestro gets an idea of what we’re doing. He can tell us what he thinks about how it should go. And then after that we begin staging … and all of this in in a rehearsal room, not the theater.

Then the week leading up to the show … we bring together all the other aspects. The lighting. Whatever obstacles the stage brings. The set. The orchestra.

On staving off sickness ahead of a production:

What you just have to do is you have to really, really amp up the water. Or sometimes, if you have phlegm on your chords, you need to go and steam – in the shower, or get a steamer of some sort. You’re also drinking tea with lemon and honey to cut through the phlegm and soothe the voice.

On fighting stage fright:

I get a little nervous, but in a good way. Your senses get heightened, your adrenaline’s pumping. It’s exciting.

More to Explore


To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the Milwaukee Ballet is performing a rendition of their very first full-length production, Coppélia. The story follows a life-like doll created by an alchemist named Dr. Coppelius who spends the duration of the ballet trying to bring her to life. Hilarious hijinks ensue when a villager falls in love with the doll to the chagrin of his living, breathing girlfriend.

Oct. 17-20 at by Milwaukee Ballet at the Marcus Center

Gallery Night and Day

Art resides in seemingly every corner of the Cream City. With 33 participants city-wide, Gallery Night and Day allows museums, galleries and even businesses to showcase art. See dazzling minerals and gemstones at Chrysalis and even make your own succulent arrangement at Elements East among many more options. The event runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on October 18 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on October 19.

Oct. 18-19 at multiple venues

Ann Patchett

Novelist Ann Patchett’s newest novel, The Dutch House, will be the main topic of conversation tonight. The Dutch House follows the trials of a pair of affluent siblings ousted from their home by a vindictive stepmother. A Nashville native, Patchett also works tirelessly to keep independent bookselling alive, as a founding partner of Parnassus Books and through multiple appearances on television and radio.

Oct. 22  at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts

Dia De Los Muertos Festival

Mariachi music fills the air and costumed characters from Pixar’s Coco will be there to greet you and your family as you celebrate one of Mexico’s most important holidays. As you meander through rows of candles and marigolds, you’ll learn more about the history of Dia de Los Muertos and hopefully come away with an appreciation for the rich traditions therein. The festival will last from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Oct. 25 at the Mitchell Park Domes

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.

Be the first to get every new issue. Subscribe.