The local performing arts season begins with a bang — or a landslide, perhaps — of great concerts and plays. Here’s what’s on tap for September.
After Edo de Waart’s triumphant trio of finales last May (and a very busy June of concerts that ranged from flamenco to La La Land), the MSO opens its new season with three weekends of classics. Cristian Măcelaru starts off with a blend of Beethoven and contemporary music (Sept. 15-17). Jeffrey Kahane settles into the 20th century (Sept. 22-23) with music of Darius Milhaud, Rachmaninoff and George Gershwin (he’ll play and conduct the Concerto in F). And the maestro himself returns for a guest visit, conducting a late Mozart symphony and Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante, which features some of de Waart’s old friends as soloists: Cellist Susan Babini, violinist Ilana Setapen, oboist Katherine Young Steele, and bassoonist Catherine Chen (Sept. 29-30).
All concerts in Uihlein Hall of the Marcus Center.
Debra Loewen has a knack for helping her audiences see new things in familiar spaces. And for interesting collaborations. To kick off its new season, her company takes over the Riverwest “Goat Palace” (Sept 14-17), a warehouse space last seen by arts folks in Leda Hoffman’s production of Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play. In addition to her company of dancers, she’ll be working with theater director Tony Horne and sound artist C. Olivia Valenza. There will, of course, be fire. And live goats.
The Goat Palace, 3740 N. Fratney St.
The Rep doesn’t think small, even in these lean artistic times. So it’s no surprise it’s opening not one, not two, but three shows this month. The Stackner Cabaret offers Souvenir (Sept. 8-Nov. 5), a musical tribute to Florence Foster Jenkins, a terrible singer who nonetheless attracted a cult following in post-WWI America. For the big opening Powerhouse Theater musical, Mark Clements turns to the beloved classic Guys & Dolls (Sept. 18-Oct. 29), featuring Milwaukee’s own Kelley Faulkner, Matt Daniels and Andrew Varela, along with a host of Broadway veterans. And the Steimke Studio offers a comedy by resident artist Ayad Akhtar. The Who & The What (Sept. 27-Nov. 5) looks at the tensions in a tradition-based Muslim-American family when one of the daughters writes a book that challenges some of the tenets of the family’s faith.
All shows at the Milwaukee Rep complex, 108 E. Wells St
Two of the city’s best chamber groups kick off their seasons this month. The Prometheus Trio kicks off its season at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music with a program featuring Haydn, Brahms and Hungarian composer László Lajtha (Sept. 18 & 19).
Frank Almond’s concert series, Frankly Music, opens with a tribute to the Frenchman César Franck (Sept. 25). Almond takes advantage of the concert’s locale (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 914 E. Knapp St.) to feature one of Franck’s showstopping organ pieces, the “Pièce Héroïque,” from Trois Pieces pour Grand Orgue. He’s also joined by pianist Adam Golka, and MSO musicians Susan Babini, Yuka Kadota and Margot Schwartz.
Plays and More Plays
The Rep isn’t the only place hopping this month. Four other companies premiere new productions at the end of the month. Milwaukee Chamber Theatre hangs up the crossbow and the 1970s décor for now (part of last month’s Deathtrap), and moves up to the 1980s. Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Sept. 20-Oct. 15) was written by Terrance McNally for the young actors Kathy Bates and F. Murray Abraham. Here, the funny, bittersweet script is in the good hands of Marcella Kearns and Todd Denning. It’s directed by Mary MacDonald Kerr.
Next Act Theatre opens its season with Silent Sky (Sept. 28-Oct. 22) one of two plays this season by Lauren Gunderson. Deborah Staples plays Henrietta Leavitt, a pioneering astronomer who struggled for recognition of her work at Harvard in the early 1900s. Gender issues are also at the fore of I Am My Own Wife (Sept. 28-Oct. 7), Doug Wright’s portrait of Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf, a German transvestite who survived the calamities of the 20th Century to be honored when the Berlin Wall came down. Michael Stebbins stars in this one-person show.
Finally, Skylight Theatre opens its first season under its new Artistic Director, Ray Jivoff, with Hot Mikado (Sept. 29-Oct. 15), a soulful retelling of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. Austene Van, who you’ll remember from her acting role in The Rep’s production of Disgraced will direct the large, swinging cast.