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Performing Arts Weekly: March 16, 2017

Mar. 14, 2017
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Photo credit: Mark Frohna


Zémire et Azor (Beauty and the Beast) @ The Cabot Theatre, March 17-26

Hear “Beauty and the Beast” and immediately Disney comes to mind (especially given the newly released feature film). But that is not what Skylight Music Theatre is offering with this telling of the fairytale. Instead, Skylight goes back to a Baroque opera take on it. The original narrative story (La Belle et la Bête) was written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. From this came Franco-Belgian composer André Grétry’s opéra comique, Zémire et Azor; this latter work is what Skylight presents at the Broadway Theatre Center.

The production features puppetry and direction by Obie Award-winner James Ortiz. Yes, there are puppets. “The Beast is really the biggest puppet in the show,” explains Ortiz, “who, when he is fully standing, is probably 8 feet [tall].” A less-familiar character also takes puppet form: “A wind spirit, which is in the original French version of this play, and, we thought, ‘What if there’s a Wind Spirit that actually blows them home?’ We started doing some fun research on the big puffed cheeks and flowing hair—the kind of illustrations you’d see in maps…an old Baroque bizarre Wind God.”

The opera contains music lovely enough to have been a favorite of the young Wolfgang Mozart. Skylight’s music director and conductor for Zémire et Azor will be Shari Rhodes. Performing the title roles will be soprano Gillian Hollis, making her Skylight debut, and tenor Chaz’men Williams-Ali, last seen in a 2015 Skylight production of Tosca in the lead role of Cavaradossi. (John Jahn)

‘Between Two Worlds’ @ North Shore Congregational Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church, March 18-19

Interesting aspects of these two concerts—taking place on consecutive days at churches in Fox Point and Brookfield—are that they’ll be lead by a talented young guest conductor from Slovenia, Alenka Podpečan, and feature choral music of her homeland. The Master Singers of Milwaukee and Carthage Choir join voices in choral arrangements of Slovenian folk music, historic music by Slovenian composers such as Jacobus Gallus (1550-1591), and music from countries abutting Slovenia which contributed to its rich choral tradition. There will also be a display about Slovenia at the venues for the further edification of concertgoers, assembled by the UW-Milwaukee Slovenian Arts Council. (John Jahn)


Goodnight Lulu @ Racine Theatre Guild, March 17-18

The Racine Theatre Guild presents a night full of storytelling and fun for everyone in attendance with the hour-long performance of Goodnight Lulu. Children under the age of 10 are encouraged to bring blankets and wear pajamas while they watch the main character Lulu, a young child herself, grow up in front of their eyes. The audience will work along with the cast of the play to make Lulu feel brave as Lulu and her Momma attempt to survive on Farmer Paul’s farm. Based on the adored children’s book by Paulette Bogan, this play is sure to make children and adults feel at home. (Evan Thomas Casey)

Flanagan’s Wake @ The Brumder Mansion, March 17-April 8

Flanagan’s Wake is an interactive, partly improvised, environmental comedy,” explains its author, actor, teacher and voiceover artist Jack Bronis. “The show is set in the fictional village of Graplin, County Sligo, Ireland. Audience members are treated as mourners who have come to the wake of a noted roustabout, Flanagan,” Bronis says. “The cast interweaves scripted and improvised stories as the basis for comedic fodder.” Milwaukee’s atmospheric Brumder Mansion (3046 W. Wisconsin Ave.) is the site for Milwaukee Entertainment Group’s wake for our dear ol’ Flanagan. (John Jahn)

The Underpants @ Memories Ballroom, Port Washington, March 17-26

Critically acclaimed actor Steve Martin put his considerable wit and comedic genius to work in his adaptation of an original tale, Die Hose, by German playwright Carl Sternheim. The resulting “farcical send-up of bourgeois snobbery and conformity” (Elyse Somer in Curtain Up) premiered Off-Broadway in New York City almost exactly 15 years ago. Ever since, it’s been produced in numerous American theaters from coast to coast, as well as in Australia, India and Hong Kong. The Underpants is a tale of both the mayhem and mishaps that follow in the wake of a woman’s embarrassing…shall we say…wardrobe malfunction. These Memories Dinner Theater performances offer attendees a plated or buffet-style meal (the latter available March 18 and 25 only) and include vegetarian and gluten-free options. (John Jahn)

Christmas in Babylon @ Skylight Bar and Bistro, Monday, March 20

The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre presents a staged reading of New York native, Wisconsin-based author and actor James DeVita’s Christmas in Babylon. Called “funny, awkward and surprisingly moving” by the company’s Marketing Director Matthew Reddin and directed by its Artistic Director C. Michael Wright, the reading features Mary MacDonald Kerr, Tom Klubertanz, Eva Nimmer, Deborah Staples and Sara Zientek. The Skylight Bar and Bistro, located on the second floor of the Broadway Theatre Center at 158 N. Broadway, will be open for dinner and refreshments starting at 5:30 p.m. (reservations are welcome). Tickets are pay-what-you-can at the door; seating is first come-first served. (John Jahn)

The Best of Enemies @ Todd Wehr Auditorium, Concordia University, March 17-26

Acacia Theatre Company’s acting husband-and-wife team of Ryan Schaufler and Lori Woodall dramatize the true story of a most unlikely friendship. Woodall plays Ann Atwater, a black civil rights activist, and Schaufler plays KKK member C.P. Ellis. The setting is racial strife-plagued North Carolina in 1971. Playwright Mark St. Germain explores the motives of these two fully realized characters and grants insight into what makes them who and what they are. As Woodall explains, “We meet this Klansman who is completely entrenched in Klan ideology, and yet we come to understand where and how his perspective was formed, just as Ann discovers it.” Due to the play’s subject matter, there is some racist language in the play. (John Jahn)


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