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Performing Arts Weekly: March 23, 2017

Mar. 21, 2017
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The ‘Mockingbird’ Lands

First Stage and Autism Society riff on Harper Lee

By John Jahn 

Dutch American author Kathryn Erskine won 2010’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for her novel, Mockingbird. The main character, Caitlin Smith, is a 10-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome who recently lost her older brother in most tragic circumstances. The work is most certainly one for modern times. This is not only due to the acknowledgement of the existence of Asperger’s, but also because of school bullying and violence—in this case, a school shooting—that, alas, strike an all-too-familiar chord. 

As for the novel’s title, the allusion to Harper Lee’s classic is not coincidental. Erskine drew from To Kill a Mockingbird’s central themes: the destruction of an innocent and, in light of such catastrophes, the opportunity for psychological and spiritual growth. First Stage presents Julie Jensen’s adaptation of Mockingbird at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in partnership with the Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin.

March 24-April 9 at Todd Wehr Theatre, 929 N. Water St. For tickets, visit firststage.org or call 414-273-7206.


“Inspired by the Bard”

Maestro Monte Perkins and the Festival City Symphony join many arts groups this year in observing the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, whose influence has been immense and genre spanning. None of the works on this concert program would have been composed were it not for The Bard’s tremendous influence. Otto Nicolai (1810-1849) isn’t well known today, but has managed to cling to musical immortality thanks to his sprightly overtures—in particular that to his singspiel, The Merry Wives of Windsor. Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) owes his storm-tossed symphonic fantasia The Tempest to Shakespeare, and his fellow Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) likewise turned to the author for his 1935 ballet, Romeo and Juliet. The FCS performs a concert suite from the latter work.

March 26 at Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St. For tickets, visit festivalcitysymphony.org or call 414-365-8861.

“My World of Disney”

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Voices pays homage to the legacy of Walt Disney, the entrepreneur, animator, voice actor and film producer responsible for so many of our most wonderful childhood entertainment memories. Their upcoming concert of “song and storytelling” is geared toward children, of course, but those who are forever young-at-heart, too. As MMV, a choral ensemble founded in 2006, states: “Children are invited to attend dressed as their favorite Disney character and take part in the Mickey Mouse parade that starts off Act Two.” The program will feature classic and contemporary Disney favorites—from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs all the way up to Moana.

March 24-26 at Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St. For tickets, visit milwaukeemetrovoices.org.



An Evening With Groucho

Actor, director and producer Frank Ferrante’s portrayal of one of the greatest comedians of all time, Groucho Marx (1890-1977), has received wide acclaim. The New York Times called him “the greatest living interpreter of Groucho Marx’s material,” and The Hollywood Reporter has described his one-man show as “an affectionate, funny and unsentimental portrait [and] a truly delightful show.” Ferrante’s show excerpts many of Groucho’s famous one-liners and classic comedic shtick. He also reacquaints his audience with Groucho’s brothers, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo, and through the late great comedian’s eyes we also get to know a little more about the likes of Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Margaret Dumont and even MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer.

March 24-May 28 at Stackner Cabaret, 108 E. Wells St. For tickets, visit milwaukeerep.com or call 414-224-9490.


The Marcus Center’s Molly Sommerhalder announces that the venue’s hosting of a touring company’s Cinderella offers a “lush production [featuring] an incredible orchestra, jaw-dropping transformations and all the moments you love—the pumpkin, glass slipper, masked ball and more—plus some surprising new twists.” There’s a local connection to the performances as well: Tatyana Lubov, who plays the title character, is from Madison and attended UW-Stevens Point for theater. Cinderella is Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s only musical written for television, originally broadcast in 1957 (starring Julie Andrews).

March 28-April 2 at Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 929 N. Water St. For tickets, visit marcuscenter.org or call 414-273-7206.

A Doll’s House

A Doll’s House was a shockingly non-conformist play when it premiered at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1879. Its protagonist, Nora, leaves her husband and children to find herself, but it’s more than an early acknowledgment of the rights of women to determine their own individual destinies. As Michael Meyer wrote in his splendid biography of A Doll’s House’s author, Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), the play’s really about “the need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or she really is and to strive to become that person.” It’s a timely reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve yet to go.

March 24-April 9 at Village Playhouse’s Inspiration Studios, 1500 S. 73rd St. For tickets, visit villageplayhouse.org or call 414-207-4879.

Don’t Dress for Dinner

Don’t Dress for Dinner is a two-act comedic satire by Marc Camoletti (Boeing-Boeing). Originating in France (Camoletti’s home country) as Pyjamas Pour Six 30 years ago, it made its way to London and eventually landed on Broadway in 2012. Don’t Dress for Dinner’s English-language version by Robin Hawdon was lauded by The Guardian thus: “Hurtling along at the speed of light, Marc Camoletti’s breathtaking farce is a near-faultless piece of theatrical invention.” Six actors of The Bay Players, directed by Raymond Bradford, bring Don’t Dress for Dinner to the stage during the last week of March.

March 24-April 1 at Whitefish Bay High School auditorium, 1200 E. Fairmount Ave. For tickets, visit thebayplayers.com or call 414-301-3565.


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