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Performing Arts Weekly: Sept. 7-13, 2017

Sep. 5, 2017
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Performing Arts Weekly spotlights shows opening the first week of September, including All-In Productions’ Next to Normal and the Milwaukee Rep’s Souvenir.



Next to Normal

Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s rock musical Next to Normal debuted on Broadway eight years ago and, in addition to winning three Tony Awards (Best Original Score, Orchestration and Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical), it accomplished something no other such work had done since 1996’s Rent: It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. This is, in fact, something only eight musicals in history have managed to do.

In awarding the prize to Next to Normal, the Pulitzer Board described the work as “a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals.” Specifically, the musical deals with bipolar disorder, which afflicts the mom, Diana Goodman (Carrie Gray in this production). The effects of this run through the play—and each member of this family—deeply. Normalcy is only on the surface; look closer and myriad impacts of this disorder can be seen.

All-In Productions’ Next to Normal, with direction by Tim Backes and music direction by Julie Johnson, runs Sept.7-16 at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St. For tickets, call 414-278-0765 or visit nextact.org.



In Stephen Pile’s Ultimate Book of Heroic Failures, the historian described American socialite and amateur soprano Florence Foster Jenkins as “the world’s worst opera singer,” elucidating further that: “No one, before or since, has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation.” Ouch! But oh so true.

If the name sounds familiar, it may be due to last year’s Oscar-nominated film, Florence Foster Jenkins, which starred Meryl Streep in the title role (as well as Hugh Grant as her husband and manager, St. Clair Bayfield). What’s so fascinating is that Souvenir, the musical comedy coming to Milwaukee, is based on the life and times of a real person—and quite a character. Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) truly believed herself to be a great operatic soprano. She gave recitals and made recordings. Her social status allowed for polite society—especially those closest to Jenkins—to allow her to live in self-delusion. Look beneath the absurdities, however, and find serious illness at the root of it all.

The Milwaukee Rep’s production of Souvenir runs Sept. 8 through Nov. 5 in the Stackner Cabaret, 108 E. Wells St. For tickets, call 414-224-9490 or visit milwaukeerep.com.


Br!NK New Play Festival

In describing what will transpire at the fourth annual Br!NK New Play Festival, Renaissance Theatreworks’ Izetta Rees announces that the event “will tour the full-length staged readings of Annie Jump and the Library of Heaven (by Reina Hardy) and The Endurance of Light (by Amanda Petefisch-Schrag) to various Greater Milwaukee area locations … with the Festival Weekend held at the Broadway Theatre Center.” These Br!NK Award winners will be shown “in addition to the new ‘Br!NK Briefs’ 10-minute play presentation and public ‘Playwriting Labs,’ led by professional playwrights Mary Ruth Clarke and Jennifer Brumberger.”

Renaissance Theatreworks’ Br!NK festival is an annual event that allows Midwestern female playwrights the chance to develop and advance new stage works, encouraging feedback via structured talkbacks with the playwrights. This year’s installment not only offers the two main works, but, for the first time, seven 10-minute plays written to the prompts “Fortune favors the bold” and “Fools rush in."

Br!NK runs Sept. 7-12 at various locations. For a full schedule of events, visit http://r-t-w.com/br!nk-festival.html.


More To Do


There’s plenty of Up North comicality in this prequel to a prequel by Jeff Daniels, thus completing his trilogy (along with his Escanaba in Love and Escanaba in da Moonlight). Sept. 8-10, 15-17 and 22-24 at the Sixth Street Theatre, Racine. Overourheadplayers.org.


Over the River and Through the Woods

How does a close-knit Italian American family prevent one of its members from moving across the country in pursuit of a dream job? Perhaps a little matchmaking might change his mind. Sept. 7-24 at the Furlan Auditorium, 800 Elm Grove Road. Sunsetplayhouse.com.


Shakespeare Raw: Henry V

Boozy Bard’s next under-the-influence undertaking is William Shakespeare’s 1599 history play and saga of brotherhood and valor, Henry V. Sept. 11-13, at Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, 901 W. Juneau Ave. Facebook.com/boozybard.


Over Here: A Patriotic Review

Falls Patio Players presents a revue reminiscent of World War II canteen-style music, featuring a live band, singing soloists and men’s a capella group. Sept. 8-10 at St. James Church, W220 N6588 Town Line Road, Menomonee Falls. Fallspatioplayers.com.


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