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Performing Arts Weekly 9.15

Sep. 13, 2016
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Photo By John Nienhuis

Lend Me a Tenor

Racine Theatre Guild @ Racine Theatre Guild Auditorium, Sept. 16-Oct. 2

Racine Theatre Guild’s actors, actresses and production designers bring Ken Ludwig’s first Broadway play, the Tony Award-winning comedy Lend Me a Tenor, to their 378-seat theater. The setting is a hotel suite in 1930s Cleveland, where we find impresario Henry Saunders awaiting the arrival of world-famous tenor Tito Merelli—due to star in Saunders’ production of Giuseppe Verdi’s immortal opera, Otello. Yes, the great Merelli does arrive, but that’s the best thing that can be said of the situation—or perhaps it’s the worst. (John Jahn)



Waukesha Civic Theatre @ Margaret Brate Bryant Civic Theatre Building, Sept. 16-Oct. 2

If the songs “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Small World,” “Let Me Entertain You” and “All I Need is the Girl” ring a bell, then you already know something about the musical Gypsy. These are but a few reasons to become better acquainted. The rest come from its longevity (debuting on Broadway in 1959), terrific score (music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) and great Arthur Laurents story based upon the life and legend that was striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. (John Jahn)



Over Our Head Players @ Sixth Street Theatre, Racine, Sept. 16-Oct. 8

Over Our Head Players bring several vignettes to the stage in a manner inspired by the comics of Second City and “Saturday Night Live”—themselves with roots going back more than a century to the legendary days of vaudeville. Theatre/Schmeatre is Over Our Head Players’ series of sketch comedies and live music, featuring the likes of Acoustic Soul, Brent Mitchell, Night Wing, Zachary Scot Johnson, Sipos & Young, Saturday Night Preachers and more. (John Jahn)


Man of La Mancha

Milwaukee Repertory Theater @ Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, Sept. 20-Oct. 30

Man of La Mancha is the musical version of the legendary story of Don Quixote, the “mad knight” of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel. But, that’s just the starting point. From that kernel grew the great oak of Dale Wasserman’s book, Joe Darion’s lyrics and Mitch Leigh’s music, which flourished on Broadway for more than 2,300 performances and gathered in five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The Rep brings Broadway star and Milwaukee native Nathaniel Stampley back to town for the title role in this musical theater giant. (John Jahn)


Cookin’ With Gus

Memories Dinner Theater @ Memories Ballroom, Port Washington, Sept. 27-Oct. 12

What happens when a food columnist and cookbook author gets an offer to host her own TV cooking show and truly hit the big time? What at first sounds like a no-brainer and golden opportunity becomes far more problematic when you consider that our cook, Gussie Richardson, has terrible stage fright. Toss in for good measure loving husband, Walter, fame-seeking agent, Bernie, and well-meaning neighbor, Carmen and their “helpful” suggestions and you have all the ingredients for a delightful comedy. Dinner is served buffet-style with evening shows and plated meals at the matinée performances. (John Jahn)


A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre @ Broadway Theatre Center Studio Theatre, Sept 21-Oct 16

A picnic and a Ferris wheel ride in Creve Coeur Park in St. Louis in 1935 is just the thing to help a person find a fresh perspective when her dream is irrevocably shattered. Reading this 1979 script by Tennessee Williams who died in 1983, I saw in its four female characters shadows of Samuel Beckett’s clowns in Waiting For Godot: the imaginative Dotty, the homely Bodey, the imperious Helena and the hapless, nearly speechless Sophie. As in Beckett’s monumental tragicomedy, there’s little plot. Despair is battled in a hundred ways, many of them funny, at least when you’re watching from outside. This is a rich play for actors and director because it lives entirely in its moments, its mundane incidents, as these lower-middle-class single women do what they do for an hour or so. The end is in the beginning and when the heartbreak arrives, it’s ferociously banished.

The director is Leda Hoffman, director of community engagement at Milwaukee Repertory Theater and artistic director of Luminous Theatre who’s getting many directing jobs these days including the Rep’s current Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill and Renaissance Theaterworks’ Censored on Final Approach last season. Actresses Kay Allmand, Kelly Doherty, Karen Estrada and Molly Rhode are well known for strong work with MCT and other top area theaters. This is a rare chance to see one of the under-appreciated late works of this searching, vulnerable and very great playwright. It’s a lovely fit with MCT’s current “Season of Misfits.” (John Schneider)


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