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2016: Highs, lows and farewells

Continue reading 2016: Highs, lows and farewells

Lady Gaga to deliver keynote at South by Southwest

Lady Gaga is scheduled to give the keynote address at the South by Southwest music festival and conference in Austin, Texas.

Festival organizers made the announcement on March 9 that the singer will follow in the footsteps of past speakers that have included Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed and Dave Grohl.

Lady Gaga will also perform at the festival on March 13 and then speak on March 14 with John Norris of Fuse.

The pop singer is the only artist to sell more than 5 million recordings with her first two hits in the digital music era. Her fourth studio album, ARTPOP, was released in November.

South by Southwest is one of the largest music industry events in the world with more than 2,200 acts giving thousands of performances over 10 days.

Entertainment briefs

Tom Hardy to play Elton John in biopic

Tom Hardy will play Elton John in a biopic titled Rocketman. The film is planned to begin shooting late next year.

The 36-year-old British actor is well respected for his wide-ranging talent, but his brawny, tattooed frame makes him an unconventional choice. Hardy is most famous for playing the terrorist Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. He has showcased a muscled masculinity in films like Warrior, Lawless and Bronson.

John’s an executive producer of the film.

MTV debuts new program in app

In a technological milestone for television, MTV recently released a full season of its new series about a downtrodden high school football team on its mobile application a week before the first episode is seen on TV.

MTV’s release of Wait ‘Til Next Year on its app is reminiscent of when the streaming service Netflix made an entire season of the drama House of Cards available at the same time.

Nearly 2 million MTV apps have been downloaded, primarily on iPhones and iPads, since MTV made them available in June. The network also recently experimented by making extra content from its Miley Cyrus documentary available exclusively through the app.

New musical brings back songwriter Fred Kander

The Landing, a musical starring out actor David Hyde Pierce, had its world premiere at New York City’s Vineyard Theatre on Oct. 23.

The play is notable because it brings legendary composer Fred Kander (Chicago, Cabaret, Kiss of the Spider Woman) out of retirement at age 86 and teams him with Pierce’s nephew, rising playwright Greg Pierce.

The Landing, which consists of three one-act musicals, is garnering strong reviews from critics.

‘Ragtime’ breaks Rep’s record

Ragtime became the bestselling musical in The Milwaukee Rep’s history after the first week of performances, surpassing the previous recordholder Cabaret. The latter, which opened The Rep’s 2010–11 season, was artistic director Mark Clements’ directorial debut. Ragtime was Clements’ latest directorial effort and also the largest production ever mounted on the Quadracci Powerhouse stage.

Clements signed a new four-year contract with The Rep earlier this year.

Skylight reports record year

Skylight Music Theatre’s 2012–13 season broke box-office records and resulted in a small operating surplus, according to managing director Amy Jensen.

“We are pleased to report that we increased revenues by 14 percent over the prior year while holding our expenses to a nominal 2 percent increase,” she said in a press release.

Ticket sales topped $1.5 million — the highest in the theater’s 54-year history and 31 percent above projections. Last year’s The Sound of Music was the biggest draw.

Last season was the ninth and final year for outgoing artistic director Bill Theisen.

Harper Lee sues Alabama museum

To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee is suing a museum in her hometown of Monroeville to stop it from selling souvenirs with her name and the title of her Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Mobile, said the Monroe County Heritage Museum has traded on Lee’s fame without her approval and without compensating her. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

The lawsuit comes after Lee sought a federal trademark for the title of her book when it’s used on clothing. The museum opposed her application, saying its souvenir sales are vital to its continued operation. A ruling is more than a year away.

Lee’s book is set in fictional Maycomb County, but her suit says the setting was inspired by the real Monroe County in south Alabama, where she lives. The museum in Monroeville has displays honoring her and presents the play To Kill a Mockingbird each summer in the old county courthouse courtroom, which served as a model for the movie’s courtroom. The museum pays royalties for using the play, and that is not an issue in the suit.

The Milwaukee Rep presented the stage version of the book last year.

‘Walking Dead’ inspires new convention

Cable TV’s The Walking Dead has inspired a new convention, a podcast and a one-man play.

The podcast and Atlanta-based convention are the creations of Eric Nordhoff and James Frazier, also known as the “Walker Stalkers” because of a road trip they made last fall from Nashville, Tenn., to Georgia to see the AMC show being filmed.

The convention, Walker Stalker Con, is expected to draw 10,000 or more participants, Nordhoff said.

The Walking Dead characters battle zombies known as “walkers” in the streets of downtown Atlanta and in forests, small towns and a prison south of the city.

The convention will feature appearances by some of the show’s actors.

The series returned for its fourth season this month with its biggest audience ever. The 16.1 million people who watched the Oct. 13 series premiere shattered the show’s previous record of 12.4 million, the Nielsen company said.

Peck School professor honored

Rebecca Holderness, associate professor of acting at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts, will be honored for her work in regional theater and for transforming “the national arts landscape by (her) artistry, passion, and courage,” according to a UWM press release. Holderness is one of four finalists for the Stage Director and Choreographer Society’s Zelda Fichandler Award, to be presented Nov. 4 in Cincinnati.

The university said that Holderness has reached “beyond the world of academia to create opportunities for creative endeavors in Milwaukee.”

REP wins UPAF award

Milwaukee Repertory Theater has been named recipient of the prestigious 2013 United Performing Arts Fund’s Management & Organizational Performance Excellence Award, sponsored by Northwestern Mutual. 

The Rep also announced that it’s conducting a fundraising challenge campaign to coincide with its anniversary. Anonymous donors have pledged to match every new or increased gift up to $200,000, doubling the impact of each gift. To learn more about Milwaukee Repertory Theater, its productions and how to donate, go to www.milwaukeerep.com.

Carol Burnett wins America’s top prize for humor

A big Tarzan yell to Carol Burnett. The trailblazing comedienne received the nation’s top humor prize at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Top entertainers, including Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, paid tribute to Burnett as she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The show will air on Nov. 24 on PBS stations. Ellen DeGeneres won the prize last year.

Lou Reed dead at 71

Lou Reed, the bisexual punk poet of rock ’n’ roll who influenced generations of musicians as leader of the Velvet Underground and as a solo performer for decades, has died at 71 from complications related to a recent liver transplant.

No band did more than the Velvet Underground to open rock music to the avant-garde — to experimental theater, art, literature and film, to William Burroughs and Kurt Weill, to John Cage and Andy Warhol, Reed’s early patron.

Indie rock essentially began in the 1960s with Reed and the Velvets. Likewise, the punk, New Wave and alternative rock movements of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s were all indebted to Reed.

Reed’s New York was a jaded city of drag queens and drug addicts. His songs quested for transcendence.

His one Top 20 hit “Walk on the Wild Side” and many other Reed singles became standards among his fans, including “Heroin,” ‘’Sweet Jane” and ‘’Pale Blue Eyes.”