Tag Archives: performing arts

ASK THE EXPERTS: The best gifts this holiday season

“Unwrap” gift recommendations from local experts.

WiG contacted seven local businesses and organizations, each of which offered their insight into what you should look for this holiday season.

> MUSIC

Where: The Exclusive Company, locations in West Bend, Oshkosh, Appleton, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Greenfield and Janesville

In-house expert: Milwaukee store manager Brian Kirk

Best new LP: Adele’s 25 is the record to buy this season and available at the Exclusive Company starting on Nov. 20. $22 in vinyl.

Best classic rock LP: The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, whose Andy Warhol-designed cover has become as classic as the album. A real collector’s item. $25 in vinyl.

Classic jazz: John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things, which will jazz up any holiday party. $15–25 in vinyl.

Best local CD: Milwaukee band Testa Rosa’s new CD, Testa Rosa III, showcasing Betty Blexud-Strigens’ striking voice. $11.

> WINE

Where: Thief Wines

In-house expert: Owner Phil Bilodeau 

Best Chardonnay: Desparada 2013. From Edna Valley, California, this chardonnay is well balanced with lots of creamy butteriness and a nice acidity. $35.

Best Pinot Noir: Failla 2013. This classic pinot from the Sonoma Coast offers savory earthy notes and cherry/strawberry fruits. A nice wine to accompany dinner. $48.

Best Champagne: Michel Rocourt Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru. A grower Champagne (meaning they grow all their own grapes), this 100 percent chardonnay Champagne is a great value. $43.

Splurge wine: Pahlmeyer Jayson 2013. This red blend from Napa Valley is lush, hedonistic, full-bodied and offers a smooth finish. $54.

> ARTSY GIFTS

Where: Milwaukee Art Museum Store, 700 N. Art Museum Drive. 

In-house expert: Donele Pettit-Mieding, marketing and web store manager

Outstanding ornament: “Snowy Afternoon,” hand-painted by local artist Christiane Grauert, celebrates the winter season in Milwaukee at twilight and features the museum’s newly renovated lakefront galleries. Meet the artist and have her personalize your ornament on Dec. 3 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $24.

Best house guest gift: A set of Walking Milwaukee Cards, 10 mapped, self-guided walking tours of downtown Milwaukee that highlight the city’s iconic architecture. $20.

Clever colleague gift: The “Orbanizer,” a handcrafted wire ball, holds pens, utensils, craft tools and even flowers. $28.

Haute hostess gift: Midwest artist Laurie Freivogel’s handmade glass collection — silk screened images of vintage cameras on fused glass — celebrates the museum’s new exhibition, Larry Sultan: Here and Home, which runs through Jan. 24. Coasters, cheeseboards and trays run $18–$120. 

> PERFORMING ARTS

In-house expert: Dave Fantle, chief marketing officer for United Performing Arts Fund.

Best way to give back: Talk about the gift that keeps on giving — make a tax-deductible donation of $100 or more to UPAF and get a smart card offering two-for-one value on performances for each of UPAF’s 15 member groups, as well as discounts at local restaurants. $100.

Best holiday ballet: Milwaukee Ballet’s holiday chestnut, The Nutcracker, is truly a group effort, with featured performances from the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra, the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, 150 students from the Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy, and of course, the Milwaukee Ballet company. Through Dec. 27 at the Uihlein Hall Marcus Center. $25–$105.

Best holiday play: This season, Milwaukee Repertory Theater celebrates 40 years of staging Charles Dickens’ beloved classic, A Christmas Carol, on Dec. 24. Wisconsin actor Jonathan Smoots will return for his second year as Scrooge, along with a cast of Carol-ers old and new. Tickets are $35–$85.

Best after-the-holidays show to look forward to: The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra celebrates the work of multi-Tony Award-winning composer Jerry Herman, with a one-night-only performance featuring songs from Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage Aux Folles, among others. Jan. 13 at the Marcus Center. $20-$110.

> SPA TREATMENTS

Where: WELL Salon + Spa, Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee.

In-house expert: Lisa Brandt, esthetician at Well Salon + Spa at the Pfister Hotel.

Best pampering package: The Pure Decadence package, featuring a hydrotherapy bath, an aroma glow body scrub and an hour-long massage or a facial, is the perfect way to eliminate holiday stress. $190.

Best pre-party prep: Airbrush makeup and a set of must-have party lashes create a flawless look for your party pics and selfies. Makeup, $85; lashes, $20.

Best me-too package: Give to you, your partner and your relationship with the You Plus Me package, which includes a luxurious couple’s massage and a couple’s hydrotherapy bath. $295.

Best treatment on the run: The Express Yourself package, featuring a 30-minute massage, an express facial and an express mani-pedi, is a welcome gift for the busy people in your life. $210.

> BOOKS

Where: Boswell Books, 2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee.

In-house Experts: Book buyers Jason Kennedy and Anne Mechler-Hickson.

Best coffee table book of 2015: Milwaukee, City of Neighborhoods by local historian John Gurda and published by Historic Milwaukee, Inc. looks at 37 Milwaukee neighborhoods, from past to present. $45.

Best children’s book: With its gorgeous illustrations of homes of every kind — from an artist’s home to a bee’s home, a shoe home to a tree home, Home, by Car
son Ellis, offers insight into the meaning of “home sweet home.” $17.

Best cookbook: The Food Lab: Better Cooking Through Science, by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, teaches how to make the perfect pan-fried steak, homemade mac ‘n’ cheese, moist turkey and much more by using science as a guide. $50.

Best new series for teens: Set in a high-fantasy world similar to ancient Rome, Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes, the first in a series, tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom. $20.

> TOYS

Where: Little Monsters, 2445 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee.

In-house expert: Owner Andie Zacher.

Best craft toys: Make-your-own snow globe/totebag/friendship bracelets/tiaras/swords and superhero masks are just the thing to conquer holiday break boredom. $21–$42.

Best musical toys: Encourage a love of music with a simple harmonica, an old-fashioned accordion or a microphone that comes with its own stand — not to mention background rhythms. $10–$55.

Best old school toys: All the stuff you grew up with is back, from the Simon game to Ross Across, plus record players, telephones, View-Masters, clocks from the ’60s and ’70s and all the old Fisher Price stuff. Let’s hope the kids get a chance to play too. $22–$40.

Best stocking stuffers: Sometimes the best gifts come in small sizes. Stuff their stockings with miniature toys, games, pretend play objects and a range of holiday candies. $5 and up.

Boulevard’s first itinerant production is concert reading of ‘Pal Joey’

Here’s the big story about the Boulevard Theatre this season: After 29 years, the company has left its Bay View home on South Kinnickinnic Avenue to become an itinerant company.

But another big story about the group is its first show on the road is a resurrection of the long-neglected Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey, which is to be presented in a concert staging at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center.

Concert stagings, in which actors perform without costumes, sets or more than minimal blocking, are a specialty of the Boulevard. Artistic director Mark Bucher champions the approach as a compromise between a full, expensive staging and a mere reading in which the actors sit around a table. David Flores is directing the concert staging of Pal Joey, which he and Bucher selected after they kept circling back to it during a brainstorming session earlier this year.

“It’s both of its time and ahead of its time,” Flores says.

In many ways, Pal Joey is a musical that resembles the other work of Rodgers and Hart and their contemporaries (pre-World War II). It’s centered around a powerful romance, its songs (including standards like “I Could Write a Book” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”) are jazzy and linguistically clever, and its lead role required the dancing skills of no less than Gene Kelly in its original production. 

But it’s where the comparisons end that reveals the obstacles Pal Joey faced when it premiered in 1940 to widespread panning by critics — including a New York Times writer who famously asked about the play, “Can you draw sweet water from a foul well?” The titular “hero” is a womanizing nightclub performer willing to do whatever it takes to get his big break, including embark on an affair with the play’s female lead, Vera, a married socialite with a string of lovers. Those jazzy tunes and lyrics are so sexually frank that they widened the eyes of the era’s Broadway theatergoers.

And most importantly, there’s no happy ending for its protagonist.

In retrospect, the show was merely ahead of its time, Flores says. A string of acclaimed revivals supports his assertion. But with each successive production, directors have made changes to the play’s structure and plot, changing it into a completely different show, according to Flores.

“The most recent revival’s score and book bore no resemblance to the original,” Flores says. “I wanted to present the original and let that do all the talking.”

The concert staging helps. Flores says it allows him to focus on the dialogue and songs with a minimal amount of blocking and dance. He says he’ll preserve some of the Boulevard Theatre’s intimacy by seating the audience on the SMPAC stage along with the performers. Each of the 100 seats per performance provides an up-close and personal view.

Marty McNamee, who plays Joey in Boulevard’s production, says concert stagings allow actors and directors to recreate shows in the format in which they were originally developed. Focusing on the basics makes audiences do the same.

McNamee thinks Pal Joey’s greatest merits come from its unflinching, unglamorous depiction of Joey’s imperfect lifestyle, and how it affects him. He may bounce between women like Vera (Diane Lane) or a naive stenographer (Alexandra Bonesho) as if he’s completely immune to emotions, but McNamee says all that back-and-forth just drives home Joey’s crushing loneliness.

Boulevard’s 2014–15 season

Pal Joey is only breezing through for a weekend, but the group has much more planned for its first itinerant season. Other productions scheduled include:

Gidion’s Knot, at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts (Oct. 3-12): This two-woman, 90-minute drama cuts deep into issues of education quality, bullying and teen suicide in its depiction of a parent-teacher conference between a grieving mother and an uncertain teacher. 

A Child’s Christmas in Wales, at Plymouth Church (Dec. 13-14): Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ romanticized retelling of a childhood Christmas will be staged as a prose-play hybrid. Also on the bill is the Plymouth Chorale performing the Robert Frost-themed song cycle Frostiana.

RX, TBD (April 10-26): A pharmaceutical farce, RX follows a woman who signs up for a drug trial that should make her fall in love with her job, but makes her fall for the doctor instead. 

Onstage

The Boulevard Theatre’s production of Pal Joey plays at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 26, and Sept. 27, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 28. Tickets are $20. Call 414-706-5049 or go to southmilwaukeepac.org. Seating is limited to 100 patrons per show.

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Perpetuum Jazzile – a vocal orchestra – headed for Milwaukee stage

Europe’s Perpetuum Jazzile has returned to the United States for select concert performances.

Having performed for sold-out crowds in America in 2011, the a cappella group from Slovenia features 35 voices creating a “Vocal Orchestra” with vocal percussions, a human beat-box imitating an incredible array of drums, electronic beats and choreographed hand movements that simulate storms for an intense sound experience.

The group is YouTube’s most viewed “extra-large” vocal group in the world with more than 35 million views, as it has garnered a massive worldwide following in just three years. 

The group performs March 19 at the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee.

Other tour dates include:

March 14, Ohio Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio; March 16, Carnegie Library of Homestead Music Hall, Munhall, Pa.;  March 17, The Gramercy Theatre, New York, N.Y.;  March 20, Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet, Ill., and March 23, North Iowa Community Auditorium, Mason City, Iowa.

Performances include renditions of pop tunes by Lady Gaga (“Telephone”), Cyndi Lauper (“True Colors”), Earth, Wind & Fire, Gloria Estefan (“Conga”), Bee Gees, Toto (“Rosanna” and “Africa”).

On the Web…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjbpwlqp5Qw.  

Walker’s artless budget

The burden of Wisconsin’s northern latitude winters is lightened by the quality and diversity of the performing arts groups that crisscross the state.  You’d have to search hard to find a corner of the Badger State where you could not access an outstanding performing arts venue.

Unfortunately, Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is as artless as it is heartless. Not content merely with gutting healthcare and education funding, he’s also taken an ax to the arts. His budget eliminates all funding for the Wisconsin Arts Board and subsumes it beneath the Department of Tourism, which is headed by Walker crony and former beauty queen Stephanie Klett. Her experience with the arts is apparently limited to the cornet, which she played at the 1993 Miss America finals in Atlantic City.

The arts are among civilization’s proudest and most defining achievements. The tradition of government support for the arts well predates the vaunted tradition of monogamous heterosexual marriage that Walker and his ilk publicly promote with such vengeance. Yet right-wingers treat the arts as if they were as disposable as their spouses.

The performing arts do much more than entertain. They inspire and enlighten. They strengthen communities by fostering social cohesion. They stimulate debate and encourage multilayered thinking.

The arts are also an effective economic generator that puts money in local economies. Funding of the Wisconsin Arts Board represents only .013 percent of the state budget, while the arts account for 3.6 percent of total employment in the Wisconsin.

Consumers must help to offset public funding cuts to the arts by ramping up their individual support. We urge you to volunteer or contribute to arts-related nonprofit organizations in your area.

Wisconsin Gazette is proud to support the United Performing Arts Fund’s annual fundraising drive. UPAF is a nonprofit organization that supports 34 performing arts groups in southeastern Wisconsin. Together, these groups produce over 2,000 live performances of music, dance, theater and opera each year and provide arts training and education to 400,000 area youth.

To contribute, go to www.upaf.org/campaign/donation.


Artless

The Milwaukee Ballet Company’s recent production of “3,” a program of dance works created by three world-class choreographers, was a thrilling reminder of one of the greatest benefits of living in Wisconsin: the arts.

The burden of our northern latitude winters is lightened by the quality and diversity of the performing arts groups that crisscross the state.  You’d have to search hard to find a corner of the Badger State where you could not access an outstanding performing arts venue.

Unfortunately, Gov. Scott Walker’s budget is as artless as it is heartless. Not content merely with gutting healthcare and education funding, he’s also taken an ax to the arts. His budget eliminates all funding for the Wisconsin Arts Board and subsumes it beneath the Department of Tourism, which is headed by Walker crony and former beauty queen Stephanie Klett. Her experience with the arts is apparently limited to the cornet, which she played at the 1993 Miss America finals in Atlantic City.

The arts are among civilization’s proudest and most defining achievements. The tradition of government support for the arts well predates the vaunted tradition of monogamous heterosexual marriage that Walker and his ilk publicly promote with such vengeance. Yet right-wingers treat the arts as if they were as disposable as their spouses.

The performing arts do much more than entertain. They inspire and enlighten. They strengthen communities by fostering social cohesion. They stimulate debate and encourage multilayered thinking.

The arts are also an effective economic generator that puts money in local economies. Funding of the Wisconsin Arts Board represents only .013 percent of the state budget, while the arts account for 3.6 percent of total employment in the Wisconsin.

Consumers must help to offset public funding cuts to the arts by ramping up their individual support. We urge you to volunteer or contribute to arts-related nonprofit organizations in your area.

Wisconsin Gazette is proud to support the United Performing Arts Fund’s annual fundraising drive. UPAF is a nonprofit organization that supports 34 performing arts groups in southeastern Wisconsin. Together, these groups produce over 2,000 live performances of music, dance, theater and opera each year and provide arts training and education to 400,000 area youth.

To contribute, go to www.upaf.org/campaign/donation.