review: ‘Hellboy’ is a truly crazy monster mash, and
it’s … a lot
it was when Hellboy (David Harbour) chased a pig baby
changeling in a diaper up a chimney that it fully hit
me. I couldn’t help but wonder: What on earth am I
review: Lightning strikes, Zachary Levi and a pretty good
isn’t bad, which by recent DC Comics movie standards
(“Wonder Woman” excepted) means it’s practically a
masterwork. To paraphrase Jack Lipnik, the studio head
in “Barton Fink”:
Klayman’s ‘The Brink’ reveals emptiness of Steve
thine enemy.” It’s an aphorism that may come to mind
for a viewer of a certain political tendency while
watching “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s engrossing
documentary about conservative operative and former
Trump Svengali Steve Bannon.
'Us' review: Jordan Peele
directs Lupita Nyong'o in an unnerving game of doubles
Peele’s “Us” begins so spectacularly well, and sustains
its game of doubles so cleverly for most of its two
hours, it’s an unusual sort of letdown when the story
doesn’t quite hang together and “deliver” the way Peele
managed with his 2017 debut feature, “Get Out.”
review: Post-WWII drama ‘The Aftermath’ feels empty,
mislaid alliances and stealthy maneuvering, the Kiera
Knightley vehicle “The Aftermath,” about an English
woman’s affair with the German man whose home she’s
occupying in post-war Hamburg, truly is a film that
embodies the phrase “the war at home.”
Marvel’ review: Brie Larson suits up for duty in a
universe built on male swagger and bravado
Marvel” pushes a rabid feminist agenda. Meaning:
There’s a female lead this time. So that’s one more
white male out of work. It’s
‘Greta’ gets a boost from Isabelle Huppert’s freaky,
one must be stalked by a lonely, obsessive widow who
loves barbiturates and mind games, it might as well be
Isabelle Huppert. That seems to be the chief takeaway
from “Greta,” a sleek, derivative psychological
thriller featuring this great French actress in a rare
and welcome English-speaking role.
with My Family’ review: Mum, Dad, the WWE and me
more globally famous the celebrity, the tougher
audiences tend to be on a biopic. Unless it’s
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” because, you know. All those
It Romantic’ review: Rebel Wilson plus a concussion leads
to a romantic awakening
It Romantic” gets by, barely, on its apparently
inexhaustible comic premise, and on Rebel Wilson’s
stand-back-world-get-offa-my-runway comic chops. Why
isn’t it better?
review: Gender-flipped ‘What Men Want’ fails with its
something so wonderfully ironic about a black woman
taking over the sequel to a Mel Gibson vehicle.
Bala’ lacks courage to finish on dark note
remake of the 2011 film “Miss Bala” by Gerardo
Naranjo works until writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer opts
for an Americanized ending.
Look Away’ is a masterpiece that confronts truth, Nazi
look away, Kurt,” Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl)
implores her young nephew. “Never look away —
everything that’s true is beautiful.”
‘Adult Life Skills’ stands out with resonant, grown-up
(Jodie Whittaker) is having a terrible, no good, very
bad week. She’s about to turn 30 and her mom wants her
out of the backyard shed before her birthday
Takal’s horror film ‘New Year, New You’ explores the
sinister side of social media influencers
a time when women are making strides across the
industries of film and television, the horror genre
remains primarily a boys’ club. Sophia Takal,
Blumhouse’s first female horror director, is one of
the filmmakers aiming to change that.
Kidman’s relentless performance is no match for the
bleakness, savage amorality of ‘Destroyer’
work by Nicole Kidman is the defining feature of Karyn
Kusama’s “Destroyer,” but that doesn’t mean
you’d want to put it on a double bill with “The
Hours” or “To Die For.”
With 'Bumblebee,' John
Cena finds his stride in Hollywood
ANGELES — John Cena doesn't believe in ego. How could he
when he's used to tens of thousands of WWE fans chanting
"John Cena sucks" every time he walks out to the ring?
‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ and she really shouldn’t have
thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Keats
said it first, but it was Mary Poppins, being
practically perfect in every way, who found the right
occasion for it, shortly after pulling an improbably large
houseplant out of her carpetbag.
necessities of ‘Mowgli’ come up short
Andy Serkis (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) has gone
down a familiar path with his take on Rudyard
Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” tales with “Mowgli:
Legend of the Jungle.”
Bathurst went in different direction with ‘Robin Hood’
Bathurst (“Peaky Blinders”) had one question when
the possibility arose for him to direct a feature film
based on the story of Robin Hood.
review: Riveting heist thriller finds Viola Davis taking on
every rat in Chicago — and winning
can’t speak for all of them, but Chicagoans will watch
the terrific and unexpectedly soulful crime drama
“Widows” one way, while everybody else experiences a
separate but related movie.
and Now’ lifeless effort despite good cast
Constant, who primarily has been making documentary
films over the past decade, decided to try his hand at a
feature film. The result is “Here and Now,” a
production that follows listless characters on lifeless
journeys through New York City.
review: Paul Dano directs Carey Mulligan in stirring
adaptation of a fractured marriage
curious happens when two actors share a confined space
in front of a camera.
review: ‘Indivisible’ a refreshing war story that
balances home and abroad stories
now and then, faith-based movie studio PureFlix gets it
right, releasing a film that feels like it might have
some crossover appeal.
review: ‘What They Had’ explores family expectations as
matriarch faces Alzheimer’s decline
can’t always get what you want — or expected to
have. But nevertheless, we try, and sometimes, we do get
what we need. This is the idea explored in Elizabeth
Chomko’s debut feature, “What They Had.”
Star Is Born’ dims in the shadow of Kavanaugh confirmation
a decade the last few weeks have been. After
a year that saw the rise of the #MeToo and Time’s Up
movements, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the
Supreme Court on Saturday despite multiple accusations
of sexual assault was just a bridge too far for some
School’ review: Reading, writing and roughhouse with Kevin
Hart and Tiffany Haddish
I asking too much of “Night School”? It’s no big
thing, this new movie starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany
Haddish, and nobody’s expecting a formula-, game- or
Movie review: ‘Lizzie’
features some killer performances
story of how Lizzie Borden was accused in 1892 of taking
an ax and killing her father and stepmother has been
fodder for films, TV shows, a rock musical and a
child’s jump rope game. Although Borden was acquitted
of the murders, the general thinking is that she got
away with murder.
Black’s ‘The Predator’ is a snarky, gory reboot with
some ugly baggage
than once in “The Predator,” a slicked-up, snarked-out
piece of action-comedy bloodletting from the writer-director
Shane Black, the characters pause to debate whether their
enemy really deserves the name he’s been given.
review: It’s fun to watch Jennifer Garner’s return to
action, but ‘Peppermint’ is no ‘Alias’
to revive a movie star’s flagging career? Take up
guns, obviously. Following in the time-honored tradition
of “Taken,” “John Wick,” “Atomic Blonde” and
“Death Wish,” Jennifer Garner arms up in the
vigilante mom action-thriller “Peppermint.”
review: Dark, confounding ‘Kin’ defies genre
dates shouldn’t necessarily be a metric for evaluating
films, and yet, sometimes it’s the best way to
contextualize what’s going on with a movie. “Kin,”
a dark and confounding young adult thriller, written and
directed by Jonathan and Josh Baker, co-written by
Daniel Casey, is best described as a prototypical
uniquely unravels clever mystery
is hard enough to come up with a plausible mystery story
for a feature film that has enough legitimate twists and
turns to make it interesting without having to cheat on
flawed but vital milestone, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ pays
exuberant tribute to Singapore’s 1 percent
it whisks you off on the sunniest, most extravagant
Singaporean holiday imaginable, “Crazy Rich Asians”
begins on a curiously dark and stormy night. When
Eleanor Young (a mesmerizing Michelle Yeoh) arrives
dripping wet at an exclusive London hotel, the snob at
the front desk declines her booking and advises her to
stay elsewhere (“May I suggest Chinatown?”).
Meg’ review: Jason Statham overmatched by clumsy shark
“The Meg,” Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a
rescue diver who once encountered a prehistoric shark
that killed two of his buddies.
Who Dumped Me’ is so … so-so. Kate McKinnon: So good.
Spy Who Dumped Me” gets by, barely, thanks mainly to
Kate McKinnon. Her crazily fluid and unpredictable comic
timing, and her willingness to go big — well past
Madeline Kahn-big and very near Eddie Cantor-big — has
saved several movies.
Cruise delivers again in action-packed ‘Mission:
Impossible — Fallout’
Impossible — Fallout” is the perfect summer movie to
cap off July, a month where the movies in the annual
summer derby at least entertained. But
“Fallout” goes beyond mere entertainment.
‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ improve on the original?
old is shockingly, stirringly new again in “Mamma Mia!
Here We Go Again,” the rare sequel so unexpectedly
enchanting that it plays less like a rehash than a
Johnson scales the heights in the thrillingly dumb
steely structure at the heart of “Skyscraper” is
something to behold. An impeccably sculpted tower that
dwarfs everything in its path, it’s a symbol of
physical might and commercial supremacy recognized the
‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ to top the box office, continuing
Hollywood’s strong summer
once considered a superhero small fry next to such
Marvel heavyweights as the Incredible Hulk and Thor, is
poised to march atop the box office this weekend and
boost an already strong summer movie season.
World: Fallen Kingdom’ is expected to open big at the box
office, but won’t match its predecessor
Pictures and Amblin Entertainment are hoping to create
another box office monster from the DNA of the
“Jurassic Park” franchise.
is a flashy, violent and fitfully compelling remake of the
1972 blaxploitation hit
know it’s a rotten game, but it’s the only one the
Man left us to play.” With
those words, spoken by one weary drug dealer to another,
the 1972 film “Super Fly” offered up a soulful
lament to go with its moody style, fabulous clothes and
immortal Curtis Mayfield soundtrack.
caper and its consequences in true-crime saga of ‘American
of the many allures of heist movies is the clockwork
precision of seeing an audacious idea conceived and
executed according to plan.
dukes it out with superhero blockbusters for box office
a summer box office season dominated by superhero
blockbusters, a small documentary about a diminutive
crime fighter is doing big numbers in limited release.
In taking on 'Solo,'
Ehrenreich faced an unenviable task
ANGELES — Thandie Newton jokes that there might be
something off about Alden Ehrenreich — because how else
could he take on the pressure-filled role of Han Solo
with so much ease?
movies offer a mixed bag of genres
comedy, dramedy. Sci-fi and suspense. Mystery and
horror. All of these genres (and maybe more) are
represented in the dozen films summarized below, by way
of a preview of spring 2018 movies bound for area
movie one of Day-Lewis’ best
Thread,” supposedly Daniel Day-Lewis’ last movie
before the 60-year-old heads into retirement, deserves
kudos on a number of fronts.
From ingenious tale to typical sitcom
offers an ingenious concept: humans being reduced to
finger size as a means of both confronting
overpopulation and - since the new small fry get to keep
their old money - easily attaining a lavish
recalls wealthy but tightfisted Getty
Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is the richest man in
the world. In fact, he may be the richest man who’s
ever lived in the world.
J. Paul is also notoriously cheap.
Showman’ solid, if not exactly ‘La La Land’
director Michael Gracey’s feature film debut, “The
Greatest Showman,” isn’t as good as last year’s
“La La Land,” but the new musical does have songs by
“La La” Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul,
and I’m calling it a solid three-star flick.
Hour’ summarizes Dunkirk story and more
May 1940 and Winston Churchill has just berated a young
secretary on her first day of work. Great Britain’s
First Lord of the Admiralty has, according to his wife,
Clementine, “become rough and sarcastic and
overbearing and rude.”
Artist’ may shine brighter if release didn’t fall
between great films
Disaster Artist,” produced by, directed by and
starring James Franco, isn’t a bad movie.
films, family fare making screens bright
As the old saying
goes, it’s that time of the year again. Time for holiday
movies and additional family film fare.
Billboards’ adds up to a fascinating dramedy
the old movie title “10 Things I Hate About You”?
What follows is an enumeration of 10 things I like -
about writer-director Martin McDonagh’s new dramedy
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”:
is simply wonderful
is a wonderful movie: wholesome, instructive without
being preachy, engrossing the whole way through. Did I
mention the actors and their characters?
Bird’ a remarkable directorial debut
it’s curious “Lady Bird” and “LBJ” are running
in movie theaters simultaneously, it’s only “LBJ”
that concerns a character whose last name is Johnson.
Life’ documentary to stream on Amazon Prime
native Milwaukeean and Brookfield Central High School
graduate’s film will begin streaming on the Amazon
Prime subscription service Saturday
Stay put, ‘Kane’ — ‘Killing’ is no
for “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” — as is their job —
have colorfully exaggerated, calling the movie “a
sensational thriller brimming with unsettling humor and
creeping dread, steeped in Greek tragedy, existential
horror, Hitchcockian psychodrama and riveting suspense.”
Wow. Move over, “Citizen Kane.”
Project' a naturalistic gem
My wife says I’m probably the
only Disney World customer ever who hasn’t liked the
Maybe that’s why I liked “The Florida Project” so much.
Writer-director Sean Baker’s film offers a rather jaded
perspective on the amusement mecca.
of Portis’ novel likely to enjoy original ‘True Grit’
enjoyed the novel “True Grit” are likely to embrace
Henry Hathaway’s production of the same name, the first
(1969) of two Hollywood versions of Charles Portis’ novel.
Felt’ convincingly revisits Watergate era
reviews were less than stellar for the pretentiously
titled “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White
Milwaukee Film Festival redux
MILWAUKEE - The
ninth annual Milwaukee Film Festival has ended. Now it’s
postmortem time. First, the numbers.
namesake Indiana city, film ‘Columbus’ is
shots and silences. Lengthy takes, in the European
tradition. Voices audible although their sources are not
features strong language, even stronger performances
in “Stronger,” the true story of a spectator who
lost both legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, spew
language considerably stronger than necessary in an
early barroom scene.
offers ‘personal microcosm’ of film festival
Western. A big-screen blending of story and architecture. A
kids’ movie, regularly referencing the stars and moon. A
dramedy from India. A documentary considering the connection
between rodents and the city of Baltimore.
Wyle movie ‘Shot’ might be worth the sermon
might be the shortest-titled movie of 2017, but that
isn’t its only distinction. Directed, co-written and
co-produced by Jeremy Kagan (“The Chosen,” “The
Journey of Natty Gann”), “Shot” stars Noah Wyle,
Jorge Lendeborg Jr. and Sharon Leal as a trio who
constitute - as the film’s enticing tagline has it -
“three lives changed forever” by “one
Magnetic Reese Witherspoon draws focus in
romantic comedy “Home Again” represents Hallie
Meyers-Shyer’s debut as a film director. You’d be right
to contend that the 30-year-old’s inaugural effort
doesn’t quite play in the same league with “Father of
the Bride” and “Private Benjamin,”.
‘Patti Cake$’ more conventional than actually innovative
hitherto for commercials and music videos, Geremy Jasper
debuts as a feature filmmaker with a drama called “Patti
estimable critic observed that a film succeeds if it
accomplishes the filmmaker’s goals.
back to school, into movie theaters
it’s always sad to see summer go - and you can easily
verify that statement with your school-aged children -
autumn brings the annual Milwaukee Film Festival (more
about that subsequently) and usually, in tandem with the
first couple weeks of winter, a given year’s best
batch of motion pictures.
falls short of great, but registers good enough
I won’t be putting “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” on
my top 10 films list for 2017, I liked the Patrick
Hughes-helmed comedy well enough.
Bear’ original, entertaining
of “Being There” and “The Truman Show” as
an intriguing amalgam of real life and reel life (and
also a descendant of humans-who’ve-been-
-from-the-world films like “The Room” and
“Dogtooth”), “Brigsby” boasts a plot both
believable and fantastic, peopled by likable actors
portraying likable characters.
native’s ‘Ghost’ is ‘impressive’
seems Milwaukee-born and (for eight years)
Waukesha-reared filmmaker David Lowery, 36, just gets
better at his trade.
says lots with laconic script
being shown in 70mm prints in relatively few venues
across the country - among them Waukesha’s Marcus
Majestic Cinema - begins with a simple declarative
sentence displayed onscreen: “The enemy have driven
the British and French armies to the sea.”
Trip’ a perilous journey
evaluating “Girls Trip,” I’m tempted to follow
that old rule of benevolence and not say anything about
the movie because I’m hard-pressed to say anything
enjoyable after first hour
haven’t watched so many hourlong television dramas
that I’ve come to believe 60 minutes is the ideal
length for any show.
in the reality-rooted
“Maudie,” Ethan Hawke’s captivatingly
conveyed character establishes a pecking order for the
benefit of the “housemaid” he’s hired.
proves less than beguiling
redo of a 46-year-old, similarly titled Clint Eastwood
flick (which I’ve never seen), the 2017 version has
Colin Farrell in the Eastwood role, playing opposite
Driver’: a whole new genre?
choreographer, Ryan Heffington, has been quoted as
insisting “Baby Driver” is no mere musical, but
“‘a new genre É a love story with action, car
chases, violence and dance.’”
‘Megan Leavey’ a
top-flight flick —
at least for dog lovers
not likely to capture any Oscars, but “Megan Leavey”
would win hands down if there were a category for dog
lovers’ movie of the year.
not mummified, but fails to engage
start with the cast. While
I wouldn’t call the acting in Alex Kurtzman’s “The
Mummy” mummified, I’ve certainly seen more engaging movie
need to tell ‘It Comes at Night’ to ‘Get Out’
not been a lover of the horror genre and I didn’t
exactly fall in love with writer-director Trey Edward
Shults’ horror film “It Comes at Night.”
biopic is 2017’s best so far
watched an enticing movie trailer, read an impressive resume
of the movie’s writer-director, once seen an excellent
one-woman play starring legendary Julie Harris as “The
Belle of Amherst” and developed over the years a great
respect for that belle
- the innovative poet Emily Dickinson - I
expected “A Quiet Passion” to be the best 2017 film
release I’d seen to date.
humor, special effects, shades of Stevenson, fifth
‘Pirates’ nothing shabby
the fifth installment of the movie series stemming from
a Disneyland ride, unsavory Salazar and fellow escapees
from the Devil’s Triangle - ghost sailors - aim to
liquidate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), captain of the
appropriately named Dying Gull, and Sparrow’s fellow
dramedy than comedy, ‘Lovers’ is
“The Lovers” was a surprise. Its trailer had led me to
anticipate a light comedy; what I got instead was a dramedy,
means new movies - and here are 20 of ‘em
Midwesterners, summer means more sun, more leisure time -
and more movie debuts. Following are 20 films
scheduled for release between Memorial Day weekend (in one
case, the Thursday preceding that weekend) and mid-August.
Hawn keep ‘Snatched’ funny, but interesting
not sure why Amy Schumer’s character in
“Snatched,” Emily Middleton, chooses to vacation in
Ecuador rather than, say, Hawaii.
provides food for thought in fairly unappetizing plot
U.S. Rep. Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) in “The
Dinner.” Just as his bill to benefit the mentally ill
is about to be voted upon in Congress - in the midst of
his campaign for governor - an epic family crisis
deftly acted, creatively told
Israeli director Joseph Cedar’s first English-language
film, is subtitled “The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall
of a New York Fixer.”
‘Fate’ is, with apologies to Yogi, 'déjàˆ
vu all over again'
teacher friend used to veto certain student-proposed
term paper topics, reasoning that in his long career
he’d already encountered every possible argument both
for and against, say, capital punishment.
‘Gifted’ a one-trick pony
refers to 10-year-old Mckenna Grace’s character, Mary,
in the new dramedy directed by Marc Webb from a Tom
Flynn script. That word could be applied to the
diminutive actress as well, for Grace definitely steals
the show with perhaps the best performance by a preteen
I’ve seen as a movie reviewer.
recent queen movie deserves patronage
of literal and figurative queens have become something
of a big screen staple over the past six months. “Queen
of Katwe” (an unofficial designation) appeared first,
early last fall.
Village,’ pioneering Smurf film, hits theaters
once said there’s nobody sadder than the person
who’s failed to find his or her place in life.
Apparently that’s as true for computer-animated Smurfs
as it is for people.
into existence: a score of eclectic films
has sprung, as they say - the season of Easter
vacations, baseball’s rebirth and (hopefully, this
being Wisconsin) a farewell to wintry weather.
Trainspotting’ - call it inventive, call it fresh
really fresh,” I heard a guy say in a theater lobby the
other night. He might’ve been referring to any of several
movies at the multiplex, or to something else entirely. But
if he was talking about the dark comedy that was previewed -
”T2: Trainspotting” - I have to agree with him.
of Mine’ merits place among fine war films
title “Land of Mine” is a play on words. It both
summarizes the attitude of its central character, a
Danish soldier who tells German prisoners of war “This
is my country (and) you’re not welcome here,” and
suggests a plot centering on landmines in the Danish
and I’ beautifully revives cross-cultural musical
- A shimmering curtain with changing colors accompanies
the grand overture under the direction of David Aaron
Brown with all the memorable music in Richard Rodgers
and Oscar Hammerstein II’s beloved “The King and
I,” a story of culture clashes, a theme that will
probably be forever relevant.
Millie’ thoroughly enjoyable
- The winner of six Tony awards in 2002, “Thoroughly
Modern Millie,” based on an earlier movie, now playing
in Waukesha, gives us a look at what was happening in
New York City in the “Roaring Twenties.”
way more than fair with ‘My Fair Lady’
ATKINSON - The success of “My Fair Lady” hinges on
the casting of its complex main characters, Eliza
Doolittle and Henry Higgins, who must be capable of
expressing multiple emotions and capable vocalists.
- Carl Orff, a German musical composer whose works
combine music, dance and lyrics, is best known for his
“Carmina Burana,” published in 1937.
A mix of plays signals start of spring
It's easier to read a spring
preview after the recent thaw of the winter we emerged from.
Here are a few plays on the docket to cheer you.
dynamics play out dynamically in ‘Things I Know to be
- The set design by Scott Davis catches our attention as
we enter the theater. There is something fantastical
about it. The stage is dominated by a huge, unrealistic
oak tree and enhanced by three thriving rose bushes.
the rich serve as foils in ‘The Curious Savage’
GROVE - ”The Curious Savage,” now playing at The
Sunset Playhouse, takes place in The Cloisters, a home
for a group of mildly maladjusted adults
back from Vietnam travels through ‘Strange Snow’
”Strange Snow” recounts the story of how two men who
served in Vietnam transitioned back to civilian life.
talent plus comedy equal ‘Things that go Ding!’
- I was beyond amazed the first time I witnessed
“Things that go Ding!” in 2012 in the small Studio
Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center. This time
around, an expanded version is being performed in the
much bigger Cabot Theatre.
Chinese Lady’ delivers history lesson
- People who are different are often looked at with
suspicion. Because we have had little if any contact
with them, we feel that they are almost another species,
that we share no common ground. Such was the case of
Martin’s ‘The Underpants’ is over-the-top funny
- Steve Martin is considered one of the most
significant, multitalented comedians of our times.
Iowa' presented by the Falls Patio Players
all come from somewhere, and some of us will leave that
place as soon as we can, but there is always part of us
that is left behind and more often than not, we someday
realize that we also take some of our past with
us as well.
have rhythm walking away from ‘Five Guys Named Moe’
MILWAUKEE - If
anyone attending “Five Guys Named Moe,” Skylight Music
Theatre’s latest offering in the Cabot Theatre, does not
feel elated, they are hopelessly impervious to quality
a valuable glimpse at ‘80s financial shenanigans
- Money is certainly a complex and all-encompassing
topic. It is a motivator for getting training and
education, hard work, but also for stealing, cheating,
gambling and even, in some cases, killing.
51’ a revealing look into gender roles
MILWAUKEE - Human
greed and the desire for wealth, power and prestige seems to
show up everywhere - business, the entertainment industry,
politics, criminal ventures and academia.
Club’ worth a trip to Lake Country Playhouse
well-honed, clever script and a sterling cast while tucked
into the intimate little theater in Hartland, you’re in
for a delightful experience.
Murder is Announced’ sets stage for Christie mystery
GROVE - Agatha Christie always keeps us intrigued. The
mistress of mystery, she creates interesting characters,
injects some humor, and keeps us guessing until the
unpredictable revelation at the end.
Twain characters, the Mississippi spring to life in ‘River
MILWAUKEE - Mark
Twain is known for his writings about the Mississippi River,
but being the mightiest and most extensive river in North
America, it has certainly affected the lives of many.
the voices and looks of ‘Legends of Country’
ATKINSON - I have never been a huge country music fan,
though I do have several favorites, but the latest show
at the Fireside Dinner Theatre put me several steps
closer to becoming one.
Stage spreads its wings with full-out musical ‘Matilda’
MILWAUKEE - First
Stage Children’s Theatre has reached beyond its usual 75-
to 90-minute shows to produce its first full-length Broadway
it’s cold outside, the play’s the thing
When it’s cold
outside, you can always warm up in an inviting theater.
There are many interesting offerings to choose from in
the next three months.
look back at the area’s best plays in 2018
always fun to look back on the long list of shows I’ve
witnessed over the past year and re-enjoy the memories
Musical infuses pep into
'Best Christmas Pageant'
broken leg, an unexpected call to be the
director, and a surprise audition bring a good
bit of turmoil to Reverend Hopkins' little
parish school during the holiday season.
‘Merry Chris-Mess’ takes
audience on a wild ride
In Tandem Theatre has a
reputation for offering alternate shows at Christmas time.
After many years of success with the inimitable "A Cudahy
Caroler Christmas," the company has turned to a variety of
slightly or not-so-slightly bizarre holiday fare.
‘A Christmas Carol’ remains a treasure for whole family
- In its 65-year history, The Milwaukee Rep has produced
Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” 43 times.
on 34th Street’ still a charmer
- A classic story told with a new twist, “Miracle on
34th Street,” a live musical radio play, is a charmer.
in Babylon’ presents life-changing event
MILWAUKEE - What an
auspicious gathering of talent - an amazing, amusing
heartfelt script by the talented actor-director-writer
James DeVita, long associated with theater in Milwaukee
and Spring Green, a flawless cast, and an excellent
director, C. Michael Wright.
Country Playhouse sings beautiful ‘Christmas Carol’
- This is the eighth year that the lovely little theater
in Hartland has presented the musical version by Ernest
Brusubardis and Michael Koscinski of Charles Dickens’
famous “A Christmas Carol.”
rings out in ‘Christmas Belles’
ELM GROVE -
”Christmas Belles” opens at the florist shop where Miss
Geneva Musgrave (Beverly Sargent) is busily taking calls on
two phones in her business establishment.
Civic travels down ‘Candy Cane’ Lane
WAUKESHA - After
taking off a few years for a change of pace with different
shows, Waukesha Civic is back with a new version of “Candy
Cane Tales and Holiday Carols.” The seventh and revised
show is charming.
Family’ warms up the Christmas season
- It’s Dec. 24, 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor
and Roosevelt’s declaration of war.
Rep presents the comic drama 'Miss Bennet: Christmas at
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen has been a classic
favorite for more than 200 years, so it’s no wonder that
some playwrights would want to take advantage of its success
and try to imagine an extension of the story and the fate of
the five daughters that Mrs. Bennet had set her life’s
work on trying to marry off.
cranks up the volume, energy
— The strong delivery of the opening number, “Good
Morning Baltimore,” by Maisie Rose as Tracy Turnblad with
all her power, confidence and zing, sets the tone for
what’s to follow.
Dates of Christmas’ a pleasant diversion
— Most of us have probably experienced a few
heartbreaks. A relationship that doesn’t work out, the
loss of a loved friend or relative, being passed over
for the job we wanted.
and Sons’ delivers message well as a reading
MILWAUKEE - When
perusing the body of work by Terrence McNally, one has to
marvel at this playwright’s virtuosity.
presents multitalented Buddy, impressive soloist
ATKINSON - Any director who wants “Elf, The Musical”
to be a success had better choose a strong
actor-singer-dancer to play the role of Buddy.
‘All Night Strut’ brings back ‘30s, ‘40s
MILWAUKEE - For
starters, “All Night Strut” has a snappy, energized
medley of music from the 1930s and ‘40s delivered by five
Watch’ keeps up interest through the end
ALLIS - Playwright Lucille Fletcher didn’t quite
repeat the eeriness of her “Sorry Wrong Number,” but
“Night Watch” is a puzzling, engaging thriller
Civic Theatre stuns with powerful musical
- With the infamous coalminers strike in England
(1984-85) under Margaret Thatcher’s regime as
backdrop, we see two parallel stories unfold - one of
men fighting for their survival, and another of a young
boy fighting for his right to choose his own life path.
Gardens’ plucks at thorny issue
- A new young couple with a baby on the way just bought
a fixer-upper in an established older neighborhood in
the Great’ a worthy show by First Stage
MILWAUKEE - Nate
the Great, a young man devoted to solving crimes and eating
pancakes with equal fervor offers to help his friend Annie
find her lost painting of her beloved dog Fang.
‘Something Rotten!’ is anything but
- The first thing I have to say about this new musical,
“Something Rotten!” by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick
with some help from John O’Farrell, is that it is NOT
Sunset Playhouse produces a magical
ELM GROVE — During
the curtain call, which followed this marvelous production
of “Mary Poppins,” I wish the director, Nate C. Adams, had
appeared so we could have given him his well-deserved
appeal in comedy ‘My Mother’s Italian’
MILWAUKEE - An
internationally acclaimed comic star, writer and author,
Peter Fogel, delivers on Steve Solomon’s amusing “My
Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, I’m in
Therapy” in the Cabot Theatre.
of cruelty explored by The Rep
playwright Rajiv Joseph took some liberties with the
history of the building of the Taj Mahal, an awesome
architectural phenomenon in Agra, India, built by the
Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 as a tomb to honor his
favorite wife, who died delivering their 14th
Herring’ a fine catch at Lake Country
HARTLAND - Spies,
FBI agents, a determined cop, lovers and a mysterious film
hidden in a box of Velveeta -all await you at Lake Country
on a Hot Tin Roof’ proves challenging
WEST ALLIS -
”Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is an inspired name for this
Pulitzer-winning play by Tennessee Williams, where tension
and danger are palpable from the start as we meet Maggie and
Brick in their bedroom in the palatial plantation of Big
Daddy on the occasion of his 65th birthday.
Falls Patio Players hit with ‘Miss
FALLS — The Patio Players always do good work, but this
show was particularly engaging. Sherlock
Very Irish 'Mullingar' delivers
There is some danger in stereotyping, but there is also some
truth in these generalizations usually based on ethnicity,
religion, economic status or career.
'Red Herring' clearly spoofs nuclear era
MILWAUKEE - The drama of the McCarthy-Eisenhower era,
nuclear bombs, a profusion of spies and love affairs
dominate this hilarious spoof on politics, marriage and the
noir mystery genre by Michael Hollinger in his 'Red
‘Pippin’ shines ray of hope
MILWAUKEE - Most people have
aspirations of some sort, grandiose or down to earth, but
everyone is looking for meaning.
Rep takes immigration stories to new ‘Heights’
MILWAUKEE - A
combination of energy, electricity and heart characterizes
the Milwaukee Rep’s production of “In the Heights,” a
Tony favorite from 2008.
engages audience on many levels
- When I saw the playwright’s name, Christian O’Reilly,
I immediately anticipated a good script.
Bethany Thomas stunning
in Rep’s ‘Songs for Nobodies’
- A very rich narrative, beautifully scripted by Joanna
Murray-Smith and poignantly delivered by the
multitalented Bethany Thomas, left us thrilled at
Stackner’s seasonal opener, “Songs for Nobodies,”
now playing in the newly renovated cabaret theater. What
an event in every way.
American Players serve up saddening
GREEN - George Bernard Shaw had a way of poking fun at
the human race. His characters are always sympathetic
but always flawed.
‘Musical Comedy Murders’ a worthy whodunit
- Even Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie would have had
trouble unraveling these murders.
remains the one that audiences want
FORT ATKINSON - Opening in 1971
on stage and following that success in a film in 1978,
“Grease” has been a continuing hit.
classic comedic roles add up to just dessert in ‘Man Who
Came to Dinner’
ELM GROVE - They
are often called “old chestnuts,” plays that somehow
have appeal after many years. The one now playing at Sunset
was written in 1939.
performance pleasantly equal to creative script
I have learned in
the relatively short existence of All In Productions that
both their choice of plays and their execution usually pack
a memorable punch.
plays range from a new ‘Holmes’ to Cold War drama ‘Red
always something exciting when a season opens, whether
it is sports or the many theatrical arts.
of Booth family resumes with ‘In This Prison’
- When the renowned actor-director-playwright Angela
Ianonne researched the famed and troubled life of the
infamous actor Edwin Booth, she found herself fascinated
with the complexity of his life.
‘Pride & Prejudice’ issues
TOWN OF DELAFIELD
- I had so looked forward to seeing “Pride &
Prejudice” again, and having experienced the quality of
shows at SummerStage many times, I was somewhat disappointed
in the production.
figures sparkle in Milwaukee Chamber’s ‘Holmes’
- With wit, charm and a fascinating mix of fictional and
historical characters, playwright Katie Forgette weaves
together a tapestry of comedy and mystery in her
“Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily.
Yesterday’ tackles several American issues
MILWAUKEE - After
a peaceful drive through southwestern Wisconsin, one comes
upon the picturesque setting where American Players Theatre
is located with its two theaters, The Hill and The
Touchstone, winding paths, picnic tables and grills, lovely
gift shops, and lots of wildflowers.
Carats’ shines light on relationships
has been a long time since I’ve attended one of the
former Wauwatosa Players productions, a company now
renaming itself as The Village Playhouse.
tension tightens in ‘Blood Knot’
SPRING GREEN -
Two brothers live in a cramped space in Port Elizabeth,
South Africa, in the years of Apartheid. As one experiences
their life together, one feels tense and trapped.
Little Mermaid’ a hit across the board
- In “The Little Mermaid” two worlds clash, and as
sometimes happens, love and acceptance of differences
bring about a happy ending.
cast nicely details ‘Trip to Bountiful’
OF DELAFIELD - Rain did not deter a few hearty patrons
and an inspired cast to complete a poignant rendition of
“A Trip to Bountiful” at SummerStage on Saturday
‘Evita’ strong in energy,
lacks quality sound
MILWAUKEE - Eva Peron has been immortalized for her brief,
checkered, influential life. She is regarded as a saint, a
devil, a phony or a sincere lover of the common people.
Despite era, ‘The
Children’s Hour’ still applies
MILWAUKEE - A rumor, if believed, can be an ugly thing. It
can ruin lives forever even when the rumor is proven to be
untrue. Suspicions always linger; reputations are hard to
spotlights Mel Brooks’ comic musical
GROVE - The present production of the award-winning
musical “The Producers” proves once again that
musicals with the right ingredients never die,
especially when well-executed.
Street’ takes many twists, turns
MEQUON - J. M.
Barrie, a Scottish writer of many books and plays, is
remembered almost exclusively for his creation of Peter Pan.
Theatre pours on powerful ‘King Lear’
- The Optimist Theatre brings us its annual production
of Shakespeare, this year featuring a searing rendition
of “King Lear,” with its themes of greed and cruelty
engaging ‘First Date’
Meeting a stranger can be an uncomfortable, awkward event.
One senses that it’s really a mutual assessment process,
which is about as much fun as being interviewed for a job.
night of celebration, recognition
- In two short years, the Footlights People’s Choice
Awards night has become a barometer and celebration of
theater in the Greater Milwaukee area.
‘American in Paris’
blends fluidly together
— “Fluid” is the first word that comes to mind in
reviewing “An American in Paris,” the
multi-award-winning musical that was revived in 2015.
message of ‘Tartuffe’ still rings true
a renowned French satirist, liked to use his wit to
expose hypocrisy. In
“Tartuffe,” probably his most famous comedy, he also
takes a shot at gullibility.
Church Ladies serve a fine ‘Second Helping’
FORT ATKINSON -
The Church Basement Ladies are back to give us a second
helping with their unique mix of humor and sentiment as they
adjust to the many changes inherent in the Sixties
‘Father Know Best’?
- I don’t know how young people will relate to
“Father Knows Best,” a popular TV show in the 1950s,
featuring the Anderson family, because times have
changed so much from its time frame, but there will
always be families and their inevitable conflicts and
schemes, acquaintances add up in ‘Any Number Can Die’
ELM GROVE - The
spoof on mysteries now being staged at Sunset Playhouse has
theater mix covers musicals, mysteries, Shakespeare
professional theaters close in May, but there is still
plenty of live theater to take advantage of, including
the nine plays being presented at The American Players
in Spring Green. Here’s a taste of what’s on the
brings across ‘Urinetown’ satirical points
- After the first few minutes, one quickly realizes that
this show with the rather surprising name of
“Urinetown” is a spoof on musicals but also a show
with a serious theme.
Country puts on a fine ‘Unnecessary Farce’
Somehow set designer Ron Ehrlich and company managed to
construct two adjoining motel rooms and a multitude of doors
on the tiny stage at Lake Country Playhouse.
Stage picked a bit of a stinker with story
- First Stage Children’s Theater has brought us many
stellar productions over the years. “Judy Moody and
Stink - the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt” pales by
comparison due chiefly to the story.
sticks as a much-loved musical
- It is hard to put your finger on the reason for the
incredible success of “The Fantasticks,” which broke
the record for longest-running show in Greenwich Village
in New York, but it has certainly charmed and continues
to charm many.
Theatre adroitly conducts ‘Celebration’ of life
MILWAUKEE - It is
rare to see two musicals by the same creative team in the
thriller ‘Wait Until Dark’ keeps audience in suspense
- We can probably all name the films that scared us the
Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ is well-staged fun
fluff about living a charmed life
MILWAUKEE - ”A
Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” has won its share
of accolades since entering the Broadway musical track in
‘Anything Goes’ a tribute to community theater
MENOMONEE FALLS -
“Anything goes” suggests carelessness, a lack of
This phrase was certainly not the motto for those assembling
the Falls Patio Players’ cast of “Anything Goes”.
Chamber Theatre beautifully executes 'Doubt'
- Doubt can be a very uncomfortable place to be, but
also a very healthy one at times.
It forces us to think things through and often
prevents snap judgments.
Dress for Dinner’ serves up plenty of laughs, good cast
ELM GROVE - Marc
Camoletti, also known for his hilarious “Boeing Boeing,”
updated a 233-year-old French farce in his “Don’t Dress
for Dinner,” now playing at Sunset Playhouse
Lutheran College presents 'Ring Around The Moon'
Christopher Fry’s translation of Jean Anouilh’s farcical
comedy of manners, “Ring Round the Moon,” is delighting
audiences at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Town’ captures the profound in everyday life
Town,” one of my all-time favorite plays, was penned
by a Wisconsin native, Thornton Wilder, whose classic
story has enjoyed immense success, having been
translated into 70 languages, made into a film and a TV
production, and attracted such stars as Paul Newman, Hal
Holbrook and Frank Sinatra to star in it.
Street’ strengths on full display at Fireside
ATKINSON - The musical “42nd Street” by Harry Warren
(music), Al Dubin (lyrics), and Michael Stewart and Mark
Bramble (book) has had a long successful history since its
inception as a film in 1933.
Girls’ gives plenty to think about on gender issues
- Gender disparity is an issue that has emerged once
again as a hot topic.
Renaissance Theaterworks’ present production of
“Top Girls,” under the direction of Suzan Fete,
gives us an unusual take on the subject.
and You’ delves skillfully into the lives of teens, Walt
Lauren Gunderson, the most produced living playwright in
America, has delivered up a gem in “I and You,”
presently playing at Next Act Theatre, a company that has
the reputation of staging thought-provoking dramas.
of Madison County’ is a don’t-miss musical
HARTLAND - Many
of us enjoyed the beloved movie “The Bridges of Madison
County,” starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.
Cline’ is fine, but it could have used more backstory
- Patsy Cline, in a little more than a decade of
performing, was topping the charts when her life was
suddenly aborted by an untimely plane crash. She was a
mere 30 years old.
Greek tragedy told with some interesting twists
WAUKESHA - Myths
and fairy tales often deal with the themes of life and
death, good and evil, love and hate, and since they are not
copyrighted works, fictional writers can put their own spin
Awesome, powerful only begin to describe touring ‘Les
— Since its Broadway debut in 1987, “Les Miserables,”
the musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, has
toured the world, won more than 100 awards, been
translated into 22 languages, and delighted over 130
million people, including those of us at the Marcus
Center opening night.
One-woman show, many viewpoints
Will we ever know exactly what transpired between Michael
Brown and Officer Watson on Aug. 19, 2014, before Officer
Watson fired 12 shots and killed the unarmed young man?
tale of the Holocaust from one family’s perspective
- The Holocaust and its ramifications affected Jews and
non-Jews in many countries.
of Hoffman’ a musical masterpiece
MILWAUKEE - Under
the masterful touch of Skylight Music Theatre director Jill
Anna Ponasik and a score of creative musical artists and
talented artisans, “The Tales of Hoffmann” opens with a
sassy series of announcements sung by Jean Broekhuizen.