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
somewhat empty as comedy’s
only as funny as its material
19” is a comedy, but it’s not a very funny
film. That’s the fault of the screenplay
(brothers Jay and Mark Duplass), I think, not the
potential acting Oscar for Oyelowo?
Oyelowo may not get a best actor Oscar for “A United
Kingdom,” but his work in Amma Asante’s latest film
will likely move Oyelowo a step or two closer to the
Turtle’ a good thing that abounds in the rule of threes
things come in groups of three,” our English
composition teacher told us 40-odd years back, when we
were college freshmen. I doubt whether the Dutch-born
director Michael Dudok de Wit had the same teacher, but
maybe he received the same advice.
‘Paterson’ antithesis of ‘Fifty Shades’ sequel
are two sides to every story. The gentle - and
puzzlingly R-rated - dramedy “Paterson,” complete
with a twins motif (identical twins of both genders and
various ages appear in cameos throughout), bears that
once more to test your Oscars knowledge
With the 89th
annual Academy Awards gala on the horizon, it’s time again
for what’s become our yearly Oscar quiz. Questions address
happenings 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 25, 20 and 10 years ago.
Hopefully they’ll get you in a Jimmy Kimmel, red-carpet
mood for Sunday night. Good luck!
of ‘Wick’ goes long way, while
lots of ‘Toni’ is welcome
one of the unlikelier circumstances attached to an
extremely unlikely movie, the title character of “John
Wick: Chapter 2,” played with little range but lots of
athleticism by Keanu Reeves, is summoned from retirement
to make good on an old blood oath and function again as
a hit man.
more than a week out, it’s fun to predict winners
As an outsider
(even as an insider, for that matter) one can never be sure
how the Hollywood crowd will vote in the annual Academy
film ‘Julieta’ proves to be a guilty pleasure
(pronounced “hool-YET-ah”), a Spanish movie with
English subtitles helmed by Oscar honoree Pedro
Almodovar, has a lot to do with guilt: assuming and
assessing guilt, attempting to assuage guilt, the
advancement of guilt from generation to generation.
‘A Dog’s Purpose’ less
guilty of audience cruelty than ‘Comedian’
of animal cruelty (denied by its director Lasse
Hallstrom, its star Dennis Quaid and others) have been
leveled against Hallstrom’s “A Dog’s Purpose.” My major
concern as a critic is whether a film is guilty of
audience cruelty - and “A Dog’s Purpose” is not.
flick starring Bening evokes Scorsese’s ‘Alice’
Mother-and-son movies are
relatively rare. There’s Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” of
course (a mother-son flick after a fashion).
Saroo torn between two of this, two of that in ‘Lion’
the old song “Torn Between Two Lovers”? In
“Lion,” Dev Patel’s character is torn between two
continents, two cultures, two families - “two
different worlds,” in words from another erstwhile
Figures,’ ‘Fences’ come out as
signposts of African-American experience
often nowadays can it be said about a movie that
there’s virtually nothing objectionable in it and yet
that it’s both entertaining and insightful?
‘Sing,’ ‘Manchester’: good, better, best
virtuoso performance would be reason enough to see the
Kenneth Lonergan-written and -directed drama “Manchester
by the Sea.”
La Land’ marks musical return; Natalie P mesmerizes as
for a movie with inoffensive dialogue and without nudity
and violence? An old-fashioned love story with
old-fashioned content, like footage from “Rebel
Without a Cause” and an homage to Gene Kelly in
“Singin’ in the Rain”?
means movies - here are 12 to consider
movies is a time-honored method of coping with the
winter doldrums. And so, with a new winter just about
ready to make its appearance, we offer a dozen films
scheduled for frigid-season premieres that sound promising
(or look promising - I’ve taken in a few of them at
advance press screenings).
ratings for pair of Amy Adams films
violent and it’s sad and he called it ‘Nocturnal
Animals.’” Amy Adams, as the literally
somnambulistic, admittedly unhappy art gallery owner
Susan Morrow, speaks those words regarding a book her
ex-husband has written.
memorable; ‘Bad Santa’? Forget it!
is the story of a superhuman quest, involving an amulet,
a goddess, turbulent waters and the salvation of an
island, undertaken by a human adolescent - Moana (voice
of Auli’i Cravalho) - ill-prepared to cope with all of
words for boxing biopic, fantasy film
for This” is the stranger-than-fiction story of Vinny
Pazienza, who broke his neck and nearly died in a car
managed to resume his boxing career.
time for the turkeys
let’s mark Turkey Day by revisiting what may be the
biggest movie turkeys of 2016. I realize the year still has
five-plus weeks to go, and also realize I haven’t seen
every movie released during 2016’s first 11 months.
Huntress’ and ‘Doctor’ electrify; ‘Almost
Christmas’ not as stimulating
negative observation on “The Eagle Huntress”: the
Mongolia-set movie’s yellow subtitles are difficult to
read against light backgrounds.
‘Moonlight’ shines; ‘Hacksaw’ a cut above
is a form of literature - so maybe the names Scorsese
and Spielberg will someday join Dylan on the roster of
U.S. literary Nobel Prize winners. In any case, we’ve
all heard (probably from some high school English
teacher justifying including “The Scarlet Letter” or
“Silas Marner” on a syllabus) that excellent literature
need not be synonymous with entertainment.
‘Trolls’ excellent; spy comedy ‘Keeping Up’
is, in part, an animated 3-D variation on the Cinderella
story, with equivalents of the heroine and her glass
slipper, Prince Charming and his palace, the wicked
stepmother, and the fairy godmother.
‘Kevin Hart,’ ‘Chronic’ a mixed bag
Western has experienced a resurgence in the last year or
so. Perhaps “The Girl on the Train” signals it’s
now the whodunit’s turn.
switching doesn’t make horse sense in new ‘Birth’
recall my high school Latin teacher’s repeating the
old admonition, "Don’t change horses in the
middle of a stream.
fit for king
- The elements that comprise “Deepwater Horizon” blend
wonderfully, like the players in a talented orchestra.
Those elements include cinematography (an amalgam here
of emotion-oozing extreme close-ups, cinéma vérité and plenty of quick takes paralleling the
chaos aboard the titular oil rig
remake magnificent; ‘Snowden’ good as well
off the bat I’ll give in to temptation and say “The
Magnificent Seven” (a remake of the similarly titled
1960 flick, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s
“Seven Samurai” from 1954) is a magnificent motion
two other films at festival
Film Festival’s opening weekend including screenings of
“Slenderman,” as well as a newspaper documentary and a
story of romance from France.
get old, but some sequels succeed
“Gypsy” composer Stephen Sondheim insisted
“you’ve gotta have a gimmick,” moviemakers need to
realize gimmicks go out of style. Its “found
footage” gimmick made “The Blair Witch Project” a
big-screen hit in 1999.
A deeper disaster travel film
We’ve seen this
before from Tom Hanks: a disaster during travel. Remember
“Apollo 13?” How about “Castaway?”
‘Sea of Trees’ hit emotional notes
Hollars” is part tearjerker, part zany comedy, part
paean to that wonderful and wild institution we call
somewhat brighter than ‘The Light’
pleasurable to view a preponderance of commendable
characters on a movie screen, especially in these
skeptical and self-centered times.
book adaptation both outstanding
as much in awe as the next critic of Meryl Streep’s
accomplishments, including record numbers of Golden
Globe and Oscar nominations.
more delectable than ‘Sausage’
of the expression “local boy makes good” is on
display at area movie theaters. David Lowery, who was
born in Milwaukee and did some of his growing up in
Waukesha, is director and co-screenwriter of “Pete’s
Dragon,” a solid 3-D Disney remake of a 1977
animated/live action picture by the same name, also by
Society’ Allen’s best since ‘Blue Jasmine’
as cynical” as previous Woody Allen pictures, offered
an audience member at “Cafe Society” last week.
don’t know about that.
‘Bourne’ ultimately turn out to be disappointing
concerns a faux cultural phenomenon: teenagers choosing to
watch online, or actually play, a game on the order of Truth
or Dare. In this ongoing competition known as Nerve,
however, there are only dares. People pay to play, and to
not quite ‘fabulous;’ ‘Equals’ sci fi movie
a relatively recent trend, the comedic “Absolutely
Fabulous: The Movie” is based on an award-winning BBC
‘Wilderpeople’ delightfully quirky
“Hunt for the
Wilderpeople,” based on a book by Barry Crump, is a
delightful dramedy from New Zealand with a quirky cast of
characters. iker: Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby).
Life of Pets’ funny twist on old cliché
about everyone is familiar with the cliché “While the
cat’s away, the mice will play.” The plot of a new
animated feature from the folks responsible for the
“Despicable Me” movies might be summarized a wee bit
differently: “While the owners are away, the cats will
5 films for 2016 easy to rate, so far
Choosing my top
five films of the year’s first half isn’t a daunting
task, as the highest rating I gave
— 3 1/2 (out of 4) stars
— went to exactly five 2016 movies.
preferable to ribald comedy
horror with politics, as “Purge: Election Year” does,
may not be an original movie idea. But the more sarcastic
among us will contend that, given the parade of presidential
aspirants we’ve witnessed in the past year, the idea is at
least an appropriate one.
plain magical; ‘Swiss Army Man’ displays ‘magical
The phrase “winning
combination” applies to “The BFG,” a Disney 3D film
based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 book. “The BFG” (for Big
Friendly Giant) brings together children’s author Dahl (“Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory”), who was something of a giant
himself at 6-foot-6, director Steven Spielberg, composer
John Williams, Oscar-winning production designer Rick Carter
and Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
Disney fish story, is fine family fare
a fishy film, computer-animated “Finding Dory,” deals
with a blue-tang title character.
character, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, suffers from
short-term memory loss and has become separated
from her loving parents, Jenny and Charlie (voices of
Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy).
controversial film’ debuts Friday
this weekend: a documentary its publicists are
trumpeting as “the most controversial film in America”
and “the film they don’t want you to see.”
a bit to see in ‘Now You See Me 2’
“Now You See Me 2” isn’t quite the movie that has
do ‘Popstar’ and Lonely Island fare?
take The Three Stooges, if you please. I finished watching
The Lonely Island comedy trio in “Popstar: Never Stop
Never Stopping” just an hour ago.
subject, ‘Dark Horse’ likely to please
Osmond found the true story of a horse and his unlikely
owners “a wonderful mash of genres, part classic British
‘Billy Elliot’/’Full Monty’ underdog tale, part
‘Lavender Hill Mob’ caper (and part) ‘Rocky.’”
to be said for new ‘Neighbors’
little else can be said for recent movies starring the
talented but misguided Seth Rogen, a case can at least be
made for their ecumenism. Last year’s awful Christmas
flick, “The Night Before,” used Catholic midnight Mass
as a springboard for Rogen’s tasteless humor.
a long two hours; still has quality, appeal
Lobster’s” mundane opening scene, of a woman motoring
through the rain, arguably runs too long. But then, the
scene accurately foreshadows the movie as a whole. It, too,
seems overly long at times.
Birds Movie’ does indeed have silver lining
above song excerpt is, more or less, how “The Angry Birds
Movie” begins. The lyrics are from “Friends,” a ditty
written and performed by Blake Shelton.
summer movies add to franchises
been sending the titles of, and additional information
about, their summer films. Following are summaries of 15
movies slated to debut between Friday and the end of
September, although dates should be regarded as tentative.
‘Meddler’ still has quality, appeal
Meddler,” written and directed by Lorene Scafaria
(“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”), certainly
falls short of perfection.
Day’ best way to spend Mother’s Day?
in preparing to write a movie review, I find myself ignoring
the studio-produced press notes. In the case of Garry
Marshall’s “Mother’s Day,” however, I’ve elected
to read what the publicists had to say.
& Nixon’ revisit poignantly funny, but ‘Adderall
unthinkable Kevin Spacey would forsake screen acting.
However, if the unthinkable ever became actual, Spacey -
based on his spot-on rendition of Richard Nixon in “Elvis
& Nixon” - could easily earn his livelihood as an
‘Criminal’ is mixed while ‘Miles’ may, or may not,
as “the story of the right man in the wrong body,” Ariel
Vromen’s “Criminal” is a mixed bag. Positives about
the espionage-sci-fi flick include excellent pacing, the
curious ability to compel viewers to empathize with a
character who himself has no empathy, and a cast featuring
Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones - a trio that
first worked together 25 years ago on Oliver Stone’s “JFK.”
‘Jungle Book’ revisits 50-year-old cartoon
magic of Disney combines - once again - with the creativity
of Kipling to create “The Jungle Book” on screen.
Producer-director Jon Favreau’s version is a live
action/computer-generated retooling, in 3-D, of the animated
“Jungle Book” from 1967.
not up to last two McCarthy films
McCarthy is a gifted comedian, a talented actress.
there’s also the raunchiness factor with her movies.
Vincent” with Bill Murray two years back was an exception
and McCarthy delivered an excellent performance.
Wedding 2’: year’s No. 1 comedy
taken Hollywood 14 years to come up with a sequel to “My
Big Fat Greek Wedding.” So, was “My Big Fat Greek
Wedding 2” worth the wait? I’m not sure. I saw bits and
pieces of the first installment after it moved from big
screen to television screen, but I remember very little
about it. What I do know is that I found “2” enjoyable
from start to finish.
comedy ‘Bronze’ has golden moments
Bronze,” which stars Melissa Rauch, is occasionally
surprising, occasionally predictable. Take that to
mean the movie is contradictory, if you will.
effort highlights ‘Whiskey’
yeoman’s job by star Tina Fey highlights “Whiskey Tango
Foxtrot,” a dramedy based on Kim Barker’s book, “The
Taliban Shuffle,” about her days as a war correspondent in
better than it sounded
Young Messiah” didn’t sound too promising. SeveraI weeks
ago I received notification of the new film that described
it in part as “the inspiring story of seven-year-old Jesus
Christ and his family.”
for Oscar predictions - and lamentations
annual Academy Awards gala is nearly upon us. With the
nominees chosen, it’s time for predicting the winners -
and lamenting others who’ve been left out of the race.
soars; ‘Witch’ less than beguiling
film” is the cliché I thought of as I watched “Eddie
the Eagle,” a pleasant flick about bona fide Olympic skier
kudos for ‘Lady,’ ‘Deadpool’
narrator of “The Lady in the Van,” author Alan Bennett
(Alex Jennings) describes the title character (Maggie Smith)
with a barrage of awful adjectives: “bigoted,
cantankerous, devious, unforgiving, self-serving, rank and
of Saul’ finer than ‘Finest’
Hollywood presented rookie of the year awards, the Hungarian
Laszlo Nemes would definitely be in contention.
Unfortunately for the 38-year-old “Son of Saul”
director, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay, the
rookie award remains a baseball phenomenon.
captivates, but whither goes ‘Mojave’?
and directed by William Monahan (“The Departed”),
“Mojave” stars Oscar Isaac, who’s become quite the
prolific performer (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,”
“Ex Machina” and “A Most Violent Year”).
Along 2’ nothing special, but then again ...
Along 2” is nothing special, particularly when compared to
truly outstanding movies playing locally like “The
Revenant” and “The Force Awakens.” Then again, the
comedic “Ride Along 2” is infinitely better than the
tasteless Christmas comedy “The Night Before” and
certainly no worse than M.
forward to cinema’s spring
distributors - Broad Green Pictures, A24 Films, Lionsgate,
Sony Pictures Classics and Universal Pictures - have
released titles, and descriptions thereof, for the spring.
a Western ‘painfully realistic’
Revenant” is a
painfully realistic pre-Civil War Western with incongruously
was a great year at the movies
been an excellent year for motion pictures. Interestingly,
most of the ones I’ve liked best - the top six of my top
10 - are reality-based.
is a different but good gridiron movie
is a different sort of football film, one concerned with
debilitating head injuries that have too frequently spelled
death for ex-NFL players. It’s a movie with inventive
director Russell helms
‘Joy’ to behold
O. Russell’s new movie “Joy” is a tantalizingly quirky
comedy in the tradition of his 2013 ABSCAM-based endeavor
VII good, just not great
A friend hit the
nail on the head when he predicted the seventh film in the
“Star Wars” series “will be a good movie, (but)
won’t be great.”
VII’ awakens new hope
Buchholtz didn’t care for the last three “Star Wars”
movies. In an interview, the Bay View resident summarized
those prequels as “poorly acted, poorly written, not very
well thought-out.” He added that “Episode I: The Phantom
Menace” (1999), “Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
(2002) and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (2005)
each “came off more like a video game than a movie.”
inspirational, if not cutting-edge
may be that Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun revered for her
work among India’s impoverished and the subject of the
newly released biopic “The Letters,” was from the day
she joined the Sisters of Loreto at age 18 a saintly
personage - chaste and obedient in accordance with the vows
nuns take, prayerful, other-centered.
harsh ‘Night Before’ assessment proves accurate
after a screening of “The Night Before,” I heard a woman
comment, “I just wasted an hour and 45 minutes of my life
that I’ll never get back again.”
drama’s heart in right place … or places
Home is where the
heart is. But can the heart be in two places at once? That
seems to be the basic question John Crowley’s
“Brooklyn,” based on a novel by Colm Toibin, is
up to ‘President’s Men’
but ‘My All American’ no ‘Rudy’
it takes a village to raise a child,
an attorney for clerical sex abuse victims in the
takes a village to abuse one.
has superior production values,
but ‘Suffragette’ is superior film
good as Carey Mulligan was as “Far From the Madding
Crowd’s” leading lady last spring, the English actress
is even better as a pre-World War I women’s rights
activist in “Suffragette.
fascinating, if not flawless
“Room” is a
well-cast movie, with emotionally wide-ranging performances
by Brie Larson (also very good in the recent “Trainwreck”)
and 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay (truly remarkable). Both
actors could get Academy Award nominations, as could “Room’s”
Irish director, Lenny Abrahamson.
be told, Redford’s Rather credible
one of “Truth’s” final scenes, Robert Redford as Dan
Rather is cheered by a roomful of co-workers after signing
off for the last time as “CBS Evening News” anchorman.
While applauding Rather, the
other actors could also have been applauding Redford, who,
made up to resemble the newscaster, deserves kudos for
capturing Rather’s voice and mannerisms in an
appropriately low-key performance.
‘Goosebumps’ a bumpy ride,
but Spielberg’s ‘Bridge’ worth negotiating
outsized monsters and a militia of evil-intentioned garden
gnomes, the most interesting subjects in “Goosebumps”
are human: three pretty sensible kids and a couple of kooky
Home’ is great, but not in today’s 3-D adventure sense
Home” is an extraordinary film, but it’s hardly a bells
and whistles film. Cops and a criminal may be at its center,
but this Chinese movie with English subtitles and a 20th
century time frame is no action-adventure picture, no
breakneck-paced police procedural with bullet-dodging or
madcap driving or other acts of derring-do.
‘The Walk’ another fine fall flick
my review a week ago, I exulted that several good movies had
accompanied our new autumn movies like that review’s 3
1/2-star subject, “The
Martian.” Ridley Scott’s sci-fi adventure may or may not
have been the best release since Labor Day; now, however, as
quickly as it burst upon the scene,
“The Martian” has been overshadowed by Robert
Scott’s ‘Martian’ looks to be among better autumn crop
End of the Tour.” “Grandma.” And now, “The
Martian.” History does seem to repeat itself: Autumn
approaches; a better crop of feature films emerges.
latest: One ‘Visit’ you need not make
the list of places you need not visit, feel free to add
theaters showing “The Visit,” M. Night Shyamalan’s
terrific as ‘Grandma’
you wish you had
may not be a technical trailblazer, but “Grandma” is a
terrific motion picture: unfailingly amusing, poignant, very
capably acted, a thorough - and thoroughly captivating -
story in 79 short minutes.
‘Walk’ should take a hike
Redford’s latest movie, “A Walk in the Woods,” has
been done before, more or less, and done better. The
previous rendition occurred last year, a drama with Reese
Witherspoon and Laura Dern instead of a comedy starring the
less impressive duo of Redford and Nick Nolte.
screen keeps it real this fall
If reboots have
figured prominently in this summer’s cinematic landscape,
the fall season promises to place emphasis on movie art
retread 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' passes muster as feature film
I’ll add my thumb to those already thrust in the air in
support of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” Guy Ritchie’s
feature film based on the old TV series with the same
movie anything but dull
proposing David Foster Wallace, late author of the
well-regarded novel “Infinite Jest” and subject of the
feature film “The End of the Tour,” for canonization.
films take two societal glimpse set in San Francisco, Ireland
It’s 1976. Patty Hearst,
seen on a TV clip in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” is big
news this Bicentennial year while Watergate has apparently been
truth stranger than fiction
Crystal Moselle’s “The Wolfpack” concerns a most
unusual family: the Angulo brood of seven children, all but
the youngest of them males, their Peruvian papa, Oscar, and
their mother, Susanne, of Midwestern farm stock.
Man,’ ‘Pixels’ revisit Dostoyevsky, Pac-Man
“Irrational Man” begins as a potential revisiting of “Educating
Rita” with Joaquin Phoenix in the Michael Caine role. It
becomes an updated screen version of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime
and Punishment” with Phoenix as above-the-law Raskolnikov.
a misnomer for Schumer movie?
through Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck,” a character is
denounced as universally offensive but then immediately
lauded as likable, everybody’s favorite person.
is hell' theme dominates 'Testament of Youth'
of Youth,” based on an autobiography by the same title,
begins on Armistice Day, 1918. World War I, the inaccurately
dubbed “war to end all wars,” is over and there is
jubilation on the streets.
'Me and Earl' definitely worthwhile
find myself wondering whether it’s merely coincidental
that “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” the
movie based on Jesse Andrews’ novel, takes place in
'Max' isn't 'Mad,' dog story has positives
a clarification. “Max,” from “Remember the Titans”
director Boaz Yakin, is not to be confused with another new
movie, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Max: Fury Road” has been applauded by critics. “Max,”
although not without positives, is ultimately a middling
offers a lot of hilarity and a bit of bawdiness
latest Melissa McCarthy movie, at first looks and sounds
like a James Bond film, with handsome Jude Law in the Bond
role and a song remindful of “Goldfinger” playing as the
aside, 'Aloha' leaves little to capture the
first film since 2011 from writer-director Cameron Crowe (“Almost
Famous,” “Jerry Maguire”), has met with considerable
public grousing due to, among other things, its allegedly
disproportionate amount of Anglos for a Hawaii-set
Perfect 2' strikes several sour notes
I don’t know
that I’ve seen a theater empty quite as quickly as the one
where I watched “Pitch Perfect 2” the other day.
future could have used a lot more laughs
including the one played by George Clooney in a new Disney
extravaganza, could’ve chosen to heed the biblical
recommendation ”do not worry about tomorrow.”
Crowd' packed with performances in a beautiful film
Like Shakespeare and Dickens,
Thomas Hardy is an oft-filmed British writer. Movies have
been made of Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure,” “Tess of
the d’Urbervilles,” “The Mayor of Casterbridge” and
now, for the second time, “Far from the Madding Crowd.”
Story' is actually two stories -
and both have been better told
The movie “True
Story,” like the 2005 book on which it’s based, is
actually two stories. One concerns Michael Finkel’s
reporter job loss. The second, and larger, story deals with
Finkel’s identity loss to a man accused of murdering his
wife and three children.
can't sing in 'Collins,' Isaac
can dance in 'Machina' but both can act
I really liked
“Danny Collins,” despite some implausibilities. Agile
and captivating, the picture stars Al Pacino - still capable
of commanding the screen - as a pop singer who receives a
letter, waylaid for 40-plus years, from John Lennon.
worth 1,000 words, 'Woman' good as gold
That old adage
“One picture is worth 1,000 words” rings true, time and
again, in the documentary “The Salt of the Earth.”
'Home' has endearing hero, J. Lo songs, memorable messages
the company responsible for the “Shrek,” “Madagascar”
and “How to Train Your Dragon” series, comes another
example of stellar computer animation.
of Doubt' pits spin
doctors vs. climatologists
If, based on our
last two Wisconsin winters, you’ve decided global warming
is a myth, the new documentary “Merchants of Doubt”
might just change your mind.
captures turbulent Belfast on many levels
nighttime footage and daytime scenes of a dark nature; evil
characters and good ones whose largesse stops slightly short
of heroism; long
takes and a relatively - and appropriately - skimpy musical
score in which a drum figures prominently.
'Red' than dead
went from playing schoolboy hockey with flattened cans for
pucks to captaining what some considered the best hockey
team on earth, to building leagues and arenas - plus
bringing the 2014 Olympic Games to Sochi - as Russian
President Vladimir Putin’s minister of sport
'Leviathan' Worth Your Time
the Russian movie “Leviathan” in the worthwhile viewing
isn’t light fare, isn’t a happy story (it’s a drama
devoid of comic relief), but the subtitled “Leviathan”
is well-acted, well-directed, well-photographed and
definitely capable of holding an onlooker’s attention for
its two-plus hours.
likely to parallel Golden Globes
WAUKESHA - The
prediction here is that Academy Awards night Feb. 22 won’t
yield many surprises - at least not in the prominent
categories of leading and supporting actor and actress,
director and motion picture.
Year' tantalizingly cryptic
WAUKESHA - Tantalizingly cryptic.
That adverb-adjective combination came to mind as a
description of composer Alex Ebert’s jazzy-solemn score
for “A Most Violent Year.”
'4' movie buffs to
brush up on Oscar history
WAUKESHA - Now
that the Golden Globe Awards have been distributed, it’s
time to turn our attention to the Oscars.
‘Selma’: How far have we come?
WAUKESHA - “Selma,” the formidable screen story of the
Martin Luther King Jr.-led civil rights march between Selma
and Montgomery, Ala., in 1965, virtually ends with a rap
number called “Glory.”
'Foxcatcher' among 2014's best films
WAUKESHA - Terrifying pipsqueak may be an oxymoron, but it
also seems a spot-on description of John du Pont - or least
the du Pont portrayed by Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher.”
Cabbie' mostly drives the wrong way
- Cast an engaging actor (Vinay Virmani) as the lead in your
comedic flick and a lovely actress (Adrianne Palicki) as his
significant other. Surround the pair with cartoonish
relatives and buffoonish current and former friends.
offers enough for animation fans
WAUKESHA - “Penguins
of Madagascar” opens on a snowy scene - a meandering march
(or should I say wintry waddle?) of the titular creatures,
who are generally unconcerned about an egg hatching in their
stunningly opens murder-mystery season
MILWAUKEE - Most
people love a good murder mystery.
Certain ones stand out as classics. Who can forget
“Sleuth” or “Dial M for Murder” or “Wait Until
Dark”? Agatha Christie alone has written many
Upon A Mattress’ a delightful summer play for
- Lake Country Playhouse attracts many young people in the summer to
participate in workshops on acting and all aspects of theater.
Basement Ladies’ mixes up Midwestern humor with the ‘60s
ATKINSON - In “Church Basement Ladies,” a homey, Midwestern musical set in
the 1960s, we find ourselves in the kitchen basement of a small Lutheran church
in Cornucopia, Minn.
WAP takes on intensity of
‘Jesus Christ Superstar’
— For a community theater to tackle the immensity and intensity of Andrew
Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s rock musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” is
Stage presents 'Present Laughter'
“Present Laughter” runs at
SummerStage in Lapham Peak State Park through August 4.
Performances at 7:30 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Women’ humorously meanders at Alchemist
- There are times when reviewers are stumped for words after seeing a play.
This is one of them for me.
Other Love’ an engaging look at activist Dorothy Day
MEQUON - Part of
Dorothy Day’s fascinating story is captured in the play
“This Other Love” by Patty McCarty.
Dolly!’ back where it belongs at Sunset
ELM GROVE -
Occasionally a given role and a specific actor are a perfect
fit. This is certainly the case in the present production of
“Hello, Dolly!” at Sunset Playhouse
‘Much Ado’ best in memory with Shakespeare at the Peck
- The Optimist Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park could be called Shakespeare
in the Peck this year. This year’s venue is lovely and very accessible.
of ‘1776’ remains relevant
HARTLAND - It’s
that time of year when most of us give some thought to the
founding of our country.
grad’s production of ‘Bare’ lays bare issues facing
- Ryan Albrechtson, an alumnus of Carroll University in Waukesha, started his
own theater in 2014, and since then has managed to keep it alive with some very
to the 50s’ latest in Fireside’s successful musical
ATKINSON - ”Back to the 50s” is the third show at the Fireside featuring a
decade of the most popular or most groundbreaking
music. Previous hit shows on the ‘60s and ‘70s spurred on the latest
‘Carole King Musical’ beautifully
— The last Broadway show of this season is a good one. The talented Carole
King and her array of hits are featured along with some biographical
material about her early life.
War-era play has message for today
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - For some reason, Louisa May Alcott’s
semi-autobiographical novel “Little Women” has remained an
Agatha Christie counts down, count on clever plot twists,
GROVE — Picture a beautiful resort on an isolated island, a group of eight
strangers, a married couple that has been hired to be of service, and a man who
brings in supplies by boat daily.
Civic delivers with ‘Barefoot’
— Neil Simon’s works continue to draw and delight
audiences. Along with his humor, he always has some insights
to share concerning human relationships.
professional theaters close shop for the summer, but there are others that open
their doors or outdoor spaces to welcome those who love live theater all
are the available options: * Through June 18 - “And Then There Were None,”
Sunset Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove.
‘Sweeney Todd’ has its few tender moments
- ”Sweeney Todd” by Stephen Sondheim is not for the fainthearted. It is a
macabre story about revenge taken to the limit and the results that ensued.
nothing like ‘South Pacific’
FORT ATKINSON -
At first glance, Rogers and Hammerstein’s prize-winning
“South Pacific” seems like a story of two pairs of
unlikely lovers. Set on a remote island in the South Pacific
during World War II, it has an exotic flavor. What could be
more romantic than “Bali Ha’I”?
Stage’s ‘Animal Farm’ a meaty choice for young
- For some strange reason, human beings, despite their
history, believe they can eliminate greed, inequality,
poverty, sickness and create the perfect utopian
Jeeves’ somehow misses; Windfall Theatre cast shines in
MILWAUKEE - When
one hears that “By Jeeves” is a musical play by the
musical genius Andrew Lloyd Webber and the prolific Alan
Ayckbourn, one expects the best.
script falls short, but Lake Country nails touching moments
- Tom Griffin once wrote “The Boys Next Door,” an
outstanding, sensitive play, one that has stood the test of
take on deep ‘Jane Eyre’ enjoyable
”Jane Eyre,” the Victorian novel by Charlotte Bronte,
has been transformed into many film and stage versions. It
continues to speak to people over 150 years after its
B. Jones’ is a fun-filled delight
- Junie B. Jones is a beloved character in all of Barbara
Park’s 28 books (1992-2013).
Civic’s ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ keeps it light, lively
Composers Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison thought it might be
fun to take apart and assess the American musical formula -
a love story, large production numbers that suddenly spring
into being, lavish costuming, a few exaggerated characters
and, of course, often a happy ending that stretches our
Tandem’s ‘Carnival’ soars with great balance
in acting, singing, production
MILWAUKEE — In
Tandem went all out for this one, including turning their
reception room into a veritable carnival display and
reconfiguring their theater space into an in-the-round tent.
Even the volunteers were in costume to add to the festive
‘Chicago’ packs a bunch of superlatives
- When the Tony-winning “Chicago” opens with the orchestra
prominently on stage and “All That Jazz” explodes with its
funky Bob Fosse choreography and the electric voice of Terra
C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly, we sense immediately that we’re
in for a dazzling show.
‘Getting Away With Murder’ not your usual
WEST ALLIS -
One usually associates Stephen Sondheim with popular
musicals with atonal harmonies and clever lyrics, but
together with George Furth, he attempted a completely
different genre and ended up with “Getting Away With
Murder,” an amusing and rather unusual mystery play.
None shall laugh? ‘Spamalot’ dares
audiences not to
FALLS - ”Spamalot” is hard to classify, but it’s good
entertainment, if you can handle the irreverence and
Sunset’s ‘Dixie Swim Club’ retains interest as time goes by
ELM GROVE -
The “Dixie Swim Club” is a comedy where five women who
comprised a winning swim team in college meet once a year at
a beach house in North Carolina to catch up on each other’s
Expectations’ lives up to its title
- It is no small feat to transform a sprawling novel into a
play, but Gale Childs Daly has managed to do just that with
her creative take on Charles Dickens’ classic work
Hour’ shines light on publishing, morality, ethics
- As I witnessed “The Violet Hour,” I was impressed with
its broad appeal and the plethora of elements woven into
explores wisdom of years, perspective
MILWAUKEE - The
passage of time is inexorable, but our capacity to rummage
through the past and speculate about the future makes both
accessible, despite the inaccuracies often involved in both
Stage’s ‘Mockingbird’ takes flight as it takes on
- We have probably all known at least one autistic child,
one who was born with a condition, more prevalent in boys
than girls, that manifests itself early on in childhood.
night at the Stackner with ‘Groucho’
MILWAUKEE - The
Marx Brothers are among those legends that will never die.
Of the four brothers - Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo -
Groucho is the most famous because he went on to be a
celebrity long after his brothers dropped out of the
Tick ... Boom!’ surpasses ‘Rent’ in ways
- Jonathan Larson is a composer whose short life is best
remembered for his highly regarded “Rent,” a rock
musical based on the opera “La Boheme.”
The ultimate underdog tale flourishes
MILWAUKEE - We
all love an underdog, whether it be the Elephant Man, the
Hunchback of Notre Dame, the kid that’s bullied or
handicapped and beats the odds or the forlorn stepchild that
gets the prince.
‘Zémire et Azor’ an imaginative tour de
force Skylight’s accessible, amazing tale not to be missed
- There are several versions of the classic fairy tale
“Beauty and the Beast” on deck at the moment. Besides
the many film versions of this story, including the
just-released record-setter for an opening weekend, two
stage productions are in full swing within our grasp, and
both are outstanding.
of Enemies’ humanizes racial divide
MEQUON - You may remember “The God Committee” or
“Freud’s Last Session,” two of Mark St.
Germain’s plays produced by Acacia Theatre.
tale elements on full display as Disney’s version romances
Fireside dinner audience
FORT ATKINSON -
We all love a good romantic fairy tale, especially one with
a happy ending. “Disney’s
Beauty and the Beast” has all the essential ingredients -
a bad guy, scary elements often occurring in forests, a
beautiful woman, a curse or spell, and the triumph of good
Menagerie’ remindful of people’s illusions
- Tennessee Williams’ play “The Glass Menagerie,”
though one of his earliest works, is one of his most
frequently performed. It is a play that keeps on giving.
Variations’ explores limits of life
WAUKESHA - A
totally fascinating experience awaits you in “33
Variations” by MoisŽs Kaufman. Two lives are examined as
each person living in different worlds faces the end of his
life, making choices as to how to live out his final days.
triumphs over terror in UW-Waukesha’s moving rendition of
‘Women of Lockerbie’
- On Dec. 21, 1988, Pam Am Flight 103 exploded in midair as
it traveled from London to New York. A bomb had been planted
on the plane, possibly by a Libyan agent in retaliation for
an American bombing campaign in the capital city of Libya.
Taken with 'Taking Shakespeare'
MILWAUKEE - Sometimes
we take Shakespeare; sometimes Shakespeare takes us. Such is
the case in this beautiful little piece by John Murrell, a
lovely 90-minute experience in the intimate setting of
Shop’ keeps ringing up laughs
ELM GROVE - When
L. Thomas “Tommy” Lueck takes hold of anything, he does
so with energy and passion. Whether it be teaching, acting,
singing or directing, his zest and dedication are
Few’ gets personal exploring past wreckage
- People seem to have the need to make a connection, to have
someone care about them, which probably accounts for why
matchmaking companies are so successful.
‘Time Stands Still’ in four lives
- Three excellent productions hit the stages in
Milwaukee last weekend, all engaging and
‘Grounded’ covers a lot of ground
“Grounded” is one woman’s story of her experience as a
highly regarded fighter pilot.
After an unexpected pregnancy, she is reassigned to a
“chair pilot” position, sitting for 12-hour stretches
any lingering snow; spring plays are in the air
theaters’ seasons run from September through May. Here are
the many interesting offerings from the final third of the
First Stage’s ‘Robin Hood’ has something for everybody
- The story of Robin Hood has been around for more than 800
years and is part of British folklore. Part of its continued
appeal probably rests on some common themes that survive the
many versions of this folk hero and his clashes with the law
(Sheriff Nottingham), the wealthy class and the hypocritical
A delightful spin around a French bard
MILWAUKEE - David
Ives, known for his clever adaptations, has unearthed a
17th-century farce by Alexis Piron, written in
rhyming verse, and has brought
us a complicated web of characters all looking for love and
‘The Other Place’ can be jarring to watch
- As we watch “The Other Place” unfold, we are somewhat
confused until we realize that we are largely experiencing
the narrative through the mind of Juliana Smithton, whose
brilliant mind is rapidly deteriorating due to some form of
dementia, which she interprets as brain cancer.
MILWAUKEE - We
all love to watch an expert, whether it be an athlete, an
artist, a dancer, a musician or anyone who has worked hard
to perfect his or her skills.
by Falls Patio Players’ transformative ‘Enchanted
FALLS - It was like getting a bouquet of hope, a rarity in
these times. The word “enchanted” almost seems reserved
exclusively for children, but one of the strongest appeals
of “Enchanted April” is that adults are allowed to
Civic’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ makes for spirited fun
Coward is one of the most prolific British writers who
ever lived. Besides his writing prowess, he also acted,
directed, and produced movies and TV shows.
‘Luna Gale’ offers telling look at life
- After witnessing the raw, wrenching story of “Luna Gale,”
I was deeply struck by the complexity and vulnerability
inherent in the human condition
‘Blind Dating at Happy Hour’ turns out to
be highly enjoyable
An enthusiastic packed house was ready for a comic ride
through the messy maze of relationships in a low-end bar
where anything could happen, and, as it turns out, does.
Can’t Take It With You’ still accruing interest
GROVE - Sunset Playhouse has taken on a chestnut comedy,
George S. Kaufman’s and Moss Hart’s “You Can’t Take
It With You.” It first appeared on stage in 1936 and
won a Pulitzer Prize, striking a chord with Americans during
the throes of the Depression. It remains a favorite among
professional and community theater companies.
‘McGuire’ takes center stage, naturally
MILWAUKEE — Al McGuire was one of the most successful and
colorful basketball coaches and TV announcers that ever
graced the stages of a gym or a TV network. He was known for
his brash style and his care for his players, insisting they
work hard at the sport as well as leave Marquette University
with a degree.
“Disgraced,” the most produced play in America during
the 2015-’16 season, won a Pulitzer Prize for a reason. It
is relevant, provocative, meaty and intense.
welcomes Wisconsin series, era of ethnic communities
to Bronzeville,” written and directed by local playwright
Sheri Williams Pannell with the assistance of John Tanner,
is the first play in a series called The Wisconsin Cycle,
highlighting Milwaukee’s history and ethnic
a winter at play
Come cold, come
wind, come snow, the shows must go on, and indeed they will.
Bundle up and take a chance on one.
‘Mamma Mia!’ is a madcap delight
ATKINSON — “Mamma Mia!”, one of the longest-running Broadway
shows, boasting a 14-year reign, has been given new life
with the 2008 movie version starring the incredible Meryl
Touring ‘Sound of Music’ warms
hearts - even on a cold day
- Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein’s “The Sound
of Music” has been around for more than 50 years, and it
still appeals to audiences for its music, its love story and
its peek into a convent, always a bit of a mystery to many.
down the best plays of 2016 by category
seeing more than 100 shows in the past year, it is hard
sometimes to pick out the best. We have so many good
professional, community and college theaters in the Greater
Milwaukee area that it’s difficult to narrow them down to
those that deserve special mention.
shines through in In Tandem’s ‘Holiday Hell’
- In Tandem Theatre has a tendency to offer alternate
treatments of the Christmas season. No sentimental
candy-coated versions here. Consider its long run with “A
Cudahy Caroler Christmas” or “A Twisted Carol.”
Christmas Pageant’? Most humorous, maybe
GROVE - Get ready for a bundle of laughs in Sunset’s
production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” a
staple during the Christmas season.
Elfish Reasons’ addresses labor shortage
- For six years, the Waukesha Civic Theatre developed a
tradition of offering its original “Candy Canes and
Holiday Carols,” tweaking it every year to combine
predictability and variety.
MILWAUKEE - The
revitalized traditional presentation of the Milwaukee
Rep’s “A Christmas Carol,” which is celebrating its
41st year, served as a reminder of the changes instigated by
Mark Clements in his short tenure with this iconic theater
Rep Respins a Classic
Country puts on good showing of Dickens’ classic
HARTLAND - The
Lake Country Players are continuing their tradition for the
sixth year by presenting the musical version of Charles
Dickens’ classic tale of “A Christmas Carol” by
Michael Koscinski and Ernest Brusubardis.
production of ‘La Cage’ takes the prize
MILWAUKEE - Get
ready to be dazzled, amused and moved by Skylight’s
present production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” the
award-winning musical by Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein,
two giants in the theatrical industry.
Hero’ adds depth to comedic characters
- Kenneth Lonergan, though not a particularly prolific
playwright and film script writer, is one of pristine
quality. His film “You Can Count on Me” was a rave, and
his upcoming film “Manchester by the Sea” is already
receiving excellent reviews.
Foreigner’ might not be for xenophobes
MILWAUKEE - Larry
Shue’s work is back. The actor and playwright who
more than made his mark in the world of theater by the age
of 39 when he met an untimely death in a plane crash
continues to return to many stages throughout the world via
“The Nerd” and “The Foreigner.”
Fireside Christmas’ is a melodious treat
ATKINSON - Somehow, year after year, the Fireside Dinner
Theatre attracts busloads of fans and many single patrons to
its annual Christmas show.
Night’ takes unexpected turn
MILWAUKEE - For a
very original Christmas show, you might want to wander down
to Next Act’s premiere of “Unsilent Night,” written by
Milwaukee actor and playwright John Kishline in
collaboration with David Cecsarini and Edward Morgan. I
Ingalls Wilder Christmas’ revolves around family
- Probably most people have been exposed to the Wilder books
or, if not, to the TV series “Little House on the
Prairie,” starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert.
Tin Pan Alley pounds, struts, wows in ‘I
Love A Piano’
— I’m having a “Ragtime” moment, which translates to what I
felt when experiencing that musical treat three years ago. I
was almost beyond words after that show. The same is true of
“I Love A Piano,” which features the music of Irving Berlin
a la 50 songs and four dazzling performers.
The magic of working together comes alive
in First Stage's 'Mole Hill'
MILWAUKEE - Lois Ehlert, who was
born in Beaver Dam and lives in Milwaukee, is a renowned
children's storyteller and illustrator, perhaps best-known
for 'Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.' Her books, often about nature
and its critters, are very colorfully illustrated, and have
won many prestigious prizes.
Kill A Mockingbird’ reminds us of racial road traveled and
- Harper Lee, a friend and neighbor of Truman Capote,
enjoyed a one-book success until she recently published her
choreography heightens battle of the sexes in pirate
thriller ‘Bonny Anne Bonny’
”Bonny Anne Bonny” by local playwright Liz Shipe is an
experience to behold. Directed by Christopher Elst, a master
director and fight choreographer, this adventure story
epitomizes the battle between the sexes.
performances enhance Carroll’s ‘Glass Menagerie’
- Tennessee Williams’ plays seldom make us happy, but
they make us sad so beautifully that we don’t mind.
from ‘M’wauke’ to seldom-staged Sullivan work ‘The
MILWAUKEE - The
Boulevard Theatre, that small, long-lived and amazing
theatrical company, linked up with the Plymouth Chorale,
under the guidance of Donna Kummer, for this dual
Girls’ floods stage with uniqueness, willing brides
MILWAUKEE - It
isn’t often that one sees three women emerge from bathtubs
in wedding gowns. That’s just one of the many unusual
happenings in the production of “The Drowning
way you say it, ‘Young Frankenstein’ comes out funny
- ”Young Frankenstein, the Musical” is a take-off on the
1974 movie starring Gene Wilder.
Its Mel Brooks flavor is evident throughout.
‘Good Doctor’ is perfect tonic for what ails the funny
Doctor” is a series of short plays based on Anton
Chekhov’s works as interpreted by Neil Simon. The
production uses narration as transitions between the
‘Fiddler’ captures family, tradition
ELM GROVE - Since
its inception in 1964, the collaborative musical venture
“Fiddler on the Roof,” launched by Jerry Bock, Joseph
Stein and Sheldon Harnick, continues to resonate with
audiences for many reasons.
‘Dracula vs. the Nazis’ mostly misses
Chris Flieller and Doug Jarecki have proven themselves over
and over to be consummate comic actors.
Scheduling errors create surprise ending
in ‘Suite Surrender’
This was a very farcical week
in theatrical offerings in the Greater Milwaukee area
— “Dracula vs. the Nazis,” “Lend Me a Tenor,”
and now “Suite Surrender.”
People must enjoy farces, or there wouldn’t be
so many successful ones.
takes personal journey in turbulent ‘60s
- “Violet” will probably not enjoy the longevity of a
classic musical, such as “Man of la Mancha” or “My
Fair Lady,” but it provides an enjoyable couple of hours,
many memorable scenes and some important themes.
in time for political season: ‘The Taming’
MILWAUKEE - ”We
the people, in order to form a more perfect union ...
.” It’s a very noble beginning with the best of
intentions as a small body of determined men broke away from
England to start an ambitious experiment called the United
Dollar Quartet’ electrifies Fireside
ATKINSON - Based on a true story, the serendipitous event of
four superstars jamming in the same studio, brings us the
electric “Million Dollar Quartet,” now rocking the stage
at the Fireside Dinner Theater.
Mancha’s’ idealism, execution merit standing applause
MILWAUKEE - I
didn’t think I’d ever experience a match for
“Ragtime,” a recent musical produced by the Milwaukee
Rep, but “Man of La Mancha” lives up to that level of
excellence. It delivers two uninterrupted hours of
glorious, captivating and inspiring artistry.
Sunday’ shows Tennessee Williams’ humorous side
Tennessee Williams is not known for his sense of humor, so
his play “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur,” one of his
later, less-well-known works, is a delightful
Civic’s ‘Gypsy’ wows with talent, music
- ”Gypsy” is a fitting choice to herald in the 60th
anniversary of Waukesha Civic Theatre’s inception, an
accomplishment that only 100 of the 7,000-plus community
theaters across the country can boast of.
Over Buffalo’ cast skillfully pulls off farce
GROVE - Once a big hit for Carol Burnett, “Moon over
Buffalo”, a popular Ken Ludwig farce, is causing its share
of chuckles at the Sunset Playhouse.
Day’ delivers breathtaking performances
Billie Holiday, in one of her last performances, returned to
Emerson’s Bar and Grill in Philadelphia in 1959. Although
she had performed in large prestigious venues such as
Carnegie Hall, she preferred the intimacy of spaces where
she could get in touch with her audience.
Wild Party’ serves up Roaring ‘20s morality tale
- ”The Wild Party” is based on a poem written by Joseph
Moncure March in 1928. The
poem was initially banned because of its blatant narrative
of sex, booze and drugs prevalent in The Roaring Twenties.
‘Odd Couple’ stars shine nicely outdoors
TOWN OF DELAFIELD
- Neil Simon is probably one of the greatest American comedy
writers of all time, and “The Odd Couple” still speaks
to audiences even after 50 years.
and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ uncovers humor
- Christopher Durang, a prolific, absurdist playwright, has
combined a passing salute to Anton Chekhov for setting and
themes, but one does not have to be familiar with his work
to catch the humor of this piece.
Country Players take ‘A Walk into the Woods’
- Probably most of us have encountered “Into the Woods”
as a stage musical or movie, but the junior version is a
fairly recent addition to Sondheim’s clever conglomerate
of fairy tales. Last week, Waukesha Civic Theatre gave
us the junior version of “Legally Blonde.”
should be out on SummerStage, community theater
OF DELAFIELD - The challenges of outdoor theaters are many -
weather, people who let their children run around during the
performance, patrons who distract others by eating nosily
and the added demand on the actors to project their voices.
‘Legally Blonde’ cast makes its case for determination
WAUKESHA - Two
alternating casts of young actors burst onto the stage to
tell the story of a young blonde, seen as ditzy by some,
proving herself to be a strong, determined person who learns
from her experience.
in the Rain’ number worth the drive to Fireside
ATKINSON - It would be hard to replicate Gene Kelly’s role
as Don Lockwood in the 1952 movie “Singin’ in the
relationships ensue in ‘Curtains’
WEST ALLIS - John
Kander and Fred Ebb, a team that wrote
many successful musicals, including “Cabaret,”
“Chicago” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” also
united their talents in creating a musical-mystery called
“Curtains,” a work not as famous as the other three, but
nonetheless an interesting one.
in first half of 20th century, marital issues of ‘I Do! I
Do!’ remain timely
- When Jan de Hartog wrote “Four Poster Bed” in 1940
while hiding in a nursing home disguised as a woman during
the Nazi occupation of Holland, little did he know what a
long life his play would enjoy.
on ‘A Feast of Stephens’ with many outstanding songs
WAUKESHA - Steve
Decker, along with the help of many other talented artists,
has gathered an assemblage of 21 vocalists and an amazing
pianist and musical director, Phil Smith, along with
creative choreographer Ryan Cappleman, to perform more than
22 tunes (some were medleys) from the works of the prolific
musical composers Stephen Sondheim and Stephen Schwartz.
produces flawless ‘Anything Goes’
ELM GROVE - Many
older musicals have little substance and rather vapid plots,
but in “Anything Goes,” with so many memorable tunes by
Cole Porter, the production numbers compensate for the
overall literary sparseness.
drama based on 1913 trial not to be missed
— “Parade,” based on the book by Alfred Uhry,
with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, is based on a
provocative trial that occurred in 1913 in Atlanta.
‘Rockin’ at the Fireside’ dazzles with talent, range
you’re into rock from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s,
Fireside’s present offering will keep you relishing the
beat for two hours. Almost everyone of note is included in
an array of 50 tunes in “Rockin’ at the Fireside.”
'Wonderland' is a dark and unusual version of the classic
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the pen name of Lewis
Carroll, wrote “Alice in Wonderland” in 1865, I doubt if
he would have envisioned his imaginative fantasy living on
for 150 years and being adapted into films, plays and
musicals countless times.
Garden’ blossoms under Soulstice’s care
FRANCIS - A lovely children’s classic written in 1911 by
Frances Hodgson Burnett, “A Secret Garden” is
still alive and thriving.
charms with Wilde’s satirical ‘Importance of Being
TOWN OF DELAFIELD
- SummerStage opens its 2016 summer season with its first of
a trio of plays -the classic Oscar Wilde’s “The
Importance of Being Earnest,” his most popular work.
funny ‘Fawlty Towers’ brings anticipatory laughs to
WAUKESHA - ”Fawlty Towers”
is based on a British TV show, considered by many to be one
of the best comedies ever to hit the tube. Written by John
Cleese and Connie Booth, it reflects a Monty Python-style
humor - clever and wacky, even deliciously absurd.
fun in farcical ‘Boeing Boeing’ lies in the lies, doomed
ELM GROVE - A
long-running French farce by French playwright Marc
CamolettI, “Boeing Boeing” takes us on quite the ride.
‘As It Is In Heaven’ develops individual portraits
WAUKESHA - The
principles and spirit of the Shaker religion are beautifully
revealed on stage in Carroll University’s rendition of
“As It Is in Heaven,” a play by Arlene Hutton and
directed by Jennifer Dobby.
Boots’ puts its stunningly best foot forward
- ”Kinky Boots” exploded on stage at the Marcus
Center as the last Broadway show of the 2015-16 season.
It is a fairly recent musical (2014) based on a true
story and woven together by the talents of Harvey
Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper.
theater awaits in the wings
Even though many
of the professional theaters have finished their seasons,
there are still many opportunities for live theater in the
summer months. Here are the offerings for your perusal.
‘Pirates’ comes up a winner
- Starting in 1959 when Skylight Opera Company occupied a
warehouse on Jefferson Street, the currently named Skylight
Music Theatre has played Gilbert and Sullivan 45 times,
including 10 of the “Mikado,” seven of “H.M.S.
Pinafore” and nine productions of “The Pirates of
Purple Plastic Purse’ filled with lessons for young
MILWAUKEE - This
is one for the kiddies, 3 and up.
A colorful stage greets them, creative costuming,
energetic dancing and many lessons to be learned - all at a
level that the little people can grasp and enjoy.
Act’ affectionately steps, sings its way through The
ATKINSON - If you want an interesting mix of crime and
cloister, “Sister Act,” now playing at The Fireside
Theatre, is dishing up this clash of opposing worlds.
‘Sirens’ can sing
Whenever one tries to create a show that features a
singer’s or a group’s life and music, the hardest task
is to weave together the songs with the narrative.
Time, Next Year’ revival still works
WEST ALLIS - Many
of us remember the 1978 film “Same Time, Next Year,”
starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. It was based on a play
by Bernard Slade and was played on Broadway by a succession
of several pairs of actors, including Burstyn.
Country Players ably handle strong ‘Urinetown’
- The title “Urinetown” makes one ask:
What is this play about, anyway? It’s an intriguing
questioning of the prospect of a severe water shortage and
the repercussions of that eventuality.
one man’s pain mend in ‘Fences’?
MILWAUKEE - The
lights come up upon a modest two-story brick house on an
empty stage. There is a small front yard, one tree and a
partially-built fence. A baseball bat lies on the ground, an
holiday is a musical adventure
MILWAUKEE - It is
rare that one sees life or death from Death’s perspective,
but in “Death Takes a Holiday,” one has the rare
opportunity to see that Death is a person with a job to do,
a rather grim one, to be sure.
Civic Theatre does a spunky ‘Annie Get Your Gun’
WAUKESHA - The
Waukesha Civic Theatre, under the astute direction of John
Cramer, has done it again - produced a musical of sterling
Fair Lady’ another rousing success for Falls Patio Players
FALLS - There are four thriving community theaters in
Waukesha County: Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove, the Lake
Country Players in Hartland, the Waukesha Civic Theatre in
Waukesha and the Falls Patio Players in Menomonee
Tandem’s ‘Ernest’ cleverly balances satirical look at
high society, romance
”The Importance of Being Ernest,” Oscar Wilde’s most
popular and successful play, continues to amuse audiences
Bee’ finds the right words, strikes all the right notes
GROVE - Spelling bees have always been a part of our
education system, but it is a relatively recent phenomenon
that they have gone national and appeared on TV and in
movies. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”
takes advantage of the growing popularity in this particular
form of competition.
roles explored, pushed in ‘A Doll’s House’
MILWAUKEE - Plays
about marriage are usually a big draw since most people have
engaged in this venerable institution at least once. “A
Doll’s House,” a Henrik Ibsen play written in 1879,
created an uproar when it was first performed.
Bald Soprano’ gongs in the wacky and absurd
Eugene Ionesco, a Romanian-French playwright, is labeled an
absurdist and an existentialist. His philosophy was quite
dour. He described society as “full of decay, corruption,
and meaningless repetitive actions.”
Ten Chimneys guest’s play weathers the years well
- Noel Coward, a frequent visitor to Ten Chimneys in the
Town of Genesee, the center of the theatrical universe for
many years, once said about one of his visits, “I dined
with Alfred and Lynn - just the three of us.
Madson steals the show in ‘A Shot in the Dark’
WEST ALLIS - ”A
Shot in the Dark,” adapted from the French play “L’Idiote,”
is probably better known as a film by the same name starring
Peter Sellers. The play was used as the basis for the movie.
of ‘Motherhood’ highly identifiable
- We’ve all had mothers, for better or for worse, and
chances are that most of them have tried to keep us alive by
caring for us and shielding us from danger.
explores the lengths of obedience in thoughtful First Stage
MILWAUKEE - As
children we are taught that it is good to obey our parents
and teachers and priests or ministers, but the present
production at First Stage Children’s Theater, “Ella
Enchanted,” questions that directive.
performances heighten ‘Witness for the Prosecution’
- Agatha Christie, the British Grande Dame of mysteries,
converted one of her many short stories to the stage in
charms, but Tony winner falls short on message
The musical runs
through Sunday with two performances on Saturday and Sunday
at the Marcus Center, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee, as part
of its Broadway Series.
Call 414-273-7121 or visit MarcusCenter.com.
on Final Approach’ explores sexist view of World War II
Renaissance Theatreworks, whose aim is to present plays with
significant roles for women in order to achieve gender
parity in the arts, does so again in its “Censored on
too ordinary for ‘Ordinary Days’
- Whenever playwrights want to develop the theme of
loneliness in the midst of millions of people, they often
use New York City as their setting. It lends itself to a
feeling of being lost. The
complexity of a very large city can be overwhelming to a
neophyte, but actually people can be lonely anywhere.
a voice in thought-provoking ‘Song’
The play runs
through April 10 at the Milwaukee Rep, 108 E. Wells St.,
Milwaukee. Call 414-224-9490 or visit www.MilwaukeeRep.com
for times and tickets.
‘Hattitude,’ music, faith overcome
hardship in ‘Crowns’
— A colorful fusion of faith and fashion is being delivered
at the Skylight Music Theatre via their present production
of “Crowns” by Regina Taylor. It combines Gospel, jazz,
blues and rap in a delightful, soulful mix, celebrating
African-American culture through music and fashion.
lessons populate First Stage’s ‘The Snow’
- ”The Snow” by the prolific playwright Finegan
Kruckemeyer is a story about solving problems, facing
difficulties with creativity and hope, and coming to terms
with one’s own abilities and limitations.
romance in ‘Sea Marks’ raises questions of priorities
ST. FRANCIS - The
sea casts its mark upon the shore as a reminder that it has
been here and that it will be back, so those who live beside
it should never become complacent.
explores the big questions and private lives
”Autonomy” by Jayme McGhan, on stage at Concordia
University, provides us all with something to think
Foreigner’ not foreign to area audiences
GROVE - Larry Shue became a legend in the Milwaukee area
when he was killed in a plane crash in 1985. In the previous
seven years before his untimely death, he was involved at
the Milwaukee Rep as an actor and playwright-in-residence.
Ladies’ leaves them laughing at Waukesha Civic Theatre
- We’ve seen some of Ken Ludwig’s comedies before.
“Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon over Buffalo” are
two community theater favorites.
Former Brookfield playwright requires
rapt attention in ‘The Invisible Hand’
— It is not easy to write a review that captures the power
of “The Invisible Hand” by the talented American-Pakistani
playwright who grew up in our midst.
One-man ‘Lamps’ a tribute to families
“Lamps for My Family,” a one-man tour-de-force by Mark
Corkins, was written by native Milwaukean Michael Neville as
a memory play.
‘Slowgirl’ takes audience on journey as it winds its way
through unpredictable plot
MILWAUKEE — “Slowgirl” is a
sweet, poignant story of a mismatched pair of characters who
meet again under rather unusual circumstances after a
nine-year hiatus and end up helping each other.
to the Cabaret
- ”Cabaret” by John Kander and Fred Ebb is a fascinating
mix of fear, love, dark humor and decadence. It has been
re-crafted and several times since its inception in 1966.
of the Prophet’ shines a comic light on human suffering
Playwright Stephen Karam was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize
for “Sons of the Prophet” in 2012 and the recipient of
the Drama Critics Circle Award the same year. The honors
satire and Shakespeare at Wisconsin Lutheran College
“Loves Labour’s Lost” is one of Shakespeare’s
original plays. And the production harkens back to
entertaining techniques from the period.
Love sparkles as larger-than-life Bessie Smith
- As we entered the Stackner Cabaret, we could hear the
voice of Bessie Smith on an old recording.
element falls short in WCT’s clever exploration of
WAUKESHA - If
you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing the play
“Almost, Maine” by John Cariani, run, not walk, to the
Waukesha Civic Theatre this weekend.
‘Odd Couple’ explores if two women can live together
without driving each other nuts
FALLS - We’ve probably all encountered “The Odd
Couple,” either the movie with Jack Lemmon and Walter
Matthau or the TV series with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.
packs power in look at Rodney King beating
- Sometimes it is painful to relive an event, but it is
useful to look back and see if we have learned anything from
it. This is especially evident in our country with its
history of slavery that continues to haunt us.
Music Theater presents 'Powder Her Face'
MILWAUKEE - With
music by Thomas Ades and the libretto by Philip Hensher,
“Powder Her Face” tells the story of Margaret Campbell,
a British duchess who was known for her beauty, wealth and
Now Darling’ offers pleasant romp
HARTLAND - Ray
Cooney, sometimes called the British Neil Simon, is known
for his farces. His most famous play, “Run for Your
Wife,” ran in Great Britain for more than nine years.
‘Steel Magnolias’ highlights heart with a smile
GROVE - The title “Steel Magnolias” is an oxymoron used
by playwright Robert Harling to describe the beauty and
strength, the delicacy and toughness of women.
Rep’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ grippingly moving
MILWAUKEE - John
Steinbeck often wrote survival stories where human strength
and loyalty are tested. “Of Mice and Men” is assuredly
one of his most heart-wrenching works.
of actresses delivers in ‘Agnes of God’
MILWAUKEE - The
drama “Agnes of God” raises more questions than it
answers, but it is intriguing and mentally stimulating to
engage in the journey of listening in on Agnes, a young nun,
who is being tried for murder; her Mother Superior; and the
psychiatrist, Doctor Livingston, who has been hired to
determine Sister Agnes’ sanity.
of ‘Starlings’ is puzzling at times
FRANCIS - If you’ve ever watched a flock of starlings, it
looks like an amorphous group of birds flying around without
any discernible pattern or direction. Ben Parman’s
new play, “Starlings,” is well named because it, too, is
appears too weighty for its young target audience
MILWAUKEE - When
a theater recommends that a specific show is targeted for a
particular age group, one expects that there is a good
match. I’d like to have a discussion with a group of
fourth-graders to discern what they derived from
“Holes,” presently playing at First Stage Children’s
brings big-name mix, Vegas glitz
ATKINSON - ”Legend” and “Carrie Underwood” might not
usually go in the same sentence because of longevity.
takes center stage in ‘Newsies’
- “Newsies,” a touring Broadway show now playing at the
Marcus Center, is based on a true story, the newspaper
boys’ strike of 1899 in New York.
best plays of 2015
my “Best of the Best” article at the end of the year is
always fun, but also very challenging. Enriched as we are in
Milwaukee and Waukesha counties with many quality theaters
and a plethora of talented people, making the best choices
as I travel back in time can be stressful, but I’ll do my
best to be thorough and fair.
‘Guys on Ice’ another keeper
- I have seen “Guys on Ice” many times, my favorite play
of the talented Wisconsin playwrights, Fred Alley and James
Kaplan. It’s the sort of comedy that provides a lot of
laughs as well as affords some insight into male
stirred in ‘Month Before Christmas’
- ”‘Twas the Month before Christmas” has Waukesha’s
Doug Jarecki written all over it. It oozes his unique
spirit - a bit wacko, generous, childlike, creative and
spirited, even sweet and sentimental.
is especially welcoming for ‘Heir’
MILWAUKEE - The
Milwaukee Entertainment Group, which performs at the Brumder
Mansion, almost always makes use of the beautiful estate and
playhouse in its productions.
Twisted Carol’ tries too hard to be funny
MILWAUKEE - In
Tandem Theatre is well-known for offering an alternative
show at Christmas. It is usually irreverent, satirical and
quite funny for those who appreciate this brand of humor
where sacred cows are not worshipped.
of My Life’ proves moving
- “The Story of My Life” is a little gem that is hard to
describe. Being played out in the Boswell Bookstore gives it
an intimacy not always experienced on a typical stage
Christmas treat for the community
WAUKESHA - One
senses in the first few minutes that many changes have been
made in Waukesha Civic Theatre’s long-running traditional
Christmas show “Candy Cane Tales and Holiday Carols”
when the first number is about texting a merry
takes on ‘A Christmas Carol’ produce pleasing results
feature of the Lake Country Players’ production of “A
Christmas Carol” is the music, and when Catherine Pfeiler
has a hand in it, you can be sure that it will be of high
provides twist to ‘Love Stories’ by famed authors
— It is not so uncommon for a married couple to both be
engaged in the acting profession. In the Milwaukee theater
scene, it’s fun to watch several pairs work together,
including in the current run of the trilogy “Love
the meaning of the holiday through ‘A Charlie Brown
Although I’m a big Charlie Brown fan, I thought that “A
Charlie Brown Christmas” at the First Stage Children’s
Theatre was a bit disappointing. Snoopy was the biggest
feature and very well-played by Matt Daniels.
‘Fair Lady’ astounds
“My Fair Lady” remains the ultimate musical in my book.
With its brilliant script adapted from the consummate writer
George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” its soaring music
by Frederick Loewe and clever book and lyrics by Alan
Lerner, it can hardly miss.
showy season heavy on ‘Christmas Carol’
season is almost here, and a flurry of Christmas shows await
us in Waukesha and Milwaukee counties and beyond.
‘Mousetrap’ ensnares audience’s attention
- Any play that has been performed more than 25,000 times
for over 60 years in London, not to mention its frequent
production around the world, obviously has strong appeal.
a wonderful version of a beloved holiday classic
ATKINSON - “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been around
since 1946 as a memorable film with Jimmy Stewart and Donna
Reed. Standard holiday viewing, it has also emerged as a
radio show. The Fireside Dinner Theatre in Fort
Atkinson is now showing a musical version, a relatively new
creation (2005), which adds another delightful dimension to
this cherished story.
Jewish Christmas story
Coming from a small theater company that has survived for 30
years, “Handle with Care” by Jason Odell Williams is
another victory for founder Mark Bucher and his penchant for
making wonderful choices.
Caruso’ encore deserves applause
Thanks to playwright William Luce, many icons have been
resurrected. With his life-like biographical dramas, he has
brought Charlotte Bronte, Lillian Hellman and Emily
Dickinson back from the dead.
‘Wicked’ and in-depth
- Prequels are not as common as sequels, but the intriguing
and popular musical “Wicked” is an example of a prequel
we’re glad that Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman
of Emmett Till’ still resonates today
MILWAUKEE - In
1962 Bob Dylan wrote a song about the horrendous death of
the 14-year-old Chicagoan Emmett Till, who was killed in
Mississippi in 1955 by two brothers who were later acquitted
by an all-white, male jury for the crime they admitted
of ‘Lockerbie’ shines through tragedy
Except for the inconsistency of the Scottish dialect among
the characters, Wisconsin Lutheran College’s “The Women
of Lockerbie” was one of the most beautiful, most moving
plays I have seen this year.
‘Turn of the Screw’ open to interpretation
— Henry James has never been an easy read. “The Turn of the
Screw” is a strange tale, one which literary scholars have
variously interpreted. I’m sure the audience at the Waukesha
Civic Theatre also regarded the play with some degree of
ambivalence and befuddlement over many unanswered questions
as the play ended.