Perf. Arts





Ridley Scott’s ‘Martian’ looks to be among better autumn crop of movies

Skylight Opera amazes with Puccini’s popular ‘Tosca’

“The End of the Tour.” “Grandma.” And now, “The Martian.” History does seem to repeat itself: Autumn approaches; a better crop of feature films emerges. “The Martian” is Sir Ridley Scott’s contribution to the proceedings, considerably better than his 2014 “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which I, frankly, found decent enough.


MILWAUKEE - One often hears of the artist as a pauper and one who only achieves fame after his death. Not so in Puccini’s case. He made more money in his lifetime than any other classical composer before or since. He died a millionaire at 65. 

Shyamalan’s latest: One ‘Visit’ you need not make
To the list of places you need not visit, feel free to add theaters showing “The Visit,” M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film. 

Tomlin terrific as ‘Grandma’ 
you wish you had
It 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.  

Maybe ‘Walk’ should take a hike
Robert 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. 

Big 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 imitating life.

TV retread 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' passes muster as feature film
OK, 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 handle.

Interview-based movie anything but dull
Nobody’s 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. 

New 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 forgotten.

Documentary suggests 
truth stranger than fiction
Documentarian 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.

‘Irrational Man,’ ‘Pixels’ revisit Dostoyevsky, Pac-Man
Woody Allen’s “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.

'Trainwreck' a misnomer  for Schumer movie?
Midway through Judd Apatow’s “Trainwreck,” a character is denounced as universally offensive but then immediately lauded as likable, everybody’s favorite person.

'War is hell' theme dominates 'Testament of Youth'
“Testament 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.

Offbeat 'Me and Earl' definitely worthwhile
I 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 Pittsburgh.

While 'Max' isn't 'Mad,' dog story has positives
First, a clarification. “Max,” from “Remember the Titans” director Boaz Yakin, is not to be confused with another new movie, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”   “Mad Max: Fury Road” has been applauded by critics. “Max,” although not without positives, is ultimately a middling effort.  

'Spy' offers a lot of hilarity and a bit of bawdiness
“Spy,” the 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 credits roll.

Cast aside, 'Aloha' leaves little  to capture the imagination
“Aloha,” 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 production. 

'Pitch 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. 

Scary future could have used a lot more laughs
Characters, 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.” 

'Madding 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.” 

'True 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.

Pacino 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. 

'Salt' 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.” 

3-D 'Home' has endearing hero, J. Lo songs, memorable messages
From DreamWorks, the company responsible for the “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “How to Train Your Dragon” series, comes another example of stellar computer animation.

'Merchants 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.

'71' captures turbulent Belfast on many levels
Affecting 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.

Better 'Red' than dead
Slava Fetisov 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

Russian 'Leviathan' Worth Your Time
Put the Russian movie “Leviathan” in the worthwhile viewing category.  It 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.  

Oscars 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.

'Violent 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.”  

Time '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.” 

Intense '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.”

'Dr. Cabbie' mostly drives the wrong way
WAUKESHA - 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.

'Penguins' 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 midst. 

Turkeys of the year on the silver screen
WAUKESHA - In about a month, on the cusp of a new year, film reviewers near and far will be offering their top 10 lists for 2014.

'Theory of Everything' at 'St. Vincent' winners; 'Beyond the Lights' mired in mediocrity
Considerable Oscar buzz is attaching itself to “The Theory of Everything,” a film about physicist Stephen Hawking.

'Interstellar' boasts solid acting, story line
WAUKESHA - Director and co-writer Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” this year’s marginal comparison to last year’s “Gravity,” includes enough positive elements to qualify as recommendable.

'Birdman' flies high; 'Before' needs more
Directed and co-written by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”), “Birdman” has everything from A to Z: A: An apple - the Big Apple - provides “Birdman’s” setting. 

'Whiplash' recalls classics; 'Judge' raises objections
I once knew a guy who seemed happily married. He was even happier when he was performing in amateur plays, however, so he opted to act professionally. This new commitment, he decided, would necessitate breaking up with his wife.

'The Best of Me' hardly a winner
WAUKESHA - “The Best of Me” isn’t the best of movies and “The Judge” raises some objections, as well. Here are more detailed evaluations

Alexander's bad day makes for so-so movie
WAUKESHA - When I think of Judith Viorst, I think of an essay she wrote regarding the several varieties of friends. Brilliant as it was, that essay wouldn’t have made much of a movie.

Affleck, Renner power worthwhile new films
WAUKESHA - Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner star in recommendable new movies. Here are the reviews.  "Gone Girl" “This movie will be big,” I thought after learning about “Gone Girl’s” plot and pedigree and seeing the names of some of the Hollywood types involved.

Jimi Hendrix film and filmmaker feted
MILWAUKEE - While it qualifies for the biopic genre, “Jimi: All Is by My Side,” doesn’t exactly tell the story of Jimi Hendrix’s life. Rather, the new movie tells the story of a single year in the life of the musician-singer-songwriter.

'Equalizer' too heavy on Rambo,
 too light on Robin Hood
WAUKESHA - Two inscrutable individuals, a thoroughly bad man and a basically good one, play a cat-and-mouse game on their way to a lethal showdown.

Film festival encore presentations worth seeing
WAUKESHA - There were a number of fine movies that debuted last weekend at the Milwaukee Film Festival. Several are highlighted below, along with encore times and venues.  

'Boxtrolls' has much to offer moviegoers young and old
I was thinking about how far removed animated movies are from real life as I walked away from a screening of the 3-D film “The Boxtrolls” earlier this week.

'Love is Strange,' 'Tusk,'  contrast in quality
WAUKESHA - If “Love Is Strange” isn’t the very best American-made movie I’ve seen this year, it probably ranks second or third. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine “Tusk” could’ve been much worse. TimeOut reviews both movies this week.

'November Man' evokes television's 'Mission: Impossible'
WAUKESHA - First, let’s dispel any notions that “The November Man” is some kind of baseball biopic. 

Latest sports film won't stand tall for all
WAUKESHA - Jim Caviezel, portraying highly successful prep coach Bob Ladouceur, spouts out, “It’s only a high school football game” at one point of reality-based “When the Game Stands Tall.”  

'If I Stay' will give audiences 
lukewarm feeling
WAUKESHA - As “If I Stay” is winding down, Mireille Enos, playing a not altogether rehabilitated hippie, tells her mainstream daughter, played by 17-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz, “Life is this big, fat, gigantic, stinking mess.”

'Journey' and 'Land Ho!' 
cut above their peers
WAUKESHA - While “The Hundred-Foot Journey” and “Land Ho!” won’t become cornerstones of the movie comedy genre, both August releases are more amusing than many 2014 counterparts.   

Latest Woody Allen film really is ‘Magic’
WAUKESHA - Magician Stanley Crawford (played by Colin Firth), a.k.a., Wei Ling Soo, is “the greatest debunker of fake spiritualists in the world,” in a fellow illusionist’s opinion. The source of that flattering quote, Howard Burkan (a very watchable Simon McBurney), reports a fraud he’d like Stanley to debunk. 

New comedic movies have varying values
WAUKESHA - Comedy takes the spotlight as three new films hit the local cinema market: “Sex Tape,” “And So It Goes” and “Wish I Was Here.”

'Fire & Rescue' too much like 'Planes'
WAUKESHA - Enough, already, of the “Planes” franchise. The second installment, “Planes: Fire & Rescue,” isn’t bad and certainly isn’t offensive  (It duplicates the original’s PG rating).

'Earth to Echo,' 'Third Person' 
share high ranking

WAUKESHA - One is PG-rated science fiction, the other a very serious R-rated film - and both “Earth to Echo” and “Third Person” - have been found to merit  3 1/2 stars. The following paragraphs tell why.

'Tammy' stretches credulity, lacks substance
WAUKESHA - For the record, Melissa McCarthy is 43 years old, Allison Janney is  54 and Susan Sarandon is 67. 

'Jersey Boys' vs. 'Obvious Child'?
Better to Listen to the Music!
It probably comes down to this: if you enjoy the music of the Four Seasons (and literally millions do), you’re likely to enjoy “Jersey Boys,” the Clint Eastwood-directed film version of the hit Broadway musical about the group.  

Opposite films likely to attract audiences
WAUKESHA - They say opposites attract. Maybe that means both “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “The Rover” will attract large audiences, for the two June-premiering films are dissimilar in several ways. 

Promising first-class film 'Million Ways' finds itself lost among classless chatter
WAUKESHA - In all honesty, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” doesn’t contain anywhere near a million uses of the F word. 

Much more cooking with 
British 'Belle than 'Chef'
WAUKESHA - Jon Favreau’s comedy “Chef” and the British period drama “Belle” are movies now in area theaters. Here is a look at each one: I think I’m on to the “Chef” filmmaking strategy. 

'Million Dollar Arm' and 'Godzilla contrasting films, but good ones
WAUKESHA - “Million Dollar Arm” and “Godzilla” both got off to banner starts in the movie theater in terms of gross earnings for the first weekend of their releases.

'Legends of Oz' has a few 
strengths worth mentioning
WAUKESHA - “This doesn’t look like the Oz I remember,” a computer-animated Dorothy declares early in “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.”

Wartime drama joined by 
Spider-Man sequel in theaters
WAUKESHA - The World War II drama “Walking with the Enemy” wraps up its first week in area theaters Friday, the same day “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” premieres. The following are reviews from both films:

'Greatest move never made' 
debuts in local cinemas Friday
WAUKESHA - “Jodorowsky’s Dune” comes to area movie theaters Friday following the release of three other films last week. The following are reviews of each film:

'Lunchbox,' 'Words' among new film releases
WAUKESHA - On Friday, “The Lunchbox,” a dramatic film, will join “Bad Words,” a comedy released March 28, in local theaters. Both movies are reviewed below with their ratings.

March: A month for different films
WAUKESHA - The month of March is being marked in our area by the release of three very different films: the comedy “The Grand Budapest Hotel” on Friday, one week after the documentary “Tim’s Vermeer” and two weeks after the graphic novel adaptation “300: Rise of an Empire.”

Moral ‘Ghosts’ of Ibsen’s time remain issues
MILWAUKEE - Henrik Ibsen, one of the most renowned Norwegian playwrights of the 19th century, was severely criticized during his life for tackling issues that were not culturally acceptable as material for literature. 

Two poets’ lives artfully captured in ‘Dear Elizabeth’
MILWAUKEE - Anchored by a strong script by Sarah Ruhl and stellar performances by Norman Moses and Carrie Hitchcock, the lives of poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop are brought to light in the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s second offering of the 2015-16 season.

WCT outdoes itself musically with ‘A Little Night Music’
WAUKESHA - Versatile, edgy, clever, unusual, creative, humorous,  moving - all these words and more cannot fully describe the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim. Unlike many composers, his music is difficult to classify.  

Lily Dale’ reflects grim life reflected in ‘Orphan’s Home Cycle’ series
WAUWATOSA - In Horton Foote’s last years, after a life of prolific playwriting, he ventured into his last ambitious work, “Orphan’s Home Cycle,” a series of nine plays about small-town life in Texas over a period of 30 years, following the fortunes and misfortunes of three families.

‘Dogfight’ examines human cruelty, spirit
MILWAUKEE - Based on a 1991 film of the same name, “Dogfight,” the musical, opened off-Broadway in 2012. This is its first showing in the Milwaukee area. 

Holmes’ ‘Final Adventure’ adds laughs to mystery
ELM GROVE - For more than 125 years, Sherlock Holmes has been an icon among detectives. 

Fans of ‘West Side’ won’t be let down by Fireside
FORT ATKINSON - Fireside has taken on the challenge of an American masterpiece, “West Side Story,” a 1957 update of Shakespeare’s classic romance “Romeo and Juliet.”

Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ explodes at APT
SPRING GREEN - Shakespeare has created many memorable tragic heroes, but none among them is more heart-wrenching and gullible than Othello, nor is there another villain more conniving, ruthless and despicable than Iago. 

Lives of quiet desperation on full display in ‘Picnic’
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - Whenever I see a William Inge play, I am reminded of that Henry David Thoreau quotation about most people leading lives of quiet desperation.  Born in Kansas, Inge is sometimes called the artist who was the voice of small-town life in the Midwest. 

Outskirts Theatre provokes thought with ‘Rabbit Hole’
WAUKESHA - Outskirts Theatre has provided a nice niche in summer theater programming, using  Carroll University as its venue.

French farce set in high-flying ‘60s takes some unexpected turns
MILWAUKEE - ”Boeing Boeing” by the prolific Marc CamolettI has enjoyed a long and rich history. 

'Seeds of Banquo’ offers insight into Shakespearian actor
ST. FRANCIS - Angela Iannone, widely revered as actor and director, now has added playwright to her list of impressive accomplishments. 

Not a lot of work, but they sure can play
FORT ATKINSON - The subtitle of this show is “A Country Music Revue,” which is somewhat misleading.  It’s more pop-rock than typical country, although country is expanding its style.  

There’s a  lot of  maturing 
when you get to ‘Avenue Q’
WAUKESHA - When the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha took on the Tony-award-winning, adult-Sesame Street musical “Avenue Q” by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty, it faced quite the challenge. Under the guidance of multitalented director and choreographer Ryan Cappleman and a gifted cast, they met it. 

Peter Pan Jr.’ smoothly takes to Lake Country stage
HARTLAND — Whenever I see any version of the Peter Pan story (and there are many), I garner some new messages inherent in it. 

WCT’s Jarecki doesn’t stop learning
WAUKESHA - Over the years, the Waukesha Civic Theatres’s Doug Jarecki has demonstrated his talent, his versatility and his likeability.

‘Shrek the Musical Jr.' entertains
WAUKESHA - The Waukesha Civic Theatre took on over 60 children in two casts to present the beloved “Shrek the Musical Jr.,” a very brave and generous undertaking indeed.

‘Modern Millie' thoroughly entertains
ELM GROVE - “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is a musical based on a beloved 1967 movie starring Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett. 

‘Moon Over Buffalo' provides pleasant evening outside
If you’re a theatergoer, you’ve probably encountered one of Ken Ludwig’s comedies.  His many awards and his millions of fans who have marveled at his cleverness and his prolific output attest to his extraordinary talent.

‘Opal’ wins over hearts as Oconomowoc’s Kleefisch sure to be heard from again
MEQUON — Acacia Theatre opened last weekend with a little gem called “Opal,” a musical based on a true story of a young immigrant from France who lost her parents in 1904 when a fierce storm arose on their passage to Oregon.

‘Assassins’ proves provocative
HARTLAND — Stephen Sondheim has never been a writer and composer who has given us fluffy lyrics or easy harmonies. He likes dealing with controversy and provocative ideas in his musicals. “Assassins,” now playing at the Lake Country Playhouse, is a testament to his artistic leanings and his incisive insights.

Music dominates in energetic 'Motown'
MILWAUKEE - The Marcus Center was rocking in its opening of “Motown the Musical,” directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. The orchestration was a bit too overpowering at times, but the strong, able vocalists could not be overcome by a too-zealous pit of musicians.

'Guys on Ice' appeals beyond  regional references as play  gets to the heart of guys
FORT ATKINSON - Milwaukee-area audiences are familiar with the late Fred Alley’s work. As a playwright and a lyricist, he has delighted us before with “Lumberjacks in Love,” “Goodnight Irene” and “The Spitfire Grill,” to name a few. 

'Rent' features some colorful, intense characters
Carroll University Players in conjunction with Outskirts Theatre Company opened a vigorous production of Jonathan Larson’s “Rent,” a rock musical loosely based on Puccini’s opera “La Boehme.”

'Women in Manhattan' has it's share of humor
John Patrick Shanley is best known for his award-winning play and film “Doubt” and his script for the movie “Moonstruck” with Cher and Nicolas Cage, but he is quite prolific. 

'Little Shop of Horrors' cast, plant demand attention
MILWAUKEE — “Little Shop of Horrors,” now on tap at Next Act Theatre in Milwaukee and produced by All In Productions, made its debut in 1960 as a cult movie, and in 1982 opened off-Broadway to become a big hit.

'Much ado' does well on chilly night at Lapham
TOWN OF DELAFIELD — A chilly night and a sparse crowd did not diminish the energy of the cast at Summerstage in the Lapham Peak Unit on opening night.  They muscled through the complex Shakespearian plot in his romantic comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” with verve and aplomb.

Just about anybody can relate to 'Father of the Bride'
WAUKESHA — “Father of the Bride,” which was popularized in two films, one starring Spencer Tracy (1950) and the other Steve Martin (1991), also ended up as a stage play adapted from the novel by Edward Streeter (1949).

Going 'Into the Woods' to discover ones humanity
MILWAUKEE - “Into the Woods,” one of the many successful musicals by Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Lapine (book), opened last weekend in the Cabot Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center. 

'Book of Mormons' takes sharp  jabs at religion
MILWAUKEE - The Broadway hit and winner of many Tony awards, “The Book of Mormon” exploded onto the Milwaukee stage at the Marcus Center on May 20. 

'The Ring' condenses, but surprisingly doesn't confuse
MILWAUKEE  — Skylight Music Theatre has just pulled off an amazing feat by condensing a 14-hour opera into two hours. 

Shaking things up with 'All Shook Up'
FORT ATKINSON - People continue to be fascinated by the ‘50s - its music, its fashions, its post-war feelings.

'Big Fish' reels in audience of all ages
MILWAUKEE - “Big Fish,” based on a novel by Daniel Wallace, explores the need for imagination as the path to making one’s life fuller.  First Stage Children’s Theatre gives the production a lot of flair and a ton of heart. 

'Peter and the Starcatcher' adds to Peter Pan lore
MILWAUKEE - The story of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up, was created in 1902 by James M. Barrie. It has inspired countless spin-off films, TV shows, novels, musicals and plays.

An interactive murder mystery that entertains
MILWAUKEE - Prepare yourself for a different theatrical experience as Brumder Mansion closes its production of “Murder is a Fine Art.” 

Neil Simon's 'Rumors' sparkles 
on Lake Country Players stage
HARTLAND - Neil Simon, probably the greatest comic American playwright, has written more than 30 plays and almost an equal number of screenplays, many adaptations of his stage productions. “Rumors,” one of his most successful farces, is presently sparkling on stage in the intimate Lake Country Playhose. It is a treat.

‘Les Miserables’ thrills from start to finish
In the past 20 years, I have certainly witnessed some impressive musicals at Waukesha Civic Theatre. “Miss Saigon” and “Sound of Music” come to mind as the recent best. Their present production, however, breaks all the former boundaries.

'City of Angels' offers a fun ride
MILWAUKEE - Windfall Theatre in little Village Church on Juneau Avenue has taken on an ambitious project in its production of Cy Coleman and David Zippel’s musical creation, “City of Angels.” Considering its length, its scope, its complexity and the large cast required, the end result is quite impressive.

Four actors, 140-plus characters 
make for frenzied mystery
ELM GROVE - We don’t usually expect a comedy when we hear the word “Hitchcock.” Not that the man didn’t have a sense of wry humor, but his comical mystery “The 39 Steps” doesn’t match the formula we’ve become accustomed to.

'Hairspray' explodes!
MENOMONEE FALLS - With a cadre of talented artists and technical engineers, a cast of enthusiastic, energized actors and vocalists, and an accomplished director,  “Hairspray” exploded upon the stage via The Patio Players. Wow!

'Lettice and Lovage' is sure to  'enlarge, enlighten and enliven'
MILWAUKEE - There is something about British wit that is easy to recognize but hard to define.  It usually appeals to those who relish subtlety as well as outlandishness, who see the blatant incongruities so prevalent in the human condition.

Third time’s a clever charmer for ‘Jeeves’
MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Chamber closes out its season with its third Jeeves show. The British playwright P.G. Wodehouse created this famous butler, who has become an iconic figure, appearing in countless of Wodehouse’s short stories for 59 years.

'Ten Questions' explores common ground in debate on evolution versus creation
MILWAUKEE - There are issues that can be variously interpreted.  They usually involve science, religion or politics, and some people feel so strongly about their position that they are willing to denigrate, torture or demolish their opponent. 

Play wrestles with gender roles for winning performance
MILWAUKEE - “Luchadora” is a premiere, an original work commissioned and produced by First Stage Children’s Theater. I’m sure it will find a market elsewhere for playwright Alvaro Saar Rios, for it is a beautiful story with an upbeat message for young people and their parents.  

'Low Down Dirty Blues'  spotlights performers
MILWAUKEE - As soon as Felicia Fields saunters onto the stage in that shimmery crimson gown and googles us with those big naughty eyes, we sense the power of her presence, but when she opens her mouth to sing “They Call Me Big Mama,” we know we’re in for one unforgettable experience. 

'Dead Man's Cell Phone' isn't ringing endorsement of technological society
WAUKESHA - Sarah Ruhl is a young American playwright who deserves our attention.   She is prolific and provocative and has already received her share of awards for her rather quirky plays.

It's hard to see 'Wizard of Oz' too often
I don’t think there’s another film I’ve seen more times in my life than “The Wizard of Oz” since my first thrilling experience of it in 1939, when as a child I watched Dorothy’s world suddenly turn into a rainbow of colors and a series of delicious adventures. 

Don't miss 'Five Presidents'
MILWAUKEE - Emmy-winning playwright Rick Cleveland, having contributed to many prominent TV shows such as “The West Wing,” “Six Feet Under” and “Mad Men,” saw a sterling opportunity to write about a rare gathering of four ex-presidents and the one presently holding office in 1994 when all five men came together to attend Richard Nixon’s funeral. 

It's OK to laugh at 'The Nerd'
Larry Shue once acted and wrote for The Milwaukee Rep Theatre. In the height of his career at age 39, he was killed in a plane crash, leaving a legacy of three plays, two of which have been staged hundreds of times - “The Nerd” and “The Foreigner.” 

'Diary of Ann Frank' poses introspective questions
Imagine what it must have been like for a young girl of 13, teeming with energy and hopes, to be trapped in a very confined space with seven other people, four of whom she barely knew, for almost two years. 

Will Durst gets a rage on with baby boomers
The Class of 1970 from Waukesha South High School might remember Will Durst.  Was he the class clown, the most likely to succeed or just a quiet guy you never expected to turn out to be one the best political satirists of our time.

'Neither Have I Wings to Fly' will close this weekend
Steve Decker, artistic director at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, found a sweet-sad Irish play many years ago when living in Chicago. Lucky for us, he never forgot it.  “And Neither Have I Wings to Fly” by Ann Noble is here for our perusal and enjoyment.

'The Amish Project' is 
a complex one-woman show
Deborah Staples has proved again that she is capable of handling the complexity of a one-woman show. 

'Bare: a Pop Opera' tackles the struggle for acceptance
Matthew Northey makes his directorial debut with an electric production of “Bare: a Pop Opera” at Soulstice Theatre in St. Francis.

'Prin' is a comic drama replete with memorable characters
Andrew Davies, a Welshman who early on settled in London, is best known for his film and TV scripts and adaptations.

Lake Country Players' 
music show off the charts
WAUKESHA - Along with jazz and spirituals, the American Musical is said to be an original with us. It has often been called the American Opera. 

'Funny Money' cashes in on some laughter
WAUKESHA - Ray Cooney is considered one of the best British playwrights. He has even been called the British Neil Simon, which I think is a stretch because their comedies are quite different.   

Patio Players' 'Mama' filled with hilarious moments
MENOMONEE FALLS - The Patio Players has discovered an outlandish comedy for our entertainment. A rather recent work by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, “Mama Won’t Fly,” is enjoying success since its inception in 2011, and I’m sure will continue to do so in many community theaters across the country.  

Skylight stages moving 'Once on this Island'
MILWAUKEE - The third production in Skylight Music Theatre’s fairy tale season is the delightfully colorful and soulful story of star-crossed lovers, set in the Caribbean French Antilles, where there is a big divide between the dark-skinned peasants and the lighter-skinned French upper-crust residents.   

Wade offers appreciation  for American music
WAUKESHA - Occasionally, one meets people that are hard to describe. They’re often referred to as “characters.”   Of course, each person is unique, one of a kind, but some stand out as being quite different from any others.

Next Act pulls at heart strings with 'No Child'
MILWAUKEE - It is gratifying to encounter a play that praises teachers for their grit and dedication. Having spent 35 years of my own life teaching high school (and 10 teaching college, which is a piece of cake by comparison), I often wanted to say to those who were quick to criticize and thought we had a cushy job and were overpaid, that they should try it sometime, even for one year, and then we’d talk.

Sunset's 'Cuckoo's Nest' delivers
ELM GROVE - The novel “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey was a very controversial one when it was published in 1962. It poked its nose into mental institutions and wrote a scathing story about the inhumane treatment afforded the mentally ill.