review: Controversy aside, ‘Joker’ is all setup, no punchline
the amount of controversy surrounding it,
“Joker” feels more like an idea and less like an
review: ‘Abominable’ offers familiar but delightful
can be a rare occurrence to find a kid-friendly animated
film these days that actually surprises and delights.
review: ‘Hustlers’: J. Lo’s fun but edgy crime comedy
glamorizes stripping and drugs
need to know that greed is portrayed as good in
“Hustlers,” which mixes themes of female empowerment
and friendship with criminal, unethical behavior.
review: ‘Monos’ examines messy darkness of war
colors of “Monos” are rust and blue: rust like the
earth, like the steady, but harsh mountains; like the
mud smeared on the skin of young warriors creeping
through the jungle not with spears, but machine guns.
review: Mesmerizing ‘Ms. Purple’ follows family drama in
never any question as to the identity of the titular
“Ms. Purple” in Justin Chon’s third indie feature.
review: Time-traveling ‘Don’t Let Go’ gets lost in
magic has the power to give a hopeful spin to a murder
mystery, and Jacob Estes’ somber thriller “Don’t
Let Go” harnesses the elasticity of cinematic time to
allow Detective Jack Radcliff (Jacob Oyelowo) to fight
for the life of his beloved niece Ashley (Storm Reid)
after her brutal murder.
Boys’ is the biggest original comedy opening of the year
ANGELES — Despite five new wide releases opening this
weekend, only one managed to make an impression at the
Exuberantly silly ‘The Angry Birds Movie 2' flies higher
than the first
the “Angry Birds” video games, you use a slingshot
to lob flightless buzzards at wobbly fortresses stacked
with snickering green pigs.
review: Mob wives brutally take over the business in ‘The
two-thirds of the way through “The Kitchen” before
anyone asks Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) what,
exactly, she wants.
review: In ‘Fast and the Furious’ spinoff ‘Hobbs &
Shaw,’ costars Kirby, Elba take the wheel
pretty incredible how the humble beginnings of 2001’s
“The Fast and the Furious,” a twist on “Point
Break” with muscle cars instead of surfboards, have
now spawned a nine-film franchise. And the souped-up
series shows no signs of slowing down.
review: ‘The Lion King’: Visually stunning remake is
darker and more violent than original
need to know that “The Lion King” is an extremely
realistic computer-animated remake of Disney’s beloved
review: David Crosby rattles the skeletons in his own closet
what a dork,” the crustily cantankerous
(cantankerously crusty?) David Crosby opines while
regarding a photo of The Doors frontman displayed in the
Laurel Canyon Country Store.
'Stuber' is a sloppy action-comedy that never surges to
is an Uber driver. Movies — and movie titles — have
sprung from worse premises, and so now we have “Stuber,”
a buddy action-comedy that stars Kumail Nanjiani as Stu
and Dave Bautista as Vic, a belligerent L.A. cop he gets
stuck with for a very noisy, very bloody 93 minutes.
review: ‘Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love’ shines
light on Cohen’s muse
English documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield has
established such a distinct signature style that it’s
ridiculous that there has yet to be a “Documentary
Now!” parody of his work.
imagines a world without the Beatles — and doesn’t make
you want to visit
does a great piece of popular music come into being? The
movies have never been especially good at answering that
question, though lately there have been significant
efforts to prove otherwise.
love letter to American country music ‘Wild Rose’ hits
all the right notes
chords and the truth.” It’s the tattoo that adorns
spitfire Rose-Lynn Harlan’s (Jessie Buckley) forearm.
And it’s the reason the Glaswegian lass proclaims she
loves good-old American country music.
review: In this troubling reboot, plot gets ‘Shaft’
Hollywood, everything old is new again. As much as we
whine and cry and gnash our teeth, intellectual property
is king, simply because it’s there, available to be
rebooted, rehashed, reheated.
Phoenix’ review: ‘X-Men’ mutant doesn’t start the
mean, whatever with the “X-Men” movies. It’s hard
to even rent an opinion on the discrete strengths and
weaknesses of a franchise that has devolved to the point
of “Dark Phoenix,” a lavishly brutal chore nearly as
violent as the Wolverine movie “Logan,” and a movie
featuring more death by impalement and whirling metal
than all the “Saw” movies put together.
Ali Wong and Randall Park continue rom-com revival with
'Always Be My Maybe'
'Always Be My Maybe'
of the brightest aspects of the rise of original films
on Netflix is its resuscitation of the romantic comedy.
review: A whole new same old world … this time with Will
quality cannot be measured by minutes, the new
live-action version of Disney’s “Aladdin” runs 37
minutes longer than the animated 1992 film famous for
Robin Williams’ inspired vocal riffs and the song “A
Whole New World.”
Dog’s Journey’ gives fantastical sequel emotional bite
critically with Dog Movies can be a challenge for a
critic. Who wants to be the crank who scoffs that the
heartwarming animal movie is just too contrived and
fails to open a window into the mind behind ‘The Lord of
What would J.R.R.
Tolkien have made of “Tolkien,” the touching, polished,
impeccably well-behaved new movie about his early life? The
author’s estate has already weighed in, distancing itself
from a project that moved ahead without its participation or
plush-filled ‘UglyDolls,’ the story is only skin-deep
Hollywood loves a
merchandising opportunity. And in recent years, there’s
been a trend of turning merchandise itself into movies,
which can then spawn more opportunities for merchandising,
therefore creating an infinite loop of merchandising
Endgame’ review: Marvel’s game of stones reaches a
gone for the head.” So uttered Josh Brolin as Thanos last
year, in “Avengers: Infinity War,” just before he
snapped his gloved fingers and cut the population of the
known universe in half.
review: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ schlocky add to
we call The Conjuring Universe has become a sprawling
franchise of big-budget horror-lite spookfests that pull
from every urban legend, folk tale and ghost story one
can think of, usually involving vengeful feminine
spirits and the women with whom they do
review: ‘Hellboy’ is a truly crazy monster mash, and it’s
… a lot
Perhaps it was
when Hellboy (David Harbour) chased a pig baby changeling in
a diaper up a chimney that it fully hit me. I couldn’t
help but wonder: What on earth am I watching?
review: Lightning strikes, Zachary Levi and a pretty good
bad, which by recent DC Comics movie standards (“Wonder
Woman” excepted) means it’s practically a masterwork. To
paraphrase Jack Lipnik, the studio head in “Barton Fink”:
Klayman’s ‘The Brink’ reveals emptiness of Steve
enemy.” It’s an aphorism that may come to mind for a
viewer of a certain political tendency while watching “The
Brink,” Alison Klayman’s engrossing documentary about
conservative operative and former Trump Svengali Steve
'Us' review: Jordan Peele
directs Lupita Nyong'o in an unnerving game of doubles
Peele’s “Us” begins so spectacularly well, and sustains
its game of doubles so cleverly for most of its two
hours, it’s an unusual sort of letdown when the story
doesn’t quite hang together and “deliver” the way Peele
managed with his 2017 debut feature, “Get Out.”
review: Post-WWII drama ‘The Aftermath’ feels empty,
With mislaid alliances and
stealthy maneuvering, the Kiera Knightley vehicle “The
Aftermath,” about an English woman’s affair with the
German man whose home she’s occupying in post-war Hamburg,
truly is a film that embodies the phrase “the war at home.”
Marvel’ review: Brie Larson suits up for duty in a
universe built on male swagger and bravado
pushes a rabid feminist agenda. Meaning: There’s a female
lead this time. So that’s one more white male out of work. It’s
‘Greta’ gets a boost from Isabelle Huppert’s freaky,
If one must be
stalked by a lonely, obsessive widow who loves barbiturates
and mind games, it might as well be Isabelle Huppert. That
seems to be the chief takeaway from “Greta,” a sleek,
derivative psychological thriller featuring this great
French actress in a rare and welcome English-speaking role.
with My Family’ review: Mum, Dad, the WWE and me
The more globally
famous the celebrity, the tougher audiences tend to be on a
biopic. Unless it’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” because, you
know. All those hits
It Romantic’ review: Rebel Wilson plus a concussion leads
to a romantic awakening
“Isn’t It Romantic”
gets by, barely, on its apparently inexhaustible comic
premise, and on Rebel Wilson’s stand-back-world-get-offa-my-runway
comic chops. Why isn’t it better?
review: Gender-flipped ‘What Men Want’ fails with its
something so wonderfully ironic about a black woman taking
over the sequel to a Mel Gibson vehicle.
Bala’ lacks courage to finish on dark note
The remake of the
2011 film “Miss Bala” by Gerardo Naranjo works until
writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer opts for an Americanized
Look Away’ is a masterpiece that confronts truth, Nazi
away, Kurt,” Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl) implores her
young nephew. “Never look away — everything that’s
true is beautiful.”
‘Adult Life Skills’ stands out with resonant, grown-up
Whittaker) is having a terrible, no good, very bad week. She’s
about to turn 30 and her mom wants her out of the backyard
shed before her birthday
Takal’s horror film ‘New Year, New You’ explores the
sinister side of social media influencers
At a time when
women are making strides across the industries of film and
television, the horror genre remains primarily a boys’
club. Sophia Takal, Blumhouse’s first female horror
director, is one of the filmmakers aiming to change
Kidman’s relentless performance is no match for the
bleakness, savage amorality of ‘Destroyer’
work by Nicole Kidman is the defining feature of Karyn
Kusama’s “Destroyer,” but that doesn’t mean
you’d want to put it on a double bill with “The
Hours” or “To Die For.”
With 'Bumblebee,' John
Cena finds his stride in Hollywood
LOS ANGELES —
John Cena doesn't believe in ego. How could he when he's
used to tens of thousands of WWE fans chanting "John
Cena sucks" every time he walks out to the ring?
‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ and she really shouldn’t have
thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Keats
said it first, but it was Mary Poppins, being
practically perfect in every way, who found the right
occasion for it, shortly after pulling an improbably large
houseplant out of her carpetbag.
necessities of ‘Mowgli’ come up short
Andy Serkis (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) has gone
down a familiar path with his take on Rudyard
Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” tales with “Mowgli:
Legend of the Jungle.”
Bathurst went in different direction with ‘Robin Hood’
Otto Bathurst (“Peaky
Blinders”) had one question when the possibility arose for
him to direct a feature film based on the story of Robin
review: Riveting heist thriller finds Viola Davis taking on
every rat in Chicago — and winning
I can’t speak
for all of them, but Chicagoans will watch the terrific and
unexpectedly soulful crime drama “Widows” one way, while
everybody else experiences a separate but related movie.
and Now’ lifeless effort despite good cast
who primarily has been making documentary films over the
past decade, decided to try his hand at a feature film. The
result is “Here and Now,” a production that follows
listless characters on lifeless journeys through New York
review: Paul Dano directs Carey Mulligan in stirring
adaptation of a fractured marriage
curious happens when two actors share a confined space
in front of a camera.
review: ‘Indivisible’ a refreshing war story that
balances home and abroad stories
now and then, faith-based movie studio PureFlix gets it
right, releasing a film that feels like it might have
some crossover appeal.
review: ‘What They Had’ explores family expectations as
matriarch faces Alzheimer’s decline
can’t always get what you want — or expected to
have. But nevertheless, we try, and sometimes, we do get
what we need. This is the idea explored in Elizabeth
Chomko’s debut feature, “What They Had.”
Star Is Born’ dims in the shadow of Kavanaugh
a decade the last few weeks have been. After
a year that saw the rise of the #MeToo and Time’s Up
movements, the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the
Supreme Court on Saturday despite multiple accusations of
sexual assault was just a bridge too far for some women.
School’ review: Reading, writing and roughhouse with Kevin
Hart and Tiffany Haddish
Am I asking too
much of “Night School”? It’s no big thing, this new
movie starring Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, and nobody’s
expecting a formula-, game- or life-changer.
Movie review: ‘Lizzie’
features some killer performances
The story of how
Lizzie Borden was accused in 1892 of taking an ax and
killing her father and stepmother has been fodder for films,
TV shows, a rock musical and a child’s jump rope game.
Although Borden was acquitted of the murders, the general
thinking is that she got away with murder.
Black’s ‘The Predator’ is a snarky, gory reboot with
some ugly baggage
More than once in “The
Predator,” a slicked-up, snarked-out piece of
action-comedy bloodletting from the writer-director Shane
Black, the characters pause to debate whether their enemy
really deserves the name he’s been given.
review: It’s fun to watch Jennifer Garner’s return to
action, but ‘Peppermint’ is no ‘Alias’
How to revive a
movie star’s flagging career? Take up guns, obviously.
Following in the time-honored tradition of “Taken,” “John
Wick,” “Atomic Blonde” and “Death Wish,” Jennifer
Garner arms up in the vigilante mom action-thriller “Peppermint.”
review: Dark, confounding ‘Kin’ defies genre
dates shouldn’t necessarily be a metric for evaluating
films, and yet, sometimes it’s the best way to
contextualize what’s going on with a movie. “Kin,”
a dark and confounding young adult thriller, written and
directed by Jonathan and Josh Baker, co-written by
Daniel Casey, is best described as a prototypical
uniquely unravels clever mystery
is hard enough to come up with a plausible mystery story
for a feature film that has enough legitimate twists and
turns to make it interesting without having to cheat on
flawed but vital milestone, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ pays
exuberant tribute to Singapore’s 1 percent
Before it whisks
you off on the sunniest, most extravagant Singaporean
holiday imaginable, “Crazy Rich Asians” begins on a
curiously dark and stormy night. When Eleanor Young (a
mesmerizing Michelle Yeoh) arrives dripping wet at an
exclusive London hotel, the snob at the front desk declines
her booking and advises her to stay elsewhere (“May I
Meg’ review: Jason Statham overmatched by clumsy shark
In “The Meg,”
Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver who once
encountered a prehistoric shark that killed two of his
Who Dumped Me’ is so … so-so. Kate McKinnon: So good.
“The Spy Who
Dumped Me” gets by, barely, thanks mainly to Kate
McKinnon. Her crazily fluid and unpredictable comic timing,
and her willingness to go big — well past Madeline
Kahn-big and very near Eddie Cantor-big — has saved
Cruise delivers again in action-packed ‘Mission:
Impossible — Fallout’
“Mission: Impossible —
Fallout” is the perfect summer movie to cap off July,
a month where the movies in the annual summer derby at
least entertained. But
“Fallout” goes beyond mere entertainment.
‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ improve on the original?
Everything old is
shockingly, stirringly new again in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go
Again,” the rare sequel so unexpectedly enchanting that it
plays less like a rehash than a reclamation.
Johnson scales the heights in the thrillingly dumb ‘Skyscraper’
structure at the heart of “Skyscraper” is something to
behold. An impeccably sculpted tower that dwarfs everything
in its path, it’s a symbol of physical might and
commercial supremacy recognized the world over.
‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ to top the box office, continuing
Hollywood’s strong summer
once considered a superhero small fry next to such
Marvel heavyweights as the Incredible Hulk and Thor, is
poised to march atop the box office this weekend and
boost an already strong summer movie season.
World: Fallen Kingdom’ is expected to open big at the box
office, but won’t match its predecessor
Pictures and Amblin Entertainment are hoping to create
another box office monster from the DNA of the “Jurassic
is a flashy, violent and fitfully compelling remake of the
1972 blaxploitation hit
know it’s a rotten game, but it’s the only one the
Man left us to play.” With
those words, spoken by one weary drug dealer to another, the
1972 film “Super Fly” offered up a soulful lament to go
with its moody style, fabulous clothes and immortal Curtis
caper and its consequences in true-crime saga of ‘American
One of the many
allures of heist movies is the clockwork precision of seeing
an audacious idea conceived and executed according to
dukes it out with superhero blockbusters for box office
a summer box office season dominated by superhero
blockbusters, a small documentary about a diminutive
crime fighter is doing big numbers in limited release.
In taking on 'Solo,'
Ehrenreich faced an unenviable task
LOS ANGELES —
Thandie Newton jokes that there might be something off about
Alden Ehrenreich — because how else could he take on the
pressure-filled role of Han Solo with so much ease?
movies offer a mixed bag of genres
comedy, dramedy. Sci-fi and suspense. Mystery and
horror. All of these genres (and maybe more) are
represented in the dozen films summarized below, by way
of a preview of spring 2018 movies bound for area
movie one of Day-Lewis’ best
Thread,” supposedly Daniel Day-Lewis’ last movie before
the 60-year-old heads into retirement, deserves kudos on a
number of fronts.
From ingenious tale to typical sitcom
offers an ingenious concept: humans being reduced to finger
size as a means of both confronting overpopulation and -
since the new small fry get to keep their old money - easily
attaining a lavish lifestyle.
recalls wealthy but tightfisted Getty
J. Paul Getty
(Christopher Plummer) is the richest man in the world. In
fact, he may be the richest man who’s ever lived in the
But J. Paul is also notoriously cheap.
Showman’ solid, if not exactly ‘La La Land’
director Michael Gracey’s feature film debut, “The
Greatest Showman,” isn’t as good as last year’s “La
La Land,” but the new musical does have songs by “La La”
Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and I’m calling
it a solid three-star flick.
Hour’ summarizes Dunkirk story and more
May 1940 and Winston Churchill has just berated a young
secretary on her first day of work. Great Britain’s
First Lord of the Admiralty has, according to his wife,
Clementine, “become rough and sarcastic and
overbearing and rude.”
Artist’ may shine brighter if release didn’t fall
between great films
Artist,” produced by, directed by and starring James
Franco, isn’t a bad movie.
films, family fare making screens bright
As the old saying
goes, it’s that time of the year again. Time for holiday
movies and additional family film fare.
Billboards’ adds up to a fascinating dramedy
Remember the old
movie title “10 Things I Hate About You”? What follows
is an enumeration of 10 things I like - about
writer-director Martin McDonagh’s new dramedy “Three
Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”:
is simply wonderful
“Wonder” is a
wonderful movie: wholesome, instructive without being
preachy, engrossing the whole way through. Did I mention the
actors and their characters?
Bird’ a remarkable directorial debut
curious “Lady Bird” and “LBJ” are running in movie
theaters simultaneously, it’s only “LBJ” that concerns
a character whose last name is Johnson.
Life’ documentary to stream on Amazon Prime
Milwaukeean and Brookfield Central High School graduate’s
film will begin streaming on the Amazon Prime subscription
Stay put, ‘Kane’ — ‘Killing’ is no
for “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” — as is their job —
have colorfully exaggerated, calling the movie “a
sensational thriller brimming with unsettling humor and
creeping dread, steeped in Greek tragedy, existential
horror, Hitchcockian psychodrama and riveting suspense.”
Wow. Move over, “Citizen Kane.”
Project' a naturalistic gem
My wife says I’m probably the
only Disney World customer ever who hasn’t liked the
Maybe that’s why I liked “The Florida Project” so
much. Writer-director Sean Baker’s film offers a rather
jaded perspective on the amusement mecca.
of Portis’ novel likely to enjoy original ‘True Grit’
enjoyed the novel “True Grit” are likely to embrace
Henry Hathaway’s production of the same name, the first
(1969) of two Hollywood versions of Charles Portis’ novel.
Felt’ convincingly revisits Watergate era
were less than stellar for the pretentiously titled “Mark
Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.”
Milwaukee Film Festival redux
MILWAUKEE - The
ninth annual Milwaukee Film Festival has ended. Now it’s
postmortem time. First, the numbers.
namesake Indiana city, film ‘Columbus’ is
shots and silences. Lengthy takes, in the European
tradition. Voices audible although their sources are not
features strong language, even stronger performances
Actors in “Stronger,”
the true story of a spectator who lost both legs in the 2013
Boston Marathon bombing, spew language considerably stronger
than necessary in an early barroom scene.
offers ‘personal microcosm’ of film festival
Western. A big-screen blending of story and architecture. A
kids’ movie, regularly referencing the stars and moon. A
dramedy from India. A documentary considering the connection
between rodents and the city of Baltimore.
Wyle movie ‘Shot’ might be worth the sermon
be the shortest-titled movie of 2017, but that isn’t its
only distinction. Directed, co-written and co-produced by
Jeremy Kagan (“The Chosen,” “The Journey of Natty Gann”),
“Shot” stars Noah Wyle, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. and Sharon
Leal as a trio who constitute - as the film’s enticing
tagline has it - “three lives changed forever” by “one
Magnetic Reese Witherspoon draws focus in
The romantic comedy “Home Again”
represents Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s debut as a film director.
You’d be right to contend that the 30-year-old’s
inaugural effort doesn’t quite play in the same league
with “Father of the Bride” and “Private Benjamin,”.
‘Patti Cake$’ more conventional than actually innovative
Helmsman hitherto for
commercials and music videos, Geremy Jasper debuts as a
feature filmmaker with a drama called “Patti Cake$.”
critic observed that a film succeeds if it accomplishes the
back to school, into movie theaters
always sad to see summer go - and you can easily verify that
statement with your school-aged children - autumn brings the
annual Milwaukee Film Festival (more about that
subsequently) and usually, in tandem with the first couple
weeks of winter, a given year’s best batch of motion
falls short of great, but registers good enough
While I won’t
be putting “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” on my top 10 films
list for 2017, I liked the Patrick Hughes-helmed comedy well
Bear’ original, entertaining
of “Being There” and “The Truman Show” as
an intriguing amalgam of real life and reel life (and also a
descendant of humans-who’ve-been-
-from-the-world films like “The Room” and “Dogtooth”),
“Brigsby” boasts a plot both believable and fantastic,
peopled by likable actors portraying likable characters.
native’s ‘Ghost’ is ‘impressive’
Milwaukee-born and (for eight years) Waukesha-reared
filmmaker David Lowery, 36, just gets better at his
Seeing 'Red' in a artistic and personal context
MILWAUKEE - The scene
opens as we observe Mark Rothko contemplating his latest
abstract expressionist paintings.
'Murder's Bad' pulls a couple twists on detective genre
WEST ALLIS - The West
Allis Players open their 50th season with a spoof on mystery
plays and also a light look at the split personality
Music Man' delivers on all counts
- It never ceases to amaze me what Lake Country
Players can achieve with their limited space and
pairing of 'Revolutionists' illuminates historical roles
in feminist light
- Laura Gunderson has a knack for taking some historical
figures or events and illuminating them. Though she takes
some liberties with facts, she is always faithful to the
Illusion, reality, pluck all blur to form a marvelous
- Some people are driven to follow their dream even though
it is very unrealistic.
Side Story' dazzles and disturbs
- The music sizzles, the dancing grabs us, as the
Jets gang members open the show with a strong
statement about their territory. Tension reigns in
this edgy musical about love and hate.
Crown Heights riots in '91 serve as basis of 'Fires in the
MILWAUKEE - Two
actors, Elyse Gorens Edelman and Marti Gobel, play out this
gripping re-creation of a disturbing riot that occurred in
Crown Heights, Brooklyn, N.Y., on Aug. 19, 1991, when a
Hasidic rabbi lost control of his car and killed a young
black boy, Gavin Cain.
Family frustrations play out in 'Dear Evan Hansen'
MILWAUKEE - The stage
is filled with internet images, representing our age of
Prince’ instructs us how to hear with our hearts
- Based on one of the most popular books of all
time, “The Little Prince” opens with a
. It is hard to classify this book.
'The Book of Will' a rich, in-depth look at retaining
SPRING GREEN -
Playwright Laura Gunderson, at the youthful age of 37, is
the most performed playwright in America and has already
written 21 plays. Her depth and sense of humor have both
served her well in her phenomenal success.
Buddy Holly Story' comes to the Fireside
FORT ATKINSON -
Some people’s lives are cut short with a dire accident,
but they still impact others mightily during their limited
span of years.
'Comedy of Tenors' hits the right note
GROVE - When Director Michael Pocaro is at the
helm, you’re assured of a quality production,
especially when it comes to comedy, and “A
Comedy of Tenors” certainly fits that
of 'Two Pianos and Four Hands'
- If you’ve ever taken lessons to learn to play a musical
instrument or tried to master any skill that takes years of
practice and discipline to perfect, you’ll appreciate the
wonderfully entertaining and sometimes poignant show now
playing at Stackner Cabaret Theatre.
ushers in much-awaited theater season
of the fests are over, the kids are headed back to
school, the leaves are beginning to turn - time
for all the theaters to start their 2019-2020
‘Rumors’ checks all the boxes for farce
- Neil Simon, the master of American comedy, is on full
display at the lovely outdoor theater in Delafield in
his funny, frothy farce, “Rumors.”
'A Doll's House'
SPRING GREEN -
Plays about marriage are usually a big draw because most
people engage in this venerable institution at least once in
Shaw play about Napoleon proves intriguing
GREEN - One of George Bernard Shaw’s lesser known,
shorter plays, “The Man of Destiny,” takes a
speculative look at a young Napoleon Bonaparte in his
calls on agility, timing in spry 'Unnecessary Farce'
- Milwaukee Chamber Theatre opens its 45th season with a
rollicking, well-paced farce.
star, cast deliver in Fireside's 'Annie'
- ”Annie” is based on the comic strip of Little
Orphan Annie and is set during the Great Depression when
bread lines and Hoovervilles dotted the landscape, the
unemployment numbers were high, and an air of cynicism
permeated the atmosphere.
sends message on hypocrisy
- Taking on Richard Wilbur’s translation of Moliere’s
“Tartuffe” with its rhyming couplets and long orations is no
easy task, and it proved to be too challenging for some of
the cast in Village Playhouse’s production of it.
Golden Pond’ has many rich moments, performances
OF DELAFIELD - Many of us remember the 1981 film
starring Henry and Jane Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. It
won its share of awards as it was the last of Henry
Fonda’s performances and the only one in which he ever
appeared with his daughter, with whom he had a very
'Hairspray' brings home teen issues in '60s setting
ELM GROVE -
”Hairspray,” a musical set in the ‘60s, is all about change
and the predictable resistance to it. In this case, several
issues are addressed, including exclusions because of size,
skin color, perceived talent or even style.
Preview of American Players Summer
sequence of American Players 2019 offerings began on June 8
and will continue until Nov. 17.
of 'Anastasia' captivates at Marcus Center
story of Anastasia, the last of the Romanov dynasty, is
one replete with controversy, but whether it is true or
not, it is a fascinating tale.
has its charm in gritty realism
- ”Dogfight, the Musical” is somewhat disturbing. It
has its hopeful, even humorous moments, but by and large
it emphasizes the toll that naivete and excessive ego
can have on the perpetrators and the recipients they
Comedy of Errors’ shines in Shakespeare in the Park
- ”The Comedy of Errors,” Optimist Theater’s
annual Shakespeare production, is laden with comedy and
an array of errors.
amateurs share spotlight at Footlights People’s Choice
BROOKFIELD - The
Footlights organization began more than 30 years ago.
It was founded to promote the arts in the greater Milwaukee
area and to print playbills for any theater company who
solicited their professional services.
rock show spans time
ATKINSON - Andrew Kindig, a smooth and well-informed
narrator, sets the stage for the historical, nostalgic
journey through rock ‘n’ roll music from the 1950s
through the ‘80s at the Fireside Dinner Theatre.
‘Spring Awakening’ an amazing production
WAUKESHA - First
off, I have to say that this is one of the best productions
I have ever seen on any stage, including the professional
cavalcade of misadventure well-played by SummerStage
OF DELAFIELD - Shakespeare is always a challenge, and I
admire any theater group that attempts to take on such a
demanding venture. SummerStage
has produced some of The Bard’s works before -
one-act plays worthy of a festival
WEST ALLIS - It
is rare to find a theater company that offers one-act plays.
The only other one I know of is the Milwaukee Rep whose
interns provide this delightful banquet of short features.
'Leading Ladies' lends itself to really big laughs
GROVE - Ken Ludwig, a prolific playwright, has garnered
awards in both his native England and here in the United
States. Two of his most popular plays are “Moon over
Buffalo” and “Lend Me a Tenor,” both of which have
played in the region frequently.
Why Bump Off Barnaby?’ indeed
WAUKESHA - Billed
as a farcical mystery, a genre characterized as having an
improbable story, mistaken identities, and stereotypical
characters, “But Why Bump Off Barnaby?” nonetheless
lacks the usual inclusion of many slammed doors and a
generous supply of physical humor.
summer option to consider: the theater
2018-19 seasons have ended, but there is still a lot of
live theater in summer. So when you’re not attending a
fest, a picnic or dipping into a pool or lake, consider
going to an indoor or outdoor venue for a step into a
different world of comedy, drama or music.
Me, Kate’ by Skylight brings fight and delight
- The Skylight Music Theatre brings us Cole Porter’s
version of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” in
“Kiss Me, Kate.”
Bee' bounces along unexpectedly
- A relatively recent musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam
County Spelling Bee” is not exactly what you would
expect from the title.
Heels' will raise issues worth pondering
- Playwright Theresa Rebeck doesn’t mess around. She
always has something significant to say whether it be
through her plays, film or TV scripts, or novels.
Tandem departs on a high note
MILWAUKEE - In
Tandem’s grand finale is indeed grand. A theater that
frequently delivered great comedy, often with an edge, does
it again with its clever “The Fabulous Lipitones,” a
production with lots of laughs, good harmonies and a good
dose of relevance on the subject of immigration and
acceptance of differences as well.
Giver’ gives lessons on dystopian society
- Imagine a world where there is no pain, where all
decisions are made for us, a world of utter
predictability and orderliness.
Country Playhouse takes a chance on ‘Mamma Mia’
HARTLAND - A
beautiful set greets us upon entering Lake Country
Playhouse’s theater for “Mamma Mia!” thanks to the
design of Terri Field and the hard work of Robert Hurd and
in a Canadian town revisited
MILWAUKEE - We
all remember where we were and what we were doing on Sept.
I remember that my first thought was of my daughter who
worked in Manhattan near the Twin Towers.
Patio Players vocally powerful in 'Wonderful Town'
FALLS - The Falls Patio Players cast takes audiences on
an authentic trip to “Wonderful Town.” One
of Leonard Bernstein’s lesser-known works and
seldom-produced, “Wonderful Town” first appeared in
Python’s irreverent 'Spamalot' given the royal
treatment by Sunset
ELM GROVE -
”Monty Python’s Spamalot” is hard to classify. Is it a
satirical farce, a farcical satire, a zany comedy? Perhaps
all of the above, but surely unusual entertainment. If you
can handle the irreverence, there’s much to enjoy.
Trains Running’ grades out high
- August Wilson tried to capture black history, decade
by decade in the 20th century, in his cycle of plays.
Milwaukee Rep has honored that history by presenting
many of his works over the years
'Ring of Fire' adeptly burns through
Johnny Cash library highlights
— The first two words that came to mind upon
experiencing this show were “versatile” and “vigorous.”
The five performers under the direction of the able Dan
Kazemi were all talented vocalists and string-specialist
musicians, and they all performed a series of 32 of
Johnny Cash’s songs with spirited liveliness.
and I’ beautifully revives cross-cultural musical
- A shimmering curtain with changing colors accompanies
the grand overture under the direction of David Aaron
Brown with all the memorable music in Richard Rodgers
and Oscar Hammerstein II’s beloved “The King and
I,” a story of culture clashes, a theme that will
probably be forever relevant.
Millie’ thoroughly enjoyable
- The winner of six Tony awards in 2002, “Thoroughly
Modern Millie,” based on an earlier movie, now playing
in Waukesha, gives us a look at what was happening in
New York City in the “Roaring Twenties.”
way more than fair with ‘My Fair Lady’
ATKINSON - The success of “My Fair Lady” hinges on
the casting of its complex main characters, Eliza
Doolittle and Henry Higgins, who must be capable of
expressing multiple emotions and capable vocalists.
- Carl Orff, a German musical composer whose works
combine music, dance and lyrics, is best known for his
“Carmina Burana,” published in 1937.
A mix of plays signals start of spring
It's easier to read a spring
preview after the recent thaw of the winter we emerged from.
Here are a few plays on the docket to cheer you.
dynamics play out dynamically in ‘Things I Know to be
- The set design by Scott Davis catches our attention as
we enter the theater. There is something fantastical
about it. The stage is dominated by a huge, unrealistic
oak tree and enhanced by three thriving rose bushes.
the rich serve as foils in ‘The Curious Savage’
GROVE - ”The Curious Savage,” now playing at The
Sunset Playhouse, takes place in The Cloisters, a home
for a group of mildly maladjusted adults
back from Vietnam travels through ‘Strange Snow’
”Strange Snow” recounts the story of how two men who
served in Vietnam transitioned back to civilian life.
talent plus comedy equal ‘Things that go Ding!’
- I was beyond amazed the first time I witnessed
“Things that go Ding!” in 2012 in the small Studio
Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center. This time
around, an expanded version is being performed in the
much bigger Cabot Theatre.
Chinese Lady’ delivers history lesson
- People who are different are often looked at with
suspicion. Because we have had little if any contact
with them, we feel that they are almost another species,
that we share no common ground. Such was the case of
Martin’s ‘The Underpants’ is over-the-top funny
- Steve Martin is considered one of the most
significant, multitalented comedians of our times.
Iowa' presented by the Falls Patio Players
all come from somewhere, and some of us will leave that
place as soon as we can, but there is always part of us
that is left behind and more often than not, we someday
realize that we also take some of our past with
us as well.
have rhythm walking away from ‘Five Guys Named Moe’
MILWAUKEE - If
anyone attending “Five Guys Named Moe,” Skylight Music
Theatre’s latest offering in the Cabot Theatre, does not
feel elated, they are hopelessly impervious to quality
a valuable glimpse at ‘80s financial shenanigans
- Money is certainly a complex and all-encompassing
topic. It is a motivator for getting training and
education, hard work, but also for stealing, cheating,
gambling and even, in some cases, killing.
51’ a revealing look into gender roles
MILWAUKEE - Human
greed and the desire for wealth, power and prestige seems to
show up everywhere - business, the entertainment industry,
politics, criminal ventures and academia.
Club’ worth a trip to Lake Country Playhouse
well-honed, clever script and a sterling cast while tucked
into the intimate little theater in Hartland, you’re in
for a delightful experience.
Murder is Announced’ sets stage for Christie mystery
GROVE - Agatha Christie always keeps us intrigued. The
mistress of mystery, she creates interesting characters,
injects some humor, and keeps us guessing until the
unpredictable revelation at the end.
Twain characters, the Mississippi spring to life in ‘River
MILWAUKEE - Mark
Twain is known for his writings about the Mississippi River,
but being the mightiest and most extensive river in North
America, it has certainly affected the lives of many.
the voices and looks of ‘Legends of Country’
ATKINSON - I have never been a huge country music fan,
though I do have several favorites, but the latest show
at the Fireside Dinner Theatre put me several steps
closer to becoming one.
Stage spreads its wings with full-out musical ‘Matilda’
MILWAUKEE - First
Stage Children’s Theatre has reached beyond its usual 75-
to 90-minute shows to produce its first full-length Broadway
it’s cold outside, the play’s the thing
When it’s cold
outside, you can always warm up in an inviting theater.
There are many interesting offerings to choose from in
the next three months.
look back at the area’s best plays in 2018
always fun to look back on the long list of shows I’ve
witnessed over the past year and re-enjoy the memories
Musical infuses pep into
'Best Christmas Pageant'
broken leg, an unexpected call to be the
director, and a surprise audition bring a good
bit of turmoil to Reverend Hopkins' little
parish school during the holiday season.
‘Merry Chris-Mess’ takes
audience on a wild ride
In Tandem Theatre has a
reputation for offering alternate shows at Christmas time.
After many years of success with the inimitable "A Cudahy
Caroler Christmas," the company has turned to a variety of
slightly or not-so-slightly bizarre holiday fare.
‘A Christmas Carol’ remains a treasure for whole family
- In its 65-year history, The Milwaukee Rep has produced
Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” 43 times.
on 34th Street’ still a charmer
- A classic story told with a new twist, “Miracle on
34th Street,” a live musical radio play, is a charmer.
in Babylon’ presents life-changing event
MILWAUKEE - What an
auspicious gathering of talent - an amazing, amusing
heartfelt script by the talented actor-director-writer
James DeVita, long associated with theater in Milwaukee
and Spring Green, a flawless cast, and an excellent
director, C. Michael Wright.
Country Playhouse sings beautiful ‘Christmas Carol’
- This is the eighth year that the lovely little theater
in Hartland has presented the musical version by Ernest
Brusubardis and Michael Koscinski of Charles Dickens’
famous “A Christmas Carol.”
rings out in ‘Christmas Belles’
ELM GROVE -
”Christmas Belles” opens at the florist shop where Miss
Geneva Musgrave (Beverly Sargent) is busily taking calls on
two phones in her business establishment.
Civic travels down ‘Candy Cane’ Lane
WAUKESHA - After
taking off a few years for a change of pace with different
shows, Waukesha Civic is back with a new version of “Candy
Cane Tales and Holiday Carols.” The seventh and revised
show is charming.
Family’ warms up the Christmas season
- It’s Dec. 24, 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor
and Roosevelt’s declaration of war.
Rep presents the comic drama 'Miss Bennet: Christmas at
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen has been a classic
favorite for more than 200 years, so it’s no wonder that
some playwrights would want to take advantage of its success
and try to imagine an extension of the story and the fate of
the five daughters that Mrs. Bennet had set her life’s
work on trying to marry off.
cranks up the volume, energy
— The strong delivery of the opening number, “Good
Morning Baltimore,” by Maisie Rose as Tracy Turnblad with
all her power, confidence and zing, sets the tone for
what’s to follow.
Dates of Christmas’ a pleasant diversion
— Most of us have probably experienced a few
heartbreaks. A relationship that doesn’t work out, the
loss of a loved friend or relative, being passed over
for the job we wanted.
and Sons’ delivers message well as a reading
MILWAUKEE - When
perusing the body of work by Terrence McNally, one has to
marvel at this playwright’s virtuosity.
presents multitalented Buddy, impressive soloist
ATKINSON - Any director who wants “Elf, The Musical”
to be a success had better choose a strong
actor-singer-dancer to play the role of Buddy.
‘All Night Strut’ brings back ‘30s, ‘40s
MILWAUKEE - For
starters, “All Night Strut” has a snappy, energized
medley of music from the 1930s and ‘40s delivered by five
Watch’ keeps up interest through the end
ALLIS - Playwright Lucille Fletcher didn’t quite
repeat the eeriness of her “Sorry Wrong Number,” but
“Night Watch” is a puzzling, engaging thriller
Civic Theatre stuns with powerful musical
- With the infamous coalminers strike in England
(1984-85) under Margaret Thatcher’s regime as
backdrop, we see two parallel stories unfold - one of
men fighting for their survival, and another of a young
boy fighting for his right to choose his own life path.
Gardens’ plucks at thorny issue
- A new young couple with a baby on the way just bought
a fixer-upper in an established older neighborhood in
the Great’ a worthy show by First Stage
MILWAUKEE - Nate
the Great, a young man devoted to solving crimes and eating
pancakes with equal fervor offers to help his friend Annie
find her lost painting of her beloved dog Fang.
‘Something Rotten!’ is anything but
- The first thing I have to say about this new musical,
“Something Rotten!” by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick
with some help from John O’Farrell, is that it is NOT
Sunset Playhouse produces a magical
ELM GROVE — During
the curtain call, which followed this marvelous production
of “Mary Poppins,” I wish the director, Nate C. Adams, had
appeared so we could have given him his well-deserved
appeal in comedy ‘My Mother’s Italian’
MILWAUKEE - An
internationally acclaimed comic star, writer and author,
Peter Fogel, delivers on Steve Solomon’s amusing “My
Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, I’m in
Therapy” in the Cabot Theatre.
of cruelty explored by The Rep
playwright Rajiv Joseph took some liberties with the
history of the building of the Taj Mahal, an awesome
architectural phenomenon in Agra, India, built by the
Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 as a tomb to honor his
favorite wife, who died delivering their 14th
Herring’ a fine catch at Lake Country
HARTLAND - Spies,
FBI agents, a determined cop, lovers and a mysterious film
hidden in a box of Velveeta -all await you at Lake Country
on a Hot Tin Roof’ proves challenging
WEST ALLIS -
”Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is an inspired name for this
Pulitzer-winning play by Tennessee Williams, where tension
and danger are palpable from the start as we meet Maggie and
Brick in their bedroom in the palatial plantation of Big
Daddy on the occasion of his 65th birthday.
Falls Patio Players hit with ‘Miss
FALLS — The Patio Players always do good work, but this
show was particularly engaging. Sherlock
Very Irish 'Mullingar' delivers
There is some danger in stereotyping, but there is also some
truth in these generalizations usually based on ethnicity,
religion, economic status or career.
'Red Herring' clearly spoofs nuclear era
MILWAUKEE - The drama of the McCarthy-Eisenhower era,
nuclear bombs, a profusion of spies and love affairs
dominate this hilarious spoof on politics, marriage and the
noir mystery genre by Michael Hollinger in his 'Red
‘Pippin’ shines ray of hope
MILWAUKEE - Most people have
aspirations of some sort, grandiose or down to earth, but
everyone is looking for meaning.
Rep takes immigration stories to new ‘Heights’
MILWAUKEE - A
combination of energy, electricity and heart characterizes
the Milwaukee Rep’s production of “In the Heights,” a
Tony favorite from 2008.
engages audience on many levels
- When I saw the playwright’s name, Christian O’Reilly,
I immediately anticipated a good script.
Bethany Thomas stunning
in Rep’s ‘Songs for Nobodies’
- A very rich narrative, beautifully scripted by Joanna
Murray-Smith and poignantly delivered by the
multitalented Bethany Thomas, left us thrilled at
Stackner’s seasonal opener, “Songs for Nobodies,”
now playing in the newly renovated cabaret theater. What
an event in every way.
American Players serve up saddening
GREEN - George Bernard Shaw had a way of poking fun at
the human race. His characters are always sympathetic
but always flawed.
‘Musical Comedy Murders’ a worthy whodunit
- Even Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie would have had
trouble unraveling these murders.
remains the one that audiences want
FORT ATKINSON - Opening in 1971
on stage and following that success in a film in 1978,
“Grease” has been a continuing hit.
classic comedic roles add up to just dessert in ‘Man Who
Came to Dinner’
ELM GROVE - They
are often called “old chestnuts,” plays that somehow
have appeal after many years. The one now playing at Sunset
was written in 1939.
performance pleasantly equal to creative script
I have learned in
the relatively short existence of All In Productions that
both their choice of plays and their execution usually pack
a memorable punch.
plays range from a new ‘Holmes’ to Cold War drama ‘Red
always something exciting when a season opens, whether
it is sports or the many theatrical arts.
of Booth family resumes with ‘In This Prison’
- When the renowned actor-director-playwright Angela
Ianonne researched the famed and troubled life of the
infamous actor Edwin Booth, she found herself fascinated
with the complexity of his life.
‘Pride & Prejudice’ issues
TOWN OF DELAFIELD
- I had so looked forward to seeing “Pride &
Prejudice” again, and having experienced the quality of
shows at SummerStage many times, I was somewhat disappointed
in the production.
figures sparkle in Milwaukee Chamber’s ‘Holmes’
- With wit, charm and a fascinating mix of fictional and
historical characters, playwright Katie Forgette weaves
together a tapestry of comedy and mystery in her
“Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily.
Yesterday’ tackles several American issues
MILWAUKEE - After
a peaceful drive through southwestern Wisconsin, one comes
upon the picturesque setting where American Players Theatre
is located with its two theaters, The Hill and The
Touchstone, winding paths, picnic tables and grills, lovely
gift shops, and lots of wildflowers.
Carats’ shines light on relationships
has been a long time since I’ve attended one of the
former Wauwatosa Players productions, a company now
renaming itself as The Village Playhouse.
tension tightens in ‘Blood Knot’
SPRING GREEN -
Two brothers live in a cramped space in Port Elizabeth,
South Africa, in the years of Apartheid. As one experiences
their life together, one feels tense and trapped.