Arts/Crafts   Books    Dance   Theater   Films   Health   Kids   Etcetera   Music   Lectures   Museums   Movies  Movies/Theater Reviews   

Perf. Arts




Movie News

A flawed but vital milestone, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ pays exuberant tribute to Singapore’s 1 percent

Historical figures sparkle in Milwaukee Chamber’s ‘Holmes’

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 suggest Chinatown?”). MILWAUKEE - 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.” As Milwaukee Chamber’s opener for the 2018-2019 season, we are dazzled by its brilliance.

‘The Meg’ review: Jason Statham overmatched by clumsy shark tale
In “The Meg,” Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a rescue diver who once encountered a prehistoric shark that killed two of his buddies. 

‘Spy 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 several movies. 

Tom 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.

Does ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ improve on the original? ABBA-solutely!
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. 

Dwayne Johnson scales the heights in the thrillingly dumb ‘Skyscraper’
The steely structure at the heart of “Skyscraper” is something to behold. An impeccably sculpted tower that dwarfs everything in its path, it’s a symbol of physical might and commercial supremacy recognized the world over.

Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ to top the box office, continuing Hollywood’s strong summer
Ant-Man, 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.

‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ is expected to open big at the box office, but won’t match its predecessor
Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment are hoping to create another box office monster from the DNA of the “Jurassic Park” franchise.

‘SuperFly’ is a flashy, violent and fitfully compelling remake of the 1972 blaxploitation hit
“I know it’s a rotten game, but it’s the only one the Man left us to play.” With those words, spoken by one weary drug dealer to another, the 1972 film “Super Fly” offered up a soulful lament to go with its moody style, fabulous clothes and immortal Curtis Mayfield soundtrack.

A caper and its consequences in true-crime saga of ‘American Animals’
One of the many allures of heist movies is the clockwork precision of seeing an audacious idea conceived and executed according to plan. 

‘RBG’ dukes it out with superhero blockbusters for box office relevance
In 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? 

Upcoming movies offer a mixed bag of genres
Drama, 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 theaters.

Last movie one of Day-Lewis’ best
“Phantom Thread,” supposedly Daniel Day-Lewis’ last movie before the 60-year-old heads into retirement, deserves kudos on a number of fronts. 

‘Downsizing’: From ingenious tale to typical sitcom
“Downsizing” 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. 

Movie 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 world. But J. Paul is also notoriously cheap.

‘Greatest Showman’ solid, if not exactly ‘La La Land’
Australian 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.

‘Darkest Hour’ summarizes Dunkirk story and more
It’s 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.”

‘Disaster Artist’ may shine brighter if release didn’t fall between great films
“The Disaster Artist,” produced by, directed by and starring James Franco, isn’t a bad movie.

Holiday 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.

‘Three 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”:

‘Wonder’ 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?

Lady Bird’ a remarkable directorial debut
While it’s curious “Lady Bird” and “LBJ” are running in movie theaters simultaneously, it’s only “LBJ” that concerns a character whose last name is Johnson. 

‘Roller Life’ documentary to stream on Amazon Prime
A native Milwaukeean and Brookfield Central High School graduate’s film will begin streaming on the Amazon Prime subscription service Saturday

Stay put, ‘Kane’ — ‘Killing’ is no challenge
Publicists 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.”

'Florida Project' a naturalistic gem
My wife says I’m probably the only Disney World customer ever who hasn’t liked the experience.
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.

Fans of Portis’ novel likely to enjoy original ‘True Grit’ film
Readers who’ve 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.

‘Mark Felt’ convincingly revisits Watergate era
Early reviews were less than stellar for the pretentiously titled “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House.” 

2017 Milwaukee Film Festival redux
MILWAUKEE - The ninth annual Milwaukee Film Festival has ended. Now it’s postmortem time. First, the numbers. 

Like namesake Indiana city, film ‘Columbus’ is architecturally concerned
Long shots and silences. Lengthy takes, in the European tradition. Voices audible although their sources are not visible.

‘Stronger’ 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. 

Critic offers ‘personal microcosm’ of film festival
A picturesque 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.

Unconventional Wyle movie ‘Shot’ might be worth the sermon
“Shot” might be the shortest-titled movie of 2017, but that isn’t its only distinction. Directed, co-written and co-produced by Jeremy Kagan (“The Chosen,” “The Journey of Natty Gann”), “Shot” stars Noah Wyle, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. and Sharon Leal as a trio who constitute - as the film’s enticing tagline has it - “three lives changed forever” by “one bullet.” 

Magnetic Reese Witherspoon draws focus in ‘Home Again’
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$’ more conventional than actually innovative
Helmsman hitherto for commercials and music videos, Geremy Jasper debuts as a feature filmmaker with a drama called “Patti Cake$.”

‘Menashe’: Mission accomplished
An estimable critic observed that a film succeeds if it accomplishes the filmmaker’s goals. 

Fall back to school, into movie theaters
While it’s always sad to see summer go - and you can easily verify that statement with your school-aged children - autumn brings the annual Milwaukee Film Festival (more about that subsequently) and usually, in tandem with the first couple weeks of winter, a given year’s best batch of motion pictures.

‘Bodyguard’ 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 enough. 

‘Brigsby Bear’ original, entertaining
Remindful  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-
isolated -from-the-world films like “The Room” and “Dogtooth”), “Brigsby” boasts a plot both believable and fantastic, peopled by likable actors portraying likable characters.

Area native’s ‘Ghost’ is ‘impressive’
It seems Milwaukee-born and (for eight years) Waukesha-reared filmmaker David Lowery, 36, just gets better at his trade. 

‘Dunkirk’ says lots with laconic script
“Dunkirk,” 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.”

‘Girls Trip’ a perilous journey
In 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 nice. 

‘Wish Upon’: Less enjoyable after first hour
I haven’t watched so many hourlong television dramas that I’ve come to believe 60 minutes is the ideal length for any show.   

‘Maudie’ wonderfully different
Early in the reality-rooted  “Maudie,” Ethan Hawke’s captivatingly conveyed character establishes a pecking order for the benefit of the “housemaid” he’s hired.

‘Beguiled’ proves less than beguiling
A 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 Nicole Kidman. 

‘Baby Driver’: a whole new genre?
Its 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
It’s 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.

‘Mummy’ not mummified, but fails to engage
Let’s 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 performances.

No need to tell ‘It Comes at Night’ to ‘Get Out’
I’ve 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.”

Poet’s biopic is 2017’s best so far
Having 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.

With humor, special effects, shades of Stevenson, fifth ‘Pirates’ nothing shabby
In 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 pirates.

More dramedy than comedy, ‘Lovers’ is  impactful film
Azazel Jacobs’ “The Lovers” was a surprise. Its trailer had led me to anticipate a light comedy; what I got instead was a dramedy, sporadically humorous.

Summer means new movies - and here are 20 of ‘em
For 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.

Schumer, Hawn keep ‘Snatched’ funny, but interesting
I’m not sure why Amy Schumer’s character in “Snatched,” Emily Middleton, chooses to vacation in Ecuador rather than, say, Hawaii. 

‘Dinner’ provides food for thought in fairly unappetizing plot
Poor 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 occurs. 

‘Norman’ deftly acted, creatively told
“Norman,” 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'
A 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.

Dramedy ‘Gifted’ a one-trick pony
“Gifted” 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.

Third recent queen movie deserves patronage
Stories 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.

‘Lost Village,’ pioneering Smurf film, hits theaters
Someone 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. 

Springing into existence: a score of eclectic films
Spring has sprung, as they say - the season of Easter vacations, baseball’s rebirth and (hopefully, this being Wisconsin) a farewell to wintry weather.

‘T2: Trainspotting’ - call it inventive, call it fresh
“That was 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.

‘Land of Mine’ merits place among fine war films
The 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 countryside.

‘Table’ somewhat empty as comedy’s
only as funny as its material
“Table 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 actors. 

‘Kingdom’ potential acting Oscar for Oyelowo?
David 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 coveted trophy. 

‘Red Turtle’ a good thing that abounds in the rule of threes
“Good 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.

Profound ‘Paterson’ antithesis of ‘Fifty Shades’ sequel
There 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 bromide out.

Time 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!

Little of ‘Wick’ goes long way, while lots of ‘Toni’ is welcome
In 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.

While 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 Awards sweepstakes.

Spanish-language film ‘Julieta’ proves to be a guilty pleasure
“Julieta” (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’
Allegations 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. 

New 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).

Patel’s Saroo torn between two of this, two of that in ‘Lion’
Remember 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 song. 

‘Hidden Figures,’ ‘Fences’ come out as  signposts of African-American experience
How 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? 

‘Elle,’ ‘Sing,’ ‘Manchester’: good, better, best
Casey Affleck’s virtuoso performance would be reason enough to see the Kenneth Lonergan-written and -directed drama “Manchester by the Sea.”

‘La La Land’ marks musical return; Natalie P mesmerizes as Jackie O
Searching 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”?  

Winter means movies - here are 12 to consider
Watching 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).

Three-star ratings for pair of Amy Adams films
“It’s 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.

‘Moana’ memorable; ‘Bad Santa’? Forget it!
“Moana” 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 the above.

Good words for boxing biopic, fantasy film
“Bleed for This” is the stranger-than-fiction story of Vinny Pazienza, who broke his neck and nearly died in a car accident,  then managed to resume his boxing career.

It’s time for the turkeys
Once again, 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.

‘Eagle Huntress’ and ‘Doctor’ electrify;  ‘Almost Christmas’ not as stimulating
A 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 average
Film 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. 

Animated ‘Trolls’ excellent; spy comedy ‘Keeping Up’ enjoyable
“Trolls” 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.

‘Girl,’ ‘Kevin Hart,’ ‘Chronic’ a mixed bag
The 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. 

Horse switching doesn’t make horse sense in new ‘Birth’
I recall my high school Latin teacher’s repeating the old admonition, "Don’t change horses in the middle of a stream.

‘Deepwater,’  film festival’s  ‘Queen’
fit for king
MILWAUKEE - 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 

‘Seven’ remake magnificent; ‘Snowden’ good as well
Right 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 picture.

Encores  set  for  ‘Slenderman,’  two other films at festival
The Milwaukee Film Festival’s opening weekend including screenings of “Slenderman,” as well as a newspaper documentary and a story of romance from France. 

Gimmicks get old, but some sequels succeed
While “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.

‘Sully’: A deeper disaster travel film
We’ve seen this before from Tom Hanks: a disaster during travel. Remember “Apollo 13?” How about “Castaway?”

‘Hollars,’ ‘Sea of Trees’ hit emotional notes
“The Hollars” is part tearjerker, part zany comedy, part paean to that wonderful and wild institution we call family.  

‘Sister’ somewhat brighter than ‘The Light’
It’s pleasurable to view a preponderance of commendable characters on a movie screen, especially in these skeptical and self-centered times. 

Biopic, book adaptation both outstanding
I’m as much in awe as the next critic of Meryl Streep’s accomplishments, including record numbers of Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. 

‘Dragon’ more delectable than ‘Sausage’
Evidence 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 Disney.

‘Cafe Society’ Allen’s best since ‘Blue Jasmine’
“Not as cynical” as previous Woody Allen pictures, offered an audience member at “Cafe Society” last week. I don’t know about that.

Nerve,’ ‘Bourne’ ultimately turn out to be disappointing
“Nerve” 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 watch.

Comedy not quite ‘fabulous;’ ‘Equals’ sci fi movie
Following a relatively recent trend, the comedic “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” is based on an award-winning BBC series.  

Comedy-drama ‘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).

‘Secret Life of Pets’ funny twist on old cliché
Just 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 play.

Top 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.

‘Election’ preferable to ribald comedy
Combining 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.

‘BFG’ plain magical; ‘Swiss Army Man’ displays ‘magical realism’
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.

‘Dory,’ Disney fish story, is fine family fare
Literally a fishy film, computer-animated “Finding Dory,” deals with a blue-tang title character.   This 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).  

‘Most controversial film’ debuts Friday
Opening  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.”

Quite a bit to see in ‘Now You See Me 2’
Rapid-paced “Now You See Me 2” isn’t quite the movie that has everything. 

How do ‘Popstar’ and Lonely Island fare?
I’ll 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.

Like subject, ‘Dark Horse’ likely to please
Louise 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.’”

Little to be said for new ‘Neighbors’
If 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.

‘Lobster’ a long two hours; still has quality, appeal
“The 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.

‘Angry Birds Movie’ does indeed have silver lining
The 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. 

Some summer movies add to franchises
Distributors have 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.

Imperfect ‘Meddler’ still has quality, appeal
“The Meddler,” written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”), certainly falls short of perfection. 

‘Mother’s Day’ best way to spend Mother’s Day? 
Often 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.

‘Elvis & Nixon’ revisit poignantly funny, but ‘Adderall Diaries’ rough
It’s 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 impersonator.

Bagwise, ‘Criminal’ is mixed while ‘Miles’ may, or may not, be yours
Advertised 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.”

Computer-generated ‘Jungle Book’ revisits 50-year-old cartoon
he 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.

‘Boss’ not up to last two McCarthy films
Melissa McCarthy is a gifted comedian, a talented actress.  Unfortunately, there’s also the raunchiness factor with her movies.   “St. Vincent” with Bill Murray two years back was an exception and McCarthy delivered an excellent performance.

‘Greek Wedding 2’: year’s No. 1 comedy
It’s 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.

R-rated comedy ‘Bronze’ has golden moments
“The Bronze,” which stars Melissa Rauch, is occasionally surprising, occasionally predictable.  Take that to mean the movie is contradictory, if you will. 

Fey’s effort highlights ‘Whiskey’
A 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 Afghanistan.

‘Messiah’ better than it sounded
“The 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.” 

Time for Oscar predictions - and lamentations
The 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. 

‘Eagle’ soars; ‘Witch’ less than beguiling
“Feel-good film” is the cliché I thought of as I watched “Eddie the Eagle,” a pleasant flick about bona fide Olympic skier Eddie Edwards.

Critical kudos for ‘Lady,’ ‘Deadpool’
As 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 rude.”

‘Son of Saul’ finer than ‘Finest’
If 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. 

Isaac captivates, but whither goes ‘Mojave’?
Written 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”).

‘Ride Along 2’ nothing special, but then again ...
“Ride 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.

Looking forward to cinema’s spring
Several distributors - Broad Green Pictures, A24 Films, Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Classics and Universal Pictures - have released titles, and descriptions thereof, for the spring.

‘Revenant’ a Western ‘painfully realistic’
“The Revenant”  is a painfully realistic pre-Civil War Western with incongruously gorgeous photography.

2015 was a great year at the movies
It’s 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. 

‘Concussion’ is a different but good gridiron movie
“Concussion” 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 casting. 

Hustle’ director Russell helms ‘Joy’ to behold
David O. Russell’s new movie “Joy” is a tantalizingly quirky comedy in the tradition of his 2013 ABSCAM-based endeavor “American Hustle.” 

Episode 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.”

‘Episode VII’ awakens new hope
Franz 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.”

‘Letters’ inspirational, if not cutting-edge
It 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.

Patron’s harsh ‘Night Before’ assessment proves accurate
Minutes 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.”   

Well-paced 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 asking. 

‘Spotlight’ up to ‘President’s Men’ but ‘My All American’ no ‘Rudy’ 
If it takes a village to raise a child,  an attorney for clerical sex abuse victims in the movie  “Spotlight”  remarks,  it takes a village to abuse one. 

‘Spectre’ has superior production values, but ‘Suffragette’ is superior film
As 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.

‘Room’ 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.

Truth be told, Redford’s Rather credible
In 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.

Stine-based ‘Goosebumps’ a bumpy ride, but Spielberg’s ‘Bridge’ worth negotiating
Amidst 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 adults. 

‘Coming Home’ is great, but not in today’s 3-D adventure sense
“Coming 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.

Zemeckis’ ‘The Walk’ another fine fall flick
In 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 Zemeckis’   humor-spiked drama  “The Walk.” 

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

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. 

‘Born 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.

‘Forty Carats’ shines light on relationships
It 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. 

Racial 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.

The Little Mermaid’ a hit across the board
MILWAUKEE - In “The Little Mermaid” two worlds clash, and as sometimes happens, love and acceptance of differences bring about a happy ending.

SummerStage cast nicely details ‘Trip to Bountiful’
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - Rain did not deter a few hearty patrons and an inspired cast to complete a poignant rendition of “A Trip to Bountiful” at SummerStage on Saturday night. 

‘Evita’ strong in energy, lacks quality sound
MILWAUKEE - Eva Peron has been immortalized for her brief, checkered, influential life.  She is regarded as a saint, a devil, a phony or a sincere lover of the common people.

Despite era, ‘The Children’s Hour’ still applies
MILWAUKEE - A rumor, if believed, can be an ugly thing.  It can ruin lives forever even when the rumor is proven to be untrue.  Suspicions always linger; reputations are hard to regain.

Sunset spotlights Mel Brooks’ comic musical
ELM GROVE - The present production of the award-winning musical “The Producers” proves once again that musicals with the right ingredients never die, especially when well-executed. 

‘Quality Street’ takes many twists, turns
MEQUON - J. M. Barrie, a Scottish writer of many books and plays, is remembered almost exclusively for his creation of Peter Pan.

Optimist Theatre pours on powerful ‘King Lear’
MILWAUKEE - The Optimist Theatre brings us its annual production of Shakespeare, this year featuring a searing rendition of “King Lear,” with its themes of greed and cruelty

Fast-moving, engaging ‘First Date’
HARTLAND - Meeting a stranger can be an uncomfortable, awkward event. One senses that it’s really a mutual assessment process, which is about as much fun as being interviewed for a job.

A night of celebration, recognition
MILWAUKEE - In two short years, the Footlights People’s Choice Awards night has become a barometer and celebration of theater in the Greater Milwaukee area.

‘American in Paris’ blends fluidly together
MILWAUKEE — “Fluid” is the first word that comes to mind in reviewing “An American in Paris,” the multi-award-winning musical that was revived in 2015. 

Anti-hypocrite message of ‘Tartuffe’ still rings true
Moliere, a renowned French satirist, liked to use his wit to expose hypocrisy.  In “Tartuffe,” probably his most famous comedy, he also takes a shot at gullibility.

Fireside’s Church Ladies serve a fine ‘Second Helping’
FORT ATKINSON - The Church Basement Ladies are back to give us a second helping with their unique mix of humor and sentiment as they adjust to the many changes inherent in the Sixties decade. 

Does ‘Father Know Best’?
WAUKESHA - I don’t know how young people will relate to “Father Knows Best,” a popular TV show in the 1950s, featuring the Anderson family, because times have changed so much from its time frame, but there will always be families and their inevitable conflicts and concerns.

Mysterious schemes, acquaintances add up in ‘Any Number Can Die’
ELM GROVE - The spoof on mysteries now being staged at Sunset Playhouse has it all.

Summer theater mix covers musicals, mysteries, Shakespeare
Many professional theaters close in May, but there is still plenty of live theater to take advantage of, including the nine plays being presented at The American Players in Spring Green. Here’s a taste of what’s on the docket

Skylight brings across ‘Urinetown’ satirical points
MILWAUKEE - After the first few minutes, one quickly realizes that this show with the rather surprising name of “Urinetown” is a spoof on musicals but also a show with a serious theme.  

Lake Country puts on a fine ‘Unnecessary Farce’
HARTLAND - Somehow set designer Ron Ehrlich and company managed to construct two adjoining motel rooms and a multitude of doors on the tiny stage at Lake Country Playhouse. 

First Stage picked a bit of a stinker with story
MILWAUKEE - First Stage Children’s Theater has brought us many stellar productions over the years. “Judy Moody and Stink - the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt” pales by comparison due chiefly to the story. 

‘Fantasticks’ sticks as a much-loved musical
MILWAUKEE - It is hard to put your finger on the reason for the incredible success of “The Fantasticks,” which broke the record for longest-running show in Greenwich Village in New York, but it has certainly charmed and continues to charm many. 

Windfall Theatre adroitly conducts ‘Celebration’ of life
MILWAUKEE - It is rare to see two musicals by the same creative team in the same week. 

Classic thriller ‘Wait Until Dark’ keeps audience in suspense
WAUKESHA - We can probably all name the films that scared us the most. 

‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ is well-staged fun fluff about living a charmed life
MILWAUKEE - ”A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” has won its share of accolades since entering the Broadway musical track in 2014. 

Well-planned ‘Anything Goes’ a tribute to community theater
MENOMONEE FALLS - “Anything goes” suggests carelessness, a lack of precision.   This phrase was certainly not the motto for those assembling the Falls Patio Players’ cast of “Anything Goes”.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre beautifully executes 'Doubt' 
MILWAUKEE - Doubt can be a very uncomfortable place to be, but also a very healthy one at times.  It forces us to think things through and often prevents snap judgments.

‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’ serves up plenty of laughs, good cast
ELM GROVE - Marc Camoletti, also known for his hilarious “Boeing Boeing,” updated a 233-year-old French farce in his “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” now playing at Sunset Playhouse

Wisconsin Lutheran College presents 'Ring Around The Moon'
WAUWATOSA - Christopher Fry’s translation of Jean Anouilh’s farcical comedy of manners, “Ring Round the Moon,” is delighting audiences at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

‘Our Town’ captures the profound in everyday life
“Our Town,” one of my all-time favorite plays, was penned by a Wisconsin native, Thornton Wilder, whose classic story has enjoyed immense success, having been translated into 70 languages, made into a film and a TV production, and attracted such stars as Paul Newman, Hal Holbrook and Frank Sinatra to star in it.

‘42nd Street’ strengths on full display at Fireside
FORT ATKINSON - The musical “42nd Street” by Harry Warren (music), Al Dubin (lyrics), and Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble (book) has had a long successful history since its inception as a film in 1933.

‘Top Girls’ gives plenty to think about on gender issues
MILWAUKEE - Gender disparity is an issue that has emerged once again as a hot topic.  Renaissance Theaterworks’ present production of “Top Girls,” under the direction of Suzan Fete,  gives us an unusual take on the subject.

‘I and You’ delves skillfully into the lives of teens, Walt Whitman
MILWAUKEE - Lauren Gunderson, the most produced living playwright in America, has delivered up a gem in “I and You,” presently playing at Next Act Theatre, a company that has the reputation of staging thought-provoking dramas.

‘Bridges of Madison County’ is a don’t-miss musical
HARTLAND - Many of us enjoyed the beloved movie “The Bridges of Madison County,” starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

‘Patsy Cline’ is fine, but it could have used more backstory
MILWAUKEE - Patsy Cline, in a little more than a decade of performing, was topping the charts when her life was suddenly aborted by an untimely plane crash. She was a mere 30 years old. 

A Greek tragedy told with some interesting twists
WAUKESHA - Myths and fairy tales often deal with the themes of life and death, good and evil, love and hate, and since they are not copyrighted works, fictional writers can put their own spin on them.  

Awesome, powerful only begin to describe touring ‘Les Miserables’
MILWAUKEE — Since its Broadway debut in 1987, “Les Miserables,” the musical based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, has toured the world, won more than 100 awards, been translated into 22 languages, and delighted over 130 million people, including those of us at the Marcus Center opening night.

One-woman show, many viewpoints
MILWAUKEE - Will we ever know exactly what transpired between Michael Brown and Officer Watson on Aug. 19, 2014, before Officer Watson fired 12 shots and killed the unarmed young man?

A tale of the Holocaust from one family’s perspective
MEQUON - The Holocaust and its ramifications affected Jews and non-Jews in many countries.

‘Tales of Hoffman’ a musical masterpiece
MILWAUKEE - Under the masterful touch of Skylight Music Theatre director Jill Anna Ponasik and a score of creative musical artists and talented artisans, “The Tales of Hoffmann” opens with a sassy series of announcements sung by Jean Broekhuizen.

One take on a family mirroring ‘Hamlet’ tragedy
MILWAUKEE - Many of Shakespeare’s tragedies mirror the turmoil in a family. Local playwright Deanna Strasse parallels the Flack family to Hamlet’s and the animosity that transpires when Hamlet’s mother marries his uncle soon after his father’s death. How dare she!

‘Newsies’ story shines through at the Fireside
FORT ATKINSON - A musical based on turn-of-the-20th-century history, the persistent chasm between the rich and the poor, a love story and the power of social activism - “Newsies” has it all. 

Cast is game in Waukesha Civic’s ‘Clue’
WAUKESHA - A wrench, a revolver, a pipe, a rope, a candlestick, a knife - these are the possible weapons that will be used to take down Mr. Boddy.

'Outgoing Tide' reveals anxieties of Alzheimer's 
MILWAUKEE — The rustic stage set designed by Steve Barnes greets us as we enter the theater, luring us into such a beautifully cozy retreat.

‘One House Over’ questions may simmer as audience heads to their own homes
MILWAUKEE - Upon entering the Rep theater, our eyes are drawn to the stage. A full house with a spacious backyard replete with gardens fills out the space. We are in Chicago in 2010.

Fairy tales evolve to modern completion in ‘Into the Woods’
ELM GROVE — It’s hard to know where to start on this one. It was so good!  Sunset Playhouse has a reputation for very good musicals, but this one may be its best in many years. 

Upcoming plays provide sign of spring
The days are getting longer, the weather less frigid and the hopeful forecast is for spring around the corner.  Theater goes on no matter what. Clement weather just makes it easier to get there. 

Powerful voices rev up The Wiz
MILWAUKEE — The First Stage Children’s Theater took on a mighty challenge when it decided to produce “The Wiz,” but it more than met the task.

‘The Brothers Size’ a sizable contribution to area theater
MILWAUKEE — “The Brothers Size” is one of those rare productions that almost leave one speechless. 

‘Proof’ of fine play starts with well-calculated script
MILWAUKEE - This fascinating story involves a ground-breaking mathematician, his two daughters, and one of his adoring students. It is a tale of family, of genius, of jealousies, of mental breakdown, of daunting dreams and disappointments.

Lively ‘Neverland’ grabs audience — young and old
MILWAUKEE — The Broadway series at the Marcus Center is offering “Finding Neverland,” a confection for both children and adults. 

Versatile actors shine in ‘Stones in His Pockets’
MILWAUKEE - It takes two very versatile, flexible actors to pull off 15 characters, and Windfall has found them in Robert W.C. Kennedy and Joe Picchetti. 

Shakespeare faced with dilemma: To die or lie, that is the question
Lying is a common human behavior. It begins when we’re very young and we use it to escape punishment or loss of privileges. 

‘Zombies from the Beyond’ perfectly spoofs the ‘50s  
As the curtain rises, a small pink UFO floats across the stage, a miniature model of the splendid, imposing one we’ll be treated to later. 

Condensing Shakespeare into something funny
What a hoot! Whether you’re a Shakespeare fan or not, you’ve probably been exposed to some of his famous plays during your high school English classes.  

Atypical Holmes tale is a pleasant puzzler nonetheless
MILWAUKEE - A fictional icon, Sherlock Holmes continues to fascinate audiences with his cerebral gift for deductive reasoning and his quirky ways. 

Comedy demonstrates how one family copes with adversity
HARTLAND - Families are unique configurations. Some work better than others. One often hears people say, “I wish we had a normal family,” and yet, no one can really come up with a definition of what that reality might look like. 

‘Russian Transport’ thoughtfully address human trafficking issue
MILWAUKEE - Renaissance Theaterworks, now celebrating its 25th year, is a company that encourages women playwrights, directors and actors, often choosing vehicles that dramatize women’s issues.

‘Room Service,’ a la Marx Brothers, serves up  romp
ELM GROVE - “Room Service” by John Murray and Allen Boretz is a frequently played farce set in 1937. Its popularity was boosted by a film starring the Marx Brothers and Lucille Ball in 1938.

‘Black Pearl Sings!’ uncovers life of hardship in song
MILWAUKEE - A white musicologist who works for the Library of Congress is looking for black music from the time of slavery.

First Stage puts on engaging, touching ‘Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane’
MILWAUKEE - A beautiful, touching story of love and courage awaits you in the re-telling of Kate DiCamillo’s “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” as adapted by Dwayne Hartford for children’s theaters.

‘Constellations’ variations makes one ponder ‘what if'
MILWAUKEE - If you’re looking for answers, you won’t find them in “Constellations” by Nick Payne, a young British playwright, but you will find many interesting questions.

The Rep’s ‘Animal Farm’ is worthy of Orwell
For some strange reason, human beings, despite their history, often continue to believe that somehow they can eliminate greed, inequality, poverty, sickness and all injustices and create the perfect Utopian society.

20 plays to warm you up this winter
Life goes on in these climes even when it’s cold.  We’re not about to let frigid temperatures stop us.  All the theater companies have full schedules - “The show must go on” is not an empty phrase.

‘Phantom’ story outshines music in Fireside’s version
FORT ATKINSON - When first hearing of the upcoming production of “Phantom of the Opera” at Fireside, I was very excited to see it again. 

The Marcus Center presents 'Waitress'
MILWAUKEE — It is unusual to have a production that features the creativity of women in many of the key roles — book (Jessie Nelson), music and lyrics (Sara Bareilles), choreography (Lorin Latarro), and direction (Diane Paulus.)

‘Scrooge in Rouge’ takes Dickens’ tale on a wild ride audience won’t forget
MILWAUKEE - During the reign of Queen Victoria, music halls provided much of the entertainment for the common man. They offered skits and songs, along with a generous sprinkling of bawdy humor and ale. 

Best of the best in local theater for 2017
It is always difficult to look over a given year of theatrical offerings and pick out the best of the best. 

Doug Jarecki explores ‘Month Before Christmas’
MILWAUKEE - This is not your standard Christmas fare nor the traditional account of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, to be sure.

Amazing Scrooge propels Rep’s splendid ‘Christmas Carol’
MILWAUKEE - It is hard to describe the splendor of this production.  All the elements come together - the ingenious sets, the splendid costumes, spooky special effects, lilting music and, of course, the superior acting of the cast gathered from a plethora of local talent.

Understated ‘Bing Crosby’ nicely nostalgic
MILWAUKEE - Bing Crosby was a huge star from the 1930s through the 1950s, selling over a billion records during that time. He is also remembered as an actor for his roles in “Going My Way,” “White Christmas” and “The Bells of Saint Mary’s.”

A spunky, talented beauty captivates in Sunset’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’
ELM GROVE - Not an empty seat in the house, many eager children and adults awaited the opening curtain of the beloved “Beauty and the Beast” at Sunset Playhouse. 

‘House Without a Christmas Tree’ delivers modern-day message of redemption
WAUKESHA - Waukesha Civic Theatre’s Christmas offerings for many years were different versions of their “Candy Cane Tales and Holiday Carols,” a lovely mix of skits and songs.

Lake Country shows why ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a treasured classic
HARTLAND - The musical version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has become a tradition at Lake Country Playhouse in Hartland.

‘Miracle on South Division’ strikes a universal chord 
MILWAUKEE - Playwright Tom Dudzick, who has been called the Catholic Neil Simon, often includes his Buffalo and religious roots in many of his plays; also his Polish ethnic heritage. 

‘Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol’ fits legacy
MEQUON - As much as I cherish some traditions, it is refreshing to witness a new twist on an old story. 

‘Holmes and Watson’ proves intriguing
MILWAUKEE - There are certain unusually memorable individuals - real or fictional - who refuse to be forgotten.

‘Secret Mask’ unlocks family mysteries
MILWAUKEE - The play begins with a speech therapist working with a gentleman who has just suffered a stroke.

It’s love vs. greed in ‘Dear World’
MILWAUKEE - Jerry Herman is best known for two of his musicals - “Hello Dolly” and “Mame.” His “Dear World” had some problems when it first appeared in the 1960s, starring Angela Lansbury.

Skylight puts on spunky, polished ‘Annie’
MILWAUKEE - We are immediately caught up as the curtain rises on a rather seedy dormitory in an orphanage with two girls crammed into each single bed. 

Inspired by The Rep, Milwaukee County native returns to roots
MILWAUKEE - One of our local boys has made it to the big time.   Joe Kinosian grew up in Wauwatosa and attended the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, where his interest in theater was sparked. 

‘Miracle’s’ focus on belief in the unseen plays well as a musical at Fireside
FORT ATKINSON - Picture John Payne, Maureen O’Hara and Ed Gwynn in the black-and-white “Miracle on 34th Street” from 1947. It’s been re-run so often, it probably isn’t hard to imagine it. 

Coming to a theater near you: 11 plays of Christmas
It seems as soon as Halloween is over, the ads start pushing Christmas. By Thanksgiving, we are well on our way to preparing for this glorious feast. 

‘The Cherry Sisters’ presents a certain charm
WAUWATOSA - Picture yourself at a vaudeville show in a barn in Marion, Iowa, in 1892, witnessing four sisters who have dreams bigger than their talent putting on their first show.

Waukesha Civic’s full-throated ‘Hunchback’ produces mega impact
WAUKESHA — After witnessing Waukesha Civic Theatre’s spectacular “Les Miserables” two years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever see another musical based on a story by Victor Hugo that could ever even come close to matching it. I was wrong.

‘Sex with Strangers’ proves tense, mesmerizing
MILWAUKEE - Whenever Marti Gobel is on stage, you can be sure that it’s going to be a bonus for the audience. Marti never settles for anything less than stunning. Her compatriot, Nick Narcisi, in “Sex with Strangers” is good, too, but it is a challenge to match Marti’s talent.

‘Sister Act’ remains heavenly fun
What a glorious array of talent and verve awaits us on the stage at Sunset Playhouse with their melodic and amusing rendition of the musical “Sister Act.”

‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ provides plenty of bang
MILWAUKEE - ”Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is a British fantasy musical that is based on a 1968 film starring Dick Van Dyke. 

‘Twelve Angry Men’ provides good drama
WEST ALLIS - Juries and courtroom scenes remain eternally intriguing to many of us. Our intellectual and emotional selves are stretched, our abilities to distinguish between fact and inference are challenged, and our capacity to empathize, to reason, to influence and be influenced by others all factor into the mix.

‘Too Much Light’ gets pretty hectic, confusing
WAUKESHA - Artists, whether they work in music, theater, film, sculpture or painting, are always pushing the envelope, looking for unique paths to express themselves in creative ways. 

‘Bell, Book and Candle”: A seasonal whodunit 
MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee Entertainment Group has unearthed a delightful old comedy by John Van Druten. You may remember the 1958 movie “Bell, Book and Candle,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. It is still very engaging.

West Allis Players lends a good supporting cast to Sherlock Holmes in his ‘Final Adventure’
WEST ALLIS - We have all encountered the quintessential detective Sherlock Holmes in some venue or other  He is super smart, almost indomitable, very rational in his approach to solving a crime.

Lake Country delivers astonishing rendition of ‘Little Women’
“Little Women,” the semi-autobiographical novel by Louisa May Alcott, published in 1869, continues to speak to generation after generation. 

‘Hot Mikado’ stirs up Gilbert and Sullivan
MILWAUKEE - As one enters the theater, one notes the contrast of styles on stage (designer Sarah Bradner).

What’s better than Elvis? How about 3?
During Elvis Presley’s all-too-short life, he assuredly was an icon and a groundbreaker when it came to his music and his style. 

‘Guys and Dolls’ dazzles, but script keeps it from  rising to top of musical heap
MILWAUKEE - Most people love musicals - just ask any theater manager when their attendance spikes.  Some musicals have been around for decades, which is the case with “Guys and Dolls.” It debuted in the 1950s and is set in the ‘30s when gambling was a crime.

‘Frankie and Johnny’: Characters you can relate to
MILWAUKEE - ”Frankie and Johnny” is a story you may have encountered, if not on stage, perhaps in the 1991 film starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino. 

‘Sex Please We’re 60’ plays tired refrain
WAUKESHA — There are certain periods in a person’s life cycle where they are targeted as sources of amusement. One seldom hears jokes about babies, children and people younger than 40. But as soon as we hit the big four-oh, duck!

The Rep, two stars deliver the perfect pitch on Florence Foster Jenkins in off-key ‘Souvenir’
MILWAUKEE - We probably all delude ourselves at times. We might think we have more talent than we have, or less. It is hard to see ourselves objectively.

Over the moon over Sunset Playhouse’s latest comedy
ELM GROVE - If Joe DiPietro had written only “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” and “Over the River and Through the Woods,” he would still have made my list of favorite playwrights.

Gripping ‘Next to Normal’ casts light on mental health
MILWAUKEE - All In Productions, a company that made its debut less than three years ago, is making its presence felt in the Milwaukee theater scene. 

Maids role play, but boss isn’t one to idolize in ‘Maids’
Jean Genet, composer of “The Maids,” was born to a prostitute, raised by a foster family and had a rough childhood, including arrests for theft and vagrancy  that involved some prison time. 

Fall theater ranges from musicals to mysteries
Although many community theaters keep their doors open in the summer, most professional theater companies run their seasons from September through May. This year, the calendar is brimming with an enticing mix of musicals, dramas, comedies and mysteries. Take your pick or picks.

Teen drama, romance captured by ‘best Juliet’ with fantastic cast and crew
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - Despite the chilly night, the production of “Romeo & Juliet,” surely one of Shakespeare’s favorite creations, kept us enthralled. The ease with which most of the actors delivered their lines was impressive

‘Three Sisters’ themes might be better in place other than ATP’s The Hill
SPRING GREEN - This year I chose to attend Arthur Miller’s “View from the Bridge” and Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” on my annual pilgrimage to the American Players Theatre.  

Carroll’s ‘Next to Normal’ dramatically reflects mental illness
WAUKESHA - Mental illness is a topic that is seldom addressed. It seems to raise people’s anxiety levels more than physical afflictions do. 

MCT 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 masterpieces. 

‘Once Upon A Mattress’ a delightful summer play for Lake Country
HARTLAND - Lake Country Playhouse attracts many young people in the summer to participate in workshops on acting and all aspects of theater. 

‘Church Basement Ladies’ mixes up Midwestern humor with the ‘60s
FORT 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’
MILWAUKEE — For a community theater to tackle the immensity and intensity of Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s rock musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” is impressive.

Summer 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.

‘Wayward Women’ humorously meanders at Alchemist
MILWAUKEE - There are times when reviewers are stumped for words after seeing a play. This is one of them for me.

‘This 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. 

‘Hello, 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 

Optimist’s ‘Much Ado’ best in memory with Shakespeare at the Peck
MILWAUKEE - 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.

Spirit of ‘1776’ remains relevant
HARTLAND - It’s that time of year when most of us give some thought to the founding of our country. 

Carroll grad’s production of ‘Bare’ lays bare issues facing teens today
MILWAUKEE - 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 good productions.

‘Back to the 50s’ latest in Fireside’s successful musical nostalgia
FORT 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 version.

‘Carole King Musical’ beautifully performed
MILWAUKEE — 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. 

Civil 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 appealing story.

When Agatha Christie counts down, count on clever plot twists, murder
ELM 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. 

Waukesha Civic delivers with ‘Barefoot’
WAUKESHA — Neil Simon’s works continue to draw and delight audiences. Along with his humor, he always has some insights to share concerning human relationships.

Summer theater returns
Most 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 year-round.  Here are the available options: * Through June 18 - “And Then There Were None,” Sunset Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove.

Grisly ‘Sweeney Todd’ has its few tender moments
MILWAUKEE - ”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. 

There’s 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”?

First Stage’s ‘Animal Farm’ a meaty choice for young performers
MILWAUKEE - For some strange reason, human beings, despite their history, believe they can eliminate greed, inequality, poverty, sickness and create the perfect utopian society.

‘By Jeeves’ somehow misses; Windfall Theatre cast shines in roles
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. 

‘Amateurs’ script falls short, but Lake Country nails touching moments
HARTLAND - Tom Griffin once wrote “The Boys Next Door,” an outstanding, sensitive play, one that has stood the test of time. 

New take on deep ‘Jane Eyre’ enjoyable
MILWAUKEE - ”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 inception. 

‘Junie B. Jones’ is a fun-filled delight
MILWAUKEE - Junie B. Jones is a beloved character in all of Barbara Park’s 28 books (1992-2013).

Waukesha Civic’s ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ keeps it light, lively
WAUKESHA - 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 credulity.

In 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 flavor.

‘Chicago’ packs a bunch of superlatives
MILWAUKEE - 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 Sondheim work
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
MENOMONEE FALLS - ”Spamalot” is hard to classify, but it’s good entertainment, if you can handle the irreverence and absurdity.

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 lives.

‘Great Expectations’ lives up to its title
MILWAUKEE - 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 “Great Expectations.”

‘Violet Hour’ shines light on publishing, morality, ethics
MILWAUKEE - As I witnessed “The Violet Hour,” I was impressed with its broad appeal and the plethora of elements woven into several subplots. 

‘Bloomsday’ 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 these ruminations.

First Stage’s ‘Mockingbird’ takes flight as it takes on autism
MILWAUKEE - 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.

A 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 entertainment scene.

‘Tick, Tick ... Boom!’ surpasses ‘Rent’ in ways
HARTLAND - 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.” 

‘Cinderella’: 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
MILWAUKEE - 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. 

‘Best 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.

Fairy 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 over evil. 

‘Glass Menagerie’ remindful of people’s illusions
MILWAUKEE - 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. 

‘33 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.

Love triumphs over terror in UW-Waukesha’s moving rendition of ‘Women of Lockerbie’
WAUKESHA - 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 Plymouth Church.

‘Little 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 apparent. 

‘The Few’ gets personal exploring past wreckage
MILWAUKEE - 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. 

When ‘Time Stands Still’ in four lives 
MILWAUKEE - Three excellent productions hit the stages in Milwaukee last weekend, all engaging and thought-provoking.

Solo ‘Grounded’ covers a lot of ground
MILWAUKEE - “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 operating drones.  

Ignore any lingering snow; spring plays are in the air
Most professional theaters’ seasons run from September through May. Here are the many interesting offerings from the final third of the 2016-’17 productions. 

Fittingly, First Stage’s ‘Robin Hood’ has something for everybody
MILWAUKEE - 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 clergy.

‘Metromaniacs’: 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 affirmation.

Visiting ‘The Other Place’ can be jarring to watch
MILWAUKEE - 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.

The Illusionists mesmerize
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.

Enchanted by Falls Patio Players’ transformative ‘Enchanted April’
MENOMONEE 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 experience it. 

Waukesha Civic’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ makes for spirited fun
Noel 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
MILWAUKEE - 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
HARTLAND - 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.

‘You Can’t Take It With You’ still accruing interest
ELM 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’ proves provocative
MILWAUKEE - “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.

‘Bronzeville’ welcomes Wisconsin series, era of ethnic communities
“Welcome 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 diversity.

Anticipating 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
FORT 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 Streep.

Touring ‘Sound of Music’ warms
hearts - even on a cold day
MILWAUKEE - 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.

Breaking down the best plays of 2016 by category
After 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. 

Irreverence shines through in In Tandem’s ‘Holiday Hell’
MILWAUKEE - 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.” 

‘Best Christmas Pageant’? Most humorous, maybe 
ELM GROVE - Get ready for a bundle of laughs in Sunset’s production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” a staple during the Christmas season. 

‘Purely Elfish Reasons’ addresses labor shortage
WAUKESHA - 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.

Re-energized Rep
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 company.
>>The Rep Respins a Classic

Lake 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.

Skylight’s 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.

‘Lobby Hero’ adds depth to comedic characters
MILWAUKEE - 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. 

‘The 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.” 

‘A Fireside Christmas’ is a melodious treat
FORT ATKINSON - Somehow, year after year, the Fireside Dinner Theatre attracts busloads of fans and many single patrons to its annual Christmas show. 

‘Unsilent 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

‘Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas’ revolves around family
MEQUON - 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’
MILWAUKEE — 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.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ reminds us of racial road traveled and ahead
WAUKESHA - Harper Lee, a friend and neighbor of Truman Capote, enjoyed a one-book success until she recently published her second novel.

Fight choreography heightens battle of the sexes in pirate thriller ‘Bonny Anne Bonny’
WAUWATOSA - ”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.

Fine performances enhance Carroll’s ‘Glass Menagerie’
WAUKESHA - Tennessee Williams’ plays seldom make us happy, but they make us sad so beautifully that we don’t mind.  

Journey from ‘M’wauke’ to seldom-staged Sullivan work ‘The Zoo’
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 production.

‘Drowning 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 Girls.” 

Any way you say it, ‘Young Frankenstein’ comes out funny
HARTLAND - ”Young Frankenstein, the Musical” is a take-off on the 1974 movie starring Gene Wilder.  Its Mel Brooks flavor is evident throughout.  

UW-W’s ‘Good Doctor’ is perfect tonic for what ails the funny bone
“The Good 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 vignettes.  

Timeless ‘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
Both 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.

‘Violet’ takes personal journey in turbulent ‘60s
MILWAUKEE - “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. 

Just 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 States.

‘Million Dollar Quartet’ electrifies Fireside
FORT 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. 

‘La 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. 

‘Lovely Sunday’ shows Tennessee Williams’ humorous side
MILWAUKEE - 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 surprise. 

Waukesha Civic’s ‘Gypsy’ wows with talent, music
WAUKESHA - ”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.

‘Moon Over Buffalo’ cast skillfully pulls off farce
ELM 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.

‘Lady Day’ delivers breathtaking performances
MILWAUKEE - 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.

‘The Wild Party’ serves up Roaring ‘20s morality tale
MILWAUKEE - ”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.  

SummerStage’s ‘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. 

‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ uncovers humor
MILWAUKEE - 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. 

Lake Country Players take ‘A Walk into the Woods’
HARTLAND - 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.” 

‘Secret’ should be out on SummerStage, community theater
TOWN 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.

Young ‘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.