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Movie News & Reviews

Movie review: There’s a lot going on in ‘Vox Lux.’ But what is it trying to say?

Lake Country Playhouse sings beautiful ‘Christmas Carol’

Brady Corbet’s pop manifesto “Vox Lux” is heavy with import. The film, which swirls around the Diva Industrial Complex, opens with a school shooting, touches on 9/11 and features a brutal terrorist attack within a plot about a young singer as she transforms into a massive star. But does it earn that weight? And what, precisely, is it trying to say? The film is broken into three acts. Act I, “Genesis,” which takes place from 2000 to 2001.

HARTLAND - 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.”  The role of Scrooge is key to the story’s success, and I have witnessed four actors take on this challenging role. Each had the task of capturing the gradual transformation of a stingy, greedy, disgruntled man into a repentant, loving one.

Bare necessities of ‘Mowgli’ come up short
Director 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.”

Otto 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 Hood.

‘Widows’ 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.

‘Here and Now’ lifeless effort despite good cast
Fabien Constant, who primarily has been making documentary films over the past decade, decided to try his hand at a feature film. The result is “Here and Now,” a production that follows listless characters on lifeless journeys through New York City. 

‘Wildlife’ review: Paul Dano directs Carey Mulligan in stirring adaptation of a fractured marriage
Something curious happens when two actors share a confined space in front of a camera. 

Movie review: ‘Indivisible’ a refreshing war story that balances home and abroad stories
Every now and then, faith-based movie studio PureFlix gets it right, releasing a film that feels like it might have some crossover appeal.

Movie review: ‘What They Had’ explores family expectations as matriarch faces Alzheimer’s decline
You 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.”

‘A Star Is Born’ dims in the shadow of Kavanaugh confirmation 
What 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.

‘Night 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.

Shane 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.

Movie 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.” 

Movie review: Dark, confounding ‘Kin’ defies genre
Release 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 “August movie.”

‘Searching’ uniquely unravels clever mystery
It 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 the payoff. 

A 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 suggest Chinatown?”).

‘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.

<<Older Reviews

Laughter 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. 

Waukesha 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.

‘Sanders Family’ warms up the Christmas season
MEQUON - It’s Dec. 24, 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor and Roosevelt’s declaration of war.

Milwaukee Rep presents the comic drama 'Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly'
MILWAUKEE - “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.

‘Hairspray’ cranks up the volume, energy
MILWAUKEE — 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.

‘Twelve Dates of Christmas’ a pleasant diversion
MILWAUKEE — 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.  

‘Mothers 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.

‘Elf’ presents multitalented Buddy, impressive soloist
FORT 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. 

Fast-paced ‘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 talented musicians.

‘Night Watch’ keeps up interest through the end
WEST ALLIS - Playwright Lucille Fletcher didn’t quite repeat the eeriness of her “Sorry Wrong Number,” but “Night Watch” is a puzzling, engaging thriller nonetheless.

Waukesha Civic Theatre stuns with powerful musical
WAUKESHA - 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. 

‘Native Gardens’ plucks at thorny issue
MILWAUKEE - A new young couple with a baby on the way just bought a fixer-upper in an established older neighborhood in Washington, D.C. 

‘Nate 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.

Touring ‘Something Rotten!’ is anything but
MILWAUKEE - 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 something rotten.

Sunset Playhouse produces a magical ‘Mary Poppins’
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 accolades.

Universal 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. 

Depths of cruelty explored by The Rep
The 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 child. 

‘Red 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 Playhouse.  

‘Cat 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 Sherlock Holmes’
MENOMONEE FALLS — The Patio Players always do good work, but this show was particularly engaging. Sherlock 

Very Irish 'Mullingar' delivers touching story
MILWAUKEE - 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  Herring.'

Skylight’s ‘Pippin’ shines ray of hope
MILWAUKEE - Most people have aspirations of some sort, grandiose or down to earth, but everyone is looking for meaning.

The 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.

‘Chapatti’ engages audience on many levels
MILWAUKEE - 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’
MILWAUKEE - 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 ‘Heartbreak House’
SPRING 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
WAUKESHA - Even Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie would have had trouble unraveling these murders.

‘Grease’ 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.

Many 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.

‘Hedwig’ 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.

Fall plays range from a new ‘Holmes’ to Cold War drama ‘Red Herring’
There’s always something exciting when a season opens, whether it is sports or the many theatrical arts.

Tales of Booth family resumes with ‘In This Prison’
MILWAUKEE - 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.

Overcoming ‘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. 

Historical figures sparkle in Milwaukee Chamber’s ‘Holmes’
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.

‘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.

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