movies offer a mixed bag of genres
comedy, dramedy. Sci-fi and suspense. Mystery and
horror. All of these genres (and maybe more) are
represented in the dozen films summarized below, by way
of a preview of spring 2018 movies bound for area
movie one of Day-Lewis’ best
Thread,” supposedly Daniel Day-Lewis’ last movie
before the 60-year-old heads into retirement, deserves
kudos on a number of fronts.
From ingenious tale to typical sitcom
offers an ingenious concept: humans being reduced to
finger size as a means of both confronting
overpopulation and - since the new small fry get to keep
their old money - easily attaining a lavish
recalls wealthy but tightfisted Getty
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.
J. Paul is also notoriously cheap.
Showman’ solid, if not exactly ‘La La Land’
director Michael Gracey’s feature film debut, “The
Greatest Showman,” isn’t as good as last year’s
“La La Land,” but the new musical does have songs by
“La La” Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul,
and I’m calling it a solid three-star flick.
Hour’ summarizes Dunkirk story and more
May 1940 and Winston Churchill has just berated a young
secretary on her first day of work. Great Britain’s
First Lord of the Admiralty has, according to his wife,
Clementine, “become rough and sarcastic and
overbearing and rude.”
Artist’ may shine brighter if release didn’t fall
between great films
Disaster Artist,” produced by, directed by and
starring James Franco, isn’t a bad movie.
films, family fare making screens bright
As the old saying
goes, it’s that time of the year again. Time for holiday
movies and additional family film fare.
Billboards’ adds up to a fascinating dramedy
the old movie title “10 Things I Hate About You”?
What follows is an enumeration of 10 things I like -
about writer-director Martin McDonagh’s new dramedy
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”:
is simply wonderful
is a wonderful movie: wholesome, instructive without
being preachy, engrossing the whole way through. Did I
mention the actors and their characters?
Bird’ a remarkable directorial debut
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.
Life’ documentary to stream on Amazon Prime
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
for “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” — as is their job —
have colorfully exaggerated, calling the movie “a
sensational thriller brimming with unsettling humor and
creeping dread, steeped in Greek tragedy, existential
horror, Hitchcockian psychodrama and riveting suspense.”
Wow. Move over, “Citizen Kane.”
Project' a naturalistic gem
My wife says I’m probably the
only Disney World customer ever who hasn’t liked the
Maybe that’s why I liked “The Florida Project” so much.
Writer-director Sean Baker’s film offers a rather jaded
perspective on the amusement mecca.
of Portis’ novel likely to enjoy original ‘True Grit’
enjoyed the novel “True Grit” are likely to embrace
Henry Hathaway’s production of the same name, the first
(1969) of two Hollywood versions of Charles Portis’ novel.
Felt’ convincingly revisits Watergate era
reviews were less than stellar for the pretentiously
titled “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White
Milwaukee Film Festival redux
MILWAUKEE - The
ninth annual Milwaukee Film Festival has ended. Now it’s
postmortem time. First, the numbers.
namesake Indiana city, film ‘Columbus’ is
shots and silences. Lengthy takes, in the European
tradition. Voices audible although their sources are not
features strong language, even stronger performances
in “Stronger,” the true story of a spectator who
lost both legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, spew
language considerably stronger than necessary in an
early barroom scene.
offers ‘personal microcosm’ of film festival
Western. A big-screen blending of story and architecture. A
kids’ movie, regularly referencing the stars and moon. A
dramedy from India. A documentary considering the connection
between rodents and the city of Baltimore.
Wyle movie ‘Shot’ might be worth the sermon
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
Magnetic Reese Witherspoon draws focus in
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
hitherto for commercials and music videos, Geremy Jasper
debuts as a feature filmmaker with a drama called “Patti
estimable critic observed that a film succeeds if it
accomplishes the filmmaker’s goals.
back to school, into movie theaters
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.
falls short of great, but registers good enough
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.
Bear’ original, entertaining
of “Being There” and “The Truman Show” as
an intriguing amalgam of real life and reel life (and
also a descendant of humans-who’ve-been-
-from-the-world films like “The Room” and
“Dogtooth”), “Brigsby” boasts a plot both
believable and fantastic, peopled by likable actors
portraying likable characters.
native’s ‘Ghost’ is ‘impressive’
seems Milwaukee-born and (for eight years)
Waukesha-reared filmmaker David Lowery, 36, just gets
better at his trade.
says lots with laconic script
being shown in 70mm prints in relatively few venues
across the country - among them Waukesha’s Marcus
Majestic Cinema - begins with a simple declarative
sentence displayed onscreen: “The enemy have driven
the British and French armies to the sea.”
Trip’ a perilous journey
evaluating “Girls Trip,” I’m tempted to follow
that old rule of benevolence and not say anything about
the movie because I’m hard-pressed to say anything
enjoyable after first hour
haven’t watched so many hourlong television dramas
that I’ve come to believe 60 minutes is the ideal
length for any show.
in the reality-rooted
“Maudie,” Ethan Hawke’s captivatingly
conveyed character establishes a pecking order for the
benefit of the “housemaid” he’s hired.
proves less than beguiling
redo of a 46-year-old, similarly titled Clint Eastwood
flick (which I’ve never seen), the 2017 version has
Colin Farrell in the Eastwood role, playing opposite
Driver’: a whole new genre?
choreographer, Ryan Heffington, has been quoted as
insisting “Baby Driver” is no mere musical, but
“‘a new genre É a love story with action, car
chases, violence and dance.’”
‘Megan Leavey’ a
top-flight flick —
at least for dog lovers
not likely to capture any Oscars, but “Megan Leavey”
would win hands down if there were a category for dog
lovers’ movie of the year.
not mummified, but fails to engage
start with the cast. While
I wouldn’t call the acting in Alex Kurtzman’s “The
Mummy” mummified, I’ve certainly seen more engaging movie
need to tell ‘It Comes at Night’ to ‘Get Out’
not been a lover of the horror genre and I didn’t
exactly fall in love with writer-director Trey Edward
Shults’ horror film “It Comes at Night.”
biopic is 2017’s best so far
watched an enticing movie trailer, read an impressive resume
of the movie’s writer-director, once seen an excellent
one-woman play starring legendary Julie Harris as “The
Belle of Amherst” and developed over the years a great
respect for that belle
- the innovative poet Emily Dickinson - I
expected “A Quiet Passion” to be the best 2017 film
release I’d seen to date.
humor, special effects, shades of Stevenson, fifth
‘Pirates’ nothing shabby
the fifth installment of the movie series stemming from
a Disneyland ride, unsavory Salazar and fellow escapees
from the Devil’s Triangle - ghost sailors - aim to
liquidate Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), captain of the
appropriately named Dying Gull, and Sparrow’s fellow
dramedy than comedy, ‘Lovers’ is
“The Lovers” was a surprise. Its trailer had led me to
anticipate a light comedy; what I got instead was a dramedy,
means new movies - and here are 20 of ‘em
Midwesterners, summer means more sun, more leisure time -
and more movie debuts. Following are 20 films
scheduled for release between Memorial Day weekend (in one
case, the Thursday preceding that weekend) and mid-August.
Hawn keep ‘Snatched’ funny, but interesting
not sure why Amy Schumer’s character in
“Snatched,” Emily Middleton, chooses to vacation in
Ecuador rather than, say, Hawaii.
provides food for thought in fairly unappetizing plot
U.S. Rep. Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) in “The
Dinner.” Just as his bill to benefit the mentally ill
is about to be voted upon in Congress - in the midst of
his campaign for governor - an epic family crisis
deftly acted, creatively told
Israeli director Joseph Cedar’s first English-language
film, is subtitled “The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall
of a New York Fixer.”
‘Fate’ is, with apologies to Yogi, 'déjàˆ
vu all over again'
teacher friend used to veto certain student-proposed
term paper topics, reasoning that in his long career
he’d already encountered every possible argument both
for and against, say, capital punishment.
‘Gifted’ a one-trick pony
refers to 10-year-old Mckenna Grace’s character, Mary,
in the new dramedy directed by Marc Webb from a Tom
Flynn script. That word could be applied to the
diminutive actress as well, for Grace definitely steals
the show with perhaps the best performance by a preteen
I’ve seen as a movie reviewer.
recent queen movie deserves patronage
of literal and figurative queens have become something
of a big screen staple over the past six months. “Queen
of Katwe” (an unofficial designation) appeared first,
early last fall.
Village,’ pioneering Smurf film, hits theaters
once said there’s nobody sadder than the person
who’s failed to find his or her place in life.
Apparently that’s as true for computer-animated Smurfs
as it is for people.
into existence: a score of eclectic films
has sprung, as they say - the season of Easter
vacations, baseball’s rebirth and (hopefully, this
being Wisconsin) a farewell to wintry weather.
Trainspotting’ - call it inventive, call it fresh
really fresh,” I heard a guy say in a theater lobby the
other night. He might’ve been referring to any of several
movies at the multiplex, or to something else entirely. But
if he was talking about the dark comedy that was previewed -
”T2: Trainspotting” - I have to agree with him.
of Mine’ merits place among fine war films
title “Land of Mine” is a play on words. It both
summarizes the attitude of its central character, a
Danish soldier who tells German prisoners of war “This
is my country (and) you’re not welcome here,” and
suggests a plot centering on landmines in the Danish
somewhat empty as comedy’s
only as funny as its material
19” is a comedy, but it’s not a very funny
film. That’s the fault of the screenplay
(brothers Jay and Mark Duplass), I think, not the
potential acting Oscar for Oyelowo?
Oyelowo may not get a best actor Oscar for “A United
Kingdom,” but his work in Amma Asante’s latest film
will likely move Oyelowo a step or two closer to the
Turtle’ a good thing that abounds in the rule of threes
things come in groups of three,” our English
composition teacher told us 40-odd years back, when we
were college freshmen. I doubt whether the Dutch-born
director Michael Dudok de Wit had the same teacher, but
maybe he received the same advice.
‘Paterson’ antithesis of ‘Fifty Shades’ sequel
are two sides to every story. The gentle - and
puzzlingly R-rated - dramedy “Paterson,” complete
with a twins motif (identical twins of both genders and
various ages appear in cameos throughout), bears that
once more to test your Oscars knowledge
With the 89th
annual Academy Awards gala on the horizon, it’s time again
for what’s become our yearly Oscar quiz. Questions address
happenings 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 25, 20 and 10 years ago.
Hopefully they’ll get you in a Jimmy Kimmel, red-carpet
mood for Sunday night. Good luck!
of ‘Wick’ goes long way, while
lots of ‘Toni’ is welcome
one of the unlikelier circumstances attached to an
extremely unlikely movie, the title character of “John
Wick: Chapter 2,” played with little range but lots of
athleticism by Keanu Reeves, is summoned from retirement
to make good on an old blood oath and function again as
a hit man.
more than a week out, it’s fun to predict winners
As an outsider
(even as an insider, for that matter) one can never be sure
how the Hollywood crowd will vote in the annual Academy
film ‘Julieta’ proves to be a guilty pleasure
(pronounced “hool-YET-ah”), a Spanish movie with
English subtitles helmed by Oscar honoree Pedro
Almodovar, has a lot to do with guilt: assuming and
assessing guilt, attempting to assuage guilt, the
advancement of guilt from generation to generation.
‘A Dog’s Purpose’ less
guilty of audience cruelty than ‘Comedian’
of animal cruelty (denied by its director Lasse
Hallstrom, its star Dennis Quaid and others) have been
leveled against Hallstrom’s “A Dog’s Purpose.” My major
concern as a critic is whether a film is guilty of
audience cruelty - and “A Dog’s Purpose” is not.
flick starring Bening evokes Scorsese’s ‘Alice’
Mother-and-son movies are
relatively rare. There’s Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” of
course (a mother-son flick after a fashion).
Saroo torn between two of this, two of that in ‘Lion’
the old song “Torn Between Two Lovers”? In
“Lion,” Dev Patel’s character is torn between two
continents, two cultures, two families - “two
different worlds,” in words from another erstwhile
Figures,’ ‘Fences’ come out as
signposts of African-American experience
often nowadays can it be said about a movie that
there’s virtually nothing objectionable in it and yet
that it’s both entertaining and insightful?
‘Sing,’ ‘Manchester’: good, better, best
virtuoso performance would be reason enough to see the
Kenneth Lonergan-written and -directed drama “Manchester
by the Sea.”
La Land’ marks musical return; Natalie P mesmerizes as
for a movie with inoffensive dialogue and without nudity
and violence? An old-fashioned love story with
old-fashioned content, like footage from “Rebel
Without a Cause” and an homage to Gene Kelly in
“Singin’ in the Rain”?
means movies - here are 12 to consider
movies is a time-honored method of coping with the
winter doldrums. And so, with a new winter just about
ready to make its appearance, we offer a dozen films
scheduled for frigid-season premieres that sound promising
(or look promising - I’ve taken in a few of them at
advance press screenings).
ratings for pair of Amy Adams films
violent and it’s sad and he called it ‘Nocturnal
Animals.’” Amy Adams, as the literally
somnambulistic, admittedly unhappy art gallery owner
Susan Morrow, speaks those words regarding a book her
ex-husband has written.
memorable; ‘Bad Santa’? Forget it!
is the story of a superhuman quest, involving an amulet,
a goddess, turbulent waters and the salvation of an
island, undertaken by a human adolescent - Moana (voice
of Auli’i Cravalho) - ill-prepared to cope with all of
words for boxing biopic, fantasy film
for This” is the stranger-than-fiction story of Vinny
Pazienza, who broke his neck and nearly died in a car
managed to resume his boxing career.
time for the turkeys
let’s mark Turkey Day by revisiting what may be the
biggest movie turkeys of 2016. I realize the year still has
five-plus weeks to go, and also realize I haven’t seen
every movie released during 2016’s first 11 months.
Huntress’ and ‘Doctor’ electrify; ‘Almost
Christmas’ not as stimulating
negative observation on “The Eagle Huntress”: the
Mongolia-set movie’s yellow subtitles are difficult to
read against light backgrounds.
‘Moonlight’ shines; ‘Hacksaw’ a cut above
is a form of literature - so maybe the names Scorsese
and Spielberg will someday join Dylan on the roster of
U.S. literary Nobel Prize winners. In any case, we’ve
all heard (probably from some high school English
teacher justifying including “The Scarlet Letter” or
“Silas Marner” on a syllabus) that excellent literature
need not be synonymous with entertainment.
‘Trolls’ excellent; spy comedy ‘Keeping Up’
is, in part, an animated 3-D variation on the Cinderella
story, with equivalents of the heroine and her glass
slipper, Prince Charming and his palace, the wicked
stepmother, and the fairy godmother.
‘Kevin Hart,’ ‘Chronic’ a mixed bag
Western has experienced a resurgence in the last year or
so. Perhaps “The Girl on the Train” signals it’s
now the whodunit’s turn.
switching doesn’t make horse sense in new ‘Birth’
recall my high school Latin teacher’s repeating the
old admonition, "Don’t change horses in the
middle of a stream.
fit for king
- The elements that comprise “Deepwater Horizon” blend
wonderfully, like the players in a talented orchestra.
Those elements include cinematography (an amalgam here
of emotion-oozing extreme close-ups, cinéma vérité and plenty of quick takes paralleling the
chaos aboard the titular oil rig
remake magnificent; ‘Snowden’ good as well
off the bat I’ll give in to temptation and say “The
Magnificent Seven” (a remake of the similarly titled
1960 flick, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s
“Seven Samurai” from 1954) is a magnificent motion
two other films at festival
Film Festival’s opening weekend including screenings of
“Slenderman,” as well as a newspaper documentary and a
story of romance from France.
get old, but some sequels succeed
“Gypsy” composer Stephen Sondheim insisted
“you’ve gotta have a gimmick,” moviemakers need to
realize gimmicks go out of style. Its “found
footage” gimmick made “The Blair Witch Project” a
big-screen hit in 1999.
A deeper disaster travel film
We’ve seen this
before from Tom Hanks: a disaster during travel. Remember
“Apollo 13?” How about “Castaway?”
‘Sea of Trees’ hit emotional notes
Hollars” is part tearjerker, part zany comedy, part
paean to that wonderful and wild institution we call
somewhat brighter than ‘The Light’
pleasurable to view a preponderance of commendable
characters on a movie screen, especially in these
skeptical and self-centered times.
book adaptation both outstanding
as much in awe as the next critic of Meryl Streep’s
accomplishments, including record numbers of Golden
Globe and Oscar nominations.
more delectable than ‘Sausage’
of the expression “local boy makes good” is on
display at area movie theaters. David Lowery, who was
born in Milwaukee and did some of his growing up in
Waukesha, is director and co-screenwriter of “Pete’s
Dragon,” a solid 3-D Disney remake of a 1977
animated/live action picture by the same name, also by
Society’ Allen’s best since ‘Blue Jasmine’
as cynical” as previous Woody Allen pictures, offered
an audience member at “Cafe Society” last week.
don’t know about that.
‘Bourne’ ultimately turn out to be disappointing
concerns a faux cultural phenomenon: teenagers choosing to
watch online, or actually play, a game on the order of Truth
or Dare. In this ongoing competition known as Nerve,
however, there are only dares. People pay to play, and to
not quite ‘fabulous;’ ‘Equals’ sci fi movie
a relatively recent trend, the comedic “Absolutely
Fabulous: The Movie” is based on an award-winning BBC
‘Wilderpeople’ delightfully quirky
“Hunt for the
Wilderpeople,” based on a book by Barry Crump, is a
delightful dramedy from New Zealand with a quirky cast of
characters. iker: Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby).
Life of Pets’ funny twist on old cliché
about everyone is familiar with the cliché “While the
cat’s away, the mice will play.” The plot of a new
animated feature from the folks responsible for the
“Despicable Me” movies might be summarized a wee bit
differently: “While the owners are away, the cats will
5 films for 2016 easy to rate, so far
Choosing my top
five films of the year’s first half isn’t a daunting
task, as the highest rating I gave
— 3 1/2 (out of 4) stars
— went to exactly five 2016 movies.
preferable to ribald comedy
horror with politics, as “Purge: Election Year” does,
may not be an original movie idea. But the more sarcastic
among us will contend that, given the parade of presidential
aspirants we’ve witnessed in the past year, the idea is at
least an appropriate one.
plain magical; ‘Swiss Army Man’ displays ‘magical
The phrase “winning
combination” applies to “The BFG,” a Disney 3D film
based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 book. “The BFG” (for Big
Friendly Giant) brings together children’s author Dahl (“Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory”), who was something of a giant
himself at 6-foot-6, director Steven Spielberg, composer
John Williams, Oscar-winning production designer Rick Carter
and Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
Disney fish story, is fine family fare
a fishy film, computer-animated “Finding Dory,” deals
with a blue-tang title character.
character, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, suffers from
short-term memory loss and has become separated
from her loving parents, Jenny and Charlie (voices of
Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy).
controversial film’ debuts Friday
this weekend: a documentary its publicists are
trumpeting as “the most controversial film in America”
and “the film they don’t want you to see.”
a bit to see in ‘Now You See Me 2’
“Now You See Me 2” isn’t quite the movie that has
do ‘Popstar’ and Lonely Island fare?
take The Three Stooges, if you please. I finished watching
The Lonely Island comedy trio in “Popstar: Never Stop
Never Stopping” just an hour ago.
subject, ‘Dark Horse’ likely to please
Osmond found the true story of a horse and his unlikely
owners “a wonderful mash of genres, part classic British
‘Billy Elliot’/’Full Monty’ underdog tale, part
‘Lavender Hill Mob’ caper (and part) ‘Rocky.’”
to be said for new ‘Neighbors’
little else can be said for recent movies starring the
talented but misguided Seth Rogen, a case can at least be
made for their ecumenism. Last year’s awful Christmas
flick, “The Night Before,” used Catholic midnight Mass
as a springboard for Rogen’s tasteless humor.
a long two hours; still has quality, appeal
Lobster’s” mundane opening scene, of a woman motoring
through the rain, arguably runs too long. But then, the
scene accurately foreshadows the movie as a whole. It, too,
seems overly long at times.
Birds Movie’ does indeed have silver lining
above song excerpt is, more or less, how “The Angry Birds
Movie” begins. The lyrics are from “Friends,” a ditty
written and performed by Blake Shelton.
summer movies add to franchises
been sending the titles of, and additional information
about, their summer films. Following are summaries of 15
movies slated to debut between Friday and the end of
September, although dates should be regarded as tentative.
‘Meddler’ still has quality, appeal
Meddler,” written and directed by Lorene Scafaria
(“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”), certainly
falls short of perfection.
Day’ best way to spend Mother’s Day?
in preparing to write a movie review, I find myself ignoring
the studio-produced press notes. In the case of Garry
Marshall’s “Mother’s Day,” however, I’ve elected
to read what the publicists had to say.
& Nixon’ revisit poignantly funny, but ‘Adderall
unthinkable Kevin Spacey would forsake screen acting.
However, if the unthinkable ever became actual, Spacey -
based on his spot-on rendition of Richard Nixon in “Elvis
& Nixon” - could easily earn his livelihood as an
‘Criminal’ is mixed while ‘Miles’ may, or may not,
as “the story of the right man in the wrong body,” Ariel
Vromen’s “Criminal” is a mixed bag. Positives about
the espionage-sci-fi flick include excellent pacing, the
curious ability to compel viewers to empathize with a
character who himself has no empathy, and a cast featuring
Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman and Tommy Lee Jones - a trio that
first worked together 25 years ago on Oliver Stone’s “JFK.”
‘Jungle Book’ revisits 50-year-old cartoon
magic of Disney combines - once again - with the creativity
of Kipling to create “The Jungle Book” on screen.
Producer-director Jon Favreau’s version is a live
action/computer-generated retooling, in 3-D, of the animated
“Jungle Book” from 1967.
not up to last two McCarthy films
McCarthy is a gifted comedian, a talented actress.
there’s also the raunchiness factor with her movies.
Vincent” with Bill Murray two years back was an exception
and McCarthy delivered an excellent performance.
Wedding 2’: year’s No. 1 comedy
taken Hollywood 14 years to come up with a sequel to “My
Big Fat Greek Wedding.” So, was “My Big Fat Greek
Wedding 2” worth the wait? I’m not sure. I saw bits and
pieces of the first installment after it moved from big
screen to television screen, but I remember very little
about it. What I do know is that I found “2” enjoyable
from start to finish.
comedy ‘Bronze’ has golden moments
Bronze,” which stars Melissa Rauch, is occasionally
surprising, occasionally predictable. Take that to
mean the movie is contradictory, if you will.
effort highlights ‘Whiskey’
yeoman’s job by star Tina Fey highlights “Whiskey Tango
Foxtrot,” a dramedy based on Kim Barker’s book, “The
Taliban Shuffle,” about her days as a war correspondent in
better than it sounded
Young Messiah” didn’t sound too promising. SeveraI weeks
ago I received notification of the new film that described
it in part as “the inspiring story of seven-year-old Jesus
Christ and his family.”
for Oscar predictions - and lamentations
annual Academy Awards gala is nearly upon us. With the
nominees chosen, it’s time for predicting the winners -
and lamenting others who’ve been left out of the race.
soars; ‘Witch’ less than beguiling
film” is the cliché I thought of as I watched “Eddie
the Eagle,” a pleasant flick about bona fide Olympic skier
kudos for ‘Lady,’ ‘Deadpool’
narrator of “The Lady in the Van,” author Alan Bennett
(Alex Jennings) describes the title character (Maggie Smith)
with a barrage of awful adjectives: “bigoted,
cantankerous, devious, unforgiving, self-serving, rank and
of Saul’ finer than ‘Finest’
Hollywood presented rookie of the year awards, the Hungarian
Laszlo Nemes would definitely be in contention.
Unfortunately for the 38-year-old “Son of Saul”
director, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay, the
rookie award remains a baseball phenomenon.
captivates, but whither goes ‘Mojave’?
and directed by William Monahan (“The Departed”),
“Mojave” stars Oscar Isaac, who’s become quite the
prolific performer (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,”
“Ex Machina” and “A Most Violent Year”).
Along 2’ nothing special, but then again ...
Along 2” is nothing special, particularly when compared to
truly outstanding movies playing locally like “The
Revenant” and “The Force Awakens.” Then again, the
comedic “Ride Along 2” is infinitely better than the
tasteless Christmas comedy “The Night Before” and
certainly no worse than M.
forward to cinema’s spring
distributors - Broad Green Pictures, A24 Films, Lionsgate,
Sony Pictures Classics and Universal Pictures - have
released titles, and descriptions thereof, for the spring.
a Western ‘painfully realistic’
Revenant” is a
painfully realistic pre-Civil War Western with incongruously
was a great year at the movies
been an excellent year for motion pictures. Interestingly,
most of the ones I’ve liked best - the top six of my top
10 - are reality-based.
is a different but good gridiron movie
is a different sort of football film, one concerned with
debilitating head injuries that have too frequently spelled
death for ex-NFL players. It’s a movie with inventive
director Russell helms
‘Joy’ to behold
O. Russell’s new movie “Joy” is a tantalizingly quirky
comedy in the tradition of his 2013 ABSCAM-based endeavor
VII good, just not great
A friend hit the
nail on the head when he predicted the seventh film in the
“Star Wars” series “will be a good movie, (but)
won’t be great.”
VII’ awakens new hope
Buchholtz didn’t care for the last three “Star Wars”
movies. In an interview, the Bay View resident summarized
those prequels as “poorly acted, poorly written, not very
well thought-out.” He added that “Episode I: The Phantom
Menace” (1999), “Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
(2002) and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (2005)
each “came off more like a video game than a movie.”
inspirational, if not cutting-edge
may be that Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun revered for her
work among India’s impoverished and the subject of the
newly released biopic “The Letters,” was from the day
she joined the Sisters of Loreto at age 18 a saintly
personage - chaste and obedient in accordance with the vows
nuns take, prayerful, other-centered.
harsh ‘Night Before’ assessment proves accurate
after a screening of “The Night Before,” I heard a woman
comment, “I just wasted an hour and 45 minutes of my life
that I’ll never get back again.”
drama’s heart in right place … or places
Home is where the
heart is. But can the heart be in two places at once? That
seems to be the basic question John Crowley’s
“Brooklyn,” based on a novel by Colm Toibin, is
up to ‘President’s Men’
but ‘My All American’ no ‘Rudy’
it takes a village to raise a child,
an attorney for clerical sex abuse victims in the
takes a village to abuse one.
has superior production values,
but ‘Suffragette’ is superior film
good as Carey Mulligan was as “Far From the Madding
Crowd’s” leading lady last spring, the English actress
is even better as a pre-World War I women’s rights
activist in “Suffragette.
fascinating, if not flawless
“Room” is a
well-cast movie, with emotionally wide-ranging performances
by Brie Larson (also very good in the recent “Trainwreck”)
and 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay (truly remarkable). Both
actors could get Academy Award nominations, as could “Room’s”
Irish director, Lenny Abrahamson.
be told, Redford’s Rather credible
one of “Truth’s” final scenes, Robert Redford as Dan
Rather is cheered by a roomful of co-workers after signing
off for the last time as “CBS Evening News” anchorman.
While applauding Rather, the
other actors could also have been applauding Redford, who,
made up to resemble the newscaster, deserves kudos for
capturing Rather’s voice and mannerisms in an
appropriately low-key performance.
‘Goosebumps’ a bumpy ride,
but Spielberg’s ‘Bridge’ worth negotiating
outsized monsters and a militia of evil-intentioned garden
gnomes, the most interesting subjects in “Goosebumps”
are human: three pretty sensible kids and a couple of kooky
Home’ is great, but not in today’s 3-D adventure sense
Home” is an extraordinary film, but it’s hardly a bells
and whistles film. Cops and a criminal may be at its center,
but this Chinese movie with English subtitles and a 20th
century time frame is no action-adventure picture, no
breakneck-paced police procedural with bullet-dodging or
madcap driving or other acts of derring-do.
‘The Walk’ another fine fall flick
my review a week ago, I exulted that several good movies had
accompanied our new autumn movies like that review’s 3
1/2-star subject, “The
Martian.” Ridley Scott’s sci-fi adventure may or may not
have been the best release since Labor Day; now, however, as
quickly as it burst upon the scene,
“The Martian” has been overshadowed by Robert
Scott’s ‘Martian’ looks to be among better autumn crop
End of the Tour.” “Grandma.” And now, “The
Martian.” History does seem to repeat itself: Autumn
approaches; a better crop of feature films emerges.
latest: One ‘Visit’ you need not make
the list of places you need not visit, feel free to add
theaters showing “The Visit,” M. Night Shyamalan’s
terrific as ‘Grandma’
you wish you had
may not be a technical trailblazer, but “Grandma” is a
terrific motion picture: unfailingly amusing, poignant, very
capably acted, a thorough - and thoroughly captivating -
story in 79 short minutes.
‘Walk’ should take a hike
Redford’s latest movie, “A Walk in the Woods,” has
been done before, more or less, and done better. The
previous rendition occurred last year, a drama with Reese
Witherspoon and Laura Dern instead of a comedy starring the
less impressive duo of Redford and Nick Nolte.
screen keeps it real this fall
If reboots have
figured prominently in this summer’s cinematic landscape,
the fall season promises to place emphasis on movie art
retread 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' passes muster as feature film
I’ll add my thumb to those already thrust in the air in
support of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” Guy Ritchie’s
feature film based on the old TV series with the same
movie anything but dull
proposing David Foster Wallace, late author of the
well-regarded novel “Infinite Jest” and subject of the
feature film “The End of the Tour,” for canonization.
sticks as a much-loved musical
- 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.
Theatre adroitly conducts ‘Celebration’ of life
MILWAUKEE - It is
rare to see two musicals by the same creative team in the
thriller ‘Wait Until Dark’ keeps audience in suspense
- We can probably all name the films that scared us the
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
‘Anything Goes’ a tribute to community theater
MENOMONEE FALLS -
“Anything goes” suggests carelessness, a lack of
This phrase was certainly not the motto for those assembling
the Falls Patio Players’ cast of “Anything Goes”.
Chamber Theatre beautifully executes 'Doubt'
- 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.
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
Lutheran College presents 'Ring Around The Moon'
Christopher Fry’s translation of Jean Anouilh’s farcical
comedy of manners, “Ring Round the Moon,” is delighting
audiences at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
Town’ captures the profound in everyday life
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.
Street’ strengths on full display at Fireside
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.
Girls’ gives plenty to think about on gender issues
- 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.
and You’ delves skillfully into the lives of teens, Walt
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.
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.
Cline’ is fine, but it could have used more backstory
- 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.
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
Awesome, powerful only begin to describe touring ‘Les
— 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
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?
tale of the Holocaust from one family’s perspective
- The Holocaust and its ramifications affected Jews and
non-Jews in many countries.
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.
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!
story shines through at the Fireside
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.
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.
Tide' reveals anxieties of Alzheimer's
— The rustic stage set designed by Steve Barnes greets
us as we enter the theater, luring us into such a
beautifully cozy retreat.
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.
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
Playhouse has a reputation for very good musicals, but this
one may be its best in many years.
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
voices rev up The Wiz
— 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.
Brothers Size’ a sizable contribution to area theater
“The Brothers Size” is one of those rare productions
that almost leave one speechless.
of fine play starts with well-calculated script
- 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
‘Neverland’ grabs audience — young and old
MILWAUKEE — The
Broadway series at the Marcus Center is offering “Finding
Neverland,” a confection for both children and
actors shine in ‘Stones in His Pockets’
- 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.
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.
from the Beyond’ perfectly spoofs the ‘50s
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.
Shakespeare into something funny
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.
Holmes tale is a pleasant puzzler nonetheless
- A fictional icon, Sherlock Holmes continues to
fascinate audiences with his cerebral gift for deductive
reasoning and his quirky ways.
demonstrates how one family copes with adversity
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.
Transport’ thoughtfully address human trafficking issue
- 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.
Service,’ a la Marx Brothers, serves up
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.
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.
Stage puts on engaging, touching ‘Miraculous Journey of
- 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.
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.
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.
plays to warm you up this winter
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.
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
Marcus Center presents 'Waitress'
— 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
in Rouge’ takes Dickens’ tale on a wild ride audience
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.
of the best in local theater for 2017
is always difficult to look over a given year of
theatrical offerings and pick out the best of the best.
Jarecki explores ‘Month Before Christmas’
- This is not your standard Christmas fare nor the
traditional account of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem,
to be sure.
Scrooge propels Rep’s splendid ‘Christmas Carol’
- It is hard to describe the splendor of this
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
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.”
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.
Without a Christmas Tree’ delivers modern-day message of
- 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
Country shows why ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a treasured
HARTLAND - The
musical version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has
become a tradition at Lake Country Playhouse in Hartland.
on South Division’ strikes a universal chord
- 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
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.
and Watson’ proves intriguing
MILWAUKEE - There
are certain unusually memorable individuals - real or
fictional - who refuse to be forgotten.
Mask’ unlocks family mysteries
- The play begins with a speech therapist working with a
gentleman who has just suffered a stroke.
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
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.
by The Rep, Milwaukee County native returns to roots
- 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.
focus on belief in the unseen plays well as a musical at
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
to a theater near you: 11 plays of Christmas
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.
Cherry Sisters’ presents a certain charm
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
— 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,
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.
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
Chitty Bang Bang’ provides plenty of bang
”Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is a British fantasy musical
that is based on a 1968 film starring Dick Van Dyke.
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.
Much Light’ gets pretty hectic, confusing
- Artists, whether they work in music, theater, film,
sculpture or painting, are always pushing the envelope,
looking for unique paths to express themselves in
Book and Candle”: A seasonal whodunit
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.
Allis Players lends a good supporting cast to Sherlock
Holmes in his ‘Final Adventure’
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.
Country delivers astonishing rendition of ‘Little Women’
Women,” the semi-autobiographical novel by Louisa May
Alcott, published in 1869, continues to speak to generation
Mikado’ stirs up Gilbert and Sullivan
- As one enters the theater, one notes the contrast of
styles on stage (designer Sarah Bradner).
better than Elvis? How about 3?
Presley’s all-too-short life, he assuredly was an icon and
a groundbreaker when it came to his music and his
and Dolls’ dazzles, but script keeps it from
rising to top of musical heap
- Most people love musicals - just ask any theater
manager when their attendance spikes.
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.
and Johnny’: Characters you can relate to
”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
— 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,
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.
the moon over Sunset Playhouse’s latest comedy
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
‘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.
role play, but boss isn’t one to idolize in ‘Maids’
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.
theater ranges from musicals to mysteries
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.
drama, romance captured by ‘best Juliet’ with fantastic
cast and crew
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
Sisters’ themes might be better in place other than
ATP’s The Hill
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.
‘Next to Normal’ dramatically reflects mental illness
- Mental illness is a topic that is seldom addressed. It seems to raise
people’s anxiety levels more than physical afflictions do.
stunningly opens murder-mystery season
MILWAUKEE - Most
people love a good murder mystery.
Certain ones stand out as classics. Who can forget
“Sleuth” or “Dial M for Murder” or “Wait Until
Dark”? Agatha Christie alone has written many
Upon A Mattress’ a delightful summer play for
- Lake Country Playhouse attracts many young people in the summer to
participate in workshops on acting and all aspects of theater.
Basement Ladies’ mixes up Midwestern humor with the ‘60s
ATKINSON - In “Church Basement Ladies,” a homey, Midwestern musical set in
the 1960s, we find ourselves in the kitchen basement of a small Lutheran church
in Cornucopia, Minn.
WAP takes on intensity of
‘Jesus Christ Superstar’
— For a community theater to tackle the immensity and intensity of Andrew
Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s rock musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” is
Stage presents 'Present Laughter'
“Present Laughter” runs at
SummerStage in Lapham Peak State Park through August 4.
Performances at 7:30 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Women’ humorously meanders at Alchemist
- There are times when reviewers are stumped for words after seeing a play.
This is one of them for me.
Other Love’ an engaging look at activist Dorothy Day
MEQUON - Part of
Dorothy Day’s fascinating story is captured in the play
“This Other Love” by Patty McCarty.
Dolly!’ back where it belongs at Sunset
ELM GROVE -
Occasionally a given role and a specific actor are a perfect
fit. This is certainly the case in the present production of
“Hello, Dolly!” at Sunset Playhouse
‘Much Ado’ best in memory with Shakespeare at the Peck
- The Optimist Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park could be called Shakespeare
in the Peck this year. This year’s venue is lovely and very accessible.
of ‘1776’ remains relevant
HARTLAND - It’s
that time of year when most of us give some thought to the
founding of our country.
grad’s production of ‘Bare’ lays bare issues facing
- Ryan Albrechtson, an alumnus of Carroll University in Waukesha, started his
own theater in 2014, and since then has managed to keep it alive with some very
to the 50s’ latest in Fireside’s successful musical
ATKINSON - ”Back to the 50s” is the third show at the Fireside featuring a
decade of the most popular or most groundbreaking
music. Previous hit shows on the ‘60s and ‘70s spurred on the latest
‘Carole King Musical’ beautifully
— The last Broadway show of this season is a good one. The talented Carole
King and her array of hits are featured along with some biographical
material about her early life.
War-era play has message for today
TOWN OF DELAFIELD - For some reason, Louisa May Alcott’s
semi-autobiographical novel “Little Women” has remained an
Agatha Christie counts down, count on clever plot twists,
GROVE — Picture a beautiful resort on an isolated island, a group of eight
strangers, a married couple that has been hired to be of service, and a man who
brings in supplies by boat daily.
Civic delivers with ‘Barefoot’
— Neil Simon’s works continue to draw and delight
audiences. Along with his humor, he always has some insights
to share concerning human relationships.
professional theaters close shop for the summer, but there are others that open
their doors or outdoor spaces to welcome those who love live theater all
are the available options: * Through June 18 - “And Then There Were None,”
Sunset Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove.
‘Sweeney Todd’ has its few tender moments
- ”Sweeney Todd” by Stephen Sondheim is not for the fainthearted. It is a
macabre story about revenge taken to the limit and the results that ensued.
nothing like ‘South Pacific’
FORT ATKINSON -
At first glance, Rogers and Hammerstein’s prize-winning
“South Pacific” seems like a story of two pairs of
unlikely lovers. Set on a remote island in the South Pacific
during World War II, it has an exotic flavor. What could be
more romantic than “Bali Ha’I”?
Stage’s ‘Animal Farm’ a meaty choice for young
- For some strange reason, human beings, despite their
history, believe they can eliminate greed, inequality,
poverty, sickness and create the perfect utopian
Jeeves’ somehow misses; Windfall Theatre cast shines in
MILWAUKEE - When
one hears that “By Jeeves” is a musical play by the
musical genius Andrew Lloyd Webber and the prolific Alan
Ayckbourn, one expects the best.
script falls short, but Lake Country nails touching moments
- Tom Griffin once wrote “The Boys Next Door,” an
outstanding, sensitive play, one that has stood the test of
take on deep ‘Jane Eyre’ enjoyable
”Jane Eyre,” the Victorian novel by Charlotte Bronte,
has been transformed into many film and stage versions. It
continues to speak to people over 150 years after its
B. Jones’ is a fun-filled delight
- Junie B. Jones is a beloved character in all of Barbara
Park’s 28 books (1992-2013).
Civic’s ‘Drowsy Chaperone’ keeps it light, lively
Composers Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison thought it might be
fun to take apart and assess the American musical formula -
a love story, large production numbers that suddenly spring
into being, lavish costuming, a few exaggerated characters
and, of course, often a happy ending that stretches our
Tandem’s ‘Carnival’ soars with great balance
in acting, singing, production
MILWAUKEE — In
Tandem went all out for this one, including turning their
reception room into a veritable carnival display and
reconfiguring their theater space into an in-the-round tent.
Even the volunteers were in costume to add to the festive
‘Chicago’ packs a bunch of superlatives
- When the Tony-winning “Chicago” opens with the orchestra
prominently on stage and “All That Jazz” explodes with its
funky Bob Fosse choreography and the electric voice of Terra
C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly, we sense immediately that we’re
in for a dazzling show.
‘Getting Away With Murder’ not your usual
WEST ALLIS -
One usually associates Stephen Sondheim with popular
musicals with atonal harmonies and clever lyrics, but
together with George Furth, he attempted a completely
different genre and ended up with “Getting Away With
Murder,” an amusing and rather unusual mystery play.
None shall laugh? ‘Spamalot’ dares
audiences not to
FALLS - ”Spamalot” is hard to classify, but it’s good
entertainment, if you can handle the irreverence and
Sunset’s ‘Dixie Swim Club’ retains interest as time goes by
ELM GROVE -
The “Dixie Swim Club” is a comedy where five women who
comprised a winning swim team in college meet once a year at
a beach house in North Carolina to catch up on each other’s
Expectations’ lives up to its title
- It is no small feat to transform a sprawling novel into a
play, but Gale Childs Daly has managed to do just that with
her creative take on Charles Dickens’ classic work
Hour’ shines light on publishing, morality, ethics
- As I witnessed “The Violet Hour,” I was impressed with
its broad appeal and the plethora of elements woven into
explores wisdom of years, perspective
MILWAUKEE - The
passage of time is inexorable, but our capacity to rummage
through the past and speculate about the future makes both
accessible, despite the inaccuracies often involved in both
Stage’s ‘Mockingbird’ takes flight as it takes on
- We have probably all known at least one autistic child,
one who was born with a condition, more prevalent in boys
than girls, that manifests itself early on in childhood.
night at the Stackner with ‘Groucho’
MILWAUKEE - The
Marx Brothers are among those legends that will never die.
Of the four brothers - Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo -
Groucho is the most famous because he went on to be a
celebrity long after his brothers dropped out of the
Tick ... Boom!’ surpasses ‘Rent’ in ways
- Jonathan Larson is a composer whose short life is best
remembered for his highly regarded “Rent,” a rock
musical based on the opera “La Boheme.”
The ultimate underdog tale flourishes
MILWAUKEE - We
all love an underdog, whether it be the Elephant Man, the
Hunchback of Notre Dame, the kid that’s bullied or
handicapped and beats the odds or the forlorn stepchild that
gets the prince.
‘Zémire et Azor’ an imaginative tour de
force Skylight’s accessible, amazing tale not to be missed
- There are several versions of the classic fairy tale
“Beauty and the Beast” on deck at the moment. Besides
the many film versions of this story, including the
just-released record-setter for an opening weekend, two
stage productions are in full swing within our grasp, and
both are outstanding.
of Enemies’ humanizes racial divide
MEQUON - You may remember “The God Committee” or
“Freud’s Last Session,” two of Mark St.
Germain’s plays produced by Acacia Theatre.
tale elements on full display as Disney’s version romances
Fireside dinner audience
FORT ATKINSON -
We all love a good romantic fairy tale, especially one with
a happy ending. “Disney’s
Beauty and the Beast” has all the essential ingredients -
a bad guy, scary elements often occurring in forests, a
beautiful woman, a curse or spell, and the triumph of good
Menagerie’ remindful of people’s illusions
- Tennessee Williams’ play “The Glass Menagerie,”
though one of his earliest works, is one of his most
frequently performed. It is a play that keeps on giving.
Variations’ explores limits of life
WAUKESHA - A
totally fascinating experience awaits you in “33
Variations” by MoisŽs Kaufman. Two lives are examined as
each person living in different worlds faces the end of his
life, making choices as to how to live out his final days.
triumphs over terror in UW-Waukesha’s moving rendition of
‘Women of Lockerbie’
- On Dec. 21, 1988, Pam Am Flight 103 exploded in midair as
it traveled from London to New York. A bomb had been planted
on the plane, possibly by a Libyan agent in retaliation for
an American bombing campaign in the capital city of Libya.
Taken with 'Taking Shakespeare'
MILWAUKEE - Sometimes
we take Shakespeare; sometimes Shakespeare takes us. Such is
the case in this beautiful little piece by John Murrell, a
lovely 90-minute experience in the intimate setting of
Shop’ keeps ringing up laughs
ELM GROVE - When
L. Thomas “Tommy” Lueck takes hold of anything, he does
so with energy and passion. Whether it be teaching, acting,
singing or directing, his zest and dedication are
Few’ gets personal exploring past wreckage
- People seem to have the need to make a connection, to have
someone care about them, which probably accounts for why
matchmaking companies are so successful.
‘Time Stands Still’ in four lives
- Three excellent productions hit the stages in
Milwaukee last weekend, all engaging and
‘Grounded’ covers a lot of ground
“Grounded” is one woman’s story of her experience as a
highly regarded fighter pilot.
After an unexpected pregnancy, she is reassigned to a
“chair pilot” position, sitting for 12-hour stretches
any lingering snow; spring plays are in the air
theaters’ seasons run from September through May. Here are
the many interesting offerings from the final third of the
First Stage’s ‘Robin Hood’ has something for everybody
- The story of Robin Hood has been around for more than 800
years and is part of British folklore. Part of its continued
appeal probably rests on some common themes that survive the
many versions of this folk hero and his clashes with the law
(Sheriff Nottingham), the wealthy class and the hypocritical
A delightful spin around a French bard
MILWAUKEE - David
Ives, known for his clever adaptations, has unearthed a
17th-century farce by Alexis Piron, written in
rhyming verse, and has brought
us a complicated web of characters all looking for love and
‘The Other Place’ can be jarring to watch
- As we watch “The Other Place” unfold, we are somewhat
confused until we realize that we are largely experiencing
the narrative through the mind of Juliana Smithton, whose
brilliant mind is rapidly deteriorating due to some form of
dementia, which she interprets as brain cancer.
MILWAUKEE - We
all love to watch an expert, whether it be an athlete, an
artist, a dancer, a musician or anyone who has worked hard
to perfect his or her skills.
by Falls Patio Players’ transformative ‘Enchanted
FALLS - It was like getting a bouquet of hope, a rarity in
these times. The word “enchanted” almost seems reserved
exclusively for children, but one of the strongest appeals
of “Enchanted April” is that adults are allowed to
Civic’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ makes for spirited fun
Coward is one of the most prolific British writers who
ever lived. Besides his writing prowess, he also acted,
directed, and produced movies and TV shows.
‘Luna Gale’ offers telling look at life
- After witnessing the raw, wrenching story of “Luna Gale,”
I was deeply struck by the complexity and vulnerability
inherent in the human condition
‘Blind Dating at Happy Hour’ turns out to
be highly enjoyable
An enthusiastic packed house was ready for a comic ride
through the messy maze of relationships in a low-end bar
where anything could happen, and, as it turns out, does.
Can’t Take It With You’ still accruing interest
GROVE - Sunset Playhouse has taken on a chestnut comedy,
George S. Kaufman’s and Moss Hart’s “You Can’t Take
It With You.” It first appeared on stage in 1936 and
won a Pulitzer Prize, striking a chord with Americans during
the throes of the Depression. It remains a favorite among
professional and community theater companies.
‘McGuire’ takes center stage, naturally
MILWAUKEE — Al McGuire was one of the most successful and
colorful basketball coaches and TV announcers that ever
graced the stages of a gym or a TV network. He was known for
his brash style and his care for his players, insisting they
work hard at the sport as well as leave Marquette University
with a degree.
“Disgraced,” the most produced play in America during
the 2015-’16 season, won a Pulitzer Prize for a reason. It
is relevant, provocative, meaty and intense.
welcomes Wisconsin series, era of ethnic communities
to Bronzeville,” written and directed by local playwright
Sheri Williams Pannell with the assistance of John Tanner,
is the first play in a series called The Wisconsin Cycle,
highlighting Milwaukee’s history and ethnic
a winter at play
Come cold, come
wind, come snow, the shows must go on, and indeed they will.
Bundle up and take a chance on one.
‘Mamma Mia!’ is a madcap delight
ATKINSON — “Mamma Mia!”, one of the longest-running Broadway
shows, boasting a 14-year reign, has been given new life
with the 2008 movie version starring the incredible Meryl
Touring ‘Sound of Music’ warms
hearts - even on a cold day
- Richard Rodgers’ and Oscar Hammerstein’s “The Sound
of Music” has been around for more than 50 years, and it
still appeals to audiences for its music, its love story and
its peek into a convent, always a bit of a mystery to many.
down the best plays of 2016 by category
seeing more than 100 shows in the past year, it is hard
sometimes to pick out the best. We have so many good
professional, community and college theaters in the Greater
Milwaukee area that it’s difficult to narrow them down to
those that deserve special mention.
shines through in In Tandem’s ‘Holiday Hell’
- In Tandem Theatre has a tendency to offer alternate
treatments of the Christmas season. No sentimental
candy-coated versions here. Consider its long run with “A
Cudahy Caroler Christmas” or “A Twisted Carol.”
Christmas Pageant’? Most humorous, maybe
GROVE - Get ready for a bundle of laughs in Sunset’s
production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” a
staple during the Christmas season.
Elfish Reasons’ addresses labor shortage
- For six years, the Waukesha Civic Theatre developed a
tradition of offering its original “Candy Canes and
Holiday Carols,” tweaking it every year to combine
predictability and variety.
MILWAUKEE - The
revitalized traditional presentation of the Milwaukee
Rep’s “A Christmas Carol,” which is celebrating its
41st year, served as a reminder of the changes instigated by
Mark Clements in his short tenure with this iconic theater
Rep Respins a Classic
Country puts on good showing of Dickens’ classic
HARTLAND - The
Lake Country Players are continuing their tradition for the
sixth year by presenting the musical version of Charles
Dickens’ classic tale of “A Christmas Carol” by
Michael Koscinski and Ernest Brusubardis.
production of ‘La Cage’ takes the prize
MILWAUKEE - Get
ready to be dazzled, amused and moved by Skylight’s
present production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” the
award-winning musical by Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein,
two giants in the theatrical industry.
Hero’ adds depth to comedic characters
- Kenneth Lonergan, though not a particularly prolific
playwright and film script writer, is one of pristine
quality. His film “You Can Count on Me” was a rave, and
his upcoming film “Manchester by the Sea” is already
receiving excellent reviews.
Foreigner’ might not be for xenophobes
MILWAUKEE - Larry
Shue’s work is back. The actor and playwright who
more than made his mark in the world of theater by the age
of 39 when he met an untimely death in a plane crash
continues to return to many stages throughout the world via
“The Nerd” and “The Foreigner.”
Fireside Christmas’ is a melodious treat
ATKINSON - Somehow, year after year, the Fireside Dinner
Theatre attracts busloads of fans and many single patrons to
its annual Christmas show.
Night’ takes unexpected turn
MILWAUKEE - For a
very original Christmas show, you might want to wander down
to Next Act’s premiere of “Unsilent Night,” written by
Milwaukee actor and playwright John Kishline in
collaboration with David Cecsarini and Edward Morgan. I
Ingalls Wilder Christmas’ revolves around family
- Probably most people have been exposed to the Wilder books
or, if not, to the TV series “Little House on the
Prairie,” starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert.
Tin Pan Alley pounds, struts, wows in ‘I
Love A Piano’
— I’m having a “Ragtime” moment, which translates to what I
felt when experiencing that musical treat three years ago. I
was almost beyond words after that show. The same is true of
“I Love A Piano,” which features the music of Irving Berlin
a la 50 songs and four dazzling performers.
The magic of working together comes alive
in First Stage's 'Mole Hill'
MILWAUKEE - Lois Ehlert, who was
born in Beaver Dam and lives in Milwaukee, is a renowned
children's storyteller and illustrator, perhaps best-known
for 'Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.' Her books, often about nature
and its critters, are very colorfully illustrated, and have
won many prestigious prizes.
Kill A Mockingbird’ reminds us of racial road traveled and
- Harper Lee, a friend and neighbor of Truman Capote,
enjoyed a one-book success until she recently published her
choreography heightens battle of the sexes in pirate
thriller ‘Bonny Anne Bonny’
”Bonny Anne Bonny” by local playwright Liz Shipe is an
experience to behold. Directed by Christopher Elst, a master
director and fight choreographer, this adventure story
epitomizes the battle between the sexes.
performances enhance Carroll’s ‘Glass Menagerie’
- Tennessee Williams’ plays seldom make us happy, but
they make us sad so beautifully that we don’t mind.
from ‘M’wauke’ to seldom-staged Sullivan work ‘The
MILWAUKEE - The
Boulevard Theatre, that small, long-lived and amazing
theatrical company, linked up with the Plymouth Chorale,
under the guidance of Donna Kummer, for this dual
Girls’ floods stage with uniqueness, willing brides
MILWAUKEE - It
isn’t often that one sees three women emerge from bathtubs
in wedding gowns. That’s just one of the many unusual
happenings in the production of “The Drowning
way you say it, ‘Young Frankenstein’ comes out funny
- ”Young Frankenstein, the Musical” is a take-off on the
1974 movie starring Gene Wilder.
Its Mel Brooks flavor is evident throughout.
‘Good Doctor’ is perfect tonic for what ails the funny
Doctor” is a series of short plays based on Anton
Chekhov’s works as interpreted by Neil Simon. The
production uses narration as transitions between the
‘Fiddler’ captures family, tradition
ELM GROVE - Since
its inception in 1964, the collaborative musical venture
“Fiddler on the Roof,” launched by Jerry Bock, Joseph
Stein and Sheldon Harnick, continues to resonate with
audiences for many reasons.
‘Dracula vs. the Nazis’ mostly misses
Chris Flieller and Doug Jarecki have proven themselves over
and over to be consummate comic actors.
Scheduling errors create surprise ending
in ‘Suite Surrender’
This was a very farcical week
in theatrical offerings in the Greater Milwaukee area
— “Dracula vs. the Nazis,” “Lend Me a Tenor,”
and now “Suite Surrender.”
People must enjoy farces, or there wouldn’t be
so many successful ones.
takes personal journey in turbulent ‘60s
- “Violet” will probably not enjoy the longevity of a
classic musical, such as “Man of la Mancha” or “My
Fair Lady,” but it provides an enjoyable couple of hours,
many memorable scenes and some important themes.
in time for political season: ‘The Taming’
MILWAUKEE - ”We
the people, in order to form a more perfect union ...
.” It’s a very noble beginning with the best of
intentions as a small body of determined men broke away from
England to start an ambitious experiment called the United
Dollar Quartet’ electrifies Fireside
ATKINSON - Based on a true story, the serendipitous event of
four superstars jamming in the same studio, brings us the
electric “Million Dollar Quartet,” now rocking the stage
at the Fireside Dinner Theater.
Mancha’s’ idealism, execution merit standing applause
MILWAUKEE - I
didn’t think I’d ever experience a match for
“Ragtime,” a recent musical produced by the Milwaukee
Rep, but “Man of La Mancha” lives up to that level of
excellence. It delivers two uninterrupted hours of
glorious, captivating and inspiring artistry.
Sunday’ shows Tennessee Williams’ humorous side
Tennessee Williams is not known for his sense of humor, so
his play “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur,” one of his
later, less-well-known works, is a delightful
Civic’s ‘Gypsy’ wows with talent, music
- ”Gypsy” is a fitting choice to herald in the 60th
anniversary of Waukesha Civic Theatre’s inception, an
accomplishment that only 100 of the 7,000-plus community
theaters across the country can boast of.
Over Buffalo’ cast skillfully pulls off farce
GROVE - Once a big hit for Carol Burnett, “Moon over
Buffalo”, a popular Ken Ludwig farce, is causing its share
of chuckles at the Sunset Playhouse.
Day’ delivers breathtaking performances
Billie Holiday, in one of her last performances, returned to
Emerson’s Bar and Grill in Philadelphia in 1959. Although
she had performed in large prestigious venues such as
Carnegie Hall, she preferred the intimacy of spaces where
she could get in touch with her audience.
Wild Party’ serves up Roaring ‘20s morality tale
- ”The Wild Party” is based on a poem written by Joseph
Moncure March in 1928. The
poem was initially banned because of its blatant narrative
of sex, booze and drugs prevalent in The Roaring Twenties.
‘Odd Couple’ stars shine nicely outdoors
TOWN OF DELAFIELD
- Neil Simon is probably one of the greatest American comedy
writers of all time, and “The Odd Couple” still speaks
to audiences even after 50 years.
and Sonia and Masha and Spike’ uncovers humor
- Christopher Durang, a prolific, absurdist playwright, has
combined a passing salute to Anton Chekhov for setting and
themes, but one does not have to be familiar with his work
to catch the humor of this piece.
Country Players take ‘A Walk into the Woods’
- Probably most of us have encountered “Into the Woods”
as a stage musical or movie, but the junior version is a
fairly recent addition to Sondheim’s clever conglomerate
of fairy tales. Last week, Waukesha Civic Theatre gave
us the junior version of “Legally Blonde.”
should be out on SummerStage, community theater
OF DELAFIELD - The challenges of outdoor theaters are many -
weather, people who let their children run around during the
performance, patrons who distract others by eating nosily
and the added demand on the actors to project their voices.
‘Legally Blonde’ cast makes its case for determination
WAUKESHA - Two
alternating casts of young actors burst onto the stage to
tell the story of a young blonde, seen as ditzy by some,
proving herself to be a strong, determined person who learns
from her experience.