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MOVIE REVIEWS

‘Son of Saul’ finer than ‘Finest’

‘Twilight’ packs power in look at Rodney King beating

If Hollywood presented rookie of the year awards, the Hungarian Laszlo Nemes would definitely be in contention. Unfortunately for the 38-year-old “Son of Saul” director, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay, the rookie award remains a baseball phenomenon. 

MILWAUKEE - Sometimes it is painful to relive an event, but it is useful to look back and see if we have learned anything from it. This is especially evident in our country with its history of slavery that continues to haunt us.
 

Isaac captivates, but whither goes ‘Mojave’?
Written and directed by William Monahan (“The Departed”), “Mojave” stars Oscar Isaac, who’s become quite the prolific performer (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Ex Machina” and “A Most Violent Year”).

‘Ride Along 2’ nothing special, but then again ...
“Ride Along 2” is nothing special, particularly when compared to truly outstanding movies playing locally like “The Revenant” and “The Force Awakens.” Then again, the comedic “Ride Along 2” is infinitely better than the tasteless Christmas comedy “The Night Before” and certainly no worse than M.

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

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

2015 was a great year at the movies
It’s been an excellent year for motion pictures. Interestingly, most of the ones I’ve liked best - the top six of my top 10 - are reality-based. 

‘Concussion’ is a different but good gridiron movie
“Concussion” is a different sort of football film, one concerned with debilitating head injuries that have too frequently spelled death for ex-NFL players. It’s a movie with inventive casting. 

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

Episode VII good, just not great
A friend hit the nail on the head when he predicted the seventh film in the “Star Wars” series “will be a good movie, (but) won’t be great.”

‘Episode VII’ awakens new hope
Franz Buchholtz didn’t care for the last three “Star Wars” movies. In an interview, the Bay View resident summarized those prequels as “poorly acted, poorly written, not very well thought-out.” He added that “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (1999), “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (2005) each “came off more like a video game than a movie.”

‘Letters’ inspirational, if not cutting-edge
It may be that Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun revered for her work among India’s impoverished and the subject of the newly released biopic “The Letters,” was from the day she joined the Sisters of Loreto at age 18 a saintly personage - chaste and obedient in accordance with the vows nuns take, prayerful, other-centered.

Patron’s harsh ‘Night Before’ assessment proves accurate
Minutes after a screening of “The Night Before,” I heard a woman comment, “I just wasted an hour and 45 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back again.”   

Well-paced drama’s heart in right place … or places
Home is where the heart is. But can the heart be in two places at once? That seems to be the basic question John Crowley’s “Brooklyn,” based on a novel by Colm Toibin, is asking. 

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

‘Spectre’ has superior production values, but ‘Suffragette’ is superior film
As good as Carey Mulligan was as “Far From the Madding Crowd’s” leading lady last spring, the English actress is even better as a pre-World War I women’s rights activist in “Suffragette.

‘Room’ fascinating, if not flawless
“Room” is a well-cast movie, with emotionally wide-ranging performances by Brie Larson (also very good in the recent “Trainwreck”) and 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay (truly remarkable). Both actors could get Academy Award nominations, as could “Room’s” Irish director, Lenny Abrahamson.

Truth be told, Redford’s Rather credible
In one of “Truth’s” final scenes, Robert Redford as Dan Rather is cheered by a roomful of co-workers after signing off for the last time as “CBS Evening News” anchorman. While applauding Rather, the other actors could also have been applauding Redford, who, made up to resemble the newscaster, deserves kudos for capturing Rather’s voice and mannerisms in an appropriately low-key performance.

Stine-based ‘Goosebumps’ a bumpy ride, but Spielberg’s ‘Bridge’ worth negotiating
Amidst outsized monsters and a militia of evil-intentioned garden gnomes, the most interesting subjects in “Goosebumps” are human: three pretty sensible kids and a couple of kooky adults. 

‘Coming Home’ is great, but not in today’s 3-D adventure sense
“Coming Home” is an extraordinary film, but it’s hardly a bells and whistles film. Cops and a criminal may be at its center, but this Chinese movie with English subtitles and a 20th century time frame is no action-adventure picture, no breakneck-paced police procedural with bullet-dodging or madcap driving or other acts of derring-do.

Zemeckis’ ‘The Walk’ another fine fall flick
In my review a week ago, I exulted that several good movies had accompanied our new autumn movies like that review’s 3 1/2-star subject,  “The Martian.” Ridley Scott’s sci-fi adventure may or may not have been the best release since Labor Day; now, however, as quickly as it burst upon the scene,  “The Martian” has been overshadowed by Robert Zemeckis’   humor-spiked drama  “The Walk.” 

Ridley Scott’s ‘Martian’ looks to be among better autumn crop of movies
“The End of the Tour.” “Grandma.” And now, “The Martian.” History does seem to repeat itself: Autumn approaches; a better crop of feature films emerges.

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

Tomlin terrific as ‘Grandma’ 
you wish you had
It may not be a technical trailblazer, but “Grandma” is a terrific motion picture: unfailingly amusing, poignant, very capably acted, a thorough - and thoroughly captivating - story in 79 short minutes.  

Maybe ‘Walk’ should take a hike
Robert Redford’s latest movie, “A Walk in the Woods,” has been done before, more or less, and done better. The previous rendition occurred last year, a drama with Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern instead of a comedy starring the less impressive duo of Redford and Nick Nolte. 

Big screen keeps it real this fall
If reboots have figured prominently in this summer’s cinematic landscape, the fall season promises to place emphasis on movie art imitating life.

TV retread 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' passes muster as feature film
OK, I’ll add my thumb to those already thrust in the air in support of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” Guy Ritchie’s feature film based on the old TV series with the same handle.

Interview-based movie anything but dull
Nobody’s proposing David Foster Wallace, late author of the well-regarded novel “Infinite Jest” and subject of the feature film “The End of the Tour,” for canonization. 

New films take two societal glimpse set in San Francisco, Ireland
It’s  1976. Patty Hearst, seen on a TV clip in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” is big news this Bicentennial year while Watergate has apparently been forgotten.

Documentary suggests 
truth stranger than fiction
Documentarian Crystal Moselle’s “The Wolfpack” concerns a most unusual family: the Angulo brood of seven children, all but the youngest of them males, their Peruvian papa, Oscar, and their mother, Susanne, of Midwestern farm stock.

‘Irrational Man,’ ‘Pixels’ revisit Dostoyevsky, Pac-Man
Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man” begins as a potential revisiting of “Educating Rita” with Joaquin Phoenix in the Michael Caine role. It becomes an updated screen version of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” with Phoenix as above-the-law Raskolnikov.

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

'War is hell' theme dominates 'Testament of Youth'
“Testament of Youth,” based on an autobiography by the same title, begins on Armistice Day, 1918. World War I, the inaccurately dubbed “war to end all wars,” is over and there is jubilation on the streets.

Offbeat 'Me and Earl' definitely worthwhile
I find myself wondering whether it’s merely coincidental that “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” the  movie based on Jesse Andrews’ novel, takes place in Pittsburgh.

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

'Spy' offers a lot of hilarity and a bit of bawdiness
“Spy,” the latest Melissa McCarthy movie, at first looks and sounds like a James Bond film, with handsome Jude Law in the Bond role and a song remindful of “Goldfinger” playing as the credits roll.

Cast aside, 'Aloha' leaves little  to capture the imagination
“Aloha,” the first film since 2011 from writer-director Cameron Crowe (“Almost Famous,” “Jerry Maguire”), has met with considerable public grousing due to, among other things, its allegedly disproportionate amount of Anglos for a Hawaii-set production. 

'Pitch Perfect 2' strikes several sour notes
I don’t know that I’ve seen a theater empty quite as quickly as the one where I watched “Pitch Perfect 2” the other day. 

Scary future could have used a lot more laughs
Characters, including the one played by George Clooney in a new Disney extravaganza, could’ve chosen to heed the biblical recommendation ”do not worry about tomorrow.” 

'Madding Crowd' packed with performances in a beautiful film
Like Shakespeare and Dickens, Thomas Hardy is an oft-filmed British writer. Movies have been made of Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure,” “Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” “The Mayor of Casterbridge” and now, for the second time, “Far from the Madding Crowd.” 

'True Story' is actually two stories - 
and both have been better told
The movie “True Story,” like the 2005 book on which it’s based, is actually two stories. One concerns Michael Finkel’s reporter job loss. The second, and larger, story deals with Finkel’s identity loss to a man accused of murdering his wife and three children.

Pacino can't sing in 'Collins,' Isaac 
can dance in 'Machina' but both can act
I really liked “Danny Collins,” despite some implausibilities. Agile and captivating, the picture stars Al Pacino - still capable of commanding the screen - as a pop singer who receives a letter, waylaid for 40-plus years, from John Lennon. 

'Salt' worth 1,000 words, 'Woman' good as gold
That old adage “One picture is worth 1,000 words” rings true, time and again, in the documentary “The Salt of the Earth.” 

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

'Merchants of Doubt' pits spin 
doctors vs. climatologists
If, based on our last two Wisconsin winters, you’ve decided global warming is a myth, the new documentary “Merchants of Doubt” might just change your mind.

'71' captures turbulent Belfast on many levels
Affecting nighttime footage and daytime scenes of a dark nature; evil characters and good ones whose largesse stops slightly short of heroism;  long takes and a relatively - and appropriately - skimpy musical score in which a drum figures prominently.

Better 'Red' than dead
Slava Fetisov went from playing schoolboy hockey with flattened cans for pucks to captaining what some considered the best hockey team on earth, to building leagues and arenas - plus bringing the 2014 Olympic Games to Sochi - as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s minister of sport

Russian 'Leviathan' Worth Your Time
Put the Russian movie “Leviathan” in the worthwhile viewing category.  It isn’t light fare, isn’t a happy story (it’s a drama devoid of comic relief), but the subtitled “Leviathan” is well-acted, well-directed, well-photographed and definitely capable of holding an onlooker’s attention for its two-plus hours.  

Oscars likely to parallel Golden Globes
WAUKESHA - The prediction here is that Academy Awards night Feb. 22 won’t yield many surprises - at least not in the prominent categories of leading and supporting actor and actress, director and motion picture.

'Violent Year' tantalizingly cryptic
WAUKESHA - Tantalizingly cryptic. That adverb-adjective combination came to mind as a description of composer Alex Ebert’s jazzy-solemn score for “A Most Violent Year.”  

Time '4' movie buffs to 
brush up on Oscar history
WAUKESHA - Now that the Golden Globe Awards have been distributed, it’s time to turn our attention to the Oscars. 

‘Selma’: How far have we come?
WAUKESHA - “Selma,” the formidable screen story of the Martin Luther King Jr.-led civil rights march between Selma and Montgomery, Ala., in 1965, virtually ends with a rap number called “Glory.” 

Intense 'Foxcatcher' among 2014's best films
WAUKESHA - Terrifying pipsqueak may be an oxymoron, but it also seems a spot-on description of John du Pont - or least the du Pont portrayed by Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher.”


'Dr. Cabbie' mostly drives the wrong way
WAUKESHA - Cast an engaging actor (Vinay Virmani) as the lead in your comedic flick and a lovely actress (Adrianne Palicki) as his significant other. Surround the pair with cartoonish relatives and buffoonish current and former friends.

'Penguins' offers enough  for animation fans
WAUKESHA - “Penguins of Madagascar” opens on a snowy scene - a meandering march (or should I say wintry waddle?) of the titular creatures, who are generally unconcerned about an egg hatching in their midst. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skylight Music Theater presents 'Powder Her Face'
MILWAUKEE - With music by Thomas Ades and the libretto by Philip Hensher, “Powder Her Face” tells the story of Margaret Campbell, a British duchess who was known for her beauty, wealth and style. 

‘Not Now Darling’ offers pleasant romp
HARTLAND - Ray Cooney, sometimes called the British Neil Simon, is known for his farces. His most famous play, “Run for Your Wife,” ran in Great Britain for more than nine years. 

Sunset’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ highlights heart with a smile
ELM GROVE - The title “Steel Magnolias” is an oxymoron used by playwright Robert Harling to describe the beauty and strength, the delicacy and toughness of women. 

The Rep’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ grippingly moving
MILWAUKEE - John Steinbeck often wrote survival stories where human strength and loyalty are tested. “Of Mice and Men” is assuredly one of his most heart-wrenching works.

Trio of actresses delivers in ‘Agnes of God’
MILWAUKEE - The drama “Agnes of God” raises more questions than it answers, but it is intriguing and mentally stimulating to engage in the journey of listening in on Agnes, a young nun, who is being tried for murder; her Mother Superior; and the psychiatrist, Doctor Livingston, who has been hired to determine Sister Agnes’ sanity.

Flight of ‘Starlings’ is puzzling at times
ST. FRANCIS - If you’ve ever watched a flock of starlings, it looks like an amorphous group of birds flying around without any discernible pattern or direction.  Ben Parman’s new play, “Starlings,” is well named because it, too, is somewhat unstructured. 

‘Holes’ appears too weighty for its young target audience
MILWAUKEE - When a theater recommends that a specific show is targeted for a particular age group, one expects that there is a good match. I’d like to have a discussion with a group of fourth-graders to discern what they derived from “Holes,” presently playing at First Stage Children’s Theater.  

‘Legends’ brings big-name mix, Vegas glitz
FORT ATKINSON - ”Legend” and “Carrie Underwood” might not usually go in the same sentence because of longevity. 

Dancing takes center stage in ‘Newsies’
MILWAUKEE - “Newsies,” a touring Broadway show now playing at the Marcus Center, is based on a true story, the newspaper boys’ strike of 1899 in New York. 

The best plays of 2015
Writing my “Best of the Best” article at the end of the year is always fun, but also very challenging. Enriched as we are in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties with many quality theaters and a plethora of talented people, making the best choices as I travel back in time can be stressful, but I’ll do my best to be thorough and fair.

Latest ‘Guys on Ice’ another keeper
MILWAUKEE - I have seen “Guys on Ice” many times, my favorite play of the talented Wisconsin playwrights, Fred Alley and James Kaplan. It’s the sort of comedy that provides a lot of laughs as well as affords some insight into male friendships. 

Questions stirred in ‘Month Before Christmas’
MILWAUKEE - ”‘Twas the Month before Christmas” has Waukesha’s Doug Jarecki written all over it.  It oozes his unique spirit - a bit wacko, generous, childlike, creative and spirited, even sweet and sentimental. 

Brumder is especially welcoming for ‘Heir’ 
MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Entertainment Group, which performs at the Brumder Mansion, almost always makes use of the beautiful estate and playhouse in its productions. 

‘A Twisted Carol’ tries too hard to be funny
MILWAUKEE - In Tandem Theatre is well-known for offering an alternative show at Christmas. It is usually irreverent, satirical and quite funny for those who appreciate this brand of humor where sacred cows are not worshipped. 

‘Story of My Life’ proves moving
MILWAUKEE - “The Story of My Life” is a little gem that is hard to describe. Being played out in the Boswell Bookstore gives it an intimacy not always experienced on a typical stage setting.

A Christmas treat for the community
WAUKESHA - One senses in the first few minutes that many changes have been made in Waukesha Civic Theatre’s long-running traditional Christmas show “Candy Cane Tales and Holiday Carols” when the first number is about texting a merry Christmas. 

Two takes on ‘A Christmas Carol’ produce pleasing results
The outstanding feature of the Lake Country Players’ production of “A Christmas Carol” is the music, and when Catherine Pfeiler has a hand in it, you can be sure that it will be of high quality.

Realism provides twist to ‘Love Stories’ by famed authors
MILWAUKEE — It is not so uncommon for a married couple to both be engaged in the acting profession. In the Milwaukee theater scene, it’s fun to watch several pairs work together, including in the current run of the trilogy “Love Stories.”

Discovering the meaning of the holiday through ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
MILWAUKEE — Although I’m a big Charlie Brown fan, I thought that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at the First Stage Children’s Theatre was a bit disappointing. Snoopy was the biggest feature and very well-played by Matt Daniels.

Skylight’s ‘Fair Lady’ astounds
MILWAUKEE — “My Fair Lady” remains the ultimate musical in my book. With its brilliant script adapted from the consummate writer George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” its soaring music by Frederick Loewe and clever book and lyrics by Alan Lerner, it can hardly miss.

A showy season heavy on ‘Christmas Carol’
The festive season is almost here, and a flurry of Christmas shows await us in Waukesha and Milwaukee counties and beyond.

‘Mousetrap’ ensnares audience’s attention
MILWAUKEE - Any play that has been performed more than 25,000 times for over 60 years in London, not to mention its frequent production around the world, obviously has strong appeal. 

It’s a wonderful version of a beloved holiday classic
FORT ATKINSON - “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been around since 1946 as a memorable film with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Standard holiday viewing, it has also emerged as a radio show.  The Fireside Dinner Theatre in Fort Atkinson is now showing a musical version, a relatively new creation (2005), which adds another delightful dimension to this cherished story.


A Jewish Christmas story
MILWAUKEE - Coming from a small theater company that has survived for 30 years, “Handle with Care” by Jason Odell Williams is another victory for founder Mark Bucher and his penchant for making wonderful choices. 

‘Bravo Caruso’ encore deserves applause
MILWAUKEE - Thanks to playwright William Luce, many icons have been resurrected. With his life-like biographical dramas, he has brought Charlotte Bronte, Lillian Hellman and Emily Dickinson back from the dead. 

Deliciously ‘Wicked’ and in-depth
MILWAUKEE - Prequels are not as common as sequels, but the intriguing and popular musical “Wicked” is an example of a prequel we’re glad that Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman created. 

‘Ballad of Emmett Till’ still resonates today
MILWAUKEE - In 1962 Bob Dylan wrote a song about the horrendous death of the 14-year-old Chicagoan Emmett Till, who was killed in Mississippi in 1955 by two brothers who were later acquitted by an all-white, male jury for the crime they admitted to. 

Spirit of ‘Lockerbie’ shines through tragedy
WAUWATOSA - Except for the inconsistency of the Scottish dialect among the characters, Wisconsin Lutheran College’s “The Women of Lockerbie” was one of the most beautiful, most moving plays I have seen this year. 

‘Turn of the Screw’ open to interpretation
WAUKESHA — Henry James has never been an easy read. “The Turn of the Screw” is a strange tale, one which literary scholars have variously interpreted. I’m sure the audience at the Waukesha Civic Theatre also regarded the play with some degree of ambivalence and befuddlement over many unanswered questions as the play ended.

‘The Lion’ emerges as a powerful one-man autobiography
MILWAUKEE - Put together a skilled guitarist, a talented singer, a good storyteller - all united in a very personable, handsome young man - and you have the formula for the success of “The Lion.” Now playing in the Milwaukee Rep’s Steimke Studio Theatre, it is a true story written and told by Benjamin Scheuer.

‘James and the Giant Peach’ yields delicious outcome
MILWAUKEE - First Stage Children’s Theatre usually delivers pretty amazing shows, but occasionally there’s one that goes beyond amazing.  

Stackner hits home run with ‘Back Home’
MILWAUKEE - A show that pays tribute to a singer of renown, assembling his most famous songs and giving us interesting tidbits about his or her life is always welcome, especially when it comes from the pen of a person who traveled with the star for eight years. 

‘She Kills Monsters’ takes on gender roles, death
WAUKESHA - Based on fantasy role-playing adventure, “She Kills Monsters” at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha picks up on the flavor of Waukesha Reads this year. It is a perfect fit for those who enjoy.

‘Dream Girls’ conflicts, songs, costumes sparkle
MILWAUKEE - Though the composers of the award-winning musical “Dream Girls” (Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger) deny that their show is reminiscent of the rocky career of The Supremes, there are enough similarities to warrant one’s drawing that conclusion. 

‘Addams Family’ a real scream
ELM GROVE - The one and only Addams family has been with us since Charles Addams began creating his cartoons for The New Yorker. Since the inception of this family in the 1930s, there have been countless spinoffs in other media - most recently a Broadway musical. 

Freud and Lewis - exploring one of history’s biggest hypotheticals
MILWAUKEE - It is always interesting to speculate on the “what-ifs” in life.  What if I had pursued a different career,  what if I had married a different person, what if ... ?  Robert Frost addressed this issue in his famous poem “The Road Not Taken.” 

Lake Country tops area ‘Shrek’ musical productions
HARTLAND - Shrek is an ogre who represents all those who feel unaccepted or scorned because they don’t fit the mold of what’s considered normal. 

False accusations, profiling rise up in ‘Back of the Throat’
MILWAUKEE - When several members of a group do something wrong, it’s often a tendency to stereotype all members of that same group. 

‘Any Given Monday’ proves to be an unforgettable, complex drama
MILWAUKEE - On any given Monday night, there will probably be millions of men and some women watching “Monday Night Football.” That’s predictable. But, a play by the same name, now showing at the Tenth Street Theatre under the auspices of In Tandem Theatre Company, is anything but predictable. 

West Allis Players capture spirit of Neil Simon’s ‘Barefoot in the Park’
WEST ALLIS - It is no surprise that Neil Simon’s 1963 play “Barefoot in the Park” continues its popularity.  Simon’s longest-running Broadway show still amuses us because of its recognizable situations, its accessible characters and its humor.

‘Dirty Dancing’ mesmerizes at the Marcus Center
MILWAUKEE - You could feel it in the air as soon as the show opened. “Dirty Dancing,” a very popular movie in 1987, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray, has a huge fan base, and they were ready to experience the thrill of the dancing again, this time live, as the opener of the Marcus Broadway 2015-2016 Series.

Patio Players open 50th season with ‘Godspell’
MENOMONEES FALLS — Patio Players opened its 50th season with a stunning production of “Godspell,” a musical which surprised audiences when it opened in 1971 and has been delighting millions ever since.

Play’s treatment of loss, surprisingly, leaves one feeling ‘Amused’
MILWAUKEE - A new local playwright and director has hit the stage at Brumder Mansion under the auspices of the Milwaukee  Entertainment Group.  “Amused” is Megan Ann Jacobs’ first published play, and it is a delightful, fanciful one with the theme of moving on after a loss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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