Neophobics, beware — the theatre landscape in Milwaukee is about to be changed in many ways. New companies, new projects, new talent, and new collaborations all come together to form a season of one exciting prospect after the next.
If you haven’t heard it by now, Mark Clements has arrived at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. A new artistic director is always both an exciting beginning and a daunting challenge, but add in the first-ever full-scale musical and largest production ever on the Quadracci Powerhouse Stage, and you’ve got one heck of a way to kick off a season. Cabaret, the Kander and Ebb story of a sexually-charged club at the dawn of World War II — which the Milwaukee Ballet’s Michael Pink choreographs, opens the season on September 14th. Other highlights include the American premiere of Bombshells (November 22-December 19), and the world premiere of Liberace! in the Stackner Cabaret (November 19-January 16). Speaking of new talent… the first-ever annual Rep Lab featuring the talents of the Rep’s Intern Ensemble will run April 1-4 in the Steimke Studio Theatre.
What’s old is new again at the Skylight Opera Theatre as they open their 51st season with Dames at Sea (September 17-October 3), parodying the grand flashiness of the 1930s movie musical. The real “new” however, comes at the end of the season with the Wisconsin premiere of Adding Machine: A Musical (May 20-June 10). The show has received honors to the tune of four Lucille Lortel Awards (including Outstanding Musical) and two Outer Critics Circle Awards (including Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical and Outstanding New Score).
It’s also fitting that the Skylight should offer this production, as Milwaukee native composer and co-lyricist Joshua Schmidt has said that he wrote the piece with Skylight in mind. It will be exciting to see how they approach it.
Speaking of new talent, Youngblood Theatre has announced their upcoming season — and just like their take on last season’s Spirits to Enforce, they’re not afraid to delve into the challenging and absurd. Freakshow (October-November) opens the season, exploring the relationships between some… er… unique characters and what happens when changes in plan start to affect their performance. If you missed Red Light Winter last season due its unfortunate cancellation mid-run, they’ll be remounting it in January of 2011.
With the closing of Off Broadway Theatre, Next Act has taken their show on the road, and is spending a season at the Tenth Street Theatre while plans are underway to build their new digs just south of the Third Ward. Opening this week is Four Places (September 16-October 10). Some familiar faces are coming along for the road trip: Next Act regulars Mark Ulrich, Mary MacDonald Kerr, Flora Coker and Laura Gray are in this production, directed by artistic director David Cecsarini. Later this season, Kerr directs Cecsarini and Norman Moses in Big Boys (January 20-February 13). It looks to be a fun season with some familiar friends.
Next Act won’t be alone at Tenth Street, however. In Tandem, the venue’s regular resident company, offers a full, albeit chilling, season. The Art of Murder (October 22-November 7), Murder at the Howard Johnson’s (February 25-March 13), and Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story (April 29-May 15) will provide three different reflections on this morbid theme. As a bit of levity, Scrooge in Rouge (December 3-31) returns for the holiday season (although there are a lot of ghosts in that one, too).
The newest game in town — Theatrical Tendencies — opens their premier production this week. Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story opens September 17 and runs through October 2. The new company describes themselves as showcasing inclusive theatre with a passion for outstanding storytelling. With a focus on LGBT themes and issues, the company will be taking up residence at the Milwaukee Gay Arts Center for both Thrill Me and their spring offering of Terrence McNally’s often-controversial Corpus Christi (March 11-26).
Uprooted Theatre also shares a connection with the Gay Arts Center, as they’ll be partnering to produce local playwright Neil Haven’s Pink Champagne (May 19-June 5) at the Tenth Street Theatre. In a saga spanning three generations, Pink Champagne tells the story of Gene and Amy, a small-town couple with a strained marriage, chasing down their recently outed son to Gene’s estranged gay father’s house for an impromptu family reunion.
But you don’t have to wait all the way to May to see an Uprooted collaboration — Crumbs From the Table of Joy (January14-February 6) at Renaissance Theaterworks features Uprooted co-founders Dennis Johnson directing and Marti Gobel as Lilly.
Of course, there are plenty more fresh offerings coming to Milwaukee stages, but unfortunately not enough space in this one post to list them all. Never fear — TCD works all season long to provide both in-depth previews and engaging reviews, so visit our A&C page and our events calendar often to stay up to date on the arts.