Matthew Reddin
TCD’s 2013 Countdown

Theater

Matthew Reddin breaks down ten of the plays and musicals he's most looking forward to coming up in 2013.

By - Jan 2nd, 2013 04:00 am
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“A Chorus Line” visits the Milwaukee Theatre this week and kicks off the first of many wonderful theater shows on Matthew Reddin’s 2013 theater countdown.

New Year’s Eve has come and gone, but we here at TCD like countdowns so much we’re bringing you four more this week. But there’s no ball to drop at the end – quite the opposite. These lists, from myself, visual arts editor Kat Murrell, editorial assistant/music writer Sahan Jayasuriya and senior editor Tom Strini, are the things we’re going to do our best not to drop the ball on. In each, we’ll list off the shows, concerts or releases we’re most looking forward to as 2013 begins.

For this first, theater-focused countdown, I’ve managed to trim my list to 10 shows, although it wasn’t easy. Helping matters was my self-imposed rule to only put a theater company on the list once, although I may have bent the rule a little in name-dropping a show here and there. Take the order they’re presented in with a grain of salt – I’ve shuffled them around a half-dozen times, so by now the ranking doesn’t really mean anything except “This Is A Show You Should See.” So go see some. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

10. Dust, at Theatre Gigante, Feb. 8-16

There were a lot of shows I considered for this first/last spot – Off the Wall’s Closer had it for a while – but sheer curiosity sold me on Dust, a Hungarian play making its Milwaukee premiere. Gigante’s playing mum with the details, but what I’ve found describing the show tells me it’s a tale of a struggling couple – played here by James Butchart and Isabelle Kralj – who suddenly win the lottery and become paralyzed by the opportunity that chance brings to them. Color me intrigued.

9. Grace, at Next Act Theatre, April 4-28

I was already interested in catching Grace at Next Act later this season, but when I realized it was the same Grace that’s just closing on Broadway – the one I’ve been wishing I could see ever since a Michael Shannon interview I read over the summer clued me in – I got extra pumped. Next Act’s production may not have Shannon or Paul Rudd, but as long as they also don’t have any vomiting patrons I can’t see myself missing this one.

8. Wicked, at the Marcus Center, June 12 – July 7

It’s fashionable in some theater circles to rip on Wicked for being too shallow or too mainstream or too moralistic or too poppy. And yeah, it sort of is. But Oz help me, I love Wicked anyway, and I’m thrilled to see it making a return to Milwaukee. It’s not as serious or moving as Company or Les Mis or Rent, but it’s simply fun. Sometimes, that’s all a show needs.

7. A Chorus Line, at the Milwaukee Theatre, Jan. 4-5

It’s really, really hard to love theater and not love at least the idea of A Chorus Line, which pulls back the curtain to expose a collection of veteran dancers auditioning for scarce roles in a Broadway chorus. The good/bad news is that the show is coming into town later this week, so while I don’t have to wait long to get this theater wish fulfilled, if you want to join me there’s not much time left to snag tickets.

6. A Little Night Music, at Windfall Theatre, May 3-18

I’m a sucker for Sondheim, so the only local production this spring was bound to catch my eye. But this rec is more than just blatant Sondheim-shipping. Windfall’s got experience with his work – staging Sunday in the Park with George and Assassins seasons before larger Milwaukee companies – and A Little Night Music is the sort of show where a minimalist set might only help the vocal performances shine.

5. Americlown, at The Quasimondo, Spring TBD

After catching Nutcracker vs. Mouse King last month, the question wasn’t whether to put a Quasimondo show on this list – it was a matter of which. But while wild cyborg horses couldn’t keep me away from a show titled Robot Cabaret, and I’m game for a Bacchanalia any day of the week, it’s Americlown that I’m most keyed up for. The show promises an exploration of the clown archetype in 21st century America, and if it’s half as ambitious as Nutcracker, it’s bound to do well.

4. The Normal Heart, at Theatrical Tendencies, April 5-20

I was glad enough to learn that Theatrical Tendencies, Milwaukee’s only LGBT-focused theater company, was back on the scene this fall, after seemingly shutting its doors last year. Learning The Normal Heart, a semi-autobiographical play set at the dawn of the AIDS crisis, was their spring show was the stunning, wonderful, likely-to-make-me-sob-in-the-middle-of-the-theater icing on the cake. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I’m going to be frank: I can’t see this being anything but one of the most moving shows this spring.

3. Porgy and Bess, at Skylight Music Theater, May 17 – June 9

Yes, it’s technically an opera, but Porgy and Bess’ Broadway heritage and the fact that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see the landmark work are enough to earn it a place on my list. Adding in that it’s at the Skylight, always a master of blending operatic excellence with theatrical thrill, and that it’s the directorial finale for outgoing AD Bill Theisen put it at position number three.

2. Clybourne Park, at the Milwaukee Rep, Feb. 1-24

I wrestled between picking this and A Raisin in the Sun for a long while – at one point, I even cheated and put them on a double bill (which, for the record, would have been awesome, Rep). But if I’m being honest, Clybourne Park’s the one. Setting a dramatic lens on the neighborhood of Raisin both right before and 50 years after the Younger family moves in is a brilliant theatrical conceit, and I can’t wait to see the Rep take on the 2011 Pulitzer-winner.

1. Jeeves in Bloom, at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, April 11-28

One of the first plays I reviewed at TCD was Jeeves Intervenes, a 2010 season opener at MCT. Now that I’m safely removed from the review by time, I’m going to risk admitting that I didn’t have high expectations walking in – perhaps one of the biggest errors of judgment I’ve made in my career, as the production was one of the best I’ve seen in Milwaukee, then or since. So I’m not making the same mistake with Jeeves in Bloom, a sequel which brings back Matt Daniels as the titular butler (although, sadly, not Chris Klopatek as his employer Bertie Wooster) and hopefully even a fraction of the magic that was Jeeves Intervenes.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of “Jeeves in Bloom” rounds off a promising list of shows for the remainder of 2013.

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