Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011

2010-2011 In Review: Part Two

A look back from the leading edge of August

By Russ Bickerstaff
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With Soulstice Theatre opening the first show of the new season last week, Milwaukee Theatre rolls into New Year's . . . the Milwaukee Theatre year starting in August with the first new shows of the new theatre season and closes at the end of the following July with the last openings of the summer theatre season. Here then is part two of a look back at it all . . .

November 2010

This past November ended up being an interesting month for the less traditional end of the theatre spectrum. True, The Skylight Opera Theatre staged something no less traditional than H.M.S. Pinafore this month and others opened shows just as traditional, but they were crowded out by edgier stuff. UWM staged a program of some David Ives’ more abstract pieces punctuated by pizza.  Theatre Gigante staged a respectably unhinged re-imagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear with a show called The Lears and Pink Banana Theatre staged the single most memorable show of the month with an environmental production of Stephen Belber’s Tape. Sverely limited seating at an actual small hotel room near third and Wisconsin Avenue downtown served as a really convincing stage for a drama that played out between Matt Kemple, Rob Maass and Gwen Zupan. The atmosphere there was brilliantly crafted—Belber’s script is an alarmingly simple idea that is no less gripping because of it. A production of it in an actual hotel room was a really simple way to adapt it that worked on a number of different levels.


December 2010

2010 rounded out as it usually does with traditional holiday shows—the last in a series of annual productions of Patrick Schmitz’s Rudolph the Pissed- Off Reindeer hit the stage of the Alchemist Theatre. Milwaukee Rep’s annual Christmas Carol continued to draw-in some of the largest crowds of any locally-produced theatre show. John McGivern gave a particularly charming post-Emmy rendition of his annual Christmas monologue show. As usual, however, it was the non-holiday stuff that stood out from the crowd this past December. Carte Blanche’s production of the Irish drama The Hostage.

Ir’s not often that I can point to a single musical number as being one of the best of the season, but I’m still buzzing a little bit at Matt Zembrowski’s performance behind the piano in Off The Wall’s production of Guys & Dolls. (It was one of those performances that was so good that it took a while for everything to settle-in around the rest of the show afterwards.) The production that it was a part of was kind of uneven in places, but there were some really good performances here including those by Sharon Rise and Karl Miller. 

 

January 2011


Greendale Community Theatre opened the new year with one TWO really good musicals it would stage in 2011. Batboy: The Musical was a lot more intense than the rather kitschy title would suggest . . . with a very hairless Jordan Gwiazdoski in the main role and impressive supporting performances by a number of others (including Stephanie Staszak as a love interest) this was a remarkably fun show.

The Milwaukee Rep managed a bewilderingly intricate production of the contemporary spoof on Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. (easily my favorite Rep show of the past season.)

David Cecsarini and Norman Moses teamed-up for a sharply comic satire on business written by Rich Orloff as it staged Big Boys on a set with probably some of the most wicked forced perspective I’ve ever seen . . . a very comic play with a very comic visual end to it . . . a very, very tight package.

Drama might’ve been kind of light this past January, but Renaissance Theaterworks and Uprooted Theatre balanced out the levity with a darkly powerful production of Crumbs from the Table of Joy. It was nice to see the Rep bring in a group to do Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, but the deeper issues of race relations were so expertly delved into in Crumbs from the Table of Joy . . . and Renaissance/Uprooted’s staging of the drama was unflinchingly complex . . . the second show in an outstanding season for Renaissance. 

A great month closed out with Skylight Opera Theatre's brilliantly-staged production of Jacques Brel--a production that the Skylight managed to top at the end of the season, but this was an amazing show that cascaded through some really, really beautiful moments. 

Next: The Year in Review Part Three: February through April

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