Milwaukee Repertory Theater Announces Their 2021/22 Live Season

For fans of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, this lineup may look pretty familiar since it is heavily based on the canceled 2020/21 season. Our announcement for that season can be found here if you are interested. And there were several mid-course corrections and we posted those updates: Here, here and here. Sigh. So for you completists out there, the whole story from last season is available! LOL!

But now to get on with the really exciting news for the upcoming theater season. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has announced their 2021/22 season! And without further delay, here it is, in their own words!

There is a bright spotlight at the end of this dark pandemic tunnel.

We cannot wait to welcome you back! We have missed your laughter, tears, and watching you jump to your feet at the end of a performance.

To ensure vaccines have time to be fully distributed and work to their optimum level, we are delaying the start of our 2021/22 Season to October 29. Additionally, we remain fully committed to your safety and will follow recommendations from the CDC and local health officials. We will adjust operations as needed, which may include limiting tickets sold to allow for social distancing while prioritizing our Subscribers.

We will pick up where we left off and can’t wait to wow you with our largest season ever, which will employ hundreds of your favorite artists featuring the best of our postponed 2020/21 Season, including the Tony Award-winning musical Titanic, Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and Shakespeare’s As You Like It infused with Beatles songs. Throw in a new musical about the Green Bay Packers, an Emmy-nominated performance of Judy Garland classics, The Wall Street Journal’s 2019 Best New Play and a celebration of Dael Orlandersmith (Until the Flood), this season is not to be missed!

I like to think via stage, so here’s the lineup in each theater:

The Quadracci Powerhouse:

Steel Magnolias November 9 – December , 2021 In Chinquapin, Louisiana everybody who is anybody gets their hair done at Truvy’s beauty shop—where the women are all sass and brass. Through clouds of hairspray and over the buzz of blow dryers, six southern spitfires gather each week to gossip and support each other through thick and thin. But those bonds are tested when the ladies face a life-changing event. Infused with heart and humor, Steel Magnolias is a hilarious story of love, loss, and enduring friendship.

Toni Stone January 4 – January 30, 2022 Declared the Best New Play of 2019 by The Wall Street Journal, this sensational theatrical event knocks it out of the park with a high intensity glimpse into the world of the first woman to go pro in baseball’s Negro Leagues. Against all odds, Toni Stone blazes a path in the male-dominated sports world, shattering expectations and creating her own set of rules. Follow Toni’s journey as she fights for love, equality and a chance to do what she wants the most — play baseball. Filled with humor and the love of the game, this intimate and profoundly relevant portrait of America will have you cheering along.

As You Like It February 15 – March 20, 2022 The Beatles meet the Bard in this rollicking, celebratory musical take on William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. It’s 1960s British Columbia and love is in the air as a handful of cross-dressing lovers lead to mistaken identities, hilarious mishaps and loads of laughs. Interwoven into Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy, the production features over 20 Beatles songs performed live including “She Loves You,”“I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Let It Be.” Audiences will be rolling with laughter and singing along to some of the best songs ever written.

Titanic the Musical April 5 – May 15 2022 Winner of five Tony Awards, Titanic The Musical is a stirring and unforgettable account of the first and last days of the ship of dreams. This epic musical features real stories of people aboard the most legendary ship in the world from third-class immigrants dreaming of a better tomorrow to first class passengers living a life of fame and fortune. Rarely produced due to its size and complexity, this stunning and majestic musical sails into the intimate Quadracci Powerhouse for the theatrical event of the year!

Murder On The Orient Express May 31 – July 31, 2022 Board the exotic and mysterious Orient Express as it takes off into the opulence and grandeur of the 1930s, with a train full of suspects, each with a motive and an alibi. This dazzling new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s masterpiece is filled with twists, turns and larger-than-life characters. Join beloved detective Hercule Poirot as he battles the clock to figure out “whodunit” in this murder mystery that’s the perfect way to close our season.

And as always, my favorite theater, the Stiemke Theater:

Antonio’s Song / I Was Dreaming of a Son January 26 – March 6, 2022 Antonio’s Song is a poetic journey of a dancer/artist/father questioning the balance of his passions – art, culture, family. From the streets of Brooklyn to Russia’s ballet training studios, Antonio struggles to reconcile multiple ethnic identities. He wrestles with the legacy of stereotypes of masculinity while discovering the beauty of becoming a father. Dael Orlandersmith’s powerful poetry is intermixed with stunning original movement, music and evocative projected imagery to create a wholly unique and stunning performance by the breathtaking Antonio Edwards Suarez

New Age March 22 – May 2, 2022 Told through music, movement and lyrical storytelling, New Age follows four women at different junctures in life as they contend with their sexuality, insecurities and legacies. Cass loves art and continues to redefine herself after divorce, Lisette recounts how she became a writer as she faces health challenges, Candy has carved out a life for herself and despite struggles remains upbeat, and Liberty, the youngest of the group, begins her career as a rock musician. Edgy, joyful and authentic, Pulitzer Prize nominee Dael Orlandersmith’s distinctive style brings the stories of these resilient women to life as they prove that they are defined by much more than age.

And The Stackner Cabaret? The Rep season actually opens at the Stackner!

Dad’s Season Tickets October 29, 2021 – January 2, 2022 Direct from its sold-out engagement in Door County where it became the best-selling hit in Northern Sky Theater’s 28-year history, comes this new musical comedy for football fanatics and the people who love them. Who will inherit Frank’s treasured season tickets at Lambeau Field? The Kosinski sisters employ every trick in the playbook, on the way to relearning that family isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. With songs like “When You Live in Green Bay” and “What Do You Do with a Bye Week,” this quintessential Wisconsin musical will warm your heart and leave you rooting for the home team!

Piano Men January 7 – February 27 What happens when you put two pianos onstage, add two virtuoso piano players, and throw in a limitless songbook that defies genre and decade? You get Piano Men! Equal parts concert and sing-along, this exhilarating and entertaining musical revue will have you clapping, laughing and calling out requests for your favorite songs. Inspired by the hard working piano players who play everywhere from bars to airports, hotel lobbies to grand concert halls, Piano Men will feature a unique set list from rock, pop, classical, Broadway and everything in-between. Filled with hilarious stories, this world premiere event will leave you wanting to come back for more.

My Way : A Musical Tribute To Frank Sinatra March 4 – May 1 2022 From the king of swing to the Rat Pack, Ol’ Blue Eyes charmed his way into the hearts of millions. Celebrate the pivotal moments of Sinatra’s remarkable five-decade career with a journey through his greatest hits. Four performers sing classics such as “I’ve Got the World on a String,”“Fly Me to the Moon” and “New York, New York.” Experience the elegance of “The Chairman of the Board” as you’re transported back to the era of supper clubs, vintage Las Vegas and the perfect martini.

AND! Get Happy May 5 – July 1, 2022 In an Emmy Award-nominated performance seen on PBS, Angela Ingersoll celebrates Judy Garland live in concert. Backed by a dynamite band, Ingersoll delivers a tour de force of virtuosic vocals, passionate storytelling, humor, and heart. Ingersoll also won acclaim starring as Garland in End of the Rainbow, including Chicago’s Jeff Award and LA Times Woman of the Year in Theatre. Chicago Sun-Times exclaims, “Phenomenal. Judy Garland has been reborn.” Classic songs include “Over the Rainbow,””The Trolley Song,” and “The Man That Got Away.”

More information on the performances and ordering subscriptions can be found here.


Add A Christmas Carol To Your Season!

Don’t wait to secure your seats to Milwaukee’s favorite holiday tradition – A Christmas Carol. Make up for lost time with family and friends by doing something extra special this holiday season! As a special thank you, get 30% off, that’s an additional 5% off the “Christmas in July” one day sale prices – if you purchase by May 15. To purchase call 414-224-9490 today. 

Fingers crossed that all goes well for the rest of 2021 and we will see all of you at the theater! I can’t wait.

Red Bull Theater Reads MJ Kaufman’s GALATEA!

Last week the Red Bull Theater in conjunction with WP Theater presented a reading of MJ Kaufman’s Galatea Or Whatever You Be. This is the contemporary book end to their reading of John Lyly’s 16th Century play, Gallathea. If you want to read my overly long response to the Lyly plan, have at it here!

Lyly’s play pushes the Elizabethan limits on gender roles and gender identity fairly clearly and that came to some surprise to this writer when I watched the play. But given the necessity of having male actors play female roles in that era, in retrospect it could be anticipated that some gender fluidity may have been ‘tolerated’ at the time.

But Kaufman’s Galatea, described at one point as “loosely based on John Lyly’s 1585 play…” makes its magic with contemporary language and pulls the play into current 21st Century gender identity acceptance and certainly tries to lead the way to where society eventually needs to go.

Director Will Davis makes the most of the modern interpretation…the play gets pretty boisterous at times…the players much more animated…and the story simply runs forward without distraction.

Again the two main characters are Galatea and Phillyda, marvelously played by Futaba Shioda and Jo Lampert respectively. Galatea and Phillyda are two young woman who are dressed in boy’s clothing and sent to the woods by their fathers…because their village is faced with a historical legacy of placating an angry Neptune by sacrificing a fair virgin every five years…and the five year ‘festival’ is just about upon us.

Futaba Shioda (courtesy of Red Bull Theater)
Jo Lampert (courtesy of Red Bull Theater

In the woods, you can be who ever you want to be.

Needless to say the two encounter each other in the woods and intend to learn how to be a boy from the other. But of course it doesn’t go as planned as they each start to fall for the other. And again their word play and conversations reveal their ‘true identities’ to us the knowing audience although not quite apparent to each other…but being modern characters they go with their feelings. Kaufman has a little fun here in as the characters talk about being boys playing girls being boys ala both Elizabethan practice and the casting for this presentation. The writing is exceptionally well done and both actors play it to the hilt, really bringing out all of the nuances, irony, and humor in the text. One thing that I did miss in this modern interpretation is some of the poetry inherent in Lyly’s dialogue for Galatea and Phillyda in the original. But it would be somewhat out of place here.

how I love, whatever you be…

And the under story here is more direct as it is plain how Cupid takes umbrage with being spurned by the nymphs of the goddess Diana and decides to have a little fun with them. So after a few well spent arrows, the nymphs, who are ‘normally devoted to “lesbian separatist solidarity,”’ are smitten with the Galatea and Phillyda as boys. And all types of tricks and nonsense ensues.

The other character who has much to say despite little time on stage is Hebe, the lucky virgin who is selected to be the sacrificial offering but is ultimately spurned by Neptune. Again she runs the rant from not being fit for the role since there are fairer maidens about, to being angry that she has been spurned. But she is also self aware that she is a character in a play as she gloats that she has the longest solo speech! Hebe is incredibly on point and played by Pooya Mohseni who double dips by also playing the goddess Venus and a nymph, Ramia, at other points in the play.

Pooya Mohseni (courtesy of Red Bull Theater)

And then we have the denouement where everything is revealed, everyone dies, or everything gets made right. This one is a combination of the first and last…with some ambiguity to boot.

Venus shows up to retrieve her son Cupid from Diana…she convinces Neptune to drop his five year retribution on the town and essentially blesses the union of Galatea and Phillyda, but to satisfy the social mores of that time and even of the contemporary era, she promises to change one of the girls into a boy at the church before their wedding, to satisfy the presumed heterosexual nature of marriage. Except like Hebe, these young woman are aware of their place in the play and announce that unlike that other play, they just aren’t going to show up at the church and will live their lives as they desire.

screen capture by AIP

Now, Kaufman has played with gender fluidity through out the play. And director Davis pushed it even further with his casting…filling the roles with incredible actors despite what an audience might expect for the gender of each or any character. It works really well here and I imagine this will eventually be less a surprise on stages in the future.

courtesy of Red Bull Theater
screen capture by AIP

OK…this got pretty long too…it’s a good thing that Kaufman dropped the whole stranded brothers gig…it doesn’t work anyway. LOL!

The American Players Theatre Announces Its Live Summer Season: The Road Back

I am not going to spend any time explaining what The American Players Theatre plans for their 2021 Live Summer Season…because Brenda DeVita is doing it far better than I! But APT’s summer seasons have been rewarding summer experiences for me for nearly 20 years and I was blessed in being able to introduce them to my wife when I got married and she is as eager to attend their challenging and creative company again as I am!

The video runs just under ten minutes but it has all of the details and there are things very new and very exciting and very innovative in the coming season. But if you can’t sit still long enough, here is the schedule…but watch the video…this simple list doesn’t provide a fair explanation of what they are offering.

Now I know you have a lot of questions about how they are going to present live plays on both their indoor and outdoor stage…so visit their FAQ site here. Or their general news items are found here.

And once more the link to the plays.

This is great news on a dreary little March afternoon…sorry to be such a obvious cheeleader today!