Post-COVID lockdown theatre continues to develop into July with a number of productions on live stages. There’s Broadway cabaret in Elm Grove, a contemporary drama, comedy and, as always, Shakespeare. Here’s a look of a few items on local small outdoor stages in and around the greater Milwaukee area:
Broadway Hits Cabaret Sunday at Sunset
Bombshell Theatre Company and Sunset Playhouse team-up for an outdoor cabaret right outside the theatre on Sunday, June 27th. Talent includes Marcy Doherty-Elst, Erich Welch, Tim Albrechtson and more. The performance is taking place right outside the Sunset Playhouse, so in the event of rain, the show can scamper indoors. The sleepy, little commercial area of Elm Grove that Sunset inhabits can be really beautiful this time of year as I well know having bussed it to the venue from the south side on more than one occasion. A light musical cabaret show outdoors in Elm Grove amidst the nearby hum of light Sunday afternoon traffic sounds idyllic.
Ghost Bike in the Park
The Milwaukee Rep’s Professional Training Institute welcomes audiences to a free outdoor performance of Laura Jacqmin’s Ghost Bike. The PTI features actors from grades 9-12 experiencing professional stage for the first time. Ghost Bike is the story of Ora, who travels into a strange afterlife to meet her best friend Eddie who tragically died in a biking accident. The show runs July 8 - 11 at the Selig-Joseph-Folz Amphitheater in Kadish Park on 701 E. Garfield Ave. For more information, visit The Milwaukee Rep online.
Shakespeare Auditions Intensify
Voices Found Rep continues its search for a cast for A Midsummer Nights Dream through June 28th. Its video auditions remain open for the next couple of days. The production runs in September. The director is Sarah Zapian who is a talented, young actor in her own right. She' also got a very clean, crisp, precise, professional presence that would likely be a lot of fun to work with. For more information, visit Voices Found online.
Also: Fleeing Artists Theatre will be escaping to the stage in Kenosha with a production of Hamlet which will run in early September. Auditions take place July 6th and 7th. For more information, visit the auditions’ Facebook Events page.
The Nerd in the Park by the Peak
It’s said the Larry Shue came-up with the name for The Nerd before he ever had an idea of what it was going to be about. The early 1980s sitcom continues to appeal decades after its original appearance. It’s got everything: a man making-up his own language. A theatre critic. The schemes of the KKK are foiled. There’s even a rousing game of Shoes and Socks. This coming month, Summerstage opens its season with a production of the comedy directed by Dustin J. Martin. The show runs July 15-31 in Lapham Peak State Park. For more information, visit Summerstage online.
Oedipus in the Garden
Ancient Greek tragedy...in Kenosha. One of the most durable pieces of drama ever written makes it to the Lincoln Park Flower Gardens July 16th - 25th. The tragedy makes it to the stage by way of a production directed and adapted by Kimberly Laberge. It’s Free Outdoor Oedipus in late July. Shakespeare gets a lot of attention from parks all over the U.S. It would nice to see more of the ancient Greek stuff prowling around for free in parks. It’s nice to see Fleeing Artists Theatre trying a different kind of classic. For more information, visit Fleeing Artists online.
Shakespeare Gets Mobilized
This year, Optimist Theatre will be going mobile with its Shakespeare in the Park program.
They will be performing Midsummer Nights Dream...on the road at various places across Milwaukee. The 60-75 minute version of the show will be great for families with little kids looking to hang out with Oberon, Titania and the rest of Arcadia. The show will consist of 12 matinee performances beginning the week of July 24-25. For more information as it becomes available, visit Optimist Online.
Live, indoor theater was going to feel weird for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Good thing I had a weird show to go to. I hopped a #80 bus and dove into the Deer District to climb through a the crowd assembled for the big Bucks game. I was going to The Best Place Tavern to see the return of Boozy Bard Productions’ Shakespeare Raw staging of The Merry Wives of Windsor.
The tiny, a little bar on the edge of all of the activity last night had a respectable crowd assembled to see a group of talented, comedic Shakespearian actors breeze through an irreverent, little staging of a light comedy. Boozy Bard’s Jeremy Eineichner opened the show with the all-too familiar intro that set the tone and pace. A big part of the show is selling the total informality it all. The cast is just there to have fun with an old script from a beloved, British 16th century Zack Snydery pop storyteller who just happened to be really good with words. Whether or not it’s actually the case, the overall feel is that they’d be doing what they’re doing even if there wasn’t an audience. It is for this reason that it’s always so good that they DO have people coming to see them. They’re having fun. They’re delivering that fun to the audience. And people drink good beer. Huzzah.
Playing the comedic lead of Falstaff was longtime Boozy Bard Brian Bayer. He didn’t know he was going to be playing the character when he got there, of course. (That’s the way it works with Shakespeare Raw. Names and roles are paired through a hat.) The hat can be a bit sketchy. Sometimes the decisions that hat makes as casting director make it seem drunk (or...idunno...inanimate or something.) For the most part, the hat seemed to be playing the casting straight ahead for the first show after “the plague.” Brian was a perfect comedic choice for the silly sinister Falstaff who is looking to woo two wealthy wives at once.
Michelle White and Nick Firer played the wives. Michelle White was a perfect choice. White is a delight. Her open comic energy served the evening well, contrasted as it was by Nick Firer. Firer knew full well that a towering bearded man in the role of a dainty wife was comic enough without amplifying, so he wisely played the role with no hint of exaggeration. You wouldn’t know it just to look at them, but White and Firer made for a perfect pairing.
Brian Bayer is also a musician who writes a new song for every show, performing it on a synthesizer to begin the second half of the show. This time around it was a Merry Wives Journey parody. “ Don’t Stop Deceivin’ ” was a strong choice. It’s the type of thing that gets played quite a bit at tiny bars populated by X-ers and older millennials. It’s powerfully iconic pop stuff. Bayer needed only get the minimalism of the basic suggestion of the song (and synth-approximation of a guitar solo) through the keyboard and it was like...it was like hearing Steve Perry sing about Falstaff of a track recorded thirty years ago. Then Bayer was right back onstage as Falstaff alongside White, Firer and the rest of the cast. Weird. And fun.
Boozy Bard’s Shakespeare Raw: Merry Wives of Windsor was a one-nigh-only thing. Just to see how it feels. (It felt good from where I was sitting.) Past shows can be seen in glorious SurveillanceCameraVision on the Boozy Bard’s YouTube page. Boozy Bard will be announcing upcoming shows as they become apparent. Check out the group’s Facebook page for upcoming announcements. And check out their cool merch on Redbubble.