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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Milwaukee's own Marcus Monroe is here to tell you that Neil Patrick Harris is good people.
Milwaukee's own Marcus Monroe is here to tell you that Neil Patrick Harris is good people.

Milwaukee native juggles his way to the top

Everybody hopes that their favorite celebrities are as cool in person as they are on the screen. Most people find out that’s not the case. But Milwaukee’s own Marcus Monroe is here to tell you that Neil Patrick Harris is good people. If you don’t believe him, watch the video (warning to the faint of heart: language not censored!)

Monroe and Harris gave a hilarious performance at this year's Outside Lands Arts and Music Festival in San Francisco. Posing as an estranged former juggling duo, the two gave a performance that kept the audience in stitches. And of course, the video found its way to YouTube.

"He's a great guy," said Monroe. "We had a lot of fun together."

So how does a humble juggler from Shorewood end up sharing the stage with the famous NPH?

Monroe moved to New York City at the age of 19; his father Rick is the administrator of the Nicolet School District. Monroe attended three years of college in NYC before deciding to "put school on hold…for life" to pursue his true passion: juggling. 

"Even through high school and middle school I was performing," he said. "I was into magic but then I got into juggling and I stopped doing magic. Well, some people say I should stop doing juggling, but I don't listen to them." (He's kidding.)

But don’t worry  - his dad’s totally cool with it. 

"My family’s super-supportive," Monroe said. "Because they see what I do and see that I make people happy and I’m happy doing it. 

Monroe still calls New York home but has taken his act on the road – and on the high seas, performing his comedy-based variety show for sold-out audiences on cruise ships, at colleges and even on "The Late Show with David Letterman."

He caught the attention of Lucie Arnaz (yes, that Lucie Arnaz) during one of his cruise ship gigs; they started talking after the show and she eventually signed on as his producer. 

Enter Neil Patrick Harris. 

"I needed a director for a show and I really wanted someone I liked.…

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The Natya Dance Theatre of Chicago performed at the Peck Pavilion Tuesday night.
The Natya Dance Theatre of Chicago performed at the Peck Pavilion Tuesday night. (Photo: Amitava Sarkar)

Natya dancers simply divine

The classical form of South Indian dance known as Bharatanatyam is derived from temple dancing. In ancient Hindu houses of worship, female devotees known as "Devadasis" performed elaborate rituals carried out with dance and music for the praise of various deities. 

Today, Bharatanatyam is the among most popular and well-known of all Indian dance traditions, and the Natya Dance Theatre (NDT) of Chicago is one of the premier Indian dance companies in the United States. The troupe visited the Peck Pavilion Tuesday night as part of the summer LIVE @Peck Pavilion series, exposing Milwaukee audiences to this ancient genre.

The dancers seek to tell the stories of Hindu gods through steps, facial expressions and hand gestures. There seem to be no accidents in Bharatanatyam, and so there were no noticeable mistakes in the compositions of the NDT.

It would seem that each foot, each finger and each dart of the eye was carefully calculated, precisely executed – almost divinely appointed. The dancers cultivated, in their careful movements and serene faces, an aura of holy devotion, of religious fervor. They proved themselves worthy successors to their ancient Devadasi forebears.

Any dancer would hate to make a false step but usually has the comfort of knowing the audience will not notice; because of the bells affixed to their ankles, an out-of-place foot for a Natya dancer would be both visible and audible, and by some miracle there seemed to be none. They moved seamlessly as a group but also leaped apart for individual performances. In this way they retained both a sense of cohesion but also of contrast.

The company’s vibrantly-colored costumes and elaborate traditional jewelry did not distract from the artistry of their actual dance. Bharatanatyam relies heavily on facial communication; eye movements ("drishti bhedas") are especially integral to the composition. Performers who must be silent storytellers always run the risk of looking like overzealous mimes; the Natya…

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NBC has announced that "The Office" will end after its next season
NBC has announced that "The Office" will end after its next season

"The Office" calls it quits

News broke today that "The Office" will end in May 2013 after wrapping up its ninth season. I’m one of those annoying people who will claim to have loved something right from the very beginning, before any of you Johnny Come Latelies knew how awesome it was, and in this case I would be telling the truth. 

I remember the exact moment I decided that "The Office" was the greatest show ever: April 19, 2005, when the episode "The Alliance" first aired and Michael unwittingly donates a large sum of money to Oscar’s nephew’s cerebral palsy walk-a-thon. The moment he realizes his mistake and utters a bleeped-out expletive never fails to make me laugh. I don’t know why that struck me, but it did, and I’ve probably only missed two or three episodes since. And yes, I know that’s pathetic.

Some other pathetic things about me: I legit cried when Pam and Jim got married (real tears) and when Michael left at the end of the seventh season. 

I love the original version of the show, as well, and I admire its typical British restraint in only producing 12 episodes and a Christmas special. But in keeping with my American tendency to over-consume, I prefer the version produced this side of the pond. Sure, there are 170-odd episodes, and some are better than others; some I don’t really like at all. But just like with life, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. 

I’d like to say I have high hopes for the Rainn Wilson-led spin-off, but let’s face it: it’s a spin-off, and except for "Frasier," isn’t it a hallmark of spin-offs that they’re all kind of terrible? "Office" writer Paul Lieberstein (who also plays the much-maligned Toby on the show) will be in charge of the Schrute-centered series, so that gives me hope. And I adore "The Office" creator Greg Daniels’ sister show "Parks and Recreation" – so who knows? 

After all, Dwight does have the strength of a grown man and a little baby. (If you get that reference, let’s be friends.) 

Daniels has …

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Makeshift Prodigy is coming to The Vibe Room on Sunday. Tickets are only $10.
Makeshift Prodigy is coming to The Vibe Room on Sunday. Tickets are only $10.

Lots of music at little cost

All things good should flow into the boulevard, said Pericles. I take that to mean that good art – and especially good music – shouldn’t be expensive. 

For a comprehensive list of where you can hear some quality tunes for absolutely nothing, consult our free summer music guide. In addition, the following three shows (which range from costing nothing to costing not-so-much) have come to my attention and are all coming to Milwaukee over the next few days. 

Sam Pace and the Gilded Grit are playing tonight, Aug. 17 at 10 p.m. at Fire on Water. They’ll be playing another show at midnight – both are free! The band is headed by Milwaukeean Sam Pace. Currently touring the country to promote their latest album, "The Feelin,’" the Gilded Grit has a bluesy, retro leitmotif that will appeal to any fan of the The Yardbirds or Eric Clapton. 

For a more modern feel, Makeshift Prodigy will be playing The Rave Vibe Room on Sunday, Aug. 19 at 8 p.m. Tickets are only $10 to see this Chicago-based indie/rock band. They have a solid alternative sound and upbeat tempos. If you like Coldplay, you’ll love this band. 

And how can I fail to mention the lavish rock divertissement Carnival of Madness, which comes to the Eagles Ballroom on Tuesday, Aug. 21. Ticket packages are BOGO right now and start at $37. This touring extravaganza features dark rockers Evanescence as well as Chevelle, Halestorm and New Medicine. And how can you resist buying tickets to something with keywords like "carnival" and "madness"?