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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

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Aaron Schmidt, Tommy Lueck, Reginald T. Kurschner and Don Lobacz are the Four Guys in Dinner Jackets.
Aaron Schmidt, Tommy Lueck, Reginald T. Kurschner and Don Lobacz are the Four Guys in Dinner Jackets.

Singing in their dinner jackets

Few of us have to show up for work wearing white dinner jackets, but Aaron Schmidt, Tommy Lueck, Don Lobacz and Reginald T. Kurschner are eager to do so. That's because they are the Four Guyz in Dinner Jackets, a quartet that croons the tunes of the '50s and '60s.

We're talking "Splish Splash," "The Great Pretender" and "Runaround Sue." Plenty of comic shtick is always included.

The guyz have been performing since 2003 at such varied locations as Festa Italiana, the Skylight Music Theatre cabaret and the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater. Friday they open a month-long run in the studio theater at the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove.

"Always in Style" is the name of the all-new show, which is making its debut at the Sunset. Expect songs you haven't heard Aaron, Tommy, Don and Reggie sing in the past.

You can order tickets here.

Gerard Neugent (left) and Ernie Gonzales are two-thirds of the cast in "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)."
Gerard Neugent (left) and Ernie Gonzales are two-thirds of the cast in "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)." (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

Shrunken Shakespeare in the Stackner Cabaret

Three male roommates living in a man-cave apartment decide to act out all 37 of Shakespeare's plays. In under two hours.

That's the setup for "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)," a 25-year-old theatrical parody that ran for nearly a decade in London. The Milwaukee Rep opened an entertaining production of the show in its Stackner Cabaret this week.

The cabaret is the appropriate location for this excursion into the Shakespearean canon because "The Complete Works"  is a blend of standup and sketch comedy. Even the tragedies are funny.

Actors use their real names -- Joe Dempsey, Ernie Gonzales and Gerard Neugent in the Rep production -- and create individual comic personas for the modern romp through Elizabethan times. The theatrical fourth wall was never built for this show. The performers repeatedly address the audience, interact with the audience and run through the audience.

Irreverence rules, and Shakespeare would be tickled by the contemporary bawdy humor.

Faithful theatergoers are no strangers to "The Complete Works." It has been produced everywhere, including here 11 years ago by the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. But every cast contributes its own qualities, and the show is kept fresh by continual updating of topical references. The musical "Wicked," Tim Tebow and the Kardashians make it into the Stackner staging.

Dempsey, Gonzales and Neugent are individually and collectively adept at comically working an audience and maintaining a madcap manic tone.

The material sags some in the second act, which focuses on "Hamlet" and includes superfluous audience participation. Watching the paying customers do dumb things on stage is a tired old stunt that only lengthens the evening.

Longtime APT administrator Brenda DeVita will become the company's artistic director at the end of 2014.
Longtime APT administrator Brenda DeVita will become the company's artistic director at the end of 2014.

Brenda DeVita will become APT artistic director at the end of 2014

Although American Players Theatre producing artistic director David Frank is sticking around for three more seasons, the classical company announced today that he will retire at the end of 2014 and be replaced as artistic director by longtime company member Brenda DeVita.

Frank arrived in Spring Green in 1990 to take the artistic director position, and five years ago he added supervision of the business side of the theater to his duties, receiving the title of producing artistic director. The APT board anticipates splitting Frank's job when he retires and hiring a managing director to handle the business operations.

Brenda DeVita, who is married to popular APT actor and dramatist James DeVita, is an accomplished actor who took a hiatus from the stage in the '90s to tuck the couple's two children into bed every night. She joined the company's artistic staff in 1995 and was named associate artistic director in 2004.

The Iowa native's creative influence within the organization grew after Frank assumed his added responsibilities. DeVita has served as the APT's casting director, combing the country for actors capable of performing the classics at the company's extremely high level, and other assignments have included hiring directors and designers.

"Brenda has been fulfilling 90 percent of a typical artistic director's job for several years, and the results, including the recent lavish praise for APT's work from the regional and national press, speak for themselves," Frank said in a written statement.

Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout recently named the APT the theater company of the year, and he declared the troupe's summer production of "The Cure at Troy" "the best show of any kind I saw in 2011."

You can read my review of "The Cure at Troy" here.

Read more...
Idina Menzel has added appearances with symphony orchestras to her calendar.
Idina Menzel has added appearances with symphony orchestras to her calendar. (Photo: Idina Menzel)

Idina Menzel will sing at Ravinia July 8

We could wonder if Idina Menzel appears only in shows with single-word titles. The Queens, N.Y., native burst into the public consciousness playing one of the leads in "Rent" on Broadway.

She became a bona fide star portraying Elphaba in "Wicked." Now millions know her for her recurring presence on "Glee." Kind of makes you wonder if the uber talented brunet has a limited vocabulary.

You can find out July 8, when Menzel sings with the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival, which is only 65 miles south of Downtown Milwaukee. It has the makings of a magical evening.

Here is a fresh Chicago Tribune interview with the lovely Idina.