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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014

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The Milwaukee Repertory Theater's "Blues in the Night" opens Sunday, Oct. 21.
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater's "Blues in the Night" opens Sunday, Oct. 21.

Coming soon: "Blues in the Night"

Southern bars in black neighborhoods used to feature blues bands during the day as people who lived in the area dropped by for a drink or for lunch.

But, the blues really and truly belonged to the night, and that's what's coming to the Stackner Cabaret at the Milwaukee Rep.

"Blues In the Night" opens Sunday, Oct. 21 with the promise of some of the best music heard in this town in quite a while.

The revue was conceived and directed by Sheldon Epps, the widely known artistic director of the respected Pasadena Playhouse. It was nominated for a Tony award for Best Musical.

This show is almost 30 years old, but that's part of the blues. They never run out of style. The show features 26 sad, wrenching, humorous songs, including some of the greatest blues songs ever.

They include "Four Walls and One Dirty Window" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," the Bessie Smith anthem to despair.

The show has no dialogue and is set in a seedy Chicago hotel where three women are discussing the man who, what a surprise, was nothing more than a snake-like cheater.

Tickets for "Blues in the Night" start at $35. Single tickets for all of Milwaukee Repertory Theater's 2012-13 productions are now on sale and can be purchased online 24/7 at MilwaukeeRep.com, through The Rep's ticket office by calling (414) 224-9490 or in person at 108 E. Wells St.

First Stage will perform "Five Little Monkeys" and "Mole Hill Stories."
First Stage will perform "Five Little Monkeys" and "Mole Hill Stories."

First Stage to present plays for autistic kids

First Stage Children's Theater continues to prove its commitment that theater is for everyone by announcing a new program designed for children with autism.

The organization began special programs a number of years ago for little kids. The professional plays are staged for very young children – shorter duration, sitting on parents' laps and in an informal setting.

Now First Stage is going to do First Step plays, "Five Little Monkeys" and "Mole Hill Stories," for children with autism. The performances will have a limited number of attendees, be quieter and offer a host of family resources to make the experience a fruitful and stress-free occasion.

"We're delighted that children with autism and their families can enjoy these interactive performances," said Jennifer Adams, program director for Next Steps.

Performance dates are Sunday, Nov. 11 at 4 p.m. for "Five Little Monkeys" and Sunday, Jan. 19 at 4 p.m. for "Mole Hill Stories."

Performances take place at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut St. For resource materials including a Performance Social Story and pre-performance visits to the space, contact Jennifer Adams at nextsteps@firststage.org or (414) 267-2975.

Tickets are $10 per person and are available exclusively through the First Stage box office at (414) 267-2961. 

In addition, First Stage announced that Next Steps classes, designed for students with autism, will resume for Spring Break Theater Academy, April 1-5, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut St.

Classes are open to students in grades 6-12.

Broadway's "Big" comes to First Stage this Friday.
Broadway's "Big" comes to First Stage this Friday.

Coming soon: "Big"

The story of a little boy who can't wait to get over his "littleness" is well known, with the movie "Big" being a huge hit for Tom Hanks.

The movie became a play, "Big: The Musical," which ran on Broadway and garnered a number of Tony nominations.

And now it comes to First Stage Children's Theater thanks, in large measure, to Jeff Frank, the artistic director of First Stage. He collaborated on turning the musical into an event for young audiences, and it opens at First Stage Friday and runs through Nov. 11.

Nobody in this country does theater for children better than First Stage, and pairing "Big" and First Stage seems like a match made in heaven.

The musical tells the story of 12-year-old Josh Baskin, who desperately wants to become "big." Overnight the magic happens, and he finds out that being an adult is not all that he expected it to be.

The production marks the opening of the 26th year for First Stage, which has built a national reputation for the quality of its theater. Frank has been artistic director since 2003 and is also directing this play.

It features a cast of young actors from Milwaukee, as well as some of the best-known adult actors, including Richard Ganoung, a founder of Madison's Forward Theatre, Beth Mulkerrron and Todd Denning.

Performances will take place at the Marcus Center's Todd Wehr Theater. Tickets are available online, at the Marcus Center box office or by phone at (414) 273-7206.

"Enfrasacada" opens Oct. 20 at Renaissance Theaterworks.
"Enfrasacada" opens Oct. 20 at Renaissance Theaterworks.

Coming soon: "Enfrascada"

If you are a fan of "Sex and the City" – and who isn't? – then you will undoubtedly love "Enfrascada," which opens Oct. 20 at Renaissance Theaterworks.

The story of the girl whose boyfriend cheats on her and whose friends rally around with support, advice and distraction is a tried-and-true formula for fun and enjoyment.

This version, written by Tanya Saracho, sets the search for solution in a community of young Latin women. The cheated-on Alicia will go to any lengths to return her ex-boyfriend, Diego, to the time they lived together, entertained friends and were a happy couple. Saracho is also an actor who was memorable in Renaissance's production of "Fat Pig" several seasons ago.

The help from friends extends to the suggestion that Alicia seek the help of a seer, fortune teller, soothsayer and counselor. The laughs come fast and furious as Saracho continues to show her ease with quirky and funny one-liners.

Michelle Lopez-Rios, who is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will direct this production with a cast of actors who have lots of experience in making people laugh.

There is no Carrie in this production, but Alicia promises to be a worthy fill-in, and the ensemble should make fans of girlfriend power laugh with joy.

Information on the production and tickets are available by calling the box office at (414) 291-7800 or visiting the website.