Milwaukee is a city blessed with a lot of great professional theater.
We probably have more professional theater than most cities our size and the quality is almost uniformly top tier. We get great plays and wonderful acting as well as excellent direction, a combination that makes for a wonderful experience at the theater.
You can now add one more theater to the list of places to check out if you love live theater, Sunset Playhouse.
For years Sunset, which is a beautiful building in Elm Grove, was the cream of the crop as far as community theater goes. With good leadership and a dedicated base of volunteers, you could always count on a great time.
But under the new leadership of Jonathan West, who used to run the fabled Bialystock & Bloom theater company, Sunset has taken a big leap forward. He has broadened the corps of directors with such outstanding professionals as Matt Daniels, Bryce Lord, Ray Jivoff and Mark Metcalf. These new directors have brought a new demanding level of style to Sunset.
The selection of plays is still guided more by box office potential than by experimentation or efforts to expose Milwaukee to new and unfamiliar plays. But that is a curse that is shared by every theater company in town. If you don't get an audience, you don't last very long.
West, though, has broadened the offerings at Sunset to a variety of performances, ranging from holiday concerts to jazz performances and wonderful plays for children as well as the high level of theatrical offerings.
Sunset has always been close to that line that separates community from professional theater and under West's direction the place has now crept so close that it's hard to tell the difference. It is more than worth the trip to Elm Grove to check them out.
Yes, Sunset Playhouse absolutely produces some wonderful theater. No question. All the credit in this blog post, however, seems to go directly to Sunset's Managing Director Jonathan West, and that isn't the case. It seems as if further research was in order.
For instance, three out of four of the "broadened corps of directors" Jonathan West is given credit for hiring were actually interviewed and hired by Sunset's former Artistic Director, Mark Salentine. Bryce Lord, in fact, was hired to direct numerous productions well before Mr. West was ever even hired by Sunset, beginning with Sylvia which began rehearsals in 2005.
"West, though, has broadened the offerings at Sunset to a variety of performances, ranging from holiday concerts to jazz performances and wonderful plays for children..." This statement, too, is inaccurate. Sunset Playhouse's tremendously successful Musical Mainstage series began as "Musical Monday," a performance meant to take advantage of a dark night in the Furlan Auditorium. This idea was introduced to Sunset by a longtime volunteer, and Mr. Salentine fleshed it out, appointed a producer, and those two together, buoyed by some of Milwaukee's most talented vocalists, built the strong and well-attended series it remains to this day. The Musical Mainstage series was conceived and in full bloom before Mr. West was ever hired as Managing Director at Sunset.
More of the offerings mentioned in this blog come to audiences in the form of the SideNotes Cabaret series. SideNotes was conceived by Mark Salentine, and placed into the Sunset rotation as a means of further utilizing the Sunset Studio Theater and affording opportunities to even more of Milwaukee's many gifted musicians. Sidenotes, too, continues to grow and be a strong draw for Sunset .
The Children's Theater mentioned by Mr. Begel was floundering when Mark Salentine began his tenure at Sunset in 2004, and he hired longtime volunteer Erika Navin as Education Director and together they worked assiduously to build the program, and in fact co-wrote the first "Bug-in-a-Rug" script together to the delight of children and parents. Erika remains in her position to this day, and the program continues to thrive, primarily due to her tremendous drive and energy.
Mark didn't do any of this by himself. The core volunteers of Sunset have always worked tirelessly to make the theater a place of which to be proud. No one person ever deserves credit for a team effort such as those mentioned above. Sadly, Mr. West was given sole credit in this post, and as much as I hoped he would offer a response giving credit where credit was deserved, he didn't. It appears that since he was offered the acknowledgement, he was content to take it for himself.
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Dave Begel
Published April 25, 2015
The final show for the Milwaukee Rep this season is a spectacular prequel to the story of Peter Pan, the boy who would never grown up. It's a show that will remind you of all the great bedtime stories you have ever heard.
Published April 24, 2015
The young Milwaukee Bucks have done well against the Chicago Bulls, but the game Saturday could be the last of the series. The team knows it needs fans to crank it up and will try to send the series back to Chicago for a game 5.
Published April 24, 2015
The Neil Simon play "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" is supposed to be a funny, semi-autobiographical tale set in the golden age of television. The play itself is funny but the current production at Theatre Unchained squeezes all the humor out of it.
Published April 23, 2015
The far right wing of the Republican Party is filled with wacko ideas. Here's the top 10 things that Republicans should be ashamed of, according to Dave Begel.
Published April 22, 2015
The Milwaukee Bucks played great basketball for three quarters in game two of the playoffs. But in the fourth quarter they got away from what they do best and the result was a win for Chicago. Game three is Thursday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Published April 21, 2015
Numbers and statistics can be misleading in all sports. But the numbers for the Milwaukee Brewers this season are absolutely frightening. Nobody expected this kind of performance.
Published April 20, 2015
Derrick Rose was a force to be reckoned with but the Bucks need to get back to the kind of team that got them into the playoffs before the second game of the series tonight.
Published April 19, 2015
"The Pillowman" at Soulstice Theatre is a powerful play, full of gruesome tales of the abuse and murder of children. But behind all the shock is the enlightenment of how powerful and precious stories are to all of us.
Published April 18, 2015
The adaptation of the P. G. Wodehouse books about the stiff upper lip butler and his boss, Bertie Wooster, comes alive at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. It's a night filled with laughter and more laughter.
Published April 16, 2015
Nobody expected the Milwaukee Bucks to be in the playoffs this year, but they surprised the world by being the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks open the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls Saturday night.