By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Apr 12, 2016 at 4:30 PM

Every theater season, I anxiously await the announcements from each of Milwaukee’s distinctive theaters, but one I wait for most eagerly is the next season of the Skylight Music Theatre.

Now entering his fourth season, Artistic Director Viswa Subbaraman has continually pushed the envelope by bringing Skylight audiences productions that offer the kind of work that isn’t seen anywhere else in the city and that helps to redefine the Skylight mission.

Subbaraman has brought such memorable productions as "El Cimarron," "The Snow Dragon" and, just this season, "Tosca" and "Powder Her Face." Each was a surprising and unique production, fitting with the risk-taking nature of the artistic director.

Next season has more of the same, even though he says that he hopes the shows all meet a new Skylight tradition.

"This season, our productions highlight what we call ‘Skylight Style’ – our trademark ability to bring fresh approaches or interesting twists to all our shows," said Subbaraman.

The season will kick off with an intriguing musical, "Violet," that won a hatful of awards and nominations, telling the fascinating story of young Violet Karl, whose face was horribly disfigured in an accident. With hope in her heart, she boards a bus to leave her hometown of Spruce Pine, NC, headed for adventure. She finds plenty of it, much in the company of a black soldier named Flick who travels with her and pointedly shows that both of them are being judged by the color and condition of their skin.

The Broadway production is notable as a big step in the career of Sutton Foster, who starred in the musical and earned a Tony nomination for the role, furthering her reputation as one of the finest Broadway musical performers in the last couple of decades

Skylight is also bringing a production of a two and a half century old Baroque opera "Zemire et Azor," based on the 1740 folk tale of "The Beauty and the Beast." The production will feature dance as well as the opera.

Skylight is also bringing some famous musicals to the stage next year, including "La Cage Aux Folles" and "I Love You You’re Perfect, Now Change."

The season will wrap up with Stephen Sondheim’s "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," which regularly battles with "Company" for recognition as the Sondheim's best musical.

Staples as Hamlet

The annual Illinois Shakespeare Festival will feature a real treat for lovers of the bard, with Milwaukee actor Deborah Staples creating the role of Hamlet in the famous play.

The festival is held during the summer at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., in the gorgeous theater at Ewing Cultural Center. Normal is a little over a two-hour drive from Milwaukee, and the festival features some of Milwaukee’s favorites this summer.

Staples, Mark Corkins and Jonathan Gillard Daly all have roles in both "Hamlet" and "Twelfth Night."

A trip to Illinois Shakes makes for a wonderful outing, and they provide some of the best Shakespeare you will see in the Midwest. Artistic Director Kevin Rich has helped build a highly respected company.

Information on tickets and showtimes is available here

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.