This article is in partnership with the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts. For tickets and subscriptions for the upcoming season, click here.
For the first time since 2020, the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts is ready to return to normal. “Normal,” however, falls well short of describing the Brookfield arts venue’s newly announced 2023-24 season, returning to a fully-packed performance schedule and then some, featuring something for all audiences – from international acts to big Broadway stars to kid-friendly classics to holiday hits and much more.
Found at 3270 Mitchell Park Dr. in Brookfield, the art-filled center will host its most robust season of performances since the pandemic, featuring concerts and shows from August through May and once again utilizing all areas and drawing all audiences back to its beautiful, pastoral-set space. That includes its spacious main stage in the Harris Theater, complete with handblown glass bird art setting the scene overhead, as well as its intimate black box Dawes Studio Theater.
“During the 22-23 season, we saw crowds continuing to build,” said Wilson Center executive director Sandy Wysocki. “In the 2023-24 season, we are anticipating large crowds and the opportunity to once again bring our community together to enjoy some outstanding performances.
“We know that our audiences have missed being able to gather in public, and we are thrilled to be able to offer what we feel is something for everyone.”
“We offer something to the community from 2 to 92,” said Wilson Center marketing and communications director Jennifer Moran, “where you can literally grow in the arts under our roof.”
For evidence, here’s the complete schedule for the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts’ upcoming season:
- Friday, Aug. 18 – Wilson Center Guitar Fest Presents: Lee Ritenour, 8 p.m.
- Friday, Sept. 15 – Frances Luke Accord (studio series), 8 p.m.
- Saturday, Sept. 23 – Garrison Keillor, 8 p.m.
- Wednesday, Oct. 4 – Harmonious Wail (matinee series), 1 p.m.
- Thursday, Oct. 5 – “Frindle” (Beyond the Classroom student series), 10 a.m. and noon
- Friday, Oct. 13 – Merz Trio, 8 p.m. (pre-performance artist talk begins at 7 p.m.)
- Friday, Oct. 20 – Joel Shapira and Charmin Michelle (studio series), 8 p.m.
- Tuesday, Nov. 7 – “The Carp That Would Not Quit” (Beyond the Classroom student series), 10 a.m. and noon
- Friday, Nov. 10 – Jessica Vosk, 8 p.m.
- Friday, Dec. 8 – MSO Christmas concert, 8 p.m.
- Friday, Dec. 15 – Voctave, 8 p.m.
- Wednesday, Dec. 20 – Milwaukee Jazz Institute’s Big Band Holiday, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
- Thursday, Jan. 18 – “Rainbow Fish” (Beyond the Classroom student series), 10 a.m. and noon
- Friday, Feb. 9 – “Rosa Parks and Friends” (Beyond the Classroom student series), 10 a.m. and noon
- Friday, Feb. 9 – Genevieve Heyward (studio series), 8 p.m.
- Wednesday, Feb. 14 – Steve March Torme (matinee series), 1 p.m.
- Friday, Feb. 23 – BODYTRAFFIC, 8 p.m. (pre-performance artist talk begins at 7 p.m.)
- Friday, March 8 – Milwaukee Jazz Institute (studio series), 8 p.m.
- Thursday, March 14 – Danu, 7:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, March 27 – The Musical Romance of Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee (matinee series), 1 p.m.
- Friday, April 5 – Myriam Gendron (studio series), 8 p.m.
- Wednesday, April 10 – Hollywood Revisited (matinee series), 1 p.m.
- Friday, April 19 – The Westerlies, 8 p.m.
- Friday, May 3 – “Charlotte’s Web” (Beyond the Classroom student series), 10 a.m. and noon
- Friday, May 10 – Aaron Diehl, 8 p.m.
Indeed, no matter one’s favorite music genre or artistic preference, the freshly revealed Wilson Center lineup likely features something to draw you into a seat. The season features several series, each spanning multiple genres: main stage presentations, matinee performances, intimate studio sessions and Beyond the Classroom student shows. The schedule also features several special events, like a pre-season powerhouse on Friday, Aug. 18, presented by the Wilson Center Guitar Fest: Grammy-winning guitar king Lee Ritenour, bringing his storied career working with the likes of Pink Floyd, Herbie Hancock and Steely Dan to the Brookfield art hub.
“Guitar Fest was massive here. We’re hoping to get back to that someday – but this should help fill that void a little bit,” said Wilson Center events and ticketing coordinator Tyler Nikolas. “Ritenour’s first gig was, at 16, playing with The Mamas and The Papas. He’s back-up guitar on ‘Comfortably Numb,’ played with Frank Sinatra – the list of people he’s played with is crazy.”
Ritenour and his remarkable resume are just the beginning of the slate of notable stars on deck for the Wilson Center this upcoming year. The rest of the season will bring the likes of droll “Prairie Home Companion” storytelling superstar Garrison Keillor, Broadway (“Wicked”) and Carnegie Hall alum Jessica Vosk, a cappella craze Voctave perfect for Pentatonix fans and the Milwaukee debuts of chamber music group Merz Trio, L.A.-based dance dynamos BODYTRAFFIC and the genre-bounding brass quartet The Westerlies, regular featured performers alongside the popular indie folk band Fleet Foxes.
“Voctave is so great,” Nikolas said, spotlighting one of his personal picks from the upcoming season. “They’ve got the rights to all the Disney music … They’re really exciting – and for the community, for a Christmas show, it’s going to be absolutely perfect.”
Amongst all the new and famous faces are also familiar favorites and beloved traditions – including spirited holiday concerts from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Jazz Institute in December as well as crowd-pleaser Danu bringing its traditional Irish music to Brookfield just in time for the St. Patrick’s Day.
“I’m really excited to see people come back,” Moran said. “I think that’s the big thing: reminding people how good it feels to see a live performance. And we’re really excited to make it all that it can be.”
For those who simply cannot wait until the loaded season schedule starts later this summer, the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts will also offer an outdoor appetizer of sorts with its Starry Nights lineup. The free outdoor music series will take the Gerlach/Haack Outdoor Theater stage on Friday nights at 6:30 p.m. throughout July and August, complete with food trucks and a full bar found near the gorgeous open air green space.
Here’s the full lineup for the Starry Nights series:
- July 7 – Wisconsin Philharmonic
- July 14 – Four Guyz in Dinner Jackets
- July 21 – Rockin’ Robins
- July 28 – Tonight Only
- Aug. 4 – Chicken Wire Empire
- Aug. 11 – Tallymore
In case all of that wasn’t enough, the Starry Nights gathering on July 14 will also host a free classic car show beforehand, welcoming all sorts of classic and custom vehicles to shine under the sun before the spotlight shifts to the stage. Cars can begin pulling in at 4 p.m., with the first 300 vehicles earning entry into the special pre-music showcase. For more information on the classic vehicle spotlight and Starry Nights overall, click here.
Between main stage blockbusters and intimate studio shows, big names and stars on the rise, veteran musicians honing their craft for decades and kids just learning the love of art and performance, the 2023-24 season not only returns to a full slate of shows, but also returns to a full demonstration of the venue’s greater mission and purpose. With the performances and the youth productions – as well as the pre-show artist talks and post-show receptions set before several upcoming bookings, bringing the art beyond the stage – the Wilson Center aims to give audiences far more than just an entertaining night out.
“Our mission is to be a vibrant destination expanding, inspiring and delivering a lifetime of arts education and experiences,” Wysocki said. “With the wide selection of premiere performers that will grace the Jorgensen Stage in the Harris Theater, I do believe we will achieve this mission.”
“We’ll have Wisconsin Hills Middle School doing their orchestra Christmas concert, and 24 hours later, we’ll have the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra,” Nikolas said, “so I think it’s inspiring for these kids to come with their families to these events and be like, ‘Hey, I was up there.’”
Season package subscriptions are now available at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts’ website. Single-event tickets will be available beginning in June. For more information on tickets, events and beyond, visit their website.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.