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Our top cops take gun debate to national stage

One thing about the debate over gun control is that Milwaukee’s two big law enforcement officers are becoming national spokesmen.

Police chief Edward Flynn is slated to appear on "Anderson Cooper 360" tonight on CNN at 8 p.m. This follows his biting discussion and firm slap down of Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham yesterday during congressional hearings.

Flynn thus joins Sheriff David A. Clarke who has enjoyed some national fame as a result of his ongoing battle to urge citizens to arm themselves because his office might not arrive in time to prevent a break-in.

Two cops dueling on national TV. And they both belong to us.

Milwaukee band makes top 50 list

Semi-Twang, the veteran Milwaukee band led by John Sieger, has been named one of the top 50 bands in the country by Alternate Root magazine, a national publication that keeps track of American roots music.

Semi-Twang was named No. 28 in the list, right behind Mumford and Sons and just ahead of The Lumineers. Other bands on the list include the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Los Lobos, Alabama Shakes and The Mavericks.

Here’s what the magazine said about the Milwaukee group.

"Semi-Twang reunited in 2009 to play the 20th anniversary of Shank Hall, the premier showcase club in their hometown of Milwaukee. The band were playing to help celebrate a venue they played on the night it first opened its doors and nothing else was being discussed. The response was immediate and overwhelming. Semi-Twang did not survive their major label debut and 23 years later, they are recording on their own terms, with the music being the star. Semi-Twang released Wages of 'Sin' in March of 2011, their first album in 23 years. In 2013 Semi-Twang is back with a new release, 'The Why and the What For,' slated for March 26, 2013. According to the band's press release the album ' the stakes as it traverses through the musical geography of Memphis, Muscle Shoals and New Orleans with passion and conviction. It's topical and personal with a bit more soul influence...'"

The magazine, which has been around for half a dozen years, goes on to describe its mission this way:

"American Roots music is an amalgam of traditional American music that draws from elements of folk, country, bluegrass, blues, gospel, jazz, ethnic and rock musical styles. While many of these genres of music are well defined and easily recognized, music that combines elements of these genres in many varying amounts is often dismissed by purists in the media or music industry and relegated to ‘boutique’ record labels, eclectic press and radio entities and relative obscurity. Things are changing for American Roots music. The r…

Anita Domnitz as Carol and Michael Weber as Ralph in The Boulevard Theater's production of "The Last Romance."
Anita Domnitz as Carol and Michael Weber as Ralph in The Boulevard Theater's production of "The Last Romance." (Photo: Tony Freund)

"The Last Romance" doesn't satisfy

The first question to ponder is whether great actors can lift a weak play into a satisfying night at the theater. The answer is yes, if the acting is truly outstanding.

The second question is whether a really good play can overcome weak acting to make a satisfying night at the theater. The answer to that is, unquestionably, "no."

And sadly, that’s what’s happening at The Boulevard Theatre where director Mark Bucher unveiled a shaky production of "The Last Romance," a romantic comedy written by Joe DiPietro about two senior citizens who fall in love.

The two characters, Ralph and Carol, meet at a dog park. He hits on her and she hesitatingly begins to meet him halfway in his quest. His wife died, her husband had a stroke. They take small steps toward each other, battling memories, histories, the aches and pains of old age and the possessive love of Ralph’s sister Rose, who lives with him and cooks his meals and does his wash and cleans his house.

They almost fall in love, but like all good stories, a giant roadblock appears and they go their separate ways. This play is funny and touching. Ralph has a lot of the funny lines and Michael Weber, who plays Ralph, has a bit of a knack for delivering the joke lines.

But other than that little part of the evening, that is just about all that the actors bring to this show.

The task of the actor is to give life to the words on the pages of the script. An actor is supposed to make an audience believe the words, be moved by them, to laugh, cry or shudder. This production has a young man named Doug Clemons who has a marvelous tenor. He is supposed to be the young Ralph, who wanted to be an opera singer and Clemons does a wonderful job with snippets of various arias.

But after him, we are left with an overwhelming feeling of what the heck happend to the play we thought we were going to see.

There is one moment toward the end of the play that best sums the bizarre problems created by actors who don’t seem to get it.

Jarred Bedgood gives a stirring performance as the Phantom in Dominican High School's production of "The Phantom of the Opera."
Jarred Bedgood gives a stirring performance as the Phantom in Dominican High School's production of "The Phantom of the Opera." (Photo: CT Tomsey)

Young performers surprise in DHS production of "Phantom of the Opera"

We all know what to expect at a high school play.

"Our Town" or "Grease" with lots of parts so everyone gets to be in the play. A person with a script offstage so they can whisper (usually loudly enough to be heard by the front rows of the audience) forgotten lines to an actor. Sets that resemble backyard constructions. Singers who sometimes are only in the neighborhood of the music coming from a student band or orchestra.

Parents whispering to each other and at least one actor who stares into the audience, trying to find out where his parents are sitting.

If that’s your idea of a high school play, let me suggest that you get yourself to Dominican High School to see an absolutely stunning production of the longest-running play in Broadway history, "Phantom of the Opera."

I want to make something very clear, right from the start. I’m not saying this was a great production for a high school. This was a great production.

When you have a play like "Phantom," which first hit the stage almost 30 years ago, was a very popular movie and has songs that are classics, it’s tough to come up with any surprises. But my visit to the cavernous Dominican theater Sunday was not just a surprise, it was an outright shock.

Phantom is a tough show to mount. It requires great singing and elaborate special effects (a falling chandelier, a flat-bottom boat that moves across the stage) and faith to the dramatic arc and story that is told.

I normally only see professional productions and I was a little apprehensive about seeing seeing some high schoolers take on a play as difficult as this one.

I purposely sat in the back of the theater so I wouldn’t be able to see that the faces of these children looked like...well...children.

From the moment that a high school junior named Sadie Piatt stood center stage and sang the thrilling and sensitive "Think of Me," this ceased to be a production in some high school. It became a glorious play performed gloriously.

Earlier this year I …