In Arts & Entertainment Commentary

Brian Craft and Katie Siri share a malt in "Hula Hoop Sha-Boop," opening Aug. 6 in the Stackner Cabaret. (PHOTO: Tony Clements)

Summer theater makes a comeback in Milwaukee

Labor Day to Memorial Day. That has essentially been the Milwaukee theater season since the summer stock company Melody Top went out of business in the late 1980s.

The conventional wisdom was that sun starved Milwaukeeans could not be coaxed indoors, no matter how great their love of theater, during the summer months. All those street fairs and festivals, plus the Weber grill in the back yard, provided daunting competition.

Broadway touring shows always stop at the Marcus Center when school's out. "Wicked" is here for three and a half weeks in July and August this year.

But our local professional stage companies have a history of going on vacation with the rest of us in the summer. Or I should say they did.

The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre started chipping away at the tradition when Montgomery Davis was still its artistic director. The troupe experimented with moving one of its production slots at the Broadway Theatre Center from January to mid-August, and the permanence of that shift is evidence that you can lure audiences indoors with good work.

The now defunct Bialystock & Bloom also mounted summer shows, with mixed box office success.

Summer of 2010 offers an attractive sampler of stage options for theater-goers who don't want to leave Milwaukee County. Let's take a look.

Dale Gutzman's Off the Wall Theatre prevents this from being a summer without Sondheim. It is staging "Into the Woods" July 22 to Aug. 8 in the tiny Off the Wall space across Wells Street from the Pabst Theater. Gutzman regulars Marilyn White, Sharon Rise, Liz Mistele and Karl Miller are in the cast.

If "Into the Woods" is a little too angsty for you, Off the Wall comes back with a production of Charles Busch's "Psycho Beach Party" Sept. 2-12. No one will mistake it for being a Sondheim musical.

Youngblood Theatre Company, which celebrates its first birthday this summer, has quickly gained the attention and respect of the Milwaukee stage community. The world premiere of company member Benjamin James Wilson's original play "Drive Me to Arson" is next on the schedule, with performance dates of July 22 to 31 in the Studio Theatre on the UWM campus.

Bay View's Boulevard Ensemble will launch its 25th season July 28 to Aug. 29 with a bundle of four single-act romantic comedies, collectively called "Fourplay." Three of the pieces were written by major dramatists -- Harold Pinter, David Ives and John Patrick Shanley. The plays are, respectively, "The Lover," "Sure Thing" and "The Red Coat."

The fourth piece will be "Dead Right," written by Elaine Jarvik, a newspaper reporter from Salt Lake City.

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thinkabout | June 25, 2010 at 9:50 a.m. (report)

Fun, informative roundup (thank-you!) and a very engaging photo!

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cnoelk | June 24, 2010 at 3:45 p.m. (report)

GREAT news for Milwaukee! Summer will be better than ever. Thanks for keeping us in the know.

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