During the day, the concrete heights of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts tower over the waters of the Milwaukee River like an imposing, postmodern fortress. As night falls, however, and patrons meander toward their evening's entertainment, the building’s façade glows with colorful, scintillating lights that hint at the eclectic performances inside. The elegant Uihlein Hall regularly hosts such august organizations as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Florentine Opera Company, whereas smaller, more intimate venues such as the Todd Wehr Theater situate audiences close to the stage so they can immerse themselves in dramas or hear the wail of a set builder who smashed his thumb with a hammer.
Since 1960, the nonprofit Sunset Playhouse has grown and flourished alongside the community that helped build it, offering access to lively performances and Broadway classics. In the frank, funny, and potent Pulitzer- and Tony-nominated play 6 Degrees of Separation, playwright John Guare uses the story of conman David Hampton, chronicled by the New York Times, as a springboard for an existential proposal: all of mankind is connected by a string of six acquaintances.
Established in 1926, The Eagles Club was recognized by the National Register of Historic Places 60 years later. Today, the theater’s six distinct venues, from the vast, opulent Eagles Ballroom to the gritty and intimate Rave Bar, leave room for a half-dozen acts every night, and more on nights when the musicians spontaneously embark on solo careers midshow.
The much-lauded Driving Miss Daisy, which garnered a Pulitzer Prize as a play and four Academy Awards as a film, follows the unlikely friendship between a stubborn elderly Jewish woman and her African-American chauffeur. Set in Atlanta from 1948 to 1973, the play elbows into sensitive, urgent issues, from racism to religious prejudice to backseat driving. Ruth Schudson plays the title character with garrulous, willful zest in her 65th production with the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, excavating Miss Daisy's complex growth as she ages from her sixties to her nineties. As the sixth production in Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's Pulitzer Prize series, Driving Miss Daisy rides the energy of past award-winning scripts such as Rabbit Hole, Picnic, and Curious George Learns the Alphabet. Audiences can arrive early to enjoy the grand design of the European-styled Cabot Theatre, where a shimmering chandelier illuminates arched, gilded balconies and 360 cushy sapphire seats.
Summerfest is the pride and joy of Milwaukee's music scene, attracting between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people a year with bands playing on 11 stages. The first day of the festival features a variety of general-admission shows, with the first Groupon listening opportunity kicking off at 4:15 p.m. with the Mechanical Kids on the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage. Headlining acts that begin at 8 p.m. include Tokyo Police Club and Colbie Caillat. At 10 p.m., the big hitters emerge from the bullpen with the sultry rhythms of Sheryl Crow, the smooth jamz of The Wailers, the electro-fun of Passion Pit, and more, creating a musical-chairs game of concert options. Check the Summerfest website to view the full music schedule for June 24 (please note that your general-admission ticket does not get you into the Tim McGraw performance in the Marcus Amphitheatre).
Lizz Wright is a gospel-trained contralto, born in Georgia and now based in New York. As Stephen Holden of the New York Times articulates, "Her voice, luminous and smoky and perfectly pitched, is one of the most wondrous rhythm-and-blues instruments of our time." Lizz wrote the majority of her latest album, Orchard and, like her other releases, it's as smooth and mysterious as butter melting over butter. Equally as impressive are her interpretations of classics including Patsy Cline's "Strange," Ike and Tina Turner's "I Idolize You," and Led Zeppelin's Korean Conflict protest ballad, "Thank You." Mitchell Park, which allows Lizz Wright's sultry vocalizations to float to lawn-lounging ears unimpeded, also features sustenance options from Haute Taco, North Star American Bistro, Loaf & Jug, and Bella Caffe.