Hamlet at Marquette University

April 11, 2014

Last night, A.J. and I went to see Hamlet at Marquette University. I’m sure that when you hear the name of this show, you think about when you HAD to read it in high school or maybe you recall some mediocre community theatre or high school production that you experienced years ago. But I have to say, without a doubt, that the Marquette Theatre production was simply the most powerful rendition of this classic show that I have ever seen. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that this is the best Shakespearean production that we have seen in quite a number of years. To put that in context, we have seen eight of the Bard’s play in the last three or four years.

The Marquette student actors were incredible. There wasn’t a weak performance in the entire ensemble. And the young man that played Hamlet, Kyle Conner, was extraordinary. The role of Hamlet, when done well, requires the actor to change his mood from happy to sad to angry to melancholy over and over again. Kyle played it so naturally and believable. He looked physically drained during the curtain call.

The naturalness of all of the actors is what impressed me the most. So often, Shakespeare’s plays are presented very stiff and formal. I believe this comes from the actors not truly understanding what they are saying. In last night’s production, the dialogue was so conversational that you forgot that it was written in iambic pentameter. It is so much easier to understand Shakespeare when the actors’ emotions and actions are completely in sync with what they are saying. Well done cast.

I don’t want to spoil anything for those that intend to see one of the three remaining performances but the treatment of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy was fantastic. It was one of many terrific directorial choices made in the staging of the show. This is just another element to add tremendous power to the show.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the set and costumes. The set is a very nondescript unit in the center of the stage with columns, arches, stairs, and levels. Its openness allowed you to see all the way to the back wall of the theatre. It uniquely accommodated the various locations in the play. The costumes complimented the set as the cast was dressed in no particular style or time period. Generally, they were in muted shades of black and gray with a splash of color to denote the families to which they aligned.

This was the fifth production that A.J. and I have seen at Marquette in the last few years. Their production quality is always incredible. I am so happy that A.J. has chosen to attend Marquette University in the fall as a Theatre Arts major. We will hopefully see him up on that stage soon.

Inherit The Wind

October 20, 2013


I have been remiss in mentioning that I am currently in rehearsal for the show, Inherit The Wind, at Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove. In fact, the show opens this upcoming week. It runs from October 24th to November 10th, 2013. All the details about the show can be found on Sunset Playhouse website.

This has been a fantastic opportunity for me. It is my first time working at Sunset and I can say that it is as nice as any other community theatre that I have worked. Also, I have the opportunity to work with an exceptional cast and crew. I am so proud to be associated with these fine people. I hope to be able to work with them all again in the future.

Please come out and see the show. You won’t be disappointed.

Here is the cast list:

  • Tom Davenport: Randall T. Anderson
  • Mr. Goodfellow: Rick Borger
  • Melinda: Danielle Bujanovich
  • Rachel Brown: Allison Chicorel
  • Elijah: Jonathan Curvin
  • Reuters Man & Radio Man: Jim Donaldson
  • Bertram Cates: Sean Duncan
  • Judge: Ralph Frattura
  • Mr. Bannister: John Galobich
  • Meeker: Ralph Garcia
  • Mrs. Loomis: Lucy Hilgendorf
  • Mrs. Blair: Diane Kallas
  • Mrs. McLain: Mary Krauss
  • Mrs. Krebs: Marge Kurtz
  • Jessie Dunlap: Kurt Magoon
  • Rev. Jeremiah Brown: Spencer Mather
  • E. K. Hornbeck: Matthew J. Patten
  • Henry Drummond: Michael Pocaro
  • Hurdy Gurdy & Hotdog Man & Hawker: Tom Raidy
  • Mayor: Doug Smedbron
  • Mrs. Brady: Joyce Sponcia
  • Matthew Harrison Brady: Paul Troglia
  • Sillers: Glenn Villa
  • Howard: Cole Winston

As You Like It

July 14, 2013

On Friday night, A.J. and I went to see As You Like It performed by Optimist Theatre in Kadish Park. This was our second “Shakespeare in the Park” production; last year, we saw Optimist Theatre perform Macbeth.

This was an absolutely phenomenal production. I would have gladly paid a normal ticket price to see a show of this caliber and they lovingly presented it for free. As is always the case for this company, the cast and production staff was a veritable “Who’s Who” of Southeastern Wisconsin professional theatre. The quality that they bring to the table is unmatched. Particular standouts for me were Todd Denning as Touchstone (the fool), Genesee Spridco as Audrey (his love interest), and Christopher Elst in his various roles (especially the wrestler).

The staging and direction from Tom Reed was unique and inspired. There is the perfect blend of the Shakespeare text with modern concepts and accents that gave the show an almost contemporary feel. That feeling was complimented by the costumes, set, and props.

Personally, for me, the only negative aspect of the show was the venue itself. I know that the staff and board of the theatre are very proud of finding this excellent outdoor setting for their future endeavors but I don’t think that it works for this type of production.

When you arrive the scene is almost idyllic. The venue is set on hill in Kadish Park overlooking the Milwaukee cityscape. It looks absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, the hill is very steep. I witnessed no less than six people slip and/or fall on their way to their seats throughout the night and this was when the ground was dry. Also, being high above the rest of the city in an open area allowed for a lot of the city noise (fire trucks, loud cars, music playing in adjacent apartments, fireworks) to disrupt my attention from the show.

The biggest flaw with the venue, however, is the sound. The stage itself is wide open with no backdrop, natural or man-made. This allows for the sound to be carried in all directions instead of being directed toward the audience. Although, there is a big, wonderful hill to accommodate a large audience, only those sitting right up front can adequately hear the dialogue on stage. I hope that they consider moving to a different venue next year or maybe even back to Alverno College.

In spite of all that, I would strongly encourage you to go see this fantastic show. Plan to arrive at 2 hours before curtain to ensure great seats up front and you will have a magnificent time. In fact, take a picnic dinner or a bottle of wine to pass the time before the show starts. You won’t regret it.

Accolades For Erin

May 31, 2013

May has been an incredible month for Erin… and I am so proud of her.

To begin with, back in March, Erin participated in the Regional Event for the National History Day Contest and was the only person from her Middle School to qualify for the State Event this May. On May 4th, she competed at the State Event and although she didn’t qualify for the National Event, she did win the Junior Division Women in History Award with her individual performance entitled Elizabeth Blackwell: A Woman Doctor?

Later on in the month, Erin was notified that she was selected as one of the four speakers at her Middle School Completion Ceremony in June. The teachers from each of the four houses in the eighth grade select a student to represent their house and Erin is her house representative.

That brings us to this week. Earlier this week, Erin received a letter indicating that she was selected to receive a Hamilton Education Foundation For Youth (HEFFY) award at a ceremony next week. You may recall that A.J. also received a HEFFY back in 2008. They are given to Hamilton School District students “in recognition of exceptional talents and skills in leadership, creativity, arts, communications, and human relations.”

And then to top it all off, last night Erin received another letter informing her that she had been selected as a member of the WSMA Middle Level State Honors Band. 1,300 students auditioned back in April and only 98 were chosen. Erin and her band-mates will perform in a concert in Madison in October.

Congratulations Erin on all of your amazing accomplishments. You are indeed a special young lady.

Midsummer Jersey

May 2, 2013

It’s Opening Night!! Tonight is first performance of Midsummer Jersey at Hamilton High School in Sussex. The show will run tonight through Sunday.

Wait?!?! What???? You’ve never heard of Midsummer Jersey? This comedy is a fairly recent creation of Ken Ludwig, the genius that has brought us wonderful shows like Lend Me A Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo and many others. Just think Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Jersey Shore. I know, I know. I was skeptical at first too. But last night, Kristi and I went to the parent preview and it was awesomely funny.

The play starts out just prior to the wedding of Governor Athens to his girlfriend, Hippolyta. Mia and her boyfriend Lyle take off for Canada where they plan to be married. They are followed by Mia’s old boyfriend, Dennis, and her BFF, Helene. As the story progresses, we meet Oberon, Titania, Puck, and a host of fairies making mischief on the Jersey beach. On top of that, we see a band from a Jersey hair salon rehearsing an abbreviated version of Romeo and Juliet that they hope to perform the Governor’s wedding celebration. Sound familiar?

I have to admit that I have read the original play by Shakespeare a couple of times and seen it at least once. It is quite possible that knowing the show makes some of the humor all that much funnier. Even so, the performances of the students really sold it for me. Is this the best high school production I’ve ever seen? Probably not. But the strong script and the extra effort of these budding thespians really make it a show I can heartily recommend to my friends.

To me, the best parts of the show are the banter between Oberon (A.J. Magoon) and Puck (Sree Karri) and the arguments between Oberon and Titania (Grace Thompson)… but then again I may be a little biased there. The four lovers (Mia, Lyle, Helene, and Dennis) are played by relative newcomers to the stage and they do an outstanding job of portraying New Jersey teens in love. Kudos to the entire cast and crew. I can’t wait to see it again on Friday night.

Candy Cane Tales and Holiday Carols

December 3, 2012

On Friday night, we continued a family holiday tradition by going to see Candy Cane Tales and Holiday Carols at the Waukesha Civic Theatre. This is the fourth year in a row that the theatre has presented this musical variety show for the holidays and we all agreed that this year was best one so far.

When the idea of this show was first conceived, the intention was to put together a live performance similar to the old holiday TV specials that were hosted by Bing Crosby and Perry Como in the 70s. The show was developed by John Cramer and he did a phenomenal job the first few years putting together a structure that allowed for a variety of songs and sketches to be switched out each year to keep the program fresh. This year, Jacob Sudbrink and Jes Hancock, enhanced the format by adding an underlying story to connect the individual pieces together. Additionally, they added several of the new humorous songs that had the audience in stitches.

Not to take away anything from the performances of previous years, but I have to say that this year’s show is extremely well cast. Paul Burkard as the father, Mark Cage as the Snow Miser, and Isaiah Reynolds as the Grinch were my favorites. Additionally, Martin Graffenius was absolutely superb with his solos of White Christmas and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. And let’s not forget the one individual that has been in it every year so far as WCT’s very own Santa Claus, Jim Volden.

If you have seen it before and were thinking about skipping it this year… DON’T! If you haven’t seen it yet, call the theatre now or go online to get your ticket your right away. You don’t want to miss the chance to start your own holiday tradition.

Carmen at the Florentine Opera Company

October 26, 2012

Tonight is Opening Night for Carmen at the Florentine Opera Company.

Erin was once again able to earn a spot in the children’s chorus in an opera with the Florentine Opera Company. Last year at this time, she was in Puccini’s Turandot and this year she is in Bizet’s Carmen. On Wednesday night, Kristi and I had the opportunity to attend the Orchestra Dress Rehearsal and it was incredible. I’m sure that the experience was enhanced by the fact that we were lucky enough to be in box seats as well.

This is only the second opera that I have ever been to and after the rigidness and formality of Turandot last year, I wasn’t sure that Opera was an art form that I could fully embrace. Wednesday night completely changed my mind. Carmen was riveting, seductive, and full of action and I was amazed at how quickly those three hours flew by. And what made me really proud was how much energy the children’s chorus brought with them in their two brief appearances on stage. As a proud Dad, I was focusing mostly on Erin when she was on stage. It was impressive to watch her and the rest of kids put so much life into their characters.

The show only runs for two performances at Uihlein Hall at Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (Tonight at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm). If you ever had an interest in seeing an opera, this is the one to see. I know that I am looking forward to seeing it again on Sunday.


October 13, 2012

Last night, I went to the Next Act Theatre in Milwaukee’s Walkers Point neighborhood to see Microcrisis. All of the other Dramagoons had plans already, so I went alone. Before I talk about the show, I have to say that I really like Next Act’s new theatre. It is a 150 seat theatre with a thrust stage, making for an intimate experience for every patron. In a time when other local theatres are struggling to make ends meet, it is nice to see someone build a beautiful brand-new facility. I wish them all the luck in the future.

The show itself, Microcrisis, was fantastic. It is an edgy, satirical look at the banking and investment industry. It plays off of the recent economic crisis and shows us that situations like that could happen again if we aren’t careful. Having worked at two separate investment companies, I found the show profoundly funny. The characterizations by the actors and their dialogue was spot on. The three main actors, David Cecsarini as the sleazy investment banker, Alexandra Bonesho as the naive intern turned micro-loan entrepreneur, and Michael Cotey as the nerdy Harvard student with aspirations of grandeur, were wonderful to watch.

On a side note, the edginess of this show might turn off your typical theatre patron. The language and actions of the characters mimicked something that you might see on the big screen. The number of F-bombs alone was staggering. Being the type of person that sees “a lot” of community theatre, I was a little shocked at first. After a while, I realized that is exactly what live-theatre needs. I’ve have talked at length with others in the theatre community about finding ways to get more people to come to the theatre. While I don’t want to alienate current theatre audiences, I think that these edgy shows that expose a glimpse of real life might be just the thing to draw in a new type of theatre-goer.

Once On This Island

August 18, 2012

Kristi, Erin, and I went to see Once On This Island at the Waukesha Civic Theatre last night. It was an amazing show. The music was beautiful, the dancing was fun and energetic, and the story was compelling. All of the performers in the show did a superb job. I’m so glad that we got the opportunity to see it.

Because I am on the Board of Directors at the theatre, I have access to the attendance numbers for many of the shows. Unfortunately, this wonderful show hasn’t been as well attended as the theatre had hoped. I’m sure that it was a combination on the great weather recently, the various other entertainment options, and the fact that this show doesn’t have the name recognition of other, more popular musicals.

I would like to make a plea to all of my fantastic friends. There are only three more performances left; 2pm and 6pm today, August 18th, and 2pm tomorrow, August 19th. Please go see this beautiful musical. I’m sure that you aren’t familiar with the title but trust me when I say that you won’t regret making the effort. The 2pm performance is the scheduled “Pay What You Can” performance. You pay whatever you can afford. There is no better way to see live theatre when your cash is running low. The ticket price for the other two performances is only $10 if you mention the special coupon code: Daniel. An amazing bargain for such an excellent piece of musical theatre.

Final Weekend in Anatevka

August 10, 2012

Tonight begins the final weekend of Fiddler On The Roof with Imagination Theatre of Germantown at Brown Deer High School. That means that there are only three performances left; 7pm tonight, tomorrow night at 7pm, and Sunday afternoon at 3pm.

Last night during the brush up rehearsal, we got the chance to sit in the theatre and watch those parts of the show that we aren’t in. It was the first time that we’ve able to watch since “tech week” began almost two weeks ago. I have to say that it has become quite a charming show. I’ve always known that it was a great production but it was nice to see how much everyone has tweaked their characters and made them so believable.

The chemistry between Rick Richter as Tevya and Kristen Mickie as Golde is so genuine. You can feel the tenderness just under the harsh bickering that would come from being married for 25 years. Additionally, I would say that the three younger couples (Rae Pare and Matt Wiemeri as Tzeitel and Motel, Meg DeMunck and Austin Ritchie as Hodel and Perchik, and Rachel Proite and Ben Johnson as Chava and Fyedka) also do an excellent job at making you truly believe that they are young people in love.

Erin and I have really enjoyed getting to be a part of this fantastic show. If you are looking for something to do this weekend, please come out and enjoy live community theatre at its finest.


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