‘THE TRAIN DRIVER’ Review- Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

Milwaukee theater has been so good to me. I started off first semester in Marquette Theater’s Mainstage production of OUR TOWN. That show carried me home. I met Alex Coddington during the first read-through of OUR TOWN and I knew right then and there we would be best friends. This February, Alex was the Assistant Director for THE TRAIN DRIVER with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. It’s been a month since we went to opening night, and I still think about this show.

THE TRAIN DRIVER centers around the story of a man named Roelf (David Daniel) who hit and killed a woman while conducting a train. He goes to look for her remains in a graveyard on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The entire show takes place in the graveyard with the local gravedigger, Simon (Michael A. Torrey). Simon is gentle, kind, and takes pride in his job of burying the dead. Roelf is severely depressed, angry, and does not know what to do with his life. The relationship they form throughout the show has beautiful highs and heartbreaking lows. The chemistry between the two actors made the show. If you told me that they improvised the entire performance, I would believe you 100 percent. They played off of each other in the most realistic, yet surprising manner.

Cast & crew of THE TRAIN DRIVER at the opening night reception.

Cast & crew of THE TRAIN DRIVER at the opening night reception.

Two elements of the show that inspired me:

Accents: The dialects of the show included “Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English.” Both actors absolutely nailed their specific accent. I couldn’t imagine them talking in any other way. With your eyes closed, you could tell they were fully immersed in their characters.

Monologues: Both characters had several monologues that kidnapped my heart, broke it into a thousand pieces, and only returned half of them. The emotions were authentic and placed in a person or memory. Not to mention, David Daniel did an amazing job of capturing his character’s intense frustration with a quirky sense of humor.

 Production photos? You got it dude!

The Train Driver

‘GISELLE’ Review- Milwaukee Ballet

Everyone needs to go to the ballet AT LEAST once. The experience is thrillingly peaceful. I had so much adrenaline. But while it felt like a dream, I still felt so present and grounded.

I’ve always been fascinated with the art of the ballet, but never had the opportunity to attend one. I became interested in the Milwaukee Ballet after seeing a couple of their Facebook posts pop up on my feed. Side note- THEY ROCK AT PUBLICITY. I am so impressed with their graphic design, photography and intriguing interviews posted on YouTube. Thank goodness for social media, otherwise I would not have attended their production of GISELLE.

A day at the ballet is exactly how you would imagine it. Prim and proper outfits are a necessity. If you have a fancy shmancy coat that you can throw over your shoulders and not actually wear, I would suggest bringing it as well. As the orchestra began playing the overture, I think I peed my pants a little. GISELLE takes place in a “war-torn country” during World War II. The story is about a young woman named Giselle living in the ghetto. She falls in love with a solider in disguise named Albrecht. However, another man in the community is also after her affections. For the most part, act one of the ballet was very light on dancing. There were more moments where the dancers were miming instead of performing the intense routines you would expect. In my opinion, this really helped the audience actually connect with the characters! Act one focused on creating characters with depth and building relationships through acting. Once Giselle dies at the end of the act, the pace of the ballet changed dramatically. The first act had very dark visuals. The backdrop of the ghetto was detailed and the set was busy with props. In the second act, all of the dancers wore white because Albrecht is witnessing Giselle after death. The dancing in the second half was stunning. The lifts looked like the ballerinas were floating on top of clouds. Everything was painfully flawless. While Albrecht contemplated suicide, Giselle performed pirouette after pirouette. The contrast between the beauty of the movement and the dark themes in Giselle gave me so much brain candy to chew on. How could death be so beautiful?

Next season at the Milwaukee Ballet includes DRACULA, THE NUTCRACKER, Oscar Wilde’s DORIAN GRAY, KALEIDOSCOPE EYES (a piece performed to Beatles songs), and ALICE (IN WONDERLAND)!

CHECK IT- http://www.milwaukeeballet.org/performances/2015-16-overview

What does John Denver, DREAMGIRLS & OF MICE AND MEN have in common?

I like going to big events alone!

Especially when a full-belting-into-tears rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” is involved.

On February 16, I was invited by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s marketing department to live-tweet their 15/16 season announcement.

What’s a season announcement? It’s when a performing arts company holds an event for donors and subscribers to preview their upcoming year of shows.

After sprinting to catch the bus from my internship, I arrived just in time to see the cutest elderly couple arguing over which Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical is the best. This is why I quite enjoy being solo in situations like this. It’s so much fun watching people interact in a theatrical atmosphere. Everyone is so lively and passionate! After checking in, I headed straight to the theater to start taking pictures of the audience and stage. I was very impressed with the event overall, but sad to see that the majority of the audience was 50 and above. It would have been nice to see groups of college students! Whether that was extending an invitation to the PR departments of local schools (to create hype for free) or to the collegiate theater departments to create more of a fan base with millennials. The Rep definitely has enough power in the Milwaukee theater scene to create a HUGE event that can balance social activities for millennials AND older adults.

Mark Clements, the witty British Artistic Director of the Rep, announced all of the shows they will be doing next year. He did a wonderful job of offering a summary of the show and WHY it is important to perform in Milwaukee. Mr. Clements began his debut season as the Artistic Director in the fall of 2010 and introduced the Rep to the modern musical. Next year, the big musical will be DREAMGIRLS. I am ecstatic. Praise the Rep for picking musicals with diverse casts and strong female roles! This year, I saw THE COLOR PURPLE in the fall, and fell MADLY in love with the music, story and performers. And yes, it was the kind of love that doesn’t leave your mind and makes you bring it up in every human interaction. Let’s just say my roommates looked into purchasing earplugs.

Overall, the 2015/16 season is quite fascinating. There will be 11 shows, including three world premieres! My top three? Right now, it would be DREAMGIRLS, OF MICE AND MEN, and THE INVISIBLE HAND (a new political thriller AGH). It was so hard to live-tweet this event because the performances after each announcement were brilliant. From a HILARIOUS musical number from GUYS ON ICE to an insanely beautiful rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”, the Rep’s season next year will be the talk of the town.

Relive this experience with me…

https://storify.com/natashamraz/milwaukee-rep-s-2015-15-season

Thinking about subscribing to the Milwaukee Rep? I am! We should see a show together next year!

http://www.milwaukeerep.com/Packages1516/

‘Good People’ Review- Milwaukee Repertory Theater

The production of Good People was like an old home video I didn’t know I had. It took me by surprise, pulled at my heartstrings and resurfaced a sense of honesty I had been missing. The Rep has been known for producing some of the most incredible shows in Milwaukee, but Good People will be going down in the history books.

"Natasha, please do not see a show tonight and focus on your homework." "Okay mama. Yup. No problem."

“Natasha, please do not see a show tonight and focus on your homework.”
“Okay mama. Yup. No problem.”

The show explores the social and economic issues in South Boston through Mike and Margie’s friendship. In their late 40s, Mike and Margie live very different lives, despite the tough childhood they shared. Throughout the show, Margie pushes Mike’s boundaries, which gives the audience a complex yet realistic relationship to connect with. The actors portraying Mike (Michael Elich) and Margie (Laura Gordon) both did an outstanding job of creating engaging, empowering and memorable characters. They focused their energy on each other and the actors always looked for a challenge; this intensified the climax of the show and gave the audience an intensely fulfilling experience. In addition to the immense amount of admiration I have for both actors, I now have acquired a huge theater crush on Laura Gordon. She brought down the house. The passion and concentration she shared with us through Margie that night was something you rarely see on stage. Basically, Laura is Milwaukee theater royalty and if you need evidence… get your bum on a bus to the The Rep right now.

"The actor is an athlete of the heart."

“The actor is an athlete of the heart.”

Want to see Good People?

The best option to purchase tickets is at Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s ticket office on 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. If you are 34 and under, tickets for EVERY show are available for $20.00! How sweet is that?!

If you purchase tickets at www.milwaukeerep.com or by phone (414-224-9490) there will be a $4.00 processing fee!

After you see the show, comment below and let’s chat!