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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Garth Neustadter show a high point for 2013

A low was the stereotypical “Greater Tuna.”

PHOTO: Multi-talented Manitowoc native Garth Neustadter performs in 2011 as recipient of ASCAP’s Young Jazz Composer Award. ASCAP photo

GREEN BAY, Wis., (WFRV) – A family I know goes through a daily spoken high/low report of the individuals at supper time. The idea is to get everybody talking and thinking. And knowing feelings.

Today, New Year’s Day 2014, I employ at that concept for my high and low shows during my time in 2013 as WFRV’s Critic at Large.

Lows

The lows are difficult because words in print can be hurtful. But I’ve always been paid to give my honest opinion, and that’s what readers get.

- “Greater Tuna” has become an archaic play. It is filled with stereotypes that need to go away. As a theater piece, “Greater Tuna” is a showcase for two actors to show their abilities playing many characters, and the Stage Door Theatre Company’s production at Sturgeon Bay certainly did that. But what the mean-spirited play says is distasteful.

- Some day, there may be a play or musical or even an opera written about Curly Lambeau, the colorful character whose name is on a stadium known the world over. Let Me Be Frank Productions of Green Bay gave a run at it with “The Packers Heritage Trail: Through Curly’s Eyes” and fell way short. The Frank’s formula of taking a catchy title about something local and patching together popular songs to drive the story was overwhelmed. All original songs are needed to dig into the soul of Lambeau and the people around him.

- For other lows, I’ll be somewhat general: Generically titled add-on fees for online purchases (though I’m aware convenience comes from saving my time); TV star Sally Struthers singing, not her forte, in “Hello, Dolly!”; Green Bay Evergreen Theatre’s “White Christmas,” some of which was out of its league; a person asking me why Green Bay West High School’s amplification system (which has since been upgraded, I’m told) was poor (like I could fix it); an email from a person whose group of four left Green Bay Community Theater’s “Hard Luck Sings the Blues” at intermission, irked, wanting to know what I wrote (I have a feeling what I wrote in my review was wrong to that person); driving to Shawano to see Box in the Wood Theatre Guild’s “Anything Goes,” only to find the production dates had been moved from the originally announced dates, and rainy/foggy drives (snow and ice are no-goes for me).

Highs

The highs may seem simple, but not everybody is the same and tastes differ wildly. If I say “Avenue Q” is fantastic, some people’s fangs would flash because that show is foul for a laundry list of reasons – and I’m an idiot if I say positive things, of course.

- “Garth Neustadter Trio New Year,” performed at Manitowoc’s Capitol Civic Centre, was my high high. The multi-instrumentalist, multi-voiced Neustadter put on a spectacular tour of the world and song styles, plus had jazz vocalist Janet Planet along to spice the way. My full review is on this site.

- My other highs include a visit by the vocal group Chanticleer as part of the Brown County Civic Music Association’s season; “The Glass Menagerie” “The 39 Steps” and “This Wonderful Life” at Stage Door Theatre Company; the Dudley Birder-led “Holiday Pops” extravaganza at Green Bay’s Weidner Center for the Performing Arts; Green Bay’s Let Me Be Frank Productions shows in general, for funsies and lustrous singing; the home-spun “Oak Ridge Boys Christmas” at the Weidner; Music Theatre of St. Norbert College’s “Les Miserables;” “Once a Ponzi Time” and “Miracle on South Division Street” at Door County’s Peninsula Players Theatre; “Windjammers” at Door County’s American Folklore Theatre; Green Bay Daddy D Productions’ “A Salute to Our Veterans;” Green Bay Community Theatre’s “Beau Jest;” Sheboygan Theatre Company’s “Steel Magnolias,” and the giant size of Abrams Spotlight Productions’ program for “The Sound of Music” that proved again for me how important and highly regarded theater is in every community.

A high for anybody is going out and taking in a live performance. Most of all, that’s a positive experience. So life affirming. And it’s easy. Just go.

  You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV at 6:45 p.m. Thursdays and every other Sunday between 6 and 8 a.m. (usually around 7:45 a.m.)

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