GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – It’s really hard to pick out the best of the professional performing arts activity in the region for 2022 because so much is collaborative.

So I’ll start do something different and then look around at the year chronologically.

This was a special year for the professional performers in our region as the COVID-19 faded – but still kept companies on their toes.

Looking at the big picture, everyone knows there are certain leaders and certain companies that can be counted on to stand and deliver. These are for-instances:

# Civic Symphony of Green Bay’s artistic director Seong-Kyung Graham puts her imagination and heart into her faithful orchestra.

# In Appleton, Kevin F.E. Sütterlin is a gift for all the smarts and style he brings to the Fox Valley and its sterling symphony orchestra.

# Kent Paulsen cuts a huge swath with his flair that includes leading the popular St, Norbert College Knights on Broadway show troupe. Also major is his energizing effect with the Dudley Birder Chorale, such as in the showcase “Holiday Pops” at Green Bay’s Weidner Center for the Performing Arts.

# Darren Johnson leads Daddy D Productions show troupe of Green Bay with its ways of making mirth and musical magic with its quality singer/musician lineup.

# At the Broadway Theatre in De Pere, producer/director Alicia Birder and her gifted Birder Players amaze show after show.

# Right in there among this ambitious group is Michael Sheeks, executive director of the little cabaret theater that can, time after time, at The Forst Inn in Tisch Mills.

# Door Shakespeare near Baileys Harbor in Door County is adept in ways of making Shakespeare more exciting and popular.

# Longtime greatness is continuing at Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County, always mounting an enticing show.

# Unique doesn’t say enough for the Jeff Herbst-inspired Northern Sky Theater in Door County for all the massive output of originality, Wisconsin style.

# Frank Hermans leads Let Me Be Frank Productions in its flow of locally flavored stories with phenomenal singing, including by his wife, Amy Riemer.

# Community band leader and director Mike Ajango adds much on many fronts to our quality of life in living here.

Chronologically, highlights of 2022 among the pros:

The year started with an odd mix – some performances being online only, some livestreamed with a live audience and others for live audiences only. Such were the necessities of trying to climb out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some performances were postponed or canceled due to outbreaks among cast and crew members.

+ Viewed online: At Lawrence University in Appleton, a rare performance takes place by two expert piano players – one a mentor (Anthony Padilla) to the other (David Keep) his student, now well along in his expertise with works of the formidable Johannes Brahms. The two are spot on in performing challenging and beautiful music. David Keep was the first winner of the Miroslav Pansky Memorial Concerto Competition in Green Bay in 2009.

+ At a Peninsula Music Festival “February Fest” concert at Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor, a flock of birds enhances the aura of the performance that features violinist Thomas Kluge and pianist Christi Zuniga. Outside the windows behind the musicians, 40 or 50 birds swoop and swirl in the area and then stop, as if to listen to the elegance. Such is a treat of live performance.

+ In March, Cassandra Bissell shows her flexibility as part of being a professional actor in the solo “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit” in a performance as part of the fledgling The Weidner Downtown at The Tarlton Theatre in Green Bay. The premise of the play is the actor reads the play sight unseen and rolls with the complex flow, which is right in Cassandra Bissell’s wheelhouse.

+ In March, “The Untitled Kevin Sievert Project” returns for a second time at The Forst Inn Arts Collective in Tisch Mills. The revealing, engaging, sung-and-acted self-portrait is in a special league – something expected in a metropolis theater rather than at a crossroads cabaret space. Months later on the same stage, Kevin James Sievert impresses again as the vainglorious Bottom in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

+ In March, the St. Norbert College Norman Miller Center for Peace, Justice and Public Understanding hosts Susan Stein in her one-person performance of diary selections. Etty Hellesum is a singular vibrant/complex woman from The Netherlands who describes the stifling Nazism that will lead to her fate in a concentration camp. Susan Stein is wholly committed to her unique story.

+ In April, Let Me Be Frank Productions show troupe based in Green Bay unleashes one of its more clever comedies with music. “WOMA Algoma, You’ve Stuck Gold” taps the real story of a radio station owner who became a pastor – with stellar singing of songs from the era when he owned the station. Characters are employees of the station of that time, too.

+ The impact of University of Wisconsin-Music’s jazz program is underlined in an April “6:30 Concert Series” program in The Weidner. Performing is the popular powerhouse area band Big Mouth & the Power Tool Horns, most musicians being products of UWGB, playing almost all originals in front of an admiring crowd.

+ In February and afterward, a project with multiple lives receives special attention as “Bent Compass” receives multiple exposures in various forms. The basic is Neil Brookshire performs as combat medic Colin Sesek (a longtime friend) bluntly recounting his deployment to Afghanistan. Neil Brookshire, who has starred at Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County, connects with words and themes of William Shakespeare along the way.

+ In April, Carolyn Silverberg of Play-by-Play Theatre of Green Bay starts the second season of her unique online series “Inspecting Shakespeare.” Involved are experts and actors from Britain and America looking at key scenes from the wealth of William Shakespeare plays.

+ In May, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s John Salerno plays his career finale concert with area jazz whizzes joining for an exciting evening. John Salerno taught at UWGB for 30 years, but his connections go back 52 years with a whole lotta playin’ goin’ on.

+ An old folk tale done up with the razzle-dazzle of modern stage musicals: That’s the lure of a touring “Frozen” in May in Appleton’s PAC. Audiences go “AHHH” over many scenes.

+ Surprises fuel Daddy D Productions’ “Stuck in the Sixties” at the Riverside Ballroom in June. Gales of laughter erupt over spontaneous moments that leader Darren Johnson is so good at.

+ In June, Peninsula Players Theatre opens its first full season since 2019 with “The Rainmaker,” showing why the play and the Players are so good. As the title character, Sean Fortunato radiates a true theatrical performance.

+ Door County favorite Doug Mancheski shifts gears to a different kind of comedy as a testy waiter who gives grief to a dining couple in “Slow Food.” Alan Kopischke and Claire Morkin join the acting expertise in a crackling July production at Third Avenue PlayWorks in Sturgeon Bay.

+ The hand of Northern Sky Theater co-founder Fred Alley is all over his and James Kaplan’s engaging “Fishing for the Moon” in June. The Door County company reprises the musical, with love and expertise.

+ Peninsula Players Theatre’s July production of “Write Me a Murder” by master of knotty plotting Frederick Knott shows why the play is seldom produced. It is doggone detailed – which is right down the alley for the detail-skilled theater company.

+ In July, Door Shakespeare unleashes “The Three Musketeers: An Adventure, With Music” at Bjorklunden. It’s an exciting, swashbuckling production, thanks to the enthused players, thanks to the music, lyrics – and performance – by company member Scott McKenna Campbell.

+ Also in July, also by Door Shakespeare, “The Tempest” is given new spirit. Prospero is a mother rather than a father, and highly skilled Carrie Hitchcock’s performance expands on Shakespeare’s original intent.

+ Also in July, though by Play-by-Play Theatre led by artistic director Mary Ehlinger and director/Shakespeare expert Carolyn Silverberg, “Much Ado About Nothing” says a lot about Shakespearian talent in the Green Bay area. Crowds throng to a downtown park for some good laughs.

+ Frederick Heide gets to celebrate his birthday in a public way in July – with a performance. Singer, songwriter, musical author, actor, co-founder of a theater company, university professor – holy cow! – the folks at Northern Sky Theater in Door County have counted on quite a few Fred “Doc” Heide bricks in the building of their shows.

+ Veteran pros Charlotte Booker and Meg Thalken drive the thrust of “Ripcord” in July at Peninsula Players in July. It’s tale of two wounded souls, one made of barbed wire, the other of apple pie. The acting sizzles.

+ In August Peninsula Music Festival opens its first season in three pandemic-choked years at Door Community Auditorium with a lustrous performance befitting the title: “Beethoven Bravo!”

+ The hit “Dad’s Season Tickets” – a Green Bay Packers fans treat – returns for a full summer at Northern Sky Theater’s Gould Theater in Fish Creek. Hoorah!

+ Peninsula Players Theatre ends its 87th season in September with a bang with “Murder for Two,” a rarity of a venture – a two-person (Kirsten Salpini and David Corlew) comical whodunit musical.

+ In fall, Northern Sky Theater takes on a different beat with “Sunflowered,” a premiering musical with Lachrisa Grandberry of the company as a key creator. The story is that friendship and of courage in the face of cancer, leading to a realistic but unspoken conclusion.

+ In September, the Weidner Philharmonic performs a concert in a league of its own in a program titled “Women’s Work.” Featured in Cofrin Family Hall of The Weidner are strong works by four living women composers, three of them present for the multi-flavored performance.

+ Conductor Kevin F.E. Sutterlin is emotionally, artistically, physically and intellectually attached to a work – Dmitri Shostakovich’s compelling “Fifth Symphony” – in Fox Valley Symphony’s season-opener in October at Appleton’s PAC.

+ Wonderful operatic singers, one after another, pour out their voices and souls for three days in October in Green Bay’s answer to a presence on the international music scene, the American International Czech and Slovak Voice Competition. For the tenth time, it’s at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in Fort Howard Hall of The Weidner.

+ Conductor Seong-Kyung Graham’s sense of adventure includes two ballroom dancers illustrating the verve in the Caribbean rhythms of “Habanera” played by Civic Symphony of Green Bay in October in Walter Theatre of St. Norbert College.

+ Here we are again with Seong-Kyung Graham adventuring more with ballroom dancing, this time in November’s “Gridiron Gala with the Symphony” in Lambeau Field’s Atrium with a crowd savoring the chance to dance to live music that covers a waterfront of beautiful styles.

+ Audiences are thrilled to see “Elf” brought from the movie screen to the stage at Broadway Theatre in De Pere, home to producer/director Alicia Birder’s Birder Players. Frankie Breit, playing Buddy the Elf, is totally “on” all the time.

+ All it takes is the opening processional to realize “Holiday Pops” conducted by Kent Paulsen is a grand showcase right up there in satisfying experiences in The Weidner.