What happened around a 90-year-old film sparks my choice for the best of local productions presented in the WFRV coverage area in 2017.
Below are the top five (the station broadcasts on Channel 5 – thus five picks) with a healthy list of honorable mentions.
“Best of” lists always split hairs, so I create two lists – one for professional and one for local productions. The list for professional productions will be posted on New Year’s Eve.
The “at large” part of my title carried me far and wide to 165 productions for review in 2017. The number does not count six plays I saw at the high-power Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.
My top choices in the local category:
One. “Metropolis” by University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Music – score by Michelle Dewhirst McQuade – presented in Cofrin Family Hall of Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at UWGB. The film is famous for its audacious sci-fi storytelling, and the new score presented live by a full contingent of UWGB musicians in the lively hall embraced the film’s aura while creating one of its own. My review: http://www.wearegreenbay.com/critic-at-large-wearegreenbay/warren-gerdscritic-at-large-review-uwgb-musics-metropolis-zowee/701861486.
Two. “The Nutcracker” by Makaroff Youth Ballet, Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra and Appleton Boychoir in Thrivent Financial Hall of Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Appleton. Smooooooth. My review: http://www.wearegreenbay.com/critic-at-large-wearegreenbay/warren-gerdscritic-at-large-review-appleton-nutcracker-ballet-glows-in-p-a-c/882832564.
Three. “The Dixie Swim Club” by Rogue Theater in Jaycee Hall, Sturgeon Bay. The play is about longtime friends, and the cast caught the topsy-turvy spirit of five women. My review: http://www.wearegreenbay.com/critic-at-large-wearegreenbay/warren-gerdscritic-at-large-review-dixie-swim-club-charms-in-sturgeon-bay/829748696.
Four. “Legally Blonde, The Musical” by University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre, Music and Dance in University Theatre of Theatre Hall at UWGB. A splendid lead and electronic backdrops let this “Blonde” have more fun. My review: http://www.wearegreenbay.com/critic-at-large-wearegreenbay/warren-gerdscritic-at-large-review-dixie-swim-club-charms-in-sturgeon-bay/829748696.
Five. “The Showcase of Stars” by Music Theatre of St. Norbert College in Byron L. Walter Theatre of St. Norbert College, De Pere. This was the finale for Music Theatre as led for an astounding 56 years by Dudley Birder. This was a massive production and of the quality befitting the mark of Dudley Birder. My review: http://www.wearegreenbay.com/critic-at-large-wearegreenbay/warren-gerdscritic-at-large-review-a-monumental-finale-in-de-pere/770055858.
Honorable mentions, in no particular order:
+ Michael Palubicki as Hector Nations in “Foxfire” by Green Bay Community Theater. The time-worn spirit of a mountain guy breathed through Palubicki’s careful study.
+ “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” by University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Theatre. Insights of making comedy poured through this look back on young Neil Simon his frenetic funnymen/pals.
+ Alex Sabin in a great year of dancing and acting in Green Bay and De Pere – the lion king in The Dance Company’s “Lion King,” a torn soul in Theatre Z’s “Sordid Lives” and a spectacular Jacob Marley in Birder Players’ “A Christmas Carol, The Musical.”
+ The Masquers Inc. production of “The Great Gatsby” in Manitowoc. The production showed how a play can have more impact than a movie or even the source book in how it left the body of a woman hit by a car on stage for a long time.
+ Project Pink at Meyer Theatre in Green Bay. This Pink Floyd tribute showcase is an eye-popper and a display of depth in rock music talent in this area.
+ Oshkosh Community Theatre production of “Calendar Girls.” The cast was swept into a do-anything spirit of a cause.
+ University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc Theatre production of “The Last Five Years.” Directed by a student, this production engaged on many levels. (Being reprised in January).
+ Papermaker Players Family Theatre of Kimberly production of “The Adventures of Beatrix Potter.” Clever staging helped delve into the story of the beloved children’s author.
+ Radio Madness Productions with Norman Gilliland in “Old Time Radio Theatre” in Brown County Central Library Auditorium. Gilliland’s expertise in the genre was just part of a zesty production that included a visit to the mysterious “The Shadow.”
+ University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Theatre in “I Never Saw Another Butterfly.” Lovely, in a sad way.
+ Wolf River Theatrical Troupe of New London in “Always… Patsy Cline.” Two local actors hit on all cylinders as two unlikely women friends. (Being repeated this year)
+ Attic Chamber Theatre of Menasha in “Company.” Solid all around.
+ Theatre Z in “Sordid Lives.” Imaginative staging moved the audience to different areas of The Cannery in The ARTgarage of Green Bay for the funky play’s scene changes.
+ Dave Stuewer as Seabee Luther Billis in Box in the Wood Theatre Guild’s “South Pacific” at Mielke Arts Center in Shawano. Stuewer really got into the role and to me represented the lengths amateur actors go to be good.
+ “Annie” as a great community-involving show as seen in three big productions at Calumet County Community Theatre, Waupaca Community Theatre and Abrams Spotlight Productions.
+ Thomas Campbell in his “One Step Up!” by University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan Theatre. Campbell spells out the challenges of alcoholism – his – in courageous theater.
+ The Forst Inn Arts Collaborative with “The Glass Menagerie” getting the ball rolling again in the atmospheric theater at Tisch Mills.
+ Sarah Huebner as Sally Bowles in Sheboygan Theatre Company’s “Cabaret.” Huebner delivered the show’s famous title song with all kinds of dark nuances in a compelling interpretation.
+ University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh production of Edward Albee’s “Seascape.” The sandy seashore backdrop and talking reptiles were just part of the revolutionary evolutionary think play.
+ Maria Sausen as Gretel in Civic Symphony of Green Bay’s “Hansel and Gretel.” Sausen was epitome of the character in look and voice.
+ University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley Theatre cast in “Roustabout: The Great Circus Train Wreck.” Other worldly theater with a moving historical story fused in it.
+ Knights on Broadway of St. Norbert College in “Christmas with the Knights on Broadway.” The 13 students “owned” this presentation of richly interpreted pieces, thanks to leader Kent Paulsen.
+ Brandon M. Rockstroh for his original musical “The Book of Empty Pages” at Green Bay Southwest High School. The piece has a shock climax and an amazing character role (performed by student Luke Pisani).
+ Anthony LaMalfa for his original play “Menominee River Mysteries: The Summer of ’27” presented by Theatre on the Bay at Marinette. LaMalfa imagines an strikingly clever use of code systems to create fascination.
+ The dramaturgy in hallways of Fredric March Theatre that accompanies all productions of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Theatre.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays.