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Best Christmas Pageant Ever

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

There are an abundance of messages hurled at us in this performance-enhanced era of the Information Age. During the holidays, the tweets, updates and texts seem to quadruple to overload status. It’s the perfect time to visit the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, turn off your smart phone and be bombarded with nothing but The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

The “best” looks like the worst when mom Grace Bradley gets thrown into directing the annual Christmas pageant at her children’s school. Worst turns to nightmare when the Herdman kids – the town’s local bully family of five – decide they not only want to be in the play, they want all the main parts.

The entire town is in uproar – and not just because this First Stage Children’s Theater classic has gone 80s (“Thriller” dance number to “Walking Like An Egyptian” - hands down my favorite part of the show!). No one is feeling the spirit of the season – especially the Herdmans. But, as they learn more about the pageant’s story of how Jesus was born, the season begins to grow in them and affect all gathered at the town church to witness the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

Fun Alert: in the second half of the play, all in attendance are part of the “church” where the pageant is performed and will be forced to sing and have fun. And, having fun is what a First Stage production is all about. It’s also about a bevy of fine performances by First Stage regulars Niffer Clarke (Grace Bradley) and Todd Denning (Bob Bradley) and a host of incredible young actors (we saw the Cosby cast) who have the privilege of attending one of the finest children’s theaters in the world.

A couple times during the play, I sneaked peeks at the children attending in the audience, their mouths agape in wild wonder. No iPads. No HD TVs or angry fowl games. Just kids sharing a great story with other kids. Definitely share it with yours.

Details:
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Through Dec. 29
Presented by First Stage
Performed at the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts

For a look back stage with students from First Stage, Milwaukee Ballet School and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, see the Dear MKE film, "HIGH ART."

 

 
Groucho: A life in Revue

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

America has long been cemented as the entertainment capital of the world, producing many an entertainer who needs only one name to be recognized by millions. Elvis, Marilyn, Bogie, Madonna, Cher, Sammy, Bing and more possess unique star qualities known the world over. Then there’s the ultra unique: Groucho. Perhaps no other figure in American entertainment history told his story, and America’s, so uniquely as Groucho Marx.

With a raise of his brow and a puff of his cigar, Groucho made you laugh, think and so much more all at once. And, so much more of Groucho is what you’ll get from “Groucho: A Life in Revue” playing now through Dec. 8 at Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre.

“Groucho: A Life in Revue” is just that, a review of a lifetime revue. From early-childhood bedtime stories (he and his brothers shared a bed as the family struggled to make ends meet) to vaudevillian scamping, then major Hollywood stardom and finally a fixture on television sets nationwide, Groucho Marx and his brothers were America. Rags to riches, family to famely, Norman Moses (Groucho) and David Cecsarini (Chico) lead a splendid cast (Chris Klopatek steals every scene as Harpo and Alexendra Bonesho sizzles as Groucho's stable of ladies) in song, dance and slapstick with style, grace and just the perfect amount of emotional touches.

Director Pam Kriger and her cast expertly touch on the tale of two brothers as told by Arthur Marx (Groucho’s son) and Robert Fisher. Groucho and Chico’s bond as brothers and partners, yins and yangs until the end had the audience all in from curtain to bows. Especially entertaining was the light-hearted Grouchesque banter with the audience when a gag needed a lift or a brother needed a reprimand. It reminded all how important it is to laugh, especially at one’s self.

The great songwriter Irving Berlin quipped, "The world would not be in such a snarl, had Marx been Groucho instead of Karl." Well, the world would also snarl a lot less after they spend a couple hours at Next Act Theatre watching “Groucho: A Life in Revue.”


Details:
“Groucho: A Life in Revue” at Next Act Theatre
November 14 - December 8

 
Lake Park Bistro – C’est magnifique!

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

My neighbors have swapped out their pumpkin-face, street-lantern topper with a snowman-face model, so it’s official: it’s the holidays. Cook all night, wake up and cook some more, pack it all up and transport it to Aunt Gertrude’s (where it kind of smells like 1986), then it’s unpacked, reheated, quickly consumed and…you get the idea.

Well, here’s an idea. Call Aunt Gertie and tell her to buy some Febreze. Then, put on your Sunday best or your Sunday casual and go to Lake Park Bistro for an unforgettable, stress-free Sunday holiday brunch.

I have a friend who always says, around holiday-time conversations, “We went to Lake Park Bistro for brunch.” Never fails, every time.

I thought, “Does he even have family, this friend who’s going to brunch every holiday?” Turns out he does (I’ve know them for 20-some years) and they’re very smart.

My family and I thought we’d give it a try a few weeks ago and I’m extremely upset it was just our first time. The views, the ambiance, the service – it’s all so comfortable and inviting. It’s like walking into that really cool house of those friends you secretly hate because everything about them and their house is perfect. The minute you walk into Lake Park Bistro, it’s like you’re transported into a cozy (but very spacious) French café with whimsical posters adorning the walls and French music wafting over the aroma of fresh-baked bread, which we received shortly after sitting down.

Brunch officially began 10 minutes later (it’s all perfectly timed so you never feel rushed) with les appetizers (it’s a three-course breakfast): Crevettes Sautees (sauteed Gulf shrimp with Swiss chard, fresh herbs and an aromatic shellfish sauce) for my son, Soupe À L’Oignon for my wife (baked onion soup topped with toasted baguette and Gruyere cheese) and Tarte au Chevre (warm goat cheese and caramelized onion tart with greens and sherry vinegar) for me.

Our second slice of heaven was the main entrée. My wife and son both chose Pain Perdu - Brioche French Toast with bacon, fruit preserves, maple syrup and creme fraiche. If I knew how to say “incredible” in French, I would. There’s the French toast you make at home on a skillet, then there’s Pain Perdu.

My selection was painfully easy: Omelette Aux Champignons – French-style thin omelet with herbs, mushrooms, leeks and Gruyere cheese. I am an omelet guy and a very picky one at that. This was by far the best omelet I’ve ever eaten. Some people claim to dream in color, I swear I can still taste that omelet in my dreams.

This dream brunch was the theme of the entire meal. Incredible, delicious, effortless. And we hadn’t even gotten to our third course – dessert! Mousse au Chocolat (Valrhona chocolate mousse with strawberries and fried beignets) for my son, Crepes au Nutella (fresh crepes filled with Nutella and sliced bananas)  a la my wife and Tarte aux Fruits (tart filled with seasonal fruit and creme anglaise) for moi.

After one bite of my Tarte aux Fruits, I quipped “They should employ St. Peter to man the doors at the entrance.”

Smiling faces, immaculate venue, gorgeous views and impeccable food and service. I guess they can’t very well call it heaven, as that’s taken. So, Lake Park Bistro will do – just fine. You should do it, too. Aunt Gertie won’t mind.


Details:
Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro
3133 E. Newberry Blvd.

 
Les is More

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

Every city has an identity, a face behind the name. These faces more or less reveal the character of the city and its people. Milwaukee is Brew City. L.A. is Tinseltown. New York’s The Big Apple. The city of Waukesha (just 15 minutes west of Milwaukee) is no different. From the second you enter its limits, you know Waukesha is more of Les – Les Paul.

Dubbed the Wizard of Waukesha, Les Paul was born in Waukesha County and invented the Gibson Les Paul solid body electric guitar. He is also famous for developing and popularizing many recording techniques including tape delay, reverb, close-miking, echo, sound-on-sound and phase shifting. Les has had a profound effect on musicians and music fans the world over.

In Waukesha, he’s simply known as a local boy who struck a life-altering chord with the world. Les’ impact is evident from the sign at the city entrance proclaiming “Birthplace of Les Paul” to 10-foot painted guitars (awesome photo ops) and murals scattered throughout the city, to the ultimate display of civic pride: his own exhibit.

“Les Paul: The Wizard of Waukesha” exhibit at the Waukesha County Museum takes you on a personable stroll through the life of Les Paul. From his first harmonica to his National Hall of Fame medal and world-famous guitars (you even get to strum a few on the wall), you’ll learn so much more than music and guitar history. You’ll learn about Les, his family, his values, his friendships and his love for both music and invention.

So, make a visit to Waukesha and the Waukesha County Museum (and check out several other exhibits!) and take note of how proud the city is to call Les its most-famous son. And how proud he was to call it home.

“I was on top of the world…and it all began right here in Waukesha. And wherever I went, I took Waukesha with me,” he said.

Les is, and always will be, music to Waukesha’s ears.


Details:
“Les Paul: The Wizard of Waukesha”
Waukesha County Museum
Tuesday–Saturday, 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Closed Sunday, Monday, and some Holidays
 

 
Times for Milwaukee to Shine

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

Check out our latest “guest blog” from New York Times writer Robert Simonson – on loan from his employer especially for this page (OK, not really, but we could tempt him back some day for a follow-up assignment).

Bryant’s to Bay View, Clock Shadow Creamery to Café Calatrava, Simonson packed in three days of MKE fun and spread the word on how Milwaukee is “a city that possesses a renewed vitality while still holding on to an Old World character.”

Read his entire article here and start planning your next 36-hour, MKE binge.

 

 

 
Keepers of the Light

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

Milwaukeeans are a fortunate lot. Big-city amenities with small-town prices. Clean and safe with some of the nation’s best waterways and a world-class lakefront. And parks, tons and tons of award-winning parks, the crown jewel being Lake Park, home to North Point Lighthouse.

Neatly tucked in the center of Lake Park (designed by premier 19th century architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park!), North Point Lighthouse is more than a grand, old maritime building, more than just a member of the National Register of Historic Places. North Point Lighthouse is history, an incredible 170-plus-years story of Milwaukee and its people.

The people who knew it best were the keepers and their families. Some were keepers for just a year, some for 26, like Georgia Stebbins, who called North Point Lighthouse home from 1881 to 1907. Known as the “Lady of the Lighthouse,” she was the longest-serving of 15 keepers, all with unique stories, but none more than Georgia.

Living in New York in 1873 with her husband Lemuel, Georgia was diagnosed with tuberculosis and her doctor suggested she move away from the polluted metropolis to live out her remaining days in a cleaner locale. Georgia packed her bags for Milwaukee, where her father and mother were keepers at North Point Lighthouse. Upon her arrival, she found her parents in worse condition than herself and began assisting, then eventually taking over, keeper duties.

Keeping the lighthouse miraculously kept her tuberculosis at bay and the “Lady of the Lighthouse” was soon joined by her husband, who opened a jewelry shop on Mason Street and the rest is their history. On and on history goes at North Point Lighthouse, all the while eight steadfast, stone lions sitting atop the bridge beneath it, guarding the bridge to its scenic entrance.

Whether you enter during weekend hours (open 1:00 p.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; children under 5 are free; under 12, $3; 12 and over, $5) or arrange for a private week-day tour (just $8 per person), you’ll learn about so much more than an incredible lighthouse and its amazing instrument, architecture and Lake Park landscape. You’ll be enlightened (had to throw one of those in) by the stories of the people who kept watch, high atop a serene bluff, on an incredible city.

And, you can’t beat the tower views, which are some of the best in said city - thanks to those who kept it.


Details:
North Point Lighthouse
2650 North Wahl Avenue
Open Saturdays and Sundays, 1:00-4:00 PM
Weekday tours available by appointment

 
Weekend Sealed with a Stomp

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

The end of summer is always bittersweet. Summer seems to take forever to get here, then coyly waves goodbye just as fast, giving way to fall’s chill. As much as we hate to see sunshine and 80s (wait, did we ever see that this year?) disappear, Wisconsinites welcome this transition with open corks, er, arms at the 41st Annual Wine & Harvest Fest in Historic Cedarburg.

This year’s event takes place - Saturday, September 21 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, September 22 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The yearly end-of-summer passage packs the streets of Historic Cedarburg with vendors offering home-grown produce, award-winning wines from the likes of Cedar Creek Winery (the impetus for this free, family-oriented arts and crafts event), grilled foods, jarred artisan delectables, irresistible desserts (I am Jones’n for a candy apple from Amy’s Candy Kitchen) and streets and streets filled with so much more.

Don’t worry, it may be called Wine & Harvest Fest, but they also provide festivalgoers with ample choices of great Wisconsin craft beer, which pairs perfectly with a variety of live music offerings. There’s nothing quite like sitting along the Milwaukee River with your favorite glass of wine or beer, the aroma of corn on the cob filling the cool fall air and people of all ages dancing and singing along to the band.

“Whatever,” my wife would say. “I’m in it for the wine AND shopping.”

Right, forgot about the shopping. Rows and rows upon more rows of vendors offering everything from fine art to jewelry, outdoor décor to clothing and tons more. Every year, we visit the same vendor and stock up on party dip packs (am now Jones’n for crackers and jalapeno dip) and strawberry rhubarb jam. Yes, I go for the jam and I’m OK with it. My wife goes for the Cranberry Blush from Cedar Creek Winery, which hosts an awesome Grape Stomp (Kid’s Stomp and Adult’s Stomp) - just one of many fun events at the festival.

Events, shopping, music, food, wine and beer and blocks and blocks full of vibrant restaurants and bars…it’s no wonder this is a two-day festival. It’s best if you stomp by for both days so you don’t miss a thing.  


Details:
Cedarburg Wine & Harvest Festival
September 21-22

 
Start Your Engines

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

Biggest four-sided clock in North America. World’s largest music festival. World’s only Harley-Davidson Museum. Sexiest building on the planet. Milwaukee’s list of unique venues and events goes on and on and continues this weekend at the Milwaukee Mile as Andretti Sports Marketing brings the stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series back to the longest continually operating speedway in the nation at Milwaukee IndyFest.

The fest will feature two days of exciting race action from the IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires cars Friday, June 14, and Saturday, June 15. Fans will also have the opportunity to watch Firestone Indy Lights and Pro Mazda Championship test for free on Thursday as an added bonus to this year's IndyFest.

In addition to the racing, IndyFest will also include a long list of activities and attractions throughout the two-day festival. Race fans will love getting up close with drivers as they work on their cars pre-race, families will enjoy the free ferris wheel and game area and the beer garden with local bands will rock the grounds after the checkered flag is waved.

The Milwaukee IndyFest infield will be packed with even more activities for race fans, families and festival-goers. There will be a number of unique sections inside the confines of the historic one-mile oval to rev up race fans all weekend long, including: The Coors Light Music & Beer Garden, Family Fun Zone, Vintage Car Corral and the IZOD IndyCar Fan Village.

So, while you celebrate Father’s Day weekend in one of the most unique cities in the world with the best dad in the world, there’s no better place to start summer’s engines than Milwaukee IndyFest at the Milwaukee Mile. 

Details:
Milwaukee IndyFest
June 13-15
Various Locations

 

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