Nobody would ever call Milwaukee a hotbed of cabaret activity. But that may change this summer. Stepping Out Productions, a new outfit formed by local Wisconsin artists Donna Singleton and Tom Stajmiger, has put together a three-month long program simply called "Milwaukee's First Annual Cabaret Series." It began running on June 8 at the Milwaukee Center's Stackner Theatre — a space most often used for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre's smaller productions—and will continue through Aug. 25.
Stepping Out's first line-up is not at all shabby, including the New York City cabaret staples Amanda McBroom, Tom Andersen, Ann Hampton Calloway and Christiane Noll. A couple of the singers are not altogether unfamiliar with the Midwest. Anderson, who will perform June 22-23, was brought up in the nearby Chicago area before going on to win five MAC Awards. McBroom, who was seen June 8-9, was raised in Hollywood, but her musical Heartbeats was seen by audiences at Wisconsin's Waukesha Civic Theatre, in a production directed by Stajmiger.
Callaway, who takes the Stackner stage Aug. 17-18, recently received a Tony nomination for her work in the Broadway revue Swing!. And Noll is known to New York audiences from her turns in the musicals Jekyll & Hyde, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues and Little by Little. She will wrap up the Milwaukee series Aug. 24-25.
Explaining the impetus behind the new venture, Singleton and Stajmiger said in a statement, ""Why is this series coming to Milwaukee? While the theatre scene is currently jumping in Milwaukee, the nightclub scene has been struggling. Many people have had their fill of smoky venues and headbanger bands. They have refined their tastes and are seeking live performances by artists speaking to and about their life's journeys."
Stepping Out additionally plans to resurrect the dinner theatre scene in Milwaukee some time in the future. Cabaret shows will be on Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 6 and 9 PM.
Tickets are $30; $100 for all four shows. The Stackner Cabaret is located at 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, WI 53202. For more information, call (414) 224-9490.
—By Robert Simonson