Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blockbuster musical thrills audience at North


So mesmerizing was the performance of "We Are the Drum" by Capita Productions over the weekend, I had to keep reminding myself I was in Milwaukee's North Division High School, not on New York City's Broadway.  Everything about this high-energy, community-based musical, featuring mostly non-professionals, was superb: the choreography, the singing, the costumes, the story line, the staging.

This blockbuster traces through music and dance the African-American experience - from Africa to present-day America, with some emphasis on Milwaukee. A live band performs in a pit, and vocalists demonstrate impressive talent on stage.

Does the cast number about 100? It seemed that way. A good share was kids, and the tiniest were among the most vigorous dancers

Capita Productions was founded in 1990 by the late Brother Booker Ashe, a Capuchin monk famous for serving Milwaukee's poor. Its president is Arlene Skwierawksi, the fabled music teacher who did wonders with the North Division choir.

The show drew hundreds of people last Friday. Still too many seats  were empty in the voluminous North Division theater. The artistry and craftsmanship, the sweat and tears that went into this community production deserve a full house. At the same time, Milwaukeeans owe to themselves the honest-to-goodness high the musical induces.

There is good news, though. The show repeats this weekend, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3. Tickets range from $10 to $20. Click here for details. It's worth your while to attend.

Photographs are courtesy of Capita Productions.

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