Skylight Music Theatre Announces Revised 2020-2021 Season

Skylight Music Theatre | August 31, 2020

Milwaukee — Skylight Music Theatre today unveiled their revised 2020-21 season, with a new line-up of outstanding music theatre addressing the realities of presenting live performances in the time of Covid-19. Skylight is Milwaukee’s professional music theatre company and located at 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

“As we re-thought our season in order to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible, we also thought about how much we need the arts to entertain and uplift us,” said Skylight Executive Director Jack R. Lemmon. “Inspired by the quote on the ceiling of the Cabot Theatre, we have created a new season ‘to refresh the dry places in our spirit.’”

Productions will be presented in Skylight’s beautiful Cabot Theatre with socially distanced houses and extensive health and safety protocols. The Cabot, which seats 358, will be limited to approximately 40% capacity with a maximum of 130-150 patrons, based on seating configurations of family groups. New procedures for entering and exiting the theatre, enhanced cleaning, electrostatic disinfectant spraying, contactless ticket scanning, mask requirements, and other safety protocols are in place to protect patrons, casts, orchestras and staff and adhere to all CDC and governmental orders. Skylight consulted with several area doctors to develop the plans. Read the Health & Safety Protocols here

“We were heartened to hear from many audience members and theatre artists who wanted to return to the magic of live theatre -- as long as we took appropriate safety precautions,” said Skylight Artistic Director Michael Unger. “That is why we completely reconceived our season. We are committed to being responsive, responsible and are fully prepared to rehearse and perform these shows while adhering to rigorous safety protocols and physical distancing. To help our artists return to the work they love, and to offer our audiences live performances again is a privilege we do not take lightly. If we all work vigilantly together, we have every hope of success.”

Skylight’s Return to Live Theatre Begins in November with 'Little Shop of Horrors'

The new 2020-2021 season will have four shows on the mainstage, opening with Little Shop of Horrors, which will mark Unger’s Skylight directorial debut, running November 13 – December 27, 2020. With a tuneful score by creative geniuses Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, this musical has become a worldwide phenomenon, devouring the hearts of theatregoers for over 30 years. Featuring a disarmingly funny love story and what is probably the most famous man-eating plant in musical history, Little Shop of Horrors offers hilarious entertainment over the holiday season.

“Little Shop has always been on our list to revive ever since it was a hit when Skylight presented it in 2003,” said Unger. “We thought this beloved show, with its tuneful score, small cast and quirky story, would be the perfect choice for our return to live theatre.”

Staged Concert Version of Evita

For the second show of the mainstage season, Skylight will present the staged concert version of the seven-time Tony Award-winning Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita on March 12-28, 2021. Originally scheduled during the 2019-20 season, Evita was in rehearsal when the pandemic closed the theatre in March.

Evita follows Eva Duarte's meteoric rise from impoverished child to wife of Argentine president Juan Perón and finally, to becoming the most powerful woman in Latin America. This staged concert version, directed by Michelle Lopez-Rios, is presented with minimal sets, costumes and staging to focus on the magnificent performances and music combining Latin, jazz, pop and more traditional influences.

‘Raisin’ Marks Skylight Premiere

From May 7-23, 2021, Skylight will present the Tony Award-winning Raisin, marking a Skylight premiere. This powerful, uplifting musical adaptation is based on the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. Set in Chicago in 1951, it follows the struggles of a Chicago family, the first African-Americans to buy a house in the all-white neighborhood of Clybourne Park.

Raisin had originally been on Skylight’s calendar for the 20-21 season, but the licensing was unavailable,” said Unger. “As we planned our revised season, we, as an organization, were also looking closely at ways to place focus on systemic racism and injustice in support of Black Lives Matter. Part of that was to identify opportunities to address racial equity and inclusion. We reapplied for the rights to Raisin and, upon learning that they were now available, we immediately scheduled this powerful and timely musical about a critical period in our country’s racial history.”

Milwaukee Adaptation of Die Fledermaus

The final show of the mainstage season will be Fledermaus MKE, from June 4-20, 2021. This custom-made adaptation of the operetta by Johann Strauss II, Karl Haffner, and Richard Genée was on the schedule for the original 2020-2021 season. Skylight will work with a team of local writers to adapt one of the world’s frothiest and most-performed operettas, Die Fledermaus, which was first performed in 1874 Vienna. Skylight’s version, Fledermaus MKE, performed in English, will exchange champagne for beer and be set in modern-day Milwaukee. Jill Anna Ponasik of Milwaukee Opera Theatre will direct and Michael Pink of Milwaukee Ballet will choreograph.

Virtual Musical, Original New Works and Concert Readings as Season Add-Ons

In addition to the four-show mainstage subscription package, Skylight will also offer “Add-Ons” to additional productions and readings. While not part of a subscription package, subscribers have the first opportunity to purchase tickets at subscriber prices before they go on sale to the general public.

Skylight’s first virtual musical, Being Earnest by Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska, based on Oscar Wilde’s satirical comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest was directed by Unger. It will premiere on October 16, 2020, and be available online through November 12, 2020.  

Being Earnest takes place in a mod, 1960’s, Austin Powers-era setting. All of Wilde’s brilliant wit remains intact in this effervescent musical based on Wilde’s most popular play about two upper crust young men trying to court two similarly-stationed young women, and the societal conventions, over-bearing mothers, and misplaced handbags in railway stations that stand in their way.

The score is a sparkling homage to 1960’s rock groups such as Herman’s Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones, and The Lovin’ Spoonful. Being Earnest was rehearsed online with Zoom, and then recorded in each of the performers’ seven separate homes, and edited together like a film, to ensure social distancing for both cast and audience.

Staged Readings of New Musicals

In 2021, Skylight will present a one-night-only concert reading of Dennis DeYoung’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which had originally been scheduled for the 2020-21 season. Dates for the reading are to be announced soon. “This will be an opportunity for a limited number of Skylight patrons to get in on the ‘ground floor’ as Skylight develops this exciting work by one of rock and roll’s biggest names,” said Unger, who is working with DeYoung to revise the script and score. The full production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is tentatively scheduled for the 2021-2022 season.

Skylight plans to present staged readings of one or more of the finalists chosen from submissions by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) writers and composers in the “MKE MaKEs” New Musical Works series. The submission process continues through November 1, 2020, when a diverse team of readers will evaluate all submissions, move selected scripts to the semi-final evaluation, and then select finalists for the staged public readings to be presented in spring 2021.

Many Shows Rescheduled to Future Seasons

“Our original 2020-2021 season had a number of highly anticipated shows, and we will do our best to reschedule all of them for future Skylight seasons, and announce dates as soon as possible,” said Unger.

The list includes Candide, the Leonard Bernstein operetta, originally scheduled for April/May of 2020 as well as shows originally planned for 2020-2021: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, an epic musical based on the novel by Victor Hugo, with book and original score composed by Dennis DeYoung, lead singer and songwriter of the legendary rock group Styx; Oliver!, the classic musical based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens; Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, the regional premiere of an improbable and enchanting love story that was an Off-Broadway hit; and The Full Monty a nine-time Tony Award-nominated musical with one of the most anticipated final moments seen on Broadway. In addition, Skylight will also reschedule the production of Spring Awakening with both hearing and deaf actors in a modern re-telling of teen angst and sexual awakening in the 19th century.

2020-2021 61st Subscription Season

Skylight’s revised 2020-2021 subscription season opens with a holiday production of Little Shop of Horrors (Nov. 13 – Dec. 27). In 2021, Skylight will present the staged concert version of Evita (March 12-28, 2021). In April, Skylight presents Raisin, a musical based on the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (April 30 – May 16, 2021). Closing the season will be Fledermaus MKE the modern-day Milwaukee adaptation of Johann Strauss’ operetta Die Fledermaus (May 28 – June 13, 2021).

In addition to the four mainstage shows, Skylight will offer subscription Add-Ons, including the virtual musical, Being Earnest (October 16 – November 12, 2020); a one-night-only concert reading of Dennis DeYoung’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, (Dates TBD); and staged readings from the BIPOC New Works Festival, with selections chosen from submissions for new works by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) authors and composers (Dates TBD).

About Skylight Music Theatre

Skylight is renowned for bringing distinctive, creative approaches to every production. Its mission since 1959: To bring the full spectrum of music theatre works to a wide and diverse audience in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts and their reflection of the human condition. Skylight’s mainstage home is the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre

Center. Based on the design of an 18th century French opera house and one of Milwaukee’s most beautiful theatres, the Cabot Theatre allows audiences to feel close to the music and action on stage.