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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

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Local Broadway vet teams with Milwaukee pianist for Valentine concert

Kurt Ollmann and Jack Forbes Wilson are both beloved performers in the Milwaukee area, and they’ve been performing together for close to a decade, usually on the East Side.

But this Valentine’s Day, they’re heading out west (and south).

Ollmann and Wilson present a Valentine’s Day edition of their popular "How’s Your Romance?" cabaret show at Ascension Lutheran, 1236 S. Layton Blvd., this Sunday, Feb. 10, at 3 p.m. The audience can expect to hear favorite standards by Cole Porter, Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel, Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, and more.

"We’re not doing ‘My Funny Valentine'," deadpans Ollmann. "That works better for a woman to sing it."

Ollmann is a classically-trained singer and veteran of Broadway, and Wilson is a local pianist who has appeared in productions by the American Players Theatre and the Milwaukee Rep (most memorably as Liberace).

They have a dedicated following in the area and have performed together at the Skylight Music Theater, the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center, Lake Park’s Musical Mondays, Villa Terrace and more. They first introduced the "How’s Your Romance?" show last fall, and were invited to perform a Valentine’s edition of the show (with some brand-new songs) by Ascension Lutheran’s music director, Cindy Bettine.

"To make the songs flow we have lots of fun with figuring out the progression. There’s sort of a narrative to the show, but not something that would be obvious, necessarily, to the audience," says Ollmann. "It’s a little bit ‘innocence to experience,’ I guess you could say – the sad songs are near the end."

Ollmann has performed at Ascension Lutheran services before, but this is his first appearance at the church singing secular music. "We get to certain points in rehearsing where we go, whoa, how’s this going to go over in church?" he laughs.

Though trained as a classical singer, Ollmann grew up with musicals and performed as Riff on Leonard Bernstein’s Deutsche Grammophon recording of "West Side Story" in the mid-1980s.

"After that I started to just dream of doing cabaret style concerts," he says. "When I met Jack it seemed like the time to try it out. We have a little audience that comes to hear us, mostly on the East Side, so geographically we’re extending our audience a little bit."

And yes, there will be a song from "West Side Story" in the show on Sunday.

"It won’t be one of Riff’s songs, though," he promises. "It’ll be one of Tony’s."

Suggested donation for the show is $20.

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