By Mary Boyle
I personally cannot think of a better way to celebrate the holidays than with live theatre, but nothing feels more festive than the historic and ornate, red and gold Pabst Theater and entering into the timeless story of Christmas spirit that is Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL, performed each season, unfailingly, by The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
A Christmas Carol, of course, is the tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge, a mean and miserly old man who runs a counting house in Victorian London with his single, ill-treated employee, the good-natured Bob Cratchit. On the night before Christmas, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Marley, who warns Scrooge that he will be doomed to his terrible fate in the afterlife if he does not change his ways. To help him, Marley tells Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future. The spirits, by reminding him of his past mistakes and showing him what his future will be if he continues on his path, teach Scrooge a lesson about the true Spirit of Christmas.
Now in its 47th year, the Rep's production of A Christmas Carol is the second-longest, continuous running professional production in the country, though there was a bit of a hiccup over the pandemic. In 2020, for the 45th Anniversary of the production, The Rep still managed to honor the tradition by producing a one-man show starring Lee E. Ernst called Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, which was available for streaming. In 2021, the show went back to a full cast, bringing Ernst on in the role of Scrooge, which had been played by Jonathan Wainwright for the past 4 years and Jonathan Smoots before that. The production is a holiday tradition for families, but also for a number of Milwaukee's finest actors, who return year after year and become familiar faces. Change can be difficult for holiday traditions and, this year, another big change occured when, once again, the role of Scrooge was recast: this time to Milwaukee favorite Matt Daniels which was, in my humble opinion, an excellent choice; in fact, I hope he decides to stick around for awhile.
While the production has lost many longtime performers (Jonathan Smoots, Deborah Staples, Angela Iannone, and Jonathan Gillard Daly, to name a few of my favorites), the "newer" cast members have already become part of the tradition. This year, Reese Madigan, Todd Denning, James Pickering, and Mark Corkins reprise their roles as Bob Cratchit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, Mr. Fezziwig/Charitable Worker, and the Ghost of Marley, respectively. Madigan has been Bob Cratchit since Director Mark Clements unveiled the new production, along with the stunning rotating set design by Todd Edwards Ivins, in 2016 and I can't imagine the role without him. Tami Workentin joined the cast in 2019 as the Ghost of Christmas Past and has returned, again, this season. Carrie Hitchcock, who was the perfect (and perhaps only) replacement for Angela Iannone, joined the cast in 2021 and returned this year as Mrs. Fezziwig/Charitable Worker/Mrs. Dilber. Rána Roman, who also joined the cast in 2021 and returns this year, is delightful as Mrs. Cratchit. Christopher Peltier, who has been floating around for a few seasons now, is fun to watch in his various roles and one to keep an eye on.
Although A Christmas Carol is an British tale, I am still not crazy about the British pantomime addition to this production which, to me, lends itself more to comedy and slapstick when I want this show to be full of magic and wonder, but it's bearable. The Rep recommends the show for ages 6 and up, but know that Clements really amps up the ghost story part of show; the initial appearance of Jacob Marley is still quite the loud jump scene, though it seems to have been reigned in significantly over the years. In all, the show is a family-friendly holiday delight, sure to fill you with Christmas Spirit, and I encourage all to see it, if you can. As Tiny Tim, who is played by the enchanting Lainey Techtmann this season, says: "God bless us, every one."
Tickets to A CHRISTMAS CAROL may be purchased at www.MilwaukeeRep.com, by calling the Ticket Office at 414-224-9490, or in-person at 108 E Wells Street in downtown Milwaukee. Group tickets are available for parties 10+ by calling 414-290-5340.
A Christmas Carol is presented by Jay Franke and David Herro and West Bend Mutual Insurance Company with Executive Producers Molly and Tom Duffey, Associate Producer Saints Andrew and Mark Charitable Gift Trust. Studio Gear is the Equipment Sponsor.
About Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Milwaukee Rep is the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin with three unique performance venues in the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex– the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio and Stackner Cabaret. For over six decades, Milwaukee Rep has been a centerpiece of Milwaukee’s vibrant arts and cultural scene with productions ranging from Broadway musicals to Shakespeare to American Classics and New Works that are entertaining, inclusive and impactful. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Clements and Executive Director Chad Bauman, Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee’s rich diversity.
By Mary Boyle
Victor Hugo couldn't have known when he published his story in 1862 that his book, which is one of the longest ever written, would go on to become one of the greatest novels of the 19th century and then, 123 years after its publication, go on to become a musical that would become one of the longest running musical in the world; however, it was very clear that he had set out from the beginning to change the many injustices he saw in the world. To his Italian publisher he said:
I don't know whether it will be read by everyone, but it is meant for everyone. It addresses England as well as Spain, Italy as well as France, Germany as well as Ireland, the republics that harbour slaves as well as empires that have serfs. Social problems go beyond frontiers. Humankind's wounds, those huge sores that litter the world, do not stop at the blue and red lines drawn on maps. Wherever men go in ignorance or despair, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children lack a book to learn from or a warm hearth, Les Misérables knocks at the door and says: "open up, I am here for you."
While it may seem that something as light and frivolous as a Broadway Musical could not possibly inspire any change in the world, I challenge you to experience LES MISÉRABLES, happening through December 4th at the Marcus Performing Arts Center in downtown Milwaukee, and see if you don't come away from it unmoved.
Les Misérables mainly follows the story of a Frenchman named Jean Valjean, who spends a harsh 19 years in prison under the watchful eye of the relentless prison guard, Javert, for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister's starving child. Finally released from prison, Valjean quickly learns that life is impossible when one has been branded a thief, until he is shown mercy and given a shot at redemption by the Bishop of Digne. Valjean reinvents himself as a generous and respected man who runs a factory staffed with poor single women who, without the work, would be destitute. Unfortunately, the factory foreman doesn’t share his employer’s benevolence and takes his vengeance on one of the women workers, Fantine, who wouldn’t stand his advances. Left on the streets with no way to send money to her little daughter, Cossette, Fantine quickly succumbs to the horrors of 19th century France. When Valjean discovers her on the streets, he vows to help her but, unfortunately, Javert has also caught up with him. Escaping Javert again, Valjean rescues Cossette from the abusive family who had been charged with her care, the Thénardiers, and starts a new life in Paris but, not only does his past keep catching up with him, the very conditions that took him to prison in the first place are coming to a boiling point that culminates in the Paris Uprising of 1832.
This North American Tour, produced by Cameron Mackintosh in 2009 to commemorate the show’s 25th Anniversary, is the same one that came to Milwaukee in 2018, also through the Broadway at the Marcus Center Season, and continues to enjoy record-breaking runs. The incomparable Nick Cartel and Hayden Tee return to their roles as Valjean and Javert, but nearly all the remainder of the cast is new. Haley Dortch is splendid as Fantine, delivering a tear-jerking “I Dreamed a Dream.” Monsieur and Madame Thénardier, now played by Matt Crowle and Christina Rose Hall (who theatregoers may recall from Skylight’s 2017 production of Sweeny Todd), still managed to delight the audience and steal the show. Christine Heesun Hwang was heartbreaking as Éponine and well matched to Gregory Lee Rodriguez as Marius. Addie Morales’ operatic style did not fit my expectation as Cosette, yet there is no denying that her range is admirable; it worked better in some songs than others. The young performers are always an audience favorite at Les Miz, and while little Cosette (Cora Jane Messer/Hazel Vogel) was perfect on Opening Night, Gavroche (Harrison Fox/Gabriel Lafazan) was unfortunately difficult to understand.
The music of Les Misérables, directed by Brian Eads, never fails to awe and inspire – particularly “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Bring Him Home,” “Do You Hear The People Sing?” “One Day More,” and “Master of the House.” Although the country they’re fighting for justice in isn’t our own, something stirs in your chest when they wave the bright red flag and repeat the chorus, “Can you hear the people sing?” We come back to this story again and again because we recognize the universal truths in it: that we must forgive each other and ourselves and, most importantly, that we must love each other. As Hugo wrote, “To love another person is to see the eyes of God.”
Tickets for Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Tony Award-winning musical phenomenon, LES MISÉRABLES, may be purchased at www.MarcusCenter.org, by calling (414) 273-7206, or by visiting the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 North Water Street, Downtown Milwaukee. Single ticket prices start at $40 and are subject to change.
LES MISÉRABLES is part of the 2022/2023 Johnson Financial Group Broadway at the Marcus Center Season. Subscribers may choose between a 6 or 7-show packages; the 7-show package includes LES MISÉRABLES. Groups of 10 or more can secure their seats by calling 414-273-7207. More information can be found at www.LesMis.com, the official global website for LES MISÉRABLES.
About Marcus Performing Arts Center
The Marcus Performing Arts Center (MPAC) serves as a performing arts community gathering space in Southeastern Wisconsin, bringing high-quality arts and cultural programming to the region for over 50years. As a mission-based non-profit organization located in downtown Milwaukee, MPAC strives to act as an energizing force that connects the community to the world through collaboration, innovation, social engagement, and the transformative power of performing arts. Through multiple performance series and community events, MPAC brings a diverse range of performing arts to the region. Presented series include Johnson Financial Group Broadway at the Marcus Center, MPAC Presents, Dance, Jazz, National Geographic LIVE, Rainbow Summer, and additional special performances from internationally renowned artists. MPAC's education, community engagement, and inclusion initiatives provide free experiences that annually engage students and life-long learners in Milwaukee. MPAC is proud to be a dedicated War Memorial facility, honoring those who bravely served our country. For more information, visit www.marcuscenter.org.
Johnson Financial Group, with offices in Wisconsin and Minnesota, is a privately owned financial services company offering banking, wealth and insurance solutions through its subsidiaries, Johnson Bank, Johnson Wealth, and Johnson Insurance Services. For more information visit johnsonfinancialgroup.com.
Broadway Across America (BAA) is part of the John Gore Organization family of companies, which includes Broadway.com, The Broadway Channel, BroadwayBox.com, Group Sales Box Office and Broadway Brands. Led by 18-time Tony-winning theater producer John Gore (Owner & CEO), BAA is the foremost presenter of first-class touring productions in North America, operating in 48 markets with over 400,000 subscribers. Presentations include Disney’s The Lion King, Wicked, The Book of Mormon and Hamilton. Current and past productions include Ain’t Too Proud, Beautiful, Cats, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls, Moulin Rouge! and To Kill A Mockingbird.
By Mary Boyle
Are you looking for the perfect play or concert to brighten your holiday experience? Look no further! Here is a complete listing of offerings, from ballets and live-theatre to concerts, in Ozaukee and the greater Ozaukee area (Milwaukee, Washington and Sheboygan Counties). For specific theatre reviews, keep your eye on www.ozaukeelivinglocal.com/editorofozreviews/!
November 16-December 11 The Nativity Variations with The Rep
Nov. 18-Dec. 31 A Jolly Holiday: Celebrating Disney's Broadway Hits at Skylight
Nov. 25-Dec. 24 Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer™: The Musical with First Stage
Nov. 25-Dec. 11 Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some) with Kettle Moraine Playhouse
November 26 The Hip Hop Nutcracker at the Marcus Center
November 27 Hartford City Band Holiday Concert at the Schauer Center
November 29-December 24 A Christmas Carol with The Rep
November 30 "A Shining Star" Holiday Pajama Jamboree with Festival City Symphony
December 1-4 BEHS presents White Christmas, The Musical at the Wilson Center
December 1-18 Elf The Musical at Sunset Playhouse
December 2 B2WINS Sounds of the Season at the Schauer Center in Hartford
December 2-4 Christmas Carol with the Falls Patio Players
December 3-4 The Nutcracker Ballet at the Weil Center in Sheboygan
December 2-11 A Christmas Carol with West Bend Theatre Company
December 11 Canadian Brass Christmas at the Wilson Center
December 2-10 The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with Sheboygan Theatre Company
December 3-5 A Christmas Carol with West Bend Theatre Company
December 6 Tenors MKE Holiday Concert at Sunset Playhouse
December 7-11 Festive Folk Cabaret at Sunset Playhouse
December 8-11 MSO Holiday Pops Concert
December 9-11 A Christmas Carol with Cedarburg Children's Theater*
December 9-11 A Kodachrome Christmas Starring John McGivern at the CPAC*
December 9-12 Another Night Before Christmas at the Kettle Moraine Playhouse
December 9-18 Another Night Before Christmas at Memories Dinner Theater*
December 15 MSO Holiday Concert at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center (CPAC)*
December 16 MSO Holiday Concert at the Wilson Center
December 16-18 MSO presents Handel's Messiah
December 17 Cherish the Ladies Celtic Christmas at the CPAC*
December 17 Marie Osmond - A Symphonic Christmas at the Weil Center
December 17 MSO Film with Orchestra: The Snowman
December 18 Christmas at Holy Hill with the Lakeshore Symphonic Band
December 10-24 The Nutcracker with The Milwaukee Ballet
By Mary Boyle
The music of the 1960's is a fascinating cultural study. In the beginning of the era, there's the innocent and happy doo wop that carried over from America’s Golden Age in the 1950's; but then, with each of the decade’s tragedies – the assassination of JFK in 1963, the war in Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. – the music, begins to change and mature, along with a generation of people. One thing is for sure: it is an era when women really began to make their mark on the music scene, from The Angels and The Supremes to Dusty Springfield and Janis Joplin, and this is the theme of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s latest production at the Stackner Cabaret: BEEHIVE: THE 60s MUSICAL.
Created by Larry Gallagher and directed by Laura Braza, The Rep’s Associate Artistic Director, Beehive includes a cast of six young ladies who reflect on their formative years in the 1960’s and the music of women that highlighted the soundtrack of their youth, while performing it from a vintage music studio. Two members of the cast are local actors returning to The Rep: Jackey Boelkow as Alison, who was recently a swing in Titanic The Musical, and Jamie Mercado as Wanda, who appeared most recently in Dad’s Season Tickets at the Stackner. The remainder of the cast includes Sarah Lynn Marion as Laura, Tess Marshall as Pattie, Desireé Tolodziecki as Jasmine, and Amaya White as Gina.
This production is, for people who lived through the era, a lovely walk down memory lane, but every song, except for a couple created for the show, was familiar to this Gen Xer. The trouble with the production is the tendency to compare the songs to the originals and, while the cast is quite talented, there are few who can really do Diana Ross or Tina Turner justice, particularly when there is no live band performing with them. That being said, Sarah Lynn Marion may have sung Janis Joplin’s songs better than Janis Joplin did, and her Grace Slick was every bit as impressive as the real deal. For those who remember where they were on Friday, November 22, 1963, the performance of “Abraham, Martin, and John” may bring a momentary tear to the eye but, in all, Beehive is a perfectly fun way to spend an evening enjoying the food, drinks, and desserts at the Stackner – I dare you not to sing along!
BEEHIVE: THE 60s MUSICAL runs through January 15th at the Stackner Cabaret, located within the Patty and Jay Baker Theater Complex, at 108 E. Wells Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com, by calling the Ticket Office at 414-224-9490, or in-person at the Theater Complex. Group tickets are available for parties 10+ by calling 414-290-5340.
About Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Milwaukee Rep is the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin with three unique performance venues in the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex– the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio and Stackner Cabaret. For over six decades, Milwaukee Rep has been a centerpiece of Milwaukee’s vibrant arts and cultural scene with productions ranging from Broadway musicals to Shakespeare to American Classics and New Works that are entertaining, inclusive, and impactful. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Clements and Executive Director Chad Bauman, Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee’s rich diversity.
Reviewing live theatre in Wisconsin since 2014. Proud member of the American Theatre Critics Association.
Memories Dinner Theater
Cedarburg Cultural Center
Cedarburg Performing Arts Center
Cedarburg Children's Theater
Port Summer Musical Theatre
Lakeshore Symphonic Band
Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
Skylight Music Theatre
Milwaukee Opera Theatre
First Stage Children's Theater
Shakespeare in the Park
Bombshell Theatre Co.
Pink Umbrella Theater Co.
Accessible theater for All
Morning Star Productions
Kids From Wisconsin
Kho-Thi Dance Company
Water Street Dance Company
Wild Space Dance Company
Warped Dance Company
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
Festival City Symphony
Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra - MYSO
American Players Theatre
Spring Green, WI
Fort Atkinson, WI
Northern Lights Theater
Peninsula Players Theatre
Door County, WI
Summit Players Theatre
Shakespeare in State Parks
Forward Theater Company
Children's Theater of Madison
Elm Grove, WI
Waukesha Civic Theatre
Lake Country Playhouse
West Bend Theatre Co.
West Bend, wI
Kettle Moraine Playhouse
Sheboygan Theatre Co.
Falls Patio Players
Menomonee Falls, WI
Schauer Arts Center
Kettle Moraine Symphony
United Performing Arts Fund
Milwaukee Theatre Alliance
World Premier Wisconsin
Wisconsin Dance Council