By Mary Boyle
Back in 1997, a raunchy but hilarious animated show for adults aired on Comedy Central. Created by a couple of fellows from Colorado, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park is now in its 21st season. Obviously, the duo knows how to write comedy. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that their Broadway musical, which opened in 2011 and was co-written with Robert Lopez of Avenue Q fame, won 9 Tony awards and has gone on to become one of the most successful musicals of all time. Now, The Book of Mormon returns to Milwaukee after a record-breaking week in 2016, courtesy of the Broadway at the Marcus Center Series.
Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon follows Elder Price (Liam Tobin) and Elder Cunningham (Conner Peirson), beginning with their graduation from Missionary Training School. Elder Price, a handsome and competent young man, is certain he will be assigned to his dream city, Orlando, with another competent companion and will go on to do great things; instead, he is saddled with Cunningham, a short, dumpy oddball of a Mormon who is happy to be a follower, and the two are sent to a war-torn, AIDS-ridden, poverty-stricken village in Uganda. Neither are prepared for the type of conditions that await them.
Much like South Park, The Book of Mormon is shocking, dirty, and laced with the F-word; however, if you can make it through all of that, there is actually some substance to the story. Though it seems that the musical is just making fun of Mormons (and, to be fair, it is), all comedy must have an element of truth and heart to make it work, and this one does. Combine that with a perfectly cast and incredibly talented group of performers, and you've got yourself a credible musical, no matter how many F-bombs you drop.
The Book of Mormon runs through January 6th at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts Uihlein Hall, located at 929 N. Water St. in Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased by calling 414.273.7206, or online at: https://www.marcuscenter.org/show/the-book-of-mormon-2019/
The 2018/19 Broadway at the Marcus series has an exciting lineup! Join them for Fiddler on the Roof, Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, Come From Away, and Anastasia.
Some people like to stay home on New Year's, but for those who are looking for a fun evening out, the land of Oz does not disappoint. This is Wisconsin, of course, so if you're doing the tavern scene, the Ozaukee Taxi will run for free from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. anywhere in Oz -- just call 284-TAXI (8294).
Here are the details, by community:
The Roadhouse Bar & Grill kicks off their New Year's party with live music by Cherry Pie at 10 p.m. Party favors, hors d'oeuvres, a champagne toast and more, for just a $20 cover!
Join The Stilt House in Cedarburg as they bring in 2019 and celebrate their 5 year anniversary from 9 p.m. - 1 a.m.! Special barrel tapping of KBS, CBS, and Goose Island Bourbon County. $49.00 for unlimited drink, midnight buffet, and champagne toast. Call the restaurant to reserve your evening in Cedarburg at (262) 618-4889.
Why not end the year with some yoga? The brand new Dirty Feet Yoga studio is having a New Year's Eve Yoga from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Then, join them on New Year's Day from noon - 2 p.m. for their Grand Opening!
Twisted Willow has a special New Year's menu served from 3- 10 p.m. Make your reservations at(262) 268-7600.
The Pasta Shoppe is serving from 4:30 p.m. -9 p.m. New Years Eve, with special entrees. Reservations strongly encouraged: 262.284.9311
Inventors Brewpub will be hosting their 2nd annual family Pajama Party, and it's free and fun for the whole family! Show up with your kids dressed in their PJ's and bring some pillows/blankets in case they crash in the middle of the party. Then enjoy the free snacks, the beer, atmosphere, other families, games, prizes, etc. We'll have early celebrations at 10PM and 11PM as well as free bubbly for the adults and sprite for the kids. From 6 p.m. until midnight.
Newport Shores is serving lunch and dinner specials, along with the regular menu, from 2 p.m.-10 p.m. on New Year's Eve, with specials including South African Gold Water Lobster Tails, Alaskan King Crab Legs, and Prime Rib, and will also be open New Year's Day for the annual Polar Plunge at 2 p.m., which happens just behind the restaurant.
Happy New Year, everyone!
*Edited from 2017
By Mary Boyle
Maybe you were busy and the time just got away from you. Maybe you have people in your life that are impossible to buy for. Maybe you'd rather sew your head to the living room carpet than slog through a crowded mall or big-box store. I feel you, and I'm here to help. The conventional method of holiday shopping is so ingrained in us, it's easy to overlook the many treasures we have right in our own community. Supporting local businesses and organizations is the gift that keeps on giving; the money you spend at these places not only stays in our community, but oftentimes helps to support important organizations that make Ozaukee and the greater Ozaukee area so wonderful. Read on, and find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list!
For the Kids (and Kids at Heart)
Hands down, my favorite place to buy toys in Ozaukee County is the Cedarburg Toy Co. Owners, Zach and Natasha Loos, make sure that everything they sell is made locally or in the US, and not only will they assist you in finding the right gift, they'll wrap it for you. They are also experts at covert operations, if you happen to actually have your children with you and need to shop. Wink, nudge, or pass them a note, and they'll have all the presents wrapped and ready for later pick up, or whatever other crazy antics you can think of. CTC truly has gifts for all ages, from blocks and rattles to puzzles and books, and things you didn't even know existed! Don't miss this magical little store in the heart of downtown Cedarburg.
Toys are wonderful, of course, but another way to give a gift that isn't "stuff" is to give an experience. How about tickets to the Rivoli and dinner at The Chocolate Factory? What about a day at the Port Exploreum and a treat at the Chocolate Chisel? How about a hike at Harrington after breakfast at Hobo's? Or, a few hours at Just 4 Fun and a treat at Sweet Trio? Time spent together is one of the best gifts you can possibly give.
For the Foodies
We are so lucky in Oz to have excellent CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture), and purchasing a share for the Foodie in your life not only makes a good gift, but you're supporting the local food culture of Oz! Wellspring in Newburg is the longest running CSA in Wisconsin, and they are offering a discount towards the 2019 CSA season through the end of December. Rare Earth Farm and Willoway Farm in Belgium are two other great CSA's. Each farm offers different choices for shares, so look to see which is the best fit, but they are all wonderfully dedicated to growing healthy, local food.
We are also lucky to have a cooperative like Outpost in Mequon. An Outpost membership is an excellent gift for the foodie in your life (and you'll find all kinds of other gift ideas in the store, as well!).
For the Nature Lovers
Oz is home to two amazing nature preserves: Riveredge in Newburg in the north and Mequon Nature Preserve in the south. Memberships to both offer access to trails and programming, but also help support environmental restoration and education in Oz. Besides memberships, Riveredge has a Visitor's Center full of great gifts for the Outdoorsy person in your life, including the syrup they make onsite each spring.
For the Art Lovers
The art community is strong in Oz, and there are a variety of places where original artwork of all kinds can be purchased. In Cedarburg, try the Cedarburg Art Museum, Cedarburg Cultural Center, or the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts gift shops, but memberships to these organizations also make great gifts. In Grafton, look no further than the NSAA Arts Mill, where a wide variety of treasures await.
For the Coffee Lover
If there is one thing the Land of Oz has aplenty, it's good coffee shops. Gift Certificates are great, of course, but most also offer t-shirts, mugs, and other fun items to show your coffee shop pride. In Port, there's Java Dock Cafe and Smith Bros. Coffee House; in Grafton, we have AM Coffee, NSeven, and Colectivo (also in Mequon); in Cedarburg, there's the Cedarburg Coffee Roastery, Java House. You can find a Fiddleheads in Cedarburg, Grafton, Thiensville, and Mequon. There is no lack of caffeine in Oz, people.
For the Theatre Lover
Being a complete theatre junkie myself, I can't help but direct your attention to the wonderful gift of theatre tickets! The Greater Ozaukee area has an incredibly impressive and lively theatre scene, and tickets to a performance don't require any storage or upkeep, but the memories last a lifetime. The Rep, First Stage, Skylight, Next Act Theatre, Milwaukee Ballet, In Tandem, Optimist Theatre (Shakespeare in the Park), Sunset Playouse, Waukesha Civic Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, American Players Theatre—check out their seasons and choose some tickets, or make a donation in someone's name.
The important thing to remember about gift giving, especially this time of year, is not to buy stuff just to buy stuff. Slow down, really be present with people, and when you do want to give something, consider giving a gift that gives back to our community. Happy Holidays, everyone.
By Mary Boyle
In the world of the Olympics, the US Women's Rowing team is a dynasty: they haven't lost a world championship or a gold medal in over a decade, making them the most dominating sports team in history, despite the fact that the women in the boat change in every competition. Our country has a seemingly endless supply of very talented women rowers, and we owe it all to Title IX — the Education Amendments Act of 1972 that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance;" that, and a crew of women rowers from Yale who decided to take a stand. It's a legendary story that is still being written, but the time to tell it is now, and the person to tell it is playwright Alice Austen, who specifically chose the First Stage Young Company to stage the World Premiere of Girls in the Boat.
Directed by Milwaukee's Marcella Kearns, Girls in the Boat focuses on that famous team of women from Yale, but spans the entire history of women in rowing, while speaking to the wider subject of equality for women, in general. The characters of the play are composites of many rowers; as such, they are given their position in the boat instead of names: Kayla Salter as Bow, Emily Fedewa as Girl 2, Mary Jensik as Girl 3, Molly Boyle as Girl 4, Ila Koch as Girl 5, Mathilde Prosen-Oldani as Girl 6, Reese Parish as Girl 7, Selma Rivera as Coxswain, Sylvie Arnold as Stroke, Jennie Babisch as Coach/Dad and Kate Lepianka as a male Journalist and Rower.
Acclaimed writer, producer, playwright, and novelist, Alice Austen, happens to live right here in Milwaukee; her grandfather was a rower, and her sons are both First Stage alumni and rowers. When John Maclay, Director of Artistic Development at First Stage, found out one of the student's parents was a playwright, a collaboration developed, and the outcome is an ode to rowing, as well as a timely comment on equality for women. The play is remarkable in that the writer and the entire cast and crew of this production, save the assistant stage manager, are women, including the handful of male characters in the play, and the reason this is remarkable is that it was not intentional
The play, itself, has a lyrical rhythm, like the oars of the rowers, and it is fast-paced, engaging, funny, inspiring, emotional, and powerful. First Stage is known for supporting new works, which is a risk, but this production demonstrates why taking those risks is so important, beyond being an incredible opportunity for the local theatre community. The First Stage Young Company, consisting primarily of High School aged students, has never failed to impress me, and is truly one of the best kept theatre secrets in the area. Watching this play, you are seeing history being made, but I feel that the play, itself, is also history being made, and we are so lucky to be able to witness its beginnings. This is an opportunity you do not want to miss.
Girls in the Boat runs through December 16th at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street in Milwaukee. Tickets are available by calling (414) 267-2961 or online at www.firststage.org.
About First Stage
First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’sEureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education and the arts for its Next Steps program for students on the autism spectrum (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Milwaukee Arts Partners and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).
By Mary Boyle
Wisconsin-based actor, playwright, director, and author, James DeVita, is quite well-known in the theatre community; a core company member and literary manager at American Players Theater in Spring Green, he has been seen on stages all over Wisconsin, and his work has been performed on them, as well. Though his theatre education is what brought him to Wisconsin, DeVita grew up in a large Irish fishing family in North Babylon on Long Island, and it is his family and hometown that has inspired his latest play, Christmas in Babylon.
Terry McShane (Tom Klubertanz) and his wife, Denise (Mary MacDonald Kerr), are typical Babylonians: working-class Irish with enough wit and sarcasm to make up for the lack of money and social graces. A happily married couple, their greatest worry is their twenty something daughter, Abby (Sara Zientek), who just moved back home and can't seem to find her path; well ... that was their greatest worry, until Terry received an email from his ex-fiance, Kathleen O'Rourke (Laura Gray), who he hasn't heard from in over 25 years. Now a successful Life Coach and the author of several self-help books, Kathleen is in town for a speaking engagement and to spend the holidays with her daughter, Kelly (Eva Nimmer), but she also arrives to reveal a secret that will rock the McShane's world.
Reading the description, the play sounds like a drama, and certainly DeVita is known for more serious works and classical theatre, but this play is very much a comedy, and a brilliant one, at that. Working with his friend and longtime collaborator, C. Michael Wright, who is the Producing Artistic Director of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, as well as the director of the play, the duo have managed to tell a story that is relatable to everyone, that contains sentiments that we all need to hear, and that is actually laugh-out-loud funny from start to finish.
"The thing I love about the piece in particular is that it’s funny, but it also deals with a lot of issues we deal with today, like forgiveness and acceptance, and the fact that we’re all part of a larger family," said Wright.
"In this play," DeVita explained, "Terry’s being challenged to think differently. And he resists it for a long time, or dismisses it, or makes fun of it, or this and that. I think the world today is being challenged to think differently about everything, and it’s a lot for some people; it gets overwhelming. But, if you can allow yourself to think differently about something, you might be able to accept it. It’d be a great world if we could all figure out how to do that. Myself included."
What makes Babylon work is the realness of the characters, who could not have been cast any better. Despite their Long Island accents, you will recognize yourself and people you know in these people; their struggles are our struggles and, because they are so familiar, watching the play feels like reconnecting with old friends; combine that with the intimacy of the Broadway Theatre Center's black box Studio Theatre and incredibly engaging writing, and the time passes quite pleasantly and almost too quickly. When all is said and done, Babylon is not the dramatic redemption of A Christmas Carol, nor the magical fantasy of The Nutcracker, yet it leaves you with a magical redemption; a simple, yet profound, peacefulness, like a quiet winter night by the fire. This is a thoroughly modern holiday tale that has all the wisdom and heart of a classic.
CHRISTMAS IN BABYLON runs Nov. 21 to Dec. 23 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre, located at 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. For tickets, call 414.291.7800 or visit milwaukeechambertheatre.com.
About Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Milwaukee's third largest non-musical theatre company, has long been recognized as producing first-rate, thought-provoking drama and a major contributor to the rich cultural and economic life of the community. One of the city's oldest, professional theatre companies, MCT was co-founded in 1975 by two local actors, Montgomery Davis and Ruth Schudson, who envisioned a space where audiences could open their minds to new theatrical ideas and Milwaukee's theatre professionals could broaden their skills and apply their craft. C. Michael Wright, a local director and actor, was appointed as the company's second artistic director in September of 2005 and, under his leadership, MCT has produced smaller, more intimate productions that feature emerging local talent, expanding its programming in order to develop new voices, such as the annual Young Playwrights Series and the Montgomery Davis Play Development Series, honoring the company's founding artistic director.
By Mary Boyle
Though it may seem strange to revere a ghost story for Christmas, Charles Dickens' cautionary tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge is a holiday standard that The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has been bringing to the City for over forty years. After a major overhaul the year before last, the production is finding its new rhythm, employing many of the same familiar faces who bring continuity and a feel of tradition, while continuing to make small adjustments, but there's still no other holiday show in Milwaukee that captures the full feeling of Christmas quite as well as A Christmas Carol at the historic Pabst Theater.
There is a slight shuffling of cast members this season, but not many new faces. Most notably, Leda Hoffman takes the role of directing, after having been an Associate Director for three years and an Assistant Director for one, and Milwaukee-favorites James Pickering, who played Scrooge for 12 years, and Mark Corkins return to play Mr. Fezziwig and the Ghost of Marley, respectively. There are several of The Rep's Emerging Professional Residents who make their Carol debuts, including: Sade Ayodele as Alice, Jessica Ma as Ellen, Nima Rakhshanifar as Belle's husband, Hannah Shay as Nanny, and Justin Jones, Isabella Reeder, and Michael Wu rounding out the ensemble. Blake Dava makes his Carol debut as Dick Wilkins and the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Returning this season are Milwaukee favorites Jonathan Wainwright as Charles Dickens and Ebeneezer Scrooge, Todd Denning as Ghost of Christmas Present, Angela Iannone as Mrs. Fezziwig and more, Rana Roman as Mrs. Cratchit, and Deborah Staples as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Reese Madigan returns as Bob Cratchit and Christopher Peltier returns as Young Scrooge.
Young performers Gabe Smith and Jack Trettin reprise their roles as Teen Scrooge and Boy Scrooge, while Teddy Anagnostopoulos, Ashley Bock, and Claire Zempel return for their 4th year in different roles. Baylee Bates, Jakobie Jackson, Zachary Church, and Ethan Sprague all return to the Carol, and Coco Archuleta, Phinlee Clarkin, Priyanka Guptasarma, Elliot Oquist, Isabel Bastardo, Brooklyn Bates, Cody Sims, Casey Westphal, and Eliel Pozos-Lopez as Tiny Tim make their Christmas Carol debut.
Casting some of the area's very best talent pretty much ensures that this holiday tradition remains a holiday tradition (those Milwaukee favorites are favorites for a reason!). Angela Iannone and Jonathan Wainwright, in particular, just knock my socks off every year, and having James Pickering this season is a special treat. The set design by Todd Edward Ivins, which was newly unveiled in 2016, continues to amaze, and especially magical are the times during the show when it snows on the audience. There are still a few moments of "audience participation" that I do not care for, and parents of young and/or sensitive children should take note that the ghosts coming and going are loud, bright, and scary (unnecessarily so, as far as I'm concerned); still, A Christmas Carol at the Pabst has become a part of my holiday tradition, and I wouldn't want to miss it.
A Christmas Carol runs through December 24th at the Historic Pabst Theater, located at 144 E. Wells St. in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased by calling (414) 224-9490, in-person at the Box Office at 108 E. Wells, or online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com.
This year the A Christmas Carol Families Program, which raises funds for underprivileged families during the holiday season through audience donations at every performance of A Christmas Carol, will benefit families connected with Safe & Sound, one of The Rep’s Pillar Partners. Safe & Sound’s mission is to unite residents, youth, law enforcement and community resources to build safe and empowered neighborhoods. Rep staff and volunteers will use the collected donations to purchase holiday gifts for these families in need. Any leftover funds are then donated to Safe & Sound for all the excellent work they do in the community. In years past, The Rep has raised over $40,000 annually toward these efforts benefiting such organizations as United Community Center, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, Running Rebels, COA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, La Causa, Journey House, Sojourner Family Peace Center, Next Door Foundation and more.
About Milwaukee Repertory Theater
The Milwaukee Rep is the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin, in terms of audiences served, and one of the largest professional theaters in the country. Each year, The Rep welcomes up to 275,000 people at nearly 700 performances of 15 productions, ranging from compelling dramas, powerful classics, new plays, and full-scale musicals in its three unique performance venues: the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio, and Stackner Cabaret. Now in its 65th Season, The Rep has gained a national reputation as an incubator of new work, an agent of community change, and a forward-thinking provider of .vital arts education programs. 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
In Tandem Theatre Company has developed a reputation for irreverent alternative holiday shows, and this year is no exception. Do the holiday classics make you ill? Are you looking for a grown up night out that doesn't include any solemn holiday spirit? If National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is more your speed than It's A Wonderful Life, then Merry Chris-Mess is the holiday show for you!
Written by Anthony Wood, of Cudahy Caroler Christmas fame, with additional material by Lee Becker and Sean McKenna, Merry Chris-Mess is one act of silly songs and skits and one act of an It's A Wonderful Life parody called "It's a Life," interspersed with carols rewritten with south side flare by the Cudahy Carolers, including a little gem called, "O Come Let's Do A Fish Fry." Nothing pertaining to Christmas is sacred: there's a dirty Santa, greedy elves, and toy commercials that go horribly wrong, but "It's A Life" is where the show really derails Christmas into the gutter. Zach Thomas Woods is a brilliant Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, if Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey was a very crass and angry man. Chris Flieller as Mr. Potter is just as crotchety as the Mr. Potter in the classic film, but with a massive flatulence problem. You get the idea.
Directed by Jane Flieller, with music direction by Josh Robinson, Merry Chris-Mess features a very talented cast of 8, including the aforementioned Chris Flieller and Zach Thomas Woods, as well as Sean Duncan, Anna Otto, Liz Shipe, Gage Patterson, Emmitt Morgans, and Jocelyn Ridgely. The Tenth Street Theatre is a really casual, relaxed venue, and audience members can take their drinks in the theatre to enjoy during the show, which adds to the fun, but this is definitely an adult show and not ideal for anyone who is easily offended by bad language or raunchy comedy That being said, as long as you know what you're getting yourself into, you'll likely have a good time and plenty of laughs.
Merry Chris-Mess runs through January 6th at the Tenth Street Theatre, located at 628 N. 10th St. in Milwaukee. Tickets are available by calling the Tenth Street Theatre Box Office at (414) 271-1371 or online at http://www.intandemtheatre.org. Join In Tandem for a special New Year's Eve show, including a champagne toast, reception, and "fireworks."
About In Tandem Theatre
In Tandem Theatre, a 501(c)3 nonprofit theatre located in Milwaukee, was founded in 1998 by Chris and Jane Flieller with the commitment to produce exciting, innovative and professional live theatre by presenting creative and eclectic programming that enlightens, inspires, provokes, and entertains a diverse audience in an intimate atmosphere. Its name, In Tandem Theatre, reflects the connection between audience and actor, the audience and the written word – an intimate experience obtained when live audiences are engaged in strong storytelling. In Tandem Theatre is committed to creating innovative, exciting live theatre designed to inspire, enlighten, provoke and entertain a diverse audience through comedy, drama, musicals, classics and new works.
By Mary Boyle
John Cramer, the Managing Artistic Director of the Waukesha Civic Theatre, is admittedly a holiday nut. His family, he says, goes "more than a little crazy" when it comes to celebrating the holidays, from their Santa collection, to their elf collection, to decorating six different Christmas trees in their home. It's his family's love of the holidays that inspired the show Candy Cane Tales and Holiday Carols at Waukesha Civic Theatre.
"The show started out in 2005 as a musical revue performed at the Waukesha State Bank holiday party by me and my wife Kelli, and accompanied by Abby Lorenz," Cramer explained on the WCT blog. "I put the show together featuring our favorite music and stories, with a little bit of history thrown in, and entertained the WSB employees for an hour."
Cramer realized he had the makings of a holiday show that could offer something different than the traditional holiday fare that filled area theaters each season and, in 2009, Candy Cane Tales began its holiday tradition; a tradition that spanned seven straight seasons, changing a bit every year. After a two year hiatus, the show returns to WCT, directed by both Cramer and Kelly Goeller, with music direction by Josh Parman-Thao, and featuring a massive cast of talented area residents, several of whom are related to each other.
The show is one-part play, which follows the Bickford family: Bill (Mike Owens) and Judy (Jen Hull Anderson), and their four children, Louisa (Cecilia Fleischer), Augie (Tristan Harris), Stella (Emily McCaskey), and Daisy (Violette Anderson). Their story is one any modern family can relate to — the struggle to maintain family traditions between busy schedules and growing children. Louisa wants to spend time with her first boyfriend, Derek (Aidan Thiele), Augie would rather spend time in his room, and even the two youngest and Judy seem to always have something to do that foils Bill's plan for the perfect family holiday evening. The play is interspersed with carols, song and dance numbers, and scenes from popular holiday television classics, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
The Waukesha Civic Theatre is, first and foremost, a community theatre, and a well-loved one, at that, which is why it is an especially nice place to visit around the holidays. This show is fun and family-friendly, and it does an amazing job of sampling almost every aspect of the holidays that people love. The cast, itself, is full of family — parents and children, as well as siblings — that add to the community feel of the production. All in all, Candy Cane Tales is just like a candy cane: sweet and reminiscent of the season.
Candy Cane Tales and Holiday Carols runs through December 16th at the Waukesha Civic Theatre, located at 264 W. Main Street in historic downtown Waukesha. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office at 262.547.0708, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at http://www.waukeshacivictheatre.org/.
The Waukesha Civic Theatre, Inc. is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide quality live theatre performances and educational opportunities that will enrich, challenge and entertain both participants and audience members. In July of 2006, the Waukesha Civic Theatre began its 50th season. With that historic season, WCT joined an elite group: according to the American Association of Community Theatres, of the roughly 7,000 community theatres in the United States, only about 100 can claim 50 years of continuous operation. It has undergone many positive changes from its beginnings in 1957 with productions at Waukesha High School. In 1999, WCT moved from a former church to a beautiful new facility in the heart of historic downtown Waukesha. The building, a former historic PIX movie house, was donated to WCT by Bryce Styza, a prominent local developer who saw the power that the theatre could exert in revitalizing downtown. Since the theatre opened in 1957 to the start of its 51st season in September of 2007, over 10,000 people have volunteered and 200,000 audience members have been entertained.
'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical' at First Stage Really is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
By Mary Boyle
If you've never read the 1971 early reader book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, I'm here to tell you that you're missing out. This is the perfect story for your elementary school-aged child, when they're wanting a bit more than Dr. Suess, but they're still too young for Charles Dickens. This holiday season, though, Milwaukee area audiences are in for a great treat, because First Stage has an incredible new way to experience this holiday classic with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical at Todd Wehr Theater though December 26th.
What's so wonderful about this story is it relates to just about any small community. The Herdman kids — Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys — are the kids that nobody likes: unruly, rude bullies who destroy everything they come near. Luckily, the kids in the community have one safe haven: their church. Well...they did, until one day at school when the Herdmans were stealing everyone's lunches, as usual, and Charlie Bradley snapped; trying to get the upper hand, he tells the Herdmans to go ahead and take his lunch, because he has something better: Sunday School, where there are all the snacks that you can ask for. Unfortunately, Charlie's plan backfires horribly. It's bad enough that his mother, Grace, was dragged into directing the annual Sunday School Christmas Pageant when Mrs. Armstrong ended up in the hospital, but now the Herdmans insist on being a part of it, and they took all the leading parts! The whole community is certain that it will be the worst Christmas Pageant in history — especially those snooty, gossipy church ladies!
Directed by Molly Rhode, whose career started with First Stage and who played Mindy the narrator in the 1990 version, the new Pageant features an adult cast full of Milwaukee favorites, such as Jonathan Gillard Daly, seen recently in The Eagle in Me: An Evening of Carl Sandburg at In Tandem, as Reverend Hopkins, and Laura Gordon, who has graced just about every stage in Milwaukee but makes her First Stage debut as Luanne. Karen Estrada, a frequent First Stage collaborator who actually got her start in acting with First Stage in the 1992 production of Pageant as Imogene, is perfectly cast as Grace Bradley. Lachrisa Grandberry as Helen Armstrong and Bree Below as Betty are both regulars at First Stage, and Cynthia Cobb as Connie was seen last season as Glinda in The Wiz.
The young performers are double cast. The Holly Cast includes: Liam Jeninga as Ralph Herdman; Isabella Hansen as Imogene Herdman; Iker Velasco as Leroy Herdman; Benjamin Nowacek as Claude Herdman; John Daniels IV as Ollie Herdman; Lina Singh as Gladys Herdman; Ryann Schulz as Beth; Miranda Cecsarini as Alice; Sanaa Harper as Ivy; Abram Nelson as Charlie; Zachary Nowacek as Elmer; Edward Owczarski as Teddy; and, Adelaide Schaetzke, Ailie Synder, Amalia Cecsarini, Sydney McElroy, Shawn Parish, Layton Lal, Zoah Hirano, Marguerite Van Slyke, Sophia Ruddock, and Maryanna Esten as ensemble. The Jolly Cast includes: Derrick Sanders as Ralph Herdman; Lily Miller as Imogene Herdman; Arlo Sturrock as Leroy Herdman; Deyki Miller as Claude Herdman; Brayden Schroeder as Ollie Herdman; Olivia Vitrano as Gladys Herdman; Harper Navin as Beth; Eloise Field as Alice; Nala Patel as Ivy; Thatcher Jacobs as Charlie; Henry Dizard as Elmer; Augie Poppert as Teddy; and, Abby Szolyga, Magdalyn Rowley-Lange, Zaria Johnson, Stella Metcalfe, Oliver Kelley, Reece Davis, Silvia Stoeger, Maura Kuhnen-Grooms, Pietja Dusek, and Quinn Sison as Ensemble.
Although the play has been done a number of times over the years at First Stage, the musical is a first, and I think audiences will appreciate the change. The music, directed by Jeff Schaeztke, is very well-written and fits perfectly with the story, expressing big emotions in the way that only music can. I particularly loved the hysterical "Die, Herod, Die!," but "On A Night Like This" was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. Director Molly Rhode has been involved, in various ways, in several versions of the play at First Stage, but she is really excited to be a part of this one.
“I’m excited to work on a new adaptation of this story that I love so much! I’m very impressed with this new version and am eager to share the show’s message with a new generation of young actors and audiences. I’ve always found this story compelling because of its message of compassion, empathy, inclusion and the power of community. These are critical life skills; and we all need to be reminded of their value. It’s a joy and an honor to work on this material with this group of young people.”
This is a holiday theatre opportunity that is truly for the whole family; full of laughs and fun for everyone, but also just the right dose of the real meaning of Christmas: remembering those less fortunate, and the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, long, long ago.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL runs November 23 – December 26, 2018 at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 N. Water Street, by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online at www.firststage.org.
Special events for THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL
Pay What You Choose Performance: Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
Pay What You Choose tickets are available on a first come, first served basis with a minimum suggested donation of $5 per person. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. on the day of the performance. Patrons are encouraged to arrive early.
Grandparent Holiday Brunch: Sunday, December 16, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Gather the grandparents, parents and children to enjoy a festive holiday brunch at the Bradley Pavilion at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, followed by a performance of THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER: THE MUSICAL at 1 p.m., just steps away from the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater. Along with a delicious brunch, families will enjoy a special visit from some of the cast, fun activities for the kids and more! To make your reservations and for more information, please visit: www.firststage.org/brunch
Tech Talks: Sunday, December 16 and December 23 following the 3:30 p.m. performance
Following select performances, learn more about the behind-the-scenes magic at the Tech Talks, a 20-minute extended talkback with the First Stage creative team.
ASL Interpreted Performance: Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 3:30 p.m.
This performance will be sign language interpreted for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Assistive listening devices are also available at the Todd Wehr Theater.
About First Stage
First Stage is one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten and entertain. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education and the arts for its Next Steps program for students on the autism spectrum (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Milwaukee Arts Partners and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).
By Mary Boyle
The Tony-Award winning Broadway Musical, Hairspray, is part of the film to stage club (musicals that are based on films) and, in the case of Hairspray, it was far more successful on the stage than it was on the screen. The 1988 film of the same name directed by John Waters and starring Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono, and Jerry Stiller, was only moderately successful, but the musical won 8 Tony Awards in 2003, including one for Best Musical. It did so well, in fact, that it caused a film remake in 2007, starring John Travolta, Queen Latifah, and Zac Effron, among others. The second film did far better than the first, but it is truly on the stage that Hairspray shines, and Skylight Music Theatre brings out the best of it at the beautiful and intimate Cabot Theatre in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward this holiday season.
With music by Marc Shaiman, book by Mark O'Donnel and Thomas Meehan, and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, Hairspray is set in Baltimore in 1962 and tells the story of Tracy Turnblad (Maisie Rose), an overweight teen who dreams of being on the Corny Collins Show (think Dick Clark's American Bandstand with teenagers). When she learns the show has an opening, Tracy and her best friend, Penny Pingleton (Ann Delaney) head to the studio to audition. The show's producer, Velma Von Tussle (Samantha Sostarich), her snooty daughter, Amber (Amber Smith), and most of the cast makes fun of Tracy's weight, but the show's male star and Amber's boyfriend, Link Larkin (Colin Schreier) captures Tracy's heart, and Corny Collins (Doug Clemons), himself, accepts Tracy for the role. Tracy returns home triumphant, and her parents, Edna (Tommy Novak) and Wilbur (David Flores), share in her new celebrity status. Unfortunately, Tracy still has an uphill fight to get others to accept her, and an even bigger battle to get her friend, Seaweed (Gilbert Domally), his mother, Motormouth Maybelle (Bethany Thomas), and Seaweed's little sister, Inez (Terynn Erby-Walker), along with the whole of the black community in Baltimore, to be accepted on the Corny Collins show, too.
Directed by Lili-Anne Brown, with music direction by Cindy Blanc, Hairspray is as fun and campy as it's meant to be, but also incredibly powerful and uplifting. Maisie Rose, Ann Delaney, and Colin Schreier all nail their Skylight debuts as Tracy, Penny, and Link, respectively, while Tommy Novak returns to Skylight to create a memorable reprise of his role as Edna Turnblad. Skylight favorites, Rick Pendzich and Rhonda Rae Busch, are absolute scene-stealers in their various "Male and Female Authority Figure" roles. Samantha Sostarich and Amber Smith are no strangers to the Skylight stage, and are brilliant as Velma and Amber Von Tussle, along with a talented, locally based youth ensemble; however, it is the talented Bethany Thomas as Motormouth Maybelle who brings the audience to their knees. During the song, "I Know Where I've Been," Thomas sings, "There's a struggle that we have yet to win," and though the song is referring to segregation that was still common in the 1960's, the truth is that we are still struggling for equality. While audiences will laugh and clap their way through this production, the message of acceptance is loud and clear, and perfectly timed.
Hairspray, The Broadway Musical, runs through December 30th at the Cabot Theatre, located within the Broadway Theatre Center at 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Broadway Theatre Center BoxOffice, 158 N. Broadway, by calling (414) 291-7800, or visiting www.skylightmusictheatre.org
About Skylight Music Theatre
Skylight Music Theatre's 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 presents productions "Skylight Style" – bringing fresh approaches or interesting twists to music theatre works, creating meaningful connections, not only between the characters on stage, but with the audience, as well.