"Marley was dead."
If that isn't the best beginning to a Christmas story, I really don't know what is; you simply can't have Christmas without Charles Dickens' timeless tale. Then again, if you've never made The Rep's annual production of A Christmas Carol a holiday tradition, this is perhaps the best year to start, as The Rep begins its tradition anew, with a World Premier adaptation by Rep Artistic Director, Mark Clements, and a complete re-imagining, of this well-loved tale.
The most stunning difference from past productions is the set design, by Todd Edwards Ivins, which is simply amazing. The streets of Victorian London swirl around the stage, merging seamlessly between the cold home of old Ebeneezer Scrooge to the warm and lively home of Bob Cratchit, giving a nice flow to Scrooge's journeys with the Spirits. Also different is the approach of the play, which now requires a bit of audience participation. This change is quite a departure from the past productions, but may prove more appealing to young children in the audience.
Those familiar with past productions may recognize some familiar names in the cast, though not attached to familiar characters. Milwaukee favorite, Jonathan Smoots (who started out playing Young Scrooge back in 1981) returns to the production, but gives up his role as Scrooge to take a turn as a far more terrifying Marley, while Jonathan Wainwright gives up his role as Bob Cratchit to take a stab at Scrooge. Meanwhile, Chike Johnston, who played Marley last season, brings an entirely new twist to the Ghost of Christmas Present in this production. Michael Doherty, who played a brilliant Mr. Topper last season, makes a perfectly pleasant Fred this season; and, another Milwaukee favorite, Deborah Staples, keeps her role as Christmas Past from last season, but with a very updated costume.
New this year, but hardly new to The Rep and Milwaukee, are Jonathan Gillard Daly (who has appeared in sixty-one productions of A Christmas Carol since 1998) as Mr. Fezziwig, and Angela Iannone, as Mrs. Fezziwig, and more. Reese Madigan, a relative newbie who has appeared in 15 plays at The Rep, is a convincing Bob Cratchit, and young Milwaukee native, Edward Owczarski, plays Tiny Tim.
While the audience partipation can be slightly awkward, there is still that familiar holiday spirit that comes with the ornate Pabst Theater, falling snow, well-sung Christmas Carols, and the timely reminder that 'tis better to give than to receive. The Rep's A Christmas Carol continues to be a magical and welcome holiday tradition in Milwaukee.
A Christmas Carol runs at The Pabst Theater through December 24th. Tickets can be purchased online www.MilwaukeeRep.com, by calling The Rep’s Ticket Office at 414-224-9490, or in-person at 108 East Wells Street in downtown Milwaukee.
About The Rep
In its 63rd Season, Milwaukee Repertory Theater is dedicated to providing the highest level of professional theater to Milwaukee and Wisconsin, in addition to offering a wide range of educational and community programs. Under the leadership of Artistic Director, Mark Clements, and Managing 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.