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.