By Mary Boyle
When thinking of Shakespeare's commonly produced plays, The Winter's Tale is not among them—not because it isn't good, mind you, but because it is very difficult to get right. Considered one of the "problem plays," this story is not quite a drama, romance, or comedy, but all three. Fortunately, Milwaukee's First Stage Young Company, a group of high school-aged students who receive college-level training and produce two plays each season at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, was up to the task.
Directed by Milwaukee's own Marcella Kearns, The Winter's Tale is the story of two kings, Leontes (Mathilde Prosen-Oldani), King of Sicily, and Polixenes (Kathleen Lepianka), King of Bohemia, who have been friends since infancy. After Leontes' queen, Hermione (Morgan McKinnis), is able to convince Polixenes to extend his visit to their kingdom, Leontes is suddenly certain that his wife is not only having an affair with Polixenes, but that the child she is carrying belongs to Polixenes, as well. Leontes orders his cup bearer, Camillo (Kyra Mathias), to poison his friend, but Camillo warns Polixenes, instead, and they flee together. Assured that his queen, best friend, and most trusted servant were all in league against him to take his crown, Leontes publicly accuses Hermione of adultery and banishes her to prison, barring her from seeing their young son, Prince Mamillius (Emily Harris), who promptly falls ill. To convince his servants, who refuse to believe that Hermione is guilty, Leontes sends two of his lords to the Oracle at Delphos to assure all that even the god Apollo is on his side.
The shock of her betrayal causes Hermione to give birth early to a daughter. Paulina (Molly Boyle), a respected servant and physician in the court, confronts Leontes, begging him to look at his newborn daughter and see that she is, indeed, his, but Leontes orders the baby to be burned. Lord Antigonus (Selma Rivera), Paulina's husband, intervenes and Leontes relents, but instead orders Antigonus to take the baby outside of their kingdom and leave it in the wild to fate. While Antigonus and the baby sail away on a ship, Hermione is forced to stand trial, where she learns the fate of her newborn. Proclaiming her innocence, Hermione leaves her fate to Apollo. The proclamation from the Oracle is read, pronouncing Hermoine, Polixenes, and Camillo innocent, the baby legitimate, and Leontes a jealous tyrant. Moreover, the Oracle predicts that the kingdom will remain heir-less until the lost child is found. Refusing to believe he was wrong, Leontes tears up the proclamation; immediately, a servant runs in to announce that Mamillius is dead, causing the queen to faint. Leontes realizes, too late, that he was wrong and begs Apollo for forgiveness, only to suffer the fury of Paulina, who informs him that his beloved and innocent queen is dead. Meanwhile, Antigonus and the baby arrive on the banks of Bohemia in a storm, where Antigonus is attacked by a bear while the ship goes down in the sea. The baby, however, is discovered by an old shepherd (Gabriela Bastardo) and his son (Molly McVey), who take her up and raise her as their own.
Fast-forward sixteen years later: Leontes continues to weep daily on the grave of his queen and son and Camillo remains in Bohemia in service to Polixenes. The baby, who was named Perdita (Kate Ketelhohn), has grown into a rare beauty who attracts the attention of Polixenes' son, Prince Florizel (Costello Mylott), but the King refuses to allow his son to wed a mere shepherdess, no matter how beautiful she is or how in love they are, and threatens Perdita with death should she come near the Prince. Willing to renounce his inheritance for love, Florizel plans to flee the country with Perdita, but Camillo sees his chance to help the young prince, reunite the two kings, and return to his homeland with one brilliant plan. Fearing the wrath of King Polixenes, the shepherd and his son, with the help of a "courtier" named Autolycus (Emily Harris), decide to go to the King and tell him the secrets of Perdita's origin to avoid sharing her fate. Does Florizel get the girl? Will the Kingdom of Sicily be restored? I'm afraid you'll have to watch and see.
Several of the actors hail from Ozaukee, including Morgan McKinnis and Kathleen Lepianka from Grafton, Kate Ketelhohn from Cedarburg, and Molly Boyle from Port Washington. Boyle, Ketelhohn, and Lepianka were cast together two seasons ago in the YC performance of Henry V; last season, Boyle and Lepianka performed in the World Premiere of Girls in the Boat, also directed by Kearns, and McKinnis, Boyle, and Ketelhohn were cast together in another of Shakespeare's works, As You Like It. Ketelhohn, Boyle, and McKinnis also had the honor of competing with Young Company's Team Yorick at the Utah Shakespeare Festival this past October, where the team brought home second place in Duo/Trio scenes, third place in Monologues, first place in Ensemble Scene, and first place overall in their division.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Young Company is one of the best-kept theatre secrets in Milwaukee. I have yet to see a YC show where these young performers don't blow me away; the acting is professional-quality for an incredibly reasonable price, at just $14 per ticket. With a sparse set, simple white costumes and hardly any props, this group of 14 high school students (including Trevor Schmitt-Ernst and Gwynyth Martin) bring this complex tale—first an intense emotional drama that becomes, unbelievably, a comedy—to life on the stage. With each year in the Company, the actors show marked improvement; Mathilde Prosen-Oldani and Emily Harris, who are Seniors, deliver masterful performances. Best for audiences ages 13 and up, there are limited chances to see this rare production; don't miss yours.
THE WINTER'S TALE runs through Sunday, December 15th at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut St. in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets are $14 and available online at www.firststage.org, through the First Stage Box Office at (414) 267-2961, or at the door prior to the performance. Performance run-time is approximately two hours and fifteen minutes, including intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 13+.
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 nearly 2,000 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). www.firststage.org.
By Mary Boyle
Fans of Will Ferrell and Christmas movies likely recall the 2003 film Elf, starring Ferrell as Buddy the Elf, who lives in Christmas Town at the North Pole. Much like Herbie in the animated television classic, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Buddy has never felt that he quite fit in: he can't make toys as well as the other elves, and he is so much bigger than any of them. Finally, Santa tells Buddy the truth: he is not an elf, but a human, who crawled into Santa's sack one Christmas Eve at an orphanage. Buddy's mother had passed away not long after he was born and, though the elves had raised him, he actually had a father who lived in New York City, who never knew he had a son, and it was time for Buddy to meet him. While the premise sounds corny and, let's face it, it is, the film was not only funny, it was absolutely heartwarming, and became an instant holiday classic. Trust me, if you love the movie, you'll love ELF, THE MUSICAL, which makes it's way, courtesy of First Stage, to the Todd Wehr Theater in Milwaukee this holiday season.
Directed by Jeff Schaetzke, Elf, The Musical really is essentially just like the film, just with parts converted to song instead of dialogue. Adam LaSalle makes a fabulous First Stage debut as Buddy the Elf, as well as Alan Ball, who plays Walter, Buddy's father. Rachel Whyte makes an impressive debut as Jovie, Buddy's girlfriend. Natalie Ford, as Walter's wife, Emily, also makes her First Stage debut, though you may have seen her at Skylight, Milwaukee Opera Theatre or In Tandem in Milwaukee in recent years, and Steve Watts as Santa Claus makes his First Stage debut, though he's been a regular at Fireside Theatre and has been in two productions at The Rep. The wonderful Kelly Doherty, who we saw as the Truchbull in last season's Matilda, The Musical at First Stage, returns as Deb, secretary to Walter, and Mrs. Claus. Marques Causey, who was fabulous in last season's Ben Butler with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, makes his return to First Stage as the Macy's Manager and Mr. Greenway. This production also has two large casts of young performers; I saw the SparkleJolly cast, and I have to note that Alex Radtke was brilliant as Michael, Walter and Emily's son.
Elf, The Musical truly is a wonderful holiday production for the entire family because it has laughs for all ages, but just enough magic and sentimentality to give it the proper tone for Christmas. I cried at the same part in the musical as I did in the movie; vocally, it was very strong. The production has already become the highest grossing in First Stage history, causing the run to be extended an additional week. This is the second full-length musical for First Stage, following last season's Matilda, The Musical, and although the lack of live music in both productions left them just short of spectacular, the quality of the productions and talent of the casts has brought First Stage to a whole new level of theatre entertainment for families. I'm looking forward to seeing more of these types of productions from First Stage in the future, and I hope that Elf, The Musical gets put into the rotation of holiday shows, henceforth.
ELF, THE MUSICAL runs through January 5th 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.
Annual Grandparent Holiday Brunch
Sunday, December 15 at 11AM
Gather the grandparents, parents and children to enjoy a festive holiday brunch at the Bradley Pavilion at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, followed by a performance of Elf - The Musical at 1PM. Along with a delicious brunch, your family will enjoy a special visit from some of our cast, fun activities for the kids and more!
Space is limited! Reserve yours.
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 nearly 2,000 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). www.firststage.org
By Mary Boyle
Now in its 44th year, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater's production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is the second-longest, continuous running professional production of Charles Dickens' iconic novella in the country. The show is a part of the holiday traditions of dozens of area families, but has also become a tradition for several of Milwaukee's finest actors, who continue to return to the production, year after year. For those who have yet to experience it, perhaps this is the year to go and see why this particular story—a Christmas ghost story published in 1843—continues to enchant audience and actors, alike.
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.
Mark Clements, the Rep's Artistic Director, unveiled his version of this classic four years ago, featuring an astounding rotating set design by Todd Edward Ivins, all new costumes by Alexander B. Tecoma, and a new audience participation aspect, which they've dialed back a bit in the following seasons so that is is less obnoxious. Clements' version highlights the ghost story aspect of the tale that may be too loud and scary for young audiences. There are several parts of the play that have a horror-movie quality to them, such as when the ghost of Marley makes his entrance and just about everything involving the Ghost of Christmas Future. In my humble opinion, it is overly scary for a family holiday production; if your children are overly sensitive to brightness and noise, you may want to wait before taking them on the journey with Scrooge and stick to The Muppet Christmas Carol, instead.
Still, Jonathan Wainwright is excellent as Dickens and Scrooge and I absolutely adore Angela Iannone in all of her roles (Mrs. Fezziwig, Assistant to Dickens, Charitable Worker and Mrs. Dilber); she is simply a delight to watch. 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. The biggest change this year is Tami Workentin in the role of Ghost of Christmas Past, which was quite different from Deborah Staples, who has played the role for the ps. All in all, a delightful cast and still a magical performance that can't help but put one in a Christmas mood, between the red and gold beauty of the historic Pabst Theater and the beautifully sung Christmas Carols. If you have yet to make this production a part of your Christmas tradition, give it a try.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs through December 24th at the historic Pabst Theater, located at 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.
Small Business Saturday has been giving Black Friday a greater run for its money each year since 2010, when it was conceived by American Express. Supporting local businesses helps to keep main street communities, like those Ozaukee is made of, vibrant and unique. We are so lucky to have so many independent businesses to choose from when it comes to holiday shopping in Oz, and we'd like to highlight some of our favorites!
What would the holidays be without toys? In our humble opinion, Cedarburg Toy Co. is the very best place to get toys for all ages (and we mean all ages!). Owners, Zachary and Natasha Loos, are dedicated to the importance of play – not only will they help you select the perfect toy, they will gift-wrap it for you, as well! Located in the heart of downtown Cedarburg and open late on Festive Fridays, you simply must make a visit to this magical little store a part of your holiday tradition. Hot tip: The elves at the Toy Co. are brilliant at stealth shopping and wrapping. Give them a wink and a nod and they'll wrap and bag a gift behind the counter while the recipient is busy playing in the store, if you know what I mean.
Sister stores, Weeds and Lillies, in downtown Cedarburg specialize in fair trade and locally-made items. Weeds is more home and garden, with everything from tea and soaps to yard art and plants, while Lillies is more focused on clothing, jewelry and accessories. Lilies also has a greatly expanded baby and children's area, filled with beautiful toys, clothing, and more. Also open late on Festive Fridays, a trip to Cedarburg is not complete without a visit to these stores!
Do you have a musician in your life? What about young children? Either way, Lakeside Music & Naturals has you covered! Owners, Kat Chronis and Aaron Rossmiller, along with their two young children, share their combined passions in one location, so you can purchase a guitar, drums, and new strings, or you can also purchase natural body care products and cloth diapers! This truly family business also offers Music Together classes for young children, and plenty of events for local moms, as well. Give them a visit in downtown Port Washington!
The best kind of buying local is buying things that are actually made locally; luckily, Grafton's Arts Mill boutique has a whole second floor full of artist studios to browse through with all kinds of hand-made items! Located right on the river in downtown Grafton, there is a delightful coffee shop, AM Coffee, and the Grafton Yarn Store located on the first floor to enjoy, as well!
Although it's better known for nature trails and outdoor events, Riveredge Nature Center also has an incredible gift shop filled with locally-made goodies, including bottles of Riveredge's own maple syrup! Find the perfect gift for outdoor or birding enthusiasts, or simply give the gift of a Riveredge membership, for a whole year of outdoor fun!
Ever wanted to make your own gifts? Glaze in Thiensville is a kid-friendly art studio that can help you with that! Pottery, glass fusing, raw clay, wine glass painting, silver clay & acrylic painting are among the classes they offer, but walk-ins for pottery painting and glass fusing are welcome!
By Mary Boyle
There are only 4 Broadway musicals that have won the unofficial "Big Six" – Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical. The first was South Pacific in 1950, the second was Sweeney Todd in 1979, the third was Hairspray in 2003, and the fourth happened just recently in 2018. Already on a National Tour, the musical has quickly made its way to Milwaukee for this season's Broadway at the Marcus series; a very unique production called THE BAND'S VISIT.
Based on the 2007 film of the same name, written and directed by Eran Kolirin, The Band's Visit was a collaboration between Israel, France and the United States. The story is deceptively simple: the eight members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrive in Israel from Egypt to play a special concert in the cultural center of Petah Tikvah. Unfortunately, the name is very close to a tiny town in the middle of the desert called Bet Hatikva, which is where the band ends up. With no other buses coming through for the day, and not even a hotel to stay the night in, Dina (Chilina Kennedy), the owner of the local cafe, takes pity on the men and, after feeding them, invites them to spend the night in her own home and those of her friends. While their rough English helps them overcome basic communication barriers, it's music that truly connects the band with their various hosts, changing all of their lives in little, but important, ways.
With music and lyrics by David Yazbek (The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Tootsie) and book by Itamar Moses, the story of The Band's Visit is, in and of itself, unremarkable. In fact, while the traditional Arabic music is truly primal, intoxicating and beautiful, and there are delightfully funny bits throughout the production, and Chilina Kennedy has an incredibly beautiful and powerful voice, being so removed from the troubles in the Middle East and not being Middle Eastern, I couldn't quite comprehend what made this musical win so many awards. The real power of this seemingly ordinary story, of course, is that it is Arabs and Jews – two cultures who don't often mix well – demonstrating not only that they have a lot in common, but that the life of people in the Middle East is not very different from anywhere else.
After winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, Ari'el Stachel, who played Haled, a band member, in the original Broadway cast, said, “For so many years of my life I pretended I was not a Middle Eastern person. […] I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they'd be able to portray their own races and we are doing that. And not only that but we're getting messages from kids all over the Middle East thanking us and telling us how transformative our representation is for them. […] I want any kid that's watching to know that your biggest obstacle may turn into your purpose."
Theatre has an amazing ability to create empathy, even for large-scale world problems such as the way Middle Eastern people have been viewed and portrayed, particularly since 9/11, in our country, or conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. That is why this musical is so very important, in all its ordinariness. That is why it won so many awards. That is why it is touring across the Country so quickly after winning all of those awards, to spread the message to everyone who needs to understand that we are more alike than different; that there are universal languages that we share, and music is perhaps the greatest one.
THE BAND'S VISIT runs through December 1st at Uihlein Hall, located within the Marcus Performing Arts Center at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased by calling (414) 273-7206, in person at the Marcus Center Box Office, or online at https://www.marcuscenter.org/show/bands-visit .
Learn more about the Broadway at the Marcus Center 2019-2020 Season at:
By Mary Boyle
Long before Saturday Night Live, in the early days of television, there was a program called Your Show of Shows. Ninety minutes of live comedy sketches, starring the great Sid Caesar, that kept America laughing during the Cold War 1950's. While the show, itself, was smart and funny, the real work all happened in the writer's room on the 23rd floor of NBC's studios in New York, where a group of writers came together and pioneered television comedy, and more, for generations to come. This is the story behind LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR.
Written by Neil Simon, who happened to be one of the writers on the 23rd floor and who went on to write The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park, among others, Laughter is fictional, but barely; basically, the names are changed. Sid Caesar is Max Prince (David Cecsarini) and Neil Simon is Lucas Brickman (Zach Thomas Woods), a newly-hired writer who is hoping to make his mark with the best writers on television. He joins established writers, Milt (Rick Pendzich), based on Sheldon Keller, who went on to write episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show and M*A*S*H; Val (Mohammad N. ElBsat), based on Mel Tolkin, who was the award-winning head writer for Your Show of Shows; Brian (Dylan Bolin), based on Tony Webster, who went on to write for The Love Boat; Kenny (Seth K. Hale), based on Larry Gelbart, who created and produced M*A*S*H, and Carl Reiner, who was the creator, producer, writer, and an actor on The Dick Van Dyke Show, as well as being the father of Rob Reiner; Ira (Adam Qutaishat), based on Mel Brooks, who is best known for directing Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, The Producers, Spaceballs, and more; and Carol (Karen Estrada), based on Lucille Kallen, who was the only woman in the writer's room for Your Show of Shows, and Selma Diamond, who joined the writer's room when the show became Caesar's Hour.
Directed by Edward Morgan, this is the second time Laughter on the 23rd Floor is being produced at Next Act, the first time being 20 years ago. Interestingly, Dylan Bolin, who plays Brian/Tony Webster, was in that production 20 years ago, also as Brian. Next Act's Producing Artistic Director, David Cecsarini, delivers a truly impressive performance as Max Prince/Sid Caesar. Rick Pendzich, seen earlier this season as the hysterical Highland Hitman in MCT's Unnecessary Farce, is always so good at being funny, but it was fascinating to see Karen Estrada, who is often cast as a motherly type, swearing up a storm on the stage (this is one for mature audiences, by the way). Zach Thomas Woods is rapidly becoming a local performer to watch, and makes a great Next Act debut as Lucas/Neil Simon.
This production, of course, is funny, yet it's not quite a full-fledged comedy because of its documentary-like, almost nostalgic quality. The play is even more compelling as a time-capsule of America's Golden Age of television and the unique political atmosphere following World War II during the Cold War, when the Red Scare was leaking its way into Hollywood. The group of writers was interesting in that there was a woman where women usually weren't allowed at that time, and Caesar and all of the writers were Jewish, except Tony Webster. Head writer, Mel Tolkin, was a Russian Jew, which made him a target for the accusations of Communism in Hollywood, but he never made the infamous Hollywood Blacklist. The writer's room was the incubator of so many television programs, films, and plays that shaped our country, and their influence still continues today. In fact, I would say it is safe to say that this play is almost an origin story for pop culture: important to see in terms of a good cultural education, but also highly relevant and applicable to things happening around us now. In a nutshell, a smart play by a smart writer for smart audiences.
LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR runs through December 15th at Next Act Theatre, located at 255 S. Water St. in the Walker's Point neighborhood of Milwaukee. Tickets may be purchased by calling (414) 278-0765 or online at www.NextAct.org.
About Next Act Theatre
Next Act Theatre engages the hearts and minds of audiences with intimate, compelling productions intended to stimulate thought, foster the exchange of ideas, and promote the development of new perspectives and understanding. Led by Producing Artistic Director, David Cecsarini, Next Act continues its tradition of creating high-quality, professional theatre in Milwaukee. The past 28 seasons have earned the company its strong reputation for producing engaging work that feels intimate, powerful and personal. The plays presented are passionate, often bold, sometimes humorous, and always up-close-and-personal presentations of life. A strong, vibrant and financially stable company, Next Act produces a four-show season of contemporary drama. The company is particularly noted for its acting excellence, accessible performance style, and for a varied and consistently interesting selection of plays, chosen from the best new works and off-Broadway hits. Next Act has mounted more than 100 main stage productions, including over 100 area premieres and six original scripts.
By Mary Boyle
What does the name "Jeeves" make you think of? For many, the name may conjure the image of a stuffy English butler, though they may not know why. The origin of the image actually comes from a beloved character in a series of short stories and novels by the English writer P. G. Wodehouse written between 1915 and 1975. In the stories, Jeeves is the unflappable, intelligent and highly capable valet to a wealthy and rather aimless young English gentleman, Bertie Wooster. Like a funnier Sherlock and Holmes, Bertie manages to get himself into a string of scrapes and mishaps, but his trustworthy and brilliant companion, Jeeves, always manages to save the day.
Playwright Margaret Raether discovered and fell in love with the Jeeves stories in college and went on to create a trilogy of plays based on Wodehouse's famous character: Jeeves Intervenes, Jeeves In Bloom, and Jeeves Takes A Bow. Between 2010 and 2015, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre produced each play with Milwaukee's own Matt Daniels playing the role of Jeeves. Fortunately, Raether decided to write another play about Jeeves, MCT decided to produce it, and Daniels decided to return to the stage as the quintessential valet in JEEVES AT SEA.
In this edition, the year is 1929 and we find Bertie Wooster (Chris Klopatek) and Jeeves (Matt Daniels) aboard the yacht of the lovely Lady Stella Vanderley (Kathryn Hausman), who is accompanied by her chaperone, Miss Minerva Pilbeam (Diane Lane). Trouble arrives with Bertie's friend, Sir Percival Everard Crumpworth, a. k. a. "Crumpet," who returns to the ship after an evening of over-imbibing, raving that he may or may not have committed murder. Then, things go from bad to worse when the local paper's headline reads that the Prince was attacked the night before and Count Otto von Dietrichstein (Michael Stebbins), the Prince's personal guard, boards the ship insisting on speaking with Crumpet!
While Matt Daniels returns to the MCT stage to play Jeeves for the fourth time, Chris Klopatek will be alongside him as Bertie Wooster for the third time, and this isn't the only play they've worked as a duo: just last season, the two were cast as the King and the Duke in the First Stage production of Big River. Absolutely in their element, it isn't difficult to see why they were asked to reprise their roles in this production, but their castmates are equally well-suited to their roles. I was particularly impressed with relative newcomer, Josh Krause, who was in nearly every production at American Players Theatre this past season and played the role of Crumpet quite convincingly.
Directed by Producing Artistic Director, C. Michael Wright, who is celebrating his final season with MCT, Jeeves At Sea is as sophisticated as a farce can get. From the brilliant art deco set by Stepen Hudson-Mairet to the masterful costumes by Kim Instenes, and an incredibly talented, well-chosen cast of local actors, this fast-paced and funny production is an absolutely delightful voyage from start to finish.
JEEVES AT SEA runs through December 22nd at the Broadway Theatre Center's Studio Theatre, located at 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward. Tickets may be purchased in person at the box office, online at www.MilwaukeeChamberTheatre.com, or by calling (414) 291-7800
In honor of the holiday season, MCT is hosting a donation drive during the run of JEEVES AT SEA to benefit Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative (MHVI). Founded and run by veterans, MHVI's mission is to help homeless and at-risk veterans reach and maintain their highest levels of independence. Since 2008, they have served more than 3,500 veterans and their families in southeastern Wisconsin. Learn more about Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative at www.wisconsinvets.org.
If you are interested in donating to MHVI, here is a list of gift cards that MHVI distributes most often:
Donations can be dropped off in the Studio Theatre lobby during any
JEEVES AT SEA performance.
About Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
Founded in 1975, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) produces intimate and accessible theatrical works that engage and challenge the audience, while employing and nurturing principally local theatre artists.
Ozaukee County is the place to be for the holidays! From Thanksgiving through the New Year, there are festive events happening everywhere you turn. Don't miss the magic of A Cedarburg Christmas, including Festive Friday Eves at the Cedar Creek Settlement and the Holiday Film Fest at the Rivoli, but there's even more happening all over Oz! Here's the complete listing:
If you don't see your event listed, let us know! Happy Holidays from Ozaukee Living Local.
By Mary Boyle
Way back in the early 80's, a guy named Dan Goggin started a series of greeting cards featuring nuns spouting clerical humor. Who could have known that their popularity would evolve into the second-longest running Off-Broadway production? Goggin's NUNSENSE, A Musical Comedy, has traveled around the world and even made it into television, but now it's made its way to The Rep's Stackner Cabaret for a hand-clapping, foot-tapping, can't-stop-laughing good time!
Malkia Stampley makes her directorial debut at The Rep, with music direction by the brilliant Dan Kazemi, Nunsense is equal parts comedy and vocal talent, and you don't need to be Catholic to get the jokes (although it doesn't hurt). The Little Sisters of Hoboken are putting on a variety show fundraiser after their cook, Sister Julia Child, manages to inadvertently poison and kill most of the convent with her latest dish. While most of the sisters were laid to rest, Mother Superior, Sister Mary Regina (Melody Betts) went out and bought a fancy TV, leaving no funds left to bury the remaining four sisters, who are being conveniently stored in the freezer. Together with Mother Superior, Sister Mary Hubert (Lachrisa Grandberry), Sister Mary Leo (Candace Thomas), Sister Robert Anne (Kelley Faulkner), and Sister Mary Amnesia (Veronica Garza) perform for the audience in the hopes of raising their needed funds.
Well cast in every way, Nunsense is a perfect production for the intimate Stackner Cabaret stage. Rep favorite, Kelley Faulkner (Guys & Dolls, Always...Patsy Cline, The All Night Strut) proves she had comedic as well as vocal talent, and is fabulous in her funny socks and Chuck Taylors. Candace Thomas, who began as an Emerging Professional Resident at The Rep several seasons ago, delivers a great performance as Sister Mary Leo, the nun who dreams of being a dancer. Both Melody Betts and Lachrisa Grandberry make their Rep debuts and offer stunning vocal power to the production, while Veronica Garza, who also makes her Rep review, is delightfully funny as Sister Mary Amnesia.
If there is a nun joke to be had, you'll probably hear it in this production but, for all that it is a comedy, there is some very pointed commentary on the Catholic church within the production that surprised me a little. In fact, the song "Growing Up Catholic," which is sung by Faulkner in the opening of the second act, isn't funny, at all, but rather a nostalgic take on "the good old days" when mass was said in Latin, finishing with lamentation about the modern changes in the church. I didn't find it alarming or offensive, but you do definitely get a sense that the playwright wants to put his two cents in while he's poking fun at his religion. Nonetheless, the talent and laughs are overflowing in this show, and you can't go wrong spending an evening with a slice of raspberry cheesecake and a cup of coffee at the Stackner.
NUNSENSE, A Musical Comedy, runs through January 12th at the Stackner Cabaret, located within the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex at 108 E. Wells St. in Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased by calling (414) 224-9490, in-person at the Box Office, or online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com.
About The Milwaukee Rep
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, Milwaukee 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. For over 65 years, Milwaukee 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
Disney’s Newsies, which began as a film in 1992 and then made its way to Broadway in 2012, has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, and it isn’t difficult to see why. For one thing, the generation that fell in love with the film now have kids of their own; for another, children standing up for their rights and changing history along the way seems to be a rather common phenomenon these days (Greta Thunberg, anyone?). Though it’s not holiday-themed, the timing couldn’t be better for Skylight Music Theatre to add this production: they’re celebrating their 60th season under new Artistic Director, Michael Unger, and this show is most certainly a celebration that the whole family can come together and enjoy.
Interestingly, this musical, which feels like Annie meets West Side Story, is inspired by a very real event in our Country’s history: The Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, when the newspaper-selling children of New York took a stand and created a union to fight for their rights. Their strike started the ball rolling for the Child Labor Laws and other worker protections to come; the same laws that keep children from being forced to leave school to take work in dangerous factories because their parents were injured in those same dangerous factories and can no longer work. In any case, audiences will get a lovely history lesson and an important reminder about why unions are needed.
The music of Newsies was written by the great Alan Menken, who is known for his scores for The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, Enchanted, The Little Shop of Horrors, Hercules, and more, so you know you're going to hear some catchy tunes. Lyrics are by Jack Feldman, who has also written for a long list of Disney productions, but also happens to be the guy who wrote the lyrics for "Copacabana," which basically made Barry Manilow, so there's that. Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the book, also wrote the book for La Cage aux Folles and Kinky Boots, which completes the musical pedigree. One of the great things about Skylight's productions is they always are accompanied by live music; Music Director Christie Chiles Twillie, along with several talented musicians, does this production justice.
Directed by Molly Rhode, Skylight's Newsies reminds me of their excellent production of Hairspray last season in that, once again, they make use of the incredible amount of youth talent Milwaukee has to offer – roughly half of the sizable cast is comprised of performers under the age of 18. Primarily, though, it brings to mind that production because this one is also just full of heart. Marco Tzunux, who makes his Skylight debut as Jack Kelly, the leader of the newsies, has so much passion and energy. Rachael Zientek, who has become a regular on Milwaukee stages for good reason (Elephant & Piggie, Unnecessary Farce) is absolutely delightful and so very funny as New York journalist Katherine Plumber. Three other notable debuts: Nicholas Parrot as Davey, a newbie to the newsies trade, is actually fresh off The Rep's West Side Story and Jordan Arrasmith as Jack Kelly's brother in the streets, Crutchie, as well as Natalie Harris, who delivers a powerful performance as Medda Larkin, a nightclub owner and performer.
Relevant and entertaining for a wide range of ages, Skylight's production of Newsies is an ideal theatre experience for a family, but equally entertaining for the Broadway Musical fan, and the beautiful and intimate Cabot Theatre is my favorite place to catch a show. In all, it's a wonderful holiday production, despite the lack of snow or Christmas carols, because of its universal appeal and all the right feels. Catch it while you can!
Disney's NEWSIES runs through December 29th 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.