For the week of December 5-11…
This week I’m looking at the shows lighting up Milwaukee’s theater scene this holiday season!
The Secret Mask, now-December 10, Next Act Theater, 255 S Water St (nextact.org)
It’s a well-known fact among Milwaukee theatergoers that Jim Pickering is a true cultural treasure, and he proves it again in this US premiere now playing at Next Act. Pickering plays Ernie Ryan, a recovering stroke victim who’s visited by his estranged son George (Drew Parker) who has plenty of issues with his own family. Parker and Pickering’s wife Tami Workentin are great in their supporting roles, but it’s Pickering whose performance must be numbered among his very best, and that’s saying a lot. He truly engages the audience as Ernie struggles to regain his speech and thought processes. This is a real highlight of Milwaukee theater in 2017.
Miracle on South Division Street, now-December 17, Studio Theater, 158 N Broadway (milwaukeechambertheatre.com)
Another family-themed play is the Chamber Theater’s holiday offering. Although this story is set in Buffalo, NY, this heartwarming tale of a devout Catholic patriarch and her three adult children could just as easily take place right here in Milwaukee. Raeleen McMillion is delightful as the mom who at times comes off as a female Archie Bunker. Josh Krause, Kat Wodtke and Greta Wohlrabe offer solid support as the kids who have plenty of ideas of their own. It’s a fun, thought-provoking show perfect for the holiday season.
Holmes & Watson, now-December 17, Quadaracci Powerhouse Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)
The Rep’s holiday production is a murder-mystery that does justice to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters of super sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his faithful sidekick Dr Watson (Milwaukee favorite Norman Moses). After Holmes vanishes, Watson is summoned to a Scottish sanitarium to help determine which of three pretender/patients might be the real Sherlock. In the best whodunit tradition, this show challenges the audience to match wits with Watson to solve the mystery, but careful…Things aren’t always what they seem!
A Charlie Brown Christmas, now-December 31, Marcus Center, 929 N Water St (firststage.org)
After its smash debut in 2015, First Stage’s stage adaptation of the beloved holiday TV classic returns for another go-around. And the great news is Matt Daniels (Snoopy) and Music Director Jack Forbes Wilson both return along with a new crew of delightful young performers. In addition to presenting the entire story from the TV show, other classic moments from other “Peanuts” specials are worked into the plot. Wilson obviously relishes performing the iconic Vince Guaraldi musical themes, and his kazoo duet with a ukelele-playing Snoopy alone is worth the price of admission! Fortunately, First Stage’s ticket prices are most reasonable!
A Christmas Carol, now-December 24, Pabst Theater, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)
For the 42nd consecutive year, the Milwaukee Rep presents one of Milwaukee’s true holiday treasures. After its smash debut last year, Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements’ new adaptation of Dickens’ classic Christmas tale is back (with Jonathan Wainwright as Scrooge along with many of the cast members from the 2016 production). And the good news is it’s even better this year! The fabulous sets, costumes, special effects and music are all there, and subtle tweaks to Clements’ script have helped to make the story more cohesive. For a massive dose of Christmas spirit (times 3!), you can’t do better than the Rep’s Christmas Carol!
Scrooge in Rouge, now-January 7, 10th Street Theater, 628 N 10th St (intandemtheatre.org)
And for something completely different, this hilarious spoof of Christmas Carol returns to the In Tandem stage after an absence of several years. Food poisoning strikes an English music hall troupe at a cast party on the eve of the premiere of their musical version of the story, rendering all but three of the cast members unable to take the stage. But the show must go on, so all the roles are played by Elyse Edelman (as male impersonator Vesta), Nathan Marinan (female impersonator Lottie), and In Tandem co-founder Chris Pflieller (all the remaining parts), ably accompanied by Josh Robinson (as Alfred the pianist). Plenty of belly laughs and not a few groans are on tap in this rollicking romp, and beware: You may be recruited to play Tiny Tim for a crucial scene in the show!
Annie, now-December 27, Cabot Theater, 158 N Broadway (skylightmusictheatre.org)
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of this Broadway landmark about the red-headed orphan and her Daddy Warbucks, Skylight Music Theater offers this sparkling production for the holidays. Veteran Director Molly Rhode leads a talented cast featuring Milwaukee favorites Andrew Varela, Carrie Hitchcock, Diane Lane, Samantha Sostarich, Doug Clemons and Kelly Doherty as well as many delightful kids and dogs! Add on an irresistible story and score with a set and costumes to match, and you have the perfect mix for a show that will enchant kids of ALL ages! But hurry…extra performances have been added, and tickets are going FAST!
Murder for Two, now-January 14, Stackner Cabaret, 108 E Wells St (milwaukeerep.com)
If you haven’t gotten your fill of mystery with Holmes and Watson, the Rep has more for you with this hilarious murder musical that has been delighting audiences since mid-November! Co-written by Milwaukee School of Arts grad Joe Kinosian, it’s a nonstop 90 minute rollercoaster ride that pays homage to both Agatha Christie and the Marx Brothers! Marcus Edmonds plays the would-be flatfoot attempting to solve the murder, while Kinosian himself plays the suspects…all of them. And we’re talking nearly two dozen characters here! So whodunit? Are you kidding? You need to see this and find out for yourself! The breakneck pace and amazing energy of the actors make this production a stage version of a Ramones concert! Gabba Gabba Hey!!
More holiday offerings coming up next week…Stay tuned!