VISIT Milwaukee Blog
| Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Carrie Woods
Public Relations Specialist
Holiday shopping, putting up the Christmas tree, baking cookies and singing yuletide carols are all great ways to get in to the holiday spirit. But all of these things often don’t remind you of the true spirit of the holidays – of giving and charity and spending time reflecting on blessings with loved ones.
A trip to see the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s A Christmas Carol does just that. It has done so for the past 38 years. I would wager to say that it will continue to for another 38, especially since this year, the show has a few new pleasant twists and giggles that weren’t there before.
As you settle into your red velvet seat at the grandiose Pabst Theater and hear the first few lines from the cast, you are transported to nineteenth century London. The sing-song story lines are told by small groups, scattered across the stage, keeping you on your toes to follow the narrative. The colorful costumes all include overcoats and the sound effects of wind whipping through the dark streets send shivers up your spine (quite literally, I shivered!).
Christopher Donahue reprises his role of Scrooge and nails it with his own twist on the cantankerous “bah, humbug-er” we all love. He brings several poignant comedic moments to the story, some displayed by his body language and movements alone.
Veteran Rep actor Jim Pickering has played Scrooge many times over the years and is still part of the show this year. He is part of much of the show, in fact, playing four different roles – one of which is the female role of Mrs. Fezziwig. And let me just say, he does an amazing job and the costume designers have done wonders, as I never thought it would be possible to give the legendary Pickering cleavage in some sort of a tasteful way. I stand corrected!
Other highlights of the show range from the set to actors and songs. The impressively seamless scene changes are done by the cast, transporting you from Christmas past to present to future without a curtain drawn or lights lowered. The Cratchit family is adorable as ever, and Tiny Tim’s famous line makes you want to jump out of your seat and run down to hug him. Scrooge’s nephew Fred, played by Luigi Sottile, is downright dreamy, and as he and Catherine sang a few lines of “The Holly and the Ivy,” I caught myself picturing him spinning ME around the tree after playing a few rounds of charades.
Besides the warm and fuzzy parts of the show, you’ll find yourself in moments of longing and awe as you watch Scrooge come to see the reality of his lonely life. From the emptiness of missing family and loved ones to hardening of the heart in pursuit of ideals which prove to be not so great, Scrooge shows the audience a life lived without warmth, charity or kindness. It’s a good thing that his old pal Jacob Marley sends him a message loudly and clearly (and sometimes loudly and funny or intensely spooky) to try to make him see his ways.
Without giving away any more of the show, I’ll just say that after enjoying A Christmas Carol this year, I left thinking more about what is truly important during the season. Spending time with loved ones, spreading holiday cheer to those who might need a little more this time of year and making lasting memories are now at the top of the holiday to-do list.
Happy holidays, everyone!
A Christmas Carol
Through Dec. 24
Presented by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Performed at the Pabst Theater
- Left: Renata Friedman (standing) and Christopher Donahue in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
- Middle: Craig Wallace and Christopher Donahue in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
- Right: A scene from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
- Left: A scene from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
- Middle: (L – R) Melody Betts, Jack Trettin (seated), Marti Gobel, Eliza Hake (front row), Freedom Gobel (second row), Claire Zempel, Riley Halpern and Elliott Brotherhood (back row).
- Right: The cast from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
| Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
There are an abundance of messages hurled at us in this performance-enhanced era of the Information Age. During the holidays, the tweets, updates and texts seem to quadruple to overload status. It’s the perfect time to visit the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, turn off your smart phone and be bombarded with nothing but The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
The “best” looks like the worst when mom Grace Bradley gets thrown into directing the annual Christmas pageant at her children’s school. Worst turns to nightmare when the Herdman kids – the town’s local bully family of five – decide they not only want to be in the play, they want all the main parts.
The entire town is in uproar – and not just because this First Stage Children’s Theater classic has gone 80s (“Thriller” dance number to “Walking Like An Egyptian” - hands down my favorite part of the show!). No one is feeling the spirit of the season – especially the Herdmans. But, as they learn more about the pageant’s story of how Jesus was born, the season begins to grow in them and affect all gathered at the town church to witness the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
Fun Alert: in the second half of the play, all in attendance are part of the “church” where the pageant is performed and will be forced to sing and have fun. And, having fun is what a First Stage production is all about. It’s also about a bevy of fine performances by First Stage regulars Niffer Clarke (Grace Bradley) and Todd Denning (Bob Bradley) and a host of incredible young actors (we saw the Cosby cast) who have the privilege of attending one of the finest children’s theaters in the world.
A couple times during the play, I sneaked peeks at the children attending in the audience, their mouths agape in wild wonder. No iPads. No HD TVs or angry fowl games. Just kids sharing a great story with other kids. Definitely share it with yours.
For a look back stage with students from First Stage, Milwaukee Ballet School and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, see the Dear MKE film, "HIGH ART."
| Thursday, December 05, 2013
By Margaret Casey
Public Relations Coordinator
“Shopping local” has never been more fun than at Christmas in the Ward this Friday and Saturday in the Historic Third Ward. Where else but in Milwaukee would Friday night’s official tree-lighting program on Catalano Square range from the Milwaukee Police Band, to the Trinity Irish Dancers, to fireworks over the river, up to…wait for it…the Milwaukee Ukelele Club! Mrs. Claus and her live reindeer will be on hand for the kids, and Santa himself will be welcoming all and giving out cookies at Jolly’s Outdoor Gingerbread House.
Twinkling Christmas lights, decorative shop windows and horse-drawn carriage rides will provide more holiday magic and the music of brass bands and choirs will fill the air. From hot chocolate and apple cider to cocoa cocktails, “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and festive fare in the many Third Ward restaurants, you’re sure to get in the spirit along the streets of the Ward. Check out the numerous locally-owned shops for special deals and discounts on all those unique holiday gifts from Milwaukee you’ll be proud to give.
Of course, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) is at the southern end of Catalano Square, but have you ever been there? Take the opportunity to stop by this Friday evening and Saturday afternoon for the MIAD Student/Alumni Art & Design Sale. Find out more about this nationally-renowned arts school as you browse through paintings, photography, prints and sculpture for sale, with all proceeds going to the participating artists.
So if you’re visiting our city, looking for an extended holiday happy hour after work, or looking for a fun, outdoor activity for the kids, head to Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward – where the shops and businesses will be spreading their own brand of Christmas cheer.
And your holiday season just wouldn’t be complete without sipping your hot cocoa to the strains of the Milwaukee Ukele Club’s “Jingle Bell Rock,” right?
Only in Milwaukee!
Christmas in the Ward
Friday & Saturday, Dec. 6-7
MIAD Student/Alumni Art & Design Sale
Fourth Floor Gallery
Preview Party: December 5, 6-9 p.m., $20
December 6, 5-9 p.m., Free
December 7, 12-5 p.m., Free
| Wednesday, November 27, 2013
By Kerry Burke
You know that feeling when you’ve purchased the perfect gift? Just knowing that you nailed it this year and that NO ONE is going to top your present? It’s that time of year when giving can make you feel so much better than receiving and we have plenty of ideas on where to find that unique, jaw-dropping item that they’ll remember for years to come!
For lovers of fine spirits, Great Lakes Distillery offers award-winning, locally-made products like vodka, gin, absinthe, whiskey, rum and brandy, all crafted using old-world methods for optimum flavor. Make this an easy buy during the busy season and purchase them online!
Perhaps you know a Julia Child wannabe, always cooking up amazing dishes. Help add a little spice to her stocking this year and inspire her in the kitchen with a gift from the Spice House! Gift sets come in a variety of flavors and themes including traditional Mexican, Asian and Italian seasonings and even an Ethnic Chicago Neighborhoods Spice Blends box.
For your relatives and family that are homesick for good ole Milwaukee during the holidays, ship them the “3rd Street Cheese & Sausage Gift” to brighten their mood. With not one, not two, but four different kinds of Usinger’s sausage and three cheeses from the Wisconsin Cheese Mart, give them a taste of home! Don’t worry about sending it through the mail. The Wisconsin Cheese Mart’s website automatically configures your shipping method so that it arrives before it could spoil!
George Watts & Sons with the crème-de-la-crème of home accessories and decor since 1870 makes shopping for your loved one (or inadvertently-yourself) a piece of cake. With candles, ornaments, dinnerware, jewelry and more, it’s got it all. Best of all, its super easy to pick up any of these great items online with a click of a mouse.
Share your true Milwaukee pride with the grand-daddy of collector items, Milwaukee Downtown’s annual holiday ornament. This year, the iconic skyline giant, the U.S. Bank Building, is the featured landmark. It’s not too late to start collecting them for yourself since all of the ornaments, starting from 2001, are available on their website. With all of those ornaments, you could have the finest looking tree on the block if we say so ourselves.
Happy holidays and good luck during the busy shopping season!