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It’s Time for ‘A Christmas Carol’!

Milwaukee Rep mounts a new adaptation of the holiday favorite

Dec. 6, 2016
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Photo redit Michael Brosilow

We know Christmas is fast approaching when Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol visits the Pabst Theater, reminding us of the true spirit (well, make that THREE spirits) of the holidays. Now in its 41st year, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater has staged a new adaptation written and directed by Artistic Director Mark Clements. And, once again, we hear our favorite Grinchy villain, Ebenezer Scrooge, mutter the H-word (“humbug,” that is). But this time around, the miserly man is speaking directly to us, the audience. And oh what fun it is to be a part of this premiere production. 

Clements uses a vaudevillian style by having two very fine actors—Angela Iannone and Michael Doherty—engage us from the start, asking questions and providing the proper responses before moving into the actual play. And judging by the opening night capacity audience, we’re a smart group of theatergoers given our “yes-no” responses. 

The newfound interactive levity helps to balance this new Carol as Clements has made the darkness visible and menacing and the spaces small and confining. It works wonderfully amid the angular, stacked-up-city-of-London sets by Todd Edward Ivins. The use of two turntables only adds to the supernatural effects as characters move in and out of the shadows and light—literally and figuratively. 

As Mr. Scrooge, Jonathan Wainwright is a fascinating choice, and one that works quite well. Wainwright’s thin, smaller frame is all the more engulfed within the story’s physical and emotional claustrophobia, and his slight stature is all the more subsumed by tall, robust figures like Bob Cratchit (Reese Madigan), Mr. Fezziwig (Jonathan Gillard Daly), the Ghost of Marley (Jonathan Smoots) and the silent and very spooky Ghost of Christmas Future (Darrington Clark).

While this Scrooge eventually finds his way to redemption, the journey of A Christmas Carol is one we can all share. “Keeping Christmas” is not measured by coins in the coffers, but rather the lives we touch and enrich along the way. 

Through Dec. 24 at the Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St. For tickets call 414-224-9490 or visit milwaukeerep.com.

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