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Performing Arts Weekly 12.8

Dec. 6, 2016
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The Santaland Diaries

Theatre Gigante at Boswell Book Company, Friday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.

If you’ve heard David Sedaris read his autobiographical monologues on NPR or in live performance, you know how very darkly funny he can be. Actor Michael Stebbins loves Sedaris’ works so much he sought and received permission years ago to perform them himself. A Kenosha native, Stebbins graduated from UW-Milwaukee’s Professional Actor Training Program, moved to NYC and developed an admirable résumé of professional off-Broadway and regional theatre work. He returned to Milwaukee in 2013 and stayed because he feels at home here. He’s become a Theatre Gigante regular and initiated Gigante’s Studio Series last year with a reading of The Santaland Diaries, Sedaris’ account of his time spent as Crumpet the Elf in the holiday installation at Macy’s.

In what could become an annual Theatre Gigante holiday program, he’ll read it again. “I enjoy sharing some Sedaris around the holidays,” he says, “because I know there are people out there who appreciate and relate to his unique sense of humor and are longing for something other than The Nutcracker or A Christmas Carol.” The performance is free. (John Schneider) 

Mary Poppins

@ Racine Theatre Guild, Dec. 9-18

From the seeds of Pamela Travers’ Mary Poppins children’s books grew the mighty oaks of an acclaimed and beloved 1964 film and a 2006 Broadway musical theater sensation. The latter would run for more than 2,600 performances; since opening a decade ago, it has been staged all over the world. The musical version contains all the glorious, original songs from the film as well as additional music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Racine Theatre Guild presents this musical about the new nanny acquired by the Banks family to tend to their two children. They get far more than they could have ever expected in the bargain. (John Jahn) 

The Comedy of Errors

First Stage Young Company @ Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, Dec. 9-18

The Comedy of Errors is one of The Bard’s earlier plays, its relative brevity and farcical comedy making it a delight to produce and most apropos to young audiences—and performers—alike. William Shakespeare’s plot centers on two pairs of identical twins, separated at birth, who finally come together in the same place and time. All sorts of mayhem and head-scratching situations ensue throughout the play—just what you’d imagine given the appearance of so many look-alikes in the same community! Even so, fear not, you’ll be treated to a happily-ever-after dénouement. (John Jahn)

The Last Holiday Punch!

@ Off the Wall Theatre, Dec. 14-31

Christmas without Holiday Punch!? As unimaginable as that eventuality may be to conceive, alas, future holiday seasons in Milwaukee will face just that. It all began at the Skylight Musical Theatre almost four decades ago with Holiday Punch’s legendarily irreverent shtick. It continued, year after year, in Vogel Hall, Alverno College, Centennial Hall. “Over the years, we’ve made fun of holiday traditions, local politics, hit movies, television shows, national events, people, places and things,” Off the Wall’s Dale Gutzman says. Thankfully, 2016 offers loads of grist for Gutzman’s comedic mill. Performers include Gutzman plus regulars James Strange, Lawrence J. Lukasavage, David Flores and others. The New Year’s Eve show includes food and drink for attendees. As Gutzman summed things up: “If you were ever a fan of Holiday Punch, join us for this last fun fling. If you have never seen the show, this is your last chance.” (John Jahn) 

The Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue

Second City Touring Company @ Wilson Theatre at Vogel Hall, Dec. 14-18

A group of talented improv artists brings a new holiday-themed show to the Marcus Center. Second City’s cast includes Terrence Carey, Jenelle Cheyne, Chelsea Norment, Saurabh Pande, Casey Whitaker and Tim Ryder. Joining this team is Milwaukeean Ryan Treviranus as the production’s stage manager. It’ll be Treviranus’ Second City debut, but he’s previously worked in Milwaukee Ballet, Skylight Music Theatre and First Stage productions. This Dysfunctional Holiday Revue promises “a night of spirited fun, featuring a seasonal mix of hilarious scenes, songs and Second City’s signature improvisation with a touch of holiday mischief.” (John Jahn)


Renaissance Theaterworks

Dec. 11-12 @ Urban Harvest Brewery & Taproom

Jen Silverman’s Still is the most amazing play I’ve read in years. An adult male actor represents the female protagonist’s stillborn son, experiencing his mother and life itself for the all-too-brief time of the play. She’s 41 and wanted a baby. Her shattered midwife is undergoing a career crisis and an18-year-old friend, a dominatrix, wants an abortion. This extremely articulate, brave feminist play puts you squarely into each woman’s situation and demonstrates the power of theatre to shake you up.

Renaissance Theaterworks is presenting Still as the opening event of a new program called Groundworks. Performances are at 7 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, Dec. 11-12, at the Urban Harvest Brewery & Taproom at 1024 S. Fifth St. Groundworks is meant to broaden the range of plays Renaissance presents and to provide work to emerging Milwaukee theatre artists. Still is directed by Alex Coddington, a recent Marquette University theatre graduate known for sensitive risk-taking. The excellent Milwaukee actors are Molly Corkins, Joe Picchetti, Marti Gobel and Erika Wade. Performances are at 7 p.m. both nights. Tickets are $10 at the door or online at stillgroundworks.brownpapertickets.com. Renaissance is also conducting a fundraising campaign to support the future of Groundworks. Visit r-t-w.com. (John Schneider)


Gift, Joy and Celebration

Milwaukee Musaik @ Schwan Concert Hall, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

Milwaukee Musaik—violinists Jeanyi Kim and Alexander Mandl, violist Nicole Sutterfield, cellist Stefan Kartman, bassist Brendan Fitzgerald and pianist Jeannie Yu—begin their season with three 19th-century chamber music masterpieces. First is the Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major, Op. 87 by Hungarian pianist and composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837). There’s also the famous Trout Quintet by Hummel’s friend and contemporary, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) and, finally, the languorous and lovely Siegfried Idyll (in a chamber arrangement by Alfred Pringsheim) by Richard Wagner (1813-1883); the latter work presented by Wagner to his wife, Cosima, upon the birth of their son. (John Jahn)


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