Here Are Your December Performing Arts Picks

Highlights include holiday staples and adventurous takes on classics.

Symphonic Holidays

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is “homeless” for much of December, but that doesn’t keep it from delivering the musical comfort and joy we all need this time of year. The MSO kicks off the month at their home base — Uihlein Hall — with a weekend of family friendly holiday music with former MSO music director Andreas Delfs on the podium (Dec. 1-3). It then hits the road, performing Handel’s Messiah with conductor (and another MSO alum) Francesco Lecce-Chong at various venues around the city (Dec. 13-17). And it spends some time in front of the silver screen playing live soundtracks to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Dec. 15-17 at the Riverside Theatre), and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Dec 30-31 at Uihlein Hall).

Francesco Lecce-Chong

The Next Generation

Looking forward to your annual holiday-themed trip to the theater? The stages are full. But it’s also a great time to check out adventurous student productions that showcase the city’s up-and-coming talent. At UW-Milwaukee, the innovative director Rebecca Holderness presents George Bernard Shaw’s timely social satire, Major Barbara, staged in a boxing ring (Dec. 6-10). And the First Stage Young Company offers Thornton Wilder’s absurdist classic, The Skin of Our Teeth (Dec. 8-17).

Rebecca Holderness

Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Yes, the snow will be welcome here. The Milwaukee Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker features lots of sweets, exotic creatures and, of course, dancing snowflakes. It also features the MB’s superb company in a lavish production. This year, a special treat: MB Artistic Director Michael Pink will dance the part of Herr Drosselmeyer, the mysterious magician who starts Clara and Fritz on their otherworldly journey. (Dec. 9-26).

Michael Pink

Musical Alternatives

It isn’t all jingle bells and fa-la-la-la-la this month. Two concerts present acclaimed musical practitioners of both the old and the new. Early Music Now brings a unique collaboration to town. For “A Mediterranean Christmas,” The Boston Camerata and the SHARQ Arabic Music Ensemble join forces to present seasonal music that unites Arab and Western worlds and musical ideas (Dec. 9 & 10). From ancient to postmodern, Alternating Currents Live brings flutist Nicole Mitchell and her quartet to town. Mitchell has won the Downbeat Critics Poll for best jazz flutist multiple times (Dec. 10).

Nicole Mitchell




Paul Kosidowski is a freelance writer and critic who contributes regularly to Milwaukee Magazine, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio and national arts magazines. He writes weekly reviews and previews for the Culture Club column. He was literary director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater from 1999-2006. In 2007, he was a fellow with the NEA Theater and Musical Theater Criticism Institute at the University of Southern California. His writing has also appeared in American Theatre magazine, Backstage, The Boston Globe, Theatre Topics, and Isthmus (Madison, Wis.). He has taught theater history, arts criticism and magazine writing at Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.