Holiday Theater Season Begins

When Black Friday comes…we’ll be heading out to see some great theater. Find holiday favorites like “Home Alone,” “Charlie Brown,” and “A Christmas Carol” onstage this weekend.

pacmen

#5: Quasimondo Physical Theatre’s Children of Pac-Men at Grand Avenue Studio G

Why? Because we’re not sure if this new work by the intrepid interdisciplinarians takes its cues from Children of Men, P.D. James’ chilling vision of the future, or director Alfonso Cuarón’s chilling film vision of James’ chilling novel, or if the idea ever gets beyond the walls of an ‘80s video arcade. But we do know you can expect the unexpected when Quasimondo’s Brian Rott and Jessi Miller get their imaginations in gear. They are calling this one a “retro-spectacle on the future of game-play.” And they’re not talking Parcheesi. Leave the Black Friday mania behind and come immerse yourself in a different sort of craziness.

macaulay-culkin-then-660

#4: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Home Alone at the Marcus Center

Why? Because after 25 years, Home Alone has become a holiday classic—not surprising with two of the most successful Hollywood hit makers—John Hughes and Chris Columbus—rolling by in the opening credits. Macauley Culkin’s Edvard Munch Scream imitation has become so ubiquitous, in fact, that you might forget the film’s score was by the great John Williams. So the members of the orchestra and chorus has something to sink their teeth, vocal chords, bows, reeds and embouchures into. Vinay Parameswaran conducts.

first stage

#3: First Stage’s A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Marcus Center

Why? Because you watched it. Maybe even your parents watched it. Before the cable explosion brought us Duck Dynasty: I’m Dreaming of a Redneck Christmas and Party Down South: Christmas Hangover, there were only a few holiday specials, and this was one of the special-est. Bring your kids or grandkids and watch Charles Schulz’s vision come to life on stage with a talented cast of First Stage actors, including Matt Daniels, playing Snoopy.

Tami Workentin and James Pickering Photo by John Neinhuis
Tami Workentin and James Pickering. Photo by John Neinhuis.

#2: Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s Love Stories at the Broadway Theatre Center

Why? We’ll start with three good reasons: James Pickering, Tami Workentin, Paula Suozzi. Two of Milwaukee’s best-loved actors are joined by director Suozzi, the talent behind the great and short-lived Milwaukee Shakespeare theater company, and one of the most sought after opera directors in America. Then consider three more reasons: George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, Dorothy Parker. They’re the playwrights behind these short plays, which tell us about the tragic and comic sides of love.

Jonathan Smoots as Scrooge
Jonathan Smoots as Scrooge

#1: The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre’s A Christmas Carol at the Pabst Theater

Why? Because it’s more than a tradition. The Milwaukee Rep’s annual production of Charles Dickens’ great tale is something essential, a glimmer of humanity in what can seem like callow and heartless times. It’s not about coffee cup designs or Black Friday specials or Hollywood blockbusters. And Scrooge, Marley, Bob Cratchit or anyone else isn’t going to bludgeon you with speeches filled with fear-mongering or other blustery demagoguery. So what if we have to travel to 19th-century London to escape it. The Rep’s heartfelt annual trip back in time helps us see our own age with fresh and sympathetic eyes. Brent Hazelton directs a stellar cast with Jonathan Smoots as Ebenezer.

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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.