Yes it’s been two years since the last time the Milwaukee Repertory Theater opened their annual holiday run of Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol. And even though it was a Tuesday school night the audience was ready for some theater magic! And once again the Mark Clements adaptation of this Dickens classic delivers!
But before we get to the actors, lets talk about the action a bit. The most amazing and under appreciated part of the Rep’s Christmas Carol is the stage! Again and again, the stage rotates and resets on turn tables or giant lazy Susans if you will to present us with Scrooge’s office, London Streets, the Cratchit home, Belle’s home, more London Streets, Mr. Fezziwig’s shop, and the myriad sites that our various ghosts take our beleagered Scrooge to! It seems so effortless and natural but I can’t imagine the effort to make it all work just so!
And of course this year we have the long awaited return of Lee Ernst as Scrooge. He was after all meant to fill the role last year but was pandemic diverted to play Marley in the Rep’s streaming presentation of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol instead.
And Mr. Ernst did not disappoint! So completely made up for the part, he delivered the cantankerous Scrooge on the streets of London and in his offices, easily delivering the fearful Scrooge with his encounters with Marley’s Ghost and the Ghost of Christmas Past, to the somewhat belligerent and fed up Scrooge with the Ghosts of Christmas Future and Present, to the transformed and very human Scrooge post re-awakening.
And I had heard that there was a new ghost and was concerned that my personal favorite, long time Rep member, Mark Corkins wasn’t returning. But I was relieved to see his name in the playbill and I relaxed when he made his appearance as Marley’s ghost! Probably his scariest Rep role (well except for maybe his appearance in Endgame) and he’s taken full ownership of the character!
But there is a NEW ghost of note! Kevin Kantor is the Ghost of Christmas Past! Scary? Yes scary but not in the usual ugly or menacing way of a ghost or monster. But instead, behind a costume of white and glitter and dreadfully black lipstick, they control and manipulate Scrooge through the events and visions that will eventually touch his soul. And in such a fluid and elegant manner that you wouldn’t find it at all threatening out of context. !!
Now in my little section of the audience, there was a wave of noticeable energy every time Tiny Tim appeared! When you purchase a single ticket you never know who you will find yourself seated next to…but Tuesday night I was seated amongst the Cratchit family! The Crachits? Well not really, but the parents, grandparents, and extended family of Lainey Techtmann, who plays Tiny Tim this season. I almost got invited to the family holiday party…almost…sigh! What a wonderful bunch of people!
If you go: A Christmas Carol runs through December 24, 2021 at the Pabst Theater! Give yourself some extra time before the show because you will need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test at the door. And masks are required!!!
And I think I heard the Pabst Theater yield a short satisfied sigh when the snow started to fall on the audience once again.