In his program notes as the Artistic Director, Mark Clements states that the 2022 presentation of A Christmas Carol is the 47th time that the Rep has performed this classic. And that he and his family are now invested in the tradition as well since this is his 12th year of guiding it as the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. But he doesn’t really delve into the whole meaning of ACC nor it’s new tradition either. But the current version and the one that has run for any number of years now is his adaptation of the Dickens novel and he downplays his role as the director, bringing his vision to life on the stage of the venerable Pabst Theater. This too has become a tradition.
And many of us have probably developed a favorite scene or two in the Clements adaptation that we always look forward to. The ghosts of course! And who is playing the role and how will they torment and enlighten Scrooge this year. Scrooge’s final turn to the light. But I always look forward to the party at Mr. Fezziwig’s Shop and the startled reactions from fellow Londoners, employees, and relatives as the rejuvenated Scrooge makes himself known.
And I am sure other bits have become favorites…like the introduction when we are coaxed to turn off our phones and Scrooge’s ‘attributes’ are recited in alphabetical order until Mr. Dickens arrives to get us started and suddenly transforms into Ebenezer Scrooge!
Now just as things are much the same…and I imagine we all know the story by now…we again have a new Scrooge for 2022. Although a familiar name and familiar face to Milwaukee area theater goers, Matt Daniels makes his first appearance as Ebenezer Scrooge. And he does the role and the tradition proud here…smoothly moving from the bah humbug cantankerous old Scrooge to the fearful and kowtowing Scrooge confronted by the ghosts, to finally the happy and sociable good will toward men fellow of the final act. Following in the footsteps of many fine players and Milwaukee favorites of the past, Mr. Daniels never for a moment misses a step and we completely forget those ghosts of Christmas past.
But there are two veterans who I was most pleased to see on stage again this year. Mark Corkins as the Ghost of Marley and James Pickering as Mr. Fezziwig. Marvelous.
And reprising her appearance from last year, Lainey Techtmann provided us with a Tiny Tim for the ages.
And as I’ve written in previous responses, the set here is a major star of each performance. Multiple turntables move the sets around from London Streets, to Scrooge’s office and later home, the Fezziwig shop, the Cratchit home and more. From the audience this all moves so effortlessly but it is a marvel of not only design but remarkable skill in moving it throughout the play as one scene melds into the next.
So even if you’ve seen this recently, this is still the play to attend during December. If you haven’t seen it for a bit…a good time to reacquaint yourself with A Christmas Carol and the Pabst Theater. And of course the ambience of the Pabst lends it own sense of time and place for presenting a piece in time from Dickens’ London.
So here we are, finally starting to feel our theater traditions return in a post-pandemic world…and once again it snows inside the Pabst Theater!