Murder, Mayhem, and the Modern World, The Milwaukee Rep’s 2020/21 Season

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater announced their 2020/21 season back in February. But I was waiting to have An Intuitive Perspective up and running before I wrote about it. I would have gotten lost in the original wave of articles anyway. But now that we are in the heart of the Age of Pandemic and the remainder of the 2019/20 season has been canceled, it is a pleasure to look ahead to next season with hope and excitement!

Murder you say? Well, yes, the Quadracci Powerhouse will feature Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express from November 10 to December 13, 2020! I imagine everyone will be looking forward to this classic of theater. And who can ever get enough of Hercule Poirot?

And Mayhem? Yes the mayhem of the sinking of the Titanic, as Titanic, The Musical opens the Quadracci Powerhouse season from September 15 to October 25, 2020. The winner of five Tony Awards, Titanic continues the Rep’s tradition of opening with a blockbuster musical.

And the modern world? By all means! I am going to outline the rest of the season by stage!

Also at the Quadracci Powerhouse:

Toni Stone which was named Best New Play of 2019 by the Wall Street Journal. Hey, this one’s about baseball…one of the most attended sports in Milwaukee. So certainly this play displays a portrait of America by discussing America’s pastime. But it also is going to bring to the fore some of the divides in society prevalent for much of the nation’s history. Toni Stone is a talented baseball player who becomes the first woman to play in the men’s Negro Leagues. So certainly this story is fraught with her struggles to be accepted and to be treated like an equal. A very tough act in the male-dominated arena of baseball and in a racially divided nation. Toni Stone runs from January 12 to February 7, 2021.

For a short run in March, John Proctor Is The Villain. This is being billed as a Rolling World Premiere. I am just going to lift the tagline from the Rep here: This challenging, contemporary post #metoo response to “classic” literature explores the power of young girls who fight to tell their own stories. The classic lit they are describing here is “The Crucible” as it is being studied in a present day Appalachian high school.

And the closing feature at the Quadracci, is William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, running from April 20 to May 23, 2021. But there’s a twist or maybe a Twist. The locale is 1960’s British Columbia with cross-dressing lovers and mistaken identities and mishaps and laughs. And the Twist? Well the play will feature 20 songs from the Beatles. This should get interesting.

Now, I will admit that the Stiemke Studio has been my favorite stage at the Rep for years. Not only is the theater intimate but it usually features the most stimulating and challenging plays of the season. So don’t miss these:

The Tasters opens the Stiemke season – September 22 to November 1, 2020. To protect high ranking government officials, three women are employed to taste their food…well until one of them goes on a hunger strike…how appropriate? Billed as equal parts Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Food Network, this is a dark little comedy to enjoy!!

And after the holidays, Tender Age brings us into contemporary America as Martin takes a job at a refugee detention center, where children have been separated from their parents. And when this was written, it could have hardly anticipated the events of 2020, but the story intensifies when an epidemic starts to sweep through the center. Billed as a harrowing, unflinching portrait of modern-day America, it will certainly reverberate even more with the audience than originally planned.

And then everyone’s favorite, the Stackner Cabaret! And don’t forget to make dinner reservations for pre-show…the food is simply delightful here.

But opening the season is My Way and you’ll never guess the subtext: A Musical Tribute To Frank Sinatra. So, you’ll get to hear the best of Frank in a cabaret setting. What simple magic that’s going to be. And I bet there are going to be some signature cocktails on the menu. And you won’t have to go to Vegas or New York, New York to enjoy!  Frank holds court from September 17 to November 8, 2020.

And this next one will be a story for all of Wisconsin and will bring heartfelt joy to some families and maybe a bit of dismay or regret to others…but it all sounds like fun. Dad’s Season Tickets tells the story of inheritance…of dad’s season tickets to the Green Bay Packers! This is one of the most popular plays from Northern Sky Theater and I am sure that it will translate well in Milwaukee’s Packersland.

And then an encore performance of Blues In The Night. A Tony and Olivier Award nominated musical that illuminates the songs of Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and more. Just the perfect cure for Wisconsin mid-winter blues from January 22 to March 21, 2021. This visited the Stackner in 2012.

And then the season finale is the perfect bookend to My Way, as Get Happy plays from March 25 to May 30, 2021. A bookend to Frank? My goodness, yes, Get Happy = Angela Ingersoll Sings JUDY GARLAND. This is the live stage performance of Ms. Ingersoll’s Garland PBS concert.

Well there you have it! But if feels like I am missing something.

Oh wait! Yes, I almost did. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater is staging its 45th Anniversary Production of A Christmas Carol at Milwaukee’s historic Pabst Theater. And to lend an additional special cache to the 2020 version, Milwaukee favorite, Lee Ernst is returning as Scrooge in the Mark Clements adaptation of the story. He hasn’t played the role at the Rep since 2006. This will be a special treat this year.

A Christmas Carol

This is a reprint of my remarks about “A Christmas Carol” at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater presented in the historic Pabst Theater during the 2019 – 2020 season. This originally appeared on my Facebook timeline November 30, 2019.

Wow, it barely feels like a year since our last visit to Mr. Scrooge. But this past week I attended a preview presentation of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 44th production of “A Christmas Carol”. And again this year, the Rep will be featuring artistic director Mark Clements’ adaptation of the Charles Dickens story. And Mr. Clements is also directing, so we will get a good look at how he interprets the story.

No, the story hasn’t changed…but it’s never really the same every time either. Each adaptation, each director, each set, and each cast brings out different views that lay on new subtleties for the rest of us to savor. And this year’s production is no different.

We have smoke and smog and bright lights, ensemble singing and foul, scary sounds, happy conversations and bah humbug mutterings, elegant interiors and the crowded rambling streets of London. And what a London it is, ever changing, ever twisting, and cleverly represented on sets continually moving on turntables to change our sense of place while we remain in place. At once and ever, a remarkable spectacle. AND it snows in the Pabst Theater!

And of course we have the transformation of Mr. Scrooge…through the endeavors of his community, both real and ephemeral. We have the interventions of the Ghost of Mr. Marley and the three Ghosts of Christmas who finally make the progress than his family and friends attempt but never master. But these good people of London engage him on their own terms and after being rebuffed, they go about celebrating life in their own ways and with their own means…but always leaving the door open…and welcoming him with open hearts and open arms when he finally senses the life that he’s cast aside.

A universal story…an epic happy ending.

Yes, I know we’ve all seen at least one presentation of “A Christmas Carol” at some point in our lives. But this is live theater and truly magical and believe me, the environs of the Pabst Theater is just the place to see it! It runs through December 24th, 2019 and don’t wait to get tickets!  AND it snows in the Pabst Theater!

And just one strange interlude for Mark Clements: find another vehicle or two to bring Mark Corkins back to Milwaukee, he is sorely missed in these quarters!

A Christmas Carol

This is a reprint of my remarks about “A Christmas Carol” at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater presented in the historic Pabst Theater during the 2018 – 2019 season. This originally appeared on my Facebook timeline on December 1, 2018!

It’s the 43rd Season for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s A Christmas Carol…once again lovingly presented at the Pabst Theater. And I haven’t seen it since my son was a child and I don’t remember that version particularly. But yes, this one is bigger than life, bigger than death, overdone, overplayed, overacted, overaccented, overemoted, totally over the top and all of us loved every minute of it. Jonathan Wainwright is incredible and credible as Ebenezer Scrooge…I can’t imagine anyone else doing it after seeing him perform last night. If he gets tired, I’d be willing to take over the role of Charles Dickens for him at the play intro. Other standouts in my eye were Jesse Bhamrah as Scrooge’s nephew, Debra Staples as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Mark Corkins as the Ghost of Marley. It was a particular thrill to hear and recognize the voices of two of my favorites, Ms. Staples and Mr. Corkins, before I recognized their faces in their costumes. It was wonderful to see you both again! And how can A Christmas Carol go wrong by performing my favorite Christmas carol, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen!

But the real star is the set! It moves from street scene to office scene to street scene to bedroom scene to street scene and of course to all of the Christmases past, present and future. It is amazing. And the heroes that help make the set work is the lighting crew. My goodness how the mood moves and changes as the scenes shift and the play progresses through Scrooge’s transformation. Love it!!

I do have one quibble…I invented the word overaccented above. All of the characters speak in Dickensian period English. And 90% of the time that’s not an issue. But during the Christmas Future portion, a couple of cast members were unintelligible to me and I wasn’t that far from the stage in the orchestra seating. Partly garbled and partly too softly spoken…Scrooge was hearing it and he wasn’t happy…I wanted to hear it too!

This is truly a family event…the youngsters sitting in front of me were enjoying it more than I was…so take your family! And I will be a shill here…don’t wait to get tickets…particularly if you want Friday or Saturday night seats!!