Milwaukee Repertory Theater Launches The Holiday Season with Nuncrackers!

Yes, Nuncrackers, and it’s exactly what you think it is. The hilarious and slightly dysfunctional nuns of Nunsense are poised to bring you a portion of the Nutcracker ballet with pink tutus at the ready…but sudden disaster and hilarity ensues!

Do you need to have seen the original Nunsense to understand Nuncrackers? Heavens no! Like any successful sequel, author and composer, Dan Goggin has made sure that the characters are re-introduced and that any required story from Nunsense is back filled here. And quite frankly, I think that Nuncrackers might be even funnier if you don’t have knowledge of the original and come into the theater without any expectations or preconceived notions. But maybe that’s just me.

So here we are in the basement of the convent at Mount Saint Helen’s School, as Sister Mary Paul, Sister Mary Hubert, Sister Robert Anne, and Sister Mary Regina prepare to tape a Christmas show in their new TV studio for a public access channel. And they are being assisted by Father Virgil…not necessarily ably assisted but enthusiastically so!

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

The action revolves around the nuns presenting Christmas carols and some new songs that riff off of Christmas carols. There is an incredible amount of humor to be mined here! And in between the singing and dancing…Mr. Goggin has sprinkled in a generous supply of jokes, puns, and little skits. The front facing story is a lot, lot of fun!

There are a number of side bars here…they happen off stage and are relayed by our favorite nuns…or they are translated for us from several interrupting phone calls delivered by a black rotary dial wall phone. The phone and the mention of public access television, for me, was a bit of humor on its own since those are things are so very last century!

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Fortunately for Milwaukee audiences, director and choreographer Kelley Faulkner understands the gags and songs and nuisances to a tee and has assembled the perfect ensemble to bring us the Little Sisters of Hoboken and of course Father Virgil! This troupe plays together like they have been a team for years. The rhythms and timing of the jokes is as quick and sure as the songs and dance numbers. All of the principles are remarkable in their roles. And after reading their bios in the playbill, I was amazed that three of our five actors have appeared on other local stages but are debuting at the Rep…and our other two intrepid nuns are debuting here as well. After this performance, I am sure that we will be able to enjoy their work in future Rep presentations for years to come.

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Seth K Hale is Father Virgil…a role of a very humble and disarming priest but obviously inspired to assist the nuns to the best of his ability…and he is something of a ham as well. Hale embodies the character through and through.

As Sister Mary Regina, Ashley Ovidedo is an absolute scene stealer. An infectious presence on stage, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone adopt the character so absolutely as Oviedo does here. It was a literal thrill to watch.

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

And my goodness, the song and dance chops of Katie Kallaus as Sister Mary Paul, Meka King as Sister Mary Hubert, and Isabel Quintero as Sister Mary Regina are flawless…add to that their comedic gifts…and you have the perfect Nuncrackers! I really think that this is one show where the actors are having more fun than the audience.

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Now, without being too much the spoiler, three things to watch for. The arrival of the Three Kings, the dueling sugar plum fairies, and the puppet. I hadn’t been promised a puppet, so I was amazed and pleased at its appearance.

Nuncrackers is my recommended start for this holiday season! And arrive early and have dinner and a refreshing beverage!!

Nuncrackers runs through January 7, 2024 at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret. But this is an extremely popular musical, so don’t dawdle on acquiring tickets. You can do that HERE!

Extra Credit Reading: The Program

Milwaukee Repertory Theater Opens The Season With Laughs, Songs, AND….The Green Bay Packers!

In Wisconsin, what could possibly be a more appropriate opening offering for the fall season than Matt Zembrowski’s Dad’s Season Tickets in the Stackner Cabaret? And given the factual, anecdotal, and certainly apocryphal stories ranging across the state about how season tickets pass through to the next generation, what a perfect conceit for a musical in Packers nation!

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

So here we are in a living room implicit as the middle class living room where every Wisconsinite watches their Packers, hey. And although the furnishings look more 1970s that 1996 when the action takes place, certainly a lot of 1970s living rooms tarried into the late 1990s, particularly as Cheeseheads aged in place. You will recognize home and feel immediately comfortable.

And….it’s Packer season and we meet Frank Kosinski who, after three years of mourning his late wife, has come to realize that family and family traditions are more important than where he’s been emotionally most recently. And he has three daughters: two adult, married, and out of the nest, and Cordelia. Cordelia is still at home and preparing for going away to college. And if you want a little sneaky insight into where we are going, Mr. Zembrowski is having a little theatrical fun: check out Cordelia here!

You are going to love the Kosinskis. And you will wonder why there is a troubling layer of discord in the family, particularly between the adult daughters. BUT…the underlying issue in our play, IS, who will inherit Frank’s Packers Season Tickets? He can only will them to one individual! All will be revealed via some cliche family squabbles, entertaining and encouraging songs, and Cordelia’s determination to bring happiness to her father as she prepares to leave by enabling his dream to reunite the family.

The casting here couldn’t have been better. We have the gamut of Packers adherents and lifelong Wisconsinites. You will love Jonathan Gillard Daly as the long suffering newly optimistic Frank Kosinski. His love of the Packers, his memory of their history, and his inherited season tickets are all you need to know until you get there. And, for me, Jamie Mercado. is the stand out actor in her role as Cordelia, as she plans and plots the reuniting of her sisters without knowing the whole story around the discord. And the most intriguing outsider is Edgar Nimwitz (read the last name again, out loud) ably played by Jackson Evans for every laugh and horror handed him in the text!

You will laugh openly. You will wonder how we got here. You will remember the Packer glory years. You will get to boo. You should wear your Packer swag. And there will be secret uncovered that should never ever happen in Green Bay! And given that it is 1996, our playwright ‘predicts’ the future! See if you can catch it.

photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater

And before you go, you may want to bone up on your Packer history from Curly Lambeau to Vince Lombardi to Mike Holmgren and the 1996 Packer season. And as I said previously, you won’t feel uncomfortable attending in your Reggie White, etc, jersey!!

One last thing before I go “Viking fans don’t get back up singers”!