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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

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Chris Flieller and Nathan Wesselowski headline "A Cudahy Caroler Christmas."
Chris Flieller and Nathan Wesselowski headline "A Cudahy Caroler Christmas." (Photo: Mark Frohna )

Ladies lead the way in the hilarious "Cudahy Caroler" at In Tandem

They did it for the ninth time, and the final show belonged to the all the girls.

For the ninth and last time, In Tandem Theatre Company opened the perennial holiday favorite "A Cudahy Caroler Christmas" over Thanksgiving weekend.

This homage to all things Milwaukee in general and Cudahy specifically is a show dotted with the rude, the crude and the nearly nude.

The theory is a simple one. Stasch (Chris Flieller) is trying to get the Cudahy Christmas Choir back together after a period of inactivity. One by one, he visits each more-than-slightly dysfunctional former choir member and does his best to convince them to come to rehearsal the next night at Bowl-A-Riffic.

As he visits each singer, that starts the parade of feminine favorites who gradually top each other for raucous humor.

It starts with Edna Kaputish (Lisa Morris) who just won one-eighth of a modest lottery prize. She tells Stasch her name is no longer Kaputish but is now "Kaputishe" (pronounced Kap-oot-i-shay) since it sounds more appropriate for the North Shore or Whitefish Bay where she plans on moving. She has left her husband and desperately wants to leave Cudahy.

The first song is to the tune of "Winter Wonderland."

Oh the Cudahy folks are frightful
But Fox Point is so delightful
Since the culture here is just so-so
I'll let it go, let it go, let it go!

She agrees to rejoin and Stasch is off to Nellie (Megan Kaminsky), Edna’s estranged daughter. She has been kicked out of the house and spends all her time practicing poses that are used by water skiers in the Tommy Bartlett Water Show in Wisconsin Dells, a notorious campy summer resort area. Nellie’s goal is to be a ski queen, even though she can barely swim and has never been on water skis. The Dells is her own private Valhalla.

This is sung to the tune of "Silver Bells."

Whining go-carts,
Crowded Wal-Marts
Stinking hot traffic jams
On the street
There's a guy selling trinkets

Children screaming
People streaming
Out of bad tourist traps
And on ev…

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From left to right, Marcus Truchinski, Chase Stoeger, Chris Klopatek and Rick Pendzich deliver Shakespeare.
From left to right, Marcus Truchinski, Chase Stoeger, Chris Klopatek and Rick Pendzich deliver Shakespeare. (Photo: Mark Frohna)

Chamber stages all 37 Shakespeare plays in just under two laugh-filled hours

The only things missing were star struck clusters of freshmen girls, Greek togas with crowns of thorns and a big bowl of punch spiked with gin, vodka, brandy and any other kind of booze that somebody brought along to the party.

Other than that Milwaukee Chamber Theatre is staging a frat party complete with loud music, dancing, costumes galore, speeches, arguments, bys singing at the top of their lungs and mugging trying to wring laughs out of places where you don’t really expect laughs.

The occasion is a rollicking production of "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)."

This madcap sendup of the Bard is predicated, as we are told in the prologue, is "a feat unprecedented in the history of civilization." All of Shakespeare’s 37 plays in under 90 minutes.

This is, I think, the fourth production of this play in the last five years, but this one hits the stage with a twist.  Four college chums and graduates from the highly respected theater program at UW-Whitewater, gather onstage together to act like, well, boys.

The four -- Marcus Truchinski, Chase Stoeger, Chris Klopatek and Rick Pendzich -- leave nothing to the imagination in this two hour event. All four of them have gone on to distinguished careers in theater.

This the kind of humor when they say "stand up and let me slap you in the face and then, let’s do it again, and again, and again. And we’re gonna keep on doing it until you laugh."

Laughing was never in doubt.

Thing sword fights with croquet mallets and those noodles you swim with, a garish cooking show to tell the bloody story of Titus Andronicus, both Romeo and Juliet drinking their fatal poison from a Green Bay Packers cup, a spotlight that won’t stay still during the famous "To be or not to be" speech.

 These boys may well put up a sign that says "No Adults Needed."  Watching these boys at play I couldn’t help but think of the Three Stooges and their version of slapstick to tell a story or many stories.

Wh…

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The Tin Man, Dorothy, The Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion hit the stage at the Skylight Music Theatre.
The Tin Man, Dorothy, The Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion hit the stage at the Skylight Music Theatre. (Photo: Mark Frohna)

Skylight's "Wizard" takes a wonderfully imaginative trip to Oz

Here’s all you need to know about "The Wizard of Oz" that opened over the weekend at Skylight Theatre.

After two and a half hours, Dorothy picked up a pail filled with sparkling paper and threw it onto the Wicked Witch of the West, who melted away, sank into the ground and disappeared.

Molly Flynn Smoko, my 6-year-old granddaughter applauded. So did a majority of the adults in the theater. They clapped, even though I’d be willing to bet that each and every one of them knew this moment was coming. Still, they clapped.

The story of the little girl from Kansas who, with her faithful companion Toto, swirls into a world filled with wonder is an old story. Who hasn’t seen this movie? Still, everything was there, and nothing was scrapped from the story. We had the tornado and the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. We had the Wizard and the munchkins and the songs.

"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is a wonderful song when you hear it on the radio or see someone sing it at a concert. But when this little girl sings it in the context of her life pre-tornado, full of hope, promise and determination to soar like an eagle, the song gives you chills.

Part of the wonder of this production rested in the hands of a woman who may well be one of the most creative and imaginative women working in Milwaukee theater, Pam Kriger.

Kriger is a director and choreographer and took care of the dancing in this show. It was some of the most unexpected and smile-inducing dancing I’ve ever seen.

A major issue for "The Wizard of Oz" on stage is how do you portray the munchkins without hiring dozens of real little people. There have been any number of solutions but nothing like you will see in this production.

Kriger, along with costume designer Kristy Leigh Hall, put the munchkins on rolling stools, clad them in tent-like costumes and let them roll around the floor, dancing and singing. It’s a moment of theatrical magic that exemplifies the brilliance Kriger brings to any sho…

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Nathan Danzer (rear) and his monster, Jeremy C. Welter
Nathan Danzer (rear) and his monster, Jeremy C. Welter

"Frankenstein" is constantly intense but could use a break or two

Sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, too much of a good thing.

That’s the reaction I had Saturday night at the staging of "Frankenstein" by Dale Gutzman’s Off The Wall Theatre. The play was written by Nick Dear and enjoyed tremendous critical acclaim in the United Kingdom. There are reasons aplenty for the applause.

It’s an interesting adaptation of the novel by Mary Shelley, with the focus much more on the monster and much less on Victor Frankenstein who created him. The pace of this production, however, was so frantic that it was hard to develop a relationship with any of the characters. Just too constantly intense.

This production opens with the monster, played to the hilt by Jeremy Welter, staggering to life as a human being. He can’t talk, can barely move and slides around, discovering his latent humanity.

He meets a blind man who has been exiled and learns to talk, walk, reason and act exactly like a human being, with some very rough edges. He has a violent streak, and revenge for real or imagined slights is never far below his surface.

Eventually we meet Victor, played by Nathan Danzer, and we are confronted by his obsession with what he has wrought. He leaves his betrothed at home while he takes off to continue with his experiments. He meets with his monster in his lab, and the monster threatens Victor unless he creates a woman for him.

I don’t want to give away each and every development of this play, but it is a series of short scenes that Gutzman described as being like the panels you might find in a comic book.

There is a certain eerie charm to this play, but it is so melodramatic that I hardly had time to take a breath as one dire moment followed another dire moment, accompanied by super dramatic lighting and music that made the hair on my neck stand on end.

There is abundant drama in this story. The issue of humanity versus science is an age-old story and fraught with tension. The idea of obsession taking over whatever judgeme…

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