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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014

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Readers Blog: Entertainment Elsewhere...

"A Christmas Carol" ... in a Northern Suburb 2012 - West Bend

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We all know that the Milwaukee Rep presents one of the finest renditions of "A Christmas Carol." It is respected and admired even by those who have not had the good fortune to see it themselves.  People from throughout the metro area travel to see it - and in some cases, it is an annual pilgrimage.  Still there are other productions of A Christmas Carol that warrant attention, and this is one of those.

This year, there is a charming production of "A Christmas Carol" being staged in West Bend that - while not as lavish as that presented by the Milwaukee Rep, it is certainly worthy of being seen - and it in fact amaze you.

The West Bend Masonic Center is hosting a charming production, and a most faithful retelling of this Dickens Classic that offers advantages the Rep simply can't compete with.  Not that the Rep wants to compete with a small production like this, but the offering in West Bend has these things to commend it...

  • A Delightful intimate venue - just 150 seats, means most seats are up close and personal.  Actors are within ares-reach.
  • Travel and Parking - You needn't travel far and even if you do, there is not a bad place to park.  The venue is small, so you can easily get to your car by walking less than 100 yards - and if weather threatens, a covered car port is available - and parking is FREE.  Nice.
  • The ambiance - enter the facility to hear live musicians, and see decor that is charming and understated - but seasonally wonderful.
  • Ushers greet you, help with seating, and are personable.
  • Intimacy - this theater is "found space" to be certain, but it offers very intimate theater - making it so nice for you to see the actors up close.  The Rep can't do that.
  • Murals in the theater depict 1843 London - nearly 80 feet of murals serve to fill the walls and set the scene even before the show begins.  Appreciate the time that went into these!
  • The acting -  A superb characterization of Scrooge, (Jim Mohr) leads the way - onstage for 23 of 25 scenes; he undergoes a change from crusty old Scrooge to disarming and charming Uncle Scrooge in a most believable fashion.  He is scared by Marley, Wary of Christmas Past and Stunned by Christmas Present.  He is properly transformed by Christmas Yet to Come... Mohr does it right.  You've got to dislike Scrooge at first in order to appreciate the outcome - and I do. Nicely performed.
  • Marley (Peter Gibeau) and Christmas Past (Libby Steinbach) are well portrayed with solid performances that leave nothing lacking.  Marley is hauntingly sad and Christmas Past is a haunting child-like figure just as Dickens imagined.
  • Costumes are historically accurate, finely detailed..  Each is hand-made by a great grandmother who sewed for months to create the costumes that properly attire each actor.
  • Music and Special Effects - again, not overstated, but nicely executed.  There is fog in London, and lighting that delights.
  • Sets - simple, and small without seeming so.  The actors work in a very small space, but they work with sets that were well-designed and artfully decorated to create the proper period without overwhelming.
  • Laughter - expect it.  There are knock out performances by Rory Ott as Ghost of Christmas Present, and Alan Jordan as Nephew Fred.  These two have uniquely different roles but both give you smiles, and heartfelt warmth.  Laugh a lot, as these two performers live for the chuckles they provide.
  • Touching Moments - Sophia Gibeau and Terry Beck give a standout performances that exceed their years in the roles of former fiancee Belle and Young Scrooge.
  • The price $15-18 per person. How nice is that?  It is kid-friendly, of course.
  • Even Better - Affordable treats at Intermission.  For just $1 enjoy a cup of coffee, cider, or cocoa and for another $1 enjoy not one, but two cookies!  The intermission is just long enough to relax before returning to your seats - and the cookies are home-made (I asked!)
  • Emotion - more than once, your heart will be touched by Scrooge, Belle, Christmas Past and the Cratchits.

If I had to choose the Rep or this production, I just might choose this one.  It is sweet.  It gives me what I want from Dickens - an accurate retelling of the famous story with all of the nostalgia, and touching moments to cause me to enter the holiday season remembering how important love, charity, and goodness really are.  For the price, this is a truly wonderful production.  They should charge more.  You get an excellent value, top quality performances, and wonderful entertainment.

 WHEN: Friday December 10, Saturday December 11 - 7:00 PM, and Sunday December 12 1:00 PM Matinee

WHERE: West Bend Masonic Center - 301 N University Drive - Just off Highway 33 and 45 in the City of West Bend

WHAT ELSE: Accessible Facility, Intimate Theater, Affordable Intermission Treats, Great Price for Tickets, Free Parking.  Courteous ushers provide assistance to Walkers and Wheel Chairs.

WARNING: It could sell out - only 150 seats per performance.  Better get your tickets now!

                                                   ***

 

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