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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

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In Holiday Guide

Ric Halterman (left) and Chuck Arnold in their Opening Night Gifts shop in Walker's Point

Artsy gifts for the holidays


I bet you didn't know Santa is a Renaissance man. Stuck up there in the sticks at the North Pole most of the time, he feels more than a little culture starved. Snowmobile and reindeer racing wears thin after a while.

The fat man really is an aficionado of the arts. He is as familiar with Edward Albee as NASCAR Barbie. He listens to Broadway show tunes in his sleigh. He thinks he would be a fine choice to play Falstaff at the American Players Theatre.

With that in mind, I decided to tap into Santa's gift giving expertise and offer some ideas for the theater and performing arts lovers on your Christmas list.

The end of 2010 marks the closing of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday year. A big fuss was rightly made about him and his body of work during the past 12 months, and there are some permanent benefits from that for all of us to enjoy.

"Sondheim on Sondheim" is a clever musical revue and review of the composer's life that played on Broadway last spring. The master spoke on a giant video screen about his life, and a cast of singers that included Barbara Cook and Vanessa Williams responded by performing Sondheim songs that related to his comments and revelations.

The more you love Sondheim, the greater you love the show. A two-disc cast album of the Broadway production has been released, and it is so popular, the supply is currently short. If you order "Sondheim on Sondheim" online, you may have to wait a while for delivery.

You can feed your appetite for everything Sondheim with his book "Finishing the Hat," a compelling compilation of lyrics, priceless photos, anecdotes and commentary written by the maestro and published this fall. The first of two volumes, the book covers his career from 1954 to 1981.

"Finishing the Hat" offers an extended look at the daunting creative process of writing songs for musical theater. Readers get a sense of the trial and error nature of the job, including pictures of handwritten lyrics, with lines crossed out and replaced. The book gets its title from the name of a pivotal song in Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park With George," a musical about creativity.

But enough about Sondheim. You have stockings to stuff and perhaps a long list of artsy friends and relatives you want to remember at the holidays. That brings us around to an unusual little shop hidden in the shadow of the Allen-Bradley clock tower in Walker's Point. Page 1 of 2 (view all on one page)

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