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The 41st edition of "A Christmas Carol" opened at the glorious Pabst Theatre last week and it was a herculean effort by dozens and dozens of people. And seeing the show on opening night, it was hard not to marvel at what these people have wrought.
It all started with Mark Clements, who began work three years ago on a new adaptation, different from the Joe Hanreddy/Edward Morgan version that had been on the stage for a decade and built a loyal and fervent following.
"When you agree to write a new adaptation and direct one, it’s more than your average run-of-the-mill reprise of another production," Clements said. "This one is really important because the chances are that the majority of the audience that will come and see it brought their kids, and in some cases their grandkids.
"I tried to look at the things that people loved and what they would be reluctant to lose, and to take those things and enhance it a little bit. Then other things that people will not expect to happen that will become a new tradition, hoping that our Christmas Carol, our new Christmas Carol, will allow that to happen to offer the most perfect shared experience we can."
While the script was still in the development stage, other artists got to work.
John Tanner composed and arranged music. Alexander B. Tecoma began designing costumes, lots of costumes. Michael Pink, artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet, began plotting how to get dozens of actors around the small stage at the Pabst.
And Todd Edward Ivins began thinking about, designing and building a miraculous set complex that served as streets in 19th century London, the inside and outside of a counting house, a cloth factory, a couple of parlors and a bedroom where Ebenezer Scrooge slept and met his three ghosts.
Ivins put the tall panels on a turntable that rotated locations throughout the show. It ended up being a smooth and faultless construction that marveled the audience.
The set had more than 300 lights and 60 windows that lit up in different colors. The Rep estimated that in the three years of development there were 10,000 hours of painting, crafting, building and wiring over 35 weeks of actual construction.
When the crews began to load in to the theater, 50 stagehands prepped the space with rigging lines, laid out the skeleton of the turntable, hung and set the lighting and finally loaded in all the pieces of the set.
All of this movement came under the direction of Jared Clarkin, who is the production manager at The Rep. The Rep has provided a time lapse video of the set construction process.
The excitement and beauty of the entire production is a treat for the eyes for an audience of all ages. But perhaps the most memorable moments in the show come when snowflakes fall from the sky , landing on the heads and shoulders of the audience.
Clark, who is about to be a contender for the title of "genius" explained how the miracle happens.
"We use 7 CITC Little Blizzard snow machines to achieve the different snow effects in the show," he said. "Two are located onstage and the other five are located on the gallery rail above the audience in The Pabst. The snow fluid is run through the machine to create small bubbles (which look like snowflakes as they fall). Fans are used to spread the snow out over the audience."
The snow is clearly a theatrical miracle for the loyal audiences for "Christmas Carol." But the real holiday miracle is how The Rep pulled this whole thing together over three years. Santa would be proud.
I love clever stuff, probably because I’m not the least bit clever.
There is a lot of clever in In Tandem’s Christmas show, "Holiday Hell: The Curse of Perry Williams." It comes in the dialogue but also, and most notably, in the parodies sung by cast members.
Anthony Wood and Mondy Carter, who wrote the show, have a great ear for music and lyrics that fit the song.
Here’s one sung to the tune of "Hello Muddah Hello Faddah" the 1963 hit that won a Grammy for Alan Sherman. If you don’t know the tune, and you want to sing these crazy lyrics, here’s a video of the song.
Hello Joseph, Hello Mary
I think your baby, is a very
Holy Savior with good behavior
I'm so glad you named him Jesus and not Gary.
Let's all try to, make Christmas day be
Not for the presents, but for the baby T
The tree with tinsel has had it's stint-sel
Let's all worship Jesus now I don't mean maybe.
In Tandem can be counted on to stray away from the solemn nature of Christmas and we are all better for it.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.