Today, the Thanksgiving turkey officially became leftovers, shoppers bombarded the stores and the radio waves were filled with Christmas music. What better way to kick off the holiday season than to take in a show? I ventured out to see In Tandem Theatre's “A Cudahy Caroler Christmas” which just opened in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts' Vogel Hall. It met the mark in setting the tone for holiday fun.
The musical features In Tandem's own talented Chris Flieller as Stasch Zielinski, narrator and principal character who ably threads songs together with story. Stasch sets out to unite the wayward choir members that have not graced the community with their musical genius for five years. Each character is comically introduced and endeared to the audience through ample airing of their imperfections. The librarian number was of particular note. Who could ever imagine what goes on in those prim and proper little heads? Of course, lots of beer, sausage and Packers references pull their weight in audience appeal. The current rising Packer fever undoubtedly works in the show's favor.
When the group is finally gathered, further drama ensues. There is ample fuel for the fire with the mother-daughter relationship, the estranged friend relationship, the widower and the hottie. Any proud Milwaukee area native can find plenty to relate here. I, for one, am not from Cudahy or the South Side, but there were plenty of searing references to the North Shore to make me roll my eyes at myself. And of course, I can understand the appeal of a bowling alley on a cold winter night (and I can score without the help of a computer thanks to my high school bowling class). In fact, pretty much anyone from our great state of Wisconsin can find the beauty in this baby.
The show is ripe with one-liners that made me laugh out loud and likewise recoil in horror. It is full of big dreams for the future and a testament to the power of friendship. And yes, you can drink beer in the theater -- and I am sure you could sneak in a pack of mortadella.
Jessica Laub was born in Milwaukee in the spring of 1970, thereafter spending her childhood days enjoying the summers on the shores of Lake Michigan and winters at the toboggan chute in Brown Deer Park.
Alas, she moved away to broaden her horizons, and studied out East for a few years at Syracuse University. After a semester "abroad" at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, she graduated with a B.A. in English and advertising.
After college, she worked at Glacier National Park, a ski hill in Steamboat, Col. and organic farms in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California.
In 1995, Laub moved to Nicaragua where she worked on community gardens, reforestation and environmental education as a Peace Corps volunteer. While there, she learned to speak Spanish, pay attention to world politics and how to make tortillas.
Laub then returned to Milwaukee to join the ranks of the non-profit sector. Currently, she works at the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) and keeps busy by painting, throwing pots, reading, trying to understand her two-year old son, seeing performances and howling at the moon.