By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Dec 21, 2022 at 4:56 PM Photography: First Stage Facebook

Snuggle up with some holiday cheer as OnMilwaukee shares stories of everything merry and bright in the spirit of the season.

The OnMilwaukee Ho Ho Holiday Guide is brought to you by Educators Credit Union, Harley-Davidson Museum and MolsonCoors

The holiday season is a magical time of the year (minus all the shoveling and cold, which are the opposite of magical). And one of the best ways to make it even more magical is to celebrate it with the wonder of live performance. Whether it's a time-honored Milwaukee tradition, an on-screen classic adapted into an on-stage treat or some other festive fun sure to end up on your Nice List, there are plenty of wonderful theater and music productions to make your days merry and bright late this December. 

Here are five festive shows turning Milwaukee stages delightful, even when the weather outside is frightful.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" 

  • Now through Dec. 24 at the Marcus Center

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and the most famous reindeer of them all will all make the leap from the claymation Christmas classic to the stage with this production from the inventive family-friendly geniuses at First Stage. With the help of clever costuming and sets, bright performances from actors young and old, and the winsome charm of the festive favorite, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" makes a seamless transition from screen to stage. So, won't you guide your sleigh over to the Marcus Center this holiday weekend? 

"The Nutcracker"

  • Now through Dec. 24 at the Marcus Center

Decorating the Christmas tree. Wrapping the presents. Falling asleep to one of the 127 random college football bowl games that are on this time of year. The holidays have many traditions – and if you live in Brew City, seeing "The Nutcracker" certainly qualifies. For years, the Ballet has mesmerized Milwaukeeans with this iconic Christmas tale, told through timeless music, lavish and lovely production design, and – of course – gorgeous dance. Next year, though, after more than two decades of dazzling viewers, the Ballet's beloved rendition will get a full revamp – and while we have no doubt Michael Pink and company have something marvelous and merry up their ballet shoes, it's also bittersweet to see this ballet icon take its final bow. So if you want to see this particular version one last time, get cracking. 

"A Christmas Carol"

  • Now through Dec. 24 at The Pabst Theater

While we're on the topic of Milwaukee holiday traditions! It wouldn't be a Brew City Christmas without a visit from Scrooge on stage courtesy of the Milwaukee Rep. There are plenty of versions of Charles Dickens' time-tested fable out there – from productions loyal to the original text to modernized takes and even a marvelous Muppet-ized one – but the Milwaukee Rep's annual edition always ranks amongst the best, an on-stage blockbuster rich with vivid detail and deeply felt emotion as Scrooge travels his way through time to redemption. 

"A Jolly Holiday"

  • Now through Dec. 31 at the Skylight Music Theatre

Why not combine holiday magic with Disney magic? Skylight Music Theatre is clearly pro the idea – enter their production for the end of the year, "A Jolly Holiday," a merry medley of some of the Mouse House's biggest Broadway hits. Performed by a cast of young and old, the setlist features more than two dozen Disney favorites from "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King," "The Little Mermaid" and – because it's winter in Wisconsin – "Frozen." Even "High School Musical" gets its head in the game! The show makes the perfect pick if you're feeling the festive spirit but have had enough of hearing the same holiday standards for the past month. 

"A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Even if your holiday viewing of choice is "A Christmas Story," "Christmas Vacation" or some other option, the soul-warming jazzy vibe of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is undeniable, with a sound that's now practically embedded into the DNA of the season. And that iconic sound from the cartoon will make a real-life appearance this holiday season thanks to The Commercialists, playing intimate gigs at The Jazz Estate along with a grand finale at The Pabst Theater. The former shows are mostly sold out – though if you poke around in the Facebook comments, you might be able to find some tickets for sale – while the latter's duo of performances still has seats available. So don't swing and miss on seeing this show like Charlie Brown attempting a field goal.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.