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It has long been a belief that theater has the power to influence and change lives.
"Macbeth" can give courage to the coward. "Lend Me a Tenor" can give a smile to the sad. And "It’s a Wonderful Life" can show the vain the value of humility.
The 40th consecutive edition of "A Christmas Carol" opened by the Milwaukee Rep Wednesday night, and there is a logical candidate to fall under the spell cast by this production.
I think it should be mandatory that Gov. Scott Walker and the rest of his grinch henchmen in the legislature – a force that never tires of messing with poor people – that they attend this show. Over and over.
Because the message of this play – and forget for a moment about it being Christmas – is that love is better than hate, generosity is better than greed, helping people is a good thing and it takes a cold, cold heart to mess with those who are more unfortunate than you.
If that sounds like Walker and his right wing lackeys, it should. Voter IDs, testing public assistance recipients for drugs and now taking food stamps away from poor people are just part of the pattern of government that brings shame to Wisconsin. Republicans can try to spin this however they want, but the fact is that poor people in this state have a target on their backs, and Walker and his cronies feel free to fire away.
The gradual change is Ebenezer Scrooge is a powerful story, not just at the holiday season but any time of the year. And the performance by Jonathan Smoots is eloquent testimony to how a skilled actor can take an audience with him on a journey that moves from night to day, from dark to light.
Scrooge is asked to help the "poor and desperate in want of common comfort." The plea falls on the deaf ears of the miser, and he takes solace in his own lonely life. He counts his money and clutches it to his chest, hoping the coins will keep him warm.
I’ve always thought that the most interesting story in "A Christmas Carol" is the remarkable worlds of Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, his clerk. Two men, working under the same roof and in the same business with two visions of life that are so far apart.
Cratchit, played once again by the marvelous Jonathan Wainwright, is full of the milk of human kindness while Scrooge chokes on the venom of his hate.
Wainwright has matured into an absolutely great actor. He is, above all else, a listener. You can tell that he is fully engaged in the world around him.
Smoots is a towering figure as Scrooge. His range is virtually unlimited as he opens his door and allows the audience to see what it is that is making him tick.
This production, under the obviously careful direction of Brent Hazelton, is a perfect holiday treat. The combination of the story, the production and the beautiful Pabst Theater is special evening.
The entire cast of actors, singer and dancers fill the stage with holiday spirit but the holidays take a back seat to the story of redemption and realization that is so very touching.
And it’s that redemption that could hopefully have a profound impact on our governor and the Republican legislature. The message they should heed is clear.
Have charity in your hearts. There are poor people in our world, and trying the legislate them out of poverty is stupid. Caring for people who need help is a divine way to live and to govern.
"A Christmas Carol" runs through Dec. 24 and information on showtimes and tickets is available here.
Production credits: Director, Brent Hazelton; Music Director Dan Kazemi; Scenic Designer, Marjorie Bradley Kellogg; Costume Designer, Martha Hally; Lighting Designer, Thom Weaver; Sound Designer, Barry G. Funderburg; Music Arranger, John Tanner; Staged Movement Director, Michael Pink; Dialect Coach, Jill Walmsley Zager; Casting Director, JC Clements; Make-Up/ Hair/Wig Designer, Lara Leigh Dalbey; Stage Manager, Rebecca Lindsey.
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.