Arts & Entertainment Commentary

The Rep unveils a new "Christmas Carol." This promotional video shows some of the changes.

MKE Ballet and The Rep prepare for revered holiday classics

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As November has finally pushed our long summer out of the way and the Downtown Christmas Parade has marched down Wisconsin Avenue, it is time to turn our attention to two of the most beloved of holiday traditions in the city.

"A Christmas Carol" and "The Nutcracker" are flying through rehearsals, almost as anticipated as Santa's flight across the night sky on Christmas. Each of the productions are eagerly awaited by young and old, parents and grandparents, throughout the area, but this year promises at least one new and unique production.

"Carol" is going to be staged for the 41st consecutive year by The Rep, with this production coming as a new adaptation by artistic director Mark Clements, who's been working on it for a long time.

Clements has a deserved reputation for being able to mount big shows full of the kind of things that take your breath away. This "A Christmas Carol" promises to deliver all of that and more.

The one thing I wonder about is whether Clements will be able to keep much of the sensitivity and the small stories intact: the Scrooge redemption, the joy and sorrow brought by Tiny Tim, and the bounty of Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig – to be played by Jonathan Gillard Daly and Angela Iannone, two of the greatest actors in the state.

In addition, we'll get a new Scrooge this year in Jonathan Wainwright, one of my favorite actors in this city for a long time. I've been watching him since he was but a youth, and his progress has now taken him to playing one of the most famous old men in all of the theater. I'm fascinated to see him in the role.

Information on showtimes and tickets is here.

No less popular than "Carol" is the annual staging of "The Nutcracker" by the high spirited and accomplished Michael Pink and the Milwaukee Ballet.

Pink, whose reputation as a master storyteller grows each year, has created a "Nutcracker" that flows easily through the various moments and scenes in this always-stunning production to the music of Tchaikovsky.

The Ballet has posted a very interesting look at "The Nutcracker" from backstage. Here it is:

There are some wonderful pairings for the famed duo of Karl and Marie, whose annual pax de deux are a highlight of each performance, including Annia Hidalgo and Randy Crespo, Marize Fumero and Davit Hovhannisyan, Luz San Miguel and guest dancer Arionel Vargas, and Nicole Teague-Howell and Timothy O'Donnell.

The Ballet and Marcus Center, along with the organization Autism Speaks, will stage a special sensory friendly performance for adults and children with conditions that cause sensory sensitivity. The performance will be Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.

"Ballet is language through movement, and it makes perfect sense for this art form to be adapted for the enjoyment of children and adults on the autism spectrum," said Pink. "At its heart, 'The Nutcracker' is a heartwarming story about all the magic and mayhem that can happen when families get together for the holidays. We want to ensure as many families as possible can make memories for their children seeing this performance."

Sensory friendly performances include lower sound levels, lights that remain on at a lower level and freedom for patrons to talk or leave their seats during performance.

Information on showtimes and tickets is available here.


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