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Milwaukee Holiday Round-up

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By Jennifer Posh
Content & Copywriting Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

Milwaukee's Old-School Bar Scene

‘Tis the season for holiday fun! If you’re in Milwaukee this December, there are so many options for making your spirits jolly, whether you’re in the mood for a classic holiday show, something new and a little snarky or getting outside to enjoy the winter air! We’ve rounded up 20 great ways to celebrate the holidays in Milwaukee this month – how many will you do?
  1. Take in the Holiday Lights Festival with a ride on the Jingle Bus or on a walking tour led by your very own holiday elf!  
  2. Taste the treats on a holiday food tour
  3. See a holiday show like the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s A Christmas Carol (celebrating its 40th anniversary this year!)
  4. Or Black Nativity
  5. Or The Nutcracker
  6. Or Second City’s Holidazed and Confused Revue
  7. Or A Wonderful Life: The Musical
  8. Or A Charlie Brown Christmas
  9. Or A Twisted Carol
  10. Or An L.M. Montgomery Christmas
  11. Or Christmas in the Basilica
  12. Or Darlene Love: Love for the Holidays
  13. Go ice skating in the heart of downtown at Slice of Ice in Red Arrow Park
  14. Experience a Victorian Christmas at the Pabst Mansion, halls thoroughly decked for the season
  15. Go even further back to Wisconsin’s immigrant past for an Old World Christmas at Old World Wisconsin
  16. Dine with Charles Dickens at the Dickens Dinner at the Grain Exchange
  17. Visit the Kooky Cooky House, a Milwaukee holiday tradition reborn at Discovery World
  18. Enjoy a stunning light display in the Miller Valley at MillerCoors Holiday Lites
  19. Take a drive through Wisconsin’s largest outdoor drive-through display, Country Christmas
  20. Ring in the New Year with The Crystal Method at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino
Still craving holiday cheer? Find more events on!


Getting in the Holiday Spirit in Milwaukee Step 1: See “A Christmas Carol”

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By Carrie Woods
Public Relations Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

Holiday shopping, putting up the Christmas tree, baking cookies and singing yuletide carols are all great ways to get in to the holiday spirit. But all of these things often don’t remind you of the true spirit of the holidays – of giving and charity and spending time reflecting on blessings with loved ones.

A trip to see the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s A Christmas Carol does just that. It has done so for the past 38 years. I would wager to say that it will continue to for another 38, especially since this year, the show has a few new pleasant twists and giggles that weren’t there before.

As you settle into your red velvet seat at the grandiose Pabst Theater and hear the first few lines from the cast, you are transported to nineteenth century London. The sing-song story lines are told by small groups, scattered across the stage, keeping you on your toes to follow the narrative. The colorful costumes all include overcoats and the sound effects of wind whipping through the dark streets send shivers up your spine (quite literally, I shivered!).

Christopher Donahue reprises his role of Scrooge and nails it with his own twist on the cantankerous “bah, humbug-er” we all love. He brings several poignant comedic moments to the story, some displayed by his body language and movements alone.

Veteran Rep actor Jim Pickering has played Scrooge many times over the years and is still part of the show this year. He is part of much of the show, in fact, playing four different roles – one of which is the female role of Mrs. Fezziwig. And let me just say, he does an amazing job and the costume designers have done wonders, as I never thought it would be possible to give the legendary Pickering cleavage in some sort of a tasteful way. I stand corrected!

Other highlights of the show range from the set to actors and songs. The impressively seamless scene changes are done by the cast, transporting you from Christmas past to present to future without a curtain drawn or lights lowered. The Cratchit family is adorable as ever, and Tiny Tim’s famous line makes you want to jump out of your seat and run down to hug him. Scrooge’s nephew Fred, played by Luigi Sottile, is downright dreamy, and as he and Catherine sang a few lines of “The Holly and the Ivy,” I caught myself picturing him spinning ME around the tree after playing a few rounds of charades.

Besides the warm and fuzzy parts of the show, you’ll find yourself in moments of longing and awe as you watch Scrooge come to see the reality of his lonely life. From the emptiness of missing family and loved ones to hardening of the heart in pursuit of ideals which prove to be not so great, Scrooge shows the audience a life lived without warmth, charity or kindness. It’s a good thing that his old pal Jacob Marley sends him a message loudly and clearly (and sometimes loudly and funny or intensely spooky) to try to make him see his ways.

Without giving away any more of the show, I’ll just say that after enjoying A Christmas Carol this year, I left thinking more about what is truly important during the season. Spending time with loved ones, spreading holiday cheer to those who might need a little more this time of year and making lasting memories are now at the top of the holiday to-do list.

Happy holidays, everyone!

A Christmas Carol
Through Dec. 24
Presented by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Performed at the Pabst Theater

Photography credits:

Top Row

  • Left: Renata Friedman (standing) and Christopher Donahue in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
  • Middle: Craig Wallace and Christopher Donahue in Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
  • Right: A scene from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Bottom Row:

  • Left: A scene from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
  • Middle: (L – R) Melody Betts, Jack Trettin (seated), Marti Gobel, Eliza Hake (front row), Freedom Gobel (second row), Claire Zempel, Riley Halpern and Elliott Brotherhood (back row). 
  • Right: The cast from Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s 2013/14 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Brosilow. 

Best Christmas Pageant Ever

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

There are an abundance of messages hurled at us in this performance-enhanced era of the Information Age. During the holidays, the tweets, updates and texts seem to quadruple to overload status. It’s the perfect time to visit the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, turn off your smart phone and be bombarded with nothing but The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

The “best” looks like the worst when mom Grace Bradley gets thrown into directing the annual Christmas pageant at her children’s school. Worst turns to nightmare when the Herdman kids – the town’s local bully family of five – decide they not only want to be in the play, they want all the main parts.

The entire town is in uproar – and not just because this First Stage Children’s Theater classic has gone 80s (“Thriller” dance number to “Walking Like An Egyptian” - hands down my favorite part of the show!). No one is feeling the spirit of the season – especially the Herdmans. But, as they learn more about the pageant’s story of how Jesus was born, the season begins to grow in them and affect all gathered at the town church to witness the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

Fun Alert: in the second half of the play, all in attendance are part of the “church” where the pageant is performed and will be forced to sing and have fun. And, having fun is what a First Stage production is all about. It’s also about a bevy of fine performances by First Stage regulars Niffer Clarke (Grace Bradley) and Todd Denning (Bob Bradley) and a host of incredible young actors (we saw the Cosby cast) who have the privilege of attending one of the finest children’s theaters in the world.

A couple times during the play, I sneaked peeks at the children attending in the audience, their mouths agape in wild wonder. No iPads. No HD TVs or angry fowl games. Just kids sharing a great story with other kids. Definitely share it with yours.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Through Dec. 29
Presented by First Stage
Performed at the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts

For a look back stage with students from First Stage, Milwaukee Ballet School and Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, see the Dear MKE film, "HIGH ART."


Groucho: A life in Revue

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By Zack Zupke
Creative Services Manager
VISIT Milwaukee

America has long been cemented as the entertainment capital of the world, producing many an entertainer who needs only one name to be recognized by millions. Elvis, Marilyn, Bogie, Madonna, Cher, Sammy, Bing and more possess unique star qualities known the world over. Then there’s the ultra unique: Groucho. Perhaps no other figure in American entertainment history told his story, and America’s, so uniquely as Groucho Marx.

With a raise of his brow and a puff of his cigar, Groucho made you laugh, think and so much more all at once. And, so much more of Groucho is what you’ll get from “Groucho: A Life in Revue” playing now through Dec. 8 at Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre.

“Groucho: A Life in Revue” is just that, a review of a lifetime revue. From early-childhood bedtime stories (he and his brothers shared a bed as the family struggled to make ends meet) to vaudevillian scamping, then major Hollywood stardom and finally a fixture on television sets nationwide, Groucho Marx and his brothers were America. Rags to riches, family to famely, Norman Moses (Groucho) and David Cecsarini (Chico) lead a splendid cast (Chris Klopatek steals every scene as Harpo and Alexendra Bonesho sizzles as Groucho's stable of ladies) in song, dance and slapstick with style, grace and just the perfect amount of emotional touches.

Director Pam Kriger and her cast expertly touch on the tale of two brothers as told by Arthur Marx (Groucho’s son) and Robert Fisher. Groucho and Chico’s bond as brothers and partners, yins and yangs until the end had the audience all in from curtain to bows. Especially entertaining was the light-hearted Grouchesque banter with the audience when a gag needed a lift or a brother needed a reprimand. It reminded all how important it is to laugh, especially at one’s self.

The great songwriter Irving Berlin quipped, "The world would not be in such a snarl, had Marx been Groucho instead of Karl." Well, the world would also snarl a lot less after they spend a couple hours at Next Act Theatre watching “Groucho: A Life in Revue.”

“Groucho: A Life in Revue” at Next Act Theatre
November 14 - December 8

“Forever Plaid” is a Splendored Thing

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By Carrie Woods
Public Relations Specialist
VISIT Milwaukee

After reading a review of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Forever Plaid, I was feeling simultaneously excited and curious. The author described the show as, “very, very funny,” and mentioned several times how great the music was.

But, he also said this…“The only question about this play is whether people under, say 40 or 50, will respond to it.”

I pushed any reservations to the back of my head and headed out to see the show on a crisp fall evening with a girlfriend. The show is on stage at the Rep’s Stackner Cabaret Theater, which is my favorite place to see a show in Milwaukee. A glass or two of wine shared with a table of new friends at a place where you can get seats less than five feet from the action? Yes, please. We also ordered a hefty slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting about halfway through the show. My sweet tooth gave a standing ovation. 

From the first note sung, the show had me smiling. “Forever Plaid” is based on four eager young singers from the 1960s known as “The Plaids.” The story goes the group was killed tragically on their way to a gig. They greet the audience as they realize they’ve been brought back from the afterlife to finally put on their big show.

The Plaids weave their story as they croon bop-shoo-boppers and ballads like “Three Coins in the Fountain” and “Sixteen Tons” from the nifty fifties, times that many in the audience know and remember fondly. While I didn’t recognize all of them, the harmonies are so tight and impressive that each time they were building up toward the end of a song, I wished they would do one more verse!

The cast had the banter between the characters nailed, to a point where you believed the smooth heartthrob was most certainly a dreamboat in real life, and the worrisome, taller bass was glad he got to chug his Maalox on stage so he didn’t have to wait until he was behind the curtain to sooth his nerves.

So the verdict is in. Those who find themselves belonging to a generation with a title falling somewhere closer to the end of the alphabet instead of up towards “Baby Boomer” will enjoy this show. So much so they might catch themselves humming tunes from the show. I might even add a new “50s Rock ‘n Roll” station to my Pandora line-up.


Forever Plaid at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Through Dec. 29

Milwaukee Ballet’s Sexy, Thrilling ‘Romeo and Juliet’

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By Margaret Casey
Public Relations Coordinator
VISIT Milwaukee

(Headline from Huffington Post article by Carla Escoda, October 15, 2013)

I’ve been fortunate to see several performances by the Milwaukee Ballet over the years and one thing always strikes me. Besides the masterful dancers, choreography, sets and costumes, it’s the audience itself. There’s not a more eclectic collection of fans to be found. You see young and old, in everything from formal evening attire, to blue-jean-clad couples, to little girls all dressed up and cheering for their heroes on the stage. A palpable excitement fills the air; the strains of the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra start up; the curtain opens and this diverse audience is carried away by the magic of the ballet’s storytelling power.

The Milwaukee Ballet’s season opener Romeo & Juliet (Thurs. Oct. 31 – Sun. Nov. 3) promises to be a dazzling spectacle. Shakespeare immortalized this timeless love story more than 300 years ago, and it is retold here through the glorious music of Prokofiev, the choreography of our own internationally renowned Artistic Director Michael Pink, and the powerful physicality and acting ability of a Milwaukee Ballet ensemble of 45 dancers including children.

Leading artists Luz San Miguel and Davit Hovhannisyan (and in alternate performances, rising stars Nicole Teague and Alexandre Ferreira) will bring the passion, joy and ultimate tragedy of these characters to life through dramatic movement and dance. The sensuality and intimacy of the balcony and bedroom (and according to Nicole Teague, “...lots of making out”) will tell the steamy tale along with colorful crowd scenes and fight choreography, all set to Prokofiev’s magnificent music.

There’s nothing elitist about the story of the “star-crossed lovers” caught between feuding families. It’s a universal story of emotions that still rings true today. My bet is there won’t be a dry eye in the house …

“For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

See this link for a preview video:

See this link for an article in the Huffington Post, where Michael Pink is interviewed:

Romeo & Juliet at the Milwaukee Ballet

  • Thursday, October 31, 2013 | 7:30 pm
  • Friday, November 1, 2013 | 7:30 pm
  • Saturday, November 2, 2013 | 7:30 pm
  • Sunday, November 3, 2013 | 1:30 pm