Milwaukee Rep’s Grand Scale “A Christmas Carol” Is Sweeping and Spectacular

Reviewed by: Matthew Perta

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow

Highly Recommended

If you’re a theater lover with a thirst for holiday traditions there’s a good chance you’ve seen Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol performed many times on stage.  What do you retain from it year after year?  Is it a classic ghost story about a miserly old man who’s visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future?  Maybe you see it as a tale of forgiveness and redemption.  Or you may think it’s purely about greed and generosity,  No matter which theme you’ve retained in your heart, those attending the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s production of Dickens’ classic would agree that Artistic Director Mark Clemens and his talented team of actors and artisans have staged a sweeping, spectacular grand-scale production that combines themes of the original story with special effects to make it a family-friendly adventure – technically amazing enough to keep young children wide-eyed and interested from start to finish.

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In other words, there’s something for everybody in an enchanting production that ushers in the holiday season in the merriest of ways.

By hitting the reset button on a Milwaukee holiday tradition, Clemens has brought A Christmas Carol to life at the Pabst Theater in an exciting way, infusing late 1800s London and the dreary world of miser Ebenezer Scrooge with a sprinkle of comedic touches mixed in with high drama, plus electrifying lighting and sound and dazzling special effects (think snowflakes falling gently on your lap).

Jonathan Wainwright reprises the role of Ebenezer Scrooge for the second consecutive year, and rises to brilliant heights as a man consumed by hatred and who emerges as a most generous soul by Christmas Day.  Wainwright’s Scrooge is so real, so moving, you can’t help but cheer for him upon finding his new giving self.  Other cast members who perform memorably include Jonathan Smoots as the Ghost of Marley, as well as Deborah Staples and Todd Denning as the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, respectively.  Gold stars also go to a pair of young actresses in non-speaking, yet utterly amazing roles: Eloise Bejma as Ignorance and Olivia Vitrano as Want.

Chicago-based actor Jesse Bhamrah, who has performed with the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, is seen in the dual role of Fred and assistant to Dickens.

From the memorable cast to the magnificent direction, sets and costumes, the Milwaukee Rep’s version of A Christmas Carol will linger in our memories all year long.

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Production of A Christmas Carol runs through Dec. 24 at the historic Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells in downtown Milwaukee.  For tickets visitwww.MilwaukeeRep.com or call (414) 224-9490.  The Rep Box Office is located at 108 E. Wells St.