Marquette Wire

Altering ‘A Christmas Carol’

President+Michael+Lovell+had+a+costume+fitting+for+his+cameo+role+in+Milwaukee+Rep%27s+%27A+Christmas+Carol.%27
President Michael Lovell had a costume fitting for his cameo role in Milwaukee Rep's 'A Christmas Carol.'

President Michael Lovell had a costume fitting for his cameo role in Milwaukee Rep's 'A Christmas Carol.'

Photo by Austin Anderson

Photo by Austin Anderson

President Michael Lovell had a costume fitting for his cameo role in Milwaukee Rep's 'A Christmas Carol.'

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Milwaukee Repertory Theater is twisting up tradition with new additives to its holiday staple.

Power plant converted to theater, Milwaukee Rep, is a popular place for folks in the city to experience various seasonal performances.Around the holidays, this is particularly true when the theater performs its annual adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.” Premiering for its 41st anniversary, “A Christmas Carol,” directed by Mark Clements, is the classic Christmas tale told in new and interactive ways through Dec. 24.

“‘A Christmas Carol’ is a timeless (Charles) Dickens classic about Ebenezer Scrooge (a wealthy and selfish man) who gets visited by an old friend who warns him that if he doesn’t change his ways, fate will come and take him away,” Frances White, director of media relations for Milwaukee Rep, said.

Scrooge encounters a host of characters such as Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, as well as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

“(Scrooge) realizes in the end how life isn’t all about money but rather family, love and redemption,” White said.

This year’s performance is a brand new adaption of what the company normally presents.

“There’s a whole new script, (a) new director Mark Clements and a completely new set,” White said. “It’s probably one of the biggest, most complicated sets we’ve ever created at the Rep… along with new costumes, lighting design and even new actors.”

“We have a three-person directing team on this and I’m in charge of working on a lot of routines when Mark steps out of the room, ” Leda Hoffmann, director of community engagement at the Milwaukee Rep and associate director for “A Christmas Carol,” said. “I also do a lot of work with the children’s cast rehearsing scenes, so we are able to divide and conquer.”

In addition to the newness of the show, Jonathan Wainwright, a local crowd favorite, will be playing Scrooge this year after playing Bob Cratchit in the past.

In tech rehearsals, Hoffmann and Clements give the actors notes on what worked well in rehearsal and what actors need to work on.

“Every 10 to 15 years, the Milwaukee Rep does a brand new “A Christmas Carol”… and this one has the most audience interaction it has ever had,” Hoffmann said. “The stage is a double turn table (rotating platforms)…. we are going to make it snow over the audience, the stage and the orchestra pit.”

This idea came about three years ago when Clements said he wanted this year’s performance to be truly magical.

Each year, the Milwaukee Rep raises money for a community organization, and this year it is for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, adding to the magic of the holidays.

“After the show, audience members will get to hear a little about the Boys & Girls Clubs, and then costumed actors will be out in the lobby collecting donations for the organization and to provide a Christmas for families in need,” Hoffmann said.

While the Milwaukee Rep is in a giving spirit this time of year, they also want to give the community memorable and special performances. This year, it will continue the tradition of featuring several notable people in Milwaukee as VIP walk-ons in “A Christmas Carol.”

Marquette President Michael Lovell is on the list of guest stars this year and will be making his theater debut at the show Dec. 14.

Each guest makes an onstage appearance in full costume near the end of the performance. Lovell said “getting dressed up in a different way and having a stage presence” will be a challenge for him, but he is excited for his family to come and see him on stage.

Lovell said he wanted to be a part of “A Christmas Carol” because it represents the history of Milwaukee Rep and he loves the play’s story.

Last time Lovell took the stage for theater was in elementary school.

“This is my first time … I’ve never done anything like this before,” Lovell said. “So, I said, ‘Why not? Let’s give it a try.”

Because Lovell is performing in the show, people affiliated with Marquette can purchase tickets at a discounted rate.

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