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Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013

Christmas at the Brumder Mansion

Heartwarming holiday show set in 1940s Milwaukee

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It’s exceedingly difficult to tell an original Christmas story. With Home For Christmas, playwright Liz Shipe does a solidly entertaining job of telling a story familiar enough to seem like a dramatic stage comedy that’s been around since the 1940s.

Audiences arriving at the Brumder Mansion are welcomed as guests to a Christmas party at a Milwaukee bed and breakfast in the ’40s. The classy domestic atmosphere amplifies the coziness of actors in character as a period family at a holiday. Hors d’oeuvres are served and the show starts as all guests are welcomed to the basement.

Mingling transitions into the play quite fluidly, Shipe’s script has been custom fit in and around a warm ensemble of actors. Randall Anderson is wonderful as the old, traditional, gregarious patriarch. Marcee Doherty-Elst is sweetly ingratiating as the hostess, wife and mother. Two adult sons are finally home after the end of World War II and everything seems to be settling into place. Mark Puchinsky is lovably dense as the son, married to a former USO singer (the delightful Amanda J. Hull) who welcomes the two other members of her USO act to the party. Shipe plays a beautiful stage performer who has had some difficulty with the unmarried son (played in classic brooding manner by John Glowacki). Kelly Doherty plays the singer’s sister—a strong, assertive individual with a witty charm not altogether unlike Mae West’s. Doherty has a brilliant sense of comic timing and a stage presence that’s respectably intoxicating.

The show features music written specifically for the show by Brian Myers, whose cleverly penned pieces fit the period perfectly.

Milwaukee Entertainment Group’s Home for Christmas runs through Dec. 22 at the Brumder Mansion, 3046 W. Wisconsin Ave. For tickets, call 414-388-9104.

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