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Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009

‘A Christmas Carol’ Shines at Pabst Theater

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The Milwaukee Repertory Theater retains its title as a premier producer of holiday shows, as it proved again Friday during the opening performance of A Christmas Carol. The show continues through Dec. 27 at the historic Pabst Theater.

The combination of a sprightly, song-filled A Christmas Carol and the red velvet opulence of the Pabst Theater is a combination too hard to resist. And one shouldn’t resist. Indeed, it would be wise to snap up tickets to this glorious tale by Charles Dickens as soon as possible.

This is the 34th season that the Rep has staged A Christmas Carol. Sadly, it’s also the last by departing Artistic Director Joe Hanreddy. Still, one hopes that the current adaptation by Hanreddy and Edward Morgan lives on for many seasons to come.

Actor Jim Pickering returns as that grasping moneylender, Scrooge. After performing the role for more than 23 years (not successively), Pickering no longer “acts” the part. Instead, he has internalized the character so completely that he basically inhabits it. He is supported by a large and talented cast, too numerous to mention individually. Yet, one must single out longtime favorites such as Jonathan Smoots as the jolly Mr. Fezziwig and equally good-natured Ghost of Christmas Present. The beautiful voice of Elizabeth Ledo often leads the chorus in Olde English Christmas carols. She plays the bubbly Catherine, Scrooge’s niece. In other scenes, she is equally charming as Scrooge’s beloved late sister, Fan. There are 18 children in the cast, and all are completely adorable. Even the two youngest cast members, who play Tiny Tim at alternate performances, can still bring a smile with “God bless us, every one.” Sets sweep quickly on and offstage to keep the story moving. Costumes are a big part of the show’s appeal, and lighting plays a strong role in this year’s production.

A Christmas Carol continues at the Pabst Theater through Dec. 27.

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