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The Rep Respins a Classic

By STEPHANIE S. BEECHER

December 2016

Floor plans for the new set, designed
by associate artist Todd Edward Ivins.

 

Milwaukee audiences are invited to join Ebenezer Scrooge on his ghoulish journey to redemption when the Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents its annual production of Charles Dickens’ classic cautionary tale, “A Christmas Carol” — with a bit of a twist. While the story still harkens to Victorian London, and includes all of the endearing (and foreboding) characters people have grown to love, The Rep has created an enchanting, immersive storytelling experience that is sure to leave audiences on the edge of their seats.

Despite the new changes, Artistic Director Mark Clements says the latest adaptation, costumes and set uphold the nostalgia that has cemented “A Christmas Carol” into families’ rota of holiday tradition for generations.

“The story never gets old,” Clements says. “Regardless of religious faith, it reminds people to be charitable all year long. It’s such an inspirational story.”

While the story’s somber message never wanes, Clements has incorporated the British panto style of theater, where songs, dances, jokes, exaggerated characters and audience participation make it an exciting, family-friendly affair. After all, “it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas,” he says.

Here Clements shares what to expect in The Rep’s upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol,” which runs Nov. 29 through Christmas Eve. 

New costume renderings by costume designer
Alexander B. Tecoma

New Adaptation

Clements wrote this year’s adaptation, only the fourth since the production first launched more than 40 years ago, and the last of which was written in 1998. The artistic director says he refocused on the play’s “ghost aspect.” “We’re trying to tell the story of how Scrooge became who he was before his redemption,” explains Clements. “It’s a very dramatic, traditional telling.”
 

Imaginative Costumes

While many of the costumes in “A Christmas Carol” received tweaks, the story’s three ghost characters have been completely reimagined. Designed by Milwaukee’s own Alexander B. Tecoma, the ghosts combine whimsical threads, special lighting and even puppetry to bring the characters to life (even in their death).
 

A Turntable Set

This year’s set is one of The Rep’s most technologically advanced builds to date. The set features an innovative turntable, which easily transports the actors, and the audience, from the heart of Old London to inside the homes of Bob Cratchit and Scrooge. “It allows us great fluidity and narrative to go to multiple locations effortlessly,” Clements adds. The set was designed by Todd Edward Ivins and took nearly two years to design. 

A Fresh-faced Scrooge

The Rep introduces local actor Jonathan Wainwright as the 12th Ebenezer Scrooge in the theater’s history. Wainwright played Bob Cratchit for many years, and understudied as Scrooge in the 2015 season. Clements says Wainwright’s physicality and stellar acting made him an easy choice.
 

Snow!

To add to the immersive play experience, The Rep has drawn on technology from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to make it snow on the audience during the performance.



This story ran in the December 2016 issue of: