Theaters large and small prep for the season

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

November 17, 2016


Laura Heise

The cast of “A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas” includes members of the Provan family from Delafield. On the floor and circling clockwise are Claire Zempel, Bethany Provan, Simon Jon Provan, Grace Provan and Heather Lenox.


  Late November and early December always offer us an array of Christmas shows of great variety.

Some are classics, such as Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the children’s favorite “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or the popular “Elf,” immortalized by the memorable Will Ferrell. 

Others are lesser-known, such as “For Purely Elfish Reasons,” “Holiday Hell” or the brand-new “Unsilent Night.” 

Take some time out of your frantic preparations and enjoy a live show. Here are some attractive options.

1. Through Sunday - “A Laura Ingals  Wilder Christmas” - It’s a poignant tale about a family torn with adversity who nonetheless finds a path to gratitude for the blessings that remain. The story spans two years of the Ingalls family history not covered in the book series during the winter of 1876 in Burr Oaks, Iowa. The cast features members of the Provan family from Delafield in the show at the Concordia University Todd Wehr Auditorium, 12800 N. Lake Shore Drive, Mequon. Call Acacia Theatre at 414-744-5995 or visit

2. Through Dec. 23 - “A Fireside Christmas” - Following a long tradition of offering a mix of old and new, sacred and secular holiday fare, the Fireside Dinner Theatre, 1131 Janesville Ave., Fort Atkinson, returns to its ever-popular program that Ed Flesch, its longtime artistic director, tweaks every year. Occasionally, the Fireside offers something different, such as last season’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,’ but patrons relish the unique flavor that “A Fireside Christmas” features. Call 800-477-9505 or visit

3. Through Dec. 11 - “Unsilent Night” - An original drama by actor-playwright John Kishline from Milwaukee dramatizes an unusual tale of broadcast suspense as a program director on the radio on Christmas Eve suddenly receives an unexpected visitor. At times, everyone needs a lifeline. See it at the Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St., Milwaukee. Call 414-278-0765 or visit for times and tickets.

4. Tuesday through Nov. 27 - “Elf” - Part of the Broadway Series, “Elf” is a musical version of the beloved movie starring Will Ferrell. With a large cast of dancers and singers, we experience the story anew with lots of movement, music and color at the Uihlein Hall, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee. Children will love it. Call 800-830-9227 or visit their website at

5. Nov. 25 through Dec. 31 - “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” - The musical version of the classic tale is very cleverly presented at First Stage Children’s Theatre. Due to its popularity from years past, it is no surprise that this wonderfully imaginative production returns for a third run. Call 414-267-2978 or visit to see it at the Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee.

6. Nov. 29 through Dec. 24 - “A Christmas Carol” - The play is a faithful adaptation of the classic Dickens tale and produced by the Milwaukee Rep, 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, with new special effects. It’s been a wildly popular show for 40 years. Call 414-224-9490 or visit for times and tickets.

7. Dec. 1 through Dec. 11 - “A Musical Christmas Carol” - Lake Country Playhouse brings us its very successful rendition of Dickens’ classic tale for the fourth year. It’s a timeless tale about the redemption that comes from a giving spirit. The theater is at 221 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland. Call 262-367-4697 or visit

8. Dec. 1 through Dec. 23 - “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” - It’s known as one of the most popular and funniest Christmas stories. Adapted from the book, the play deals with many of the challenges faced by kids, including bullying, along with the typical children’s pageant with its almost predictable goofs, and some eventual changes in attitude. A light story with a valuable message, it will be at the Sunset Playhouse, 800 Elm Grove Road, Elm Grove. Visit or call 262-782-4430.

9. Dec. 2 through Dec. 4 - “A Christmas Carol, a Musical” - It’s part of a family tradition at Patio Players in Menomonee Falls. Two of its members, Carol Klose and Jack Strawbridge, added eight original carols in French and English to other traditional yuletide songs. It’s something new added to something old. The five performances over three days are always well-attended at North Middle School, N88-W16750 Garfield Drive, Menomonee Falls. Call 262-255-8372 or visit

10. Dec. 2 through 18 - “For Purely Elfish Reasons” - The Waukesha Civic Theatre, 264 W. Main St., Waukesha, has temporarily abandoned its traditional “Candy Canes” production for the first time in many years. This hilarious new script by local playwright Jason Powell and composer Josh Parman reflects the Marx brothers’ comic styling. The story involves the exodus of several of Santa’s elves who are looking for more lucrative occupations elsewhere. Call 262-547-0708 or visit

11. Dec. 2 through Jan. 8 - “Holiday Hell,” penned by the same hilarious duo (Anthony Wood and Mondy Carter) who brought us “Cudahy Caroler Christmas” and “A Twisted Tale,” this show follows In Tandem Theatre’s tradition of offering irreverent holiday comedies, a stark contrast to the more sentimental fare that is more typical of Christmas offerings. Catch it at the theater at 628 N. 10th St., Milwaukee. Call 414-271-1371 or visit

12. Dec. 3 through Dec. 27 - ”The Nutcracker Suite Ballet” - The Marcus Center again offers its traditional symphonic ballet by Tchaikovsky. A very popular draw every year, it’s appealing to those who love beautiful music, graceful dancing and colorful pageantry. See it in the Uihlein Hall, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee. Call 414-273-7206 or visit marcuscenter. com.