Theaters Offer Holiday Shows

Including different versions of Dickens and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’

By - Nov 24th, 2020 11:53 am
Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol

Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol

The national admonition to “Stay Home for the Holidays” is an opportunity for Wisconsin theater companies. They are either announcing or expanding details on invading the online entertainment experience that has proved so successful for Netflix and various streaming services.

Having promised more online efforts to go with the extension of Being Earnest until the end of December, the Skylight Music Theatre is creating Skylight Sings: A Holiday Special, a pastiche of some of its most popular numbers and performers, each recorded individually with appropriate COVID-19 protections in the Cabot Theatre and only available through a paywall.

Former artistic director Ray Jivoff and popular percussionist Michael (Ding) Lorenz lead the regalia while guest stars include singers denied their new place in the sun when the Skylight was forced to postpone until next season its production of Little Shop of Horrors.

In quite a mix of talents and styles. This may not be Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen in White Christmas, but it is popular Skylight dancer Ryan Cappleman and his dog interpreting “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” from the seasonally popular movie.

Other Skylight names involved in this show coordinated by artistic director Michael Unger are Kaylee Annable, Aaron Reese Boseman, Christie Burgess, Raven Dockery, Kelly Doherty, Krystal Drake, Shawn Holmes, Liz Norton, Ashley Oviedo, Kevin James Sievert, Samantha Sostarich, Ben Tajnai and two performers often singled out for special honors, Kiss Me Kate stars Rána Roman and Andrew Varela.

The price points are interesting and somewhat new to the online universe. A Skylight subscriber can buy a ticket for $10 and other patrons pay $20, plus there are basically higher-priced honor-system “date night” and family packages. Tickets can be bought directly at or by contacting the box office at 414-291-7800, but tickets are also tied to the show date selected Dec. 11 to Dec. 31 on a Skylight “click your choice” calendar. Patrons have 48 hours to complete a viewing.

The Milwaukee Rep is offering up Dickens in two ways online. One is for free by signing up at Dec. 1 to 31 — reaching into the video vault for a never-before-seen recording of director Mark Clements’ 2016 classic adaptation at the Pabst Theater, where A Christmas Carol was an annual event canceled by the pandemic.

Devotees can now compare the Rep version to several others being made available online by streaming services.

Lee F. Ernst

Lee F. Ernst

But the Rep is also offering a paywall original – Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, a one-man version featuring veteran actor Lee Ernst that looks at the fable through the eyes of Scrooge’s deceased partner. Originally intended as both virtual and a live theater event at the Quadracci Stage, it is being filmed by nationally known Media HMS with multiple cameras from an original set created by Arnold Bueso and including a soundscape by Dan Kazemi. Directed by Clements and written by Tom Mula, the online play is available December 10 to Dec. 24.

Once a patron registers at, a unique link will be sent to the corresponding email. When you click on the link you have 24 hours to view as many times as you want. Price is $20 per household.

Wisconsin’s true repertory company (producing a season of plays with the same core company), the American Players Theatre at Spring Green, is combining the Rep’s “holiday favorite” approach and the Skylight’s “most popular performers” approach for the company’s first ticketed virtual events. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Dec. 1 at for productions available Dec. 2 to Dec. 29.

Once tickets are purchased, patrons will receive an email with a link and redemption codes. When the code is redeemed, the play will be available to view for 24 hours.

The first offering revisits Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life in a unique one-person performance entitled This Wonderful Life, written by Steve Murray based on the famous movie. Veteran actor Nate Burger unfolds each of the chosen inhabitants of Bedford Falls as a gift to the audience in a production directed by William Brown.

Three of APT’s most popular performers concocted APT Holidames: Tangled in Tinsel with director Keira Fromm. Tracy Michelle Arnold, Sarah Day and Colleen Madden cut loose in a patchwork of songs, prose and general mirth you’ll find at

Prices are $24 per ticket or $45 for both offerings. The APT is also partnering with an already established national website, Broadway on Demand, which is trying to develop as a home for many theater offerings.

Jessica Amend, marketing content manager for APT, said in a comment that could be echoed by all the theater organizations exploring online production: “The goal is not to make enormous profits off of these events.”

In APT’s case, the ticket price helps pay for the rights to produce This Wonderful Life, for the actors, directors, artists and other company members working on the productions, and the Broadway on Demand fees.

Dominique Paul Noth served for decades as film and drama critic, later senior editor for features at the Milwaukee Journal. You’ll find his blog here and here.

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