Skylight Music Theatre
Press Release

Skylight Music Theatre Announces Cast, Creative Team for Regional Premiere of Award-Winning Off-Broadway Musical Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

January 14-30, 2022

By - Dec 15th, 2021 03:06 pm

Milwaukee, Wis. (December 15, 2021) —  Skylight Music Theatre today announced the cast and creative team for the regional premiere of Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, a highly inventive off-Broadway musical that crisscrosses continents and time in an improbable and enchanting love story.

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me runs January 14-30, 2022, in the beautiful Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. Skylight is Milwaukee’s professional Equity music theatre company. Safety requirements are in effect, including masks while indoors and proof of vaccination or negative Covid test.

Off-Broadway Best New Musical

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me won the Best New Musical of the 2017 Off-Broadway Alliance Awards. With ingenuity, modern pop music, and cutting-edge video, Ernest Shackleton Loves Me is a romantic adventure linking a struggling modern-day, single-mom composer/violinist and the early-1900’s, intrepid, banjo-playing, Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton. Digital projections of actual footage from Shackleton’s expeditions are incorporated into the multimedia set design.

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me is written by Joe DiPietro, (Tony Award-winner for Memphis and author of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), with lyrics by Val Vigoda and music by Brendan Milburn.

Longtime Skylight collaborator and producing artistic director of Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Jill Anna Ponasik, will direct. Ponasik directed Skylight’s acclaimed productions of Oklahoma!, Carmina Burana, Ruddigore, The Tales of Hoffmann and Tosca.

“This may be the most FUN I have ever had researching a production,” said Ponasik. “To dive into the adventure of the Endurance Expedition, specifically the roles hope and optimism played in the men’s unlikely survival, has been thoroughly refreshing, and I can’t wait to share that energy with live audiences.”

Regional Premiere Features Skylight Debuts

Skylight’s production will be the first time the show is presented in the Midwest. “The musical explores the unexpected similarities and sacrifices made by artists and explorers,” said Skylight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Unger. “It is as much suspenseful, historical travelogue, as fantastical love story. We are thrilled to stage the regional premiere of this imaginative, heartfelt, wild ride of a show here at Skylight.”

Making their Skylight debuts will be Matt Daniels as Ernest Shackleton and Janice Martin as Kat. Both professionals are graduates of Juilliard.

Daniels has performed throughout Wisconsin, including with Milwaukee Rep and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre; at numerous national Shakespeare Festivals; and at independent stages in New York. Based in Milwaukee, Daniels is the director of the Young Company at First Stage.

Martin tours around the country with her own award-winning show (A Janice Martin Cirque Show) showcasing her talents as a violinist, pianist, singer and aerialist. Based in Wisconsin, she has performed with numerous symphonies, including winning a violin competition at age 15 that allowed her to perform on stage with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Music Director is Eric Svejcar, a Brooklyn-based composer, pianist, and arranger who music directed Skylight’s 2021 staged concert reading of Paul WilliamsFortunate Sons. On Broadway he conducted the Roundabout/Deaf West production of Big River and played first keyboard for The Little Mermaid.

When Ernest Shackleton premiered off-Broadway in 2017 critics were effusive. The Huffington Post called Ernest Shackleton Loves Me “a welcome rarity — whimsical and so original that spectators sit through it with jaws dropped.” The New York Times described it as “an intrepid new musical. Exhilarating.” Time Out NY said it was “inventive and big-hearted!” Seattle Times called it “visually impressive, sonically inventive, whimsically diverting.” Broadway World praised it as “an exhilarating and heartfelt journey!”

Regional Premiere
Jan. 14-30, 2022
Book by Joe DiPietro
Lyrics by Val Vigoda
Music by Brendan Milburn
Directed by Jill Anna Ponasik
Recommended for ages 12 and up.


Director – Jill Anna Ponasik

Music Director – Eric Svejcar

Scenic Designer – Scott Davis**

Costume Designer – Karin Kopischke**

Lighting Designer – Jason Fassl**

Sound Designer – Kelsea Sexton

Production Stage Manager – David Vandervliet*


Ernest Shackleton – Matt Daniels*

Kat – Janice Martin

* Appearing through an agreement between Skylight Music Theatre and Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

** The Scenic, Lighting and Costume designers are represented by United Scenic Artists, Local USA-829.


Jill Anna Ponasik (Director) is in her 12th season as producing artistic director of Milwaukee Opera Theatre (MOT). Select past productions include: Oklahoma! (Skylight Music Theatre), Little Mahagonny (Florentine Opera), Carmina Burana (MOT/Skylight Music Theatre/Chant Claire Chamber Choir/Danceworks Performance Company), Zie Magic Flute (MOT/Quasimondo Physical Theatre), Doc Danger and the Danger Squad (MOT), Svadba (MOT/Wild Space Dance Company), The Tales of Hoffmann (MOT/ Skylight Music Theatre), among others.

Eric Svejcar (Music Director) is a composer/pianist/arranger whose credits include Caligula: an Ancient Glam Epic, A ROCKIN’ Midsummer Night’s Dream, (both directed by Michael Unger) and the musical podcast series Loveville High. On Broadway he conducted the Roundabout/Deaf West production of Big River and played first keyboard for The Little Mermaid. With playwright/lyricist David Zellnik he adapted Disney’s Peter Pan Jr. which has been performed thousands of times around the world. As a pianist he has performed in concert with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.


Matt Daniels (Ernest Shackleton) is an actor, director, and teaching artist based in Milwaukee making his Skylight debut. Other theaters he has worked with include Milwaukee Rep, First Stage, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Forward Theater, Door Shakespeare, Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, In Tandem, Milwaukee Shakespeare, Lake Geneva Theatre, Kentucky Rep, and the Illinois, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Michigan Shakespeare Festivals. Daniels is a Juilliard graduate.

Janice Martin (Kat) has been featured on national television and in multiple productions around the world as a singer, violinist, pianist, and aerialist. She has performed as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Pops and the San Francisco Symphony as part of the troupe Cirque de la Symphonie. A Juilliard School graduate, Martin has won many international awards including use of the 1720 “Bagshawe” Stradivarius Violin.


Performances of Ernest Shackleton Loves Me are Friday, January 14, 2022 through Sunday, January 30, 2022 in the beautiful Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee.


Single tickets and subscriptions are on sale. Subscribers get the best seats at the best prices. Purchase at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office. Call (414) 291-7800 or visit 158 N. Broadway, Monday – Saturday, from noon – 6 p.m. or email

· Please let the Box Office know if accessible seating is needed, or if patrons will have a wheelchair or walker.

· Box Office hours are Mon. – Sat. Noon – 6 p.m. The Box Office window is also open two hours prior to performances.

· Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more by calling (414) 299-4972 or emailing

· If you have ADA needs, please contact the Box Office (414) 291-7800 or

· Skylight offers a risk-free guarantee to exchange, credit, or refund tickets for any canceled performances.

· For more information visit or email


Skylight Insights. In-depth discussions with directors and special guests take place one hour before Wednesday and Sunday performances.

ASL Performance. Ernest Shackleton Loves Me will be interpreted in American Sign Language on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 p.m. To purchase tickets for this performance, email or call Skylight Music Theatre’s Box Office at (414) 291-7800. Mention ASL performance for seating in the appropriate section. Support for ASL performance provided by UPAF Connect.

For more information visit, email or call the Box Office at (414) 291-7800.


The Skylight Bar & Bistro is open two hours prior to showtime and features a pre-theatre menu by Sabrosa. Conveniently located on the second floor of the Broadway Theatre Center, reservations are available online here or at or call 773-485-9975.


Purchase $5 parking vouchers from the Broadway Theatre Center Box office for use in the Historic Third Ward parking garage at 212 N. Milwaukee Street (one block east and one block north). Vouchers are valid between 5 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. for evening performances. Matinee vouchers are valid 12-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Not valid for Wednesday matinees. Voucher sales stop 30 minutes before showtime. Advance purchase recommended so that vouchers can be mailed with tickets. No refunds.

Meter parking is available on the street (free after 6 p.m. and on Sundays).


Skylight Music Theatre has joined other Milwaukee performing arts organizations in requiring proof of vaccination or negative Covid test within 72 hours of performance for all audience members ages 12 and up. In addition, Skylight requires audiences to be masked at all times while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. For up-to-date information, please visit


Skylight Music Theatre is a proud Cornerstone Member of the United Performing Arts Fund.

Founded in 1959, Skylight is Milwaukee’s professional Equity music theatre company and the largest employer of Wisconsin actors in the state. Skylight produces the full spectrum of music theatre ranging from blockbuster Broadway musicals to reimagined operas, and from exciting world premieres to contemporary off-Broadway hits. Skylight’s mainstage home is the Cabot Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center, which was built by Skylight in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward in 1992. Considered to be one of Milwaukee’s most beautiful theatres, the Cabot Theatre is based on the design of an 18th-century French opera house. With just 350 seats it offers audiences great views of the action onstage. Skylight Music Theatre marks its 62nd season in 2021-2022.

NOTE: This press release was submitted to Urban Milwaukee and was not written by an Urban Milwaukee writer. While it is believed to be reliable, Urban Milwaukee does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

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