It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Waukesha Civic Theatre's annual holiday revue has yet again arrived to the stage, and it's as foot-tapping, tune-humming, and heart-warming as ever! Candy Cane Tales and Holiday Carols, originally conceived by John Cramer, marks his last of many, many shows for this stage. Co-directing with Kelly Goeller, the duo certainly create a show that goes out with a bang.
Immediately, audiences are faced with a spectacle of a set. What appears to be a large, snowflakey wall that spans the entire stage actually opens up, in one swift movement, to reveal an entire home inside. Like an unfoldable doll's house, Derek Castor's scenic design allows the company to both showcase a festive cabaret of Christmas carols, and a touching family story hidden within.
Jen Hull Anderson (Judy Bickford), Mike Owens (Bill Bickford), and Emily McCaskey (Stella Bickford).
Mike Owens and Jen Hull Anderson play the Bickford parents, Judy and Bill. This marks the time of year when the Bickfords go all-out in holiday spirit - decorating, caroling, baking, marathoning the classics, and more. And yet, for the first time, all the family seems to be getting too busy for Christmas. Between sleepovers and dating and prior commitments, Bill finds himself alone this season. Candy Cane Tales provides an all-too-relatable insight on the reality of being busy during Christmastime, what it feels like when a family drifts, and how to keep everything in perspective during the most wonderful time of the year.
Mike Owens (Bill Bickford).
Owens as Bill is a delightfully cheery, Buddy the elf- esque festive fanatic. He and Anderson have comfortable chemistry onstage, and their parental relationship with Daisy (Violette Anderson), Stella (Emily McCaskey), Louisa (Cecilia Fleischer), and Augie (Tristian Harris) is filled with love. The script has hilarious one-liners that seem to be transcribed straight out of an actual busy family's home.
If you find that you have the claymation classics memorized word-for-word, then this is the play for you. Reenactments of some of your favorite scenes are a highlight of the performance: "Put One Foot in Front of the Other" from Santa Claus is Coming to Town, "We're a Couple of Misfits" from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and "Frosty the Snowman" from Frosty the Snowman have all the same qualities that draw audiences to the original films.
It was October of this year when it was publicly announced that John Cramer has resigned as the Managing Artistic Director of Waukesha Civic Theatre. During his fifteen years in the role, WCT has transformed into the lively, engaged staple of the Waukesha community that is loved so dearly by so many. His presence has been deeply felt throughout the area. Cramer is now moving into the role of the Oconomowoc Arts Center Director.
Leaving on this very high note, Cramer's involvement at WCT is seemingly coming full circle. The show began as a holiday party performance between he and his wife, Kelli. Cramer expanded the piece to a full two-hour show, which debuted at WCT in 2009, and the rest is history.
To celebrate and share the joy of the season, as well as the immense impact John Cramer has had on Waukesha Civic Theatre these fifteen years, Candy Cane Tales and Holiday Carols is worth the visit. See this last hoorah before it closes on December 16th.