BWW Reviews: In Tandem's CUDAHY CAROLERS Sing a Fond Farewell to Milwaukee
Something wonderful happens in a city when a production captures characters and a niche of suburban culture close to home. In Tandem Theatre at the Tenth Street Theatre developed this crazy charm in the last decade through multiple performances--almost 300 by the end of this current run--of their alternative holiday musical A Cudahy Caroler Christmas. Cudahy, Milwaukee and the surrounding suburbs embraced their humor and melodic paradies with consuming delight.
Artistic and Managing Directors, Chris and Jane Fleiller respectively starred in and directed this production each performance. While after this December, the seasonal show will finally sink into the holiday sunset, become history. Jane Flieller mentionst the final performance "Is a bittersweet ending."
The very inventive production spoofs the holidays and traditional Christmas carols written by Anthony Wood with original arrangements by Jamie Johns and complemented by lyrics from Lee Becker and Dylan Bolin, A Cudahy Caroler Christmas relates the small suburban tale of Stasch, a man who attempts to reunite a community choir so they can perform on a local television station. The seven characters have, as most humans, show their feuds and flaws,. so Stasch's feat reamins difficult. However, the indomitable Chris Flieller plays Stasch through an unflappable spirit to make this dream of his come true:: Reunite the Carolers and the friends through musical harmony and forgiveness.
What actually happens on stage matters little as the production speaks to beer, bowling, cheese, deer hunting, the Wisconsin Dells summer water ski shows and Polish Sausage, Kielbasa, along with lonely women, a tipsy librarian,Trixie, and a salon owner, Wanda. The music steals the show amid the comedy in these writers' clever parodies so the combination creates a certain magic regarding Cudahy and these people with very visible foibles..
The entire cast--Nathan Wessolowski, Lisa Morris, Joe Fransee, Megan Kaminsky, Jocelyn Ridgely, Samantha Sostarich under the piano accompaniment of Matt Zembrowski--sing in that wondrous harmony whether belting the "Carol of the Bells" in an ode to beer, or "O Bowling Night," a musical reverie to that hometown sport. Audiences smile over and over at these tunes in a performance where the entire second act revisits the television concert Stasch eventually pulls together when these carolers come onto their risers dressed in red robes and Santa's hats. While bawdy, bodacious and boisterous, the production overflows with comedy and cheer.
While Milwaukee will shed a few tears when the production leaves, perhaps the best reason about saying a fond farewell to In Tandem's Christmas classic will be awaiting the company's next holiday production. The two Fliellers capture their unique comic and creative talents all season, although especially for the holidays, when they offer an antidote to overwrought sentiment while remaining true to the season's greater gifts. Redemption and forgiveness underpins the story, like that elusive spare on the bowling alley, throughout this heartfelt production. Milwaukee will be sure to anticipate something equally wonderful for the holidays in 2015. Raise a glass of brew to A Cudahy Caroler Christmas and the Flieller's in holiday cheer!
In Tandem Theatre presents A Chuday Caroler Christmas at the Tenth Stree Theatre through January 4 with a CD of the production available for purchase. For information and tickets please call 414.271.1371 or visit intandemtheatre.org