MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Repertory Theater is getting set to open 'A Christmas Carol' for the 44th time in the City next week. Despite its decades-long history, the show will experience a first when it hits the Pabst Theater stage. Longtime local actors Jim Pickering and his wife, Tami Workentin, will appear in the holiday classic together.
Pickering is an ACC veteran, “I just did one piece of arithmetic,” he admitted in an interview earlier this month. “I played Bob Cratchit in the very first version of this show. The kid who played Tiny Tim is now 51 years old.”
Pickering has played multiple characters from Cratchit, to ghosts, to a long run as Ebenezer Scrooge. This year, he’ll play the festive Mr. Fezziwig.
“I just love having all these different points of view to help tell the story. It's great. It's great fun.”
Workentin, who this year will play the Ghost of Christmas Past, has only appeared in ACC one other time.
“I am delighted to be playing this part,” she said. “I played Mrs. Cratchit years ago. It's so fun to be a part of the ghosts. Because they're so much a part of the story of redemption for Ebenezer.”
While many people feel empathy for the difficult journey Scrooge endures in the show, Workentin hopes audiences will appreciate the tough assignment the ghosts face.
“We were laughing before about the fact that A Christmas Carol is about three ghosts who drew the short end of the straw, and got Ebenezer Scrooge as a client. So I'm up first.”
Jim and Tami have been married nearly seven years and have shared the stage before. Tami called the chance to work together a gift, but both acknowledged they have to set ground rules.
“If we have notes or comments to give about what each other is doing, you have to ask permission,” Jim explained. “You have to ask permission. The person has to grant you, ‘okay, I can talk about this now.’ When the person says I'm done, you gotta be done.” To that, Tami added with a laugh, “ Yeah. You tend to have more to say to me, though.”
For this couple, sharing this holiday tradition will be special for them. They also know how important the it is for area families.
“When you get to about 15 days before Christmas, you can feel the audience energy just starting to build,” Pickering shared. “That's nice for us. That's towards the end of our run, so we get to use their energy. It's really helpful, and we all have a good time.”
A Christmas Carol opens November 26th and runs through Christmas Eve. For dates, times, and ticket information, click here.