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Family prepares to act in holiday classic

Flanagans add theatrical talents to 'A Christmas Carol'

Waukesha residents Tom Flanagan and his daughters Maggie, 9, Molly, 12, and Maura, will all be appearing  Falls Patio Players presentation of "A Christmas Carol."

Waukesha residents Tom Flanagan and his daughters Maggie, 9, Molly, 12, and Maura, will all be appearing Falls Patio Players presentation of "A Christmas Carol."

Nov. 14, 2012

Move over Baldwins and Fondas, there is a new acting family in town. Four members of the Flanagan family of Waukesha have landed roles in this year's annual Falls Patio Players production of "A Christmas Carol."

As an attorney and court commissioner, dad Tom is no stranger to public speaking. However, it had been years since he had been on stage before landing his role as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Tom had been active with drama in high school and was a lead singer in bands during his undergraduate and law school years.

"I'm not shy about being in the spotlight," said Tom.

Tom and daughter Maura, 15, a sophomore at Waukesha North High School, saw how much fun Molly, 12, a seventh-grader and Butler Middle School, and Maggie, 9, a third grader at Summit View Elementary, had landing roles in the play last year that they all decided to audition this year. Maura was cast as a villager and clown, Molly as Tiny Tim and Maggie as an urchin and teddy bear.

"The girls really wanted Tom to do it," mom Katie said.

So Tom warmed up his vocal chords and landed his role after auditioning with the song "Beauty School Dropout" from Grease.

Tom and Molly have a song and dance scene together which Tom said he is very excited about.

So what do the girls like best about being on stage? "It's an adventure and helps you step outside your comfort zone," said Maura. Molly said that "It's a place where you can be anyone you want to be." And, according to Maggie, "It's like a second life."

Each girl has a different method of preparing for their roles. Maura style is method acting, "being" the character. Molly tries to put herself in her character's shoes while Maggie prepares with "Practice, practice, practice."

They also have some advice for other young people thinking about acting but who might be a bit afraid. Maggie advised "Don't be afraid - act like you're in a dream." Molly said, "You don't have to be shy on stage because you're not yourself. You are your character." Finally, Maura encouraged that "You don't have to be afraid of speaking in front of people; you shouldn't care what they think."

Juggling roles

Because of the family's busy schedules, there is little time to rehearse at home. However, the girls' extracurricular activities help build their confidence while they are on stage. Molly is on the Butler dance team and Maggie plays basketball and softball and is on the performance company dance team for Liberty Dance Center in Waukesha. Maura is involved with theater at Waukesha North as well as their forensics team and is a member of the Northstar Marching Band. All three girls play piano, Maura and Molly both play trumpet and Maura is also a percussionist and a pianist for the Majestic Cinema in Brookfield.

With so much going on, The Patio Players "really work with us on scheduling," Katie explained.

Tom said that "I'm really happy to be associated with a group that I feel is extremely professional and very, very good. They rival any professional theater company I've ever seen."

Musical additions

The Patio Players version of "A Christmas Carol" follows the original story as told by Charles Dickens, but adds the elements of dance and music.

"It really follows the themes of the time periods in the story," director Melissa Bloch-Meier explained. She added that the music and dancing is "an extra layer of the story that you don't normally get with acting."

In 1996, Patio Player members Carol Klose and Jack Strawbridge collaborated to write the musical version of the story, which encompasses French and English carols and eight original songs. The version is unique to the Patio Players and has been a family tradition ever since.

Bloch-Meier is also the choreographer and said that around 80 percent of the songs have some kind of dancing with them.

"I think one of the most special things about community theater and Patio Players in particular is that it's really nice when we have families that are there together," like the Flanagan family, said Bloch-Meier.

If you go

What: Christmas Carol

Where: Falls Patio Players, N88 W16750 Garfield Drive, Menomonee Falls.

When: 7 p.m. Nov. 30, 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 1 and 1 and 4 p.m. Dec. 2

Cost: $10 for adults and seniors; $8 for students

Information: www.fallspatioplayers.com

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