Milwaukee Repertory Theater opens its doors for first live show in 13 months

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Tuesday night, April 27, Milwaukee had its first live, in-person performance since the pandemic hit. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater opened its doors to an audience for the first time in 13 months.

People we spoke with said it's refreshing to be able to watch a live performance again after more than a year. 

Tuesday night's sold out show started at 7:30 p.m., and right now, the theater is only doing 25-percent capacity.

Milwaukee Rep's "First Lady of Song," show won't disappoint.

It's a show dedicated to singer Ella Fitzgerald, performed by Alexis J. Roston, with a message of joy.

"She didn't focus on the things that were real, you know -- melancholy and sad -- she always put that joy right in there," Roston said.

"The collective experience of what people want and what we're hearing right now is joy," said Mark Clements, Milwaukee Rep's artistic director.

Milwaukee Rep says the last year has been their hardest yet, having to cut back costs while keeping workers employed. The theater has been able to showcase their work through digital performances, but couldn't wait to welcome people back, and fans were equally excited.

"There's nothing like the live performance," one audience member said. 

"As soon as the tickets became available, I said Kathleen, we have to go," another added.

"To welcome folks back in to the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater, it's really a magical experience," said Chad Bauman, executive director at Milwaukee Rep.

Out of a 720-person capacity, only 180 are allowed per show. Milwaukee Rep has also upgraded ventilation and cleaning. The theater hopes to go full capacity by the fall.

Tuesday's performance didn't only prove to be magical, but also represented hope for the future of performing arts in the city, as the community continues to overcome the pandemic.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel," Clements said.

"This is joy, this is a smile on your face, this is a kick ya steps," said Roston.

If you missed Tuesday night's show, don't worry. The "First Lady of Song" performances run through May 23.

Each week, the theater will hold eight shows. 

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