Peggy Sue Dunigan
Review

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie… with First Stage Children’s Theater

By - Nov 12th, 2009 10:41 am
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Scene from a previous First Stage version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…

A red-and-yellow kitchen filled with jars of oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies is the mise en scène for a mischievous afternoon. First Stage Children’s Theater, in collaboration with their First Steps Series, opened If You Give A Mouse A Cookie this past weekend at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center stage.

The popularity of the childrens’ book written by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond spans almost three childhoods since its publication in 1985. First Stage originally inaugurated the First Step Series (aimed at three- to six-year-olds) several years ago with this same adaptation, which once again reprises the imaginative tale of a talkative, polite mouse and the young boy who answers his first request by giving him a cookie.

On the sold-out Saturday afternoon performance, actor Jordan Ahnquist optimized the opportunity to dress in a pink-eared cap and blue denim coveralls, which eventually come off to reveal his colorful polka dot pajamas underneath when he tries to take a nap. The mouse’s overly inquisitive and industrious nature (a rodent with ADD) both frustrates and amuses “the boy” played by Maxwell Zupke from the ‘Cookie Cast.’

Ahnquist’s mouse runs rampant over the checkerboard floor of the 1940s-inspired kitchen adorned with cupboard decals and blue gingham curtains. After popping out of a kitchen pantry to the surprise of the boy (and the audience), the mouse refuses to be satisfied until he nearly undoes the room’s orderly setting with his antics. There is an obvious irony during the imagined afternoon as the mouse honestly believes that he’s obeying what his mouse mother tells him: “Never be a bother when you can be a help.”

There is an hour’s worth of special effects to appreciate as the boy reluctantly gives the mouse whatever he asks for, and on stage, it becomes ‘human-sized’ for the mouse. Very clever choreography and directing by director John Maclay allows Ahnquist to dive into a glass of milk, tango with a napkin or slide across the stage on a scrub brush. Zupke provides the perfect straight man for these mouse tricks that encourage the tiny tots to giggle and later ask questions during the “talkback” after the performance.

On this day, more than 150 preschoolers and their ‘older friends’ discover this mouse tale as timelessly delightful, a live-action hour that replicates the treasured storybook. This spring, First Stage brings a sequel, If You Take a Mouse To School, to follow in these First Steps traditions.

First Stage Children’s Theater presents If You Give A Mouse A Cookie until Nov. 22. Many performances are already sold out. For information, visit the First Stage website or call 414-267-2929.

Categories: Theater, VITAL

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