Peggy Sue Dunigan

First Stage’s Alexander and his very bad day

By - Apr 12th, 2010 12:14 am
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Horrible! Terrible!

Shoe mania is just another trial of Alexander's very bad day.

Shoe mania is just another trial of Alexander’s very bad day. Todd Denning (center) and cast. Photo by Mark Frohna.

Who hasn’t lived through day when everything unravels? This single but heartfelt premise underpins Judith Viorst’s beloved children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, from 1972. First Stage Children’s Theater brought it to life Friday night, in a musical version with lyrics by Viorst and music by Shelly Markham. It encouraged giggles from an audience of three to 80 years.

The semi-autobiographical book and the musical play illustrate life with Viorst’s three sons, Anthony, Nicholas, and Alexander. The music, the engaging action and the story that will resonate with everyone.

First Stage sets the action amid a tumble of oversized alphabet blocks riddled with doors and trap doors. Music director Paul Helm and his keyboard perch atop the highest block. The setting is perfect for Alexander’s mishaps and it keeps children’s eyes focused on the stage. Director Jeff Frank keeps the action moving quickly. Friday’s cast featured Thomas Kindler as a childish, churlish, frustrated Alexander. As his friend, Albert, Conlan Ledwith captured center stage with a solo song for the school presentation in Mother Doesn’t Want a Dog, which humorously explains what having a dog entails. All three numbers in this scene, including The Lizzie Pitofsky Song, entranced the audience.

Melinda Pfundstein, a welcome recent addition to Milwaukee’s theater scene, adds her melodic voice to Alexander’s mother and teacher. Todd Denning’s comic timing enhanced three different characters, especially the dreaded dentist, Dr. Fields, or the over-the-top dancing shoe salesman who extols the virtues of “shoes you mess around in, and shoes you keep clean.” (Shoes excite this brotherly trio similar to any sisterly threesome!)

As Alexander and his friends sing in the musical: Who doesn’t dream of basketball hoops 48 inches lower? Chocolate sundaes with whipped cream and nuts that are really vegetables? Or breezes that blow through one’s underwear when visiting Australia instead of home’s snow and cold? Dreams become very important on these horrid days. When Alexander’s Mom wishes him “the sweetest of nights and the finest of days,” Alexander ultimately appreciates that the next morning brings another chance for “living and giving.”

First Stage presents this charming, season-ending children’s classic. with a delightful Alexander who encourages each person “with arms open wide to embrace tomorrow.”

First Stage Children’s Theater presents Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day until May 9.

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