First Stage
Press Release

First Stage Announces its 2015-2016 Season!

Your adventure awaits! Our 29th season includes four captivating World Premiere productions as well as beloved family favorites – Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Holes and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.

By - Mar 9th, 2015 09:49 am

March 9, 2015 – Milwaukee – First Stage Artistic Director Jeff Frank announced the 2015-2016 season last night to a lively group of Family Package holders and Donors. “First Stage’s commitment to creating innovative new work for young people and families is center stage once again in our 29th season,” said Frank.Adventures new and well-remembered will grace our stages this season – from James’ journey across the ocean on a giant peach, to Ella from Frell’s quest to cure her curse, to the heroic efforts of young Theodore and his giant friend Oliver to save their village.

World premiere titles include two First Steps productions, First Stage’s interactive theater series geared toward theater-goers ages 3-6: SPOOKLEY THE SQUARE PUMPKIN The Musical October 10 – November 1, 2015 by Joe Troiano with music by Jeff Zahn; and JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL February 13 – March 13, 2016 by First Stage Associate Artistic Director John Maclay with music by First Stage Theater Academy alum Brett Ryback.  THE SNOW by Finegan Kruckmeyer, will debut at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater February 26 – March 20, 2016. “We’re thrilled to develop this piece with Oregon Children’s Theatre and Magik Theatre in the commission of our first international playwright,” said Frank. “Finegan Kruckemeyer is a master storyteller, and we are thrilled that THE SNOW will be part of The Wisconsin Cycle (First Stage’s new play development initiative) this year, honoring our own state’s frozen tundra and
rich tradition of Germanic folk tales.” The final world premiere of the season ELLA ENCHANTED, co-commissioned by Adventure Theatre MTC (in Maryland) and First Stage, takes the stage April 1 – May 1, 2016.

Well-loved classic titles round out the season beginning with ROALD DAHL’S JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH October 16 – November 15, 2015, a musical adaptation of the literary classic. Cherished holiday classic A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS makes its First Stage debut November 27, 2015 – January 3, 2016. Join Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang as they discover the true meaning of Christmas.  January marks the return of one of the most popular plays in First Stage history with HOLES January 15 – February 14, 2016. “It’s a season of new works while remaining rooted in the traditions First Stage families have come to expect and look forward to each year,” said Frank. The season concludes with the return of the spunkiest mouse around in LILLY’S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE May 13 – June 12, 2016. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the book by Wisconsin author Kevin Henkes, this imaginative adaptation invites you into Lilly’s colorful world of imagination!

First Stage’s award-winning Young Company will perform two plays at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center in its 12th season. One of Shakespeare’s greatest romances ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL December 11 – 20, 2015, is a wild journey filled with comedy, love, bold plans, dirty tricks and brilliantly drawn characters. “These young people have earned a national reputation for performing the works of Shakespeare with clarity and skill well beyond their years,” said First Stage Associate Artistic Director and Director of the Young Company John Maclay.  “Our Shakespeare puts the focus where it should be: on the language and each character’s individual journey.” The Young Company then presents Jean Anouilh’s brilliant twentieth century adaptation of the classic Greek play, ANTIGONE April 8-17, 2016.

First Stage’s 2015-2016 season:

FAMILY SERIES at the Todd Wehr Theater 

First Stage’s Family Series at the Todd Wehr Theater offers plays for every age range.  Performances are located at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 929 North Water Street in downtown Milwaukee.

October 16 – November 15, 2015

Words and Music by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek
Book by Timothy Allen McDonald
Based on the book James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
James and the Giant Peach-TYA
Is presented through special arrangement with Musical Theatre International (MTI).
All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.
421 West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-541-4684 Fax: 212-397-4684

When James is sent by his conniving aunts to chop down their old fruit tree, he discovers a magic potion which results in a tremendous peach – and launches a journey of enormous proportions. Suddenly James finds himself in the center of the gigantic peach among human-sized insects with equally oversized personalities. Thanks to James’ quick wit and creative thinking, the residents learn to live and work together as a family. Roald Dahl’s story comes hilariously to life in this musical of epic proportions. For everyone ages 6 and up.

Please note: James’ journey includes moments of peril and loss.

November 27, 2015 – January 3, 2016

By Charles M. Schulz
Based on the television special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson
Stage adaptation by Eric Schaeffer
By special arrangement with Arthur Whitelaw and Ruby Persson

“Christmastime is here…Happiness and cheer….” The cherished holiday classic you know and love makes its First Stage debut this season. Christmas lights may be twinkling red and green, but Charlie Brown has the Yuletide blues. Will directing the Christmas play help him get in the spirit of the season? Join Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang to discover the true meaning of Christmas. For everyone ages 3 and up.

January 15 – February 14, 2016

By Louis Sachar
Based on the novel by Louis Sachar

An ancient curse, a missing treasure, an adventure spanning generations…14-year-old Stanley Yelnats faces all this when he’s falsely convicted of a crime and sentenced to Camp Green Lake to dig countless holes. But why? Is this truly his destiny? Find out the truth as we bring back one of the most popular plays in First Stage history. For everyone ages 9 and up.

Please note: This production includes some moments of violence.

February 26 – March 20, 2016

A world premiere by Finegan Kruckmeyer
Commissioned and developed by First Stage, Oregon Children’s Theatre and Magik Theatre

When an epic snowfall seemingly imprisons the residents of the tiny village of Kishka, young Theodore Sutton proposes the villagers build a catapult to fling him and send six of the village’s bravest and strongest out over the snow in search of a solution. The catapult is hastily assembled, and Theodore and the heroes are launched over the snow and into the grandest of adventures. Whimsical and humorous, dark and mysterious, heartfelt and sincere, this world premiere play weaves a fantastical Grimmsian tale for the entire family. For everyone ages 8 and up.

Honoring our state’s own frozen tundra our rich history of Germanic folk tales, First Stage is proud to offer THE SNOW as the next original production in The Wisconsin Cycle.

Please note: Theodore’s journey leads him to confront danger, loss and the darkness.

April 1 – May 1, 2016

Based on the book by Gail Carson Levine
Stage play and lyrics by Karen Zacarias
Music and additional lyrics by Deborah Wicks LaPuma
A world premiere co-commissioned by Adventure Theatre MTC in Glen Echo, Maryland (Michael J. Bobbitt, Producing Artistic Director) and First Stage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Jeff Frank, Artistic Director) in 2016. 

At birth, Ella of Frell was given the “gift” of obedience by a misguided fairy. She must obey any order given to her, whether it’s hopping on one foot for a day or chopping off her own head! Unwilling to accept her fate, strong-willed Ella embarks on a quest to reverse this curse, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and a handsome prince along the way. Your family will experience a fairy tale like no other in this world premiere musical adventure. For everyone ages 6 and up. 

Please note: Ella’s journey includes moments of peril.

May 13 – June 12, 2016

Adapted from “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” by Kevin Henkes
Performed with permission from Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Theatrical adaptation by Kevin Kling

“I am Lilly! I am Queen! I like everything!” This young mouse is ready for anything! That is, until the day her new baby brother arrives. Things get even worse when Mr. Slinger takes away her musical purple plastic purse for the day. But with a little help from her Grammy and her friends Chester and Wilson, Lilly learns that sharing, cooperation, and some crunchy cheese snacks can go a long way. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the book by Wisconsin author Kevin Henkes, we invite you to join us in Lilly’s colorful world of imagination! For everyone ages 3 and up.

FIRST STEPS SERIES at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center
These performances are just right for a child’s first theatrical adventures. Geared towards families with children ages 3 to 6, First Steps productions introduce them to the theater in an engaging, interactive, and lively environment. Performances are held at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut Street, Milwaukee.

Spookley the Square Pumpkin
The Musical
October 10 – November 1, 2015

A world premiere play
Stage play by Joe Troiano
Based on the film “Spookley the Square Pumpkin” by Joe Troiano and Tom Hughes and the book “The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin” by Joe Troiano
Songs by Joe Troiano and Jeffrey Kahn
© Holiday Hill Enterprises, LLC

Spookley the Square Pumpkin is teased by the other pumpkins because of his odd shape. His new friends – three hilarious spiders named Edgar, Allan and Poe – try to convince Spookley that square or not, he has a right to be the Pick of the Patch on Halloween. Spookley isn’t sure he has what it takes until a mighty storm threatens to destroy the entire patch, sending the round pumpkins rolling towards the raging river. Just in time for Halloween, Spookley – the “spokespumpkin” for National Bullying Prevention Month – teaches us there are times it is better to be square.

February 13 – March 13, 2016

A world premiere musical adapted from the books by Mercer Mayer
Book and Lyrics by John Maclay
Music by Brett Ryback

With over 300 books published, Mercer Mayer’s most popular character – Little Critter – has remained a childhood favorite since these stories hit bookshelves in 1975.  Literature’s most enduring creature comes to life on stage in this world premiere musical by First Stage’s own associate artistic director John Maclay and First Stage Theater Academy alum Brett Ryback. Play and run and dance and sing with Little Critter as he discovers how much fun having a little sister can be!

First Stage Young Company – First Stage Theater Academy’s award-winning training program for our most advanced young actors – will present two full-scale classic productions. These emerging artists, training with some of Milwaukee’s top professional actors, have developed a reputation for engaging, inspiring work.  Revenue from these high-level performances helps ensure opportunities for all students who wish to participate in our Theater Academy.  Performances are held at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut Street, Milwaukee.

December 11 – 20, 2015

By William Shakespeare

She loves him. He doesn’t even notice she’s alive. And so begins one of theater’s greatest romances. It’s a wild journey of risks, magic, war, traps, betrayal and true love. A sick king is cured of a deadly disease. A brave young woman is given the husband of her choice. An unhappy groom flees for the foreign wars. A woman refuses to take no for an answer. Filled with comedy, love, bold plans, dirty tricks and brilliantly drawn characters, ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL is Shakespeare done Young Company-style. For everyone ages 13 and up.

April 8-17, 2016

By Jean Anouilh
Adapted by Lewis Galantiere
Presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Antigone defies the edict of her Uncle Creon by insisting on giving her brother a proper burial. Creon, who stabilized a chaotic Thebes through his authoritarian rule, now has a choice – risk disorder and loss of credibility by covering up Antigone’s act, or put her to death to maintain civil order. The choice…is hers. Inspired by one of the most time-honored Greek tragedies, this is an enduring tale of making heroic choices in the face of an impossible destiny. For everyone ages 13 and up. 

First Stage Family Packages
First Stage Family Packages – any combination of tickets for three or more plays – are on sale to the general public beginning April 1, 2015.  With a Family Package purchase, families receive
free and unlimited ticket exchanges, the opportunity to attend free family workshops and a backstage tour, and more.  Family Package prices are available at up to 50% off the cost of regular single ticket price through June 30.  More information is available by visiting or calling (414) 267-2961 to request a season brochure.

About First Stage
Since 1987, First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people and families through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain; unparalleled Theater Academy training that fosters life skills through stage skills; and dynamic Theater in Education programs that promote active learning in our schools and community.  In 2012, First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).

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