First Stage
Press Release

First Stage Announces its 2017-2018 Season!

With two world premieres and celebrated family favorites, First Stage continues its commitment to spectacular theater experiences for young people and families.

By - Mar 6th, 2017 12:09 pm

Milwaukee First Stage announces its 31st season of unforgettable theater experiences for young people, families and theater goers of all ages. First Stage’s 2017/2018 season brims with family favorites – reimagined to capture the imaginations of audiences young and old. CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, a fantastic musical adventure based on the beloved MGM motion picture, makes its First Stage debut October 6 – November 5, 2017. “We plan to embrace the theatricality of the original film through live music, physical humor, amazing dancing and outrageous characters,” said First Stage Artistic Director Jeff Frank. “In addition, innovative puppetry will bring everything from the Zeppelin to Chitty herself to life.” Developed by First Stage in 2010, the Theatre for Young Audiences version of THE WIZ returns February 23 – March 25, 2018. “It’s the story of The Wizard of Oz, told through the lens of the African-American experience,” commented Frank. “Infectious songs, kinetic dance, and its powerful and universal message makes this one journey you won’t want to miss.”

Back by popular demand, First Stage presents A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS November 24 – December 31, 2017. “An incredible score played live by the incomparable Jack Forbes Wilson and laughs aplenty courtesy of the brilliance of Charles Schulz, has made this a perfect holiday show for families to celebrate the season together,” said Frank. Milwaukee Actor Matt Daniels will reprise his touchingly humorous role as Snoopy. After the holidays, THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, based on the book by beloved author Kate DiCamillo makes its First Stage debut January 12 – February 11, 2018. Brought to life though intimate storytelling and folk music, this story of a China rabbit’s journey though Depression-era America promises to make an impact on audiences long after leaving the theater.

Families can look forward to two world premieres as part of First Stage’s Family Series at the Todd Wehr Theater next season. From the internationally recognized playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer, who wrote the critically acclaimed production THE SNOW (2015-2016 season),  comes a contemporary folk tale inspired by conversations with young people and families from Milwaukee. Co-commissioned by First Stage and Filament Theatre in Chicago, ANTARTICA, WI will be presented April 6 – 22, 2018. “Finegan has crafted a contemporary folk tale, set in the here and now of Milwaukee,” said Frank. “It’s grounded in reality, but with touches of the fantastical. A national collaboration with seven of the country’s leading children’s theaters brings the world premiere of JUDY MOODY AND STINK: THE MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD TREASURE HUNT to the stage May 4 – June 3, 2018. “Judy Moody is a compelling character and a great fit for the stage,” said playwright Allison Gregory. “She activates the world around her. From her dogged determination (which frequently looks like impulsivity), to her scrappy resourcefulness, she engages other characters, and us, to root for her.”

Just in time for Halloween, SPOOKLEY THE SQUARE PUMPKIN kicks off our First Steps series October 1 – 29, 2017. “SPOOKLEY is an adorable tale that reminds us that it doesn’t matter what you look like, we are all special and meaningful to each other,” said Jeff Schaetzke director and music director of First Stage’s 2015 production. Spookley – the Official Spokes- Pumpkin for National Bullying Prevention Month as recognized by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center – teaches us there are times it is better to be square. Originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain, Dr. Seuss’s THE CAT IN THE HAT returns to First Stage January 21 – February 25, 2018. The stage adaptation offers a vibrant, imaginative adventure into the world of Dr. Seuss, and the perfect introduction to live theater. The First Steps series is performed at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center and is designed for young people ages 3-7 to experience in a lively, interactive environment.

First Stage Young Company, the Theater Academy’s award-winning and nationally renowned training program for high school actors, marks its 14th season with two full-scale productions at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer prize-winning play, THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH will be performed from December 8 – 17, 2017. Then, the Young Company takes on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays in an epic story of war and England’s most popular king in HENRY V, March 9 – 24, 2018. “These emerging artists 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. “This program will have a hand in cultivating not only the next generation of Shakespearean actors, but audiences as well.”

The Foundry, First Stage’s new play development initiative with a focus on the next generation of new plays, new artists and new audiences, will continue throughout the 2017/2018 season. First Stage seeks to engage the community in conversations about new work and the process of creation, while also providing additional training and performance opportunities for youth and adult actors, writers and directors. More information is available at

First Stage expands its Next Steps programming for young people on the autism spectrum and their families by offering four sensory friendly performances in our 2017/2018 season. Sensory friendly performances provide sensory accommodations including a smaller audience size, reduction of intense lighting and sound, quiet areas, social stories and other resources. Performances include: SPOOKLEY THE SQUARE PUMPKIN (Saturday, Oct. 14 at 3:30 p.m.); A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (Thursday, Dec. 21 at 7:00 p.m.); THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE (Saturday, Jan. 20 at 3:30 p.m.); and Dr. Seuss’s THE CAT IN THE HAT (Saturday, Feb. 3 at 3:30 p.m.). More information is available at or by calling our Box Office at (414) 267-2961.


FAMILY SERIES at the Todd Wehr Theater 

Innovative theater experiences for young people and families, teens, grandparents and theater lovers of all ages. Performances are held at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 929 North Water Street in downtown Milwaukee.
October 6 – November 5, 2017         

Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Music by Special Arrangement with Sony/ATV Publishing
Adapted for the stage by Jeremy Sams
Based on the MGM Motion Picture
Licensed Script Adapted by Ray Roderick

CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.

Take a fantastic musical adventure with an out-of-this-world car that flies through the air and sails the seas. Cheer on the devoted father and eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts, and his children, Jemima and Jeremy, as they plot to rescue Grandpa Potts and the children of Vulgaria from the dastardly Baron Bomburst. Based on the beloved 1968 film based on Ian Fleming’s children’s book and featuring an unforgettable score, this is one family-friendly blockbuster that audiences will find “Truly Scrumptious.” Suggested for families with young people ages 6 – 16+

November 24 – December 31, 2017

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

Back by popular demand, this treasured classic comes to life on stage this holiday season. Everyone is giddy with Christmas cheer, but Charlie Brown has the Yuletide blues. Will directing the Christmas play help him get in the spirit of the season? Join Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang as they learn the true meaning of Christmas. This is one holiday gift the entire family will adore. Suggested for families with young people ages 4 – 14+

January 12 – February 11, 2018                                

Adapted for the stage by Dwayne Hartford
Based on the book: “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”
Text © 2006 by Kate DiCamillo
Originally published by Candlewick Press
Used with permission of Pippin Properties, Inc.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane was originally commissioned, developed, and produced at Childsplay in Tempe, Arizona. David Saar, Artistic Director. Steve Martin, Managing Director.

With his handmade silk suits, wide array of hats and tiny gold pocket watch, Edward Tulane is the most exceptional toy in Abilene’s room. He is adored and he is happy. But when Edward is thrown overboard on a cruise ship by mean boys, he begins a remarkable journey of discovery across Depression-era America. Based on Newberry-winner Kate DiCamillo’s celebrated book and brought to life through imaginative storytelling and folk music, don’t miss this breathtaking story of finding friendship, finding yourself, and eventually finding your way home. Suggested for families with young people ages 7 – 16+

February 23 – March 25, 2018

THE WIZ – TYA Version
Adapted from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum
Book by William F. Brown
Additional material by Tina Tippit
Music and Lyrics by Charlie Smalls
©Copyright 1975, 1979, 2006, 2010
Orchestrations by Richard Carsey
The WIZ TYA was developed by First Stage – Milwaukee, WI
Jeff Frank, Artistic Director; Rob Goodman, Managing Director

It’s the timeless classic you know and love, with a modern, soulful twist. When an epic tornado lands Dorothy in a faraway place, she is sent on an unforgettable adventure to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West, and find the great and powerful Wiz to help her return home. Come along on a spectacular journey as Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion ease on down the yellow brick road to the magical land of Oz. Suggested for families with young people ages 6 – 16+

April 6 – 22, 2018

Written by Finegan Kruckemeyer, with input from the citizens of Milwaukee
This play was co-commissioned by First Stage in Milwaukee, WI and Filament Theatre in Chicago, IL

In Milwaukee there lives a very special young man. One who sees more deeply than others. He sees so much that he loves in his city, but he also sees the fractures. And when this special boy begins to see icebergs floating into Milwaukee, he alone must find a way to help his community navigate through the dangerous waters. From internationally recognized playwright Finegan Kruckemeyer comes a contemporary folk tale inspired by conversations with our community. Suggested for families with young people ages 10 – 17+

May 4 – June 3, 2018

Adapted for the stage by Allison Gregory
Based on the books: “Judy Moody” and “Judy Moody and Stink: The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt” written by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc.
This play was co-commissioned by First Stage, Adventure Theatre – MTC, Bay Area Children’s Theatre, The Rose Theatre, Oregon Children’s Theatre, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and Orlando Repertory Theatre.

Third grade has put Judy Moody in a mood. She’s got to figure out what to include in her “Me” collage, and her know-it-all little brother Stink keeps getting in the way. When the Moody family drops anchor on “Artichoke” Island, they meet Cap’n Weevil with a secret treasure map, launching them on a mad dash across the island in search of gold. But they’re not the only salty dogs lookin’ for loot! Can Judy Moody and Stink outwit their competition in time? Will Judy finish her project? Set sail on this world premiere and find out! Suggested for families with young people ages 5 – 9+

FIRST STEPS SERIES at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center
First Steps performances introduce children to the theater in an engaging, interactive, and lively environment. Geared towards families with children ages three to seven, performances are held at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut Street, Milwaukee.

October 1 – 29, 2017

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

Lyrics by Joe Troiano
Music composed and arranged by Jeffrey Zahn
© 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 Official Spokes-Pumpkin for National Bullying Prevention Month as recognized by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center – teaches us there are times it is better to be square. Suggested for families with young people ages 3 – 7+

January 21 – February 25, 2018

Based on the book by Dr. Seuss
Play originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain
Adapted and originally directed by Katie Mitchell
Dr. Seuss text, characters, and images TM and ©2009 Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.
DR. SEUSS’S THE CAT IN THE HAT is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).
All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.

Leave it to the Cat in the Hat! Everyone’s favorite feline in the red and white hat turns a rainy afternoon upside down with his madcap mischief and wacky adventures. Speaking only in rhyme, the Cat in the Hat shows Sally and her brother that “it’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how,” despite the misgivings of their well-mannered Fish. But what will Mother think of all the antics when she returns home? Find out when all of your favorite moments from this Dr. Seuss classic come to life before your eyes. Suggested for families with young people ages 3 – 7+

First Stage Young Company – First Stage Theater Academy’s award-winning training program for our most advanced young actors – will present two full-scale 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 8 – 17, 2017

By Thornton Wilder
Produced by Special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Dinosaurs. Wooly Mammoths. The Ice age. World War. And your basic suburban family. Thornton Wilder’s allegorical play about, well… the entire history of mankind. This Pulitzer prize winning play by one of America’s finest playwrights is a wildly entertaining and thought provoking explosion of time and space that will stay with you long after the final curtain. Suggested for families with young people ages 12+

March 9 – 24, 2018

By William Shakespeare

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, Or close the wall up with our English dead!”

Join us as the Young Company, nationally renowned for their excellence in performing the Bard, dives into the breach with one of our favorite plays by William Shakespeare. King Henry the Fifth has rallied the nation to invade France and this war won’t end until the famous Battle of Agincourt. The English must succeed against seemingly impossible odds – or be killed in the process. An epic story of a country at war and England’s most popular king. Suggested for families with young people ages 12+



About First Stage
One of the nation’s leading theaters for young audiences and families, First Stage transforms lives by creating professional theater experiences that inspire, enlighten and entertain. First Stage fosters life skills through stage skills in its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for youth, and serves over 20,000 students as Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools. First Stage is the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award in 2013 and 2015, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012). 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).

NOTE: This press release was submitted to Urban Milwaukee and was not written by an Urban Milwaukee writer. While it is believed to be reliable, Urban Milwaukee does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

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