First Stage
Press Release

First Stage presents world premiere musical JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL

February 13 – March 13, 2016 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center

By - Jan 20th, 2016 12:04 pm

Milwaukee, WI – One of literature’s most enduring characters comes to life on stage in the world premiere musical JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL by First Stage Associate Artistic Director John Maclay, with music by First Stage Theater Academy alumnus Brett Ryback. JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL runs February 13 – March 13, 2016 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street, downtown Milwaukee. Tickets can be purchased through the First Stage Box Office by phone at (414) 267-2961 or online at First Steps performances sell out quickly, so families are encouraged to buy tickets in advance.

Based on the beloved children’s books by Mercer Mayer, this fun, interactive performance is designed to introduce children ages 3 – 6 to live theater in an engaging and lively environment.

“I loved reading these books to my son,” said Maclay. “I’m thrilled Mercer Mayer wanted us to create the first Little Critter musical, and Brett’s music is some of the most fun stuff I’ve ever heard.”

Audiences will play, dance and sing along with Little Critter as he discovers how much fun having a little sister can be. Molly Rhode, First Stage Theater Academy alumna, returns to First Stage to direct and choreograph this energetic piece.

A special sensory-friendly performance, designed to serve families with children on the autism spectrum and other sensory, social and cognitive disabilities will take place on Saturday, February 20 at 3:30 p.m. Families can enjoy a welcoming, comfortable environment including lower sound, lights up, and available quiet areas staffed by experienced educators.

First Stage’s production of JUST A LITTLE CRITTER is sponsored by PNC. Metroparent Magazine is the media sponsor for this producion.

Molly Rhode (Director and Choreographer) Molly is always honored to work at First Stage, where, as a young person, her creative spirit was nurtured and guided. At First Stage, Molly has directed ANATOLE!, MISS NELSON IS MISSING, and most recently ONCE UPON A MATTRESS.  She has also choreographed multiple shows here and appeared in seven productions as a grown-up and five productions as a young performer.  Other recent directing credits include LES MISERABLES and SOUND OF MUSIC at the Skylight Music Theatre as well as productions at Northern Sky Theater, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and the Children’s Theatre of Madison. Molly has acted on all of Milwaukee’s professional stages, as well as in Madison, Spring Green and Door County. Molly was just appointed Northern Sky Theater’s new Associate Artistic Director.

The adult actor cast of JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL includes Beth Mulkerron (Member of Actor’s Equity Association) as Mom and Chase Stoeger as Dad. LeAnn Vance and Mitch Weindorf will understudy the roles of Mom and Dad respectively.

Young performer roles are double cast.  Young performers in the Mercer Cast are Nolan Zdziarski (as Little Critter) from Oak Creek; and Eloise Field (as Little Sister) from Oconomowoc.

Young performers in the Mayer Cast are Jack Burns (as Little Critter) from Wauwatosa; and Paige Landrum (as Little Sister) from Grafton.

 The Artistic Staff for JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL includes: Molly Rhode (Director/ Choreographer); Brett Ryback (Composter/Music Director); Alissa Rhode (Asst. Music Director/ Accompanist); Lisa Schlenker (Scenic Designer); Michelle Pendzich (Costume Designer); Aaron Siegmann (Lighting Designer); Ellen Paige (Sound Designer); Anthony (Tony) Poston (Stage Manager) and Marissa Raby (Assistant Stage Manager).

Tickets for JUST A LITTLE CRITTER MUSICAL are $14.  Tickets may be purchased at or through the First Stage box office, by phone at (414) 267-2961.

Family Packages – Family packages are available at up to 30% off the cost of regular single ticket prices with any combination of three or more plays in our 2015-16 season. Benefits include unlimited ticket exchanges, free family workshops, backstage tours and more.



Location:  Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut Street, Milwaukee

Dates:  February 13 – March 13, 2016

Description:  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. For everyone ages 3 – 6.


  • Saturday, February 13 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 14 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 20 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 20 at 3:30 p.m. – SENSORY FRIENDLY PERFORMANCE
  • Sunday, February 21 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 27 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 28 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 5 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 6 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 12 at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 & 3:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 13 at 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m.

Tickets are $14 Call (414) 267-2961 or online at

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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