MILWAUKEE: First Stage has announced a slew of stage adaptations of beloved children’s literary classics for the its 29th season, including the new musical version of James and the Giant Peach, A Charlie Brown Christmas, the return of Holes and a brand-new staging of Ella Enchanted. The theatre, which was founded in 1987, focuses on theatrical experiences for young people and families.
“Adventures new and well-remembered will grace our stages this season—from James’s 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,” artistic director Jeff Frank said in a statement.
Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach (Oct. 16–Nov. 15), with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and book by Timothy Allen McDonald, will open the season, followed by A Charlie Brown Christmas (Nov. 27–Jan. 3), a stage adaptation of Charles M. Schulz classic by Eric Schaeffer, which will grace First Stage for the first time.
In January, Louis Sachar’s Holes (Jan. 15–Feb. 14, 2016) will return to the theatre, as it was one of the company’s most successful productions ever. The season also includes the return of Kevin Kling’s stage adaptation of Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse (May 13–June 12) to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the book by Wisconsin author Kevin Henkes.
The season boasts a few world premieres, including an adaptation of Gail Carson Levin’s Ella Enchanted (April 1–May 1, 2016), with book and lyrics by Karen Zacarias and music and additional lyrics by Deborah Wicks LaPuma. Maryland’s Adventure Theatre MTC co-commissioned the piece.
Other premieres include two offered as part of the theatre’s First Steps series, which specializes in works for theatregoers ages 3-6: Spookley the Square Pumpkin The Musical (Oct. 10–Nov. 1), by Joe Troiano with music by Jeff Zahn, and Just a Little Critter Musical (Feb. 13–March 13, 2016), by associate artistic director John Maclay, with music by Brett Ryback.
The final world premiere will be The Snow (Feb. 26–March 20, 2016), by the theatre’s first international playwright, Finegan Kruckemeyer, an Australian. The Snow was co-commissioned by Oregon Children’s Theatre and Magik Theatre.
First Stage’s Young Company will also perform two works at Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, including All’s Well That Ends Well (Dec. 11–20) and Antigone (April 8–17, 2016).
“These young people have earned a national reputation for performing the works of Shakespeare with clarity and skill well beyond their years,” John Maclay, director of the Young Company, said in a statement. “Our Shakespeare puts the focus where it should be: on the language and each character’s individual journey.”