In the new show at First Stage, young Ziggy is afraid to go outside. (After the last few years, can you blame him?) Fortunately, he has “Three Little Birds” to remind him that Jamaica is full of adventure as well as danger.
This upbeat musical for ages 3 and up is based on reggae giant Bob Marley’s tender song and a related children’s book by his daughter Cedella. Michael J. Bobbitt adapted the story for the stage.
Children’s roles in the first stage are dual. I saw a Saturday performance by the Jamaican Owl cast.
Ziggy (Rhys Davies) would rather stay inside and watch TV, but mother Cedella (aged actor Cynthia Cobb) makes him go outside, despite his fears of hurricanes and an encounter with a fool, an evil trickster. Encouraged by his pet Dr. Bird (Ogunde Tremaine), Ziggy sets out with his friend and would-be crush Nancy (Amira Mohammed) — whose name is a cute riff on Anansi, the African trickster spider.
Out comes a fool (James Carrington) is after Ziggy, hoping to steal the boy’s wondrous hair and absorb its power.
Reggae fans will love that the musical is filled with cuts from Marley’s songs, including “One Love,” “Jamming,” “Roots Rock Reggae,” “Natural Mystic,” “Lively Up Yourself,” “Is This Love,” ” Duppy “Conqueror” and the title track. It also makes key use of “Brown Girl in the Ring,” a traditional children’s song that Boney M. turned into a late-’70s hit. The three birds—Snelling, Cobb, and teenage Maya O’Day-Biddle, who completely holds her own with her elders—serve as Ziggy’s backing chorus as he confronts his fears. In a sweet little bonus, a solution that’s both musical and mathematical helps him beat the ass.
Samantha D. Montgomery directs this first-stage production with choreography by Jamaican-born Sonia Thompson and musical direction by Benito Leatherwood.
“Three Little Birds” runs through May 21 at Marcus Performing Arts Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N. Water St. For tickets, visit firststage.org or call (414) 267-2961.
First Stage’s 2023-24 season has been announced
First Stage has revealed its 2023-24 schedule. Performances take place in either the Milwaukee Performing Arts Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N. Water St., or the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut St. The composition includes:
“Dream, quickie, dream!” Oct. 6-29, Todd Wehr Theater. A world premiere for ages 7 and up, adapted by Gloria Bond Clooney from the children’s books by former Green Bay Packers tight end Donald Driver.
“The Forgotten Girl” Oct. 20-Nov. 12, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. A spooky tale with a historical element, adapted from a book by India Hill Brown for ages 10 and up.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical,” Nov. 24-Dec. 24, Todd Ver Theater. The singing and dancing version of a popular stage one story for ages 5 and up.
“Henry IV Part I”, December 8-17, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. First Stage’s young company of advanced teenagers perform a Shakespeare history play. For teenagers and adults.
“The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical”, February 3 – March 3, 2024, Todd Wehr Theatre. A musical adaptation of Rick Riordan’s popular fantasy novel for ages 7 and up.
“We’re in an Elephant and Piggie play!” February 24-March 17, 2024, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. A musical adaptation of Mo Willems’ children’s books for ages 3 and up.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Musical April 6-May 5, 2024, Todd Wehr Theatre. Adaptation of Jeff Kinney’s popular stories for ages 5 and up.
“Enemy of the People” April 19-28, 2024, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. A young company performance of Ibsen’s drama for teenagers and adults.
“Escape from Peligro Island”, May 10-June 2, 2024, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. An interactive thriller that uses audience voting to drive the action. For ages 5 and up.
For first leg information and tickets visit firststage.org or call (414) 267-2961.
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