Milwaukee's First Stage Will Present GRETEL!, A LIVE FOLK ROCK MUSICAL

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Milwaukee's First Stage Will Present GRETEL!, A LIVE FOLK ROCK MUSICALGRETEL!, a new folk rock musical developed as part of the First Stage Foundry Stage Series, combines the tale of HANSEL AND GRETEL with VASILISA THE BRAVE (the Russian Cinderella) into a story family audiences will find both compelling and inspiring. The production is directed by Artistic Director Jeff Frank with Book by Jason Tremblay with Suzan Zeder, Music by Jenn Hartmann Luck, Lyrics by Jenn Hartmann Luck, Jason Tremblay and Suzan Zeder and Cello Arrangements by Nora Karakousoglou. In this modern folktale re-imagination, audiences will meet Gretel - the spirited female protagonist with many hardships to overcome, including a mother who is gone, an absent father as well as a stepmother and stepsister who constantly belittle her. Then, with only a gift from her mother and hope in her heart, Gretel heads into the wilderness to find the mysterious Baba Yaga - and in her journey she discovers more than she could ever have imagined. GRETEL! embraces the storytelling nature of theater and is a modern musical the entire family will want to experience together. This project is supported in part by a grant from the Milwaukee Arts Board and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

GRETEL! runs February 21 - March 22, 2020 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets are $16. Tickets are available online at or through the First Stage Box Office at (414) 267-2961. Performance runtime is approximately 90 minutes, including intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 8 - 15+.

First Stage has had a long-standing commitment to the development of new educational initiatives and plays. Four seasons ago, it launched the Foundry Stage Series - piloting new programs and presenting readings of plays in various stages of development - offering First Stage audiences a chance to be a part of the process, to give them a voice, to give them an opportunity to help craft the next plays to be on seen at First Stage. Last season, First Stage launched the Foundry Production. Each season, First Stage produces a new play emerging from the reading series and presents it to their audiences. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response from the GRETEL! play reading last season, Artistic Director Jeff Frank decided to include it in the 2019/20 season. He said, "Our audience raved about the power of the story, the music, the vivid characters and the incredibly strong protagonist."

He also added, "Live music (guitar, cello and ukulele), with a small ensemble of actors and found object puppetry, will combine to tell a tale of adventure, loss, danger and the discovery of one's true power. Staged in the Goodman Main Stage Hall at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, the intimacy of the space makes the audience experience even more exciting, and also allows us the opportunity to offer pre- and post-show workshops and discussions for our audiences, advancing our commitment to building community."


Jeff Frank, (Director/Artistic Director) is recognized as one of the top directors in the field with an expertise in developing new work for theater for young audiences, Jeff holds a BFA in Theater from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and an MFA in Child Drama from the University of Utah. Having served as First Stage's Education and Academy Director from 1996 - 2003 and as First Stage's Artistic Director since February 2003, Jeff remains committed to the power of theater to transform lives and is forever thankful to call First Stage home.


Natalie Ford (Woman/Mother/Baba Yaga/Music Director) was recently seen in ELF -THE MUSICAL as Emily. Credits include PIPPIN, MY FAIR LADY and INTO THE WOODS at Skylight Music Theatre, 1776 and THANK YOU, NEXT at Milwaukee Opera Theatre and JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR at In Tandem Theatre. Natalie has been seen on Chicagoland theater stages, including Music Theatre Works, Marriott Theatre, Drury Lane, Chicago Opera Theatre and Theatre at the Center. She has a private voice studio in Wauwatosa, holding degrees from Valparaiso University and Indiana University.

Max Mainwood (Man/Stepmother/Malfusa/Black Knight/Father) is happy to return to First Stage after he spent over a decade studying and acting there as a young performer. Originally from the Milwaukee area, he now lives in Minneapolis, MN. He recently received a BFA in acting at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. Recent credits include: THE BELDENVILLE TROLL at Open Eye Figure Theater and Hercules in ARGONAUTIKA at The Guthrie Theater.

Carmen Risi (Understudy for Ms. Ford) has performed with Skylight Music Theatre in KISS ME, KATE and HOT MIKADO. She was recently seen in TOMFOOLERY and SHINBONE ALLEY at Third Avenue Playhouse in Door County. Favorite Chicago credits include the Narrator in JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Citadel Theatre) and Sonia in THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG (Brown Paper Box Co.).

Timothy Conn (Understudy for Mr. Mainwood) is excited to join First Stage for this wonderful production. Some of his past favorite credits include Laurie (LITTLE WOMEN), Stage Manager (OUR TOWN), Jesus (GODPELL) and Sir Andrew (TWELFTH NIGHT). He is a recent graduate from Oral Roberts University with a BFA in Acting.

The adult cast for GRETEL! includes: Natalie Ford, Member of Actors' Equity Association, as Woman/Mother/Baba Yaga; Max Mainwood as Man/Stepmother/Malfusa/Black Knight/Father; Carmen Risi as Understudy for Ms. Ford andTimothy Conn as Understudy for Mr. Mainwood.


Young Performer roles are double cast. Young Performers in the Night and Day Cast include: Alice Rivera (from Milwaukee) as Gretel; Gracie Halverson (from Madison) as Gretel and Maya Thomure (from Whitefish Bay) as Gretel.

Young Performers in the Night Cast include: Ailie Snyder (from Milwaukee) as Girl; Thatcher Jacobs (from Fox Point) as Boy and Benjamin Nowacek (from Wauwatosa) as Cellist/Ensemble.

Young Performers in the Day Cast include: Yulitza Adorno-Jonas (from Glendale) as Girl; William Swoboda (from Whitefish Bay) as Boy and Mara Holzen (from Wauwatosa) as Cellist/Ensemble.

The Artistic Staff for GRETEL! Includes: Jeff Frank (Artistic Director/Director); Natalie Ford (Music Director); Sarah Hunt-Frank (Scenic Designer); Lyndsey Kuhlmann (Costume Designer); Marissa Abbott (Lighting Designer); Lauren Gingold, Member of Actors' Equity Association, (Stage Manager) and Megan Harris (Assistant Stage Manager).

Tickets are $16 - Tickets may be purchased at or by phone (414) 267-2961.

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