First Stage Brings Animated Children to Life in New Musical ‘Arthur’

Depending on who counts, between 15% and 75% of Americans are afraid to speak in public.

Arthur Read knows their pain.

The main character of “Arthur and his friends make a musical!” faces a challenge that seems more daunting than all the Labors of Hercules put together: to write his own story or song…and perform it in a third-grade class production…alongside his friends, who all seem more creative… front of the entire town of Elwood community.

On Friday night, First Stage kicked off its worldwide production of this catchy pop-rock musical. Written and composed by John Maclay and Brett Ryback, this show was developed with the permission and active support of “Arthur” creator Marc Brown, drawing on Brown’s books and characters familiar to the waves of children. through the long-running PBS Kids animated series. The awesome Brown, 75, attended Friday’s premiere.

AFTER:First Stage Adapts Animated TV Star ‘Arthur’ Into World Premiere Musical

Khalia Davis directed and choreographed the production — and the dance element of this show was substantial enough that I checked my schedule for credit.

First Stage uses two child casts in this production. I saw the Elwood cast, which includes Vivian Madson as Arthur, Gia Love Deacon as DW’s little sister, Silver Anderson as Muffy, Alice Rivera as Francine, Ryon Davis as Buster, and Charlie Cornell as Brain.

In the adult cast, the exuberant James Carrington plays Mr. Ratburn, a fiery and demanding teacher; and Brandite Reed and Zach Thomas Woods portray Arthur’s no-nonsense mother and clumsy father (true to the series, dad is shown as the cooking parent in passing).

Beneath Arthur’s performance anxiety (and writer’s block) lurks the fear that his life is too boring to be worth a song, a fear reinforced by bratty sister DW. He prefers to distribute programs. In a pre-show interview, composer Ryback called Arthur “a supporting character pushed into a main character position”.

Sometimes Madson’s Arthur sounds like long-suffering Job as well-meaning friends show up with advice, such as Brain’s “Find a Better Word” and Muffy’s “Dress for Success.” They will play a part in Arthur finding his voice, but maybe not in the way they expected.

In a subplot, Mr. Ratburn wants the show to be celebratory, but activist Francine pushes to include discussions of the real issues in Elwood City. Ultimately, this leads to “Agent 355”, his song of praise for a spy during the American Revolution. It’s both a tribute to “Hamilton” and a bit of a diss track!

First Stage recommends this show for people ages 5 and up. An enrichment guide and social story can be downloaded from the First Stage website.

Contact Jim Higgins at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @jhiggy.

If you are going to

First Stage performs “Arthur and Friends Make a Musical!” through Nov. 6 at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, 929 N. Water St. Tour firststage.org or call (414) 267-2961.