The well-known children's book author, Barbara Joosse, of Cedarburg was once a little girl. Well, of course she was, but she was also one of those little, little girls, who dreamed of a big friend who could protect her. This little girl idea became the inspiration for a series of books about Girl and her friend, Dragon, and their adventures together. Now, the first three books in the series has inspired a World Premier Musical with First Stage in Milwaukee, which is named for the first book in the series, Lovabye Dragon.
"It's so out of the box and so full of energy," said Barbara, when describing the musical. "It shimmers in magic."
For the past three years, First Stage Artistic Director, Jeff Frank, Nathan Meckel of the band Happy Racers, and Barbara have worked together to create the musical, which opens on January 21st at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center in Milwaukee. Not only did Barbara write the books, but she also co-wrote the lyrics with Nathan, who she has worked with in the past.
"First Stage is really an incubator theater," Barbara explained. "Jeff and I wanted to make it so anyone could do the play, with any budget. After its premier here, it's going to travel."
Before the musical even opened, it won the 2017 Jim Henson Foundation Family Grant for the creation of Dragon, who is a 12 foot puppet, as well as tabletop and shadow puppets used in the musical, created by Brandon Kirkham, Scenic and Puppet Designer. Since 1982, the Jim Henson Foundation has made over 850 grants for the development and presentation of new works of contemporary American puppet theater.
Barbara and the Happy Racers will be participating in a related event at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center on Thursday, January 19th at 6 p.m.: A Beginning With No End. The evening will feature book readings from Barbara, followed by a concert for families with The Happy Racers. Tickets are just $5.
Lovabye Dragon runs through February 19th at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street in Milwaukee. The performance is geared towards children ages 3-7 years old. Tickets are $14, and may be purchased at www.firststage.org or by calling (414) 267-2961.