Fans of the popular Wisconsin children's book author, Keven Henkes, might be surprised to know that his tale of the precocious mouse named Lilly turns 20 years old this year. The best way to celebrate is with First Stage, who has made a wonderful adaptation of the story for the stage in Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, which opens on Friday, May 13th, and goes through June 12th at the Todd Wehr Theater in Milwaukee.
The story is actually a combination of three of Henkes' stories: Chester's Way; Julius, The Baby of the World; and, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. Henkes has written numerous picture books for young children that feature mice as the main characters, including Lilly and her best friends, Chester and Wilson. The New Yorker called Henkes, “One of the best writers of contemporary picture books,” and the New York Times has called him a "genius." I must agree. If you haven't introduced your children to Kevin Henkes' books yet, now is the time!
In the play, Lilly (Emily Harris/Abigail Hanna) is not only the main character, she is also "the queen!" That is, until her new baby brother, Julius (Lina Singh/Madison Jones) arrives on the scene. Luckily, Lilly has her friends, Chester (Ben Usatinsky/Carlos Meyers) and Wilson (Spencer Tomich/Trevor Schmitt-Ernst), to occupy her, and her favorite new teacher, Mr. Slinger (Bo Johnson). When Lilly's Grammy buys her a sparkly new purple plastic purse, Lilly is sure that everyone will be wowed, but when she takes it to school, things don't go as she imagined.
The characters in Henkes' books are so loved, in part because they are so familiar. Lilly makes the mistakes that we all make as children, but her mother (Elyse Edelman) and father (Chike Johnson) help guide her through. Any child with a younger sibling will relate to Lilly's reaction to her new baby brother and, perhaps, will be comforted to know that Lilly eventually realizes he might not be so bad, after all.
Here's a fun fact: Elyse Edelman, who plays Lilly's mother, played Lilly in the 2001 production of the play at First Stage, and it was her very first stage performance!
Tickets for Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse can be purchased on the First Stage website: www.firststage.org, or by calling (414) 273-7206. Performances take place at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, 929 N. Water Street, Milwaukee.
About First Stage
Since 1987, First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people and families through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain; unparalleled Theater Academy training that fosters life skills through stage skills; and dynamic Theater in Education programs that promote active learning in our schools and community. In 2012, First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).