By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Feb 28, 2015 at 9:30 AM

Think back, if you will, to that special time in life, the time when you, or a child of yours, was in the middle of the turbulence of being a sixth-grader, filled with both the hopes and the fears of that period of life.

Those moments are the key to "Big Nate: The Musical," which opened a month long run Friday night at First Stage.

The hero of a comic strip and a series of books, Nate has now become the hero of his very own musical, and what a hero he is. Nate is honorable, he has his principles, he won’t compromise, he’s a little shy and he always tries to tell the truth.

Goals are relatively fluid things when you’re in sixth grade, but Nate has two of them firmly in sight.

One is that he wants his band, "Enslave the Mollusk," to win the school battle of the bands. The other goal is Jenny, the girl of his life.

Like every good story, this one has plenty of obstacles in front of our hero.

The band doesn’t have enough time to rehearse, and the growing pile of detentions threaten the ability of the band to even compete. If Nate has 25 detentions, the band is out, and he is at 24. Not much room for error.

As if the detentions aren’t enough, there is Artur, a classmate from Belarus who has his eyes set on Jenny and who has the kind of foreign born appeal that has melted American hearts throughout the world of literature.

Nate is a brave hero, however, and he steers his three-piece band through rehearsals, manages to keep detention 25 at bay and managed to keep his hidden pursuit of Jenny on fire.

In typically realistic fashion, the First Stage production doesn’t end with happily ever after. Oh the band does great, but Jenny ends up with Artur, which Nate has to keep his mouth shut as he watches the boy and girl start to go steady.

The Mollusk cast opened the show, and Darius Gaskin took full charge of the role of Nate. He is a warm and expressive singer and led this pack of young actors both musically and theatrically.

The actors were blessed to work in a delightfully creative set designed by Kristin Ellert and great music direction by Brian Meyers. Jeff Schaetzke continues his string of directing young people to unexpected heights.

"Big Nate: The Musical" runs through March 29 and information on showtimes and tickets is available here.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.