A few months ago, I brought my kids to see First Stage Milwaukee's First Steps series production of Laura Numeroff's "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" and it was a smash hit. So, when we saw that the series is now staging "If You Take a Mouse to School," well, we just couldn't resist.
We caught the first performance of the work on Saturday morning at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut St., and the room, unsurprisingly, was packed with eager kids and their parents and grandparents. (We ran into OnMilwaukee.com columnist Dave Begel with his grandson, too.)
Jordan Ahnquist reprised his role as the mouse and the boy was played by sixth grader Thomas Mazza. Unlike the previous show, however, this one had two other performers, too: eighth grader Clarise White played the boy's school friend Millie and Rana Roman played a number of roles, including the boy's mom, the mouse's mom, the school bus driver, the teacher and the coach.
The production of "If You Take a Mouse to School" wasn't quite as laugh-out-loud funny as "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" but it was no less impressive.
The acting -- especially by Ahnquist is above reproach -- and the script is a clever adaptation of a simplistic picture book text.
Once again, Brandon Kirkham, First Stage's scenic designer and costume designer, deserves an ovation for his basic but ingenious sets that use very little to conjure evocative settings.
After the 45-minute performance there was a talkback that drew questions from even the littlest audience members and Ahnquist proved as adept at explaining to kids how things like kabuki cannons work as he is at acting in roles that delight children of all ages.
"If You Take a Mouse to School," which is directed by Jeff Frank, is aimed at kids ages 3-6. Performances continue through March 28.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.