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First Stage's Whimsical Tale of a Lonely Girl and Her Dragon

Jan. 31, 2017
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Photo credit: Paul Ruffolo Photography

Wisconsin author Barbara M. Joosse’s Lovabye Dragon books are whimsical fantasy stories of a girl and her dragon. There’s a smooth liquid poetry to the text that could be adapted to the stage in a variety of different ways. This winter First Stage has found a clever, engaging way to bring an adaptation of Joosse’s creation to the cozy First Stage Mainstage at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center.

Chase Stoeger hosts the show with engaging energy as narrative Troubadour. Stoeger radiates an earnest enthusiasm that feels warm and friendly without being explosively exaggerated. An actress from the young company plays Girl: a lonely child who has been cautioned never to venture away from home. Her tears of longing for the big world outside waken a friendly dragon, which promptly visits her. It becomes her pet and faithful friend on an adventure that runs the span of about one hour.

The dragon itself is a large puppet conceived by Brandon Kirkham and brought to life by three performers. Kirkham’s dragon and accompanying scenery faithfully recreate the distinct look established in the books by illustrator Randy Cecil. One particularly clever bit of staging has shadow puppets projected into the background scenery above the action in the foreground. The Cecil-inspired silhouettes in the background give a sense of whimsical immensity about the world of the girl and her dragon.

The show’s music by The Happy Racers has a ’90s pop alt-rock feel to it. The wide-eyed emotional energy of the dreamy music lends itself well to kids’ musical theater. It’s a perfect match for Stoeger’s earnestness as the Troubadour.

Through Feb. 19 at Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, 325 W. Walnut St. For tickets, visit firststage.org or call 414-267-2961.

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