kids, let’s sing and dance!"
what First Stage Children’s Theater has a hard-working group of kids
doing for fun ... and learning. Founded in 1987, the company has
blossomed from a small theater for young audiences to a nationally
renowned organization. It offers a heavy season, including six
mainstage plays, two First Steps shows and one touring production,
putting on more than 300 performances each year.
But add more
creative opportunities? Sure, why not!
John Maclay had long wanted to install an advanced high school program
related to musical theater, but hadn’t found the right programming
idea. First Stage already had advanced year-round high school programs
in acting and Shakespeare called the "Young Company" and in
improvisation, aptly named "Organized Chaos."
So this past
summer, Thomas Weissgerber and Chris Wzsalek, two longtime First Stage
Theater Academy music teachers, approached Maclay and academy
Headmaster Laura DeMoon with the idea for a glee club. It seemed a
great fit. "We’re teaching musical theater," says
Weissgerber, "and wanted to try something totally
The hit TV show
"Glee" provided a good impetus for the plan, but advanced
show choirs existed long before the popular program, Maclay points
out. Yet, he adds, the show has made glee clubs more popular than
there were several meetings among Maclay, Weissgerber and Wzsalek.
"We always knew the structure would be an advanced show
choir," says Maclay. "We were set to begin with one small
group, but the interest has been so incredible that we now plan to
expand to three groups."
learn music outside of the realm of traditional musical theater, like
pop music, and they’ll create harmonized song and dance numbers.
What will they look like? "That is the work ahead," Maclay
seventh to 12th grade auditioned last autumn, with rehearsals
beginning in January. "‘Holy smokes,’ I said to myself. These
kids are coming from everywhere," enthuses Weissgerber as he
looks over the roster of youngsters. He cites attendees from Hartland,
Pewaukee, Muskego and all around Milwaukee, including talented kids
from public, charter and Catholic schools. "Plus we had some
being home schooled."
fun about a glee club?," says Maclay. "There are a large
number of students already in our academy that are passionate about
singing and dancing. But the announcement for Glee Club auditions
resulted in many new students showing up, as well."
performance is planned for May. And there are preliminary talks
regarding getting the groups into school competitions and performing
at corporate events, nursing homes, Wisconsin State Fair and other