First Stage Presents GRETEL!, a Foundry Production

First Stage | February 5, 2020

Milwaukee, WI – GRETEL!, a new folk rock musical developed as part of the First Stage Foundry Stage Series, combines the tale of HANSEL AND GRETEL with VASILISA THE BRAVE (the Russian Cinderella) into a story family audiences will find both compelling and inspiring. In this modern folktale re-imagination, audiences will meet Gretel – the spirited female protagonist with many hardships to overcome, including a mother who is gone, an absent father as well as a stepmother and stepsister who constantly belittle her. Then, with only a gift from her mother and hope in her heart, Gretel heads into the wilderness to find the
mysterious Baba Yaga – and in her journey she discovers more than she could ever have imagined. GRETEL! embraces the storytelling nature of theater and is a modern musical the entire family will want to experience together. This project is supported in part by a grant from the Milwaukee Arts Board and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

GRETEL! runs February 21 – March 22, 2020 at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, located at 325 W. Walnut Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets are $16. Tickets are available online at or through the First Stage Box Office at (414) 267-2961. Performance runtime    is    approximately    90    minutes, including intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 8 – 15+.

First Stage has had a long-standing commitment to the development of new educational initiatives and plays. Four seasons ago, it launched the Foundry Stage Series – piloting new programs and presenting readings of plays in various stages of development – offering First Stage audiences a chance to be a part of the process, to give them a voice, to give them an opportunity to help craft the next plays to be on seen at First Stage. Last season, First Stage launched the Foundry Production. Each season, First Stage produces a new play emerging from the reading series and presents it to their audiences. Based on the overwhelmingly positive response from the GRETEL! play reading last season, Artistic Director Jeff Frank decided to include it in the 2019/20 season. He said, “Our audience raved about the power of the story, the music, the vivid characters and the incredibly strong protagonist.”

He also added, “Live music (guitar, cello and ukulele), with a small ensemble of actors and found object puppetry, will combine to tell a tale of adventure, loss, danger and the discovery of one’s true power. Staged in the Goodman Main Stage Hall at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, the intimacy of the space makes the audience experience even more exciting, and also allows us the opportunity to offer pre- and post-show workshops and discussions for our audiences, advancing our commitment to building community.”


Jeff Frank, (Director/Artistic Director) is recognized as one of the top directors in the field with
an expertise in developing new work for theater for young audiences, Jeff holds a BFA in
Theater from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and an MFA in Child Drama from the
University of Utah. Having served as First Stage’s Education and Academy Director from 1996 –
2003 and as First Stage’s Artistic Director since February 2003, Jeff remains committed to the
power of theater to transform lives and is forever thankful to call First Stage home.


Natalie Ford (Woman/Mother/Baba Yaga/Music Director) was recently seen in ELF –THE
MUSICAL as Emily. Credits include PIPPIN, MY FAIR LADY and INTO THE WOODS at Skylight
Music Theatre, 1776 and THANK YOU, NEXT at Milwaukee Opera Theatre and JESUS CHRIST,
SUPERSTAR at In Tandem Theatre. Natalie has been seen on Chicagoland theater stages,
including Music Theatre Works, Marriott Theatre, Drury Lane, Chicago Opera Theatre and
Theatre at the Center. She has a private voice studio in Wauwatosa, holding degrees from
Valparaiso University and Indiana University.

Max Mainwood (Man/Stepmother/Malfusa/Black Knight/Father) is happy to return to First
Stage after he spent over a decade studying and acting there as a young performer. Originally
from the Milwaukee area, he now lives in Minneapolis, MN. He recently received a BFA in
acting at the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program. Recent
credits include: THE BELDENVILLE TROLL at Open Eye Figure Theater and Hercules
in ARGONAUTIKA at The Guthrie Theater.

Carmen Risi (Understudy for Ms. Ford) has performed with Skylight Music Theatre in KISS ME,
KATE and HOT MIKADO. She was recently seen in TOMFOOLERY and SHINBONE ALLEY at Third
Avenue Playhouse in Door County. Favorite Chicago credits include the Narrator in JOSEPH AND
OUR SONG (Brown Paper Box Co.).

Timothy Conn (Understudy for Mr. Mainwood) is excited to join First Stage for this wonderful
production. Some of his past favorite credits include Laurie (LITTLE WOMEN), Stage Manager
(OUR TOWN), Jesus (GODPELL) and Sir Andrew (TWELFTH NIGHT). He is a recent graduate from
Oral Roberts University with a BFA in Acting.

The adult cast for GRETEL! includes: Natalie Ford, Member of Actors’ Equity Association, as
Woman/Mother/Baba Yaga; Max Mainwood as Man/Stepmother/Malfusa/Black
Knight/Father; Carmen Risi as Understudy for Ms. Ford and Timothy Conn as Understudy for
Mr. Mainwood.


Young Performer roles are double cast. Young Performers in the Night and Day Cast include:
Alice Rivera (from Milwaukee) as Gretel; Gracie Halverson (from Madison) as Gretel and Maya
(from Whitefish Bay) as Gretel.

Young Performers in the Night Cast include: Ailie Snyder (from Milwaukee) as Girl; Thatcher
(from Fox Point) as Boy and Benjamin Nowacek (from Wauwatosa) as Cellist/Ensemble.

Young Performers in the Day Cast include: Yulitza Adorno-Jonas (from Glendale) as Girl;
William Swoboda (from Whitefish Bay) as Boy and Mara Holzen (from Wauwatosa) as

The Artistic Staff for GRETEL! Includes: Jeff Frank (Artistic Director/Director); Natalie Ford
(Music Director); Sarah Hunt-Frank (Scenic Designer); Lyndsey Kuhlmann (Costume Designer);
Marissa Abbott (Lighting Designer); Lauren Gingold, Member of Actors’ Equity Association,
(Stage Manager) and Megan Harris (Assistant Stage Manager).

Tickets are $16 – Tickets may be purchased at or by phone (414) 267-2961.
Group Sales – Groups of 10 or more receive discounts off regular single ticket prices on most
First Stage performances at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. Call (414) 267-2964 or email for more information.

First Stage Family Packages – any combination of tickets for three or more plays in the 2019/20
season – are on sale now. Family package prices are available at up to 50% off the cost of
regular single ticket prices. Benefits include unlimited ticket exchanges, backstage tours and