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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Take a Trip Inside First Stage's 'Diary'

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The stage of the Todd Wehr Theater becomes larger than life so as to direct attention to the very small as First Stage presents Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly. Based on the popular children's books by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss, Joan Cushing's musical mixes a variety of pop music into the story of three students.

The three very different characters, played by child actors, learn the importance of diversity and self-discovery in a brisk, bright musical package. The story subtly weaves this central theme into a fairly straightforward plot about kids going through a school year. It's immensely reassuring to see this type of children's fare being produced, especially with such impressive staging.

Martin McClendon's set features a huge soda can that the bugs often use to enter and exit the stage. Fly Girl hangs out next to a large wine cork from the early '70s, and Worm nests in a discarded tea box. The costuming is stylish as well. Spider wears a black leather jacket (with appropriate number of limbs), Fly Girl has very distinctive glasses with two pairs of lenses and Worm wears a thick armless suit, a bright scarf and a baseball cap. Other characters include a Latina butterfly and a smart, cool, hip-hop squad of ants in tracksuits. In addition to hip-hop, the musical features traditional show tunes and a vibrant swing jazz piece.

First Stage's Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Fly runs through May 13 at Todd Wehr Theater. For ticket reservations, call 414-273-7206.