This is whimsy. This can get silly. This is un-ADULT-erated fun. The staging and lighting and music here will be a real treat for the intended younger audience. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a relevant story here…we are going somewhere…where there is so much to learn. Pitter patter.
Director Johamy Morales must just have had a ball putting this play together and filling out the characters and movement and action in Last Stop On Market Street. And despite the word stop in the title, there is no STOP in the action as the story unfolds over the 55 minutes presentation (without intermission). And Last Stop On Market Street is being presented at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (325 W. Walnut, Milwaukee, WI) in the round in their delightfully intimate theater. So no child will be more than a row or two from the action. No one will miss anything!!
And my goodness, hats off to the technical team at First Stage. They certainly engage everyone’s imagination with their creative use of color, costumes, props, and sets. On the face of it, many of these things verge on the minimal but the audience is never left in doubt about where we are or who the characters are. So subtle while being so descriptive (I have been amazed by this all season, but it is even more apparent in Last Stop On Market Street).
And as in all of their other plays, First Stage is using two casts to give as many young actors a chance to perform as possible. I saw the Rain cast on a lovely Mothers Day morning. The other cast is the Bubbles cast. The photos here were supplied by First Stage and I will use images from both casts.
But our story revolves around CJ and his Nana as they travel to church and later across town to the last stop on Market Street. CJ has a solo at church and has a frog in his throat, although to my eyes, more like butterflies, but as most any young performer we can easily relate to the anxiety. But from there we follow CJ through some adventures, both real and imagined, that are obvious focal points in any young persons growth in awareness and experience. A lot of questions get asked, some of them answered directly, but most by observation. And that’s the true nature of the Last Stop On Market Street. Learning through experience, questioning, and observation. Quite a miraculous journey in just those 55 minutes.
The stand out performer here is Samantha D. Montgomery as Nana. She just nails it as a loving caring mentor and teacher for the inquisitive CJ. From the sparkle in her eye and in her voice to the patience she shows…she’s just the woman you’d want for your Nana! And there’s just a sense of awareness of her own mischief underlying her knowledge!
And those 55 minutes are filled with a lot of action in the form of street activity, dancing, singing, and just watching as the actors move in and out from the stage in seemingly constant motion (making handy use of three different entrance ramps to access the central stage). But pay close attention to costume changes…many actors (particularly the adult actors) are playing multiple roles, and the clever costumes help define the character and their role in our story.
This play is aimed at First Stage’s younger audiences: their recommendation is for families with children 3 to 7 and older. More information on the play, First Stage, and tickets can be found here! The play runs from now through June 12, 2022.
But here is an Enrichment Guide with before and post show activities to enrich a young persons engagement with the play.
Bottom line, the young audience in attendance when I was there were very involved with the play and the story. And they asked some very inspired and relevant questions during the talk back with the actors as play’s end.