PSA: Milwaukee Rep Looking For Actors and Musicians For Original Musical: Run Bambi Run

A very interesting and intriguing email hit my in box this morning…if I still had my rock star skills from the previous century, I’d be applying immediately! And there is a Violent Femmes connection here!

RUN BAMBI RUN Actor/Musician Open Call for Local Submissions

We are looking for local actor/musicians to join the cast of the world premiere musical RUN BAMBI RUN featuring a book by Academy Award-winner Eric Simonson (LOMBARDI) and an all new score by Grammy-nominee Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes! We welcome submissions from all who are interested, regardless of formal theatrical experience.

We are specifically looking for skill in the following instrumentations: Bass, Guitars, Strings, Accordion, Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion . Multi-intrumentalists are encouraged!

Please fill out the form (see links below) with all of the requested information, and our Casting team will be in touch to schedule an audition time. Auditions will be held on April 5, with invited callbacks on April 6. Note: NYC Auditions will be posted March 17 via Actor’s Access and will be held in mid-April in New York City.

For the audition, performers will be asked to sing a song of their choosing in the spirit of a rock, power ballad or folk (no musical theater selections) and demonstrate versatility by playing one or more instruments.

Details on the production can be found below. Thank you for your interest!

SYNOPSIS: An outrageous ‘true crime’ saga that took the nation by storm, Lawrencia “Bambi” Bembenek’s fall from Milwaukee Police Department cop to Playboy Bunny lands her in the slammer, convicted of a murder that she didn’t commit. Or did she? This rollicking hometown story about truth and justice is a wild ride that you have to see to believe.

Run Bambi Run Book by Eric Simonson Music & Lyrics by Gordon Gano Directed by Mark Clements (LORT B) 1st Rehearsal – August 4, 2023; 1st Preview – September 13; Opening – September 22; Closing October 22.

More information and application for here:

Find Your Pineapple Under The See At The SpongeBob Musical For Young Audiences!

Milwaukee’s foremost theater for young people, First Stage, is currently performing The SpongeBob Musical For Young Audiences at the Todd Wehr Theater at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. And there is no way that the young (or even older) audiences aren’t going to have fun. And yes, there is some turmoil and some danger but we all know that SpongeBob SquarePants to solve the problem and the delight is watching him come up with a solution.

Now, before we get too far into the musical, performance, or cast, let me mention the stage set. First Stage always amazes with how much they get our of their sets and how they repurpose common objects in props that we easily accept as the correct time or place or environment. And they have done that time and time again all season…but in SpongeBob they have completely outdone themselves. Waiting for the play to start, you sense that we are underwater as the flickering stage lighting gives us that feeling of light shimmering on water but we are under the surface. Pool noodles become sea weed, kelp, and the stem of the world’s most famous pineapple. And if you look carefully you’ll see the huge abandoned Wisconsin license plate (first three letters: FST), a surfboard with a huge bite out of it, and other bits of flotsam and jetsam that indicate we are in fact, looking into Bikini Bottom! Scenic Designer, KRISTIN ELLERT and Lighting Designer, JASON FASSL have done some amazing work here and it all frees the director and choreographer to pull off this fast paced and entrancing musical. This set is simply enchanting!

Gracie Halverson (center) with Bree Beelow (left), Raven Dockery (far left, rear), Zach Thomas Woods and Jesse Bhamrah (rear, center), Doug Clemons, Lachrisa Grandberry (far right, rear) and cast in THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

Now on to the story! It’s a great day in Bikini Bottom and we get to meet all of the residents as they come to spend their day on our stage. But something isn’t right as a few tremors shake our landscape and scare a few residents. It turns out the nearby active volcano Mt. Humongous is going to erupt and threatens the existence of Bikini Bottom…and there is just over 24 hours to do something about it! Well, only Director Tommy Novak and Choreographer Katelin Zelon know whats going to happen but they let us know how all of the residents feel and what they all are going to do as they keep the music, action, and dancing moving at break neck speed.

And although the story is aimed at families with young people 6 and older, the story and characters present us with a lot of personal and social dynamics. Different characters have different roles…different solutions…and different rationales for what actions they decide to take. And of course we have a delightful villain in Sheldon Plankton who wants to take advantage of the situation to the advantage of his restaurant the Chum Bucket…and his enabling assistant Karen. Meanies for sure but so cute you can’t quite bring yourself to boo them! All of the other characters are here as well. Squidward wants to finally put on a show and gain some recognition. SpongBob’s best friend forever, Patrick, gets distracted easily but comes through when he needs to. And Sandy Cheeks, the diving suit dwelling squirrel, is initially overlooked but brings her science to save the day…with help.

esse Bhamra and Bree Beelow in THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

And what finally wins out? Friendship, teamwork, and co-operation as Sandy, Patrick, and SpongeBob manage the climb up unclimbable Mt. Humongous and save the day to everyone’s delight…well…except for maybe Sheldon!

Gavin Miller, Gracie Halverson, and Natalie Ortega in THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

AND! Oh my goodness, I almost forgot. There is another character who isn’t ‘on’ stage…and that’s the Foley Artist who provides any number of sounds and sound effects as required during the performance. The Foley Artist is hiding in plain sight on an elevated platform to the audience’s right…behind a railing and string of colored plastic soda bottles. I wanted to watch but the stage action was too fast and too engrossing to allow that. There are two artists manning the platform, Paul Helm and Jonathon Gideon ( the understudy who was on duty when I attended).

Thatcher Jacobs (center) with Lachrisa Grandberry (far left), Doug Clemons, and cast in THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

And as always First Stage employs two casts of young actors who alternate performances…so check the program and links below for cast members. The photos here will show members of both casts. And the casts always have clever names relevant to the play so in this case we have the Sponge and Starfish casts! But we mustn’t overlook the adult actors who provided the anchor (no pun intended but it works, right) for our story and younger cast members. What fun and what a wild ride from Doug Clemons as Squidward, Jesse Bhamrah as Plankton, Zach Thomas Woods as Krabs, Bree Beelow as Karen, Lachrisa Grandberry as Mrs. Mayor, and Raven Dockery as Puff!

Oh, and did I mention that there are bubbles? There ARE bubbles!

Zach Thomas Woods and Thatcher Jacobs (front, center) with Bree Beelow, Doug Clemons, and cast in THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

Additional information from First Stage and ticket info for The SpongeBob Musical!

And extra credit reading: The Playbill!

The SpongeBob Musical For Young Audiences runs through April 2, 2023 and what a perfect way to get us ready for spring! And there is always a 5 minute talk back after the performance for young audience members to ask a question about what they have just experienced! What fun…

Thatcher Jacobs and Naima Gaines (front) with Terrance Ilion, Isabella Schmitz, and Evie Patrick in THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES. First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.


An exciting new play from First Stage in Milwaukee for young people 6 and up!!

First Stage is excited to announce that next up in their 2022/23 season will be THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES, based on the iconic animated Nickelodeon series by Stephen Hillenberg, with book by Kyle Jarrow.  SpongeBob fans young and old will delight in seeing their favorite characters come to life on stage! The production features original songs by an array of legendary musicians including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco and David Bowie, to name a few.

The musical production was conceived by Tina Landau and will be directed by Tommy Novak, (recently seen at First Stage’s production of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER™ as Sam the Snowman), choreographed by noted choreographer Katelin Zelon, with Musical Direction by area favorite Paul Helm. Milwaukee families will get to dive deep into the undersea town of Bikini Bottom with SpongeBob and his quirky circle of friends and neighbors – Patrick, Sandy, Squidward, Mr. Krabs and even Plankton – in this dynamic stage musical. Chaos erupts when SpongeBob and all of Bikini Bottom face the total annihilation at the threat of Mt. Humongous. Just when all hope seems lost, a most unexpected hero rises up and takes center stage. First Stage audiences will discover that the power of optimism really can save the world! 

THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES runs March 3 – April 2, 2023, at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets start at $32 and can be purchased in person at the Marcus Center Box Office at 929 N. Water Street, by phone at (414) 273-7206 or online at Performance runtime is approximately 75 minutes plus intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 6+. 

From Director Tommy Novak: “‘Who lives in a pineapple under the Sea?’ SPONGEBOB SQUARE PANTS!!!” I am super excited to be working on THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES at First Stage. The thing about SpongeBob is that he is a simple sponge with a huge heroic heart. When the world is a horrible, miserable place, we need optimism and positivity that only SpongeBob can bring to the any situation. Although we sometimes see the darkness of the future, SpongeBob is here to remind all of us that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and they will help us to find the flashlight to get us through it. They always see the bright side of the situation; help to motivate us with humor, relentless positivity and an absurd silliness. SpongeBob is the biggest example of “I can’t is not is my vocabulary.” There is no task too large or too scary. Any task can be accomplished with teamwork and a community of support. This show reminds us that we are a community responsible for working together and taking care of each other. Only when we put our collective brains and hearts to a task will we succeed. The world we live in is NOW. Don’t stress about the future and leave the Past behind you. Today is a gift and tomorrow is not promised, so live each day as if it is your last with a full heart of kindness, joy and laughter. “MAKE IT YOUR BEST DAY EVER!” 

Tickets start at $32 – Tickets may be purchased at or through the Marcus Center Box Office, in person at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee or by phone (414) 273-7206 or toll free at (888) 612-3500. The number for TDD (for deaf and hard of hearing patrons) is (414) 273-3080. 

And there are a number of special performances that you should be aware of:

Pay What You Choose Performance: Friday, March 10, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. 

Pay What You Choose tickets are available on a first come, first served basis with a minimum suggested donation of $5 per person. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. on the day of the performance. Patrons are encouraged to arrive early. Tickets may also be reserved in advance by phone at (414) 267-2961, weekdays 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information, please visit: 

Sensory Friendly Performance: Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 3:30 p.m.  

A Sensory Friendly Performance with accommodations for families with children on the autism spectrum will take place on Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 3:30 p.m. Sensory accommodations include a quiet area staffed by an experienced educator, lower sound, house lights up and more. Tickets for Sensory Friendly Performances are $10. Order online or by phone at (414) 267-2961, weekdays 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. to reserve tickets. To learn more visit:

ASL Interpreted Performance: Sunday, April 2, 2023 at 3:30 p.m. 

This performance will be sign language interpreted for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Assistive listening devices are also available at the Todd Wehr Theater. To learn more, please visit: 

For more information, please visit or call (414) 267-2961.