We’re Jammin’ at Bob Marley’s Three Birds At First Stage

And I hope you like jammin’, too!

The First Stage shows are always crazy fun and feature colorful sets and costuming and enthusiastic talented performers. And Three Little Birds is no different and this is maybe my favorite of the season…but that may be a personal bias…since I love Bob Marley’s music.

The focus of the story by Cedella Marley is a young Jamaican lad named Ziggy. And based on his limited life experience, Ziggy is nervous about the dangers he perceives to exist in the big real world outside his home…so he prefers to remain in his home and focus on the weather (one of his fears is hurricanes) and news on his TV. But his mother and friend, Nansi, eventually coax him out into Jamaica!

Cynthia Cobb and Julius Newman in Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS. courtesy of First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

And unsurprisingly, Ziggy’s best friend is a bird…a very active and happy bird…Dr. Bird, incredibly brought to life on the stage by Ogunde Tremayne. What a treat to watch Dr. Bird aid Ziggy in breaking out of his fears and enter the world. And Tremayne really brings the character to life through his acting and singing and very fluid dancing. I found myself focusing on Dr. Bird rather than Ziggy whenever Tremayne came on stage.

Ogunde Tremayne and Reece Davis in Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS. courtesy of First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

But despite the reassurances of Ziggy’s mother, Nansi, and Dr. Bird, there is one danger in Jamaica. A Duppy (a spirit from Jamaican folklore) who preys on young people to steal their hair to add to their own wig…believing that they needed new hair to maintain their strength and vigor. An activity that Duppy has been doing for centuries…and as everyone in the play states any number of times…Ziggy has beautiful perfect hair. And Duppy is stalking him but most frequently is frightened away by all of the activity that accompanies Ziggy and his friends. And Duppy is played by James Carrington, who gets just precisely right, the sly nature of Duppy and the humor written into the script around the Duppy and has just the right of sense of threat when he finally catches Ziggy lost and unaware. Another outstanding performance.

 James Carrington in Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS. courtesy of First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

But Ziggy and Nansi defeat the Duppy through a clue from Ziggy’s mother and Ziggy’s twist on a trick that Nansi played on him earlier. It is a proper and rewarding comeuppance for Duppy and provides a liberation for Ziggy from his earlier dilemma and malaise.

And of course the story is supported and reinforced throughout by the delightful music of Bob Marley…as the cast sings and dances between the various story vignettes. One of the off stage heroes here is choreographer Sonya Thompson whose dance pieces bring the characters to the fore and move the story along…the choreography just adds to the joy in the music.

And a shout out to Costume Designer Kenann Quander who gave us the feel of Jamaica and colors and textures to please the eye…particularly for the three birds from the title and Duppy! And Director Samantha D. Montgomery utilized the thrust stage of the Todd Wehr Theater to maximum effect, moving the actors and set to the best advantage for her story and the engagement of the audience.

Ogunde Tremayne (front) and Maya O’Day-Biddle and Amirah Muhammad in Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS. courtesy of First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

As always, First Stage features two casts to provide ample opportunities for their young acting corps. For Three Little Birds, the Jamaican Owls cast includes Reece Davis as Ziggy, Amirah Muhammad as Nansi, and Maya O’Day-Biddle as Tacoomah and the Jamaican Becard cast includes Julius Newman as Ziggy, Amira Harris as Nansi, and Zoe Chambers as Tacoomah. If you want to see who is on stage at any particular performance check the links below.

Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds continues at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater through May 21, 2023. Details and ticket info here: This show is recommended for families with children 3 and older…and has a run time about of 70 minutes that includes a short intermission.

Extra credit readings:

The Playbill with cast and First Stage information!

The Three Little Birds Social Story which explains theater, acting, and the experience at Todd Wehr. A great piece for first time theater goers. And the Enrichment Guide!

Amira Harris (front) and Julius Newman, Cynthia Cobb, and Zoe Chambers in Bob Marley’s THREE LITTLE BIRDS. courtesy of First Stage, 2023. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

The Greatest Love for Whitney, A Whitney Houston Tribute Created By Mark Clements At The Milwaukee Rep

I am feeling like a bit of a Stackner Cabaret ‘tween at the moment…too young to have appreciated Dean Martin (Dino just closed at the Stackner : see my response here) and too old to have been a fan of Whitney Houston. But I am being a little melodramatic here because I should admit that Beehive was in my wheelhouse (see my response here).

But yes, I didn’t really know what to expect from The Greatest Love for Whitney other than I was about to experience some incredible performers in outstanding performances…the high bar that The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret has set for itself. But everyone else knew why they were there and from the shout outs and sing-a-longs and applause, this show met with their expectations for a Whitney Houston experience!

And obviously Rep Artistic Director Mark Clements is a huge Whitney fan. And he has created an elegant and moving tribute to Whitney. The Stackner stage is just filled with star presence in actors Alina Cherone and Alesia Miller and the Rep’s own Musical Director Dan Kazemi as accompanist.

Alesia Miller and Alina Cherone, photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

Cherone and Miller have the perfect voices to showcase Whitney’s catalog of songs. And they trade off one after another taking the lead role…or double up when the song calls for extra emphasis…or bring up the harmonies when needed! Not a wrong note here. And in between the songs they present some background from Whitney’s career. And they also provide us with how Whitney provided them with a role model that helped bring them to the Stackner stage.

Alina Miller; photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

And Kazemi accompanies them on piano and keeps the orchestral backing tracks rolling right along. It was great to see him in the footlights on stage rather than just a photo in the program this time!

And I almost forgot…and how could I? Alesia Miller is a Milwaukee native and brings some local color to the stories she tells about growing up and pursuing the stage and music!

Alesia Miller; photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

And just an elegant and simple cabaret stage…stools…piano…microphones…drape rear curtain…and a neon Whitney signature sign. A completely supportive environment…nothing to distract from the actors or the music.

The Greatest Love for Whitney continues at the Rep’s Stackner Cabaret through May 28, 2023…additional information here. The link includes access to the trailer and rehearsal videos.

Extra credit reading: The Program.

And when you go, you may see Charlotte Odusanya as one of the actors…she wasn’t on stage the night that I attended the play. I imagine that she has her own Whitney story to tell as well!

Charlotte Odusanya; photo by Michael Brosilow and courtesy of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

PSA: Kith and Kin Auditioning for their Music and a Movie Series!

AUDITIONS: Music & a Movie info here: But no dawdling because the deadline is March 31st, 2023.

Seeking an ensemble of performers to bring the music of Beetlejuice, Hairspray, and La La Land to life this summer in the interactive screenings of popular movies during Kith & Kin Theatre Collective’s Music & a Movie series. The series rehearses and performs at Inspiration Studios.

If interested, please send the following to kithandkintheatre@gmail.com:

– One-minute cut performing a musical theatre song, with a backing track or accompaniment (no a Capella)

– Headshot and Resume

– Audition form

– (If interested in La La Land) Dance cut video. Dance cut begins at the one minute mark of “Another Day of Sun”

Audition Materials: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1CTP61XRRZTHOiy7LxIa5dlbqph2ZVqFp?usp=share_link

Please note that a) actors can be considered for more than one show, b) performance tracks in the screenings are not bound traditionally by character tracks from the shows, and c) actors are expected to be available for all rehearsal dates for their selected show.


Beetlejuice: May 15th – 18th, directed by Anastasia Esther, music directed by Jim Van Deusen

Hairspray: June 5th – 8th, directed by Adrianna Jones, music directed by Jim Van Deusen

La La Land: August 14th – 17th, directed by Carmen Castello, music directed by Jim Van Deusen