The Watsons Go To Birmingham

First Stage Now Showing ‘The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963’

Young actors perform in The Watson's Go To Birmingham at the Todd Wehr Theater in Milwaukee, WI.
First Stage’s “The Watson’s go to Birmingham” is now showing at Todd Wehr Theater.

Milwaukee, WI – January 6, 2022 – First Stage, one of the nation’s leading theaters for young people and families, returns to live performances this January with a heartwarming production of THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM – 1963 at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater. 

Based on the award-winning book by Christopher Paul Curtis and adapted by Cheryl L. West, with original music by Paris Ray Dozier and directed by Brandite Reed and Jeff Frank, this journey into the deep South in 1963 reminds us of the importance of family, love and laughter to get through challenging times.

Ten-year-old Kenny chronicles the events of a fateful summer for the Watson family of Flint, Michigan. When Kenny’s older brother Byron starts getting into too much trouble, Mama and Daddy decide the family needs to pay a visit to Grandma Sands in Alabama to set him straight.

Actors perform in The Watson's Go To Birmingham at the Todd Wehr Theater in Milwaukee, WI.
The Watsons set out on a cross-country journey from Michigan to Birmingham in 1963.

Mama, Daddy, Kenny, Byron and youngest sister Joetta set out on a cross-country journey, heading south and toward a moment in American history where the world seems to change before their eyes. Supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Performance runtime is approximately 70 minutes, with no intermission. Suggested for families with young people ages 8+. 

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM – 1963 runs January 21 – February 13, 2022 at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater, located at 929 N. Water Street in downtown Milwaukee. Tickets start at $21 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

Co-director Brandite Reed shared this about the play: “THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM is the perfect piece to make my directorial debut at First Stage. It’s a timeless work of art that illustrates the foundation and strength of the African American family throughout the direst of times in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. During rehearsals, I get a sense of nostalgia watching the young performers and wonderfully talented cast of adults bring this 1963 classic to life. For me it is perfect timing to show our communities of today, how the love and the strength of family can transcend adversity of any kind. I am very thrilled to be directing this piece alongside Artistic Director Jeff Frank. Together, I feel we can highlight all the important but beautiful moments this story has to offer.” 

Actors perform in The Watson's Go To Birmingham at the Todd Wehr Theater in Milwaukee, WI.
The play is based on the book “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham – 1963”.

Co-Director and Artistic Director Jeff Frank added: “The Watson’s Go to Birmingham – 1963 is one of my favorite books of all time. It is laugh-out-loud funny. The self-proclaimed “weird” Watsons are an amazing family; and it is a joy to spend time with them. We follow young Kenny’s journey as he tries to make sense not only of his mixed-up family, but also the mixed-up world in which he lives. In his search for perspective, Kenny provides us all with a deeper perspective on family and on our collective history.” 

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