Once a Kid, always a Kid.
Kenosha native Michael Sander grew up admiring Kids from Wisconsin — the state’s premier summer theater troupe — and hoped someday he could join them.
After fulfilling that dream in 1994-95 as a performer, Sander is reliving those memories and creating new ones as the organization’s new executive director.
Making its first Kenosha stop since 2016, Kids from Wisconsin performs a free outdoor show 2:30 p.m. Saturday (July 24) at the Sesquicentennial Bandshell at Pennoyer Park, 3601 Seventh Ave.
“Kenosha is where it all started,” said Sander, a 1994 St. Joseph Catholic Academy graduate. “As a past Kid from Wisconsin and being from Kenosha, I feel like it’s come full circle for me.”
The popular troupe, in the midst of its 53rd season, will take audience members on a trip to some of the country’s greatest live music venues and the artists that helped define their legacies with “Live! In Living Color.”
The 90-minute musical Broadway-stye review features a 14-piece band and 22 singers-dancers from throughout the state.
High school and college performers undergo an intense, two-week training camp — practicing 12 to 14 hours per day — before embarking on their statewide tour.
Despite having more Kids’ alumni than any city in Wisconsin, Kids from Wisconsin haven’t performed in Kenosha since July 2, 2016.
Sander, who left a corporate career in the banking industry to return to a nonprofit, vowed to bring Kids back to Kenosha.
He contacted former local alumni — including Kenosha native and former cast member Aaron Kohlmeier of Welcome Home Real Estate Group — and received enough donations to make the Kenosha stop a reality.
“We have a big history in Kenosha, but it hasn’t been the case for the past few years,” Sander said. “I wasn’t about to stop bringing Kids to Kenosha.”
Kohlmeier added: “When Michael reached out to the alumni we wanted to do whatever we could to help sponsor and donate towards the event. We wanted to make the Kenosha show a reality again.”
Food and beverages will be provided by Union Park Tavern. Face painting and balloon art will be sponsored by Welcome Home Real Estate Group.
“Kenosha has such a talented arts scene,” Sander said. “It should be a full day of entertainment where people can enjoy the outdoors, see some local performances and end the day with our 90-minute Broadway-style revue that will hopefully knock people’s socks off.”
Matthew Pakkebier, who will be a senior at Carthage Carthage, is in third summer performing in the troupe. Saturday will be his hometown show.
Kids from Wisconsin was founded in 1969.