Michael Sander has a long history with Kids From Wisconsin – one he enjoys sharing with his hometown.
As the troupe’s executive director, Sander was happy to bring the band back to Kenosha in 2021 for a free performance on the band’s hull.
And, as a 1994 graduate of St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy and a former performer of Kids, he was especially thrilled.
It worked so well last summer that the troupe is back for another free Kenosha show this afternoon at Pennoyer Park.
“I have a passion for this band,” Sander said of Kids, which has been hosting summer musical revues across Wisconsin since 1969. He was a member in 1994 and 1995.
Growing up in Kenosha, Sander “always wanted to join the Kids. After seeing them perform, I wanted to go on stage myself.
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He had mentors here: The late Kurt Chalgren, longtime choir director at Tremper High School, was also a longtime principal at Kids From Wisconsin, and Bradford High School drama teacher Holly Stanfield is herself. a former Kid, Sander said.
“She was my introduction to musical theater,” he said of Stanfield. “Kenosha has such a rich history in music and theater.”
Although Kids From Wisconsin has many ties to Kenosha, prior to the 2021 show the band hadn’t performed here since July 2016.
“I want to involve more Kenosha-area kids in the group,” Sander said, “and show them how great this organization is.”
This year’s Kids From Wisconsin production is called “Big Bang Boom.”
The show spotlights “eclectic fashions, explosive dance crazes, artists and bands that have burst onto the music scene and into our psyches.”
This production covers “British invasions, Swedish bands, Motown, swing dancing and Disney – some of the influences that have ignited today’s musical genres”.
Tour organizers describe the show as “a two-hour high-powered Vegas-style production”.
Sander has been the group’s chief executive for two years and said taking over during a global pandemic was not easy.
“We didn’t do any performances in 2020,” he explained, “so we sat down and looked at our organization as a whole and came up with different ideas for events and community outreach. We started a Music with My Friends program for third through eighth graders in Milwaukee Public Schools to reach kids who don’t have access to music This makes us a year-round program , and I hope we can touch the lives of more children.”