Finding inspiration in Nancy Drew

Madison Penzkover as "Nancy"
By Amanda Corazzi 

The world’s best teen detective, Nancy Drew has been solving mysteries and inspiring young girls since 1930. Over the last 80 years, this timeless character has inspired over 175 books, t.v. series and movies and made her way to the Todd Wehr Theater in NANCY DREW AND HER BIGGEST CASE EVER.  How does one play one of literature’s greatest sleuths on stage? That task falls to Madison Penzkover and Amanda Desimowich. They both love what Nancy represents to everyone.

“My favorite thing about Nancy Drew is her independence,” said Madison. “She doesn't sit back and let other people figure things out, as a young woman might be expected to do during the time period. If she sees a problem, she doesn't hesitate to try to fix it.”

Amanda Desimowich as Nancy(center) and
Laura Mesrobian (Bess) and Taylor Vraney (George)
Amanda agrees. “I love Nancy’s determination and her drive throughout the whole show. She amazes me when she finds the best way out of a bad situation (which is pretty much always). She’s flawless, what can I say!!”

Madison (center) with Abbi Minessale (Bess)
and Elizabeth Robbins (George)
In the Benson Cast, Nancy is played by Amanda, an Ozaukee High School senior. NANCY DREW will be her fourth production with First Stage after appearing in U:BUG:ME, BIG THE MUSICAL, DIARY OF A WORM, A SPIDER AND A FLY. Amanda plans on attending Purdue University to study public relations in the fall. Madison, a homeschooled sophomore, plays Nancy in the Wirt Cast.  She has also appeared First Stage’s productions TO THE PROMISED LAND and as Veruca in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.  Outside the theater, she enjoys baking, reading cosplaying and binge-watching Netflix. 

NANCY DREW AND HER BIGGEST CASE EVER is First Stage’s 50th world premiere and was written by Artistic Director Jeff Frank and Associate Artistic Director John Maclay. They looked at over 30 different Nancy Drew novels to style the story, dialogue and characters after. They were excited to bring such a strong female character and story to life.

Amanda (right) 
“I’m not big on the idea that a play should have a moral,” Jeff says, “[but] I hope that all our audience members, boys and girls alike, walk away with the realization that you don’t need special powers to be a super hero – and that young women can accomplish anything they set their minds to.”

John and Jeff were also excited to share the characters and stories with the cast, many who were not familiar. Amanda and Madison quickly became fans and felt inspired by the young, teenaged sleuth.  

“Nancy has inspired me to never give up and to always believe the best in people,” said Amanda.  “It’s awesome to portray her. I’m like Nancy when it comes to my guy priorities, my reading habits and my desire to learn.”  

Madison feels the same way but loves how this production has helped her learn about characterization, aspects of theater, and herself. “I think Nancy and I are similar in our urge to help the world, though Nancy has a much more hands-on approach than I do.  Nancy is definitely better at jiu-jitsu than I am though!”

NANCY DREW AND HER BIGGEST CASE EVER runs through June 2. For more information, please visit

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