Review: ‘Three Mo’ Tenors’
The good times roll at the Fisher Theatre
By Donald V. Calamia
Like many of you, I suspect, I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from “Three Mo’ Tenors” at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre. I avoided the original a few years back – you know, the one featuring two Spanish guys and an Italian fellow – thinking it was nothing more than three world-renowned vocalists beautifully singing songs only a select few would understand. And the thought of three black guys doing the same thing didn’t thrill me, either. (Can you guess I’m not a big opera fan?)
But never assume, Sister David used to tell my eight grade class, and she was right. Because “Three Mo’ Tenors” only briefly pays lip service to opera; instead, the show salutes 400 years of music history, ranging from R&B and Broadway to gospel, jazz and hip hop. It’s a mix that has something for everyone – and it even had a few booties shaking in the aisle during the curtain call on opening night.
“Three Mo’ Tenors” features two sets of three classically trained artists in a staged concert setting. (The sets rotate performances to rest their voices.) With a cool five-piece band behind them, opening night featured James Berger (the serious guy), Duane A. Moody (the impishly expressive guy) and Phumzile Sojala (the baby-faced guy). Although each is blessed with an amazing voice, it’s their unique personalities that help sell the songs. And sell them they do!
The show opens with the trio blending their instruments with Verde’s “La Donna E Mobile,” but Sojala showed his chops with the next song, “Recondita Armonia.” (Who cares if you don’t speak the language; every syllable was so clear, concise and passionate that it didn’t matter. He was speaking the universal language!)
Most of the first act featured Broadway tunes, ending on a high note with the jazz classic, “Minnie the Moocher.”
But it was the second act that truly engaged the audience. Beginning with a selection of tunes that pays tribute to Ray Charles, the three hit their stride with the “Old School Medley” that includes “Love Train” and “Stop Look Listen.” They even poked fun of themselves by donning baseball caps for a “New School Medley” of hip-hop tunes. And Moody knocked one out of the park with the spiritual “I Don’t Feel No-Ways Tired.”
If there was a flaw to the show, it was its perceived ending. People who took it to the streets after the gospel medley missed out on the REAL rousing conclusion that found many audience members taking it to the aisles. Next time, read your program, folks!
“Three Mo’ Tenors” runs Tue.-Sun., through March 26 at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tickets: $27.50-$57.50. For information: 313-872-1000 or http://www.nederlanderdetroit.com.
The Bottom Line: High brow and low brow, everyone should love this musical treat!
Review: ‘Homelands: Michigan Central’
Past and present: A Detroit institution is chronicled at Matrix Theatre
By John Quinn
The rotting carcass of the Detroit railroad station looms over the neighborhood like the ghost at the feast. Actually, make that “fiesta,” since this all-too identifiable icon of urban decay blots the skyline from the vibrant galleries and restaurants of Mexican Town.
It’s fitting that the Matrix Theatre, down on Bagley, should feature the station as the star in their ensemble production, “Homelands: Michigan Central.” Celebrating its 15th season, Matrix is reviving this play; it originated as an oral history project done in cooperation with the Residential College of the University of Michigan.
Two themes interweave in “Homelands.” The company describes the station as “Detroit’s Ellis Island.” Citizens drawn to Detroit by the booming auto – and, later, defense – industries passed through the station, but it is most fitting that the production focuses on the big waves of African-American and Mexican settlement that gives Southwest Detroit its character. No less important, however, is recognition of the station as an example of the decline that invaded the rest of the city.
Co-directed by Shaun and Wesley Nethercott, the eight actors play multiple roles, citizens whose lives were connected to the station through the years of its active life, and also its slow death from neglect. Scenes in the present introduce us to two kids, one a graffiti artist tagging the 15th floor. They meet the last stationmaster, let go when the station was closed in 1987, but now living in its hollow shell. His reminisces provide the youngsters with a running account of Detroit history through the decades. But in this multi-media show, John Spivey’s slides of the landmark that was and the ruin that is literally take center stage.
The tone of the show is a little didactic and its educational roots are showing. In fact, some of the history sounds a little revisionist – street cars, for instance, disappeared from cities all over America, even in cities that had no “Ford and Firestone” to “sell them to Mexico.” It is widely held among urban historians that street cars were replaced by buses on the theory that buses were more reliable and less expensive to maintain (Okay, the gurus who came up with THAT one were really, really wrong.) This is a show that actually makes you sit back and consider your preconceptions.
But the production is a political call to arms as well as historical retrospective. The creators are on solid ground when blaming the terrible condition of some of Detroit’s notable landmarks to the mindless, insensitive decisions made by major real estate investors. Or as one noted Cuban-American might have put it, “Matty Maroun, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!”
“Homelands: Michigan Central” runs Thu.-Sun., through April 2 at Matrix Theatre, 2730 Bagley, Detroit. Tickets: $15. For information: 313-967-0999 or http://www.matrixtheatre.org.
The Bottom Line: A thought-provoking project for the Detroit lovers among us, it’s an easy dose of local history for the “I didn’t know that!” crowd.
Professional Theater News from Around Town:
Compiled by Donald V. Calamia
‘Wicked’ tickets go on sale April 1
DETROIT – Tickets to “Wicked,” Broadway’s biggest blockbuster, go on sale Saturday, April 1 for a limited three-week run at Detroit’s Masonic Temple Theatre, May 31 – June 18. There is a limit of eight tickets per customer.
Due to the unprecedented demand for tickets, it is likely that the Detroit engagement of “Wicked” will sell out in record time. To purchase tickets for this engagement:
Tickets will be available at the Fisher Theatre Box Office starting at 8 a.m., offering a two-hour advance purchase opportunity for the best seats available.
Tickets will also be available for purchase through Ticketmaster starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 1 by calling 248-645-6666, online at http://www.ticketmaster.com or at http://www.NederlanderDetroit.com.
For group sales (20 or more), please call 313-871-1132.
For show times and more information about purchasing tickets for the Detroit engagement of “Wicked,” please call 313-872-1000 or visit http://www.NederlanderDetroit.com.
Join the fun: ‘Menopause The Musical’ turns two
DETROIT – Already Detroit’s longest running show, “Menopause The Musical” will pass another milestone on March 17 when it celebrates its second Detroit Birthday!
Since opening on March 17, 2004 at the Gem Theatre, the Detroit production of Menopause The Musical(R) has played to more than 230,000 people at over 700 performances. The current cast features two original Detroit members: Judy Dery as Earth Mother and Kimberly Vanbiesbrouck as Soap Star. They are joined by Linda Boston as Power Woman and Kathleen Rawlinson as Iowa Housewife. The original Detroit cast also included Rhonda Freya English and PJ Jenkinson.
The show moved from the Gem Theatre to the more intimate Century Theatre on February 14, 2006. Since then, demand for tickets in the smaller 200-seat theatre has resulted in sold out weekend performances through April 9.
Detroit audiences are invited to join in the celebration in three spectacular ways.
During the show’s birthday week, March 15-19, random audience members will receive fun “Menopause The Musical” prizes and merchandise at each performance.
See the show on Friday March 17 and stay for a fabulous post-show reception with the cast! There will be cake, ice cream and a champagne toast along with prizes including a Girls’ Night Out 10-pack of tickets; “Menopause The Musical” Survival Kits; gift certificates from Holiday Market in Royal Oak; and gift baskets and tea from Chartreuse LTD.
Now through April 15, “Menopause The Musical” guests can enter to win a fabulous Night On The Town complete with an overnight stay at the historic Inn on Ferry Street, dinner at the Century Grille, tickets to a Gem or Century Theatre performance and a $200 gift certificate to Om Spa in Dearborn. Two additional entrants will receive an overnight dinner, show and hotel package from the Hilton Garden Inn and Holiday Inn Express downtown. Winners will be drawn after the show on Saturday April 15. Winners do not have to be present to win.
“Menopause The Musical” continues playing at the Historic Century Theatre inside the Gem Theatre, 333 Madison Ave, Detroit, with performances on sale now through April 30. Show times are Wednesday – Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m., Thursday matinees at 1:30 p.m., Saturday matinees at 3:30 p.m., and Sunday performances at 1 and 4:30 p.m.
Tickets ($39.50) can be purchased through the Gem Theatre box office by calling 313-963-9800, Ticketmaster at 248-645-6666 or online at http://www.ticketmaster.com.
Williamston Theatre presents staged reading
WILLIAMSTON – Mark your calendars for the Williamston Theatre Project’s next Staged Reading: Jeff Daniels’ comedy, “The Vast Difference.”
The performance will occur on Saturday, March 25 at 3 p.m.
This hilarious comedy had long performance runs at both The Purple Rose Theatre Company and The Gem in downtown Detroit. Directed by Quintessa Gallinat and featuring some of the original cast, this is a Staged Reading you don’t want to miss.
Tickets are a suggested $5 donation to benefit the newly-formed company.
For complete information, call 517-655-7469 or log on to http://www.williamstontheatre.org.
‘Adult Entertainment’ delivers laughs, provokes thought at IF
LANSING -Icarus Falling will present “Adult Entertainment” March 24, 25, 31 and April 1 at the Creole Gallery 1218 Turner St. Lansing, MI. All performances are at 8 p.m.
“Adult Entertainment” is written by famed writer, director and comedienne Elaine May. It is the story of a group of second rate porn stars that decide to strike out on their own and make their own artisticly profitable pornographic movies. They run into difficulty when they realize that they don’t know how to write anything but the traditional pornos. So they recruit a Yale graduate to help them develop an artistic script that can forward their careers in legitimate film. Soon the porn stars are quoting Yeats, studying “Our Town” and exploring metaphor. All the while the mantra is “It’s still porn, right?”
“Adult Entertainment” is directed by Icarus Falling Artistic Director, jeff croff. The show is produced by IF Executive Director Fred Longacre; costumed by University of Michigan alumnus Taran Muller and the set is designed by IF Technical Director, Patrick Hepfer.
This ensemble production features the work of many Icarus Falling ensemble members, including Laura Croff as Heidi-the-Ho, the porn star/host of the public access show, “The Ho Show”; Sara Frank as Frostie Moons, a former legitimate sitcom actress trying to make a come back; Erica Beck as Vixen Fox, the feisty and ambitious young porn siren; Robin Harris as the “stud” Jimbo J, who is hoping to do some real character work involving an eye patch or a limp; Markitwia Jackson, as the Yale graduate Gerry. Joining the cast is frequent IF collaborator Doug Alchin as the underachieving producer/director Guy Aiken (a role that was played by Danny Aiello off-Broadway).
IF is also pleased to announce a new viewing experience for patrons with “The Best Seats in the House”. Each night, one lucky couple can purchase plush cushioned seating with complimentary beverages and snacks. “The Best Seats” cost an additional $20 for the pair.
General tickets are $10 at the door.
For information, to purchase tickets or to reserve “The Best Seats in the House,” call 517-290-4375 or visit http://www.icarusfalling.com.
Dr. Julie Hutson joins Mason Street’s board of directors
SAUGATUCK – Mason Street Warehouse, an uptown theatre in downtown Saugatuck, is pleased to announce the addition of Dr. Julie Hutson to its Board of Directors.
Hutson, who has her own practice, Lakeshore Allergy, in Holland, recently said, “It is a privilege to serve Mason Street Warehouse as a board member. I am extremely proud of the commitment MSW represents to arts and our community. MSW continues to provide outstanding new live theatre and often world premiere productions and performances. I look forward to their announcement of the forthcoming 2006 season which promises to continue to bring world class theater to our area. I hope to make others more aware of this ‘jewel in the crown’ of live theater productions and their artistic achievements.”
Managing Director Ricki Levine is extremely pleased with the addition of Dr. Hutson to the MSW Board. “She is a great supporter and we look forward to working with her in this more comprehensive role.”
For complete information regarding Mason Street Warehouse’s upcoming season, log on to http://www.masonstwarehouse.org.
From Our Hallowed Halls of Learning:
‘Working’ at Marygrove College
DETROIT – The University of Detroit Mercy Theatre Company, in collaboration with Marygrove College, will present a musical production of “Working” March 24 – April 2 at Marygrove College Theatre. “Working” is directed by acclaimed stage veteran and Theatre Company Alumni Greg Trazskoma.
Based on the best-selling book of interviews with American workers by Studs Terkel, “Working” explores the American workday, from the Monday morning blues to the second shift blahs, using the original words of some uncommon common men and women. Twenty-six workers, including an ironworker, parking lot attendant, corporate executive, newsboy, schoolteacher, gas man, housewife, fireman, waitress, sailor, etc., sing and talk about their jobs, defining not only their daily round, but their hopes and aspirations as well. The production is both a celebration and indictment of work. What is work? Why do we do it? Are you your work?
“Working” will feature students from both The University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College, as well as several guest artists from the metro Detroit area.
Performances are Friday, March 24 and Saturday, March 25 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, March 26 at 2 p.m.; Friday, March 31 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 1 at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 2 at 2 p.m., at the Marygrove College Theatre located at 8425 W. Mc Nichols Rd.
The box office is located in Reno Hall on the University of Detroit Mercy campus. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tickets are $16; $14 discount tickets are available for seniors or UDM alumni, staff and faculty. $9 student tickets are also available.
For tickets, call the theatre box office at 313-993-3270. For more information visit http://theatre.udmercy.edu.
Community Theater Corner:
Edgy Comedy Night at the Baldwin Theatre
ROYAL OAK – Detroit’s own “Comic on the Edge,” John Tourtillott, will offer his edgy stand-up routine “With All Due Respect” at the Baldwin Theatre in downtown Royal Oak on Saturday, March 25, at 8:30 p.m.
Tourtillott has worked with some of the biggest names in comedy. Touring bars and clubs all over the Midwest, his “in your face, take no prisoners” approach to comedy is not for the faint of heart. Tourtillot is an equal opportunity offender and will have you on the edge of your seat waiting for his next punch.
Doors will open at 8 p.m.
Joining Tourtillott will be Bill Bushart, the self-proclaimed King of Detroit “Blue” Comedy, influenced by comedy greats Don Rickles and Dennis Miller. “A bitter pill to swallow” is how Bill Bushart describes his brand of humor. His offbeat style and animated stage show leave audiences laughing and wanting more. “I will definitely say things you may not want to hear. But you’ll laugh. This show is for people who like outrageous night club comedy.”
“Thrillbilly” Jason J. Benci will serve as emcee, bringing the dark side of the straight edge to stand up comedy. Through the use and abuse of his hard knocks life, this maverick unloads his day-to-day observational humor involving life, family, and friends into the audience. Brought up by two Detroit police officers, bull riding in three rodeo circuits before the age of 18 and living the rock star lifestyle gives Jason more than enough attitude and ammunition to keep the crowd in stitches.
Tickets are $20 general admission for adults 21 and over. Proceeds from this event will benefit Stagecrafters’ programs.
For reservations or information, call Stagecrafters’ ticket office at248-541-6430 or log on to http://www.stagecrafters.org.