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Professional Theater News from Around Town:
Mason Street Warehouse announces 2006 season
SAUGATUCK – Mason Street Warehouse, an uptown theatre in downtown Saugatuck, is pleased to announce its 2006 season. MSW continues the tradition of presenting new and unique plays and musicals that includes two regional premieres, one world premiere and the reinvention of an American classic.
Joining MSW’s artistic team this season is David Glenn Armstrong as guest director. He and Kurt Stamm, MSW’s artistic producing director, will direct the four shows this season.
The 2006 season opens on June 23 with “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love,” an Elvis Presley musical tribute. This concert revue of the King’s music is a celebration, NOT an imitation of the large volume of work that made Presley a star and a celebrated musician of almost every style of music. This Michigan premiere runs June 23 through July 9.
MSW is pleased to be the first regional theatre in the country to present “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” Opening July 14 and running through July 30, this production follows the Jerry Springer-like soap opera antics of a whacked-out collection of characters in Florida’s Armadillo Acres Trailer Park: an agoraphobic housewife, her toll collector husband, their road-kill-aficionado son and an on-the-run stripper looking for love. A trio of white-trash trailer park residents provides appropriately tacky commentary throughout the evening, complimented with a country pop/rock score.
The third show in MSW’s line up boasts three Broadway productions, 13 Tony Awards, was made into a film that won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is the third longest running revival in Broadway’s history. MSW is thrilled to present the newest version of “Cabaret.” Rewritten to include new songs, this musical favorite takes us to the seedy glamour of the legendary Kit Kat Klub, as an English singer romances an American writer. Set against the background of a crumbling Germany at the start of the Third Reich, “Cabaret,” with its classic score, incredible dance numbers and socially poignant story, brings to life an era when being yourself wasn’t always acceptable and that escaping real life from time to time was always important. The show runs August 4 through August 20.
The final production of MSW’s season is the world premiere of “Scenery,” a hilarious and touching valentine to the triumphs and heartbreaks of a life in the theatre. This mad-cap comic romp is set backstage in the star dressing room of Broadway’s Belasco Theatre on the disastrous opening night of a two-character play. It reveals, in more ways than one, the lives of legendary acting couple Richard and Marion Crane as tensions mount, secrets spill and passions flow. “Scenery” opens August 25 and closes the season September 10.
Mason Street Warehouse is a professional Equity, not-for-profit 501(c) 3 theatre.
A special benefit to kick off the season will be held May 20.
For more information regarding the theater, or for individual and season tickets, call 269-857-4898 or visit http://www.masonstwarehouse.org.
Broadway’s Danny Gurwin comes home to Michigan
BLOOMFIELD HILLS – The B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region announces a special one night only benefit performance of “Broadway Comes Home” by Southfield native turned Broadway star, Danny Gurwin.
Gurwin will sing his favorite musical theater tunes in concert, with special guests Dana Steingold and Nancy Gurwin, accompanied by music director David Sherline and his band.
The concert will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 1 at Handleman Hall in the Jewish Community Center, located at Maple and Drake Roads in West Bloomfield. Tickets are $36 for adults and $30 for B’nai B’rith members and students.
Danny Gurwin is a graduate of the musical theater program at the University of Michigan. He made his Broadway debut as Hal in “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” and rose to fame as Malcolm in “The Full Monty.” Most recently he created the role of Laurie in “Little Women.”
B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region is a division of B’nai B’rith International, a non-profit organization committed to defending human rights, providing youth and senior services, as well as aiding in other humanitarian causes throughout the world.
For tickets or more information, contact B’nai B’rith Great Lakes Region at 248-646-3100.
Macomb Center welcomes ‘Our Sinatra’
CLINTON TWP. – “Our Sinatra – A Musical Celebration” will be performed at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m.
A fully integrated, scripted and directed show, “Our Sinatra” celebrates the songs and music made famous by Frank Sinatra. It is a heartfelt tribute – not authorized by the Estate of Frank Sinatra.
Not an impersonation of the legendary singer, the show is a tribute to Sinatra’s music. The show will feature three singers – Ronny Whyte, Kelly King and Brian Villegas – backed by a seven-piece big band, and will include over 60 songs recorded by Sinatra, including “New York, New York,” “Come Fly With Me” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.
Ticket prices for “Our Sinatra” range from $28-$35, with discounts available for students, senior citizens and for groups of 20 or more.
To purchase tickets contact the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts ticket office by phone at 586-286-2222 or on the web at http://www.MacombCenter.com.
From Our Hallowed Halls of Learning:
WSU’s Studio Theatre presents ‘Before There Was Broadway’
DETROIT – Wayne State University’s Studio Theatre presents “Before There Was Broadway,” by Wayne State University students Thomas L. Harris and Henri D. Franklin. The play is an exploration of The African Company, the first African-American theatrical company, established in 1821 in Lower Manhattan.
African Company productions became a popular diversion with white audiences who were “generally of a riotous character, and amused themselves by throwing crackers on the stage, and cracking their jokes with the actors” according to Laura V. Blanchard vice chair of the American Branch of the Richard III Society and executive director of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries. Although the group’s early performances ended peaceably, police arrested the actors for reasons that remain a mystery. On October 1, 1821 the company moved to a new locale at Mercer and Bleecker streets where they were again eventually forced to close down.
Thomas L. Harris is a junior business administration major at Wayne State University from Phoenix, Arizona. His most recent credit is “Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God” at the Bonstelle Theatre. Henri D. Franklin is a senior business administration major from Detroit, and his most recent credits include “No Feare Shakespeare,” a touring show for middle and high school students, and “Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God.”
Directed by Oliver Pookrum, the cast includes: Thomas L. Harris as James Hewlett; Henri D. Franklin as William Brown; Kristina Johnson as Ms. S. Welsh; James Abbott as Ira Aldridge; Alaina Fleming as Ms. Bell; Trono Hudgins as Charles Taft; Kenny Konaszewski as Big Sammy; Justin Vesper as Mordecai M. Noah; Sam Brilhart as Isaac; Jozefa Chmielewsik as Mrs. Price; and Branden Chowen as Watchman and Mob Member. The show utilizes several narrators, as well.
Ticket prices range from $8 to $10. Discount tickets are available to all students, senior citizens age 62 and up and WSU faculty, staff and Alumni Association members.
For tickets and further information, please call 313-577-2972 or visit the Wayne State University box office at 4743 Cass on the corner of Cass and W. Hancock in Detroit. Performance information may also be obtained by visiting the company’s website at http://www.theatre.wayne.edu.
A musical tribute to Fats Waller at EMU
YPSILANTI – “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” a musical tribute to the work of the great Fats Waller, opens a six performance run at Eastern Michigan University Theatre on March 31. The show, which features over thirty-one musical numbers by Waller and his contemporaries, plays in the Quirk Theatre for two weekends through April 8.
Conceived by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr., “Ain’t Misbehavin'” features a company of five, performing such jazz standards as “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” “Honey Suckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” The show opened in 1978 and was quickly embraced by audiences and critics as an important revival of some of America’s most influential music.
Born Thomas Wright Waller, Fats Waller was an African-American jazz pianist, organist, composer and entertainer. Before his solo career, Waller played with a number of different performers such as Erskine Tate and Bessie Smith. He later formed his own solo group “Fats Waller And His Rhythm” where he created such memorable tunes as “Blue Turning Grey Over You,” “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling” and “Jitterbug Waltz.” As a comedic performer, Waller starred in a number of films, such as “Tin Pan Alley,” “Hooray For Love” and “King of Burlesque.”
“Ain’t Misbehavin'” runs March 31, April 1 and 6 – 8 at 8 p.m. and April 2 at 2 p.m. in the Quirk Theatre on EMU’s Ypsilanti campus.
Ticket prices are $10 for Thursday performances, and $15 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday performances.
Phone the EMU Theatre Box Office at 734-487-1221 for further information.
Bonstelle Theatre announces 2006-2007 Season
DETROIT – The Bonstelle Theatre has announced its 2006-2007 season. The theatre is on the National Register of Historic Theatres and is home to Wayne State University’s undergraduate Bonstelle Theatre Company.
Opening the 2006-2007 season is “Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. This explosive legal drama is based on the Scopes trial of 1925 in which a science teacher was tried for teaching the theory of evolution in the classroom. Two great lawyers debate creationism versus evolution in this compelling narrative about a nation and the continual struggle for control of its sanctioned values. The current debate about “intelligent design” theory makes “Inherit the Wind” not only riveting, but topical. Can this play help us to learn from our past? The drama plays October 27 – November 5.
Next is the annual holiday production of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. The ghosts of Christmases past, present and future will materialize on the Bonstelle stage in this classic tale of the lessons taught to penny-pinching miser Ebenezer Scrooge. It takes only the kindness and humility of a courageous young boy named Tiny Tim to warm anyone’s heart just in time for the holidays. This spectacular story is sure to be a gift that the whole family will enjoy. “A Christmas Carol” plays December 8 – 17.
Up next is “The Women” by Clare Boothe Luce. No social status escapes the biting humor observed in this brilliant comedy of manners. From the servants to those in matriarchal standing, decadence and corruption are everywhere in this keenly observed satire about issues strictly between women. “The Women” plays January 26 – February 4.
The Black Theatre Program celebrates its 36th year with “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” by August Wilson. Set in 1911 Pittsburgh, in a world still reverberating with echoes of slavery, a mysterious stranger shows up at a boarding house with his child in tow. Curiosity and uneasiness disturb the peace as the stranger approaches the end of a tormented journey. Presented to honor the recent passing of August Wilson, the production is a brilliant installment in the Pulitzer Prize- winning playwright’s 10-play cycle exploring the 20th-century African-American experience, dramatizing the search for self and community in a world of ongoing upheaval. “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” plays March 2 – 11.
“Into the Woods” is the annual spring musical presentation with book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Classic fairytale characters set out to achieve their goal of living “Happily Ever After” through familiar routes in this award-winning musical. Deep into the woods Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Rapunzel discover the very real consequences that traditional fairy tales conveniently ignore. When fiction meets reality, find out the price greed and gluttony can exact while learning what it takes to become a united community against those out for revenge. “Into the Woods” plays April 20 – 29.
The Bonstelle Theatre is a Broadway-style stage with a 1,143-seat auditorium featuring a balcony. Here, future stars of theatre, film and television follow in the footsteps of such famous alumni as Emmy- and Golden Globe-Award-winning S. Epatha Merkerson (“Law and Order,” “Lackawanna Blues”), David Ramsey (“Pay it Forward”) and Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”).
Season tickets are on sale beginning March 1, ranging from $45 to $60 for the entire season.
The Bonstelle Theatre is located at 3424 Woodward Avenue, one block south of Mack Avenue at Eliot. The box office at the Bonstelle Theatre is open only one hour prior to each performance. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Hilberry Theatre box office at 4743 Cass Avenue.
For more information or to order a season subscription, call the Bonstelle Theatre box office at 313-577-2960 or visit the website athttp://www.bonstelle.com.
Community Theater Corner:
Better than Reality TV: ‘Sordid Lives’ at St. Dunstan’s
BLOOMFIELD HILLS – Reality TV ain’t got nothin’ on the play “Sordid Lives,” which runs March 24-April 8 at St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild of Cranbrook. Then again, “Sordid Lives” may have inspired more than a few reality TV producers, with its up-close-and-personal look at an outrageously dysfunctional family.
A comedy by Del Shores (writer and producer of TV shows including “Dharma and Greg,” “Family Ties” and “Queer as Folk”), “Sordid Lives” tells the story of a family brought together by the death of its matriarch. The cause of her death – tripping over her lover’s wooden legs in a motel room and hitting her head – is only the beginning of the skeletons that come marching out of the family’s closet. By turns both hilarious and poignant, “Sordid Lives” reveals the family at both its worst and its best as they come to grips with their grief – and with each other.
“The play lovingly pokes fun at Texas trailer-trash culture,” explains director Jeff Davison of Bingham Farms. “The characters and situations are hysterically funny, but the play also has a lot to say about the power of family, acceptance and love.”
The family includes feuding big-haired sisters (DeeDee Johns-Charlton and Sue Mancuso); the matriarch’s soul-searching gay grandson (Harris Van Cleef); and the son who has spent the last 23 years dressed as Tammy Wynette (Tom Christopher).
St. Dunstan’s’ enormously funny ensemble cast also features Rachel Biber, Taylor Gray, Karen Koyle, Peggy Ann Lee, Jimmy Luzenski, Scott MacDonald, Duncan Mein, Dave Mervak and Laura S. Raisch.
The down-home look and feel of the play is being orchestrated by Set and Lighting Designer Obie Burch, Costume Designer Kathy Shapero, Hair and Makeup Designer Anthony Marsalese, Props Masters Bob Yazejian and Susan Holmes, and Sound Designer Amy Lynn Smith. Assistant Director Kathy Brooks and Producer Alan Canning round out the production team.
St. Dunstan’s will present “Sordid Lives” on March 24, 25, 31, April 1, 7 and 8 at 8 p.m.; and April 2 at 2 p.m.
St. Dunstan’s is located at 400 Lone Pine Road between Cranbrook and Lahser in Bloomfield Hills.
“Sordid Lives” contains adult language and subject matter and is not suitable for children.
Tickets are general admission and cost $16 each for adults and $14 each for students and seniors. Tickets are also $14 each for groups of 20 or more.
Reservations can be made by calling 248-737-3587 or visiting http://www.StDunstansTheatre.com.