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By |2006-03-30T09:00:00-05:00March 30th, 2006|Entertainment|

Review: ‘Bobble Heads of State’

The show must go on: Comedy troupe back despite ‘fire down below’

By John Quinn
Little things like a fire isn’t going to hold the improv artists of The Second City back, and their 27th review opened only a week late. And, true to form, the comedy is as sizzling as the restaurant’s grill.
“Bobble Heads of State” is a sketch comedy review with original material, a few songs, and even some audience-assisted improvisation. The production, performed without intermission, is remarkably tight; the scenes flow seamlessly from one to the other. Line delivery is as rapid fire as a machine gun – if you don’t like one joke, wait a minute -there’s another on the way.
The six member company – Margaret Exner, Jenny Hagel, Shawn Handlon, Quintin Hicks, Tiffany Jones and Topher Owen – are all experienced hands in this genre. More to the point, each is particularly familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of every other cast member, a vital building block to this type of theater. The performances are natural and the sight gags as carefully worked as the dialogue.
While the topics fly from birth to old age with a few layovers in cramped airline seats, there is almost a theme running through on the nature of family relationships. It’s a mother lode of material for an improvisationalist, and the troupe has developed a broad yet cohesive script.
But, dear friends, the reviewer must wax philosophical. Improvisation may be created off the top of one’s head, but it is one of the most analyzed forms of performance. Questions abound: Why is this line funny? Is the audience going to “get” that allusion? Does this bit need more build-up to properly deliver the punch line? And – what role should vulgarity play in comedy? Comedy can be crude and common, but when an expletive serves as the punch line, it’s a cheap laugh at best. Now, I enjoy four-letter words as much as the next guy (if the next guy is Andrew “Dice” Clay), but if I start to wonder about the “quality” of the jokes, then maybe there’s more than enough.
Sadly, hearing portions of the show is a bigger problem. Sound levels for the musical accompaniment may have been set in an empty theater, and the acoustics have changed in the packed house. The music drowns out sections of the lyrics. That’s a whole lotta hard work down the drain if the audience can’t hear the words. That’s easy enough to fix.
“Bobble Heads of State” plays every Wed.-Sun. at The Second City, 42705 Grand River, Novi. Tickets: $15-$20. For information: 248-348-4448 or http://www.secondcity.com.
The Bottom Line: In the tricky field of sketch comedy, The Second City once again plays at the top of its game.


Professional Theater News From Around Town:

Compiled by Donald V. Calamia

Detroit welcomes award-winning hit musical ‘Mamaleh!’

BEVERLY HILLS – “Mamaleh!” – the award-winning off Broadway musical hit – will have its Detroit-area premiere for eight performances only, April 6-9, at The Seligman Performing Arts Center at The Detroit County Day School in Beverly Hills
Filled with laughter and tears, “Mamaleh!” tells of the lifelong friendship between women of different generations. The show has played to sold-out houses and standing ovations off Broadway and around the country. With book and lyrics by Mitchell Uscher and music by Roy Singer, this musical is winner of the prestigious “Shows Your Mother Would Love” competition as well as the “Best Theater Album” honor at the International JPF Music Awards.
“Mamaleh!”, which is performed in English, takes audiences down their personal memory lanes and features traditional Broadway-style songs and scenes that are both hilarious and heartfelt. They encompass the eras from immigrants coming to America to the complexities of the 21st Century.
This production of “Mamaleh!” features performances by the New York cast, including Broadway actress Joan Barber, who is a graduate of the University of Michigan. Barber has been seen on Broadway in such hits as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Man of La Mancha,” and “The Sound of Music.”
The cast also features Deborah Tranelli who co-starred on the classic television series “Dallas” for eight years and recently won the coveted Bistro Award for her album “A Lot of Livin’,” and Jane Strauss who appeared on Broadway in “Oliver!” with Patti LuPone and Ron Moody and was in the National Tours of such musicals as “Annie” and “Me and My Girl” with Tim Curry.
Playwright Uscher has been very appreciative of audience reaction to “Mamaleh!”
“After the very first performance, someone came out and asked, ‘How did you write a musical about my life?’ he said. That’s when I knew we were on to something. I also have been happily surprised at how much men like the show. Maybe they are thinking of their mothers, sisters or wives, but they come out with tears in their eyes and say how much it affected them.”
The performance schedule for “Mamaleh!” at The Seligman Performing Arts Center at The Detroit Country Day School, located at 22305 West Thirteen Mile Road in Becerly Hills, is Thursday, April 6 through Saturday, April 8 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 9 at 1 p.m. & 4 p.m.
There is an “Early Bird” special price for “Mamaleh!” with big savings over the regular ticket price. Until April 2, tickets are only $39 (regularly priced $45), with additional discounts for seniors 65+ and groups of 15 or more.
Advance ticket sales for “Mamaleh!” are available through the Gem Theatre Box Office. For tickets or more information, call 313-963-9800 or log on to http://www.mamaleh.com.

Carl Rosa Opera sails ‘H.H.S. Pinafore’ to Wharton Center’

EAST LANSING — Gilbert and Sullivan’s 125-year-old theatrical and operatic sensation “H.M.S. Pinafore” returns to Wharton Center with its hilarious story of snobbery and hypocrisy in the English social system of days past. This brand new production is directed by one of the UK’s most highly acclaimed actors, Timothy West.
The comic opera will play at Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall on Friday, April 7 at 8 p.m.
This sea-faring, smash hit show performed by Carl Rosa’s superb cast and orchestra, is bursting with Gilbert’s brilliant satiric wit and packed with some of Sullivan’s most popular songs. Bringing to life some of operetta’s best-loved comic characters, “H.M.S. Pinafore” is a musical delight for everyone to enjoy.
Carl Rosa Opera is a unique national touring company of 65 musicians, singers and technicians. Carl Rosa’s aim is to bridge the perceived gap between traditional Grand Opera and popular music, and at the same time pursue new styles and openness in policy of innovation and access to new and established audiences. The company has created an individual identity of traditional style productions by returning to the original source material as laid down by the composer and librettist.
Tickets are $24-$40.
For tickets and information call 517-432-2000 or log on to http://www.whartoncenter.com.

Purple Rose Theatre launches unique raffle

CHELSEA – The Purple Rose Theatre Company recently launched its major 2006 fund-raising campaign: the R.O.S.E. (Reaching Out to Support & Enrich) Raffle.
A limited number of tickets are available for the purchase price of $100; winners qualify for one of four premium prizes.
The R.O.S.E. Raffle drawing will be held July 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the PRTC lobby.
Exclusive first prize in this first-ever raffle is a visit with Jeff Daniels on the set of an upcoming movie filming on location, including airfare and overnight accommodations for two. As an alternate first prize, the winner will receive a trip for two to New York City, where they will be dinner guests of Jeff and Kathleen Daniels.
The second prize winner will receive a helicopter flight with world-renowned aerial photographer/ artist Dale Fisher, “Eyrie of the Eagle.”
Third prize is a personal flight aboard a Cessna 172 plane piloted by Bill Holmes.
Fourth prize is a champagne flight for two with champion aeronaut Jody Leatherberry in his hot air balloon.
Prizes are subject to a mutually-agreeable accommodations.
The R.O.S.E. Raffle will replace the popular Jeff Daniels’ Comedy Golf Jam, which was The Purple Rose Theatre Company’s major fund-raiser over the past 10 years. “The Golf Jam has been such a big success for us,” says PRTC Development Director, Judy Gallagher. “We knew that we had to be creative in developing a fund-raising theme to replace it. There aren’t many raffles with a list of prizes like this. The first prize visit to the set of Jeff’s next movie is truly a once in a lifetime experience.”
All proceeds benefit The Purple Rose Theatre Company; raffle license #R84282.
Tickets are available for purchase at the PRTC Box Office located at 137 Park Street in downtown Chelsea; tickets may be reserved by calling Judy Gallagher at 734-433-7782. More information is available online at http://www.purplerosetheatre.org.

Macomb center welcomes ‘The Mikado’

CLINTON TWP. – Following a sell-out tour in the United Kingdom, Britain’s oldest opera company, the Royal Carl Rosa Company, celebrate the 121st Anniversary of Gilbert & Sullivan’s best-loved comic opera, “The Mikado,” with a major tour of their internationally acclaimed production. Uniquely featuring the Oscar-winning costumes from Mike Leigh’s multi award-winning film “Topsy-Turvy,” “The Mikado” plays at The Macomb Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m.
Following four years of research into the original 1885 production, unearthing many drawings, photographs, designs and research material, the Carl Rosa first premiered their faithful reproduction of “The Mikado” in 1998. The company has since toured the production throughout the UK and internationally across Australia, New Zealand and the US and Canada.
“The Mikado” was first staged at the Savoy Theatre in London, on March 14 1885. The original costumes designed by Wilhelm – seen in the 1953 film “The Gilbert and Sullivan Story” – are now owned by the Carl Rosa Company, and were loaned to Costume Designer Lindy Hemming as reference to make replicas for Mike Leigh’s multi award-winning film, “Topsy-Turvy,” which won the Oscar for Best Costume Design. These stunning costumes will be featured in Carl Rosa’s production of “The Mikado.”
Originally created and directed in 1885 by WS Gilbert himself, this current production has been faithfully recreated by Carl Rosa’s Artistic Director, Peter Mulloy, with choreography by Caroline Lamb, and complimented by Eve Stewart’s original settings and Lindy Hemming’s costumes.The company reunites some of Britain’s leading Gilbert & Sullivan principals, including: Gareth Jones (The Mikado of Japan), Simon Butteriss (Ko-Ko), Patricia Leonard (Katisha), Bruce Graham (Pooh-Bah), and Michael Buchan (Pish-Tush), with Oliver White (Nanki-Poo), Charlotte Page (Yum-Yum) and Victoria Ward (Pitti-Sing).
The Carl Rosa Opera Company was established in 1873 and closed in 1960. In 1997 Peter Mulloy, together with Musical Director Wyn Davies, relaunched the Carl Rosa Company as a touring light opera company. Since then the company has built a high reputation for its authentic, traditional style productions. Since the demise of the D’Oyly Carte, the company has become Britain’s only professional touring company dedicated to keeping the heritage of Gilbert & Sullivan alive. It continues to successfully produce high quality number one touring productions without the aid of sponsorship or funding.
Ticket prices for “The Mikado” range from $35-$40 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.

Wharton Center announces 2006-2007 season

EAST LANSING – Wharton Center for Performing Arts is pleased to announce its 2006-2007 season full of the best in Broadway, dance, jazz, classical, opera and pop music. Once again Wharton Center continues the tradition of offering Michigan and beyond unsurpassed performing arts presented on its four stages: Cobb Great Hall, Pasant Theatre, Fairchild Theatre and the MSU Concert Auditorium.
The 2006-2007 season offers more than 60 unique attractions, totaling 115 performances (not including rental events like the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra and School of Music events). Activity of this volume, quality, and diversity is normally found only in major metropolitan areas.
The economic impact of the performing arts on the Greater Lansing community is significant. It goes without saying that Wharton Center patrons spend money on more than just tickets. Dining, shopping, lodging and more, all impact the economic well-being of our community by adding millions of dollars to our local economy.
This season the MSU Federal Credit Union Broadway at Wharton Center includes five Wharton Center Broadway premieres: “Pippin,” “Legends!,” “All Shook Up,” “Sweet Charity” and “WICKED”; add to that the three special events, “Jesus Christ Super Star,” the return of the hit musical “Mamma Mia” and the Broadway blockbuster “Rent.”
Wharton Center continues to focus on diversity in programming with a multitude of performances originating from around the globe. Audiences will experience everything from traditional South Indian dance with the Ragamala Dance and Theatre to a mix of Cuban and Afro-Cuban music when Tiempo Libre performs. China’s JIGU! Thunder Drums will fascinate audiences with an ultra-sensory experience. That’s just a sample of the unique, eclectic shows coming to Wharton Center in the 2006-2007 season.
“We have another amazing season packed full of the best shows on tour,” says Wharton Center’s executive director Mike Brand. “Full grand opera returns once again this season with Michigan Opera Theatre’s presentation of Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville.’ We are also presenting the newly-created Michigan Chamber Music Society, under the direction of international cellist and MSU faculty member Suren Bagratuni. And, for the first time, the World View Lecture Series is being offered as part of the subscription process. The entire staff is proud of the high quality entertainment coming in 2006-2007!”
Wharton Center season subscribers receive a ten percent discount on most shows and priority seating before the general public.
For those wishing to become season ticket holders for the first time, call the Wharton Center Box Office at 517-432-2000 or 1-800-WHARTON, or log on to http://www.whartoncenter.com and join the E-club to have a season brochure and order form mailed to their home. Individual tickets (non-subscribers; non-group) to most shows, with the notable exception of some Broadway, will go on sale in August 2006. Individual tickets to “WICKED” will go on sale in May 2007.

Michigan Opera Theatre announces details of 2006/2007 Opera Seasons

DETROIT – A season filled with passion invites opera goers to become obsessed with opera. Michigan Opera Theatre’s 2006/2007 opera season will feature productions of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” Puccini’s “Turandot,” Mozart’s “The Abduction From the Seraglio” and Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
The season, MOT’s 36th, will open Saturday, Oct. 21.
“We are very excited about the 2006/2007 opera season,” said Dr. David DiChiera, founder and general director of Michigan Opera Theatre. “Not only have we planned an exceptional season artistically, we’ve made a number of improvements to the season’s schedule and to our online ticketing system to make it easier than ever to enjoy the opera.”
While opera ticket prices remain the same, the company has made adjustments to the schedule in response to patron feedback. For the first time, subscription tickets will be available through Michigan Opera Theatre’s real-time online ticketing, at http://www.MichiganOpera.org. as well as through the ticket office. Current subscribers may also renew online.
MOT’s ticket office will be mailing subscription renewal information shortly, and new and renewal subscriptions will become available April 1. Subscribers enjoy the benefits of priority seating, limited free ticket exchanges and advanced purchase opportunities for some non-subscription events.
MOT will again offer special package discounts for “first-timers,” as well as a distance discount for new subscribers traveling more than 80 miles to attend performances. The popular “family series” discount will also continue through the 2006/2007 season.
Single tickets for MOT’s 2006/2007 opera season will become available in August. Single ticket prices remain unchanged from last season, ranging from $28 to $113 for all opera productions.
Single tickets will be available in person at the Detroit Opera House ticket office (1526 Broadway, Detroit), by phone at 313-237-7464 and through MOT’s real-time online ticketing at http://www.MichiganOpera.org.

Hilberry Theatre and Center for the Study of Citizenship Present ‘Women and Leadership’

DETROIT – Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre and The Center for the Study of Citizenship present “Women and Leadership.” The seminar will take place at the Hilberry Theatre on April 1 at 4:30 p.m. following the theatrical production of William Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra.”
The seminar will feature three guest speakers, including Lavinia Hart, director of “Antony and Cleopatra” and assistant professor of theatre and head of the acting MFA program at Wayne State University; Jennifer Sheridan Moss, associate professor in Classics and Latin and expert on Roman Egypt; and Marilyn Williamson, distinguished professor of English emerita and expert on “Antony and Cleoptra.” Open discussion and speaker presentations will explore women in leadership roles as they pertain to one of William Shakespeare’s most poetic plays.
Dessert, wine and refreshments will be provided.
In Shakepeare’s masterpiece, Marc Antony, the handsome, brave Roman general, becomes captivated with Cleopatra, the beautiful and proud Queen of Egypt. Together they ignore Antony’s responsibilities to Rome, defying the power of the Senate and entering into a tragic war that is waged against the two lovers. This historical love story is both evocative and passionate.
The Center for the Study of Citizenship at WSU promotes research and intellectual exchange about citizenship among a global community of scholars, students, practitioners and the general public.
Tickets for “Women and Leadership” are $10 each.
For seminar information and tickets contact Nicole Gram at 313-577-7899. For tickets to “Antony and Cleopatra,” contact the Hilberry Theatre box office at 313-577-2972. The Hilberry Theatre is located at 4743 Cass Ave. on the corner of Cass Ave. and W. Hancock.

Carl Rosa Opera sails ‘H.H.S. Pinafore’ to Wharton Center’

EAST LANSING — Gilbert and Sullivan’s 125-year-old theatrical and operatic sensation “H.M.S. Pinafore” returns to Wharton Center with its hilarious story of snobbery and hypocrisy in the English social system of days past. This brand new production is directed by one of the UK’s most highly acclaimed actors, Timothy West.
The comic opera will play at Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall on Friday, April 7 at 8 p.m.
This sea-faring, smash hit show performed by Carl Rosa’s superb cast and orchestra, is bursting with Gilbert’s brilliant satiric wit and packed with some of Sullivan’s most popular songs. Bringing to life some of operetta’s best-loved comic characters, “H.M.S. Pinafore” is a musical delight for everyone to enjoy.
Carl Rosa Opera is a unique national touring company of 65 musicians, singers and technicians. Carl Rosa’s aim is to bridge the perceived gap between traditional Grand Opera and popular music, and at the same time pursue new styles and openness in policy of innovation and access to new and established audiences. The company has created an individual identity of traditional style productions by returning to the original source material as laid down by the composer and librettist.
Tickets are $24-$40.
For tickets and information call 517-432-2000 or log on to http://www.whartoncenter.com.


Community Theater Corner:

Kalamazoo Civic Theatre presents ‘The Foreigner’

KALAMAZOO – The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre will present “The Foreigner” April 7 – 22 in the Civic Auditorium, 329 South Park, Kalamazoo.
Audiences will laugh out loud at this farcical tale of a lovable but socially inept Brit who escapes his stressful life by booking a holiday in backwoods USA. He desperately tries to avoid the local yokels by posing as a foreigner who doesn’t understand a word of English. But his plan frantically backfires when he becomes the perfect person with whom everyone shares his or her deepest secrets and schemes. Hilarious intrigue ensues as Charlie finds himself an unwitting witness to bizarre schemes and diabolical plots hatched up by people who think he can’t understand a word they say. Complete with mistaken identities, surprising plot twists, evil villains, and innocent damsels, The Foreigner is a sidesplitting evening at the theatre.
Directed by Cathie Weir, the cast features Lou Price as Froggy, Trevor Stefanick as Charlie, Helen Osterwald as Betty, Will Brolle as Ellard and making their Civic debuts are Nancy Quasarano as Catherine, Jarrett Blackmon as David and Brent Skidmore as Owen.
Tickets for “The Foreigner” can be purchased by calling 269-343-1313 or by visiting http://www.kazoocivic.com.

‘The Nerd’ descends on Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

ANN ARBOR – Ann Arbor Civic Theatre presents the zany comedy, “The Nerd,” April 6-9 at Washtenaw Community College’s Towsley Auditorium. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
“The Nerd,” directed by Andrew Ballnik, centers around Willum, a nice guy who’s in a rut. Willum has a job he kind-of likes, a girlfriend he’s somewhat committed to and a routine that varies little from day-to-day. That all changes with one phone call; long-lost war buddy Rick, who saved Willum’s life, decides to come for a visit. The problem is that Rick just won’t leave. After an important business dinner which Rick ruins, Willum and his friends devise a wacky plan to oust Rick and restore Willum’s life. In doing so, Willum discovers that life as usual isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“This is one of the funniest plays I’ve ever read,” says director Andy Ballnik. “The situations are ridiculous, the humor is broad yet sophisticated and the characters are funny but real. Even the auditions had me laughing out loud. This play is a chance for people to get out of the house and immerse themselves in an evening of pure entertainment.”
“The Nerd” features Nathaniel Fremuth as Willum, Joy Martin as girlfriend Tansy, Erik Wright-Olsen as Willum’s friend Axel, Edmond Reynolds as Willum’s boss Ticky, Amy Bogetto as Ticky’s wife Clelia, Oren Steiner as the boss’ son Thor and Dann Smallwood
Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for students and seniors Friday through Sunday, and $13 for all tickets on Thursday. Tickets are available at the A2CT office at 322 W. Ann St, by calling the office at 734-971-2228 or online at http://www.a2ct.org.


About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.