Professional Theater News from Around Town:
Fisher Theatre announces season you won’t want to misseth
DETROIT – The Nederlander Company has announced its 2006 – 2007 Fisher Playgoer Subscription Series, an intriguing line-up of five hit shows headlined by “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” winner of the 2005 Tony(R) Award for Best Musical.
Kicking off the 45th season of the Fisher Player Subscription Series is “The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey & Dean” (September – October, Gem Theatre), followed by “Movin’ Out” (November, Fisher Theatre), “Monty Python’s Spamalot” (December, Fisher Theatre), “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy” (January 2007, Fisher Theatre), and “I Can’t Stop Loving You”(February 2007, Fisher Theatre).
Roll back the years and relive the swaggering camaraderie of Las Vegas’ four favorite sons in “The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey & Dean.” Headed back to Detroit by popular demand after its celebrated debut last summer, “The Tribute” is a theatrical musical that turns back the clock to see some of the greatest performers who ever lived. Great voices, jokes and a big-sound band will send you skipping down memory lane with signature pieces including “That’s Amore,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “Pennies from Heaven,” “Hello Detroit” and more.
Five-time Grammy(R) Award winner Billy Joel and legendary director/choreographer Twyla Tharp have joined forces to create “Movin’ Out,” the spectacular musical Time magazine declares “The #1 show of the year!” These tornado driven dancers and rock musicians propel the audience into delirious ovations.” “Movin’ Out” brings 24 Billy Joel classics to electrifying new life as it tells the story of five life-long friends over two turbulent decades. It all adds up to one unforgettable night of Broadway.
Winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best Musical,”Monty Python’s Spamalot” is the outrageous new musical comedy lovingly ripped off from the film classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Directed by Tony Award-winner Mike Nichols, with a book by Eric Idle and music and lyrics by the Grammy Award-winning team of Mr. Idle and John Du Prez, “Spamalot” tells the tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they embark on their quest for the Holy Grail. Flying cows, killer rabbits, taunting Frenchmen and show-stopping musical numbers are just a few of the reasons audiences everywhere are eating up “Spamalot.”
In the ongoing tradition of spectacular touring productions, Neil Goldberg and Cirque Productions have once again reinvented the circus with European flair, imaginative theatrics and world-class acrobatics with “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy.” This all-new “Cirque Dreams” adventure takes audiences soaring into a magical forest through the air and on stage. An international cast of graceful aerialists, spine bending contortionists, vine swinging characters, strong men and balancers bring this jungle dream to life in a lush roadway setting filled with wildly unpredictable designs, special effects, inventive choreography, puppeteering and dazzling costumes. “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy” is an exhilarating journey the entire family can experience together.
Direct from London’s West End, Ray Charles lives on in “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” the grand finale to the 2006-2007 Fisher Playgoers Subscription Series season. With a full onstage orchestra and dazzling dancers, this brilliant stage production is a non-stop salute to the genius of soul, Ray Charles, and features 36 great hits including “Georgia,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “America the Beautiful” and many more. Stunning performances and spectacular choreography celebrate the music and career of this fascinating man.
Subscription series tickets are priced from $199 – $346 for all five shows and are now on sale.
For additional information or to order season tickets, call the Fisher Theatre at 313-872-1000, ext. 0, Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Season tickets may also be ordered online at http://www.NederlanderDetroit.com.
Meadow Brook announces stellar line-up for 2006-2007 season
ROCHESTER–Meadow Brook Theatre is proud to announce an exciting 2006-2007 season, full of top-notch plays that run the gamut from Shakespeare to Dickens, Rocky Horror to the Andrews sisters.
“Our upcoming season is one of our strongest yet, and I know theatergoers will be thrilled by the productions we’re offering,” said MBT Artistic Director David Regal. “From toe-tapping musicals to classic drama to romantic comedy, this season offers something for everyone.”
The season kicks off in September with “The Rocky Horror Show,” followed by an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” MBT holiday favorite “A Christmas Carol,” Broadway hits “Same Time, Next Year” and “On Golden Pond,” and Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” The season concludes in the spring with “The Sisters of Swing,” a musical tribute to the Andrews Sisters.
The announcement of the new season came amid news that cuts in corporate arts funding will cost the theatre 15 percent of its budget.
Managing Director John Manfredi said the theatre would continue to produce the high-quality productions for which MBT is renowned even as it faces the heavy hit to its budget.
“In this struggling economy, corporate funding for the arts is drying up,” Manfredi said. “For MBT, the best antidote to a drop in donations is to get people in our seats. As we seek new and creative ways to fund our programs and to maintain the high level of artistic quality that has made us Michigan’s flagship theatre, we’re confident that this season’s line-up will bring people through our doors.”
MBT is Michigan’s only regional theatre company. A non-profit, independent professional theatre, MBT is located on Oakland University’s campus. In May 2003, facing closure after 37 years of operating under the university’s auspices, a group of MBT employees and other Michigan artists formed The Theatre Ensemble and took over the theatre’s management. Since 2003, TTE has cut more than $2 million dollars from MBT’s operating budget while preserving 90 percent of its production budget.
Tickets for MBT productions range from $22-$38 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 248-377-3300. For group sales, call 248-370-3316. For more information, please visit http://www.mbtheatre.com.
‘Coming of Age’ extended at JET
WEST BLOOMFIELD – Due to popular demand, the Jewish Ensemble Theatre will extend its critically acclaimed world premiere, “Coming of Age” by award winning local playwright Kitty Dubin. Originally scheduled to close on Sunday May 21, “Coming of Age” will continue to run through May 27. The extended performances dates are Thursday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 26 at 2 p.m.; and Saturday May 27 at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Sarah, played by Naz Edwards and Holly, played by Babs George, both in their mid-50s and best friends since college, spend the same week together with their spouses every summer at a cottage on Lake Michigan. For the first time in 12 years, Holly, recently widowed, arrives alone and inconsolable. Totally dependent on her husband for 30 years, she now feels lost and alone. Sarah and her husband, Ben, played by Mark Rademacher, are facing an empty nest, the loss of parents, the prospect of retirement and possibly even the deterioration of their own marriage. Over the course of three summers, these reluctant characters find themselves confronting the realities of aging.
“Coming of Age” also features former Detroit actor Thomas Hoagland, who now resides in New York, as Jake, a free spirited and undisciplined artist and house painter.
Kitty Dubin is an award-winning playwright and is a popular speaker at writer’s conferences. “Coming of Age” will mark the fourth premiere and fifth production at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre. Dubin has had plays produced at many other theatres including the Boarshead in Lansing and the Purple Rose in Chelsea. Her one-act plays have been included in Heartlande Theatre Company’s Annual Play by Play Festival for the past eight years. “Mystical Body,” a monologue play, was included in a group of monologues by and about women, called “Skylarks,” at the University Of Detroit Theatre Company. Dubin has been a semi-finalist twice and a winner in the Turnip Festival of Short Plays, an off Broadway festival in New York City and her one act play, “Mimi and Me,” was chosen for inclusion in the American Playwrights Theatre Festival in New York City. She also received a Jewish Woman in Arts Award for lifetime achievement in the arts in the Detroit Metropolitan Area. Dubin has been the recipient of two individual artist grants in playwriting from the Michigan Council of the Arts. She has also been teaching playwriting at Oakland University for the past eight years.
Tickets prices for “Coming of Age” range from $28 – $37; discounts available for seniors and students and $15 rush tickets when available one hour before performances.
For more information or ticket reservations, please call the Jewish Ensemble Theatre at 248-788-2900.
Plowshares presents ‘August Wilson’s 20th Century’
DETROIT – Plowshares Theatre Company begins a new program entitled Studio 2g. Studio 2g is an initiative designed to provide opportunities to younger talent – a second generation of Plowshares artists. Studio 2g will feature edgier or evocative works and subject matters. The program will be presented from May 25 through June 4 at the new Downtown Boll Family YMCA, 1401 Broadway at GrandRiver.
“When we started Plowshares 17 years ago, it was designed to address a dearth of opportunities for a younger generation of local talent and to present newer works that had not been seen locally,” said Producing Artistic Director Gary Anderson. “Now, almost a generation later, there is a new group of young artists and new forms in which those artists are creating and presenting their art. To maintain our relevance, Plowshares has to broaden our canon of plays to welcome these new forms and artists. Studio 2g is our solution.”
This year’s Studio 2g presentation will be a merging of old and new. For the first time ever in the nation, all 10 plays comprising August Wilson’s major works will be presented in a series of staged readings. Titled “August Wilson’s 20th Century,” Studio 2g will present focus on Wilson’s development as an artist who had no formal training, but rather was developed from a community-based poet into an internationally renowned playwright.
Wilson, who died of liver cancer on October 2, 2005, had been hailed as one of the most important talents in the American theatre. He spent his childhood in poverty in Pittsburgh, where he lived with his parents and five siblings. Though he grew up in a poor family, Wilson felt that his parents withheld knowledge of even greater hardships they had endured. “My generation of blacks knew very little about the past of our parents,” he told the New York Times in 1984. “They shielded us from the indignities they suffered.” Wilson’s goal is to illuminate that shadowy past with a series of plays, each set in a different decade, that focus on black issues. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Fences,” “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” “The Piano Lesson,” “Two Trains Running” and “Seven Guitars” are part of this ambitious project. The final play, “Radio Golf,” set in 1990, was finished mere weeks prior to his death.
The lineup for the series is as follows:
Thursday, May 25 at 7 p.m.: “Gem of the Ocean”
Friday, May 26 at 7 p.m.: “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”
Saturday, May 27 at 3 p.m.: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Saturday, May 27 at 7 p.m.: “The Piano Lesson”
Sunday, May 28 at 7 p.m.: “Seven Guitars”
Thursday, June 1 at 7 p.m.: “Fences”
Friday, June 2 at 7 p.m.: “Two Trains Running”
Saturday, June 3 at 3 p.m.: “Jitney”
Saturday, June 3 at 7 p.m.: “King Hedley II”
Sunday, June 4 at 3 p.m.: “Radio Golf”
Among the artists coming together to make this event possible are man yof the actors who have appeared in the seven Wilson productions Plowshares Theatre Company has staged over the years. The actors reprising their roles include Council Cargle, Herman McCain, James Cowans, Rhonda Freya English, Anthony Lucas, Walter Lindsey, Charlotte Nelson and Lynch R. Travis. They will be joined by several newcomers, including Janee Ann Smith who was recently seen in “Pretty Fire.”
Tickets to each reading are $10. For reservations and information, call Plowshares Theatre Company at 313- 872-0279.
WSU and The Nederlander Company announce Stephen Schwartz as 2006 Apple Award recipient
DETROIT — Composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, known for his work on musicals “Pippin” and “Wicked” and films “Pocahontas” and “The Prince of Egypt,” will be the recipient of the fifth annual Sarah Applebaum Nederlander Award for Excellence in Theatre.
Schwartz will be honored at a gala celebration on Wednesday, June 14, at the Masonic Temple, Detroit. The evening will include a cocktail reception, seated dinner and presentation of the Apple Award, followed by a performance by the first national touring company of the award-winning musical “Wicked.”
The Apple Award is given in partnership with Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts and the Nederlander Company.
Stephen Schwartz has contributed music and/or lyrics to “Godspell,” “Pippin,” “The Magic Show,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Working” (which he also adapted and directed), “Rags,” “Children of Eden” and the current Broadway hit “Wicked.”
He collaborated with Leonard Bernstein on the English texts for Bernstein’s “Mass” and wrote the title song for the play and movie “Butterflies are Free.”
For films, Schwartz collaborated with Alan Menken on the scores for the Disney animated features “Pocahontas” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and he wrote the songs for the DreamWorks animated feature “The Prince of Egypt.” He provided music and lyrics for the original television musical, “Gepetto,” and has released two CD’s of new songs entitled “Reluctant Pilgrim” and “Uncharted Territory.”
Schwartz is the recipient of three Academy Awards, four Grammy Awards and four Drama Desk Awards.
The Apple Award is named for Sarah Applebaum Nederlander, or “Apple” as she was affectionately known, to honor her dedication to her family and her contributions to building an American theatre dynasty. The award is given as part of a visiting artist fund which brings acclaimed theater professionals to WSU’s campus. Recipients host master classes for theater majors and a question and answer forum open to all WSU students.
Tickets to The Apple Award event are $275; all proceeds benefit WSU’s Department of Theatre.
Tickets can be purchased by calling Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts at 313-577-5336.
Stratford Festival News:
‘Coriolanus’ in previews at the Stratford Festival
STRATFORD, Ont. – The Stratford Festival of Canada’s production of Shakespeare’s powerful political drama “Coriolanus,” starring Colm Feore in the title role and Martha Henry as Volumnia, is now in previews at the Festival Theatre. “Coriolanus” tells the story of a military leader who, for his heroism in defeating an uprising against Rome, is nominated for the office of consul. The opponents of Coriolanus, however, are quick to seize on his fatal flaw: his refusal to play the political games demanded by the common people. Soon, the man of the hour becomes a hated outcast – and vows terrible revenge.
The Stratford Festival’s production of “Coriolanus” is directed by Antoni Cimolino with sets and costumes designed by Santo Loquasto. The lighting designer is Gil Wechsler and the sound designer is Todd Charlton. The composer is Steven Page.
“Coriolanus” features Graham Abbey as Tullus Aufidius, Sean Baek as Eighth Citizen, Wayne Best as First Senate Officer and First Citizen, Don Carrier as Sicinius, Nicola Correia-Damude as Virgilia, Ian Deakin as Second Senate Officer, Julian Doucet as Roman Lieutenant and Fifth Citizen, David Francis as Fourth Citizen, Second Volscian Senator and First Servingman, Stephen Gartner as Second Servingman, Second Watch and First Conspirator, Brian Hamman as Second Aedile, Bernard Hopkins as Brutus, Robert King as Third Citizen, Roy Lewis as Titus Lartius, Keira Loughran as Valeria, Mary Ellen Mahoney as Gentlewoman, Shaun McComb as First Aedile, Gareth Potter as Second Conspirator, Gary Reineke as First Volscian Senator, Stephen Roberts as Sixth Citizen, Jean-Louis Roux as First Roman Senator, Brad Rudy as Second Citizen, Stephen Russell as Cominius, Paul Soles as Menenius, Cameron Sprott as Young Martius, Sanjay Talwar as Volscian Lieutenant, Nicolas Van Burek as Seventh Citizen and First Watch, Jeffrey Wetsch as Third Servingman and Barrie Wood as Second Roman Senator and Volscian Citizen. The production also features Ryan Boyko, Jon de Leon, Aidan deSalaiz, Adrienne Gould and Harry Thomas as Soldiers and Citizens. Riley Woolf is the understudy for Young Martius.
“Coriolanus” is now previews. Opening night is May 29 and it plays in repertory until September 23.
Tickets are available at 1-800-567-1600 or online at http://www.stratfordfestival.ca.
Community Theater Corner:
K’zoo Civic adds performances to ‘Anything Goes’
KALAMAZOO – In an effort to meet the overwhelming demand for tickets, the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre has added two performances to the scheduled run of its production of the Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes.” Originally scheduled to play in the Civic Auditorium May 19 through June 3, “Anything Goes” has been extended through June 10. Added performances are as follows: Friday and Saturday June 9 and 10 at 8 p.m.
Pack your bags for hilarity as the audience sets sail on one of the most tuneful, fun-filled transatlantic voyages imaginable. This gloriously funny screwball musical comedy takes place in the 1930s aboard a luxury liner as it makes its way from New York to England. Comedy follows as its zany passengers become entangled in a series of mistaken identities and mismatched romances. The shipboard hijinx involve a lovesick stowaway, an evangelist turned nightclub singer, a debutante who’s engaged to a silly English lord and a gangster (public enemy #13). As bubbly as a glass of champagne, the Cole Porter score includes “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Friendship” and the title tune.
According to Ben Zylman, director of marketing and development, the added performances were a result of “an unusually strong demand for tickets”. “Anything Goes” will close the Civic’s 77th season.
Tickets for “Anything Goes” are selling briskly and may be ordered by calling the Civic Box Office at 269-343-1313 or by visiting the Civic on line at http://www.kazoocivic.com.