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By |2005-12-15T09:00:00-05:00December 15th, 2005|Entertainment|

TIDBITS: Professional Theater News from Around Town

Judy Garland in Saugatuck: Local impressionist recreates ’60s television show

SAUGATUCK – The spirit of Judy Garland thrives in Saugatuck, thanks to talented local impressionist Michael Holmes. A regular entertainer in the Saugatuck-Douglas area, Holmes will present his first self-produced event, “The Judy Christmas Show,” Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts.
Holmes has been performing his ‘one-woman’ multi-character shows since 2000, appearing on stages and in clubs in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Chicago and Maui, as well as on Rainbow Media (Bravo) Television. His inspiration for the act is, of course, Judy herself and her television variety show that aired for a single 32-week season in 1963-64. “I feel this era was the closest to ‘live entertainment’ and is a genre that people miss and are still looking for today,” says Holmes. “It works, and it is exciting for the both entertainer and the audience. The format can be electrifying.”
“The Judy Christmas Show” will feature other Holmes’ characters, including Pearl Bailey, Carol Channing, Billie Holiday and a “surprise” guest.
The show will also feature a special appearance by jazz vocalist Kirsten Gustafson. Gustafson, a Northern Michigan native, released her second recording, “Live at Montreaux,” this year and recently confirmed the schedule for a 2006 tour with the nationally famous Nelson Riddle Orchestra.
“I’m thrilled to be producing my first show,” says Holmes. “The Saugatuck Center for the Arts is a wonderful venue that I have always enjoyed playing. The support generated by this community is just terrific and I feel that the ‘Judy Christmas Show’ will be the best show to date.”
Showtime is 8 p.m.
The Saugatuck Center for the Arts is located at 400 Culver Street, in downtown Saugatuck.
Tickets for “The Judy Christmas Show” are $15. For tickets or information, call the Saugatuck Center for the Arts at 269-857-2399.

Royal Shakespeare Company returns to Ann Arbor in fall 2006

ANN ARBOR — The University Musical Society announces that the Royal Shakespeare Company will return to the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor for a three-week residency in October and November 2006, featuring performances of “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Julius Caesar” and “The Tempest.” Film and television star Patrick Stewart will star in leading roles.
UMS and the U-M campus will be the sole venue for the three plays, which are part of the RSC’s recently announced Complete Works Festival, which begins in April 2006.
British actor Patrick Stewart, an honorary associate artist with the RSC and Captain Jean-Luc Picard of “Star Trek: The next generation” fame, performs the leading roles of Antony in “Antony and Cleopatra” (with Harriet Walter as Cleopatra) and Prospero in “The Tempest.”
As in past residencies, the plays will utilize ensemble casting, with approximately 28 actors performing in all three productions.
“I am absolutely delighted that the RSC will be returning to Ann Arbor with three sensational productions of Shakespeare’s great works,” said Kenneth C. Fischer, president of the University Musical Society. “Planning for this residency, the first under new RSC artistic director Michael Boyd who directed the award-winning history plays in the first residency in 2001, took longer than expected, but both the RSC and UMS were determined that the outcome would be worthy of the quality of this unique partnership. The wait has been worth it, as together we have been able to construct a residency that includes terrific titles, fabulous actors and, of course, the RSC’s first-rate educational team. The plays performed will provide many opportunities to connect the academic community at the University with the larger regional community. We look forward to welcoming people to Ann Arbor from all over the country for this U.S. exclusive.”
Tickets for “Royal Shakespeare Company 2006: A Festival of Shakespeare’s Classics” will go on sale in February 2006. The RSC will give seven performances of each title in the Power Center for the Performing Arts (121 Fletcher Street). Additional daytime performances will be scheduled for schoolchildren. The plays will be performed October 24 – November 12; schedules for performances and related activities will be issued at a later date.
For information or to be added to the mailing list, call 734-764-2538 or visit http://www.ums.org

Motown legends join original cast of ‘Father Bingo’

DETROIT – Riding a heat wave of sales success, producers of the musical comedy “Father Bingo” announced the addition of the Original Vandellas to the cast of the world premiere, debuting Feb. 10-12, 2006 at Detroit’s Music Hall.
Rosalind Ashford Holmes and Annette Sterling Helton, the Original Vandellas, will play several roles in the musical, including the Bingo Mamas. “Detroit has a history of launching musical hits – both in the recording studio and on stage. Holmes and Helton are originals and we are delighted to have them launch what we hope is another hit,” says “Father Bingo” executive producer Rick Beyer.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, the Vandellas hits include “Heat Wave,” “Nowhere to Run,” “I’m Ready for Love,” “Jimmy Mack” and their biggest hit, “Dancing in the Street.”
Set in Detroit, “Father Bingo” is a musical tale about risks and miracles. The musical tale comically weaves political intrigue and mistaken identity into the stories of several people looking for salvation: A parish priest fights to save his church; a mayor tries to win the hearts of his voters in support of casino gambling; and a woman searches for the perfect match to end her loneliness. Overseeing these foils is the Big Guy Upstairs.
The world premiere is generating a lot of heat among ticket buyers. “We are off to a good start, selling over 2,000 seats in the first two months,” Beyer said. “We have already sold out the main floor for both Saturday and Sunday matinee performances.”
Decades ago, original musicals were launched regularly in Detroit, including “Hello Dolly,” “Sweet Chariot” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” “We believe that Detroit deserves a world premiere in the tradition of the stage hits of the 1960’s that put this city on the entertainment map,” Beyer said.
“Father Bingo” will premiere at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts for a limited engagement of four performances. The two evening performances take place at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10 and 11. The two matinees are at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 11 and 12.
Music Hall Center is located at 350 Madison Avenue in Detroit.
Private receptions celebrating the world premiere will feature local dignitaries, the composer, cast, and professional and community theatre leaders. They will take place after each performance, as well as before the Friday Feb. 10 opening night show. A limited number of tickets are available for $50. All proceeds benefit Music Hall Center.
Ticket prices range from $19 to $49 and are available through TicketMaster online at http://www.ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 248-645-6666 or through the Music Hall Box Office. Group discounts, reception and corporate ticket packages are available through Father Bingo at 248-981-7003.

Smoke Free Fridays now at Improv Inferno

ANN ARBOR — Improv Inferno, Ann Arbor’s hotspot for comedy, is pleased to announce that all of its Friday night shows are now 100% smoke free.
Artistic Director Dan Izzo said, “We’re committed to making sure that everyone has a great time and has as much fun as possible. Our number one request in this regard has been to have some shows be completely smoke free. While our Friday 8 p.m. shows have always been non-smoking, we wanted to expand our smoke free show options. And thus, Smoke Free Friday was born.”
Starting in December and continuing hereafter, all of Improv Inferno’s Friday shows, at 8 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight, are now 100% smoke free. For smokers and friends of smokers, fret not: All other shows will continue to have smoking and non-smoking sections.
For show and schedule information, call 734/214-7080 or visit http://www.improvinferno.com.

BoarsHead Theater receives Thoman Foundation grant

LANSING – BoarsHead Theater is proud to announce the receipt of a $12,500 grant for its Education and Outreach programs for the 2005-2006 season.
The grant, from the W.B. and Candace Thoman Foundation, is in support of the theater’s educational programming. Specific programs to be supported by the grant include “A Visit with Thomas Jefferson,” an interactive educational program which brings history to life; “Noodle Doodle Box,” a touring show featuring the BoarsHead Second Company that gives students opportunities to think creatively about issues and themes of diversity and friendship; “If the Shoe Fits,” a production that invites students into the theater and introduces them to William Shakespeare and the life and times of Elizabethan England; and “Creative Drama,” a program aimed at young people ages five through eight.
For information about the BoarHead Theater and its many programs, call 517-484-7800 or log on to http://www.boarshead.org

Stratford Festival’s 53rd season ends with modest surplus

STRATFORD, ONTARIO – Under the leadership of Artistic Director Richard Monette and Executive Director Antoni Cimolino, the Stratford Festival of Canada has ended its artistically successful 2005 season with a $73,000 surplus on its $52 million budget.
“We are especially proud of our accomplishments this past year,” said Cimolino. “It was a season marked early by a difficult sales environment, particularly in the U.S. However, the extraordinary productions, excellent word of mouth, a reduction of in-year expenses and the introduction of incremental marketing initiatives, supported in part by the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership (OTMP), drove a major turnaround at the box office between May and October, resulting in ticket sales of just under 540,000 for the season.”
“I cannot say enough good things about the artists and staff of the Festival,” Cimolino continued. “They met initial challenges at the box office by taking special care with expenses and finding efficiencies through innovation. Their dedicated efforts enabled the Festival to offset the shortfall in ticket revenues.
A wealth of activities in the artistically rich 2005 season strongly supported the Festival’s four key strategic goals: artistic excellence, relationships with patrons and donors, youth and diversity, and education.
The launch of the new Play On program, which offers $20 tickets to young people between the ages of 18 and 29, saw a record number of young, new patrons in attendance, with over 14,000 tickets sold and enthusiastic feedback from users. Education programs were also expanded.
“We’re exceptionally proud of all that’s happened this past season, and we’re excited about the way 2006 is shaping up,” Cimolino stated. “Response to the upcoming season during the Members’ pre-sale period has been extraordinary. And we’re delighted to have achieved a significant milestone in our history: We reached just over $1 million in single-day ticket sales, so it looks like we’re off to a promising start.”
To date, sales for 2006 have reached $6.6 million and 115,000 tickets, up 11% over the same period last year.
Information about Stratford Festival’s 2006 season can be found online at http://www.stratfordfestival.ca

Community Theater Corner:

A2CT and the Firefly Club present an evening of Sinatra

ANN ARBOR – The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre and the Firefly Club are staging a new benefit show, “Steppin’ Out with Civic 2: Civic Does Sinatra,” Tuesday & Wednesday, Dec. 20 and 21 at the Firefly Club.
The musical revue will feature Civic performers and alumni in a cabaret-style performance of the wonderful music that the legendary Frank Sinatra made famous. Civic and the Firefly have created this new concert to entertain audiences, celebrate the A2CT’s upcoming January performances of “Guys & Dolls” and raise funds for Civic.
According to “Steppin’ Out 2’s” producer/director/MC, Curt Waugh, “I love these rare chances to show off so many talented Civic folks at one time. When word went out about the show, our great performers rushed to volunteer. It was incredibly difficult to whittle the show down to just 30 songs.”
Suzi Peterson, Civic’s managing director, added, “Susan [Chastain, Firefly Club owner] really encouraged us to return after we all had such a great time at our first ‘Steppin Out’ fund raiser in the spring. We jumped at the chance. We hope that hearing such great music will get everybody excited about ‘Guys & Dolls.’ The Sinatra tie-in was just a natural fit for all of us.”
Audiences can expect to hear over 30 songs written by some of the world’s greatest composers and made famous by the Chairman of the Board. The line-up includes: “The Lady is a Tramp” by Rodgers and Hart, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” by Cole Porter, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” by the Gershwins, “Strangers in the Night” by Bert Kaempfert, “One For my Baby” by Arlen & Mercer and many, many more easily recognizable classic songs in a great, fast-paced format.
Performers include January Provenzola, Rey Arceno, Kathy Waugh, Bob Skon, Glenn Bugala, Anthony Provenzola, Jimmy Dee Arnold and many others.
The show is presented as a fund raiser for Civic.
Production dates are Tuesday & Wednesday, Dec. 20 & 21 at 8 p.m.
The Firefly Club, Ann Arbor’s premier jazz and blues club, is located at 207 S. Ashley.
Tickets for “Steppin’ Out 2” are $15 and are on sale now at the Civic Theatre box office. For information and tickets, contact Ann Arbor Civic Theatre at 734-971-2228 or log on to http://www.a2ct.org

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