Professional Theater News from Around Town:
Cast of ‘Irving Berlin’s White Christmas’ joins the fight against AIDS
DETROIT – The cast of “Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS” is currently raising funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Cast members will be accepting donations in the Fox Theatre lobby after each performance, now through Christmas. Theatergoers may also contribute to BC/EFA through the purchase of autographed posters and costume sketches.
BC/EFA began as a response from the American Theatre community to the worldwide AIDS crisis and has grown to be the nation’s leading industry-based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. Funds from BC/EFA will be donated to local organizations.
“Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS” is live on stage at the Fox Theatre for the 2006 holiday season. This limited engagement plays now through Dec. 30.
Tickets range from $20-$100 and are now on sale at the Fox Theatre box office.
For more information, call 313-471-6611 or log on to http://www.olympiaentertainment.com.
Jeff Daniels’ ‘Onstage & Unplugged’ at the Purple Rose Theatre
CHELSEA – The Purple Rose Theatre Company will present Jeff Daniels’ one-man show, “Onstage & Unplugged,” for a limited five-show engagement Friday, Dec. 29 through Sunday, Dec. 31. All performances are at The Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park Street, in Chelsea.
Due to the ongoing popularity of this event, Daniels returns to the PRTC stage for the sixth time since 2001. A prolific songwriter as well as playwright, Daniels performs solo with blues guitar and an arsenal of songs that are alternately humorous and touching.
The original “Onstage & Unplugged” was a huge success in 2001, with all three performances selling out in one day. Audiences laughed uproariously as Daniels told the stories behind each song and delivered them with his unique, wry humor. In 2002, demand required five additional performances. This season, Daniels’ national tour schedule requires the PRTC to cut the concert back to five performances.
Daniels recently released “Grandfather’s Hat,” his second CD of live performances recorded at venues across Michigan. Sales of “Grandfather’s Hat” and Daniels’ first release, “Live & Unplugged,” benefit The Purple Rose Theatre Company and are available for sale at the PRTC Box Office or at http://www.jeffdaniels.com; information about Daniels’ national tour schedule is also available at www..
“Onstage & Unplugged” tickets are now on sale. Reservations are recommended and can be obtained by calling the PRTC Box Office at 734-433-7673.
Casting announced for ‘I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU – The Music of Ray Charles’
DETROIT – Casting has been completed for the United States tour premiere of “I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU – The Music of Ray Charles” and includes Detroit native Terrence D. Forsythe as a vocal ensemble member.
Direct from London’s West End and a sold out European Tour, “I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU – The Music of Ray Charles” will make its Detroit premiere at the Fisher Theatre for three weeks only beginning Tuesday, Feb. 13 through Sunday, March 4, 2007. “I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU – The Music of Ray Charles “is directed and choreographed by Gary Lloyd, creator of the successful production in the United Kingdom. Tickets are on sale now.
Leading the cast in the vocal ensemble, who serve as musical narrators throughout the show, are seven talented entertainment professionals: Terrence D. Forsythe, Regi Brown, Truth Hurts, Chris Murrell, Nedgra Culp, and Mike Davis.
Detroit native Terrence D. Forsythe has performed with Stevie Wonder, Burt Bacharach and Brenda Russell. He was a theme arranger and performer with Boyz II Men as well as the lead vocalist for ABC TV “The Ditch Digger’s Daughter” and “Royal Family” with Della Reese and Redd Foxx. Forsythe recently toured with Voisez appearing alongside Motown legend Richard Street.
Former Motown recording artist Regi Brown has performed with Ray Charles as one of the world famous Raelettes. She has also shared the stage with Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle and Rose Royce. Brown’s discography includes “The Ditch Digger’s Daughter” Soundtrack (MTM), Nancy Wilson’s “A Lady with a Song” (CBS/Sonny), and Smokey Robinson’s “Who Am I Now” (SBK).
Truth Hurts burst onto the recording scene with her #1 single “Addictive” on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label in 2002. Recordings include her debut “Truthfully Speaking” (Aftermath/Interscope 2002), “Ready Now” (Raphael Saadiq/Navarre 2005) and “Truth International Album” (BMG 2006). Film credits include “3 Blinks,” “Marigold,” “Ali,” “The Wash” and “The Hot Spot.” She has also appeared on TV’s “The Parkers”.
Chris Murrell was born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC. He has performed throughout the US with his own gospel group, The Christian Disciples, and throughout the world as a featured vocalist for the Count Basie Orchestra. He has shared the stage with the likes of Joe Williams, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney and Dizzy Gillespie. CD recording projects include “Reprise” and “Full Circle”.
Nedgra Culp has performed along side Wayne Newton, Tony Orlando, Lola Folana, Mel Tillis and Vanburch & Wellford. A native of Springfield, MO, Culp released an album titled “The Heart and Soul of Making Music” and is currently working on her second album. She can be seen in the film “The Forcaster” directed by Bucky Heard.
Raised in Union Town, PA, Mike Davis has sung with artists such as Chaka Khan, Freddie Jackson, Alicia Williams, Cheryl Pepsi Liley and Stephanie Mills. In 1992, Davis released his album “When Only A Friend Will Do” with Jive Records which was number one for eight weeks in the UK. Davis sings weekly at New York’s Cafe Wha.
The high-energy dance ensemble also includes twelve performers direct from the United Kingdom.
Featuring a live on-stage orchestra, stunning dancers and amazing singers, “I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU – The Music of Ray Charles” takes audiences on a musical review of Ray Charles’ life and music. This non-stop celebration embraces the diversity of Ray Charles’ musical genres. From rhythm and blues to gospel and country, from soul to rock and roll, from jazz to big band, Ray Charles’ music has influenced generations of artists and styles throughout his 50-year career.
Ticket prices for the Detroit engagement range from $ 32.50 – $67.50 through Ticketmaster outlets and the Fisher Theatre Box Office.
For additional information, call 313-872-1000 or visit http://www.nederlanderdetroit.com.
Improv classes for kids, teens and adults at The Assumption Cultural Center
GROSSE POINTE WOODS – With the popularity of shows like “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” “Saturday Night Live” and “MAD-TV,’ improvisation classes and the skill of improv has become the “new” thing. Noting the desire, Biz Team has teamed with The Assumption Cultural Center to offer up three new improv classes: “Improv for Kids,” “Improv for Teens” and “IMPROV 101” for adults 18 & above.
Conveniently located at The Assumption Cultural Center in St. Clair Shores, with free and convenient on-site parking, Assumption’s great tradition of offering top-notch classes at affordable rates continues as Biz Team Consulting’s Improv Pros – Jaime Moyer (Improv for Kids & Improv for Teens) and Rich Goteri (Improv for Adults) will cover the basics of improvisation for their respective classes. The Classes for Improv for Kids and Improv for Teens begin Jan. 20; the adult classes begin Jan. 16.
Class sizes are limited.
Call 313-808-1710 for information or registration, or log on to http://www.bizteamconsulting.com.
Guess who’s coming back to The Stranahan?
TOLEDO, Ohio – The Cameron Mackintosh/Really Useful Theatre Company, Inc. production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” directed by Harold Prince, will make a triumphant return to Northwest Ohio at the Stranahan Theatre in Toledo for a four-week engagement beginning Wednesday, Jan. 3 through Sunday, Jan. 28.
With worldwide box office sales of over $3 billion, The Phantom of the Opera is the most successful entertainment venture of the twentieth century, surpassing such blockbuster films as Titanic, E.T., and Star Wars. The winner of seven Tony(R) Awards, including Best Musical, “The Phantom of the Opera” has been seen by over 80 million people in 119 cities in 24 countries. Worldwide, it consistently plays to larger audiences and in longer engagements than any other musical in history. On Jan. 9, 2006, “The Phantom of the Opera” became the longest-running show in Broadway history, surpassing “Cats”‘ record-holding run of 7,485 performances. The show then celebrated its eighteenth anniversary on Broadway Jan. 26, 2006.
Based on the classic novel “Le Fantome de l’Opera” by Gaston Leroux, “The Phantom of the Opera” tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it. He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.
“The Phantom of the Opera” will play the Stranahan Theater Jan. 3-28, 2007. Ticket prices range from $22 to $67, exclusive of facility fee.
Tickets are now on sale at the Stranahan Theater box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and ticketmaster.com or by phone at 419-474-1333.
Information is available online at http://www.theaterleague.com.
National Theater News:
Get up close and personal with Broadway on BroadwayWorld.com
NEW YORK – There is a lot of talk these days about the phenomena of social networking. Myspace.com and others of its genre have become a major source of online networking and socializing for a growing number of individuals in all age brackets. These online networks have been the focus of much interest, even though for the most part the content within these groups lacks focus. With advertising taking over the arena, it is often difficult to navigate the pages without wishing for an Internet equivalent of the TV remote control. Surprisingly, an exception to this description can be applied to BroadwayWorld.com’s Showcial Message Boards, an online resource with a specific target and well-organized message boards.
BroadwayWorld.com is the most complete online resource about not only what is on Broadway, but also what is going on behind the scenes, who is grossing what and who is casting for which part. This site is a must-visit for the Broadway aficionado.
How up close and personal do you wish to get to Broadway stars? BroadwayWorld.com Networking, which is referred to as Showcial Networking Service, is divided by regions, shows and performers, ranging from San Francisco to the West End of London, Angela Lansbury to Michael Crawford and from “EVITA” to “Pippin.” Each category has its own flavor and threads relevant to its geographic particularities. The student-board is filled with calls for auditions as well as tricks of the trade. In addition to discussions about everything going on in theatre today, those on the boards give advice as well–one of the most recent threads entitled “how to cure a sore throat” while another gives suggestions on how to pose for the best headshots.
Similar to the customized functionality of Amazon.com or Netflix, each show and performer page automatically lists other shows and performers that are liked by people with similar interests. For the first time anywhere, users can get customized recommendations of new shows and performers based on their preferences, a feature which is causing a buzz within the industry.
Robert Diamond is an executive for one of the leading internet technology magazine publishing companies, and was named one of the “Top thirty magazine industry executives under the age of 30” by Folio magazine. In it he states, “With BroadwayWorld.com, I was successfully able to combine my tech knowledge with my love of Broadway. I am hoping to not only be the number one online resource about Broadway, but also to introduce its magic to a larger audience.” He is also the lead producer on BroadwayWorld.com’s consistently sold-out Joe’s Pub concert series, and Standing Ovations benefit concerts.
With tens of thousands of participants in Showcial Networking already, it is growing rapidly. To join the fun, go to http://www.broadwayworld.com/showcial.cfm.
Stratford Festival News:
Artistic firsts mark Stratford Festival of Canada’s 54th season
STRATFORD, ONTARIO – Artistic firsts and cutting edge productions marked the 2006 season of the Stratford Festival of Canada. These creative achievements included a Governor General’s Award-winning play, a bilingual production of a classic and the world premiere of a modern Canadian work.
Artistic Director Richard Monette said the Festival takes tremendous pride in its artists who pushed the boundaries of theatrical art yet again. He pointed out that in its ongoing pursuit of artistic excellence, the Stratford Festival is committed to staging works rarely seen elsewhere, “Contemporary interpretations of The Duchess of Malfi, Coriolanus or London Assurance allowed Stratford Festival audiences to rediscover these timeless classics.”
Monette also said, “This season’s unique collaboration with Montreal’s Theatre du Nouveau Monde was an historical first for this theater. Moliere’s ‘Don Juan’ played in both official languages with the Stratford Festival acting company which included some of the finest actors from Quebec.” Montreal audiences will get a chance to see the French language production of “Don Juan” when the show opens at the TNM in January 2007.
The 2006 season also saw the world premiere of a Canadian work, “Fanny Kemble,” written and directed by Peter Hinton at the Studio Theatre. “Harlem Duet” set another Stratford landmark at the Studio Theatre this season, as it became the first play in the Festival’s history to be written and directed by an African Canadian woman, Djanet Sears. “The successful staging of ‘Harlem Duet’ is more than just a tribute to the Festival’s commitment to celebrating the rich and varied Canadian voices on our stages and to our New Play Development program”, said General Director Antoni Cimolino. “It will go a long way in promoting diversity at the Festival. Our production of ‘Harlem Duet’ received critical and popular acclaim. Night after night the Studio Theatre was filled with both traditional Stratford attendees and a new group of patrons who discovered the Stratford Festival through ‘Harlem Duet.'”
Cimolino pointed out that Stratford audiences have come to expect such innovative productions on our stages. He added, “‘The Liar’ at the Studio Theatre was another example of breaking new ground with an exciting and unorthodox production of a seminal work in the Western canon. In our other theaters we had important Shakespearean titles such as ‘Coriolanus,’ ‘Henry IV, Part 1,’ ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ presented from unique and insightful viewpoints, and then of course there was the family friendly ‘Oliver.'”
This season also saw members of the media honoring Monette’s formidable list of achievements. The Canadian Theatre Critics Association presented him with its Herbert Whitaker Drama Bench Award for outstanding contribution to Canadian Theatre.
The artistic achievements on stage were reflected in the account books. The Festival’s budget of nearly $53 million was surpassed by $19,736, with 528,373 tickets sold. “We are delighted that for the 13th season running we’ve posted a surplus”, said Cimolino. “We did face some challenges with our US attendance, but remarkably donations from our American patrons were at a record high. This shows that though some of our casual American friends might be deterred by the soaring Canadian dollar, our core US audience is standing by us like never before.”
Board Chair Kelly Meighen thanked Festival Members for the increased support, “Membership revenue was up 14 percent from last year. The Playwright’s Circle level of membership set a new record this year by crossing the $2 million mark.”
The Festival’s educational activities also boasted significant achievements and Meighen congratulated the Education Department for creating engaging and informative modules for both students and teachers. “The Shakespeare School is hugely popular and over-subscribed and sadly we can’t accept all the students who apply”, said Meighen. “This year the School added two more weeks to its program, since we had a record number of students who wanted to return along with the first timers.”
The Department also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Teachers’ conference in 2006. Meighen said, “The hallmark of the conference was an inspiring keynote speech from Patrick Spottiswoode, director of education at the Globe Theatre, renowned for its innovative Shakespeare in schools programs.”
This season the Education Department received $1 million from Richard Rooney and Laura Dinner. Acknowledging the donation, Meighen said, “Thanks to Richard and Laura’s generosity the education department will not only be able to expand our popular Teaching Shakespeare School and provide additional training for teaching artists, but also allow us to bolster our ranks to promote school sales and development of school audiences.”
2007 is a milestone season for the Stratford Festival of Canada. It will be Monette’s 14th and final as artistic director. “Richard has delivered many extraordinary productions as artistic director”, said Cimolino. “His final season is going to be as exciting and diverse as the 13 that came before it. We are looking forward to a year-long celebration of Richard’s tenure and so are our patrons. In almost three weeks of ticket sales the response has been very positive. The figures are substantially higher over the same period last year. This bodes extremely well for an artistically and financially successful 55th season of the Stratford Festival.”
During their priority booking period Stratford Festival Members have already pushed ticket sales to over $6.6 million.
For complete information regarding Stratford’s upcoming season, please log on to http://www.stratfordfestival.ca.
Community Theater Corner:
Charity Begins at the Civic
ANN ARBOR – The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre and the Firefly Club present a benefit show, “Steppin’ Out III: Charity Begins at Civic,” Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 20 and 21 at the Firefly Club, 207 S. Ashley St. in downtown Ann Arbor.
“Charity Begins at Civic” features A2CT’s finest entertainers singing their favorite Broadway show tunes, including many holiday favorites from shows like “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “White Christmas” and the cartoon “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Guest performers will be on hand with a special preview of A2CT’s upcoming production of “Sweet Charity.”
“Charity Begins at Civic” is being produced by Anthony Provenzola, and features the irrepressible Curt Waugh as EmCee plus a talented cast including Leo Babcock, January Provenzola, Kathy Waugh, Matt Steward, Anne Bauman, with special guest, Firefly’s own Susan Chastain.
Proceeds from “Steppin’ Out III: Charity Begins with Civic” go to Ann Arbor Civic Theatre, one of the country’s oldest and most successful community theaters. A2CT produces dramas, comedies, classics and musicals. Its youth program, Junior Theatre, provides low-cost opportunities for area youth to participate in and experience live theater.
Tickets are $15 each for general admission and $25 for reserved seating.
Tickets are available at the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre box office, 322 W. Ann St., by calling the office at 734-971-2228, or at the door of the Firefly before each performance.
Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m.
For more information, call the A2CT office or visit http://www.a2ct.org.