The Players Guild of Dearborn presents the Tony award-winning musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” weekends through Dec. 5. The cast includes Leah Cooley (left) of Taylor as spelling bee moderator Rona Lisa Peretti; Julienne Kobylasz of Flat Rock as Olive Ostrovsky; Christina Brown of Farmington as Marcy Park and Jeff Ostrowski of Dearborn as William Barfee. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees. For more information, call (313) 561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.
By Sue Suchyta
If laughter is the best medicine, then the Players Guild of Dearborn has the cure for the recessionary blues. Laughter fills the house as the talented Guild thespians in “Spelling Bee” provide feel-good therapy that’s sure to please.
The Tony-award winning Broadway musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which opened Friday at the Players Guild of Dearborn is a “must-see” production.
The show continues weekends through Dec. 5 for a four weekend run.
The play follows six young spellers in the throes of puberty and the supervising adults who barely managed to escape adolescence themselves. They discover that winning isn’t everything, and that losing doesn’t make you a loser.
It also shows the super-achievers how they can stand out and fit in at the same time.
The show was conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Sheinkin and additional material by Jay Reiss.
Dianne Bernick of Dearborn directed the talented company, which features the musical director of Steve Woznicki of Royal Oak and the choreography of Dearborn resident Jennifer McPherson. James Mayne and Ron Williams of Redford co-produced the show.
Kudos to the technical crew who created clever costumes, lit up the talent-filled stage, provided perfect props and who let the onstage talent shine.
The characters all bring their own back stories to the spelling bee.
Leah Cooley of Taylor is superb as Rona Lisa Peretti, a former Putnam County Spelling Bee Champion and the current moderator. In addition to her beautiful voice she brings genuine warmth to the role.
Kenyada Davis of Detroit is hysterically funny as Vice Principal Douglas Panch, the official word reader, who doesn’t want to be at the bee but who has a crush on Ms. Peretti.
Kenneth Gibson of Detroit is a hoot as Mitch Mahoney, the intimidating “comfort counselor,” an ex-con who is fulfilling his court-mandated community service. He is equally funny as one of Logainne’s overbearing gay fathers.
The spellers are intentionally and hilariously played by adult actors.
Julienne Kobylasz of Flat Rock plays Olive Ostrovsky, the only child of an absentee mother and a workaholic father. You’ll love her pink Osh Kosh inspired overalls and wide-eyed innocence. Even her parents should be startled to see a dozen-odd years roll off her real age.
Jeff Ostrowski of Dearborn portrays nerdish, nasally challenged “magic foot” speller William Barfee to perfection. A well-liked and diplomatic past president of the Guild, Ostrowski has been absent from the footlights for far too long. His clever reincarnation of the nasal, annoying speller brought peals of laughter from his friends in the house.
Sarah Mayne of Redford plays anxious Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre, the youngest and most politically aware speller with amusing delight. Her character worries about pleasing her two overbearing gay fathers. The suburban cameos, extra responsibilities taken on by supporting actors Michael Bollman and Kenneth Gibson, are a clever parody of traditional soccer mom and dad roles.
Eric Floetke of Brownstown is Chip Tolentino, a Boy Scout and the previous year’s spelling bee winner. He hopes to defend his title, but finds himself distracted by a fellow speller’s “well-rounded” sister. His solo song is one of the reasons the show carries a PG-14 cautionary rating. Let’s just say his spelling suffers when the blood flow to his brain is inadvertently redirected.
Christina Brown of Farmington plays Marcy Park to perfection. She is delightfully funny, prim, anal and endearing at the same time. Every parent of a perfectionist will identify with the overachiever who “speaks six languages,” plays multiple sports and musical instruments and worries about getting all A’s all the time.
Her character has developed a unique relationship with God at her parochial school, Our Lady of Intermittent Sorrows. You’ll laugh out loud during Floetke’s cameo as Christ.
In addition to playing one of Logainne’s dads, Michael Bollman of Dearborn portrays the delightfully funny laid back space-case Leaf Coneybear, a home-schooled child of former hippies who makes his own clothes and is easily distracted. He is frequently reminded by his siblings that he is “not that smart.” His character is at the spelling bee by default. Even Bollman’s fly-away mop of hair seems tailor-made for his role.
The show, which opened Friday, runs for three more weekends: Nov. 19 to 21, 26 to 28 and Dec. 3 to 5, with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows and 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees. The show contains adult language and situations, and is not recommended for children age fourteen and under.
The Guild theater is at 21730 Madison, south of the intersection of Monroe and Outer Drive in Dearborn. The theater is handicap accessible.
Tickets are $18, with a $2 discount for students with identification. Group discounts are also available.
For more information, call the Guild’s ticket line at (313) 561-TKT, or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.
‘ROCK OF AGES’ at FISHER
The new hit musical comedy “Rock of Ages” continues now through Nov. 21 at the Fisher Theatre.
A nominee for five Tony Awards, the show blends rock hits of the ’80s to tell the tale of a small town girl and a big city rocker who meet in Los Angeles.
Constantine Maroulis of “American Idol” season four received a Best Actor Tony Award for his role of as Drew in “Rock of Ages.”
The show features favorite ’80s tunes by REO Speedwagon, Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Poison, Foreigner, Pat Benetar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Whitesnake, Night Ranger, Quaterflash, Asia, Damn Yankees and more.
Favorite songs include “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “I Wanna’ Know What Love Is,” and “Here I Go Again.”
While the show is a rock musical set in the ’80s, it won’t blast out your eardrums – it’s no louder than any other rockin’ Broadway show.
If parents enjoy watching their teens “discover” their rock ’n’ roll, you’ll enjoy the show. Be advised, though, that some of the costumes, dancing and language may be inappropriate for children under age 14.
The show runs for 2 hours, 15 minutes with one brief intermission.
Tickets are available at the Fisher Theatre box office, TicketMaster locations, by phone at (800) 982-2787, or online at www.ticketmaster.com or www.broadwayindetroit.com.
‘NUNCRACKERS’ continues at DEARBORN HEIGHTS CIVIC THEATRE
Dearborn Heights Civic Theatre got a jump on the holidays Nov. 5 as it launched its Christmas-themed version of the much-enjoyed Nunsense series, “Nuncrackers,” a grin-inspiring musical comedy.
It features the Little Sisters of Hoboken as well as Father Trott and six Mount St. Helen students. The show delivers both laughter and holiday cheer.
The Dan Goggin musical runs through Nov. 19 and 20 at the Berwyn Center, 26155 Richardson in Dearborn Heights. Show times are 8 p.m.
Directed by Paul Keifer, with musical direction by Paul Abbott, the strong ensemble cast showcases their talent in the in basement of the Mount St. Helen’s Convent as the Saint Andrews Sisters of Hoboken tape their first live special in their new cable access television studio.
The talented cast includes Martha Robertson of Garden City as the Reverend Mother, with Emily Gedert of Dearborn as Sister Hubert, the standout second-in-command.
Sister Robert Anne, a tough nun from Brooklyn, is delightfully portrayed by Jody LaGuire of Inkster, who played Anna in the DHCT recent production of “The King and I.”
Sister Mary Paul (also known as Sister Amnesia) is humorously portrayed by Amanda McFarland of Westland.
Sister Mary Leo, featuring Shelby Watts of Wayne, plays the youngest of the Sisters and a puppeteer.
Father Virgil Manly Trott, played by Bill Spurlin of Garden City, has some very funny physical comedy schtick.
The Mount Saint Helens student cast features the talents of Ian Jeannin of Dearborn, as well as Dearborn Heights residents Rhiannon and Olivia Flores, Sarah Jennings, and Mary and Hope Lesniak.
Tickets are available at the door or online at dhctstage.org through Ticketleap. Adult tickets are $15 for adults, with a $2 discount for students and seniors.
For more information, go to www.dhctstage .org.