Ken Kilgore (left) as James Anderson shares a rare moment of quiet with his young wife Anne, played by Anna Hnatiuk Dewey in the Players Guild of Dearborn presentation of the musical “Shenandoah” which runs through Aug. 21 at the historic Anderson Theater at The Henry Ford. For more information, go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.
By Sue Suchyta
The Players Guild of Dearborn opened the musical “Shenandoah” Friday for a two-weekend run at the historic Anderson Theater at The Henry Ford. The unique collaboration is part of the museum’s year-long American Civil War sesquicentennial remembrance.
Closing weekend performances of “Shenandoah” include 8 p.m. Frida, 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. For tickets, call the Guild’s hotline at (313) 377-0618 or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.
The story is about both a family and a nation caught up in one of the most divisive and deadly periods in American history.
Widower Charlie Anderson has worked hard all his life to provide for his family on his farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Although he’s situated in a Confederate state, he doesn’t own slaves and just wants to be left alone by whatever government wants to tax him.
However, it becomes harder to remain neutral when both sides want his sons and horses. When his youngest son is taken prisoner because he was wearing a Confederate hat, Charlie is forced to take sides to search for his vulnerable offspring.
Mike Moseley leads the cast as patriarch Charlie Anderson. He also takes the lead as both the president of the Players Guild and the senior manager of Guest Services at The Henry Ford, which made him the point person for this unique collaboration.
Audiences will remember Moseley for his crowd-pleasing performances as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” Don Quixote in “Man of LaMancha” and Kris Kringle in “Here’s Love.” Moseley pleases audiences again with his reassuring presence and innate likeability.
Ken Kilgore as James Anderson and Anna Hnatiuk Dewey as his wife, Anne, make a likeable pair eager to establish their own home without the shadow of war.
Maura Donovan eagerly embraces the impetuous traits of Jenny, Charlie’s daughter, who is more at home in trousers with her brothers than sitting patiently at home while her beau Sam, played by Jacob Dombrowski, amusingly musters the courage to propose.
Charlie’s sons Jacob, Nathan, John and Henry are played enthusiastically by Paul Morgan, Michael Bollman, Nick Marek and Matt Miazgowicz, respectively. They benefit from Paul Bruce’s creative choreography, which channels their exuberant energy and is fun and entertaining to watch.
Quentin Jenson, who plays Charlie’s youngest son, Robert, and Alberice Jarreau, who plays the young African-American slave Gabriel, bring freshness and believability to their roles. Jarreau has a beautiful singing voice, and Jenson’s impishness garners much laughter. They also embrace the effortless acceptance that children have of other races before they have become indoctrinated by their forebears’ prejudices.
Lindel Salow is amusing as the long-suffering preacher who has to contend with the Anderson family’s habitual late and disruptive arrival amidst his long-winded Sunday sermons. Salow humanizes a supporting character that could have easily been portrayed as a narrow-minded limited-dimensional character.
Both the men and women’s chorus serve in multiple capacities, from the walking wounded to Anderson’s neighbors.
The men’s chorus includes Charles Bollman, Mark Byars, Tim Carney, Robert Murray, Michael Powaser, Scott Rider, Mark Ripper, Will Turbett and Philip Walling.
The women’s chorus includes Jacqueline Fenton, Kathy Fothergill, Sally Hart Goodman, Cjersti Jensen and Sarah Kornacki.
Director Brian Townsend has created a cohesive cast able to empathetically portray a wide range of human emotion.
And while the tunes don’t have the familiarity of show-stopping favorites, the songs – especially the ballads – capture the mood of the story.
Townsend’s set design works well and is visually pleasing and pastoral. A lush, rolling farm serves as an Eden-like backdrop, with different pieces flown in to represent house windows and church stained glass, which is also stunning in its color, simplicity and appealing design.
Co-producers Marybeth Kinnell and James Mayne kept the show on track and on schedule, from the temporary transfer of stage lighting from the Guild to the Anderson Theater to the massive move-in July 7.