It may be unseasonably warm outside, but the musical magic of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” will set the stage for snow and holiday magic starting Nov. 13 at the Players Guild of Dearborn, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.
Show times are 8 p.m. Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28 and Dec. 4 and 5, and 2:30 p.m. Nov. 15, 22, 29 and Dec. 6.
Tickets are $20, with a $2 discount for students with valid identification. For tickets or more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.
Directed by Brian Townsend of Dearborn, the show features Livonia residents Paul Abbott as musical director and Jenny McPherson as choreographer.
Set in 1954, “White Christmas” follows two former army buddies who team up with a sister act to save their former general’s ski lodge when it falls on hard times. Romance, misunderstandings and mischief, mixed with memorable song and dance numbers, make the show a great way to kick off the holiday season.
Townsend said “White Christmas” is a classic holiday tale.
“It’s just such a wonderful story about people coming together and helping each other out in ways that they don’t really realize, and how each of us has a gift to share whether we know it or not,” Townsend said. “That is kind of the crux of the story, and along the way there are a lot of comical complications, some romantic misunderstandings, and stories that get twisted up.”
He said the show is filled with fantastic Irving Berlin songs, including ones that weren’t in the movie.
“Every time someone opens their mouth and sings you’re going to go, ‘Oh! That number – I had no idea,’” Townsend said. “I mean, Irving Berlin wrote everything, and it is such a wonderful album of his music.”
He said in addition to “White Christmas” being a great way for people to kick off the holidays, it’s wonderfully nostalgic.
“Even if you didn’t live at that time, it speaks to a better time,” Townsend said. “A tradition that people look forward to when it comes to the holidays.”
Townsend said the show is family-friendly, humorous, and has touching moments.
“There is some inherent sweetness to this story that will certainly make you feel good and will put a song in you,” he said. “I defy anybody to walk away without singing one of these songs as they are leaving the theater.”
Denise Kowalewski-Tucker of Livonia, who plays Martha Watson, who helps run the lodge, said when she read the play while on the Guild’s script committee, she fell in love with the role.
“It’s one of the best written parts that I ever have read,” Kowaleski-Tucker said. “She is an ex-Broadway star, and so when they bring the show to town to save the inn, she wants to do everything she can to get on that stage.”
Kowalewski-Tucker said since the Rockettes are no longer in Detroit, “White Christmas” provides a great alternative.
“It is a feel-good musical comedy, just like the old days, like the variety shows used to be,” Kowalewski-Tucker said. “It’s going to get you in the holiday spirit, and it’s wonderful to bring the whole family.”
Jamie Paschke, 11, of Dearborn Heights, who plays Susan Waverly, the general’s granddaughter, said she wanted to play Susan because they share many personality traits.
“We’re wise beyond our years, we deeply care about our grandparents, and we love performing, obviously,” Paschke said. “I just felt a really deep connection with her. I love to be involved with all the shows here.”
Paschke said the show has amazing numbers.
“You’re going to leave the show feeling like Christmas,” Paschke said. “Everyone’s going to enjoy it.”
Carissa Madley of Redford Township, who plays Judy Haynes, said the classic song and dance numbers attracted her to the show.
While she enjoys many of the numbers in the show, Madley said “Sisters” is her vocal favorite, and the two songs she dances in, “I Love a Piano,” and “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” are also favorites.
Madley said this is the first time show costumes have been made for her specifically.
“I get to wear many different costumes,” Madley said. “I feel very privileged to be able to look so different and elegant. I love the fifties. It is a beautiful time period. It’s nice to see the costuming reflect that style.”
Madley said she encourages people to see “White Christmas” because it is the product of many talented people working onstage and off, and it is filled with holiday spirit.
“With so many fantastic songs, and with a lot of really wonderful, memorable parts of the play, they can’t find a part that would not interest them,” Madley said.
The cast also includes Dearborn residents Lindel Salow and Greg Phillip Viscomi as Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, respectively, and Kathleen Duffy of Royal Oak as Betty Haynes.
Other Dearborn cast members include David Wood as General Waverly, Paul Bruce as Ralph Sheldrake, and Meg Kisch as Rhoda, with Juliette Abbott of Livonia as Rita.
The ensemble includes Tom Sparrow of Allen Park; Dearborn residents Trevor Berry, Diane Cliff, Allison Crawford, Melissa Foster, Katie Garber, Katelyn Harrison, Casey Irwin, Maddie Kaplan, Adam Lynch and Ashley Youngheim; Amanda Chatila of Dearborn Heights; Anneka Hernandez of Melvindale; Alexis Mosley of Riverview; and Tim Carney and Jeff Lokken of Livonia.
HILBERRY’S “THE GREAT GATSBY” DAZZLES
Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre captures the glamour and the decadence of the Roaring Twenties in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” adapted for the stage by Simon Levy.
The show runs in rotating repertory through Jan. 9, with school matinees running through the end of March. For show times and tickets, call 313-577-2972 or go to hilberry1.com.
The costumes, designed by associate professor of theatre and costume design John Woodland, dazzle with glitzy shine, worn by the characters to impress and trumpet status, capturing the era characterized by hedonistic excess, and fueled by bootleg booze, and a desire on the part of the men to forget the horrors of WWI.
Sarah Pearline, assistant professor of set design, created a beautiful set, streamlined and versatile, with a car seat that cleverly pops up from a stage platform. She uses an upstage arc of screens to capture ever-changing image projections of water, the Gatsby’s estate in West Egg, the Buchanan estate in East Egg, and both the beautiful and ugly sides of the social divide. Pearline’s design includes a subtle hint of Art Deco, which gives it an elegant air.
Nick Carraway, played by Michael Manocchio, serves as the play’s narrator, mirroring the novel, and employing some of its memorable lines. We see both the exhilaration and moral carelessness through his bedrock Midwestern filter.
Manocchio is superb as Carraway, waxing philosophic as he watches the lives around him spin giddily into hedonistic celebration, while observing its downside when the characters and the story face the inevitable consequences.
Santino Craven plays his debut romantic lead on the Hilberry stage as Jay Gatsby, an enigmatic man whose past is as tangled as the web he weaves. He cleans up nicely from the rougher roles he played last year, and parlays his smoldering gaze into a mesmerizing allure.
Devri Chism plays Daisy Buchanan with a mixture of noisy inebriation and quiet desperation – one moment loud and devil-may-care, the next scarily still. She captures the spirit of a woman scorned who decides to follow her husband’s philandering path, though Daisy, unlike her wayward spouse, seems more driven by her heart than her libido.
Michael Phillip Thomas as Tom Buchanan personifies the control freak you love to hate, while Breayre Tender brings a cool, aloft style to the role of Jordan Baker, the woman golfer who toys with Carraway.
Tiffany Michelle Thompson captures the raw edged energy of lusty but lower class Myrtle Wilson, while Ernest Bentley plays her cuckolded husband George Wilson with a convincingly blind eye until his repressed passion erupts in a murderous rage.
Others in the colorful cast include Brandon A. Wright as Gatsby’s advisor Meyer Wolfsheim, Mary Sansone as tipsy Lucille McKee, Kyle Mitchell Johnson as party boy Chester McKee, Wesley Cady as a servant, Mrs. Michaelis, and Cody Robison as a policeman.
BONSTELLE THEATRE PRESENTS “JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH”
Wayne State University opens Roald Dahl’s “James and Giant Peach,” adapted for the stage by David Wood, Nov. 13 for a two-weekend run at the undergraduate Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward in Detroit.
Show times are 7 p.m. Nov. 13, 14, 20 and 21, and 2 p.m. Nov. 15 and 22. For tickets, call 313-577-2972 or go to bonstelle1.com.
The family-friendly story follows James into a land of spiders, earthworms, and one giant peach.
The cast includes Joseph Paul Nix as James, Pierce King as Grasshopper, Keira Elyse Schmitt as Spider, Bradley Smith as Centipede, Michaella Mallett as Lady Bird, Matt Paciorkowski as Earthworm, and Gaia Klotz and Stephanie Stoiko as Spiker and Sponge.
The ensemble includes Katherine Akers, Katelyn Battendorf, John Brenner, Anne Busse, Josue Camarena, Joe Gaskill, Timothy Hiemstra, Kevin Keller, Kate Martinez and Kayla Rodriguez.
RINGWALD PRESENTS “A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE”
The Ringwald Theatre presents Tennesee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” Nov. 13 to Dec. 6 at the theatre, 22742 Woodward in Ferndale.
Show times are 8 p.m. Nov. 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28 and Dec. 4 and 5, and 3 p.m. Nov. 15, 22, 29 and Dec. 6. For tickets, call 248-545-5545 or go to theringwald.com/tickets.
Blanche DuBois plays a dangerous cat and mouse game with her sister Stella’s rough-edged husband, Stanley Kowalski, in post WWII New Orleans, setting the stage for a dramatic and tragic showdown.
The cast includes Jamie Warrow, Meredith Deighton, Michael Lopetrone, Brandy Joe Plambeck, Keith Kalinowski, Lauren Bickers, Justino Solis, Mona Lucius and Greg Ettleman.