Two classic love stories will soon shine on local stages, one with a happy ending, and one without, as the Dearborn Youth Theater presents Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and both Shakespeare Royal Oak and Melvindale High School’s students and alumni present Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
DEARBORN YOUTH THEATER PRESENTS DISNEY’S ‘BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’
In a “tale as old as time” the Dearborn Youth Theater, under the direction of Rashid Baydoun, presents the Disney musical “Beauty and the Beast” July 29 and 30 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.
Vanessa El-Zein is the music director, with assistant director Lisa Cronin, producer Martin Zbosnik and stage managers Jenna Kobeissi and Hailey Arfan.
Baydoun said the musical is a story about transformation.
“At its essence, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a tale of societal outsiders looking for redemption through the magic of acceptance and love,” he said. “Society causes them to question who they are and where they belong.”
Baydoun said the musical is brimming with iconic characters, soaring melodies and infectious dance numbers.
“Audiences adore this dose of fantasy and timeless tale of hope, forgiveness and love,” he said.
Baydoun said the cast of 54 young actors had about a dozen rehearsals over four weeks to bring the show to the stage.
“We are amazed by the end product,” he said. “The strength of the youth theater lies in its diversity, and I am blown away by the heights to which our actors rise, reaching new notes, doing dances and taking risks they believed impossible.”
Baydoun said the adult volunteers are an important part of the process.
“It does take a village, and we have parents building and painting set pieces and props, working on costumes, supervising kids during performances and feeding us during tech week,” he said.
Baydoun said he is happy to see his young actors on the stage instead of tied to their electronic devices, and said that as they rehearse, friendships are forged between cast members who would never have met otherwise.
“Our actors care about and support each other on a level I have not seen elsewhere,” he said. “Seeing what these young people do for each other is inspiring.”
Annie Pasque, who plays the inspiring role of Belle, said she enjoys playing such a strong character.
“There’s no need to be airy or floaty – she’s not like that,” she said. “She’s a strong, independent woman, which is really fun to play on stage.”
Pasque said the immersive show is fun to watch.
“Songs like ‘Be Our Guest’ and ‘Gaston’ are there to draw in the audience, and create a loud, colorful and bright atmosphere, which I hope the audience enjoys,” she said.
Belle’s counterpart, the Beast, is portrayed by Mahdi Osseili, who said he has had fun learning to portray the Beast’s emotions through his creature-like body language.
“Forming that clear distinction between the animal and the human side to him is exciting to play on the stage,” he said. “The Beast presents the challenge of transforming a character from tortured and frightful to loving and considerate.”
Osseili said the show has many eccentric and exciting characters.
“They truly shine on stage, and create many loveable and funny moments,” he said.
Among those characters are Adam El-Zein as Gaston and the narrator, Lilly Balino as Lefou, Ali Fawaz as Maurice, James Hansen as Monsieur D’Arque and Crony 2, and Shahad Mashi as the bookseller.
Carl Littlejohn plays Cogsworth, with Maria Saad as Lumiere, Mariam Houssami as Mrs. Potts, Chisomo Willson as Chip, Charlotte Monroe as Madame de la Grande Bouche, Sharon Adjanohoun and Sophia Beydoun as the Babettes and Laila Jumaa as the Old Beggar Woman and Enchantress.
Matt Hermen plays the Baker and Crony 1, with Mara Janke as the Candlemaker, Molly Chinery as the Flower Seller, Spencer Zbosnik as the Hat Seller and Norma Dabaja as the Tavern Master.
The La Fille de la Ville – or city girls – are played by Lily Farley, Kenzie Compton, Maysa Abouzenni and Jenelle Darwish.
Hussein Ajrouche plays the Gargoyle, with Neveen Khatib as the Laundry Lady, Marie Spadafore as Marie, Faye Bazzi as the Milkmaid, Maryanne Hubbard as the Sausage Curl Lady and Josh Dauzy as the Shepherd.
Ensemble members include Dunya Aidibi, Nadeen Alatooali, Malak Alawie, Layla Barrera, Aleena Bazzi, Maya Berry, Gabriel Eilola, Rama Fares, Yusra Ghalab, Ali Hajjhussein, Hannah Hamka, Nevaeh Harris, Liam Hassan, Aniyah Hatcher, Hanadi Kassir, Seneen Khalaf, Madison Porter and Libby Turner.
Show times are 7 p.m. July 29 and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. July 30, at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave., Dearborn. Tickets are $20, with a $2 surcharge if ordered online. To order online, go to dearborntheater.com.
MELVINDALE HIGH SCHOOL SUMMER THEATER CASTS STUDENTS AND ALUMNI IN ‘ROMEO AND JULIET’
Melvindale High School has launched a summer theater program, and will present a 90-minute version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” July 28 to 30, with both current students and alumni in the cast.
Alumna Brooklyn Little is directing the show, with alumnus Jose Acuna assistant directing and playing Lord Montague, and Ryan Long as the technical director and playing Prince Escalus.
Alumni in the cast include Diana Kasperek as Lady Montague, Brandon Hidey as Lord Capulet and Alyson Lomas as the Nurse.
The students in the cast include: From the House of Montague: Louis Diaz as Romeo, Mina Harris as Mercutio, Isidora Lucero as Benvolio and Ash Chiello as Balthasar; and from the House of Capulet: Bea Fredericks as Juliet, Peyton Mathes as Lady Capulet, Alivia Gonzalez as Peter, Onna Fredericks as Tybalt and Sierra Varga as Gregory and the apothecary.
Also in the cast are students Julian Tomsha as Friar Laurence, Jason Hamovitz as Paris and Lexi Lemon (an elementary school student) as Friar John. Student Bethany Decaire is the stage manager.
Little said that while Shakespeare can be daunting to both actors and audiences, they have sought to make the show relatable and appealing to modern audiences.
“We have set the show in an urban, lower-class area, not unlike the area in which our cast and crew have grown up,” she said. “I have adapted the script to be about 90-minutes, and I cut out everything except for the most action-packed, plot-driven parts.”
Little said she modernized the language enough to be understandable while preserving the Shakespearean style.
“We have modern costumes, street fights and a set designed to evoke the idea of an alley in Detroit,” she said. “I hope the modern, urban concept resonates with Downriver audiences, and about the importance of choosing love over hate, because you never know when it will be too late to make peace.”
Little said the alumni, who are 22 years old and younger, have been mentoring the students.
“Everyone gets along well,” she said. “I am really proud of the unity in the ensemble.”
Bea Fredericks, as Juliet, said developing friendships with the cast and crew has been one of the best parts of being in the summer show.
“I didn’t want to stop acting going into summer, and this production is perfect,” she said. “We have put so much hard work into it, and had fun at rehearsal while doing it.”
Diaz, as Romeo, said he was attracted to the opportunity to do a show that is a classic and is so beautifully written.
Onna Fredericks, as Tybalt, said that after studying “Romeo and Juliet” in school and seeing Shakespearean performances, she was excited to be in one of the Bard’s works.
Hidey, as Lord Capulet, said that while some people are intimidated by Shakespearean language, within a few days the cast felt comfortable with it.
Decaire, who is the show’s stage manager, said she hopes they move their audiences with the strong emotional impact of the show.
“We are just a bunch of drama geeks who love doing this,” she said. “We worked very hard to bring you this production and would love for people to see it.”
Acuna, who plays Lord Montague, said that while most people know the premise of “Romeo and Juliet,” the cast and crew have made this production unique.
“This cautionary tale is often overlooked by parents and guardians who negate the needs and wants of their children,” he said. “This is a tragedy with romance, and the thought of young couples taking this to be a representation of what true love looks like is frightening.”
Performances are at 7 p.m. July 28 to 30 in the Melvindale High School auditorium, 18565 Prospect St., Melvindale. Tickets are $8, or two for $15, and will be sold at the door for cash or via the Venmo app.
SHAKESPEARE ROYAL OAK PRESENTS TWO WEEKENDS OF ‘ROMEO AND JULIET’ AT STARR JAYCEE PARK
Set in a dystopian world beset by climate crisis and war, Shakespeare Royal Oak presents Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” July 28 through Aug. 7 in Starr Jaycee Park.
Set in a period absent of governmental control, warring factions fight for control of Verona. Against this bleak landscape, Romeo and Juliet dream of a better life together, defying fate and daring to fall in love despite the harsh conditions of their world.
Stephanie Buck directed the show, with combat design by Michael Brian Ogden.
The cast includes Olivia Kiefer as Juliet, Jalen Wilson-Nelem as Romeo, JM Leija as the Nurse, Ogden as Lord Capulet, Dennis Kleinsmith as Lord Montague and Alaina Whidby as Mercutio.
Princess Beyonce Jones plays the apothecary and performs the prologue speech, with Carman Cooper as the Prince, Rory Quist as Balthasar, Nick Yokum as Tybalt and Isaac Haviland as Count Paris.
Anna Marck plays Peter, with Dryden Zurawski as Benvolio, Dan Johnson (Actors’ Equity Association member) as Friar Laurence, Jowi Estava as Lady Capulet and Sam Wright as Friar John.
Show times are 8 p.m. July 28 to 30 and Aug. 4 to 6, and 3 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 7 at Starr Jaycee Park, 1301 W. 13 Mile Road, Royal Oak.
Tickets are $30, and are available online, at ShakespeareRoyalOak.com, and onsite, subject to availability. Attendees may bring blankets and chairs, with some bleacher seating available.
A fundraiser for Shakespeare Royal Oak will be held July 29, with $130 admission, which includes a pre-show reception.