Defying the pervasive gray of January, local theaters are lighting up area stages with talent and color as Trenton’s Open Book Theater Company performs “Every Brilliant Thing” Jan. 19 to Feb. 11, the Dearborn Youth Theater presents “Little Shop of Horrors” Jan. 26 to 28 and Divine Child Elementary School presents “The Sound of Music” Jan. 19 to 21 in the Divine Child High School auditorium.
OBTC PRESENTS ‘EVERY BRILLIANT THING’
Trenton’s Open Book Theatre Company presents Duncan MacMillan and Jonny Donahoe’s exceptional coming-of-age play “Every Brilliant Thing” Jan. 19 to Feb. 11, featuring actor Stebert Davenport.
When a young boy’s mother is struggling with depression, he creates a list of all the wonderful things in the world, from ice cream to staying up late to watch television. As the boy grows, he learns that hope and happiness can be found in life’s everyday miracles.
Artistic Director Krista Schafer said she has loved the play since she first read it six years ago.
“It’s interactive in a way I’ve never seen in a theater before,” she said. “When audience members arrive, they’ll be given part of the list of ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ and will get a chance to read their item out loud during the performance.”
Schafer said audience members will also be asked to add their own “brilliant things” to the list.
She said the story is “gentle, funny and sweet.”
“It’s been smartly crafted to bring the audience along for the ride,” Schafer said. “We all have stories of sadness and joy intertwined, and we can all relate to being lifted up by the brilliant things around us.”
She said director Kat Walsh and actor Stebert Davenport were part of a limited run of the show last year at the Ann Arbor Civic Theater, and after seeing it, Schafer asked them to bring the show to Open Book.
“The show is already very malleable, changing with the energy each audience brings,” she said. “We have also reimagined our space.”
Schafer said the risers have been cleared out and the seats are arranged in a large circle.
“Before and after the show audience members can wander the space and interact with the items, and share their own brilliant things,” she said.
Schafer said the show is moving but not depressing, and not sugar-coated but hopeful.
“It can be hard to convince folks of that,” she said. “It’s about a man who started a list of ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ when he was a boy and his mom tried to commit suicide. He wanted her to see that life was worth living.”
Director Walsh said the Japanese art of kintsugi, which repairs broken pottery with gold, accentuating the cracks, served as a focal point when she embarked on this project.
“It’s reparative, it’s generative,” she said. “We all have shadow sides that we struggle with – I certainly have mine. Kintsugi taught me to honor the gifts borne of my anxiety.”
Walsh said she is attuned to the needs of others, gives love freely, and works to create safe, secure environments where people can be themselves.
“‘Every Brilliant Thing’ celebrates our humanity and encourages us to embrace the dark with the light by being fully present to the brilliance of the moment,” she said.
Sound designer Matthew Steward said he is excited to increase the immersive effect of the show’s sonic memories.
“The show is very poignant in its nature,” he said. “It challenges the viewer to find hope and humor within one of the darkest areas of the human psyche.”
The show runs 8 p.m. Jan. 19, 20, 26 and 27 and Feb. 2, 3, 9 and 10, and 2 p.m. Jan. 21 and 28 and Feb. 4 and 11 at the theater, 1621 West Road in Trenton. Masks are required at the Jan. 27 and 28 performances.
Tickets are $35 for opening night, with other performances $30 for general admission, $25 for seniors and $15 for students.
To order, call 734-288-7753 or go to openbooktheatrecompany.net.
DEARBORN YOUTH THEATER PRESENTS ‘LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS’
The “mean green mother from outer space” takes over the Guido Theater stage the last weekend in January to reveal what happens when you feed a greedy plant, as the talented Dearborn Youth Theater presents the Howard Ashman musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Director Rashid Baydoun said “Little Shop of Horrors” is an exciting musical for him to bring to life.
“This show offers a rich tapestry of elements, from its darkly comic storyline to its soulful music and intricate character dynamics,” he said. “It’s a production that challenges both the cast and crew, and provides an ideal launch for our adult theater program, allowing us to showcase a diverse range of talents and technical skills.”
Baydoun said each scene captures the right mix of humor and horror.
“The creative process creates a vivid and immersive world,” he said. “I hope audiences leave buzzing about the dynamic performances, the stunning visual and musical elements and the seamless integration of puppetry into the narrative.”
Fay Bazzi, who plays the ditzy Audrey, said the show is hilarious while capturing the essence of what motivates people.
“The show encapsulates the essence we face in life: greed, love, twisted motives and confusion on how we feel about ourselves,” she said.
Mahdi Osseili, who plays her love interest, Seymour, said the show is unique and one that people won’t want to pass up.
He said his biggest challenge is conveying his character’s subtle descent into madness and guilt from his original goofy and innocent persona.
“Blood, love, family, wealth and poor choices make this a fantastic cult classic musical one simply can’t pass up,” he said. “For me, the take away is to be true to yourself and not the expectations of others. Also, don’t feed the plants.”
Ali Fawaz, who plays flower shop owner Mr. Mushnik, said it’s been fun developing his conniving character, while finding the right voice for the character was his greatest challenge.
“‘Little Shop’ is such a fun show,” he said. “It’s impossible to watch it without crying and laughing, and the plants look awesome.”
Carl Littlejohn, who gives a voice to Audrey II, said creating the plant’s evil laugh has been fun, while developing the plant’s iconic voice has been challenging part of bring “Little Shop of Horrors” to life.
“It’s a classic, and our interpretation of the show shall be a treat to all,” he said. “I get to reach new limits while being a voice in the shadows waiting to strike.”
Adam El-Zein, who plays the evil dentist Orin Scrivello, said it’s challenging to stay grounded why playing such a psychotic character.
“Orin is the most outlandish, and trying to not go too off the wall with a motorcycle dentist is quite the challenge,” he said.
El-Zein said Orin has many different laughs, each of which conveys a different meaning.
“Trying to find variation from crazy to mild has been a great time,” he said. “I hope the audience picks up on the nuance of it all.”
El-Zein said Orin is true to himself and doesn’t care what other people think of him.
“I don’t relate to Orin in the slightest, but I want his confidence, and I want to feel as comfortable in my own skin as him,” he said. “That, and don’t take nitrous oxide, is the only take-away from Orin.”
El-Zein said the show balances comedy with serious subjects like no other, and is an iconic part of our pop culture.
“If you don’t come to see this show, you’re missing out on an experience like no other,” he said.
The show runs 7 p.m. Jan. 26 and 27, with a 2 p.m. Jan. 28 matinee at the Guido Theater in the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Avenue in Dearborn.
Tickets are $22, and are available at dearborntheater.com.
DIVINE CHILD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRESENTS ‘THE SOUND OF MUSIC’
The auditorium of Divine Child High School will be alive with “The Sound of Music” as the elementary school presents the musical at 7 p.m. Jan. 19 and 20 and 2 p.m. Jan. 20 and 21 at the theater, 1001 N. Silvery Lane in Dearborn.
Tickets are $10 and are available at dchstheater.ludus.com.