As the cooler Michigan weather begins to settle in, things are heating up in lakes area high schools as theater departments begin putting on their fall productions — both plays and musicals ranging from humorous murder mysteries to modernized interpretations of Shakespeare, and from serious to slapstick.
And it’s not just high school students getting in on the act. Area schools are also utilizing younger talent from elementary and middle schools to make their plays and musicals come to life.
What follows is a rundown of the fall theater productions that will be performed in the upcoming weeks at the lakes area high schools.
Walled Lake Central keeping it light and silly
A hypochondriac prince (Max Ronald), an evil witch (Breanna Anderson), and three princesses cursed to be oranges (Maren Kupper, Devinne Fackelman, Teresa Bitner) are all characters in Hillary DePiano’s “The Love of Three Oranges,” which will be performed by Walled Lake Central High School’s Drama Department this fall.
Based on an Italian fairy tale, it is a play about laughter, love, and friendship.
Of course, no fairy tale would be complete without two main components: the triumph of good over evil and a happily-ever-after ending — both of which are included.
“People should come see the show as it will provide an evening of silly light-heartedness and lots of belly laughs,” said Drama Department Director Elizabeth Rexroat.
After performing “The Crucible” last year, Rexroat decided it was time for a comedy.
“I think in four-year cycles as to the type of drama my students have been able to participate in,” she said. “The kids in this cycle had not done a real light, airy piece, so I knew I wanted to do a commedia del arte style piece which allows not only for the history of stock characters to be taught, but also has the freedom to interact with the audience. Both of these are good for drama students to have experience in.”
Rexroat highlights the audience interaction as one of the reasons to come to the show.
“The house lights never fully go down, so there is a chance that someone might find themselves as part of the show,” she said. “The kids have really gotten into the spirit of the show and have been having a great time expanding on the comedy already outlined in the script.”
Senior Skyler Tarnas, who plays one of the lead characters, is enjoying the show.
“I love being able to take on a different character and being able to run with it. I get to be a narrator who is more a part of the show than a narrator should be. This show has definitely shown me a crazier part of myself.”
Meanwhile, senior Paige Renner, who plays the unionized demon Farfarello, appreciates the friendships she makes in her theater family.
“I love being in theater because the bonds you make with other actors makes you like family,” she said.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2, and 3 with tickets priced at $9 for adults and $8 for senior citizens and students.
Tickets will go on sale Nov. 21 and can be ordered by calling 248-956-4750 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Murder mystery-comedy within a comedy at Walled Lake Northern
For those who enjoy their murder mysteries with a side of laughter, Daniel O’Donnell’s “Murder by Indecision” may be just your cup of tea, since it’s a murder mystery-comedy within a comedy set to take stage at the hands of talented Walled Lake Northern High School thespians.
Agatha Crispy (Paige Goetz), a well-known mystery playwright, is having difficulties writing her newest masterpiece because she’s become elderly and a bit feeble. As she writes the play, her characters come to life on stage — acting what she has written. However, as Agatha Crispy continues to struggle with the manuscript and stops for a spot of tea, the characters begin to take on a life of their own
“It’s basically a take off on an Agatha Christie mystery,” said Joe Lannen, the play’s director. “The theme of the play switches from her writing what the characters perform to the characters taking on a life of their own when she stops. At that point, they start discussing the play — the difficulties with it and how they need to help her finish the play. They try to find ways to influence the play and they do.”
Of the characters themselves, many are recognizable as spoofs of other characters, including Miss Maple (Adrianne Summerhill) and Inspector Dryfus (Eric Colwell).
“It’s a great show. We have very talented student actors. It’s a very funny play with a surprise ending,” Lannen said.
The student cast also loves the play.
“I really like this one. It’s really awesome,” said student assistant director Jake House.
Matt Szakal, who plays William Greedly, said his favorite part comes in the first scene of the second act “because that’s when everything starts to unveil itself.”
With a roster of 17 actors and actresses, Lannen said it’s quite a big cast for a non-musical play.
“I’ve got a great cast. They did the first read-through of the play, and the reaction was really good.”
The big cast also inspires a “family” atmosphere, according to the students.
“These are very good and talented actors, and good people in general,” said Jhayla Mosley, who plays Gwen Hubbard.
Added Rachel Jenkin, who plays Ruth Less, “It’s also a nice chance for the freshman to get to know people and upperclassmen in the drama department.”
Northern students will be performing the play Nov. 17, 18, and 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $6.95 and are available at the door.
Walled Lake Western takes on its greatest challenge
Come enjoy the “Music of the Night” as Walled Lake Western High School performs the longest-running show in Broadway history: “The Phantom of the Opera.”
For those unfamiliar with the wildly successful Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, here’s a brief synopsis: “Far beneath the majesty and splendor of the Paris Opera House, hides the Phantom (senior Collin Kuss) in a shadowy existence. Shamed by his physical appearance and feared by all, the love he holds for his beautiful protege Christine Daaé (junior Kelsey Murphy) is so strong that even her heart cannot resist.”
While this musical may be the biggest challenge Western’s Drama Department has taken on, director Greg Cleveland said they love challenges.
“Our creative team loves to give our students a chance at an ‘almost Broadway’ kind of experience. This is certainly that,” he said.
And the students appreciate the experience.
“It’s exciting to round out my on-stage career with doing a major role in a major Broadway show like ‘Phantom,’” said senior Jack Philipson, who plays Raoul.
Added castmate Jillian Wright, a junior: “Being in ‘Phantom’ takes a lot of commitment and hard work, but it’s so much fun, and just you wait — it’ll be amazing.”
To tackle the challenge, much work was put in all summer by both the creative team and the students, many of whom worked on their vocal and acting skills. The cast includes 55 members and 25 orchestra players.
“Participating in the musical is such a great experience. The people that I have met, and the memories I have made, will stay with me forever,” said junior Rachel Zack.
Added senior Jerrie Young: “I’m the happiest when I’m on stage, showing people what I love to do — perform!”
Also playing an important part of this musical is the 20 members of the tech crew.
And Western has been having “Techapalooza Saturdays” as parents and students work on building “the over-the-top, huge set,” according to Cleveland.
“Our design team spent a day this summer with the stage manager of the Broadway production, learning the tricks of the show, and now, thanks to our many volunteer parents and students, they will see this famous Broadway show come to life,” he said. “People can spend lots of money seeing the Broadway production, or they can come to Walled Lake Western and see a group of students passioned by this musical theater project. The adult designers and staff are giving them opportunities to experience something similar to Broadway. A boat floating across a foggy pond, lit candles coming out of the floor in the Phantom’s lair, an opera scene with a full-sized elephant, a 600-pound chandelier that comes crashing to the floor and so much more.”
Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 11 and 12, 2 p.m. on Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 and 19, and 2 p.m. on Nov. 20.
Tickets range from $14 to $20 and can be purchased at www.wlwmusical.com or by calling 248-956-4625.
All seats are reserved.
Cleveland said they sold over $2,000 in tickets the first day, and he expects to sell out all six shows.
Milford production embraces tolerance and self-acceptance
“Honk!” is a musical adaptation of the beloved Hans Christian Andersen story “The Ugly Duckling,” which embraces the message of tolerance. The musical is a family-friendly rendition, aimed primarily at children and their parents.
“We love its message of tolerance and self-acceptance,” said Megan Weeks, the production’s stage director. “It’s about finding out who you are and that sometimes it’s good to be different. It also shows how you should treat others with respect, regardless of our differences.”
In a countryside setting, Ugly is a duckling rejected by everyone except his mother because he looks different than the rest of her brood. Disillusioned and disheartened, he is lured away by a sly tom cat and embarks on a new journey of self-discovery.
The book and lyrics are by Anthony Drewe and the music is by George Stiles.
The musical takes the original story — and then recalibrates it with humor.
“There is a lot of innuendo, which is funny because it’s a children’s story,” said James Richardson, who secured the lead role of Ugly in the “Honk!” production.
“It’s funny for adults, but some of the material passes over kids’ heads,” he said.
The story also veers from the original story by infusing some unique characters.
Auditions began last May; a second round was conducted in September.
“We try and expose our kids to different types of plays,” Weeks said. “We haven’t done a children’s play since 2008 when we performed ‘Seussical.’ Maybe next year we will do a romantic musical so the kids experience another type of a production.”
The 65-member cast of “Honk!” is comprised of 42 Milford High School students, one teacher, and a mix of 23 middle and elementary school students.
“Each year, the productions seems to get bigger,” Weeks said. “This time we’re using more younger kids and that’s exciting because it sparks their interest in theater.”
The following represents the Honk! main characters cast list:
• Nancy Boyd, Ida;
• James Richardson, Ugly;
• Kaleb Reilly, Cat;
• Nate King, Drake;
• Meghan Griesbeck, Maureen;
• Kaitlyn Weickel, Queenie;
• Renee Beaudoin, Lowbutt;
• Jack Prey, Greylag;
• Emma Spadoni, Dot;
• Clayton Maxwell, Turkey;
• Rachel Carreri, Henrietta;
• Alecia Morris, Grace;
• Amelia Redding, Penny;
• Hailey Grigereit, Ma Swan;
• Curtis Schmitt, Pa Swan;
• Nicollette Montgomery, Magpie;
• Nikki Leonard, Snowy;
• Kryzia Garza, Pinkfoot;
• Bailey Geise, Barnacles;
• Abby Grillot, Fluffy (duckling);
• Olivia Mouradian, Beaky (duckling);
• Julia Twigg, Billy (duckling);
• Karen Braun, Downy (duckling); and
• Mr. Kynast, Bullfrog.
Richardson auditioned for the lead uncertain if he’d land the part given his lack of theater experience.
“I was in choir and wanted to expand on that in performing arts,” Richardson said. “I didn’t have theater (experience) prior, so I’m really thankful for being in the production.”
Weeks said Richardson has fit perfectly into the role.
“He’s doing a great job and has a beautiful voice,” Weeks said. “He’s a perfectionist and won’t have stage jitters because of all the performing he does with his band.”
Actors continue to perfect their craft during practice Monday through Thursday from 3 to 8 p.m.
Apart from the actors, the production requires many sets of hands to ensure its success.
“We have a great parent group and the labor is divided among everyone,” Weeks said.
Choreographer Suanne Jonna, owner of Suzanne’s Main Street Dance Center, choreographed and taught the cast dance numbers. Music Director Maryann Lambrecht oversees the pit orchestra and music, and coordinates the musicians. Weeks takes on stage direction, publicity, building and painting the set and props, with assistance from technical director Tom O’Brien. Weeks is also is in charge of costuming, a challenging task.
“I did a lot of research on the costumes,” she said. “The barnyard characters are not dressed like animals. Rather, they are intended to be the essence of the animals. ”
Performances are Nov. 18 at 7 p.m., and Nov. 19 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Milford High School, located at 2380 S. Milford Road in Highland Township.
Purchases tickets online at mhsperformingarts.com for $10 per adult. Tickets are $8 for students, senior citizens and children. Tickets can also be bought at the door for $2 more per ticket.
A comedic take on Shakespeare’s plays at Lakeland
Audiences will see the works of William Shakespeare unfold in a new and interesting way by Lakeland High School students during the November performances of the “Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).”
“It’s a comedic look at all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays condensed into 90 minutes,” said Cyndi Dailey, the show’s producer.
Fast-paced and funny, the play is a mix of pratfalls, puns, willful mis-readings of names and dialogue.
The play is an eclectic creation. Heroes and villains MacBeth and McDuff take the spotlight, and the second half is a spin on “Hamlet.”
For a fresh and contemporary perspective, “Othello” will be performed in rap form, and there will also be a scene from “Romeo and Juliet.”
“We will also sprinkle different charters into the production such as ‘King Lear,’ ‘Henry VIII,’ and ‘(The Life and Death of) King John,’” Dailey said. “There are sword fights, a cooking show, a football game and lots and lots of death scenes taking place.”
Currently the 16-member cast is practicing three times a week over a 9-week period in preparation. Cast members include: Blaine Mizer; Trent Henry; Riley Day; Sarah Fitzgerald; Isabella Busby-Priest; Adriana Hatchard; Alayna Patten; Cristina Brewer; Gabi Kirsh; Hannah Day; Katie Loder; Emily Sculthorpe; McKenzie Straub; Samuel Newton; Tristan Raak; and Whitney Wagner.
This is Mizer’s fourth production with the theater group, and this time around, he plays one of five leads. Although he plays two female roles, he views it as a challenge rather than an affront to his masculinity.
“I play Ophelia and Juliet — it’s hilarious,” he said. “I wear two wigs and two dresses, and must speak in falsetto the whole time, but I don’t mind. The whole thing is pretty funny, and one of the funnier shows I’ve been in.”
Lakeland Players Community Theater member Mike Brody is the director. Dailey and Julie O’Brien are producers.
Tickets are $10 at the door or they can be purchased online by visiting www.lakelandhs.com via the pay schools account.
Performances are Friday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. A matinee will be held on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. at the Lakeland Center for Performing Arts located at 1630 Bogie Lake Road in White Lake.
Two West Bloomfield casts performing classic dark comedy
West Bloomfield High School students will be performing in the comedic play, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” which will take place on Thursday, Nov. 3, Friday, Nov. 4 and Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m.
An additional matinee will be on Nov. 5 at 2 p.m.
All tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at the school’s theatre department website, wbhstheatre.com, or by calling Karen Brody at 248-865-6720.
The play is a dark comedy written in 1939 by American playwright Joseph Kesserling. It follows the story of Morimer Brewster, a drama critic in Brooklyn as he ponders marriage while dealing with his peculiar family.
According to the synopsis provided by West Bloomfield High School, “The Brewster sisters exist as the epitome of etiquette and charm. Though childless themselves, they’ve spent their lives doting on their beloved nephews, contributing to numerous charities, and endeavoring to offer a little comfort and peace to as many lost souls who come upon their doorstep as they possibly can.
“Of course, even the Brewster sisters have ‘their peculiarities.’”
The play was also made into a movie in 1944 that was directed by Frank Capra and starred Cary Grant.
Patrons will have the chance to see two separate casts perform as the play was double-casted because of the size of the drama department.
“We’ve never limited the number of kids who wanted to act,” said Micah Green, the school’s theater arts program director and theatre arts instructor. “It’s an absolute classic comedy that has held up over the years and is every bit as much as it was in the 1940s when it started.”
Auditions for the production began in the third week of September and the students are in their fifth week of rehearsing.
Each cast will have two performances, with the “J” cast performing on the evenings of Nov. 3 and Nov. 5, while the “M” cast will perform on the evening of Nov. 4 and in the matinee on Nov. 5.
The role of Mortimer Brewster will be played by Brian Baylor and Jonathan Israilov while Aunt Abby Brewster will be played by Kendall Cafaro and Gabriel Kadian.
Jonathan Brewster will be played by Tyler Ekizian and Ari Zucker while Aunt Martha Brewster will be played by Meghan Jolliffe and Josie Kirsch.
Dr. Herman Einstein will be played by Alison Hacker and Olivia VonOpel while Elaine Harper Brewster will be played by Rose Filipp and Lauren Sallen.
Teddy Brewster will be played by Zach Jirik and Zach Levine, while Officer Patrick O’Hara will be played by Jason Pauli and Adam Rozenberg.
West Bloomfield High will also be putting on a student-directed production of “Snow White” for children with a daytime performance on Dec. 3 and a public performance on Dec. 4.
Kettering musical chosen with 50th anniversary in mind
Kettering is presenting its version of the hit musical “Grease” at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17, 18 and 19.
Ticket prices are $8 for students and seniors and $10 for all others. Tickets can be purchased online at www.waterford.k12.mi.us/kettering/drama_club.
“‘Grease’ was chosen in honor of Waterford Kettering’s 50th anniversary and it was the first musical performed in our existing Performing Arts Center,” said Chris Tyle, the play’s director and Kettering’s theater instructor. “In terms of the production, our performing arts department here at Kettering has worked collaboratively to bring this popular show to life.”
Tyle said the show’s crew includes himself along with Choir Director Michelle Harness, Band Director Scott Adkins, Choreographer Allison Ritter, who is also a language arts teacher at Kettering, and Technical Director Jason Pratt.
“We have also had tremendous support from Mike Harness’ (Michelle Harness’ husband) set design and construction, as well as our costume crew lead by parents Mary Morgan and Joan Sutherland,” Tyle said.
“We are expecting a strong turnout for all performances due to the familiarity of the production and the community support Waterford has provided for previous productions at Kettering, especially musicals.”
“Grease” is a 1971 musical centered around Rydell High School in 1959. It traverses the trials and tribulations of a group of teenagers, whether those are love or cars.
The musical was made into a movie in 1978 starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
The role of Danny Zuko, made famous by Travolta, will be played by junior Danny Hawkins.
“It’s going to be one of the most fun things I’ve ever done,” Hawkins said. “It’s an honor and I was speechless when I was chosen.”
Maggie Morgan, a junior, will play the role of Sandy.
“It’s always hard to play that role that everyone knows. You want to put yourself into it and still be recognizable,” Morgan said. “I was just auditioning for any role in the play, but I was excited about Sandy.”
The Pink Ladies are rounded out by Frenchy (Madeline Ike), Jan (Taylor Buda), Marty (Maddy McCafferty) and Rizzo (Abi Leitch). The T-Birds consist of Doody (Jacob Sams), Kenickie (Bradley Smith), Roger (Kyle Gundlach) and Sonny (Joey Nadon), along with Danny.
Mott students working on February production
Waterford Mott students performed the play “Don’t Mention My Name,” Thursday, Oct. 20 through Saturday, Oct. 22.
The cast members included Justice Ewing, Ashley Acord, Emily Strub, Jacob Johnston, Kylie Stidham, Arynne Loebl, Gabe Caleca and Destiny Brendt.
Mott will also perform the musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” in February.
Our Lady presents retelling of Dickens classic in December
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes will present its rendition of “Humbug High” on Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. in the Our Lady Theater.
Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children.
“Humbug High” is a retelling of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” in a high school setting with the main character of Eddie Scrooge at age 17.