By royal decree: “The King and I” graces Dearborn Heights summer stage

Photos by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Paul Abbott (left) of Allen Park plays the King of Siam and Jodie LaGuire (right) of Inkster portrays Anna Leowens in the Dearborn Heights Civic Theatre production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The King and I.” The show, which opened Friday, runs through Aug. 14, with 7:30 p.m. performances on Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. Teen actors will perform Aug. 8 and 13. The theater is at the Berwyn Center, 26155 Richardson in Dearborn Heights. For more information, go to or the group’s Facebook page.

By Sue Suchyta
The sounds of Siam filled the air Friday as the Dearborn Heights Civic Theatre launched their summer show, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I.”

The family favorite offered more than just a large cast of kids: it gave select teens a chance to work with adult mentors in dual cast lead roles.

The teen leads will be featured Aug. 8 and 13.

The show, which opened Friday, runs through Aug. 14, with 7:30 p.m. performances on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees.

Kristin Curle of Novi directed the production, and deserves praise for the patience required to successfully pull off a summer show – especially one with a large youth cast.

Paul Abbott of Allen Park, the music director, takes to the stage as the King, showing he can pull off what he so often prods his performers to do.

He and Jodie LaGuire of Inkster, as Anna Leowens, personify the original power couple. In addition to their appealing acting, they capture the longstanding tension between East and West as well as the romantic tension that defies international boundaries.

Both brought the characters convincingly to life, and drew us into the familiar story.

Anna and the King embody the battle of the sexes during a time when feminine compassion was seen as a weakness, and male machisimo drove military might. Into the fray add science when the West was pushing its boundaries amidst the industrial revolution, and the East was feeling the sting of Western imperialism.

Leah Paige Cooley of Taylor is wonderful as Lady Thiang, the unofficial first lady. The Dearborn Heights Civic Theatre has nurtured Cooley’s talent: Her voice is both rich and strong, and her characterization intense and believable.

Julienne Kobylasz of Flat Rock is a feisty and sympathetic Tuptim. She shines during the “Small House of Uncle Thomas” play within a play.

Paul Keifer of Royal Oak lends his strong singing voice to the role of Lun Tha and is credited with the choreography.

Karim Hazime of Dearborn Heights, as Prince Chulalongkorn, and Kendall Manthei of Lincoln Park as Louise Leowens, show that talent defies age in the cast as they shine in their respective roles.

Kendall was cast as a daughter to Anna, instead of a boy in the traditional son role, adding another interesting layer of feminism to the show – in addition to opening up another strong part for a young teen actress.

The talented young ensemble that plays the royal children makes the show fun, delightful and heartwarming. It’s refreshing to see kids leave their electronics behind and take to the stage with just their wits and greasepaint.

Ben Timpf, a freshman at Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn, is the teen who will play the part of the King of Siam Aug. 8 and 13.

Olivia Butler, from Wayne, is the dual cast teen who portrays Anna.

Marie Wolski, a Dearborn High School sophomore, will portray Lady Thiang, while Danielle Paul, a seventh-grader at Canton Charter Academy of Plymouth, will play Tuptim.

Westley Montgomery, a sophomore at Dearborn High School will play Lun Tha.

Children in the ensemble include Dearborn residents Katie Wollard; Camille Charara, a junior, and Mary Charara, a freshman at Dearborn High in School; 11-year-old Allie Czarniecki; 6-year-old Ava Moschet; Sarah Randall, a sixth-grader at Bryant Middle School; Kyle Tillman, a sophomore at Dearborn High School and Adrienne Walling.

Dearborn Heights children in the cast include Luke Adamkiewicz, an 8-year-old third-grader at St. Sebastian School; 5-year-old Hussein Baiz; Grace Bertucci, a fifth-grader, Lia Bertucci, a seventh-grader, and Christina Bertucci, a first-grader at Divine Child School in Dearborn.

Also from Dearborn Heights are 10-year-old Jessie Collins and 8-year-old Mary Collins; Dominic Cugliari; Kristin Davis, an eighth-grader at Riverside Middle School; and Rhiannon Flores, a fifth-grader, Olivia Flores, a third-grader, and Julianna Flores, a kindergartner at Bedford Elementary School.

Other Dearborn Heights children in the cast include Alina Hazime, a 6-year-old first-grader at Highview Elementary, Nicole Jennings, a freshman at Divine Child High School in Dearborn; and Joseph Lennon, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at St. Sebastian School.

Other young Dearborn Heights cast member include 9-year-old Adam Lesniak, 7-year-olds Claire and Victoria Lesniak, 11-year-old Hope Lesniak, and 13-year-old Mary Lesniak.

Also from Dearborn Heights are Avery Moody, a 7-year-old third-grader, and Alexandra Moody, a 5-year-old first-grader, both at Highview Elementary; 8-year-old Emily Walker and 13-year-old Meghan Walker; and 9-year-old Elena Welker.

Other children in the cast include Alayna Kondraciuk of Garden City; Kiah Manthei of Lincoln Park, a freshman at Carlson High School in Gibraltar; and Arianna and Meadow Ross of Livonia.

Carrie Caruthers, a 13-year-old from of Redford; Brynn Brown, a 12-year-old from Romulus; and 6-year-old Aiden Butler, 12-year-old Nathaniel Butler, and 14-year-old Philip Butler of Wayne also are in the cast.

Westland 5-year-old Bailey Fallows, a first-grader at Elliott Elementary School, and 3-year Bryce Fallows are also in the show, as are Danielle Hayes, a freshman at Churchill High School in Livonia, and Veronica Hays, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Cooper Elementary School in Livonia.

Clara Albright of Wyandotte, a junior at Riverview High School, is also in the cast.

The Dearborn Heights Civic Theatre makes its home at the Berwyn Center, 26155 Richardson. For more information, go to or the group’s Facebook page.