Ethel Merman tribute set at Downriver Town Hall

By Evelyn Cairns
Klea Blackhurst, singer, actress, writer, will pay tribute to the legendary Ethel Merman in a concert titled “Everything the Traffic Will Allow.”

The concert is slated for 11 a.m. Jan. 13 at Crystal Gardens, 16703 Fort St., Southgate. Doors will open at 10 a.m.

The show was named one of the top 10 Theatrical Treasures & Pleasures by the Austin Chronicle; one of the top 10 show albums of 2002 by Talking; and was the recipient of the inaugural Special Achievement Award from TimeOut magazine.

Not only is Blackhurst known for her extraordinary singing voice, she also is recognized for her humor and ebullience.

“Ethel Merman embodies the music, the legend and the style I was practically weaned on and that I longed to express as a performer,” Blackhurst says.

“Once I was old enough to realize the full impact of Merman’s talents on the Broadway stage, I kept her close to my heart and championed everything about her (including) her sense of comedy.”

Blackhurst has appeared in off-Broadway roles including “Bingo,” “Red Hot and Blue,” “Anything Goes,” “Radio Girls” and “By Jupiter.”

Among her television and radio credits are appearances on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “Sesame Street,” “Law and Order: SVU” and “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Additional programs in the 2011 Town Hall series are scheduled for Feb. 10, when Colonel Matthew Bogdanos will talk about recovering the world’s greatest antiquities in six countries, and March 10, when the speaker will be Gina Barreca, feminist humor maven.

For more information about the series or purchasing individual tickets, call (734) 783-9224.

Chamber plans award program
The Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber has scheduled its annual passing-of-the-gavel and awards ceremony for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Downriver Italian American Hall.

Jeff Jones of Apex Systems, outgoing chairman of the chamber, will pass the gavel to Yvette Pugh of AT&T.

Two individuals and two businesses will receive awards in the categories of Corporate Citizen, Community Service, Image and Greening Downriver.

Tickets, $15, include hors d’oeuvres and refreshments. For reservations, call (734) 284-6000. The Italian American Hall will host the event. The hall is at 646 Biddle (north of Goddard), in Wyandotte.

Hanna works are on display
A visual-arts exhibition featuring paintings by Matthew Hanna is on display in the art gallery at the Heinz C. Prechter Educational and Performing Arts Center on the Downriver Campus of Wayne County Community College, in Taylor.

Hanna’s works are considered reminiscent of those of post-impressionists or German expressionists.

There is no charge for admission. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

Downriver Idol auditions slated
Auditions for the Southern Great Lakes Symphony Downriver Idol contest will be conducted as follows, according to an orchestra spokesman:

Jan. 7 — 7 to 9 p.m., Woodhaven Best Western, 21700 West Road.

Jan. 8 — 2 to 4 p.m., Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church, 7925 Horsemill.
Jan. 9 — 2 to 4 p.m., Allen Park Presbyterian Church, 7101 Park.

A $5 registration fee is required for the 3-minute auditions. Contestants must be at 18 years old or have a parent’s or guardian’s permission to participate. Pianos will be provided at the two church locations.

Semifinalists will be announced on Jan. 14 and will perform for an audience of approximately 500 at the Flat Rock Community Auditorium at 7 p.m. Jan. 28.

Three finalists will appear with the SGLS at a Feb. 27 concert at the auditorium. The winner will be selected by the audience and will perform as soloist at a future contest with the orchestra.

Additional information is available by calling (734) 246-2890 or going to