Double your fun: ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at Guild, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at HFCC

Photo by Sue Suchyta


Tom Varitek (left) of Dearborn portrays the Tin Man in the Players Guild of Dearborn musical production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Also shown are Brian Townsend (second from left) of Dearborn as the Cowardly Lion, Kelley Donnelly of Canton as Dorothy and Alex Gojkov of Redford as the Scarecrow. The show runs weekends through Dec. 4, with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday performances and 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees. For more information call (313) 561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

By Sue Suchyta
If you’re looking for family fun this weekend, head to Dearborn for a double-header. the musical “The Wizard of Oz” opened its four-week run at the Players Guild of Dearborn, and Henry Ford Community College continues its Theatre for Young Audiences show “Sleeping Beauty” for one more weekend.

THEY’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD
The Guild will lift your spirits as you follow spunky Dorothy and her loyal sidekicks in the family friendly musical “The Wizard of Oz” weekends through Dec. 4 at the playhouse, 21730 Madison in Dearborn. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees. For more information, call (313) 561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

Director Bob Jones and assistant director Kim Donovan have taken a large cast in a short rehearsal period and added creative and clever characterizations. You’ll enjoy the special touches, especially in the chorus numbers, from the Munchkins to the flying monkeys.

The story of Dorothy, who is blown into a fantasy world when her own life is in crisis, offers both entertainment and lessons for adults and children.

Kelley Donnelly of Canton reminds one of Judy Garland in the role that immortalized her. Donnelly is earnest, sincere and spunky, and captures the spirit and magic of Oz in a very demanding role.

Patricia LaFramboise of Northville brings out the nurturing side of Auntie Em in a character role that is usually played too scolding and harsh. Tom Sparrow of Allen Park is believable as Uncle Henry, and later has fun being the gatekeeper for the Wizard of Oz.

The three farm hands – whose traits are later magnified in Oz – do some nice foreshadowing in the scenes that lead up to their transformation over the rainbow.

Kori Bielaniec of Livonia – who has previously played only “nice girls” – was delighted to take on the dual role of Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch. She makes the most of the part and adds subtle touches of humor for the grownups and evil cackles for the kids. She’s a hoot during her stare-down with Toto, and has fun making her character self-centered and mean in a self-serving way which audiences will enjoy, knowing her downfall will be just as entertaining. Watch carefully during the tornado scene so you won’t miss her equally uplifting exit.

Her fire-throwing wasn’t ready for Wednesday’s benefit performance, but should delight audiences once the pyrotechnics are thrown into the mix.

Dorothy’s three sidekicks – Alex Gojkov of Redford as the Scarecrow, and Dearborn residents Tom Varitek as the Tin Man and Brian Townsend as the Cowardly Lion – are a triple treat. They make a great team with Dorothy, and their entertaining and highly believable scenes make the show.

Townsend is particularly entertaining as the Lion, making the most of each line and earning well deserved laughter from the house. As a funny feline one hopes someday he will purr his way into a company of “Cats.”

Alan Ellias of Farmington Hills is fun to watch as both Professor Marvel and Wizard of Oz, the dual huckster role. Kim Elliot of Canton brings some nice touches to Glinda, the good witch role, and made the most of the clever dialogue designed to bring the wicked witch down a notch or two.

The costumes are colorful and fun to see, and keep the chorus busy with the fast changes needed to play multiple roles in rapid succession.

The orchestra tends to overpower the words of the chorus numbers at times, whether one is up front or further back in the house, something which will hopefully improve as the run progresses.

Likewise, the lighting seems unfinished and improvised, and doesn’t flatter the costumes, skin tones or sets.

The backstage fan to disperse the stage fog is also loud and distracting, even for a brief period.

Likewise, the landscape on the far wall seems like an unmade bed. The Guild, known for it stunning backdrops, missed an opportunity to make the most of a wall-sized canvas to create an amazing landscape. The yellow brick road doesn’t appear to follow perspective, and seems to be an afterthought. Neither detracts from the performance, but they aren’t up to Guild standards either.

The occasional unexpected flying is fun, and adds extra touches to watch for and enjoy.

The adult chorus receives the unsung hero award for playing countless fast-change roles and for keeping the scene changes moving quickly and on task.

The kids in Munchkin land do a great job with expressiveness and creating the illusion of a magical, mystical place in a parallel universe.

The show is family friendly, and offers plenty of surprises to make the show literally fly by.

‘SLEEPING BEAUTY’ ADDS A LITTLE HIP HOP BEAT
HFCC’s Theatre for Young Audiences will continue its daytime school matinees and weekend performances for other audiences now through Nov. 20 in Adray Auditorium in the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center on the Dearborn campus.

For tickets and more information call (313) 845-9817 or email gadzuiblinski@hfcc.edu.

Christopher Bremer directed the show, which brought out an amazing amount of talented acting in the cast.

Gerry Dzuiblinski as technical director delights the house with the colorful and imagination-inspiring set and costumes his technical team created on his watch.

The 40-minute show opens with original hip hop music and lyrics created for the show by cast member Asia Robbinson of Detroit, with choreography by cast member Joanna Graham of Westland. The contributions of the two start the show on an energetic and upbeat note.

The cast members play multiple roles, and the cast rotates for the numerous daytime school and weekend performances. If you wish to see a friend play a particular role, check with them to see when they will perform it.

The cast worked hard to make the show upbeat, energized and to engage young audiences who expect a fast pace and who appreciate interactivity.

The set is colorful, well-crafted and creates a wonderful setting for a fantasy fairytale world.

The costumes are colorful and convincing, from the frog to the fairies.

The sound crew added some great sound snipets to entertain teens and adults, adding everything from James Bond-style music to “Raiders of the Last Ark” music to entertain and tickle one’s funny bone.

The wall of sleeping zombie-like humans who guard the castle is entertaining and fell like a well-rehearsed row of human slinkies.

The frog role is funny, too, from the Rocky-theme inspired bravado with a sword to the eccentric urge to tongue-catch flies.

Children and adults will be caught up in the delightful show, and will also enjoy the special plot twist at the end with the disgruntled fairy that started the spell-wars.

The women in the cast include Shauna Hazime of Dearborn Heights, Courtney Butterfield of Redford Township and Asia Robbinson, India Jackson and Betty L. Daniels of Detroit.

Other women in the cast include Danya Talab and Samantha York of Dearborn, Andrea Wells-Preister of Allen Park, Joanna Graham of Westland and Sabrina Loving of Romulus.

The male cast members include Adam Kamrad of Dearborn, Dominic Lomuscio of Dearborn Heights and Tim Pollock of Wyandotte, Robert Gray of Redford Township and Joey Kulza of Brownstown Township. Other men in the cast include Detroit residents Drake Highgate, Kirk Marcellus Hogan, London Johnson, Kahrah Noel and VicAngelo Offutt.

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