Time travel with “Macbeth,” “Miss Saigon” and “The Sisters Rosensweig”

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Photo courtesy of Bob Compton Photography
Charlie Brady stars as Chris in the Broadway tour of “Miss Saigon” in Detroit through Oct. 6 at the Fisher Theater, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 800-982-2787, and online at www.ticketmaster.com and www.broadwayindetroit.com.

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By SUE SUCHYTA
The theater gods smiled upon metropolitan Detroit last week as the curtain rose on three theatrical treats as different as they are delightful.

The Hilberry opened its season with an amazing production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” a powerful “Miss Saigon” launched the Fisher Theater’s season, and the Jewish Ensemble Theatre Co. opened its season with a marvelous and captivating production of the late Wendy Wasserstein’s “The Sisters Rosensweig.”

No matter what your background, all three shows are moving, mesmerizing and must-see productions.

BEST OF ‘THE BARD’: HILBERRY’S ‘MACBETH’ IS POWERFUL PRODUCTION
A powerful and well-performed production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” launched the 51st season at the Hilberry — Wayne State University’s graduate theater company — Sept. 20.

Under the gifted direction of Paul Mason Barnes, the production is one of the best of “The Bard’s” productions performed by the company in recent memory.

Their “Macbeth” is riveting and mesmerizing, and even though many of the passages and lines are familiar to Shakespeare fans, in the talented hands of the cast the performance commands attention and reminds audiences why we cherish “The Bard’s” remarkable plays even 400 years after he wrote them.

Miles Boucher, as Macbeth, personifies the fascinating horror of a good man who succumbs to evil when demonic prophecies tempt his with power beyond his wildest dreams.

Annie Keris, as Lady Macbeth, is equally fascinating as the ambitious wife who further motivates her husband’s lust for power by psychologically manipulating him to commit murders that will lead to an ill-gotten throne.

Alec Barbour’s performance of Malcolm, the eldest son of Duncan, King of Scotland, stands out for his exceptional acting and stage presence.

The three witches, played by Sarah Hawkins Moan, Megan Barbour and Danielle Cochrane are captivating and frightening, and present the cauldron spell-casting scene with an intensity and eeriness few are ever fortunate enough to see.

The entire cast contributes to the show’s success and powerful impact. The technical elements are stunning as well, from the realistic stage blood to the heart-stopping sword fights.

Max Amitin’s multi-level scenic design is stunning, enhanced further by Samuel G. Byers’ lighting design and Heather DeFauw’s sound design.

Other outstanding achievements include Donna Buckley’s costume design, Anthony Karpinski’s technical direction and Alec Barbour and David Sterritt’s frighteningly effective fight choreography.

The show runs for the public through Oct. 12, with specific show times and ticket prices available by calling the box office at 313-577-2972 or by going to www.theatre.wayne.edu.

The run of “Macbeth” continues for school matinees at 10 a.m. on Oct. 1, 8 and 29, Nov. 19, Feb. 4 and 25 and March 4 and 25.

The Hilberry Theater is at 4743 Cass Ave. on the WSU campus in Detroit.

‘MISS SAIGON’ LAUNCHES A MOVING MUSICAL JOURNEY AT THE FISHER
If one turns back time to the 1970s, baby boomers and beyond can recall seeing the tragedy of the Vietnam War unfold on TV screens during the evening news. From the conflict’s iconic helicopters to the baby lift, images of the war’s tragedies remain burned in our minds.

The sound of helicopters echoing across the theater starts the show in a visceral way, bringing memories to the surface as the raw energy of the “Miss Saigon” cast takes over the Fisher Theater stage and captures the audience’s attention with a raw realism.

Based on Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly,” “Miss Saigon” centers on the love between an American GI and a young Vietnamese woman in the weeks before the fall of Saigon.

Schonberg and Boubil, the talented team who brought “Les Miserables” to life, brought the same creative genius to “Miss Saigon.”

The music ranges from haunting melodies like “The Last Night of the World” to the powerful and satiric “The American Dream.”

Manna Nicholes as Kim and Charlie Brady as Chris are a convincing pair as the modern star-crossed lovers, but the real scene-stealer is Orville Mendoza as the ‘Engineer,” an entrepreneurial Asian with a strong survival instinct and some of the best lines in the show.

Nkrumah Gatling as John, a friend to Chris, has his best moments in the second act, when he champions the cause of the Bui-Doi, the interracial orphans left behind in Vietnam after the American forces left. Actual photographic images of the children are a very powerful part of the play.

“Miss Saigon” captures the civilian tragedies of the war without becoming politically preachy. It brings to life the black and white television footage that brought the war into our homes, and puts a personal and tragic face on the losses the younger generation only hears of in history class.

“Miss Saigon” is at the Fisher Theater, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit, through Oct. 6. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 800-982-2787, and online at www.ticketmaster.com and www.broadwayindetroit.com.

JET TAKES OFF WITH ‘THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG’
“The Sisters Rosensweig,” which opens the Jewish Ensemble Theatre Co’s. 25th anniversary season, is a quick-paced, engaging and well-written show that will grab your attention and command it throughout the entire performance.

By the end of the show, audiences will feel like witnesses who have watched characters’ lives unravel and change over a weekend as they grapple with love, loss and family dynamics.

Set in the early 1990s, the show is quick-paced, entertaining and realistic – one almost feels like a voyeur sitting on the living room sidelines.

Director David Magidson assembled a talented cast and brought out the best in them.

The three adult sisters, played with skill, talent and charm by Sandra Birch of Westland as Sara, Kristin Condon of Ann Arbor as Pfeni and Emily Rose of Hazel Park as Gorgeous are fun and endearing to watch.

Madison Deadman of Howell plays Tess, Sara’s politically passionate teenage daughter, with seamless energy, intelligence and a spot-on, fast-paced delivery.

Lindel Salow of Dearborn in endearing as Geoffrey, Pfeni’s love interest, and Phil Powers of Ann Arbor is a very convincingly determined Mervyn, who is fascinated by Sara’s contradictions.

Eric Eilersen of Almont is entertaining as the counter-culture boyfriend of Tess and John Forman of Dearborn is convincing as the uptight, narrow-minded acquaintance of Sara.

Jennifer Maiseloff’s set design of the home’s interior is beautiful. Diane Ulseth, as the prop designer, brought delightful details to life that added to the realism of the show. Mary Copenhagen designed the colorful costumes that captured and enhanced each cast member’s character.

“The Sisters Rosensweig” is at the Aaron DeRoy Theatre through Oct. 20. The theater is in the lower level of the Jewish Community Center, 6600 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield.

For tickets and more information call 248-788-2900 or go to www.jettheatre.org.

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