Jingle Bell Jukebox puts a rockin’ twist on holiday favorites

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Photo by Sue Suchyta
Alex Gojkov (fourth from left) of Dearborn as Bernard, who is engaged to three women, tries to calm Gabriella, a stewardess from Alitalia, played by Jillian Drapala (right) of Dearborn Heights. Meanwhile, Stewardess Gretchen from Lufthansa, played by Jennifer Beitzel (left) of Northville, confronts Nick Graham (second from left) of Belleville as Robert, Bernard’s friend, while Kori Bielaniec (center) of Westland, who plays Gloria from TWA, remains optimistic in the comedy, “Boeing, Boeing.” The show runs weekends Jan. 10 to 26 at the Players Guild of Dearborn. For tickets or more information call 313-561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

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By SUE SUCHYTA
Do holiday tunes lift your spirits and help you survive December’s cold and dark days? If so, head over to Out of the Box Theatre, where the Downriver Actors Guild presents, “Jingle Bell Jukebox.”

Performed by a cast of children aged 8 to 18, the rock ’n’ roll musical revue puts a fun twist on favorite holiday songs.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14, and at 3 p.m. Dec. 8 and 15 at the theater, 1165 Ford Ave. in Wyandotte, with $10 admission.

For tickets or more information call 313-303-5269 or go to www.downriveractorsguild.net.

‘ELF THE MUSICAL’ AT THE DETROIT OPERA HOUSE
Continuing the Christmas theme onstage is “Elf the Musical,” which plays through Dec. 15 at the Detroit Opera House.

The Broadway musical, based on the movie of the same name, features songs by Tony Award-nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, and book by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin.

As a baby, Buddy, an orphan, mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag and travels to the North Pole, where St. Nick and the toy-making elves raise him. However, Buddy never quite fits in, and when he overhears a conversation and learns he is human, Santa points the way for him to find his biological father, a workaholic in New York City who happens to be on the “naughty list.”

The show is fun family fare, and while it is energetic and features a talented cast, it is predictable and never really pushes the same emotional buttons as other holiday musical classics.

Do not get me wrong. It has some wonderful moments, great technical elements, neat choreography, and some very talented actors. Kids will love it. So will parents, if they overlook the fact that the plot is predicable once one is about five minutes into the show. The premise and the timing is a marketer’s dream come true.

The elves will remind one of Lord Farquaad in “Shrek – the Musical,” since they play their parts on their knees, with fake legs like ragdoll appendages attached to their costumes.

Because the on-their-knees scene limits elf dancing, the New York City scenes are much more delightful and challenging from a dance point of view. Whether city slickers are rushing through a crowded throng, skating (on rollerblades disguised to look like ice skates) at Rockefeller Center, or “making it snow” with shredded paper in an office scene with Buddy the exuberant elf-man, the NYC dance numbers, choreographed by Connor Gallagher, are creative, upbeat and fun.

A Christmas Eve restaurant scene featuring tired store Santas, a sassy Chinese restaurant waitress and a discouraged Buddy creates another memorable and original dance number.

If you are looking for clean family fun downtown, “Elf the Musical” fits the bill, even if it is not destined to be an American classic.

For tickets or more information call 1-800-982-2787, or go to www.ticketmaster.com or www.broadwayindetroit.com.

EDSEL FORD HIGH SCHOOL PRESENTS STUDENT-DIRECTED SCENES
Something peculiar, something familiar, something for everyone will be on the playbill at Dearborn’s Edsel Ford High School at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13 when student-directed scenes take to the stage.

Senior Ben Timpf said the show offers a little bit of everything, including Shakespeare, classics, new scenes and even student written offerings. He said the student actors offer a great night of theatre.

Edsel Ford High School is located at 20601 Rotunda Drive in Dearborn.

GET YOUR TICKET TO BOARD NON-STOP LAUGHTER
Get a ticket for a non-stop laughter-filled journey as the comedy “Boeing, Boeing” takes off Jan. 10 as the third show of the Players Guild of Dearborn’s 86th season.

The 1960s French farce, written by Marc Camoletti, and translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans, is set in Paris, where Bernard has three stewardess-fiancées, each on a different airline.

Gabriella is on Alitalia, Gretchen is on Lufthansa and Gloria is on TWA. With the help of his housekeeper, Bernard juggles all three until advances in airline technology speed up the flights and set his love life on a flight path for disaster.

His friend Robert, visiting from the states, confuses things further when he cannot keep the storylines straight.

The show runs Jan. 10 to 12, 17 to 19 and 24 to 26, with show times at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

The theater is at 21730 Madison in Dearborn. For tickets or more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

Directed by Brian Townsend of Dearborn, the cast features Alex Gojkov of Dearborn as Bernard, Nick Graham of Van Buren Township as Robert and Margaret Kinnell of Dearborn as Berthe, the housekeeper.

Kori Bielaniec of Westland plays Gloria of TWA, while Jennifer Beitzel of Northville plays Gretchen of Lufthansa and Jillian Drapala of Dearborn Heights plays Gabriella of Alitalia.

Townsend said he wanted to direct the show because it is a brilliant farce and even just reading the script is funny.

“Lines are very witty,” Townsend said. “They are very fast, and it was one of those shows that when you read it, it was very easy to visualize the sort of chaos that has to happen on stage.”

He said he loves comedies, especially “split second” ones like “Boeing, Boeing,” so he thought he would give directing it a shot and see what happened.

“We hope that the audience is left gasping at the near-misses that happen over the course of the evening,” Townsend said.

He added that he has been very fortunate to have a cast that just “gets it” and makes the comedy work.

“It’s always a good sign at a rehearsal when they are making each other laugh because they are just enjoying it so much and enjoying each other’s performance,” Townsend said. “I come home kind of hoarse from laughing myself. I am a laugher anyway, but they make it worse!”

Graham, who plays Robert, Bernard’s friend, said his is a very slapstick and physical role, with a lot of running.

“It is kind of ‘the perfect storm,’” Graham said. “I am here on a rare day when (the fiancées) are all here at the same time, and everything had been prepared that it would never happen that way, but lo and behold, it has anyway – so antics ensue.”

Drapala, who plays Gabriella of Alitalia, said her character is a very fiery Italian.

“She won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and she is a spitfire,” Drapala said. “I love her so much!”

She said she channels the energy from her everyday hectic life and uses it to achieve the spitfire persona.

“I am very outgoing, very personable,” Drapala said. “I love to make people laugh, so I am glad that this character lets me do that.”

She said it is a rare show to have so much comedy in a short span of time.

“Every time a character turns their back, or a door opens, a new plot twist comes in,” Drapala said. “You kind of have to keep yourself on your toes.”

Beitzel, who plays Gretchen from Lufthansa, said she is telling her friends and family that the show reminds her of one big, “Three’s Company” episode.

“It’s so funny every second,” Beitzel said. “I don’t know how we are going to get our lines in because we are always laughing at each other, and the audience is going to laugh at us as we are doing it, so I am just so excited about how high energy it is going to be and how fun it is going to be.”

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