Leads shine in Players Guild’s ‘Kiss Me Kate’

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Children audition for “Shrek – the Musical” director Cynthia Frabutt (right) and Kira Frabotta (ninth from left) May 5 at the Dearborn Community & Performing Arts Center. Rehearsals begin May 10 for the show, which runs July 11 to 13 at the Ford Center.

Surrounded by a colorful and enthusiastic chorus, the leads shine in the Cole Porter musical comedy “Kiss Me, Kate,” which runs weekends through May 25 at the Players Guild of Dearborn, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.

Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m.; Sunday shows are at 2:30 p.m.

For tickets and more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

The musical is a play within a play. Set in Baltimore in June 1948, a company is set to produce a musical version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” The leads, however, are divorced from each other, and their lingering hostility quickly segues into a case of life imitating art.

Meanwhile, a supporting company member with a gambling debt signs an IOU using the name of another cast member, which sets up a case of funny mistaken identity and misconstrued motives when two debt collecting thugs end up on stage as well.

Tom Varitek of Dexter and Marc Walentowicz of Garden City play the two gangsters, whose number “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” in the second act is laugh-out-loud funny and one of the show’s highlights. The song includes many tongue-in-cheek references to The Bard’s shows and many a clever play on words.

Brett Reynolds of Pontiac is a standout as Fred Graham and Petruchio, with strong, confidence acting and vocal performance. He also performs the wonderful ballad, “So in Love” reprise in Act II, which his ex, Lilli/Kate, sings in the first act.

Christine Kapusky of Canton Township plays Lilli and Kate (Katherine). She is a strong actress with a wonderful voice. She and Reynolds create a fierce chemistry on stage that is a delight to watch.

Meg Kisch of Dearborn is cute and comedic as she delivers a delightfully devious and blue collar Bianca, who is also engaged to Fred/Petruchio.

Mark Byars of Garden City is funny and entertaining as the overbearing General Harrison Howell, whose post-war campaign has Lilli as his next objective to be subdued.

Inez Hernandez of Ecorse as Paul performs a delightful solo in the group number “Too Darn Hot” opening the second act.

The entire company opens the first act with the oft-heard theatrical anthem “Another Op’Nin’, Another Show.”

James Mayne as Bill/Lucentio, Anne Morgan as Hattie and Phil Walling as Ralph, the long-suffering stage manager play other notably interesting characters.

Director Valerie Haas did a marvelous job with creative blocking and character development as she makes the most of the chorus.

Her husband, Kirk Haas, created a versatile and clever stage set to her specifications.

The chorus benefits from the colorful post-war period costumes and faux Bard wear courtesy of the dynamic duo of Diane Kaplan and Mary Calder, with help from Karen Drugacz and many other volunteers.

PGD is poised to begin its summer youth productions of “Charlotte’s Web” and “Into the Woods Jr.” with the Guildlings, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with a high school- and college-age cast. Midsummer auditions occur after Memorial Day.

The 2014-15 Guild season includes audience-pleasing plays “The 39 Steps,” “South Pacific,” “Rumors,” “To Kill A Mockingbird” and “Spamalot.”

The Downriver Actors Guild will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for its newly renovated location at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle at Superior in Wyandotte.

Wyandotte Mayor Joe Peterson will be on hand for the event, which includes theatrical entertainment, tours of the building and the unveiling of a 6-foot-by-10-foot lobby wall mosaic featuring donor names.

Refreshments include donations from local restaurants, including Smokies Tavern, Tongue’s Coffee, Magdaleno Italiano and Bourbons on Sycamore.

DAG board member Debbie Aue said anyone buying a 2014-15 season ticket that night receives a free ticket to the fall fundraiser production of the Oct. 4 comedic drama, “Tough Cookies.”

The adult season includes four musicals: “Little Shop of Horrors” in November, “Miracle on 34th Street” in December, “Bye, Bye Birdie” (a teen musical) in February and March, and “The Music Man” in May. Non-musical comedies in 2015 include “The Odd Couple” in February and “Noises Off” in August.

A summer fundraiser, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” directed by Harold Jurkiewicz and John Sartor, opens the theater with a two-weekend run June 6 to 15 with shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.