By SUE SUCHYTA
The Tony Award-nominated musical “Miss Saigon” opens a two-weekend run May 8 with the Southgate Community Players. Show times are 8 p.m. May 8, 9, 15 and 16 at Davidson Middle School, 15800 Trenton Road in Southgate.
Tickets are $15, with a $2 discount for students and seniors. To order, or for more information, call 734-282-4727 or go to scponstage.com.
Based on Giancomo Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly,” “Miss Saigon,” by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby Jr. tells a tragic tale of a doomed romance between a Vietnamese woman and an American soldier beginning in April 1975 during the fall of Saigon.
Melanie Berger of Brownstown Township, who plays Kim, a recently orphaned 17-year-old bar girl, said “Miss Saigon” is a favorite show, and Kim is her dream role. A soprano, she said she is on stage a lot, and the role is vocally demanding.
“It’s an amazing show,” Berger said. “The cast is awesome.”
Brandon Dominguez of Monroe, who plays Chris, an American soldier, said the music is phenomenal. This is his first lead role, and he said his biggest challenge is learning how to respond romantically to the actors playing Kim and Ellen.
Zachary Morgan of Southgate, who plays the Engineer, or Tran, who is a sleazy hustler and bar owner, said the character is a con man.
“I have definitely had to channel a different type of person for that,” Morgan said. “I am always a happy, bubbly person, so to change that and go to a devious person is fun.”
He said a makeup artist is teaching him and other cast members playing Vietnamese roles how to apply stage makeup to alter their ethnicity.
Morgan said “Miss Saigon” is a very emotional show.
“There is a kicker at the end that just really grabs you,” he said.
Mellissa L’Heureux of Lincoln Park, as Ellen, Chris’ American wife, said the show has always been an obsession with her.
“It was one of the first big Broadway musicals I listened to, and I completely fell in love with it,” L’Heureux said. “So this has been my dream show, dream role for the past 20 years.”
She said both the music and subject matter appeals to her.
“I really like the fact that the lyricists and composers weren’t afraid to go to a dark place,” she said. “It’s the emotional trip that every single character goes through. They all go through this dramatic change to become who they are in the end of the show. It is ultimately about a mother’s sacrifice to do what is best for her son.”
She said as a parent, every time she listens to the show, she gets a deeper understanding of the characters’ angst, and as a daughter, she saw post-traumatic stress symptoms in her father, a draftee sent to Vietnam.
She said “Miss Saigon” is a dramatic story.
“The music is so powerful,” L’Heureux said, “and it really does call on things that happened during the Vietnam era, so I think a lot of history buffs, even if they aren’t into musicals, I think would fall in love with the subject matter.”
Kyle Sammy of Detroit, as John, Chris’ friend and an American soldier, said his late grandfather served in Vietnam. He said older members of the cast and crew shared thoughts about the Vietnam era with him as he developed his character.
“I didn’t know that much about Vietnam at all until I got here,” Sammy said. “People gave me some background knowledge on what happened in Vietnam, and they were telling me how this musical plays into what happened in Vietnam.”
Sammy said what he learned helped him understand the play and better develop his character.
Other main characters include Andy Burt of Wyandotte as Thuy, Kim’s cousin and betrothed, and a North Vietnamese military officer; and Blake Robinson, 9, of Southgate as Tam, Chris and Kim’s Eurasian son. Saigon bar girls will be played by Rachel Ogger of Livonia as Mimi, Anne Renforth of Taylor as Yvette, and Tamara Walter of Southgate as Gigi.
Ensemble members include Pam Sych of Allen Park; Domingo Guzman of Melvindale; and Joyce Fisher and Jason Odor of Riverview; Kirk Hayhurst, Nathan Morgan, and Erika Sterling of Southgate; Stephanie Schulte of Trenton; and Brandon Reeves of Wyandotte.
Also in the cast are Tina Brow of Brownstown Township, Christopher Gawel of Detroit, Patrick Kowaleski of Rockwood and Brad Hardecki of Woodhaven.
Chris Rollet of Southgate is the director, with Dale Allen of Belleville co-directing. Rich Alder of Westland is the vocal director, with Randi Olson of Southgate as the costumer, Brow as the choreographer and Fisher as the producer.
GUILD ANNOUNCES SUMMER YOUTH THEATRE AUDITIONS
The Players Guild of Dearborn will hold auditions May 11 and 13 for musicals “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.” for ages 5 to 12, and “The Addams Family” for ages 13 to 18, at the playhouse, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.
Registration for children ages 5 to 12 begins at 5:30 p.m., with teen registration beginning at 6:30 p.m. Those auditioning must arrive by 7:15 p.m. to audition.
Participants will learn a dance sequence, and a song from the show for which they are auditioning. Some children will have a chance to read from the script.
Brian Townsend will direct “The Addams Family” which runs July 16 to 19, with Carissa Madley as the musical director and Emma Garber as the choreographer.
Valerie Haas will direct “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.,” which runs Aug. 6 to 9, with Paul Abbott as musical director and Laura Tyler as choreographer.
Those auditioning should download and fill out an audition form and a conflict sheet from the Guild’s website, playersguildofdearborn.org, and bring them to the audition.
‘THE ILLUSIONISTS’ ENTERTAIN AT THE FISHER
“The Illustionists,” seven entertaining magicians, perform through May 10 at the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit. Show times are 8 p.m. through May 9, 2 p.m. May 9 and 10, and 7:30 p.m. May 10.
Tickets are $35 to $85. To order, call 800-982-2787, or go to broadwayindetroit.com.
The headliners include Yu Ho-Jin, the Manipulator; Dan Sperry, the Anti-Conjurer; Jeff Hobson, the Trickster; Andrew Basso the Escapologist; Kevin James, the Inventor; Aaron Crow, the Warrior; and Adam Trent, the Futurist.
If you like watching magicians work their wonders, spring for seats up close, or you will end up watching the live performance on the large screen above the stage, which blunts the immediacy of viewing a live performance.
If the logical side of your brain likes to figure out the mechanics of the magic, you will not be as impressed with the music and bright lights, but everyone enjoys the banter and the jokes of the performers, especially those who draft audience members into their act.
Basso emerges from a water-filled tank, where he hangs upside down. He picks off his handcuffs with a wire, frees his legs from stocks and unlocks his glass-walled cage. One wonders if he slows down the lock picking to increase the tension of those watching.
Trent, creates an interesting visual while high-fiving bright explosions of color set to vibrant music against two tandem screens, and he dances with multiple clones of himself in front of and behind the two screens in fascinating synchronicity.
James may have misjudged his audience when he mixed chemicals and created an artificial cloud of fluttering snow, reminding the house of the winter we endured. As a native Michigander, he should have known better!