Dearborn loses a leading man as ‘The Voice of Dearborn’ is silenced

Photo by Sue Suchyta. Dale Van Dorp (left) and Mary Beth Oravec enjoy the afterglow following the May 22, 2012, Dearborn Area Theatre Awards at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.

Photo by Sue Suchyta. Dale Van Dorp (left) and Mary Beth Oravec enjoy the afterglow following the May 22, 2012, Dearborn Area Theatre Awards at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.


Many remember Dale Van Dorp, who died May 10 after a battle with cancer, as “The Voice of Dearborn” during Homecoming and other city events.  To the local theater community, he was a director and leading man who leaves behind many fellow cast members and friends.

Mary Beth Oravec of Dearborn said Van Dorp had no acquaintances – he made everyone feel like a friend.

“I have fond memories of painting ‘Music Man’ sets for Dale’s portrayal of Harold Hill to my sons’ portrayals as Winthrop and Tommy Dijilas in 1995,” Oravec said. “When the city of Dearborn presented ‘Peter Pan’ in 2002, Dale provided tons of fun for kids and adults alike, who enjoyed playing shipmates to his Captain Hook.”

She said she will always remember Van Dorp as someone who never complained, and who was a great listener with a ready smile.
“No one demonstrated less ego, more humility, and more patient leadership on the Dearborn Area Theatre Association board than Dale,” Oravec said. “Whether he was emceeing an awards show, or showing up to wrap books to create scholarship funds, Dale did it all with sincere enthusiasm.”

Lynn Campbell of Dearborn remembers watching Van Dorp direct a fight scene for a play.

“I recall watching him choreograph a sword fight between a couple of knights, one of whom had a purple feather,” Campbell said. “Dale had quite a sense of humor.”

Her daughter Andrea Campbell-Reyes, who worked on local theatrical productions with him as a child, said Van Dorp was “the backbone” of her childhood theater experience.

Paul Bruce of Dearborn said he was fortunate to have worked with Van Dorp on the committee that selects the DATA scholarship recipients.

“He was always very kind to the students who were auditioning, and worked to make them laugh so that they would feel more at ease,” Bruce said. “He had a wonderful sense of humor and a kind heart.”

John Sartor of Canton Township said the first time he played Harold Hill in “The Music Man,” Van Dorp, who had also played the role, coached him.

“He immediately spent over an hour in his office with me,” Sartor said. “Such a kind and generous man.”

Juliette Delabbio-Abbott of Livonia said she met Van Dorp when she played Elsa to his Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” and was immediately struck by his mesmerizing voice.

“Not being a native of Dearborn, I didn’t find out until later that he was the ‘Voice of Dearborn,’ but the title never fit a person better,” Abbott said. “After that, whether at Homecoming or the performing arts center, I came to associate his booming voice with joyous events.”

She said when she heard of his death she remembered their first meeting.

“‘Edelweiss’ was in my head, in his voice, all day,” Abbott said. “It was a joy to work with him in that production, and I was privileged to call him my friend.”


Dearborn resident Jason Skidmore plays Zoser from May 22 to June 7 in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical “Aida” at Stagecrafters, in the Baldwin Theatre, 415 S. Lafayette in Royal Oak.

Thursday tickets are $20, with $22 admission Friday, Saturday and Sunday. To order, call 248-541-6430 or go to Thursday through Saturday shows are at 8 p.m., and 2 p.m. Sundays.

“Aida” tells of a doomed, forbidden love between an Egyptian prince, and a Nubian princess, who is enslaved when their nations are at war.

The production features visually stunning costumes, eye-catching sets, and music ranging from pop, reggae and the Motown sound.

“Get ready to jump through time and be mesmerized by songs that will make you tap your feet, songs that will make you cry, and songs that will make you want to get up and dance in the aisle,” said director John Luther of Farmington.