‘Doctor Dolittle’ offers family fun at Downriver Actors Guild

Photo by Sue Suchyta. The Downriver Actors Guild presents “Doctor Dolittle” Feb. 12 to 21 with Elaina Primeau (left), 11, of Brownstown Township and Isabella Greene, 12, of Newport as the Pushmi Pullyu; Emily Braun, 16, of Allen Park as Emma; Jessalyn Sturm, 16, of Taylor as Pollynesia; Leo Hellar, 13, of Brownstown Township as Tommy; Alex Rosen, 17, of Lincoln Park as Dr. Dolittle; Kaylez Chavez, 16, of Allen Park as Madeline; and Lily Steele, 11, of Lincoln Park as Dolittle's dog Jip. For tickets, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

Photo by Sue Suchyta. The Downriver Actors Guild presents “Doctor Dolittle” Feb. 12 to 21 with Elaina Primeau (left), 11, of Brownstown Township and Isabella Greene, 12, of Newport as the Pushmi Pullyu; Emily Braun, 16, of Allen Park as Emma; Jessalyn Sturm, 16, of Taylor as Pollynesia; Leo Hellar, 13, of Brownstown Township as Tommy; Alex Rosen, 17, of Lincoln Park as Dr. Dolittle; Kaylez Chavez, 16, of Allen Park as Madeline; and Lily Steele, 11, of Lincoln Park as Dolittle’s dog Jip. For tickets, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

By SUE SUCHYTA

Ready for a break from Disney princesses? The Downriver Actors Guild will thaw what’s frozen with its warm, family friendly youth production of “Doctor Dolittle.”

The musical makes magic on stage with talking animals, and takes its audience from a small English town to the far corners of the world with amazing puppets and upbeat songs.

The show runs 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12, 13, 19 and 20, and 3 p.m. Feb. 14 and 21 at the Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle in Wyandotte.

To purchase $10 tickets, call 734-407-7020, or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

Director Deborah Aue of Taylor said the musical is based on the classic tale of a doctor uncomfortable around people who focuses his attention on animals, and with the help of his sidekick parrot, learns to talk to them.

“He’s able to communicate with them on a level he can’t with human beings,” Aue said. “But as the story progresses, he finds that he has an attraction to a young lady named Emma, and learns to eventually relate to her on a human level, which is the love story of the production.”

She said the show has subtle humor for adults, and plenty of animal puppet action for children.

Aue said the puppets are like those seen in “Avenue Q,” with actors dressed in neutral colors, and the puppet in their hands.

“The puppets are full body puppets, and the children have actually had some lessons from a gentleman who is currently in ‘Avenue Q’ in Royal Oak at Stagecrafters,” Aue said. “The goal will be that you won’t even notice the actor. You’ll notice the puppet.”

Aue said DAG has spent almost $500 for the Folkmanis puppets.

“The puppets are adorable,” Aue said. “They’re beautiful puppets.

“It’s a new skill for our children. This is our youth theater production. The goal is to teach, educate them in the different aspects of theater. These children are getting exposed to how to manipulate puppets at a young age, which most actors don’t ever get.”

Alex Rosen, 17, of Lincoln Park, who plays Dr. Dolittle, said he enjoys working with the cast members using the puppets, who are also his friends.
He said “Dr. Dolittle” is a fun show, especially with the animals being able to talk to his character.

“I believe that parents are a bit tired of ‘Frozen’ and ‘Let it Go,’” Rosen said. “So this would be a huge change with all the fun music, and the puppets, and live action.”

Jessalyn Sturm, 15, of Taylor, who plays Polynesia the parrot, said the show is distinctly different from the typical Disney approach of damsels in distress and the heroes who rescue them.

“It is very different. It takes a different style,” Sturm said. “It’s not all about Disney princesses and love and things that Disney really sells.

“It’s about this guy who loves animals and he wants to communicate with them and he’s very curious and intelligent. It’s not just about heroes saving the people from the villain. It’s just a guy who has a genuine love for knowledge.”

Sturm said her parrot costume is very colorful, as are many others in the show. She said the costumes enhance the personality of the characters, with Dolittle in a top hat, and Emma, his love interest, dressed very femininely.

Emily Braun, 16, of Allen Park, who plays Emma, said it is a quirky, family friendly and kid-oriented show.

“The songs are all catchy,” Braun said. “It keeps moving. The set will be cute, so we will have fun.”

Kayla Chavez, 16, of Allen Park, who plays Madeline, said the storyline includes a shipwreck.

“It’s very fun, and it’s very fun to be a part of, and we are all ‘in the moment’ when we are on stage,” Chavez said. “It’s not like ‘OK, let’s get this scene over with.’ It’s comedic and some people are sarcastic, and some are crazy.”
Chavez said the show has a good storyline, and she believes animals can really communicate with humans if we know how to listen. She said her family’s dog and cat communicate with each other.

“Like babies, they do different things, or different tones in their voices when they are trying to get us to do stuff with them,” Chavez said. “They bark when they want to go out or whatever.”

“Dogs can understand us when we give them commands,” Braun said. “They learn to adapt to our language.”

Braun said that even though it is a kid show, all of the production values are professional.

“DAG has a professional manner with everything they do,” Braun said. “The little kids (in the show) are like mini adults.”

Aue said this is an original, well-written stage play version of the Dolittle story.

“It has fun, enjoyable, catchy music, that the kids are going to love, the adults are going to appreciate,” Aue said. “The nostalgic ‘Talk to the Animals’ is in it.”

Aue said it also has a strong message about doing what is right for the environment, saving animals and saving the planet.

“The message is actually through the songs, not through the dialogue,” Aue said.

Sturm said the show is energetic.

“It is a very enjoyable show,” Sturm said. “It is an awesome, amazing story. There is a lot to it. It’s an overall enjoyable and entertaining show.”

Others in the cast include Phoebe Seguin-Davenport, 10, of Allen Park as Vladimir; Madison Ganzak, 12, of Dearborn Heights as Straight Arrow and a cat; and Lincoln Park residents Lilyana Quiroga, 8, as Berta, Grace Ray, 14, as Sophie the seal, and Lily Steele, 11, as Jip, Dolittle’s dog.

Also in the cast are Riverview residents Nora Kalvans, 10, as Rufus the dog; Isabella Owens, 10, as Blossom; Lily Paschke, 10, as Chee Chee the monkey; Molly Pelkey, 11, as Toggle the horse; and Natalie Richards, 11, as a townsperson, rabbit and ensemble.

Also, Wyandotte residents Austin Charlebois, 15, as General Bellows; Andrew Dmitruchina, 8, as Dab Dab the duck; Cassidy McFarland, 11, as Herbert the hedgehog; and Hannah Shaffer, 14, as a baliff and police officer, a townsperson, and a turtle.

Also in the cast are Brownstown Township residents Leo Hellar, 13, as Tommy; Elaina Primeau, 11, as a Pushmi Pullyu; Brianne Rainey, 15, as Grandma Blossom and a townsperson; and Kerstyn Reeves, 11, as Sheila the fox.

Also, Elyana Cecil, 11, of Southgate as Mavis; Emily Teper, 10, of Carleton as a townsperson and an ensemble member; Asiel Clark, 18, of Ecorse as police officer, townsperson, and sheep; Madison Konarski, 8, of New Boston as Grug Grug the pig, and an ensemble member; and Isabella Greene, 12, of Newport as a Pushmi Pullyu.

PGD ANNOUNCES ‘MOUSETRAP’ CAST

The Players Guild of Dearborn announced the cast for the Agatha Christie murder mystery “Mousetrap,” the world’s longest continuously running play, which is entering its 60th season.

Directed by Karen Pritchard of Garden City, the cast includes Dearborn residents Chris Boudreau as Giles Ralston, Kenneth Overwater as Detective Sergeant Trotter; and Andrew St. John as Christopher Wren

Also, Ross Grossman of Farmington Hills as Mr. Paravicini; Marc Walentowicz of Garden City as Major Metcalf; Tiffany Mullins of Livonia as Molly Ralston; and Northville residents Patricia LaFramboise as Mrs. Boyle and Sarah Zakaria as Miss Casewell.

Set in an English bed and breakfast at the end of World War II, strangers – one of them a murderer – are trapped by a blizzard. A detective arrives to try to solve the mystery, and uncovers many secrets and motives.

The show runs at 8 p.m. March 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19, and 2:30 p.m. March 6, 13 and 20 at the theater, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.

Tickets are $17, with a $2 discount for students with valid identification. To order, or for more information, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org.

DEARBORN ACTOR IN JET PRODUCTIONS

Dearborn actor Michael Suchyta will play Jason in a staged reading of “The Groyser” at 2 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Holocaust Memorial Center, 28123 Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hills. Others in the cast include Linda Ramsay-Detherage of Commerce Township as Dinah; Fred Buchalter of Farmington Hills as Jack; Henrietta Hermelin-Weinberg of Southfield as Bess; and Brittany Chanel as Pilar.

Suchyta will also play Peter in “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre, 6600 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield. School performances are 10 a.m. Feb. 25 to March 9, with one public matinee at 3 p.m. Feb. 28. For tickets, call 248-788-2900, or go to jettheatre.org.

Others in the cast include Ann Arbor residents Wendy Katz Hiller as Mrs. Van Daan, and Andrew Parker as Otto Frank; Lisa Michaels of Bloomfield Hills as Margot Frank; Linda Ramsay-Detherage of Commerce Township as Edith Frank; Fred Buchalter of Farmington Hills as Mr. Van Daan; Katie Galazka of Hamtramck as Miep Gies; Taylor Morrow of Warren as Anne Frank; and Keith Kalinowski of Ypsilanti as Mr. Kraler.