Local stars shine in ‘South Pacific’

April Denny

April Denny

Emily Jane Smith

Emily Jane Smith

Ethan Kankula

Ethan Kankula

Jeff Hollon

Jeff Hollon

Kat Stanley

Kat Stanley

Wendy Hollon

Wendy Hollon

By Sue Suchyta

Local actors shine in the Spotlight Players September musical production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” in the Village Theatre of Canton, 50400 Cherry Hill in Canton Township.

Dearborn actress Emily Smith plays Nellie Forbush, with April Denny of Dearborn Heights playing Bloody Mary.

Ethan Kankula of Wyandotte plays Yeoman Herbert Quale, with Kat Stanley of Dearborn and Trenton residents Sarah and Wendy Hollon in the women’s ensemble.

Jeff Hollon of Trenton is the musical director.

The show runs 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16, 17, 23 and 24, and 2 p.m. Sept. 18 and 25.
Tickets range from $16 to $18. To order, call 734-394-5300 or go to canton-mi.org.

For more information about the Spotlight Players, go to spotlightplayersmi.org.

Director John Sartor of Canton Township said he is excited to be using the Village Theatre of Canton as a portal to the South Pacific to explore issues that Rodgers and Hammerstein were brave to confront in 1949.

The show, which won 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, is set on an island in the South Pacific during World War II.

The show’s two love stories are influenced by racial prejudice: nurse Nellie Forbush falls in love with a French planter, but has trouble reconciling to the idea of his mixed-race children, while Lt. Joe Cable falls in love with Liat, a young native woman, but struggles with the idea of bringing home an Asian bride.

Luther Billis, a petty officer, and Bloody Mary, Liat’s mother, tie the story together.

The songs include many Broadway favorites, including “Bali Ha’i,” “I’m Gonna’ Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “There is Nothing Like a Dame,” “Happy Talk,” “Younger Than Springtime” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.”

Musical director Jeff Hollon said he grew up with the “South Pacific” music, and he is excited to work with a musical that has delighted audiences for years.
Smith, who is also a Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, said the message of the show appeals to her as well.

“Love runs beyond appearances (and) is still applicable to the world we live in,” Smith said. “I encourage everyone to see our production, with all that has been going on in our world to bring attention to the racism that still surrounds our country.”

She said the show has stood the test of time, and its message is applicable today.

Denny, who loves classic musicals, said she loves questioning her character’s path and becoming connected to the character.

“I’m excited to share the beautiful scenery, tandem love stories, and the breathtakingly beautiful theater in which it will take place,” Denny said. “I can’t wait to sing my heart out on that big, beautiful stage.”


“Bonnie and Clyde – A New Musical” will steal the stage at the Downriver Actors Guild with its wealth of local talent attracted to a script that has been on the “most wanted” list of many regional theaters since its 2011 Broadway debut.

Directed by Ron Baumanis, the DAG production runs 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 and 29, and 3 p.m. Oct. 16 and 23 at the Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle in Wyandotte.

The Tony-nominated musical, with music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Don Black and book by Ivan Mechell, tells of ill-fated lovers and outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, whose infamy attained folk hero status during the Great Depression.

The non-traditional score combines rockabilly, blues and gospel music.
The cast includes Kimmie Elliott as Bonnie Parker, with Daniel Hazlett as Clyde Barrow.

The husband and wife team of Melanie and Bryan Aue play Blanche and Buck Barrow, with Kevin Kaminski as Ted Hinton.

Others in the cast include Elaina Primeau as young Bonnie; Nick Brown as the preacher; Colleen Stanley as Cumie Barrow, mother of Clyde and Buck; and Chuck Bollman as Henry Barrow, their father.

Jeff Powers plays a judge, guard, and Capt. Frank Hamer; with Tommy Koch as Sheriff Schmidt; Dee Morrison as Governor Ferguson; and Rodney Mann as sharpshooter Bob Alcorn and a guard.

Danielle Riley, Paige Wisniewski and Ashley Gatesy form the trio of Eleanore, Trish and Stella; with Austin Charlebois as a deputy; Ernie Delgado as a bank teller; and Bethany Wagner as a shop keeper.

Melanie Aue said the musical is intense with moments of levity to balance it out, and has fantastic music.

“I am looking forward to playing a deeply religious woman who is also very judgmental,” she said. “I think it is pretty unique that my husband in the show is my husband in real life. It creates a really great dynamic that we can bring to our characters.”

She said the show is fast-paced, with strong acting and vocals.

“There’s a big gun fight,” she said. “What’s not to love?”

Bryan Aue said he loves the story about these deeply flawed yet lovable characters.

“The show is challenging because you want the audience to fall in love with these criminals,” he said. “What they do is reprehensible, but the audience will still root for them to make it out.”

Primeau, one of the few children in the cast, said it is exciting and challenging to perform in a musical with adults.

“It is a very cutting-edge show with a great cast and production crew,” she said.

Kaminski said the show is a classic story with great music.

“The challenge for me will be to convince the audience that I could have really given Bonnie a better life, even if it wouldn’t be quite as exciting,” he said.
For tickets, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.


The Downriver Youth Performing Arts Center will hold auditions for “Seussical the Musical” for ages 5 to 19 Aug. 28 and 29 at the Trenton Village Theatre, 2447 W. Jefferson in Trenton.

The show, directed by Mary Zaleski, will run Nov. 11 to 13, and 18 to 20.
To sign up for specific audition time slots by age, and to review other audition requirements, go to dypac.com.


Henry Ford College holds auditions for its November production of “Charlotte’s Web” 7 to 10 p.m. Aug. 23 and 24.

Directed by Gerry Dzuiblinski, the show will rehearse 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning Aug. 25 in Adray Auditorium in the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center, 5101 Evergreen in Dearborn. Those cast must enroll in a three-credit production class.

Performances include school matinees 10 to 11 a.m. Nov. 14 to 18, and public performances at 7 p.m. Nov. 11, 12, 18 and 19, and 2 p.m. Nov. 12, 13, 19 and 20.

The production features an original score by composer and HFC music instructor Anthony Lai.

For more information, call 313-845-9817 or send contact gadzuiblinski@hfcc.edu.