DAG makes a joyful noise with ‘Godspell;’ HFC presents Pulitzer Prize-winner ‘The Flick’

front_rowBy Sue Suchyta
From the Front Row

A joyful noise and uplifting music will send spirits soaring as the Downriver Actors Guild presents “Godspell,” the musical version of the Gospel according to Matthew.

The show runs 7:30 p.m. June 1, 2, 8 and 9, and 3 p.m. June 3 and 10 at the Catherine A. Daly Theater on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle, in Wyandotte.

Director Sam Ramirez of Wyandotte said he first saw “Godspell” at Wyandotte Roosevelt High School as a child, and it was the first musical he saw that wasn’t targeted at children.

“It just had this huge impact on me,” Ramirez said. “Every time from that point on when an audition opportunity arose, I was either too young or I had too many conflicts and couldn’t do it, so I decided to direct my own.”

Ramirez said a small but talented group of teens auditioned for the show, and he is seeing them and the creative team fall under the spell of the musical. DAG is doing the 2012 revised version of the musical.

“I am more of a spiritual person than a religious person, but I grew up Catholic, so I am familiar with the Bible and all these stories, but seeing them played out, you just can’t help but empathize with them,” Ramirez said. “You can get lost in it.”

He said because of scheduling conflicts, they blocked the crucifixion scene when the cast was not expecting it, and they weren’t emotionally prepared for it, and watching the faces of the cast was revealing.

“It’s based off the stories in the Gospel of Matthew, and from that point forward, you know it’s about the life of Jesus, the stories of Jesus, and His teachings, and you know how it ends,” Ramirez said. “They are all lessons that, no matter what religious background you come from, it’s lessons that we all could go by to become better humans. That is really what this show is about.”

Nate Hermen, 15, of Dearborn, who plays Jesus, said when he was preparing for the audition, he listened to the songs, and Jesus’ song “spoke to him.”

“When I got the role it was one of the most shocking moments of my life, because I honestly wasn’t expecting it,” Hermen said. “To be able to portray such a memorable character, and such an important character for so many people, including my own life, it’s a lot for me, and I am really happy that I get to do this.”

He said this is a good show to do in a community theater, which draws people from diverse backgrounds.

“By connecting together, you show that you can come together as a community through this show, which has such a strong communal bond,” Hermen said. “It’s about coming together and showing the goodness in people’s hearts.”
Madison Ganzak, 14, of Dearborn Heights, who plays a disciple, said “Godspell” is a more inspiring and fun way to learn about Christ.

“Since there are a lot of really upbeat songs, it really gets you into it,” she said. “My solo, ‘On the Willows,’ is a very peaceful and beautiful song. It is right before Jesus has to say all his goodbyes to everyone, and it’s a really sad moment.”

Ganzak said “Light of the World” is her favorite number.

“It’s the very last scene of Act I, and it gives the last hurrah of Act I, and it’s upbeat and fun,” she said. “The dances and vocals are awesome.”

Ganzak said for someone who hasn’t learned the Gospel in a traditional setting, this is a good way to be exposed to it.

“This is one of the best ways to learn and get inspired by all of the musical numbers and the message that everything gives,” she said. “It’s warming, and it’s welcoming.”

Also in the cast are Brownstown Township residents Nathan Blaszczak, 13, and Aiyanna Fivecoat, 15, as disciples, Leo Hellar, 15, as John and Judas, Elaina Primeau, 13, as a disciple, and Bree Rainey, 17, and Alexandria Reeves, 17, as Pharisees; Dearborn residents Molly Boudreau, 16, as a disciple and Garrett Hermen, 18, as a Pharisee; Dearborn Heights residents Hassan Almaliki, 15, and Cassidy Taylor, 13, as Pharisees, and Lucee Wilson, 14, as a disciple; Khalia Mims, 13, of Detroit as a disciple; Grace Ray, 16, of Lincoln Park, as a disciple;  Isabella Owens, 12, of Riverview, as a disciple; and Trenton residents Duncan McCardell, 14, and Keegan Rodden, 14, as a disciples.

Tickets are $16, with a $3 discount for students and seniors. To order, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

HFC FEATURES PULITZER PRIZE-WINNER ‘THE FLICK’

Annie Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Flick” will be performed at Henry Ford  College June 14 to 23 at the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center.

Show times are 8 p.m. June 14 to 16 and 21 to 23 at the main campus, 5101 Evergreen, Dearborn. Tickets are $12, with a $2 discount for students, staff and faculty.

The play, which also won the 2013 Obie Award for play writing, is set in a rundown movie house, where three underpaid ushers with humdrum jobs create a “comedy of the mundane,” with snippets of conversation that is clever, funny and understated.

Directed by Brandon Grantz, the show features Corey Travis of Detroit as Avery; Jesse Mattox of Woodhaven as Sam; Kaylin Reed of Dearborn Heights and Sasha Joelle Johnson of Redford Township sharing the role of Rose; and Christian Matthews of Detroit and John Jakupco of New Boston double cast as the Dream Man and Skylar.