Downriver Actors Guild spread holiday cheer with ‘A Christmas Carol Musical’

Photo by Sue Suchyta The Downriver Actors Guild presents “A Christmas Carol – Musical” Dec. 1 to 16 at the Catherine A. Daly Theater on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle, Wyandotte, with Colleen Meade-Ripper (left) of Livonia as the blind old hag, and as Mrs. Cratchit; James Aguila of Taylor as Mr. Fezziwig; Nathan Vasquez of Flat Rock as Fred Anderson and young Jacob Marley; Chris Chavez of Allen Park as Ebeneezer Scrooge; Josh Gray of Brownstown Township as Scrooge as a young man; Dan Perttula of Allen Park as Mr. Smythe; Jacob Smith, 12, of South Rockwood, as Scrooge as a young boy; Cami McClain, 10, of Grosse Ile Township as Grace; and Taylor Charbonneau of Gibraltar as Emily. For tickets or more information, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
The Downriver Actors Guild presents “A Christmas Carol – Musical” Dec. 1 to 16 at the Catherine A. Daly Theater on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle, Wyandotte, with Colleen Meade-Ripper (left) of Livonia as the blind old hag, and as Mrs. Cratchit; James Aguila of Taylor as Mr. Fezziwig; Nathan Vasquez of Flat Rock as Fred Anderson and young Jacob Marley; Chris Chavez of Allen Park as Ebeneezer Scrooge; Josh Gray of Brownstown Township as Scrooge as a young man; Dan Perttula of Allen Park as Mr. Smythe; Jacob Smith, 12, of South Rockwood, as Scrooge as a young boy; Cami McClain, 10, of Grosse Ile Township as Grace; and Taylor Charbonneau of Gibraltar as Emily. For tickets or more information, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

From Tiny Tim to a trio of ghosts, Ebeneezer Scrooge and the redemptive message of “A Christmas Carol” comes musically to life at the Downriver Actors Guild this December.

“A Christmas Carol Musical,” with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens, runs 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15, and 3 p.m. Dec. 2, 9 and 16 at the Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle, Wyandotte.

Paul Bruce of Dearborn directs and choreographs the show, with Tamara Marla Laflin of Southgate as musical director.

Bruce said he first saw the show on Broadway in 1996, and he liked it so much, he went back to see it the next year.

“The score, which is by Alan Menken, an absolutely brilliant composer, is one of the most gorgeous scores of music I have ever heard,” he said. “And when I saw it, I thought, please, let that be something that can be done in community theaters somewhere down the line, because I want to do that show.”

Bruce is equally as enthusiastic about his 26 cast members. He said the nine men, nine women and eight children play close to 200 parts during the 90-minute show, which means the show requires that many costumes as well.

A recently retired teacher, Bruce will host students from the school where he taught, Salina Middle School in Dearborn, at the final dress rehearsal, which also gives his cast a chance to gauge audience reactions before the show opens.

Bruce said the show is a holiday favorite because of it redemptive theme.

“It is so universally popular, I think, because this evil, awful, miserly person can be changed for the better and see the good in everything, and learn to become a better person, a good person, in a world that needs more happiness and joy,” he said. “I don’t think it could be more timely. We definitely need this kind of optimism and cheer, and you can’t leave the theater not feeling good.”

Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween are Bruce’s favorite holidays, in descending order.

“The autumn to winter season keeps getting better for me,” he said.

Bruce said the talent in his cast has allowed him free reign with his creativity.

“I didn’t have to alter anything I wanted to do with this production in terms of blocking or dance skill level,” he said. “Because I was very unbridled in how my design was going to look like, I have been able to create something that I think is one of the nicest shows I have ever, ever done.”

Dressing the talented cast is costumer Leah Cooley, who has 200 costumes to make or borrow from other theater groups.

She said the show reverses the pattern of a typical musical: the lead, Scrooge, has only two costume changes, while the other 25 cast members have at least four costume changes apiece.

“And it’s not just the costumes,” she said. “It’s accessories and capes and undergarments and gloves and all that.”

Cooley said she tries to provide actors with the accessories early on in the rehearsal process so they can use them to help develop their character. She also wants cast members to have ample time to learn how to move in the period clothing, especially the women.
“As you can image, walking in pre-Civil war garments is a little bit of a challenge,” she said.

Cooley said the show is primarily set in the 1840s, as well in the 1790s and in 1775 in flashbacks.
In addition to three different time periods, Cooley said that what was worn in English was different from what would have been worn in the United States.
“When we think of a bonnet, we think of ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and that is definitely not the English version of it,” she said.
Cooley said she has been very fortunate in that she has been able to borrow many period pieces from other local theaters, and she will be renting the ghost costumes from a theater in Grand Rapids who did the show several years ago.

She said she hopes the audience is drawn into the story from the first tableau.
“I hope they are taken from downtown Wyandotte,” Cooley said. “I hope the costumes, and Paul’s set, and the directing and all of that meld together and transport someone. That’s the beauty of live theater. Just for those two hours you can transport someone to a different time and place.”
Chris Chavez of Allen Park plays Ebeneezer Scrooge, with Isaac Clark of Allen as Tiny Tim, Don Corbett of Southgate as Bob Cratchet and Colleen Meade-Ripper of Livonia as Mrs. Cratchett.
Jay Howard of Dearborn plays the ghost of Jacob Marley, with Logan Laflin of Southgate as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Branden Omoregie of Detroit as the Ghost of Christmas Present and Courtney Perttula as the Wraith – the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Also in the cast are Dan Perttula of Allen Park as Mr. Smythe; Josh Gray of Brownstown Township as Scrooge as a young man; Nathan Vasquez of Flat Rock as Fred Anderson and young Jacob Marley; Taylor Charbonneau of Gibraltar as Emily; and Grosse Ile Township residents Cami and Kylie McClain as Grace and ensemble, respectively.
Sherry Irving of Riverview plays Mrs. Fezziwig, with Charlotte Clavet of Rockwood as Thomas Smythe, Abby Hinzmann of Southgate in the ensemble, Jacob Smith of South Rockwood as Scrooge as a boy and Taylor residents James and Stepheni Aguila as Mr. Fezziwig and ensemble, respectively.
Mia Morgan of Trenton is in the ensemble, with Ashley Gatesy of Westland as Scrooge’s mother, Parker Forgach of Woodhaven in the ensemble, and Wyandotte residents Lonnie Curri as Mrs. Mops, Andrew Dmitrchina as Jonathon, the caroling boy, and Elaine Lukawski in the ensemble.

Tickets are $18, with a $2 discount for seniors and students. To order, call 734-407-7020 or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

RINGWALD SERVES UP CULTURE CLASH

In a play ripped from the headlines, The Ringwald serves “The Cake” with slices of drama and comedy, which address whether businesses may choose to not contract with gay clientele.

The play runs 8 p.m. Nov. 16, 17, 19, 23, 24, 26 and 30, Dec. 1, 3, 7, 8 and 10, and 5 p.m. Dec. 2 and 9, at the theater, 22742 Woodward, Ferndale.

When Della, a middle-aged baker, is asked to make a wedding cake for a young woman she helped raise, who is marrying a woman, her world is turned upside down. Will she make the cake, or not, and take a stand – or not?

The play is written by Bekah Brunstetter, who has written for the TV shows “American Gods” and “This Is Us.”
Directed by Dyan Bailey, the cast includes Maggie Alger as Jen, Suzan M. Jacokes as Della, Audrey Jai as Macy and Joel Mitchell as Tim.

Tickets are $20 Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with $10 admission on Monday. For information, call 248-545-5545. For tickets, go to TheRingwald.com.