The word “magic” often gets thrown around in the theatre world, and rightfully so. When the right script and talent come together in the right time and place to positively transfix the right audience, there’s no doubt an extraordinary amount of work; but there’s also an indescribable element of magic. And when all those conditions collide at once it is a rare event indeed.
In 1974, America was post-Watergate; Nixon was out, and the disastrous economy under Carter was yet to come. The Vietnam War was over. Civil Rights had been won in the courts and the legislature, if not in the culture at large. Working class people had a political party that served their interests, and they could earn a living wage and be proud of the lives they could make from their labor.
There are some peculiar films in Disney’s back-catalog, but one of the most offbeat was the company’s 1996 animated adaptation of Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
On Thursday night, the Spectrum Theater was filling up for the opening night of “Hit the Wall” by Actors’ Theatre Grand Rapids. Everyone took their seats, the lights still on, cast members chatting in groups around the stage, the band playing music in the background. Without introduction, the lights only dimming slightly, the cast took places and a woman — the character of Carson played by Darius Colquitt — began to sing. The audience was instantly engaged, some even singing along in their seats.
It’s clear from the first moments of the opening number, “I Never Wanted This,” the Michigan premiere of Broadway’s 2015 musical wedding farce It Shoulda Been You at Farmers Alley Theatre is atypical. A Rubenesque young woman dressed in a bathrobe and veil reveals in song that she’s Jewish, “32ish,” and never wanted to get married. “All of this for a steady lay?” she sings, presumably regarding the drama of her wedding day.
In Thoroughly Modern Millie, a classic musical tale of rejuvenation and following your dreams is told through Millie Dillmount, a girl-next-door who uproots her rural life to move to The Big Apple in the 1920s.
For many theater fans in west Michigan, the summer doesn’t really begin until the Barn Theatre opens its doors. The area’s equity summer-stock house on Saturday offered a preview of its 71st season with “A Lot of Song & A Little Dance,” a benefit concert showcasing many of the Barn’s returning stars and 21 of its young apprentices, the Actors’ Equity Membership Candidates who will appear on the mainstage and in the ever-popular Bar Shows.
Randy Wyatt is a local playwright and professor at Aquinas College, where he directs the theater program. A native of Marshfield, Mass., Wyatt went to college in Grand Rapids and grad school in Texas and Minneapolis. After getting his master’s of fine arts in directing, he worked in Chicago for six months before Aquinas contacted him about a position. It’s been 10 years since.
In the 1950s, Father Knows Best was one of the most popular shows in America. The classic family sitcom starred Robert Young and Jane Wyatt, among others, including the youngest actress on set, Lauren Chapin, who played Kitty, Father’s youngest child.
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