At the start of the show, the house lights go down and the curved screen at the back of the stage lights up with the face of a man named Lee Rifield. See, Rifield is the man who got Mitch Albom — yes, the guy who has written stories for the Detroit Free Press and novels like Tuesdays with Morrie — to finally write a musical about hockey, an idea Albom had brought up years prior.
Twenty years, four Tonys, a Pulitzer, a film, a cult following, innumerable national tours and regional and high school productions later, the musical that took Broadway by storm and opened up possibilities within the rock musical genre still has the power to move its audiences to laugh, cry, think and feel real empathy.
The five women who perform Kalamazoo’s New Vic Theater’s Big Night Out sing old standards, Broadway classics, as well as songs from more contemporary musicals, and through them, offer what they describe as “a celebration of life.”
Who among us doesn’t love a good summer wedding? Sweating in your best clothes to celebrate the holier-than-thou aggrandizement of heteronormativity, complete with behind-the-scenes jealousies tearing families apart, shelling out for gifts you didn’t really want to give, eating overpriced catered food and getting blisters in stiff shoes dancing to bad music.
The Barn Theatre’s Newsies is everything a musical should be — and more than one might expect. It’s a wonderful vehicle for the very talented ensemble cast who’ve been hard at work all summer long, and yet they enthusiastically leap, twirl, tap, sing their hearts out, and otherwise powerfully tell a fictionalized account of the newsboy strike of 1899 — a tale very much worth telling.
Hate letters. State government threats. Mayoral involvement. Armed police in the theater. Fred Sebulske had no idea what he would one day be getting himself into when he founded Actors’ Theatre Grand Rapids in 1980, or even when the group decided to stage one specific show in 2003.
Two Grand Rapids natives are returning to their roots, telling the story of their city’s theatrical history and the power of community theater.
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