Kalamazoo Civic Theatre

Janet Gover

Portage West Middle School seventh grader Andrew Klepser and Billy Elliot, the fictional title character of a film (2000) and musical (2005), have at least one thing in common: both were kind of surprised to discover they could dance. In a live interview, director Jay Berkow, actress Allison Crockett (Grandma), Max Butkiewicz (Michael) and Andrew Klepser (Billy Elliot) discuss the characters and themes of the musical, which will be a regional premiere in west Michigan.

Set during the doomed 1984-5 National Union of Mineworkers strike in the U.K. (one of the largest industrial actions in history), it tells the story of a motherless Billy Elliot, who lives with his somewhat senile grandmother and his father and brother, both coal miners, the latter involved in violence. Billy and his friend Michael are both accustomed to sometimes harsh and neglectful parenting, and so they set out to discover their own worth through trial and error -- Billy with the help of an unlikely mentor, the frustrated dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson.

Billy Elliot opens on Friday, May 4, and performances continue through May 20. Detail at the Kalamazoo Civic website.

Kalamazoo Civic Theatre

As the 1980s come to a close, a group of misfit rockers come together to try to save their favorite club from becoming a strip mall, in the jukebox musical Rock of Ages, which opens at the Kalamazoo Civic's Parrish Theatre on Friday. The cast -- including Robert Cook, Alec Olweean, Sam Slottow and Caitlin Sackett -- will share the stage with a live rock band, singing hits by Journey, Bon Jovi, Poison, Styx, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and others. The members of the cast and director Nicki Poer joined Cara Lieurance to preview the show.

Katherine Mumma

Director Steven Carver, marketing director Janet Gover, Este'fan Kizer (Sebastian), and Lizzy Stone (Ariel) join Cara Lieurance to preview the Kalamazoo Civic's production of The Little Mermaid, which opens on Friday. The familiar Hans Christian Anderson story, made famous in the 1989 Disney movie, was adapted to stage in 2007, but took a few years to reach its current version, says Carver. Lizzy Stone, who starred as Eliza in the Civic's My Fair Lady, says that as a redhead, she loved Ariel as a girl, going on to say that the part requires some unusual acting challenges, including wordless acting and a flying harness. Este'Fan Kizer, who was last seen in Sister Act, plays the crab Sebastian, and sings the most recognizable song in the musical, "Under The Sea."


Mel Brooks' now-classic film spoof of old horror movies, Young Frankenstein, was adapted to stage by Brooks himself in 2007. It follows the story of Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced "frahn-ken-shteen"), the grandson of the original Dr. Frankenstein. Fate drags him back to Transylvania, where he re-creates his grandfather's nefarious experiment, and all manner of antics ensue. The stage version retains many of the movie's best laughs and bawdy humor, and adds catchy songs and dance numbers, according to director Art Nemitz. He and actors Troy Thrash (Frederick Frankenstein), Kris Allemang Stahl (Inga), and Dwight Trice (Igor), joined Cara Lieurance for a preview of Young Frankenstein, which opens the 89th season of the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre this Friday.


Kalamazoo Civic Theatre

The final production of the 2016-17 Kalamazoo Civic Theatre season is Sister Act, the stage adaptation of the 1992 film, with lyrics and music by Glenn Slater and Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid).  Former managing director Jim Carver, at a vigorous 85 years old, is directing the show, which stars Christie Coleman as Deloris Van Cartier, Ron Ware as Curtis Shank, Este' Fan Kizer as Eddie Souther, and includes Janet Gover as Sister Mary Theresa. They joined Cara Lieurance for a preview of the show, which, they agreed, "is about love."


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