Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra headed for December gig at Temple Theatre

by janet i. martineau

 A big-name jazz orchestra and its Grammy-winning leader are headed to Saginaw’s Temple Theatre for a Sunday, Dec. 8, concert.

Trumpet player/composer/educator Wynton Marsalis and the 14-member Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will perform their “Big Band Holidays”  touring program.  And opening the 5pm concert is the 18-member Michigan Jazz Trail Big Band with three guest singers.

Wynton Marsalis
Tickets, on sale at the Temple, are  $75 for VIP in the first two rows (included is a meet and greet with Marsalis), $55 for main floor rows C – O, and $35 for main floor rows P-AA and the balcony. 

Student tickets are available at $25 in the $35 sections. And there is a family pack available at a 10 percent discount (2 adults, 2 children).

Marsalis, 51, is a native of New Orleans. He attended the famed Juilliard School of Music, is the managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, the winner of an astounding nine Grammys for classical and jazz music and one Pulitzer for an oratorio, has penned six books, and hosted Peabody-winning educational series on PBS and NPR (to name just a few of his long list of credits).

In 1995 Time magazine named him as one of America’s most promising leaders under age 40 and in 1996 designated him as one America’s 25 most influential people. Life magazine named Marsalis as one of the “Most Influential Boomers.”

And in the summer of 2014, he will become the director of jazz studies at Juilliard.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra began in 1987 as a summer concert series;  by 1991 became an official department at the New York City performance venue (home also to the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet), and in 2004 opened its own performance facility there, one designed for the sound, function and feeling of jazz. 

Marsalis founded the orchestra. Its players are top-rated soloists, ensemble players and jazz arrangers.

Annually the orchestra and Marsalis tour worldwide and perform in collaborations with many of the world’s top symphony orchestras as well as presenting their own headliner concerts. Over the years the orchestra also has premiered pieces Marsalis composed.

The Saginaw concert is the brainchild of Midlander Molly McFadden, who started the Michigan Jazz Trail Festival organization in 2010 as a way to honor the state’s rich jazz heritage and provide a Great Lakes Bay Region celebration of it. 

In addition to forming its 18-piece big band, comprised of select regional players and conducted by Jim Hohmeyer, Michigan Jazz Trail has sponsored regional jazz festivals, hosted jazz clinics for high school students, and partnered with other non-profits to present programs.

In 2014, Michigan Jazz Trail is planning to produce regional jazz festivals in Saginaw, Midland, Bay City, Tawas and Charlevoix.

Says McFadden of the Marsalis booking, “The musicians in the Michigan Jazz Trail Big Band want to raise the bar in their performing, and this is a Christmas gift to them for their past four years of providing first-rate concerts,  for their love of jazz, and for their loyalty to the mission and the vision of the Michigan Jazz Trail Festival.”

Performing with the Michigan Jazz Trail band at the Marsalis concert are McFadden, a former New York City cabaret singer; Julie Mulady, a singer with the Brush Street combo, and Dacia Mackey, a recent Arthur Hill High School graduate and a soloist with the Saginaw ACT-SO program sponsored by the Saginaw branch of the NAACP.

The Dec. 8 concert is  funded in part by a grant from the Saginaw Community Foundation’s Senior Citizen Enrichment Fund.

The Temple Theatre is located at 203 N. Washington. To order tickets, call (989) 754-7469. They also are available online at

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bay City Players' "Moonglow" puts humor into the Alzheimer's situation

Debbie Lake, Debra Monroe, Margaret Bird, Leeds Bird

review by janet i. martineau/photos by kunio ouellette

A comedy....about Alzheimer’ in which gales of laughter sweep the theater at the Bay City Players.

Who would have ever guessed.

And that it was penned by Michigan playwright/Wayne State graduate Kim Carney, with plenty of Mitten State references, adds to the fun.

Yes, fun, about Alzheimer’s.

We’re talking about “Moonglow,” which opened this past weekend and continues this coming weekend.

Thanks to its script and its stupendous casting in Bay City, this is a don’t miss production that is respectful both of the disease and old age, that will at the end leave you in tears after all that laughter (especially if you are still trying to cope with your own mother’s death even if she did not die from dementia), and that will make you realize we’re all in this together as it captures in sight and words the aging process that will claim us all. (We suspect the older you are, the funnier this show is because, well, you see yourself). 

What is best about it, however, is the casting -- some of the area’s top notch actors -- and its strong direction by Tina Sills.

Leeds and Margaret Bird, a real-life married couple “up there” in years, are cast as two residents of an Alzheimer’s care facility. Debbie Lake of Saginaw is the anxiety-ridden daughter who has just placed her reluctant and angry mother (Margaret Bird) in that facility. Kurt Miller is the son the Leeds Bird character no longer recognizes. Debra Monroe is the head caretaker at the facility -- routinely caught between the patients and their overbearing children.

Kate Sarafolean, Dave Newsham
And in the play’s trickiest casting are Dave Newsham and Kate Sarafolean as the Alzheimer’s duo in the 1940s, when they were young. Sometimes all four share the stage, shadow or mirror each others movements, speak in tandem. Other times they drift on and off like ghosts. In the final scene...well....we’ll we don’t want to spoil its discovery but in the final scene one of them talks from beyond this world as her body lies before us.

It is tricky writing, tricky casting and tricky direction to carry it off. If there is one issue it is that the younger couple in no way resemble the older couple in terms of height. But that is a minor moot point.

This younger pair also, whether this is intentional or not, create a little confusion in our minds now and then....confusion on who is who that Alzheimer’s patients suffer.

Leeds Bird is the powerhouse of the acting ensemble. Every fiber of his being is a confused old man -- the way his face contorts, picking at his arms, shuffling in his gait, trying to make a craft as the old lady bosses his every move until he erupts, confident still in his dance skills.

Lake too delivers a moving performance as a daughter trying to convince her mother this care facility is the right move, reacting with total astonishment and delight when something kinda warm and fuzzy happens, refusing to acknowledge the reality of Alzheimer’s, and that killer scene at the end.

But Margaret Bird, Monroe and Miller are right in lock step too with their characterizations. What is fascinating is the show also gently but effectively deals with the plight of adult children coming to terms with parents who have Alzheimer’s and some of the issues care facility staff have to deal with.

The play spans the course of one year (1997, the year the playwright’s mother died of Alzheimer’s) at that facility, its one-scene set (designed by Leeds Bird) effectively used in allowing the motion to continue uninterrupted by set changes.

So many many of the Alzheimer’s-related movies we have seen have been total downers. “Moonglow” offers another viewpoint to consider, one that is compassionate yes but also finds a way to add humor to its complexities.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Saginaw Choral Society's night at the opera was a mixed bag

Tami Snyder-Knutson puts the moves on the conductor during her "Carmen" aria

review and photos by janet i. martineau

Poor Glen Thomas Rideout...he was much set upon Saturday night trying to conduct the Saginaw Choral Society’s “Fantasies of the Opera” concert at the Temple Theater.

A trail of lights from the glow sticks
The vixen “Carmen” put the moves on him as he tried to conduct her famed “Habanera”  aria. A very modern major general from “The Pirates of Penzance” actually pushed him off the podium and grabbed his baton. A windup doll from “Tales of Hoffman” wound down, not once but twice, and he had to run off the stage, get a key and then wind her back up again.

But worst of all...these four GROWN MEN came out in tutu garb to hype the coming Christmas concert....and thew glitter on him.

Opera lover that I am, I found this nonsense distracting from the beauty of the music at hand, as was Rideout’s over narration. But I also have to admit I laughed at the did the sparse audience. What was a major major distraction, however, was the use of glow lights during the exquisite Humming Chorus” from Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”

Concertgoers were given the gizmos upon arriving and told not to activate them until given the word by Rideout....which, it turns out, was not too far into the “Humming Chorus.” And from then on, the music took second place to the light show. And as fascinating as that light show was, one of the most sound-rich pieces in opera was trashed.

And while we are on a negative note....the sound crew did an abominable job with the soloists. Tami Snyder-Knutson’s microphone cut in and out and in and out and buzzed during the first half. And Jim Smerdon’s basically did not work much at all on his Gilbert and Sullivan “Modern Major General” song, which cut its comic effect nearly totally.

Now to the plusses.

Snyder-Knutson and Rachelle Austin, both sopranos, were outstanding in the “Flower Song” from Delibes’ “Lakme” -- a duet that requires, at several points, their voices to blend as one.

Austin is the one who performed Offenbach’s “Doll’s Aria,” and not only was her voice spot on in the athletic and demanding piece but her pantomime skills as the wind-up doll were a joy to watch.

Snyder-Knutson nicely slinked her way around the stage as the sultry Bizet “Camen” while staying true to the song and also was a joy to hear in  two other arias, from Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi” and Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino.”

Two of the four tutu men
The two soloists and tenor Jeremiah Kraniak, who had one solo and joined Austin in a duet, are all graduates of the music program at Saginaw Valley State University, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Nice effect and job, too, from chorale members Suellen Estes and Nancy Stevenson who actually “played” an anvil during the “Anvil Chorus” from Verdi’s “Il Travatore.”

And the choir was in top form on the six chorus pieces in the program, which ranged from that aforementioned “Humming Chorus” to Lloyd Webber’s “Masquerade: from “Phantom of the Opera.”

Opera is so rarely done in these parts anymore, so faults aside it was a concert that delighted the ears.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Stefanie Powers asks Saginaw audience to help her on behalf of rhinos and elephants

story by janet i. martineau

For an hour Monday, actress Stefanie Powers took her Horizons Town Talk audience on a trip from Hollywood’s studio system in its waning years, which she entered in the 1960s at age 16, to the wilds of Kenya, where she now lives part of the year.

Stefanie Powers file photo
She recalled the year 2009 and two events in the same month that stopped her in her tracks -- the death of her mother, 96, and losing a large part of her right lung to lung cancer.

Choking back tears, she said she still thinks of her mother every day.  “When your mom dies, you are no longer someone’s child.”

In 1967 her “Girl From U.N.C.L.E.” made television history, she recalled  -- as the first hour-long series to star a woman. It filmed 29 episodes, including one with guest star Boris Karloff in drag. Through the years she also acted in 31 movies, with the likes of Lana Turner, John Wayne, Tallulah Bankhead, Bing Crosby and Troy Donahue.

Showing slides throughout her talk, Powers quickly brushed through her six-year marriage to Gary Lockwood and then settled for a long stretch on her nine-year relationship with William Holden, despite a 24-year age difference.

“We were two heat-seeking missiles  attracted to each other. My true love. We were soul mates” -- until his death in 1981 from alcoholism.

“It is a disease. It is physical, emotional, hereditary.” She learned of his  death, that he had been found dead in his apartment, through news reports after trying repeatedly to reach him by telephone from Hawaii, where she was filming a “Hart to Hart” TV series episode with co-star Robert Wagner.

“And two weeks later his wife, Natalie Wood, drowned in Catalina. We  helped each other through our losses.”

There was laughter when she recalled she and some friends were “all married to the same man ... they in real life and me on the screen.” Memories surfaced of playing third base on a woman’s Hollywood softball team coached by Aaron Spelling.

But then she turned passionate, agitated and serious.

Holden had introduced her to Kenya in 1974 and his love of the animals there. He had a ranch on the slopes of Mount Kenya, where he focused on the preservation of endangered species -- aided by a man from Michigan.

She took his ashes there and opened an education center in 1984 “as he had wanted to” -- the William Holden Wildlife Foundation.

It has, so far, served a half-million Kenyans, teaching them about habitat preservation, helping them with cooking skills and clean water, giving them alternatives to habitat destruction, offering outreach programing by building libraries for schools.

“And now poaching in the last five years has reached the industrial scale there -- horns from the rhinos and ivory from the elephants because of China’s demand for it.  Nothing is being done about it by our government because China owns so much of our debt. We have sold ourselves to the devil by not making them responsible.”

She recalled that when dolphins were being killed in tuna nets by the Japanese fishing industry, the world took issue and the Japanese responded. Tuna cans today carry the label “dolphin free.”

“So I welcome you to my fight (for the rhino and elephants). When you go to Walmart, look at the labels and see where things are made. If it is China, do you really need it. Can you, for just a little more, buy an American version.

“Start a petition of your own and inundate the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. Consider the fact that their thick pollution there, their air,  is measurable in Seattle.

“Changes occur when people become active.”

She is 70 now, and people ask her when she is going to retire.

“I can’t retire. There is far too much to be done for animals in need, and one way or another I intend to be there until I am no longer breathing.

“Won’t you join me?”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Michigan Recital Project" concert a well played celebration of the great Mitten state

review by janet i. martineau

Thank you, three Bostonians, for reminding us in music played and sung so beautifully what a wonderful state of Michigan we call home.

That, is a nutshell, sums up “The Michigan Recital Project” chamber music concert Monday night in Saginaw Valley State University’s sound-bright Rhea Miller Recital Hall.

Emily Marvosh
The “project” is in the midst of a week-long tour of five venues throughout Michigan. And the three Bostonians...well, they all called Michigan home growing up -- one of them being contralto Emily Marvosh, a graduate of Valley Lutheran High School.

The 12 selections on the program were either composed by people with Michigan connections and/or refer to Michigan in their lyrics. And stop to consider this: collectively they include four Pulitzer Prize winners (three of them from Michigan in a testament to our creative talent), four are premieres for this tour, one came from the pen of Irving Berlin of all people, and on Monday night two of the composers were in the audience because they live in mid-Michigan.

First a word about the performers. Marvosh and soprano Margot Rood (from St. Clair) have exquisite voices, ever so clear and precise in diction and when teamed up in a duet you just get goosebumps.

They were accompanied by pianist Joseph Turbessi (from Nunica) who when he soloed on a William Bolcom ragtime titled “The Graceful Ghost”....well we wanted to hear more solo work from him.

Picking a favorite piece is impossible because all of the works, even the brand new contemporary ones, were listener friendly, enjoyable and well performed.

Joseph Turbessi
William Rice’s seven-movement “Ode to Lake Michigan,” based on a  single poem by Michigander Richelle Wilson, totally captured the many moods of that body of water in sound as well as word. You could just feel it. Issac Schankler’s “Fire and Ice,” based on a poem by Robert Frost (who lived in Michigan 1921-27), was sung with great humor by Marvosh, its seesaw words and score pondering “will the world end in fire or ice” with great booms from the piano.

Scott R. Harding’s fun and sorta-ragtimey “The Laughter and the Music” evoked memories of Lily Tomlin’s telephone lady  Ernestine, other comics and musicians from the state, and violence on TV not violins. Mary Montgomery Koppel’s native Americanish “The Death of Minnehaha” added flutist Tess Miller of Alma College to the trio of Bostonians and some fancy fluting special effects. Miller played in several of the pieces.

Scott Ordway’s “Detroit” toyed with the images of the tiny bicycle-like wheels on Model Ts, the Temptations of Motown fame and urban gardens -- an unlikely trio but a creative one.

Margot Rood
Rood really cut loose with the humor on three selections from Bolcom’s “Cabaret Songs” -- the first one filled with sarcastic and torchy notes and movements about a lousy love affair in its final throes and the last about a young woman who catches the eye of a cop, an ice cream salesman and a judge cause she “looked so good.” The words were provided, yet again, by a poet-- Arnold Weinstein.

And for right in our own back yard there was a healthy helping of Ned Rorem music set to Saginaw-born Theodore Roethke’s poems in the 1960s and two selections from Saginaw Township’s very current Catherine McMichael (“Winter Doves” just totally charmed us).

Now for the sour notes....the gremlins of this elegant night.

First off, on the very first piece, a foot pedal on Turbessi’s piano emitted a gawd-awful squawk. To the rescue, despite being dressed to the nines, Marvosh swooped under the piano and fixed it.


And then...and then...right after intermission, when all four performers were barely into the “Minnehaha” piece.....the Curtiss Hall alarm system with its flashing lights and blaring sound went off.

No fire. No nothing. But we all, performers included, spend 15 shivering minutes outside until the all clear.

“Thank you for coming back,” Marvosh said at they began the interrupted work all over. No problem. By then we were totally hooked on the flavorful program.

For your FYI....the four Pulitizer winners represented were Rorem, Roethke, Bolcom and Leo Sowerby. The premieres were “Ode,” “Laughter,” “Minnehaha” and “Detroit.” In the audience were McMichael and  Harding. And the Berlin piece was “I Want to Go Back to Michigan,” extolling farmlands.

Monday, October 7, 2013

SVSU's "And Then They Came for Me" painful but well done theater

Amanda Moths, Cassidy Morey at lower left; Eva Schloss at upper right

review by janet i. martineau

It is sobering to realize that, 75 years after the beginning of the Holocaust,  we are still trying to find a way to cope with the aftermath of Nazi Germany. When 6 millions Jews were gassed, shot and starved to death along with 4 million homosexuals, gypsies and handicapped.

75 years.

And we are still writing and performing plays about it -- such as “And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank,” playing this week at Saginaw Valley State University before audiences of middle school students as well as adults.

Frankly I am not sure how much more my soul can bear it, but

of course the story must keep being told to new generations -- kids now who were the age Anne Frank was back then.

Playing through Wednesday, this production directed by David Rzeszutek gives rise to the old theater warning to never share a stage with kids or dogs. Because they will steal the show from out under you.

In this case, the six-member cast shares the stage with something even more demanding of audience attention -- huge overhead projections of two real-life Holocaust survivors, both Jews, talking about their link to Anne Frank. One was her first boyfriend and the other a friend whose mother eventually married Anne Frank’s  father after he lost his wife and two daughters in the concentration camps.

These are REAL people, now in their 80s, and we are so compelled into listening to them  that sometimes the actors below portraying them seem like intruders.

A very strange mix from playwright James Still, combining a filmed documentary look with staged acting. Factor in scenic designer Jerry Dennis’  “Night of Broken Glass” stylized set featuring jagged glass shard shapes on which the video projections dance and, well, it is a heart tugger of epic proportions.

If Eva Schloss and  Ed Silverberg are alive for those haunting interviews of how they endured and survived.....that means....that in a more perfect world Anne Frank would also still be with us. And Schloss is particularly compelling in her dialogue.

Jonah Conner as Hitler Youth
That said, the SVSU actors do a fine job of holding their own, in particular Cassidy Morey as Young Eva (she had to deliver a strong performance to match the dynamics of the real Eva)  and Jonah Conner as a Hitler Youth (Conner also plays Eva’s father, a fact we did not realize until we analyzed the program, so deftly he separates the two. In fact, three cast members have double roles played well.)

Amanda Moths also is a heart breaker as Eva’s mother, who tries to keep her restless daughter quiet while in hiding in Amsterdam and later nearly dying in the concentration camps.

In a real chiller, Olexiy Kryvych is double cast as Eva’s brother and Ed’s father. In a talkback after the Monday performance, he told the audience he is from Ukraine and lost ancestors in the real today the story remains.

Rounding out the cast are Zachery Wood as Young Ed and Kristen Carter as Anne Frank and Ed’s mother.

If there is a problem with the show it is that the real Eva is sometimes hard to understand with her accent, that both the real Eva and real Ed projections and voices are not in synch, and that sometimes the actors are overpowered by those projections.

But in the end...the final scene with candles and pieces of clothing and a guitar placed on a solitary chair....this production nails it. As does the box of shoes at the entrance to the theater.

In the program notes, Eva Schloss is quoted as saying, “My posthumous step-sister, Anne Frank, wrote in her Diary, ‘I still believe that deep down human beings are good at heart.’ I cannot help remembering that she wrote this before she experienced Auschwitz and Belsen.”

“And Then They Came for Me” continues at 10am Tuesday, 10am and 7:30pm Wednesday, and 7:30pm Thursday.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Midland's "Dracula: The Musical" a visual and vocal delight

review by janet i. martineau

Not to belabor the point, and we won’t, but the “Dracula: the Musical” script and score sucks.

Tony Serra in flight in "Dracula: The Musical"
However, HOWEVER, director Keely Stanley-Bohn and her cast and crew at the Midland Center for the Arts did not let that minor detail get in the way. Nope. They sunk their teeth into this puppy to present a visually and vocally stunning piece of theater.

Not only do Count Dracula and his victims soar with grace and ease up to the top of the 50-foot-high high set but so too do their voices soar in some of the most gorgeous singing community theater or any theater can deliver.

And the Laurelei Horton costumes....the layered look of the Kristen O'Connor set with its two sets of stairs and bug drawings on the walls...the nuances coming from conductor Jim Hohmeyer and his orchestra....the set changes done quickly, efficiently and mostly all adds up to a feast.

We went to this show with a bad attitude...never have cared for Bram Stoker’s  Dracula novel and all of its movie incantations or for Wilder’s musical scores which feature just about every overwrought song sounding the same. 

And with this musical he and the book/lyrics writers Don Black and Christopher Hampton turn the story into Dracula the lovesick blood sucker willing to give up everything for, sigh, love....not to mention that if you are not familiar with the general Stoker story, things can get a bit confusing.

So best to just sit back and take in the visuals and vocals, and acting, in this production wisely done in the smaller little theater at the center. Makes it much more intimate and real.

There is a redness to the set. One of the actresses has actual beetle wings sewn in to her skirt. As we noted, look at the breathtaking height of the castle-like set and those oversize bugs and spiders drawn on its walls.

Tony Serra in the title role is phenomenal -- with just the right accent, menacing gestures all over the place, a deep reverberating singing voice, near perfect diction, as graceful as a ballet dancer when he flies (via Foy). As silly as the love story gets, Serr overcomes it and we see nothing of Serra in the role, just Dracula.

Adding strong support are Brooke Pieschke as Mina, who Dracula falls for in shades of “Phantom of the Opera” copycatting; Bill Anderson Jr. as Mina’s betrothed, and Calyn Liberati as Lucy, Mina’s ill-fated friend.

They too are rock-solid in their characters with singing voices to die for. Scene 10, which features all of them in a series of songs, stirs the musical soul -- especially when Anderson, Serra and Pieschke render an opera-like trio during it.

Fine work too by Adam Gardner as a bug-eating mental patient and Vincent Hanchon as a Texan who was one of Mina’s suitors. These two, at separate times, also deliver some stomach-turning bits of business. This production is, in places, graphic.

And sexual. With vampire women having their way with Anderson’s character on a bed as well as Dracula and Lucy spinning in space in a suggestive embrace.

Nice directing and response too when various cast members are bitten by Dracula and other vampires. Both the biters and the bitten are very realistic and smooth in how they move and/or fall victim

Just about everyone flies in this show, and they look remarkably at ease with it -- singing well as well as speaking their lines as the fly crew spins them, lowers them ever so gently and smoothly on each other, whisks them away or crosses their paths. At the end, Serra is flown in from above to the ground inside a casket! Makes “Peter Pan” look trite.

In more than 40 years of reviewing theater, we have always said the script is everything and without a solid one a production will more than likely fail.

Turns out Midland’s production of “Dracula: The Musical” is a wonderful exception to that assumption.

The show runs through Oct. 12.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pit and Balcony's "Young Frankenstein" full of frightfully good fun

Lucy Malacos, Kevin Profitt, Christopher Dinnan and Christy Horn

review and photographsby janet i. martineau

Fair warning, mid-Michigan, if you slink out to see Pit and Balcony Community Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein -- the Musical,” visions of dancing the “Transylvania Mania” will swirl in your head from now through Halloween.

Forget about the famed “Monster Mash” song of my youth ... I am hooked on “Transylvania Mania.” It should catch on in a flash.

And Pit....well, methinks it has a box office smash with this Mel Brooks  concoction based on his 1974  campy movie of the same name (and which was  ranked No. 13 on AFI’s list of the 100 funniest American movies). 

Funny....oh my god is it funny with its one-liners, double-entendres, sexual innuendo and sight gags spoofing the movie monster genre and the Frankenstein novel. There is an ill-timed game of charades. A kick line danced sitting down. A revolving hidden door that catches the leading man smack in the face. A monster dancing the soft shoe. A bed that rises into the air with an amorous couple, um, rising in it. A hay ride with horses. Moving humps on Igor’s back.  We could go on.

And the choreography and general cast movement is TO DIE FOR... including, toward the end, an all-out tap dance routine filled with kids who have waited all evening for this one short number.

Dinnan, Malacos and Horn
We caught the final dress rehearsal on Thursday night (it opens tonight) and it was rife with some monstrous set change blunders, set change noise and lengthy scene changing. 

But once those issues settle down -- and make no mistake about it this is one of the most complicated shows seen at Pit in ages -- this show will nail it in the entertainment factor.

Already Jim Gaertner’s rip-smart cast has has nailed it. 

This is a physical, all-out show, full of bits of business needing near-perfect timing, and they never wavered on Thursday night. 

Their facial expressions and body English were scene stealers all over the place. Their diction was generally clear and not rushed, with a few exceptions. They danced like pros. Sang well for the most part (again a few exceptions in this score with some new music not in the movie). And they navigated treacherous castle steps without breaking their necks.

To a one, they were in character and stayed in character -- in a show where being a caricature threatens because everyone is this show is wacky.

Standouts.....Greg Allison as Igor, the witty, slithering, stooped assistant to Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (played by Christopher Dinnan, who utters the line “Pardon me boy, is this the Transylvania station); Lucy Malacos as Frau Bluecher, the stern castle maven who desperately croons “He Vas My Boyfriend”; Kevin Profitt as the grunting monster on elevator shoes; Christy Horn as the slutty Inga enjoying a “Roll in the Hay”, Eric Schantz as the cocky town inspector; the ensemble in a variety of scenes.

Kudos galore to choreographer Candy (Brown) Kotze as well as director Gaertner; to music director S. Noel Howland; to set designer (and former Saginawian) Chris Largent, what a set); to the costume crew for an amazing bunch of rag-tag stuff.

Mel Brooks would be proud.

For more pictures from the show: