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Posted on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 : 7:15 a.m.

'39 Steps' at EMU, 'Sweeney Todd' at Ann Arbor Civic

By Carla Milarch

This week's listings demonstrate the strong tie between stage and film, as every production save one (can you guess which?) has been both a film and a stage play. Origins vary, with some staged before filmed, and vice versa, and a couple that were born from a famous novel.

It just goes to show that we humans love a good story, and when the necessary dramatic elements are there: plot, theme, characters and dialogue, to name a few—we are happy to see the same story told in various ways. In fact, stories have been a primal part of our humanity, helping us learn, connect, and introspect throughout the ages.

What’s your favorite story? Perhaps you will see it staged at a Washtenaw County theater this season!

Show: "NT LIVE: Frankenstein," through June 7
Company: University Musical Society and the Michigan Theater (at the Michigan Theater)
Type of Company: Special satellite broadcast from the National Theatre in London
Recommended ages: Contains themes of an adult nature; recommended for ages 15+
Description: Meeting with cruelty wherever he goes, the friendless Creature, increasingly desperate and vengeful, determines to track down his creator, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and strike a terrifying deal.
Review from the Telegraph
Fun fact: “Frankenstein” was adapted for the stage by Nick Dear and directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (“127 Hours,” “Slumdog Millionaire”).
For tickets and information:, 800-745-3000.

Show: “The 39 Steps” by Patrick Barlow, based on the original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, through June 9
Company: EMU Theatre
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Sponberg Theatre, EMU Campus, Ypsilanti
Recommended ages: 12+
Description: Two-time Tony Award winner and recipient of the Drama Desk Award, this show is packed with 150 characters played by 4 actors. A man with a boring life meets a woman with a thick accent who says she's a spy. When he takes her home, she is murdered. Soon, a mysterious organization called "The 39 Steps" is hot on the man's trail in a nationwide manhunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale.
Preview from
Fun fact: 4 actors present a story that includes over 150 characters and the entire dialogue of the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name.
For tickets and information: 734-487-2282 EMU Box Office
Special ticket offer: Print this story and bring to the EMU Theatre Box Office to save on admission! Purchase a regular admission $15 ticket for only $7. Limit 2 per customer.

Show: “Brilliant Traces” by Cindy Lou Johnson, through June 9
Company: Carriage House Theatre
Type of Company: Pre-professional
Venue/location: 541 Third St, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 16+
Description: A lost runaway bride shows up at the door of an Alaskan hermit. Both have been wounded and embittered by life, both are refugees from so-called civilization. Trapped in the snowbound cabin, they slowly must find common ground, exploring each other's, and their own, lives and pasts.
More information
Fun fact: The play received its New York premiere in 1989 at the Cherry Lane Theatre starring Joan Cusack as Rosannah.
For tickets and information:

Show: “Sweeney Todd” by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler, through June 10
Company: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
Type of Company: Community
Venue/location: The Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 North University, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 17 and up (due to violence and sexual situations)
Description: “Sweeney Todd,” the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, tells the story of Benjamin Barker, a barber who was exiled from gritty, 19th Century London by an evil judge who ravaged Barker’s wife and stole his daughter. Years later, Barker comes back to London as Sweeney Todd, and vows revenge against the judge who destroyed his life. Aided by Mrs. Lovett, a slatternly, diabolical baker, Todd enacts his revenge as the (Demon) Barber of Fleet Street in a most gruesome way as unwitting Londoners develop an insatiable appetite for “meat” pies.
Preview from
Fun fact: The original Broadway production was produced by Ann Arbor's own Judy Dow Rumelhart, who co-directed a production of Sweeney Todd for A2CT in 1992.
For tickets and information: 734-971-2228,

Show: “Nunsense” book and music by Dan Goggin, through June 10
Company: The Encore Musical Theatre Company
Type of Company: Equity Special Appearance Contract
Venue/location: The Encore Musical Theatre Company, 3126 Broad Street, Dexter
Recommended ages: All ages!
Description: When the Little Sisters of Hoboken discover that their cook has accidentally poisoned 52 of their fellow sisters, the sisters decide that the best way to raise the needed money for their burial is to put on a variety show, so they take over the school auditorium. Here we meet Reverend Mother Regina, a former circus performer; Sister Mary Hubert, the Mistress of the Novices; a streetwise nun from Brooklyn named Sister Robert Anne; Sister Mary Leo, a novice and wannabe ballerina; and the delightfully wacky Sister Mary Amnesia, a nun who lost her memory when a crucifix fell on her head. Featuring star turns, tap and ballet dancing, and comic surprises, “Nunsense” has become an international phenomenon with more that 5000 productions worldwide.
Review from
Fun fact: The original off-Broadway production opened December 12, 1985, running for 3,672 performances and becoming the second-longest-running Off-Broadway show in history. The show has since been adapted for television, starring Rue McClanahan, and has spawned six sequels and three spin-offs.
For tickets and information: 734-268-6200,

Show: “The Merry Wives of Windsor” by William Shakespeare through June 24
Company: Shakespeare in the Arb
Type of Company: Higher Education and Community production
Venue/location: Nichols Arboretum - an environmental staging in the Prairie area, but buy tickets at the Peony Garden entrance on Washington Heights
Recommended ages: 6+
Description: Sir John Falstaff is short of money, as always, and comes up with a scheme to replenish his purse by wooing two prosperous married Windsor wives, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. He sends them both the same love letter and the ladies, who are friends, decide to revenge themselves on him for his audacity. The comedy comes from the playful plotting of the wives, and Falstaff’s vanity that keeps him coming back for more abuse.
Preview from
Fun fact: Shakespeare wrote this play for Queen Elizabeth, who wanted to see Falstaff in love.
For tickets and information: No tickets are sold in advance. Come to the Peony Garden entrance on Washington Heights and line up for tickets before 5 p.m. on performance nights. Bring a picnic dinner and eat it in the peony garden while you wait.
Special ticket offer: Members of Matthaei Botanical Gardens Nichols Arboretum receive a discount.