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Posted on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 5:05 a.m.

'Escanaba,' 'Wonderful Life' and 'Ain't Misbehavin'' all great holiday retreats

By Carla Milarch

Not only is Thanksgiving weekend the biggest shopping weekend of the year, it’s also the biggest drinking weekend—and for good reason. While retailers would have you believe otherwise, Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season, and all of the stress that comes with it!

The festivities have begun for many already, as houses fill up with out of town guests, and kitchens fill up with baking pies and other delectable treats. But as quarters grow close, many of us get a little claustrophobic, or yearn for help with the event planning.

Might I suggest a night out at the theater, for your guests, or your whole family? Whether you want them out of your hair while you finish the cooking Wednesday night, or a no-vacuuming-required activity that you can enjoy over the weekend, a night at the theater is the perfect getaway.

Be sure to check listings in advance, for added Wednesday and cancelled Thursday performances due to the holiday. This week’s shows offer heaping helpings of fun, music and laughter, so you can sit back, relax and be thankful—for a city with great theater!

Show: “Escanaba in da Moonlight” by Jeff Daniels, through Dec. 31
Company: Purple Rose Theatre Company
Type of Company: Professional Equity (SPT)
Venue location: Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park Street, Chelsea
Recommended ages: 12+
Description: As the Soady clan gathers at the family deer camp, Reuben Soady is hoping to shed the mantle of "the buckless yooper." But as opening day of deer season approaches, a series of weird occurrences and crazy locals seem to prevent him from bagging his buck. One this is sure, this hunting trip will be one for the Soady history books! Wayne David Parker (Jimmer Negamanee) returns to the role he created.
Review from
Fun Fact: The pasty, the traditional meat pie from the Upper Peninsula was originally brought to the region by Cornish miners who immigrated to the area in the 1840s.
For tickets and information:, 734-433-7673.

Show: “It's a Wonderful Life - An Original Musical” through Dec. 23
Company: The Encore Musical Theatre Company
Type of Company: Equity Special Appearance Contract
Venue/location: 3126 Broad Street, Dexter 48130
Recommended ages: 6+
Description: George Bailey and his bumbling Guardian Angel, Clarence, return to The Encore for a second year. Based on the classic holiday film of the same name starring Jimmy Stewart, it takes place in Bedford Falls, New York, 1946. Bailey, who has long considered himself a failure, faces financial ruin and arrest and doubts his own self worth. But, high above Bedford Falls an eternally bumbling Angel, Clarence Oddbody, is sent from Heaven to help George out.
Preview from
Fun fact: The 1946 film, produced and directed by Frank Capra was based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern.
For tickets and information:, 734-268-6200
Special ticket offer: Employees of local theatres can get a ticket to any Thursday evening performance for only $15, with an updated headshot and resume.

Show: “Ain’t Misbehavin’: the Fats Waller Musical Show” by Richard Maltby Jr. and Murray Horwitz, through Jan. 1
Company: Performance Network Theatre
Type of Company: Professional Equity (SPT)
Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 12 +
Description: The prodigious comic and musical soul of 1930s Harlem lives on in this rollicking, finger-snapping revue that is still considered one of Broadway's best. The inimitable Thomas "Fats" Waller rose to fame during the Golden Age of the Cotton Club, honky tolk dives, rent parties and that jumpin' new beat, Swing. Ain't Misbehavin' evokes the delightful humor and infectious energy of this American era.
Review from
Fun fact: Harlem Stride Piano, or Stride Piano, for which Fats Waller was famous, is a jazz piano style that was developed in the cities of the East Coast, mainly New York, during the 1920s and 30s. The left hand plays a four-beat pulse with a single bass note, octave, seventh or tenth interval on the first and third beats, and a chord on the second and fourth beats. Unlike earlier "St. Louis" pianists, stride players' left hand often leapt greater distances on the keyboard, and they played faster and improvised.
For tickets and information: 734-663-0696,