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Posted on Wed, Nov 16, 2011 : 7:27 a.m.

'It's a Wonderful Life' at Encore, 'Trumpets and Raspberries' at U-M

By Carla Milarch

With both snow and 50-degree weather in the past week, the weather outside is truly frightful. At times like these it’s not hard to see why winter is the peak time for theater, and this week, the theater is (truly) delightful.

From an original musical based on the ultimate feel-good Christmas drama, to a socialist comedy by well-known Italian communist and theatrical innovator Dario Fo, variety is the spice. Professional theater, educational theater, student-produced, lectures, and even a fundraiser with plays written by kids—this week has it all!

There are six shows this week that have ties to education, reminding us of our responsibility to support the arts in education and expose our children to a variety of experiences. With lots of feel-good fare on offer, the holiday season is the perfect time to get out to theater, and bring the kids!

Theater listings for the week

Show: “The Return of Oatmeal” one-time event, Nov. 17
Company: The Penny Seats and 826 Michigan
Type of Company: Pre-professional
Venue/location: Rackham Auditorium, East Washington At Fletcher, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: All
Description: The Penny Seats will join forces with 826 Michigan, taking the stage at Rackham Auditorium alongside acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Dave Eggers ("A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius") and other guest artists to perform staged readings of five short plays by local students, ages 8 to 18. Eggers will interview the student playwrights between pieces.
More info from
Fun fact: The event represents the second annual partnership between The Penny Seats and 826 Michigan. The plays were written in workshops conducted by 826 Michigan, and all proceeds from the show will go to the local nonprofit tutoring and writing center.
For tickets and information: Brown Paper Tickets, 800-838-3006

Show: Penny W. Stamps Speakers Series: "Mx. Justin Vivian Bond: Tango Backwards and in High Heels," one-time event, Nov. 17
Company: Presented by the U-M School of Art & Design. With support from the U-M Spectrum Center’s 40th Anniversary Celebration, the U-M Institute for the Humanities, and the University Musical Society.
Venue/location: Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty Street, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: All
Description: Singer, songwriter and Tony-nominated performance artist Mx Justin Vivian Bond is an Obie, Bessie and Ethyl Eichelberger Award winner. He has written, directed and starred in numerous performances including "Christmas Spells" and the GLAAD nominated show "Lustre." As one-half of the performance duo Kiki and Herb, Bond has toured the world, headlining at Carnegie Hall, The Sydney Opera House, and London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Fun fact: Film credits include "Shortbus," "Fancy’s Persuasion" and "Imaginary Heroes." Television appearances include "Ugly Betty" and "Late Night With Conan O’Brien."
For tickets and information:

Show: “The Little Dog Laughed” by Douglas Carter Beane, through Nov. 19
Company: Basement Arts
Type of Company: Student produced
Venue/location: Studio 1, Walgreen Drama Center, 1226 Murfin, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 13+
Description: Playwright Douglas Carter Beane brings us a fast-paced, hilarious look at the world of celebrity and the down-and-dirty politics of show business. No one is exactly who they say they are, as a ballsy agent, her up-and-coming movie star client, a rent boy, and his socialite girlfriend search for true happiness.
Fun fact: The title is a reference to the fictional short story written by Arturo Bandini in John Fante’s “Ask the Dust.” The same title is also used for a fictional play that appears in Agatha Christie’s “Three Act Tragedy.”
For tickets and information: Admission is free.


Photo by Peter Smith Photography

Show: “Trumpets & Raspberries” by Dario Fo, through Nov. 20
Company: U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance Department of Theatre & Drama
Type of Company: Higher education
Venue/location: Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 12+
Description: Antonio Berardi isn't himself today... but someone else is. Reminiscent of the Marx Brother's antics, "Trumpets & Raspberries" is a satirical farce about mistaken identity, the "haves," the "have-nots," and the perils of losing face.
Preview from
Fun fact: Thursday, Nov. 17 is sold out. Limited seats remain for the Friday - Sunday performances.
For tickets and information: 734-764-2538,

Show: “Dead Man’s Shoes” (staged reading) by Joseph Zettelmaier, through Nov. 20
Company: EMU Theatre
Type of Company: Higher education
Venue/location: Sponberg Theatre, EMU
Recommended ages: 18+, mature audiences only
Description: “Dead Man’s Shoes” is a dark comedy set in the Wild West in the 1800s. Injun Bill Picote has escaped prison with a new partner that he never wanted. Hard-luck drunk Froggy follows Bill on his quest to demand satisfaction for the death and mutilation of a friend. But as Bill slowly discovers his never-used conscience, he must question the mantra that leads him on the path of vengeance..."A man is not shoes!"
More info from
Fun fact: This staged reading by award-winning Michigan playwright Joseph Zettelmaier will be directed by Performance Network Artistic Director, David Wolber. The show opens as a fully produced co-production between Williamston Theatre and Performance Network Theatre in spring of 2012.
For tickets and information:, 734-487-2282.

Show: “Cabaret” Book by Joe Masteroff, Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb, through Nov. 20
Company: MUSKET at the University of Michigan
Type of Company: Student produced
Venue/location: Power Center for the Performing Arts, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 13+, mature content
Description: Set in Berlin during the rise of Nazi Germany, "Cabaret" invites audiences into the depths of Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub. The story follows the life of the club’s headlining singer, Sally Bowles; her relationship with a young American writer; and the unfolding of dark events that encompass Berlin. Changing the history of musical theater, "Cabaret" broke the pattern of the happy song and dance musical by delving into a darkness rarely before seen in musical form.
Fun fact: MUSKET is the only completely student run musical theater company at the University of Michigan
For tickets and information: Available at the Michigan League Ticket Office or at the door beginning one hour before curtain.
Special ticket offer: Groups of 10 or more receive discounted tickets ($5/students, $10/adults)

Show: “How I Learned to Drive” by Paula Vogel, through Nov. 20
Company: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
Type of Company: Community
Venue/location: The Ark (Nov. 16), Stamps Auditorium (Nov. 17), A2CT Studio (November 18-20)
Recommended ages: 16+
Description: Pulitzer Prize-winning “How I Learned to Drive” tells the story of a girl, Li’l Bit, and her relationship with her Uncle Peck. Vogel combines the classic and the modern as she examines one woman’s survival of sexual abuse with humor and sincerity. According to Curtain Up magazine," Ms. Vogel has achieved the seemingly impossible: A story about a disturbing subject...that is as funny--yes, really,--as it is disturbing."
Fun fact: Mary Louise Parker of "Weeds" fame originated the role of the lead character, Li'l Bit, in the premiere Off-Broadway production.
For tickets and information: 734-971-2228,
Special ticket offer: UM students can see the show for FREE at the Stamps Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 17

Show: “Escanaba in da Moonlight” by Jeff Daniels, through Dec. 17
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.
Fun Fact: This production of "Escanaba in da Moonlight" is Wayne David Parker's 24th production at the Purple Rose. He has appeared on the Purple Rose stage in well over 1,000 performances, beginning with his first show, "The Tropical Pickle" in 1992.
For tickets and information:, 734-433-7673
Special ticket offer: Friday, Nov. 18 is a Ford Friday, with all tickets at half-price, made possible through a generous sponsorship from the Ford Motor Company Fund.

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 MI, 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 is doubting his own self worth. But, high above Bedford Falls an eternally bumbling Angel, Clarence Oddbody, is sent from Heaven to help George out.
Fun fact: “It's a Wonderful Life” made its World Premiere at The Encore in 2010.
For tickets and information:, 734-268-6200
Special ticket offer: Employees of local theaters 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.
Preview from
Fun fact: PNT Guest Artist Darrian Ford made his Broadway debut as Charlie in “State Fair” about which The New York Times was quoted saying "...and note the expert dancing of the irrepressibly comic Darrian Ford." You may recognize Darrian as Halle Berry's co-star in HBO's Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, in which he played Fayard Nicholas, or from his recurring role on Disney's That's So Raven.
For tickets and information: 734-663-0696,
Special ticket offer: Performance Network is offering 20% off gift certificates, now through December 25.