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Posted on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 6:21 a.m.

'The Who's Tommy' at MUSKET, 'The Good Doctor' at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

By Carla Milarch

The word "inspire" means: “to fill with the urge to do something, especially to do something creative,” and often we find inspiration in the most surprising places. This week’s plays derive their creative spark from a variety of places: Italian folklore, a 1969 rock opera by The Who, a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov, and even a gritty and surreal tanning incident from Wyoming, circa 1883.

But it’s not just playwrights and artists who need inspiration. We all need to feed our souls from time to time. Many of us find inspiration in dance and theater, our favorite music, or even a day at an art museum. For many, these experiences are as necessary to our lives as food, water and sleep.

Thankfully, we live in a town rich with inspiring experiences, especially for theater lovers. So this week, as you do your grocery shopping, clean your house, and work on your to-do list - don’t forget to take a little time out to feed your soul!

Show: “The Who’s Tommy” music and lyrics by Pete Townsend, book by Pete Townsend and Des McAnuff, with additional material by John Entwistle and Keith Moon, through March 25
Company: MUSKET
Type of Company: Higher education
Venue/location: Power Center for the Performing Arts, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 13+ for mature themes
Description: Based on The Who's 1969 album/rock opera, ‘Tommy,’ this musical tells the story of a traumatized young boy who discovers an uncanny talent for pinball. Even as he struggles with his disabilities, Tommy gains strength and stardom from his new-found talent. This electrifying musical combines a story of unexpected triumph with the best in rock and roll, exploring everything that fame can give you, and everything it can take away.
More information
Fun fact: Des McAnuff is the American-Canadian former artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and director of such Broadway productions as “Big River,” “The Who's Tommy” and “Jersey Boys.” McAnuff has directed two motion pictures, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Cousin Bette, neither of which saw similar success to his theatrical efforts.
For tickets and information: 734-764-2538,

Show: "Strega Nona and the Magic Pasta Pot!" through March 24
Company: Wild Swan Theater
Type of Company: Professional Theater for Youth and Families
Venue/location: Towsley Auditorium, Morris Lawrence Building, Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor.
Recommended ages: Pre-K through 2nd
Description: The story of Strega Nona is a beloved Italian folktale. Strega Nona has a magical pasta pot that only she can control. Silliness ensues when Big Anthony does not listen to her, causing the streets of their small Italian village to fill with pasta. Molly McMahon appears as Strega Nona with Wild Swan actors Sandy Ryder (Big Anthony) and Michelle Trame Lanzi (Villagers, Paula). David Mosher brings live musical accompaniment for the production with his mandolin and various percussion instruments. American Sign Language interpretation is by Rebecca Brunner.
Fun fact: Renowned Manchester artist Chris Roberts-Antieau designed the sets, costumes and props for this production. Roberts-Antieau’s work was recently in the public eye when former President Bill Clinton purchased two of her pieces from a New Orleans art gallery.
For tickets and information: 734-995-0530,

Show: “The Good Doctor” by Neil Simon, through March 25
Company: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre
Type of Company: Community
Venue/location: A2CT Studio Theater, 322 West Ann St., Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 12+
Description: Broadway’s master of comedy, Neil Simon, expertly weaves a variety of Anton Chekhov short stories into a laugh-out-loud evening that is heartwarming, hilarious, and just what the doctor ordered. The series of vignettes explores the humor, pathos, and utter humanity of ordinary characters caught in ordinary—and extraordinary—circumstances.
Preview from
Fun fact: "The Good Doctor" opened on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on November 27, 1973 and closed on May 25, 1974 after 208 performances and 8 previews. A television movie was made based on the play, which premiered on U.S. Public Television on November 8, 1978.
For tickets and information:, 734-971-2228

Show: “Dead Man’s Shoes” by Joseph Zettelmaier, through April 8
Company: Performance Network Theatre
Type of Company: Professional Equity (SPT)
Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 16+, Contains adult themes and language.
Description: From the playwright of the smash hit “It Came From Mars” comes a dastardly comedy, based on fact, but steeped in the tone of a good old-fashioned outlaw movie. Injun Bill Picote and Army deserter/camp cook Froggy wander the wild west in search of a man who done a truly despicable deed. Filled with true grit and dark humor, it’s a fast-paced and panoramic journey to the dark side of American history. Winner of the Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award.
Review from the Detroit Free Press
Fun fact: Over the last five years, the Edgerton Foundation has awarded $4 million to 150 recipients, enabling many plays to schedule subsequent productions following their world premieres. Ten Edgerton Foundation plays made it to Broadway including “Next To Normal,” “33 Variations,” “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play),” “Good People” and “Chinglish.” Seven were nominated for Tony Awards, and four were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.
For tickets and information: 734-663-0681,

Show: “Spring New Work Series” by various playwrights, through April 15
Company: The New Theatre Project
Type of Company: Professional Non-Equity
Venue/location: Mix Performance Space, 130 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti
Recommended ages: various, check website for details
Description: The spring gives birth to staged readings of original work featuring talkbacks with the playwrights. Also included for the first time, The New Theatre Project will feature guest speakers and round table discussions with local playwrights and theatre artists. Full festival schedule is available on the theater’s website.
Fun fact: Readings on Saturday and Sunday at 8 pm will be “Midway (A Romantic Comedy in 3 Measurements of Distance)” by Ira Gamerman and “Authentic” by Jacob Coakley. See website for full details.
For tickets and information: Call or text 734-645-9776,


Katie P

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

Another show opening soon is UMGASS's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore." The show runs from Thursday, March 29-Sunday, April 1 and you can buy tickets at

Spencer Thomas

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

I don't know if you normally cover school performances in this column. I will note that Tappan Players are doing Little Shop of Horrors ( and that Greenhills school is doing Chicago ( ("cleaned up" according to my informant.)