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Posted on Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 6:11 a.m.

Two productions of 'Little Women' in Ann Arbor, and 'Christmas Belles' at the RAC

By Carla Milarch

What do Christmas day and going to the theater have in common? More than you’d think, according to a new UK study conducted with smart phones. As reported by Hannah Thomas at Marie Claire, users reported being happiest when engaged in one of three activities: sex, exercising, and attending the theater. Christmas day was the pinnacle of contentment, with happiness levels peaking at 1:50 p.m.

With that in mind, this week’s merriment factor should be off the charts, as all but one of our theater listings is either a comedy or a musical, and some of them have Christmas themes. Lighthearted fare abounds in Washtenaw County this holiday season, from the Power Center to the Purple Rose.

But don’t take Ms. Thomas’ word for it; come on out and see for yourself. It might not beat the first one on her list, but I’d be surprised if you don’t come out of the theater with a smile on your face or a song in your heart!

Show: "The Mystery of Irma Vep," by Charles Ludlam, through Dec. 9
Company: Presented through the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance
Type of Company: Student Produced
Venue/location: Studio One of the Walgreen Drama Center 1226 Murfin Ave, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 18+
Description: Mandacrest Estate is the home of Lord Edgar and Lady Enid. Lady Enid is Lord Edgar's second wife, though he has yet to recover entirely from the passing of his first, Irma Vep. Of course, the house staff, a maid named Jane Twisden and swineherd Nicodemus Underwood have their own opinions of Lady Enid. "Irma Vep" is a satire of several theatrical and film genres, including Victorian melodrama, farce and the Alfred Hitchcock film "Rebecca."
Fun fact: Two male actors play eight characters ranging from men and women to vampires, werewolves, and mummies.
For tickets and information: The show is free. Show up half an hour early to get a seat.

Show: “Skippy Jon Jones” based on the book by Judy Schachner, one-time event, Dec. 11
Company: Michigan Theater Not Just for Kids Series
Type of Company: Theater for Children
Venue/location: Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty Street Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: K-3
Description: Skippyjon Jones is a little kitten with a big imagination. One day, he dons a mask and cape and transforms into Skippito Friskito, the greatest canine sword fighter in old Mexico! But when trouble brews, will he be a 'fraidy-cat’ or the top dog? This enchanting musical encourages kids to unleash their imagination and follow their dreams.
Fun fact: Judith Byron Schachner has been illustrating and writing children's books since 1992, and offers workshops designed with a special regard for the less than stellar student. "Kids love to review my rotten report cards... All my teachers complained that 'Judith needs to speak up in class, Judith needs to improve in arithmetic, and Judith needs to finish her work on time.' But no one complained about my artwork.”
For tickets and information:

Show: “Go, Dog. Go!” based on the book by P.D. Eastman, adapted by Steven Dietz & Allison Gregory, music by Michael Koerner, through Dec. 11
Company: EMU Theatre
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Quirk Theatre, Quirk Dramatic Arts Building located at the intersection of East Circle Drive and Best Hall on EMU’s Ypsilanti Campus
Recommended ages: 5+
Description: P.D. Eastman’s classic comes to life in this adaptation filled with fun, song and dance. Based on the beloved children’s book, this zany musical adaptation is a lively adventure for the young and the young-at-heart! "Go, Dog. Go!" follows the antics of several colorful dogs who behave an awful lot like humans- driving cars, getting jobs, having parties and wearing hats!
Preview from
Fun fact: In 1957, Theodor Geisel responded to an article in Life magazine that lamented the use of boring reading primers in schools. Assuming the pseudonym "Dr. Seuss" and with only 223 words, he created a replacement for those primers: "The Cat in the Hat." The instant success of the book prompted Geisel and his wife to found Beginner Books, which eventually included beloved favorites "Go, Dog, Go!" and "Are You My Mother?" by P. D. Eastman.
For tickets and information: 734.487.2282,,

Show: "The Beaux' Stratagem" by George Farquhar adapted by Thornton Wilder and Ken Ludwig, through Dec. 11
Company: UM SMTD Department of Theatre & Drama
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Power Center, 121 Fletcher, Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: 14+
Description: Originally written in 1707, “The Beaux’ Stratagem” was adapted for the modern stage by acclaimed playwrights Thornton Wilder, author of “Our Town,” and Ken Ludwig of “Lend Me A Tenor.” Described by critics as “sheer laugh-out loud fun,” “The Beaux’” is a holiday treat.
Fun fact: The cast watched the movie "Tom Jones" as background research!
For tickets and information: League Ticket Office 734-764-2538,
Special ticket offer: $5 off each full-price ticket with promotion code ONSTAGE

Show: "Little Women, the Musical" music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, book by Allan Knee, through Dec. 11
Company: UM SMTD Department of Musical Theatre Studio Production
Type of Company: Higher Education
Venue/location: Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin Ave., Ann Arbor
Recommended ages: Age 8+
Description: Based on Louisa May Alcott’s own family experiences (and beloved novel), Little Women follows the adventures of Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March as they grow up in Civil War America. The powerful score soars with heartache and hope as Jo and her family discover what has meaning to them, and with whom they want to share their lives.
Fun fact: Director Danny Gurwin, a UM alumnus, originated the role of Laurie on Broadway.
For tickets and information: League Ticket Office 734-764-2538,

Show: ”Little Women” by Hilary Cohen, based on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, through December 11
Company: Wild Swan Theater
Type of Company: Professional theater for children and families
Venue/location: Towsley Auditorium, Morris Lawrence Building, Washtenaw Community College, Ypsilanti
Recommended ages: Children in grades 3-12 and their families. All performances are shadow interpreted in American Sign Language.
Description: “Little Women” is the beloved American story of the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth, who are growing up in Civil War-era New England. When their devoted mother Marmee leaves them to visit their ailing father at the warfront, the girls must face life together.
Preview from
Fun fact: While not a musical, this adaptation incorporates music into the production in various ways, including an off stage but live piano contributing to the atmosphere of the dramatic moments, Beth playing the piano onstage, and singing by the characters as part of their every day lives.
For tickets and information: 734-995-0530,
Accessibility reservations: (734) 995-0530, Wheel chair seating; American Sign Language Interpreting; Audio-Description and Backstage Touch Tours

Show: “Christmas Belles” by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, through Dec. 17
Company: PTD Productions
Type of Company: Pre-professional
Venue/location: Riverside Arts Center, 76 N. Huron St., Ypsilanti, MI
Recommended ages: 12+
Description: It's Christmastime in Fayro, Texas, but the Futrelle sisters are not exactly in a festive mood. Frankie is weeks overdue with her second set of twins, Twink is in jail for inadvertently burning down half the town, and Honey Raye is desperately trying to keep the Tabernacle of the Lamb's Christmas program from spiraling into chaos: the celebrity guest, Santa Claus, is passing a kidney stone, one of the shepherds refuses to watch over the flock, and the entire cast is suffering from food poisoning. This hilarious holiday journey through misadventure-filled Christmas Eve will bring joy to your world! Fun fact: Jones, Hope and Wooten are also authors of the hit plays “The Dixie Swim Club,” “The Hallelujah Girls”, “Til Beth Do Us Part” and their newest comedies “The Red Velvet Cake War”, “Dashing Through The Snow” and “Mama Won't Fly”.
For tickets and information: 734-483-7345,,
Special ticket offers: Family Discount Passes (two kids get in free with two adults), Thursday nights are “Pay What You Can”

Show: “Fugue” by Audra Lord, through Dec. 18
Company: The New Theatre Project
Type of Company: Professional Non-Equity
Venue/location: Mix Performance Space, 130 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti
Recommended ages: 16+
Description: In a bleak, institutional space, James, Julie, Tina and Princess Stephanie recover from a shared tragic event that resulted in the complete loss of their memories. Fugue follows their attempts to remember, to forget, and to piece together their shared and individual identities. Is it better to leave the past behind? Or, to remember, no matter what the cost?
Preview from
Fun fact: A fugue state, or dissociative fugue, is a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by amnesia for personal identity, including memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality. The state is usually short-lived (ranging from hours to days), but can last months or longer.
For tickets and information: Call or text 734-645-9776,

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
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: In art, angels are often depicted with wings; perhaps reflecting the descriptions of the “Four Living Creatures” in the book of Revelations, or the descriptions of cherubim and seraphim. However, while cherubim and seraphim have wings in the Bible, no angel is mentioned as having wings.
For tickets and information:, 734-268-6200
Special ticket offer: Thursday night is Industry Night. Tickets for theatre professionals are only $15, cash or check only, available at the door, one hour prior to show time in exchange for a headshot and resume.

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: In early rehearsals, the cast was given pure maple syrup to rehearse with, when drinking the "Sweet Sap Whiskey" in order to discover their authentic reactions to drinking something surprisingly sweet and sticky. All the actors agreed it tasted better than the onion juice they also drank!
For tickets and information:, 734-433-7673.

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 tonk 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 the Detroit Free Press
Fun fact: "Honeysuckle Rose” was composed by Fats Waller in 1928 with lyrics by Andy Razaf. Waller’s 1934 recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
For tickets and information: 734-663-0696,
Special ticket offer: 20 percent off gift certificates available now through Dec. 25