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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is challenging, compelling, and beautiful at The Dio. (Review) June 18, 2022

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.
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Photo courtesy The Dio Dining and Entertainment

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Simon Stephens award-sweeping play (2013 London, 2015 Broadway) is receiving a gorgeous production at the Dio in Pinckney through mid-July. You should put it on your list of shows that need to be seen this summer — in fact, go to their website and reserve a table right now. 

If you read Mark Haddon’s book upon which the play is based, well, there’s a lot more to this story than there was to that story.

There are multiple stars of this lovely production – the first being Austin McCoy, who gives an exceptional performance as Christopher, a 15-year old with autism spectrum disorder who discovers a neighbor’s dog dead, and sets off to solve the mystery of what happened (which is really just a small part of this fascinating story). You seriously can’t take your eyes off of him, no matter what else is going on around him (often a lot).

The second star is Matt Tomich’s beautiful hand drawn moving projection set and lighting that propels the show quickly and creatively to school, home, train station, London, and even outer space (and later a ridiculously entertaining math problem).

The third star(s) is the outstanding ensemble cast that play, well, everyone else in Christopher’s world – even inanimate objects. Clever direction by Jared Schneider keeps things moving at a fast pace – but not so fast that you don’t find yourself thinking about these compelling stories as things unravel and then re-assemble again. (Anne Bauman, Rachael Cupples, Kelsi Fay, Andrew Gorney, Marlene Inman, Dante Justice, DOnovan Leary, Dan Morrison, and a particulary touching Monica Spencer).

You will quickly see why this play won all those awards. This production will also surely be award winning and it is beautiful.

Costumes are designed by Norma Polk and props by Eileen Obradovich. Steve DeBruyne serves as artistic director. Rachael Cupples also served as assistant director.

This is a challenging and compelling play to be sure. It’s never maudlin, but it doesn’t shy away from ASD challenges and at times it makes some of the scenes intense. There are no easy answers here, and Christopher’s final words in the show wake a feeling we normally don’t want to think about or talk about. Indeed, they don’t talk about it here — and let you decide on your own what you think — ultimately making this show a comedy, or a drama, or a tragedy, depending on your own take-away.

Dinner, as usual, is excellent – and the intermission dessert reminded me of visits with my grandma when I was a kid — altogether perfect for the meal at this show at the Dio! 

Highest Recommendation. 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time continues through July 17th at the Dio, 177 E Main Street, Pinckney MI — tickets at www.DioTheatre.com

Say “I Do, I Do, I Do” to Mamma Mia! at Encore Musical Theatre Company (Review) June 17, 2022

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.
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Yes, I did sneak a photo during the finale on opening night. Sonja Marquis, Keith Kalinowski, Sarah Stevens, David Moan, Anna Elizabeth, Sebastian Gerstner, and the cast of Mamma Mia!

Sophie is getting married. She has three possible dads. That’s about all you need to know about Mamma Mia!, the mega-hit international musical that opened at the Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter last night. It doesn’t really matter what else happens in this storyline, because it is the ABBA music and the fun and the feel-good evening that it’s really all about. And boy, will you feel good, and you’ll be singing the songs all the next morning as well.

Encore pulls out all the stops in their biggest, slickest musical ever, and I say that in the most enthusiastic way. What a thrill to see a big cast on their stage. It’s the closest you will come to seeing the Broadway show plunked down in the middle of Dexter, with all the bells and whistles (thank Dan Cooney who appeared in the Broadway production, and his choice of Monica Kapoor, also a 7-year veteran of the production, to direct and choreograph.)

What you will see on the Encore stage is the best-choreographed, best-acted production of Mamma Mia! you will ever see locally, and bravo to everyone involved. 

Sarah B. Stevens plays Donna, and Kate Cummings plays her daughter Sophie – about to get married to Sky (Tyler J. Messinger). Stevens and Cummings are superb throughout the evening in their many scenes together and separately. Donna’s best friends from “back when” Rosie and Tanya are played by Sonja Marquis and Anna Elizabeth and they are both fantastic. 

Once the guys arrive (Sebastian Gerstner as Harry, Keith Kalinoswki as Bill, and David Moan as Sam) the evening kicks into high gear. Which one is the father? It doesn’t really matter. Everything is a setup for the spectacular song and dance numbers.

And wow, does this show dance. Kapoor is familiar with every beat, every move, every motion set to music – and I guarantee you that you have not seen this type of choreography in any local production. The cast is really split in two — the adults, who show their singing and acting chops, and the “kids” who explode with energy every time they take the stage in their many musical numbers.

By the end, there is a wedding, though not exactly what you might expect and the audience is up on its feet for the final dance-along numbers. It just plain old works. And when you see a production that is professionally directed, choreographed, acted, and designed, you can appreciate a show that is far better than you might recall, especially if you have only seen the movie. 

Set Design by Sarah Tanner is outstanding, as is Nikki Belenski’s lighting design (and Will Myers projections). Sharon Larkey Urick’s costume design is spot on. Anne Donevan provides a million props (I exaggerate, but only a little) and Chris Goosman’s sound design deftly juggles a large orchestra and performers. Musical Direction is under the always-capable and talented direction of Tyler Driskill. The technical aspects of this production simply shine.

Very highest recommendation, Get your tickets now as every performance is sure to sell out.

Mamma Mia! continues at the Encore Musical Theatre Company until July 17th. Tickets at theencoretheatre.org