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Acting Out (Taylor MI) presents ‘NIGHT, MOTHER February 23, 2016

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“‘Night, Mother” the two-character 1983 play by Marsha Norman about a suicidal daughter and her mother will be presented by Acting Out productions in Taylor MI March 11 – 13, 2016.

The production stars Kelly Richelle Lomas (as daughter Jessie) and Jema McCardell (as mother Thelma – seated in photo), both of Trenton, MI, who will be taking to the stage in this very intense performance.

Due to difficult subject matter, all students age 13-16 must be accompanied by an adult. No one 12 years of age or younger will be admitted.


The show runs March 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. with a 3:00 matinee on March 13.

Tickets are $15 for Adults and $12 for Students 18 and under. Friends and Family can take advantage of $10 tickets by visiting actingoutdownriver.com/jazzhands.

Also, join us by helping out with the water crisis in Flint. For every case of water that is donated, you will receive $6.00 off your ticket when purchased at the door on the day of the performance.

Acting Out Productions is a theatre company focused on offering on-stage and backstage opportunities for theatre lovers of all ages in the Downriver area. In addition to ‘Night Mother, the rest of their 2015-2016 season includes: 9 to 5 the Musical, Disney’s Cinderella Kids, “Yes &,” and Disney’s Tarzan.

Top Notch “Avenue Q” by Stagecrafters, Royal Oak (review) February 6, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals.
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You know, just when you think you’ve seen the ultimate regional production of Avenue Q (and I’m talking about the Croswell Opera House two years ago) along comes a near perfect gem at Royal Oak’s Stagecrafters proving one wrong.

What a thrill when everything comes together just right for a show: gorgeous set work; perfect lighting: top-notch sound design; spot-on projection work; and a simply spectacular cast.

Leading the production is Kevin Kaminski, the perfect Princeton. Kaminski is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after young singer/actors in SE Michigan and this performance is a good example of why. Right on his heels, are great performances by Hilary Dudek as Kate Monster, and a stunning Nicky played by Jeff LaMothe whose physical and voice work is outstanding.

The humans on this Avenue Q are played by Tom Pagano as Brian, Lynette Yeager as Christmas Eve (where are you Asian American actresses? I have yet to see a single Asian American actress play this role — an Asian American — in any of the seven or eight productions I have now seen locally), and Michael Adams as Gary Coleman. Rounding out the cast are Christopher Smith as Rod (His “My Girlfriend who Lives in Canada” is sharp and diction-perfect), Matthew Dudek as Trekkie Monster (his antics in the nightclub are hilarious!), Sara Rydzewski as the perfect Lucy the Slut, Jenny Boyle as Mrs Thistletwat; and Brian Moultrup and Kellie Kafantaris as the hilarious Bad Idea Bears.

The entire production is energetically directed by Deborah Landis-Sigler. Musical Director Debbie Tedrick has done a great job with the vocals and diction, and her 7-piece orchestra sounds full and well-drilled. Sound design is wonderful. If you haven’t seen a production in the Baldwin Theater in Royal Oak, then you don’t know how difficult a task is to make sound, lighting, and video work in a space that was built in 1922. The tech work is terrific in this production.

Congratulations to Stagecrafters on a truly remarkable production.

Note that Avenue Q is not for younger humans. It isn’t even for some older humans. Take all the warnings on their posters at face value. For the rest of us, it is a hilarious show with a lot of heart, and this production is first rate.

Very Highly Recommended.

Stagecrafters’ Avenue Q continues at the Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak through February 7th. All remaining performances are sold out.

Real Life Cinderella Story at The Full Monty, Downriver Actors Guild (Review) January 17, 2016

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When the actor normally playing a role ended up in the emergency room hours before the second show of The Full Monty at Downriver Actors Guild, Denny Connors was faced with the ultimate decision many of us directors are faced with: do I cancel? In steps small-character part cast member Thomas J Koch II, who with under an hour of rehearsal went on to fill in the role of Malcolm, and not only did so without book and with all lyrics memorized and dance steps learned, but also turned in one of the finest all-around performances of the evening. The announcement wasn’t made until after the show, and it was a heartwarming moment all around: It is why we do theater. It is what every chorus boy and girl waits for – that moment. And it was splendid.

That being said, there is a very funny production of The Full Monty playing there as well. Long considered the Best Musical favorite in 2000 (and losing when that juggernaut called The Producers opened just under the Tony cut-off wire and went on to will everything that season), there were a lot of sad eyes at the awards. Audience favorite by far, its a hard show to do on an amateur level.

You probably know the tale (transplanted from the movie’s British setting to blue collar Buffalo, NY) which concerns a group of joe schmoe unemployed average guys trying to make some big bucks when they learn how much women are willing to pay to ogle a few dancing men at a local club. An unwise dare lands the guys with a date to go the full monty (i.e. naked). Lets face it, this show has always been about the last three minutes of striptease, and when it gets there DAG’s production number is a doozy to be sure.

But what makes the show really click is the clever script by Terrence McNally and the hilarious music and lyrics of David Yazbek. And when you have 6 guys firing on all cylinders the show skyrockets the audience to a rousing, um, climax. (I’m sorry, I had to go there, its that kind of show).

That also means that the show has a very heavy demand: it needs six guys who are acting singing dancing triple-threats. Well, in this production all of the guys have at least some of those qualities. It works just fine, and dance numbers look better than straight out vocal numbers where folks get pitchy, and keys are generally too high for most. (Aside for DAG: MTI offers Transpositions-on-Demand which might have been a good option in this instance.)

Jack Reilly plays handsome Jerry who masterminds the plan. His overweight buddy Danny is played very well by Kenny Kono. There’s aforementioned suicidal momma’s boy Malcolm beautifully created by Thomas J. Koch II last night, and well-endowed enthusiastic Ethan performed by Nathan Vasquez. Leo Babcock plays solid and established Harold, and the group is rounded out by “old man” Horse, played by young John Criswell.  In a terrific opening strip number, ensemble member Mike Suchyta gets the ladies going right from the start.

The women fare better in the vocals department and are hilarious to boot: especially Lucinda Cross as Danny’s wife Georgia, and Leah Paige Cooley as Harold’s wife Vicki. When the women’s ensemble is together on stage, they look like real-world people, and talk like truckers.

They particularly come to life in the musical number “The Goods.” There’s also a very funny turn by Dee Morrison as piano player Jeanette (“she just showed up along with her piano”).

Choreography by Spencer Genrich is good throughout. Technical aspects are generally solid (though there were some missed mic cues and some slow lighting cues as well as one glaring light-programing problem during a quiet moment on stage).

But quite frankly, this show is about that last three minutes. The audience was cheering and howling its way through the very energetic show and it happily gets to that climax, bumps (and grinds) and all. Highly entertaining — a great night out is guaranteed for all. Go for the stripping, stay for the awesome show along the way. Oh, and leave the kids at home — its definitely adult fare only.


The Full Monty continues at Downriver Actors Guild’s Theater on the Avenue at 2656 Biddle Ave, Wyandoote, MI through January 24th. Tickets at downriveractorsguild.net or 734-407-7020.

Very strong cast in Dexter’s Hilarious “Avenue Q” (Review) January 16, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals, Uncategorized.
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There is a very strong cast in Dexter Community Player’s Avenue Q, now running at the Copeland Auditorium in Dexter, Michigan. Ok, I thought, I’ve now seen so many productions of this show, what could another add to the canon? Well, it is a strong, hilarious cast that makes this production soar.

Under the fast-paced direction of Jason Smith and the excellent musical directorship of Jonathan Sills, the production barrels along with it’s outrageous songs (and lyrics), and it’s foul-mouthed over-sexed puppets (this is absolutely NOT a show for kids, no matter how cute those puppets might be).

N. Leo Snow is superb as Princeton, and Jamie Lynn Buechele a knock-out as Kate Monster. Her “Fine Fine Line” is simply sublime as it ends Act I on a bittersweet note. There’s a big big heart beating inside Avenue Q (one of the reasons it won Best Musical over Wicked), and this cast finds that quickly and isn’t afraid to share it throughout. But the entire cast is terrific — witness Erik Olsen’s excellent Nicky, Jared Hoffert’s over-the-top Trekkie Monster, and Katrina Chizek’s Lucy the Slut.

Rounding out the great cast are: Chris Bryant as Brian, Stacey Smith as his wife Christmas Eve and Keshia Daisy Oliver as Gary Coleman (like Sesame Street, they are the three non-puppet “people” that live in the neighborhood); Antonio Argiero as closeted Rod; Mary Rumman as school teacher Mrs Thistletwat; and the other characters (Bad Idea Bears, singing boxes, Ricky, etc): Amanda Burch, Neil Clennan, and Eric Redfern.

Sills’ 6-piece combo band sounds great. The set by David Chapman is Avenue Q pretty. The costumes by Kristi Kuick look sharp. And then there are those amazing puppets.

What didn’t click? Well, sound design is in a word awful. Mics drop in and out consistently (most noticeably on Erik Olsen). Cues are missed throughout so that actors starting speaking offstage are unheard, then come blaring on. There were multiple feedback problems on opening night. Tires squealed instead of a phone ringing. Ironically, the phone rang when a toilet flush is supposed to be heard. The actors cleverly covered those mistakes, but they mar an otherwise excellent production. Also missing on opening night were projections, which I am assured will be there for future shows. I’m hopeful they’ll iron out these problems as the run continues this week and next.

But don’t let that scare you off — this cast is great; and in that small intimate house you can hear (most) of it without the mics. Its a hilarious evening of entertainment that you should not miss.

Highly Recommended.

Avenue Q continues through January 24th at DCP — tickets at dextercommunityplayers.org



AACT’s “Company” is solid, entertaining (review) January 8, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals.
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Love it or hate it, Sondheim and Furth’s musical “Company” makes a solid and entertaining appearance at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre this weekend. Tinkered with more than any other of Sondheim’s shows, the current version of the script isn’t necessarily the best, but it is what MTI has chosen to license. Ann Arbor Civic Theater takes some liberties with it that further water-down the central dilemma, but its nothing if not entertaining.

I am not going to review the script — you either know it, or don’t. There isn’t much to it — diverse vignettes tying together a loose story of a guy not sure why all his married friends want him to couple up as well. Back in 1972 when originally written, it had some resonance with upscale New Yorkers who attend musical theater (even then the reviews were not all positive). As rewritten more recently, with our changing sexual mores and gender fluidity, the question really is no longer why is he not coupled-up, but why would he want to be?

There are some truly terrific cast members in director Rachel Francisco’s production. Some have mighty voices (Robert Griswold as Bobby, Trisha Fountain as Jenny, Amy Bogetto-Weinraub as Joanne). Others have mighty acting skills (Nick Boyer as Peter, Marci Rosenberg as Amy). Rounding out the strong ensemble cast are Jodi-Renee Giron as Sarah, Paul Clark as Harry, Madison Merlanti as Susan, James Christie as David, Amanda Bynum as “Paula”, Matt Steward as Larry, Kate Papachristou as as Marta, Kimberly Elliott as April, and Chris Joseph as “Kevin”.

Jennifer Goltz has done her usual excellent work as musical director, and the 4-piece jazz-infused orchestra sounds both larger than it is, and provides lovely music throughout.

Some of the pacing is too slow. Long scenes (the show is very talky) seem dragged out at times even longer than they need to be. The opening number (Company) felt like it was twice as slow as written, and that leads to a less-than-energized opening sequence (which gets much better as the show goes along). Some might call the slower pace leisurely and contemplative — though I am not sure those are qualities that make a production of “Company” soar. At times too much of the staging faces the center section at the expense of house right and left audience seeing backs and sides.

There are fun surprises in the show – and I won’t even begin to describe what Nick Boyer does with a beer bottle.

All in all, it is a very entertaining (though slowish) evening. Recommended.

Company continues at the Arthur Miller Theatre on University of Michigan’s North Campus through Sunday January 10th. Tickets at a2ct.org or at the door.



Remarkable performances in “Rent” — Ann Arbor Civic Theatre June 9, 2015

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Jonathan Larson’s RENT was presented this past weekend by Ann Arbor Civic Theater at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. Whatever your thoughts are on the show itself (people either love it or hate it), the production featured a remarkable cast of performers, well directed by Glenn Bugala and choreographed by Kat Walsh with excellent musical direction by Tyler Driskill.

Leads for web

Dominic Seipenko performed a spot-on Mark Cohen, never failing to miss both acting and singing notes – he was the heart of this production and well done.

Also extraordinarily good was Lauren Norris as Maureen, matched nicely by Kate Papachristou as Joanne. Norris soared in her numbers, and performed one of the funniest “Leap of Faith”s I think I have ever seen (and I have seen this show way too many times).

Chris Joseph turned in a great performance of Angel, filled with heart and soul. He had the audience eating out of his hand. Similarly excellent were Nickolas Brown as Collins, Paul Clark as Benny, and the entire ensemble who play the other interchangeable roles.

Several performances were not as strong, and vocals suffered — although at times it was hard to tell if that was due to the performers or the muffled sound — the larger the numbers, the worse the sound got. La Vie Boheme worked in solo snippets but was incomprehensible (unless you already knew all the lyrics) once multiple parts were miked.

Bugala’s directorial choices were clever and worked well in this production — in particular a sequence set in the subway during “Santa Fe” (why do both Newsies and Bohemians think that the cesspit that is Sante Fe is a desirable place to go?)

Congratulations to everyone involved with Rent at Ann Arbor Civic Theater. Great to see edgier material alive and well in our local theaters.

Thoroughly Gorgeous “Millie” at The Village Players (Review) May 10, 2015

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The first thing I did after seeing The Village Players in Birmingham’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie” was get online and order more tickets for another performance. Its that great. Then I sent text messages to friends to tell them how wonderful this production is. And then I had a very very long drive home from way up there in Birmingham…so you should get online right now and order your tickets before there aren’t any left.


Kudos to director Kevin Lee Branshaw, Choreographer Valerie Mould, and Musical Director (and conductor of offstage orchestra) Dennis Penney for getting everything right with this production.

Then, head directly to the cast list and send bouquets to the stellar leads of this production: in particular, Kimberly Elliott as Millie sings, acts, and tap dances the heck out of her numbers and looks fantastic doing so in some of the prettiest costumes this side of the Hudson…and Sterling Orlowski who allows his Jimmy Smith to grow from likeable to lovable over the course of the evening. His numbers with Elliott sizzle.

But so does everything else. The supporting players are superb from top to bottom, and the all-singing all-dancing all-costume-changing ensemble is too…be that prat-falling and mischief-making (Beverly J. Dickinson as Mrs Meers), singing to the rafters (Noelle Perrin as Dorothy), satirizing matinee-idol B-leads (Jason Bowen as Trevor Graydon) or tap-dancing their hearts out (more intricate for the leads, a bit more simplified for the ensemble).

A cadre of what looks to be about 7000 people did the costumes for the show — and it shows. Every major ensemble number has matching clothing of different colors (one of the things some local theaters around here can take a lesson from), be that blues and purples to black-and-whites later, and all out color-palettes later in the show. Red plays an important role here. So does Blue. And so does Yellow. Bravo. I can’t imagine the budget involved here. (For the record, it’s not an inexpensive show to produce).

The orchestra sounds terrific, and its mixed well with the singers. Which is fortunate, because I need to assign minus points for the sound folks who couldn’t get control of body mics that kept dropping out…fortunately, those effected were loud enough that you could hear them without their mics when that happened. Still it was an annoyance that very much marred the otherwise superior quality of this production.

Seeing the show for the first time in a decade (I saw it in NYC with Sutton Foster in the lead — uncannily channeled by Ms Elliott in this production, and then a few years later on tour) it reminded me of why Millie won 6 Tony Awards in 2002, including Best Musical. Without a single pop/rock chord or rhythm in the entire score, its a throwback to classic musicals — but with a modern sensibility thrown in. And its a breath of fresh air in a time when pop rock scores rule Broadway.

So for now, Millie rules Woodward. And you should absolutely not miss it — even if it takes you an hour to get there from Ann Arbor….

Highest Recommendation.

Thoroughly Modern Millie continues at The Village Players  through May 24th. Tickets at birminghamvillageplayers.com

“The Music Man” at Downriver Actors Guild (Review) May 9, 2015

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Of all my favorite musicals, The Music Man is the one I like the most — AND the one I prefer to see done in community theaters rather than professionally — its the quintessential community show: lots of roles across the age spectrum, a great script, great songs with lots of opportunities for singing and dancing, and the true sense of community coming together to create something of value. I never go into a production of this show expecting perfection. I go in expecting fun.

That is on great display at Downriver Actors Guild in Wyandotte this weekend and next. Directed by John Sartor, the show is well-paced and moves quickly in its blackbox home, and looks lovely on Leo Babcock’s small-town River City Iowa set. The large cast never overwhelms the space, and remain in character and are spirited throughout. Kayla Aue’s choreography adds to the fun. Wendy Fichter’s musical direction is very good and the diction and vocal work of the large cast is great. The many many costumes are colorful.

Kevin Karminski plays a very fine Harold Hill, and while on the youngish side for the role, reminds me of Gavin Creel’s star-turn at the University of Michigan many years ago. We all know how that worked out for Gavin. The same can be said for Kevin’s energetic presentation, with a voice that soars as necessary, and an impish sense of trouble-making underlying it all.

Marion (you know, the Librarian) was performed by Amanda Aue this week (next week Annie Kordas takes on the role). Her soprano voice is lovely. Her “Til there was You” with Hill on a footbridge was the musical highlight of the show — and there were sniffles all around me. You know this show just always works from that moment on.

The men’s quartet was excellent — Ray Carter, Jeff Powers, Jay Cater, and Butch Plague sound terrific together and seem to have fun throughout. The Pick-a-Little Ladies work their best not to be upstaged, and as a result they do upstage the quartet from time to time — but its all in good fun. The Grecian Urn sequence was simply hilarious.

There are also good performances by Jacob Partrich as Tommy Djilas and Emily Noble as Zanetta Shinn (“yee gads!”). Crowd favorite Eric Paschke delights as anvil salesman Charlie Cowell (and for the adults, delivers the shows dirtiest lines with a sense of humor that speaks volumes for musical comedy). Loretta Bullock is a fine Irish matriarch as Mrs Paroo (and a line-slip up led to the evenings largest laugh at Winthrop’s inseam size). Ashley Blevins gets laughs by simply standing there reacting as mayor’s wife, Eulalie — but she doesn’t just stand there and and is even funnier once things get moving — she’s hilarious.

And that brings me to Winthrop — Evan Sartor upstages every scene that he is in (in a good way) — and simply brings the audience to a level of cuteness-ecstasy in “Gary, Indiana” — bravo little guy.

Are there problems? A few. Is the show perfect? Not always. Does it really matter? No. There’s some funky lighting, and sound cues are sometimes missed (mics seemed to go in and out at random on some of the folks).

If there is one thing that threatens to bring the production down, its the orchestra which blats and splats its way through the dance numbers. They generally sound fine during vocal numbers, but listening to them during the dance numbers grows excruciating — and halfway through “marian the librarian” actually caused the dancers to lose their tempo with missed beats. Its a tough number to keep going with the best of orchestras — with this one, well, I just wanted to yell out “cut the brass, cut the brass!”

But it is all fine in the end — the cutest kids in the world appear to save the day with their instruments and ill-fitting uniforms…Winthrop pretends to play the cornet and brings down the house…and Harold and Marion have their happy ending. And so does the audience.

Its all sheer fun and there’s a great big heart beating inside this chestnut of a musical — and its recommended.

The Music Man continues at Downriver Actors Guild, Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle Avenue, Wyandotte… through May 17th.

Downriver Actors Guild presents THE MUSIC MAN April 10, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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The Downriver Actors Guild will present THE MUSIC MAN  May 8th – 17th at the Catherine A Daly Theatre on the Avenue in Wyandotte, MI. The production is directed by John Sartor.


You already know the story. You already have your favorite scene. Now come see the show in an exciting new setting. Sartor is particularly enthusiastic about presenting the musical in the intimacy of a blackbox theater. “Experiencing actors fall in love before your eyes in a black box theatre is magical. The intimacy of a black box setting allows the actors the opportunity of realism rather than heighten a performance in order to play to the balcony. Patrons easily become part of the play itself.” The theatre itself opened only last year, and its a great new performance space for the group.

The production is musical directed by Wendy Fichter with set design by Leo Babcock. It is choreographed by Kayla Aue.   Kevin Kaminski of Detroit stars as Harold Hill, while Annie Kordas of Grosse Pointe Farms stars as Marian (Madam Librarian) Paroo.

Tickets can be purchased online at: downriveractorsguild.net or by calling 313-303-5269. The theatre is at 2656 Biddle, in Wyandotte, MI 48192. That’s a short 40 minute drive from Ann Arbor, yo!…

Remarkable Spring Awakening in Maumee (Review) 3B Productions October 11, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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Run don’t walk to get the remaining tickets for 3BProductions outstanding production of Spring Awakening at the Maumee Indoor Theatre…heck here’s the link, just buy your tickets…3BProductions.org

Director/Choreographer Stephanie L. Stephan has done some slick professional work, and her ensemble cast are remarkable top to bottom…kudos also to music director/conductor Todd Schreiber for superb work on the difficult Duncan Sheik alt-rock score both vocally and with the excellent 7-piece orchestra.

Teen angst in the late 19th Century (though really timeless in reality) set to Sheik’s brilliant score play out the story of young love but the themes of the musical are much bigger, and darker than that: abuse, ignorance, sexuality, isolation, failure, suicide, death, rebirth. The Broadway production won 8 Tonys including Best Musical, though it was also criticized for its unrelenting view of all adults as evil and ignorant.

Always strong Libby Bruno (Wendla) and Jimmy Sherwood (Melchior) turn in powerful and emotion-filled performances, but the entire supporting cast is superb. Connor Gavin is excellent as tortured failing student Moritz. Joel Logsdon and Courtney Gray show versatility in playing all of the adult roles. But everyone is terrific: Kristin Kukic (Ilse), Jeremy Davis (George), Phil Hughes (Ensemble), Steven Kiss (Ernst), Sarah Rohen (Thea), Esther Swain (Anna), Jordan Benavente (Otto), Matt Zwyer (Ensemble), Tyler Seybold (Ensemble), William Edmondson (Ensemble), Meg Grzeszczak (Ensemble), Kayla Haase (Ensemble), Lauren Kotarski (Martha), and Eric Wolff (Hanschen). Kudos to every single one of these excellent young performers.

Stephan understands the deep emotion inherent in this piece, and she keeps the show zooming along at just over two hours with intermission. She’s equally adept at small intimate moments as well as big expansive stage energy. Witness the work between Bruno and Sherwood where each look and hand motion has meaning…or the sublime scene between Kiss and Wolff where powerful themes of love, submission, dominance, and connection are blocked in subtle but spot on moves that last only moments but convey everything. Then revel in rebellion and pent up teen energy in the explosive “The Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked” And I dare anybody, literally dare anybody, to not well up during a particularly brilliantly staged funeral sequence late in the show — and not for the reasons you might think.

Oh, this is a good time to mention that you should absolutely not take your kids along to see this strictly adults-only fare and that’s not a casual warning.

As for the rest, blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Very Highly Recommended.

Spring Awakening continues through October 12th only.