Broadway hits to classics fill local theaters for fall

Andrea Daniel
Special to The Detroit News

This fall, Metro Detroit stages big and small will offer beloved classics, modern favorites — and a world premiere.

From Broadway classics such as “Annie” and “Wicked” to stage favorites such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Neil Simon’s “The Rumor,” there’s something for every theatergoer. The fall also marks the Detroit premiere of “Motown the Musical,” which opened on Broadway in spring 2013. Expect lots of fanfare as the date for its opening at the Fisher Theatre approaches.

“This is a major event here in the city of Detroit,” says Alan Lichtenstein, executive director of Nederlander Detroit, programmers for Broadway in Detroit productions at the Fisher and Detroit Opera House. “We’re going to have a big opening night performance with a benefit for the Motown Museum, and Mr. Smokey Robinson is coming.”

“Motown the Musical” will run from Oct. 21 through Jan. 4. Other big shows at the Fisher this season include “Annie,” “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” “Menopause the Musical” and long-time favorite “Mamma Mia!”

Broadway favorite “Wicked” returns to the Detroit Opera House for a three-week run, beginning on Dec. 10.

“The Color Purple,” the Broadway production based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, opens at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts on Oct. 23 for just five performances.

“It’s the big show this fall with Jennifer Holliday, the original Dreamgirl,” says Vince Paul, president and artistic director of the Music Hall. “The social and life lessons in ‘Color Purple’ are legendary.”

The Fox Theatre brings back shows people have enjoyed and want to see again during the holidays, says Tom Wilson, president of Olympia Entertainment, programmers for the Fox Theatre, Joe Louis Arena, City Theatre, Comerica Park and Sound Board at MotorCity Casino.

“ ‘Mannheim Steamroller Christmas’ sells out almost every year. And ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze’ always does amazing business,” Wilson says. “They’re all shows you’d love to see with the ones you love.”

Neighboring City Theatre will stage the return of “Evil Dead: The Musical,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Girls Night: The Musical.”

Local productions

Look for a little bit everything outside the major venues.

“The Value of Names,” the story of old antagonists who meet again with a clash after 30 years, runs through Oct. 12 at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre in West Bloomfield Township.

“You know, we’ve always considered ourselves sort of a theater of social conscience,” says Chris Bremer, JET’s new executive director. “So this play is about making decisions on our identities, and who we are going to be as well as moral choices people make.”

The fall season also includes “Enter Laughing,” based on comedian, actor, director and producer Carl Reiner’s start in show business, and “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” which re-invents the approach to Jewish jokes.

Planet Ant, the small black-box theater in Hamtramck, presents two productions as part of its Main Stage series, “The Big Story of Lazarus Small,” a reimagining of the Biblical story of Lazarus, through Sept. 27; and “Invasion,” about cultural identity, closes out the year.

The Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea opens its season Thursday with “Annapurna” by playwright Sharr White. The production runs through Dec. 20.

“It’s really a poignant comedy,” says Guy Sanville, Purple Rose artistic director who also directs the play. “It deals with the unpredictable eccentricities of love and forgiveness.”

The relationship between authors and their characters is explored when France’s Théâtre de la Ville presents Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” at the Power Center in Ann Arbor on Oct. 24 and 25.

“This is one of the great 20th-century plays,” says Michael Kondziolka, University Musical Society director of programming. “It’s an absurdist play, and playwright Pirandello won the Nobel Prize and is one of the true masters of the last century.”

The Detroit Repertory Theatre presents the world premiere of the comedy “Buzz” for its 58th season opener.

Leah Smith, Repertory Theatre marketing and development director, describes the play with a line from the production.

“’If you want to know what’s going down at any major company, just ask the stock clerk.’ It’s a wicked comedy,” she adds.

Family show

For children of all ages, Wild Swan Theater opens its 35th season with “Frog and Toad,” the classic Arnold Lobel story of friendship through thick and thin, on Oct. 9.

Included in Wild Swan’s fall offerings is “Treasure Island,” Robert Louis Steven’s classic tale of pirates and swashbuckling.

“There’s live music, and just pure imagination and things you can touch,” says Sandy Ryner, Wild Swan co-artistic director. “So many kids are glued to their video games and stuff, and I think it’s so important for kids to have this kind of experience, and they’re own imagination gets tweaked.”

Andrea Daniel is a Detroit-based freelance reporter.

All about theater

City Theatre

2301 Woodward, Detroit

(313) 471-3469

“Evil Dead: The Musical,” Oct. 1-25

“Driving Miss Daisy,” Oct. 31-Nov. 2

“Girls Night: The Musical, Nov. 6-9

“Pinkalicious: The Musical,” Nov. 21-23

“Sister’s Christmas Catechism,” Dec. 11-14

Detroit Repertory Theatre

13103 Woodrow Wilson, Detroit

(313) 868-1347

“Buzz,” Nov. 6-Dec. 28

Fisher Theatre

3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit

(313) 872-1000

“Annie,” Sept. 26-Oct. 4

“Menopause the Musical,” Oct. 14-16

“Mamma Mia!,” Oct. 17-19

“Motown the Musical,” Oct. 21-Nov. 16

“Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” Nov. 26

Fox Theatre

2211 Woodward, Detroit

(313) 396-7901

“Yogabba Gabba!,” Oct. 22

“100 Years of Broadway,” Nov. 23

“Mannheim Steamroller Christmas,” Dec. 7

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” Dec. 16-20

“After Dark Tour,” Dec. 31

Hilberry Theatre

4743 Cass, Detroit

(313) 577-2972

“Boeing, Boeing,” Sept. 19-Oct. 4

Jewish Ensemble Theatre

6600 W. Maple, West Bloomfield Township

(248) 788-2900

“The Value of Names,” now through Oct. 12

“Enter Laughing,” Oct. 22-Nov. 16

“Old Jews Telling Jokes,” Nov. 26-Dec. 21

“Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen: An Evening with Patty, LaVerne and Maxine, aka The Andrews Sisters!,” Dec. 31

Macomb Center for the Performing Arts

44575 Garfield, Clinton Township

(586) 286-2141 or (586) 286-2222

“Voca People,” Oct. 11

“Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack Show,” Oct. 17

“Camelot,” Nov. 1

“Harry the Dirty Dog,” Nov. 3

“All Hands on Deck,” Nov. 9

“Wuthering Heights,” Nov. 19

“Anything Goes,” Nov. 14

“A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 6

Meadow Brook Theatre

207 Wilson Hall, Rochester

(248) 377-3300

“Around the World in 80 Days,” Oct. 1-26

“A Christmas Carol,” Nov. 14-Dec. 21

Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts

350 Madison, Detroit

(313) 887-8500

“Detroit Tonight Live with M.L. Liebler,” Sept. 25

“Puppet Art: Snow Queen,” Oct. 5

“The Color Purple,” Oct. 23-26

“Boogah and Hoogah,” Nov. 2

“Stella, Queen of the Snow,” Nov. 9

Planet Ant Theatre

2357 Caniff, Hamtramck

(313) 365-4948

“The Big Story of Lazarus Small,” Nov. 5-27

“Invasion!,” Nov. 28-Dec. 20

Purple Rose Theatre

137 Park, Chelsea

(734) 433-7673

“Annapurna,” Sept. 18-Dec. 20

PuppetArt, Detroit Puppet Theatre

25 E. Grand River, Detroit

(313) 961-7777

“The Sleeping Beauty,” Sept. 18, 20, 27, 28

“Firebird,” Oct. 4, 11, 16, 18, 25, 26

“Turtle Island,” Nov. 1, 8, 15, 20, 22, 29, 30

“Christmas Time — Snow Queen,” Dec. 6, 13, 18, 20, 27, 28

The Ringwald Theatre

22742 Woodward, Ferndale

(248) 542-5545

“Angels in America,” through Sept. 29

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Carrie,” Oct. 11-Nov. 3

“Stupid Bird,” Nov. 14-Dec. 8

“The SantaLand Diaries & Season’s Greetings,” Dec. 19-22

Studio Theatre

(Downstairs at the Hilberry)

4743 Cass, Detroit

“Belleville,” now through Oct. 12

“Bad Jews,” Nov. 5-Dec. 21

Marygrove Theatre

(UDM Theatre Company)

8425 W. McNichols, Detroit

(313) 927-1200

“The Best of Enemies,” Sept. 26-28, Oct. 3-5

“It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” Dec. 5-7

Wild Swan Theater

2203 Platt, Ann Arbor

(734) 995-0530

(Performances at Towsley Auditorium, 4800 E. Huron River, Ann Arbor)

“Frog and Toad,” Oct. 9-11

“Treasure Island,” Nov. 19-23

Compiled by Jocelynn Brown