Grosse Pointe Theatre to ‘Shuffle Off to Buffalo’ for 70th season-ender

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 12, 2018

 From left, Theresa Selvaggio, of Grosse Pointe Farms, plays Dorothy Brock; and Catie Hauff, of Richmond, plays Peggy Sawyer in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “42nd Street.”

From left, Theresa Selvaggio, of Grosse Pointe Farms, plays Dorothy Brock; and Catie Hauff, of Richmond, plays Peggy Sawyer in Grosse Pointe Theatre’s production of “42nd Street.”

Photo by Dale Pegg, provided by Grosse Pointe Theatre

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — To close its 70th anniversary season, Grosse Pointe Theatre is bringing back a beloved classic.

The dancing and singing spectacular that is “42nd Street” will be staged June 17 to 30 inside the Christian A. Fenton Performing Arts Center at Grosse Pointe North High School.

The classic tale of a wide-eyed young talent who leaves her small town in search of success in show business, “42nd Street” follows the rise of dancer Peggy Sawyer, who’s tapped to step into the starring role of a Broadway musical after the leading lady, Dorothy Brock, breaks her ankle.

Originally a novel and then a 1933 Busby Berkeley movie, the Tony Award-winning “42nd Street” — which is set in the 1930s — includes such well-known numbers as “We’re in the Money,” “I Only Have Eyes For You” and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.” It was first produced by GPT in 1988. Some members of this cast, including Theresa Selvaggio, of Grosse Pointe Farms, who plays Dorothy Brock, were in the 1988 production.

“It’s a happy show,” Selvaggio said. “Our patrons loved it. So when we decided to do it again, I wanted to be a part of it. (It has) some of the greatest dance numbers ever written for the stage.”

Marie Reinman, of Grosse Pointe Farms, was the costume chair in 1988, and this time around, her husband and daughter are in the show. Patricia Ellis, of Grosse Pointe City, who was in the 1988 cast, is the publicity chair this time.

“Closing our 70th year with this big show is a wonderful celebration of our 70th (anniversary),” said Ellis. “It’s just going to be visually pleasing, with the colors and the costumes.”

Assistant Director Danielle Caralis, a Grosse Pointe Shores native who now lives in Birmingham, agreed.

“We’re going out with a bang,” said Caralis, who also plays Ethel.

The 2018 show also features co-choreographer Catie Hauff of Richmond as Peggy Sawyer, Tom Pagano of Clinton Township as Julian Marsh, Zak Shugart of Troy as Billy Lawlor, Grace Knoche of New Baltimore as Maggie Jones, Ryan Quinn of Clawson as Andy Lee, Nick Marinello of Clinton Township as Bert Berry, Tim Reinman of Grosse Pointe Farms as Abner Dillon, Bob Montgomery of Grosse Pointe Farms as Pat Denning, Maria Nanette Tilmos of Novi as Anytime Annie, Angela VanKempen of Ypsilanti as Lorraine Flemming, co-choreographer Christine Campbell-Cormier of Columbus as Phyllis Dale, Andrea Sevonty of Hamtramck as Gladys, Brad Hardecki of Grosse Pointe Woods as Mac, Craig VanKempen of Ypsilanti as Oscar and Kristina Kamm of Grosse Pointe Woods as Diane Lorimer.

The ensemble consists of Julianna Brenner, Gino Calisi and Jerome Manning of Grosse Pointe Park; Audrey Brennan and Robby Mullinger of Grosse Pointe City; Becky Bodley of Mount Clemens; Erica Clarke of Warren; Matthew Carlsen, Nick Hysick, Lillian Klein, Sophie Leszczynski and Hazel Lyman of Grosse Pointe Woods; Emma Huber, Mary Reinman and Campbelle Stencel of Grosse Pointe Farms; Caroline Julian of South Lyon; Amanda Nummy of Ann Arbor; and Ashley Trefney of Birmingham.

Stephanie Butler, of Grosse Pointe Park, the show’s costume chair, said there are more than 230 costumes for this show, along with more than 100 pairs of shoes.

“Some of the girls have nine (full) costumes apiece and 13 (smaller) changes,” Butler said.

She said she couldn’t build the show’s lavish wardrobe without help from the roughly 30 volunteers who’ve been making hats and creating or altering costumes alongside her.

Director Don Bischoff, of Macomb Township, started working on this production a year ago.

“That was one of the things we stressed: We wanted fantastic costumes, fantastic dancers,” he said.

Having it at the Fenton Performing Arts Center is enabling GPT to do things production-wise that it was never able to do at The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms, such as dropping down scenery, Bischoff said.

“The venue has allowed us to think big, to think bolder,” Caralis said. “Our spin on this is going to be big, bright and in-your-face.”

Because the show is known for its lively dance numbers — including many great tap dances — some of the area’s top tap dancers are in the cast, and cast members hail from well outside of metro Detroit.

“This is the kind of show that, if you’re a tapper, you want to do it multiple times,” Bischoff said.

Caralis said doing this show was a “bucket list” item for her.

“When I was 8, I saw this show with my sister at the Masonic (Temple in Detroit), and I said, ‘I’m going to dance on a dime (like the actresses) before I’m too old,’” she said. “When the (GPT) Board of Directors chose this show, I couldn’t have been more excited about it.”

Bischoff, too, has loved “42nd Street” for years.

“This was the first full-blown musical that I saw,” he said.

Bischoff said he was on a date at the time — albeit not with his wife, Tracy, who’s painting scenery for this show, as they hadn’t met yet.

“We didn’t have good seats — we were way in the back,” Bischoff recalled of that production at the Masonic in Detroit. “But I was blown away by the big dance numbers.”

Ellis said GPT audiences can expect to be blown away as well, given the caliber of the cast and crew.

“It will be totally entertaining,” she said of this production. “It will transport you to a happy place, and for a few hours, you can forget your troubles.”

The Christian A. Fenton Performing Arts Center is part of the Grosse Pointe North High School campus at 707 Vernier Road in Grosse Pointe Woods. Free self-parking and free valet parking will be available. Tickets cost $25. For advance tickets or more information, call the GPT box office at (313) 881-4004 or visit www.gpt.org.