Theater groups open new shows for the new year

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 11, 2012

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BIRMINGHAM/BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Now that the holiday parties and New Year’s revelry are over, chances for a night on the town have dwindled. Luckily, this weekend marks the opening of some new shows at two local theater companies in hopes of getting people out of the house and into the audience.

The Village Players in Birmingham are offering a mix of comedy, drama and most of all family values in their production of “Lost in Yonkers.” The Neil Simon comedy takes place in 1940s New York, when two young boys are left in the care of their stern and intimidating grandmother. The result is a profound and sometimes comical tale of maturation and family bonds, according to the show’s director, Tim Wittlinger.

“You can mix comedy and humor on one hand, and drama and pathos on the other. (Simon) can take the audience from laughter to tears and back again.”

Wittlinger has been a member of The Village Players for 45 years and is especially proud of this performance. He said the cast is “just brilliant,” particularly the play’s two young stars, Sam Slocum, 12, and Nathan Willey, 16, who studies theater at Groves High School.

“The two are onstage almost the entire show, and they play off each other just great,” he said.

According to Wittlinger, who also serves as the company’s treasurer and chief financial officer, the playhouse is in use nearly every day of the year, either for theater camps, playwright groups, or rehearsals and performances of the company’s five major shows each year. Now in its 89th year, it’s the second oldest community theater in the nation, and each year, Wittlinger said, is one to remember.

“Our motto is that we’re Birmingham’s best live theater. We’ve put on some really fantastic productions.”

“Lost in Yonkers” runs Jan. 13-15 and 20-22. Tickets are $17 and are available online at BirminghamVillagePlayers.com or by calling (248) 644-2075. The Village Players playhouse is located at 34660 Woodward Ave. in Birmingham.

If you’re in the mood for some toe-tapping, St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild of Cranbrook is presenting “She Loves Me,” a musical comedy about love found in the unlikeliest of places.

The musical is based on the film “Shop Around the Corner,” which also inspired the hit film “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The musical follows two Budapest perfumery clerks, played by Kate Deborre of Royal Oak and Jeff Faust of Canton, who don’t get along on the job but inadvertently fall in love with each other as pen pals.

“It’s just a good, old-fashioned musical love story,” said director Jeff Davison. “It’s a show a lot of people say they’ve never heard of, but once they see it, they’re hooked.”

The St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild, now in its 80th season, resides on the grounds of Cranbrook and usually performs four shows a year, some of which are presented on the guild’s 400-person outdoor Greek theater.

Davison has been with the guild for 11 years and has directed eight shows. As to why this musical is special, he said it’s all about the timing.

“It’s a pick-me-up. Sometimes January, being so dreary, can bring people down. They need something light-hearted as opposed to something dark for this time of the year.”

“She Loves Me” runs Jan. 20, 21, 27-29, and Feb. 3 and 4. Tickets are $18, $20 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at StDunstansTheatre.com or by calling (888) 71-TICKETS. St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild of Cranbrook is located at 400 Lone Pine Road in Bloomfield Hills.

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