Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Monday, November 28, 2016

No More Miss Nice Girl: Maryanna Lauter Gets Mean In “Christmas Pageant”

Maryanna Lauter is no angel as Alice Wendleken in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

By her own recollection, Maryanna Lauter “practically grew up here at the Barn,” and has always played the “quiet and nice young girl” in such roles as a 5 year-old in A Wonderful Life, Olive in Spelling Bee, Velda in The Amish Project, and the title role in Annie.  Maryanna’s natural sweetness made her a great fit for those good-girl roles, and while she relishes those past experiences, now she’s singing a different tune:  No more miss nice girl! 

In the Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Maryanna plays Alice Wendleken, who she describes as “a stuck up, know-it-all who loves to be in the spotlight. I love getting to be the mean girl for once. Alice is self-absorbed, self-righteous and thinks she's the perfect Christian girl, but in truth, she is nasty and inconsiderate.”   Alice looks down on the Herdman children, who are newcomers to church and first-timers in the annual Christmas pageant.  So how did Maryanna learn how to get so mean?  “I prepared for my role by basing Alice off of real people I've come across in life as much as possible, and even trying to mirror mean girls I see in TV shows and movies.” 

Besides the fun challenge of playing her opposite, Maryanna wanted to be in Christmas Pageant because her mother Amy “was in this show when she was around my age. She played Gladys and I've always heard her saying it was one of her favorite shows she'd ever been in and I thought that I could pay homage to her by doing this show!”  Maryanna also credits director Terie Spencer for inspiring her to do her best work as an actor:  “Every show I've done with her has always been so memorable. I've grown not only as an actor, but as a person whenever she directs me in a show.”  Plus, it is especially fun to do a show with other kids from Warner Middle School (where she is in 8th grade), including Madi LaJoice, Hannah Weinraub, Michael Soverinsky and Ben Rakolta.

Beyond the fun and frivolity, Maryanna thinks audiences will enjoy this show because “not only is it a hilarious play for people of all ages, it has such a beautiful meaning that no matter how old you are, what your religion is, or what your past is, you can change for the better.”  In preparing for this role, Maryanna drew on some of her own earliest memories at church:  “I had heard the Christmas story countless times when I was younger. I went to Vacation Bible School every summer from ages 5-8. I remember hearing about God and Jesus and the Bible but never truly understood what those meant. … Flash forward to when I was 10 years old and I had to go with my dad because he had an organ gig at a church in Royal Oak. I didn't plan on really listening to the service but I did. I experienced a feeling I'd never felt before. It was the first time in a long time I had felt happy, as I was having a rough couple of years.  I wanted to cry because I felt so close with the Lord and I finally realized I had someone and something to turn to in times of hopelessness, anxiety and sadness.”  

Maryanna equates her own revelation with the children’s realization of the true meaning of Christmas in the play.  As she says, “I think that's what happens to the Herdmans, especially Imogene in our show. I'm lucky enough that something like that happened to me pretty early in life. On the other hand, I also relate to the church kids in our show from that story. They are raised hearing all about the Christian faith and what it means but probably don't get to experience the true meaning of religion until later in life, but like I said before, I was lucky enough to learn the true meaning at a young age.” Maryanna shows a level of maturity well beyond her 13 years, and to develop such a depth of understanding at her young age is no mean feat!

The Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is proudly sponsored by The Life Chest. The 12 performances run from December 2 - 18, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pastor Drex Morton Plays Baffled Reverend in “Christmas Pageant”

Bringing Order to Chaos:  Rehearsal for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Sometimes actors complain of being type cast, but in the case of Drex Morton, he considers it a compliment. In the Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Drex plays Reverend Hopkins, and as he says, “I am a pastor, so playing the part of a ‘baffled’ one is certainly fun.”  Drex has been a pastor for 30 years, so the role must come naturally to him.  He and his wife Mary reside in Canton and he currently serves a church in Bridgewater, Michigan.

Even though Christmas Pageant is a holiday play, its message is nondenominational.  Director Terie Spencer says, “I hope audiences will see the connection we all have as people regardless of religious belief.  It's been a wonderful experience finding common ground as we prepare to present this charming story.”   Drex says, “I wanted to receive direction from Terie once again, because she is an excellent director and mentor for actors of all ages.”

Christmas Pageant truly has something for everyone, and while the play doesn’t attempt to convert anyone, it may transform you!   Drex knows that “audiences will love the mix of comedy and nostalgia, the talented children, and the introduction of a universal truth, as Terie stated it, that all the characters grow through the challenges presented.   Also, the kindnesses expressed toward those who are considered outcasts in the play within the play will bring out the very best in them, inspire generosity, and transform all who are involved, including the audience.”  

Like Reverend Holmes, Pastor Morton has a passion for helping folks.  In Drex’s case, he especially seeks to help those who are bereaved, and officiates about three funerals weekly.  In his few spare moments, he enjoys distance running, community theater, and choral singing.

The Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is proudly sponsored by The Life Chest. The 12 performances run from December 2 - 18, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Brotherly Love: Rakolta Brothers Play Herdman Boys in "Christmas Pageant"

L to R—Saskia Koenig as Imogene Herdman, Suzi Collins-Duprey as Mother, and Ben Rakolta as Ralph Herdman.
Mother fails to maintain even a bit of decorum as the Herdmans take over the pageant rehearsal.
PHOTO by Jim Kelly
In this hilarious Christmas classic, a couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids, six loveable delinquent children (Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie, and Gladys) who are probably the most inventively awful kids in history. (In fact, this play was titled "The Worst Kids in the World" in Australia, New Zealand and England.)  The Herdmans collide head on with the Christmas story, but their nonconventional telling unexpectedly sheds light on the true meaning of the holiday.

In the Farmington Players production, two of the Herdman boys are played by real-life brothers Benjamin and Nathan Rakolta.   Benjamin describes his character Ralph as “tough, yet cool. I like the role of Ralph because we share few personality similarities and it is fun to act in ways that are opposite of my usual self.”  His younger brother Nathan describes his character Claude as “combative and he asks a lot of questions. He is a tough kid. What I enjoy the most is the physical funny actions of my character. They are fun. I find playing a mean character challenging because I am not mean.” Like the Herdmans, the Rakoltas have a large family, which helped the boys prepare for their roles.  Benjamin and Nathan already have a lot of stage presence from dancing on stage with the Earth Angels, a 1950s and 60s dance entertainment group.

The brothers have a lot of friends in the cast, which is a real family affair that includes other siblings and several parents acting along side their own children.  Benjamin liked the script and he was looking for a play that was not a musical.  He thinks the Barn is “a perfect place for me to have my first acting experience.”  Similarly, Nathan wanted to be in this show because “I like to be on stage and acting is something I wanted to try. I also wanted to find out how productions were made, especially behind the scenes. When I grow up, I want to be a writer and producer.”

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a funny and energetic play with a lot of heart.  Benjamin thinks audiences will connect with the story because it shows that first impressions are not always right.  As he said, “the Herdmans were judged as the worst family in the community, yet their addition created possibly the best show yet. Their donation of the ham showed that they really did care and they are not as bad as they are perceived.”   For his part, Nathan thinks that the play reinforces “the true meaning of Christmas – to be kind and to give to others.” But he also observes that “there is a lot of chaos in the show and I can relate to that because there is chaos at school, especially when kids fight in class.”  But there’s no fighting among this cast.  As Nathan said, “The cast is friendly and everyone is nice to me and each other. The director [Terie Spencer] is helpful because she tells me what to work on and helps me with my acting.”

Benjamin is an 8th grader and Nathan is a 6th grader at Warner Middle School. Both boys are members of the Forensics team. They are entering their fourth year of performing with The Earth Angels. When not on stage, Benjamin enjoys robotics, Legos, reading, bike riding, and hanging out with his friends. Nathan loves to swim, play Pok√©mon, read DC comics, practice his percussion instruments, and be imaginative. 

The Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is proudly sponsored by The Life Chest. The 12 performances run from December 2 - 18, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Just What the Doctor Ordered: Kandi Krumins Embraces Her Role as Dr. Howard

Kandi Krumins kills it as the doctor in red, in The Vast Difference.  With Kyle Bushre as George.
The Vast Difference challenges sexual stereotypes in a comedic look at the chasm between men and women.  Jeff Daniels’ quirky comedy was written in 1993, when male flight attendants and female doctors were an anomaly.   And though acceptance of women in different professional roles has improved, sexism still prevails in many areas of life.  In the Farmington Players’ production of The Vast Difference – three shows left, October 13-15 – Kandi Krumins plays Dr. Hala Howard, a urologist.   Kandi can definitely relate to “being a well-educated, professional woman and sometimes not having been taken seriously… particularly with a name like ‘Kandi’.  It’s changed some over the last 20 years, but some of that sexist attitude still lingers. Life has prepared me for dealing with this role.” 

Kandi’s describes her character, Dr. Howard, as “a urologist with a dry sense of humor.”  She interacts mainly with George Noonan (played by Kyle Bushre), who is terrified to get the vasectomy she would perform for him.  While Kandi usually portrays the doctor with a no-nonsense approach, she explains how she gets to have fun with the role:  “Because the play takes place in George’s mind, there are times when Hala gets to show a different side to her, so I get to change her character up several times in the show, based on George’s imagination. That is fun!  One of the biggest challenges of this role is staying serious when I must. I often want to laugh at the others on stage … even now.” 

Kandi’s character change is the most striking during a fantasy scene when George imagines he is dancing with Hala, as Kandi’s red dress is in stark contrast to her white doctor’s uniform.  Kandi’s graceful performance, both as dancer and doctor, makes it look so easy that audiences would never know that she only had a dozen days to prepare for the role of Hala.   As a late fill-in for an actor who had to drop out of the show, Kandi stepped up to the challenge with her usual enthusiasm: “Instead of feeling ‘stressed’ over the time crunch I had in order to learn lines for this show, this fun show was something I needed right now in my life… for me.  99% of my lines are with Kyle (George) who is not only a wonderful person, but an amazing actor with great sense of comedic timing. I’ve learned a lot from him.  The rest of the cast, and I mean every one of them, have been a joy to work with. Being around a cast like this makes me want to ‘step up my game’.”   Kandi has definitely embraced the challenge and knows that audiences have loved the show because “it’s funny, but also has serious heartfelt moments. It is well executed.”

Kandi grew up in Dearborn, the youngest of six children.  She taught public middle school most of her life, then in 2010 left the profession to homeschool her children and write a musical.  She calls this decision “one of my better choices in life.” 

The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 3 remaining performances are October 13, 14 and 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Charlie Gass Goes Way Above the Norm in the Vast Difference

Charlie Gass (upper left) is having a blast playing multiple roles in this Jeff Daniels comedy



























Charlie Gass is having a blast.  His appointed role in Jeff Daniels’ comedy, The Vast Difference, is the generically titled “Various Male #4.” Yet Charlie imbues every one of his male personas with his own personal touch, “trying to add wrinkles to each character to differentiate them from one another.”   Charlie knows that Farmington Players audiences will enjoy the show as much as he is because, “it breaks most common conventions in theatre. The story has many layers and you really don’t know where it’s going next. In addition to the show being very funny, the convolutions of the show will leave audiences contemplating gender “Norms” (ironically the name of two of my characters).”  Specifically, Charlie’s “Norms” are Norm, a George Costanza-type guy at a men’s support group, and Detroit Tiger legend Norm Cash.  In addition, Charlie plays: Dave, a workout guy at the gym; Douglas, an old-timer in a barbershop; and an unnamed bleacher bum (picture the guy who always tries to start the Wave at the ballpark).

In each of these stereotypical male roles, Charlie interacts with the main character George, who “uses a vasectomy as a metaphor for his insecurity about his manhood. I don’t think this internal struggle has changed much at all in the last 20 years.”  As Charlie observes, “men are constantly heckled with condescending statements like ‘your man card should be revoked’, or ‘man up,’ which implies that certain behaviors or perceived mental and physical strengths should inherently apply to men.”  If so, where do we draw the line?  What makes a man a “real man”?

Charlie jumped at the opportunity to be in a show at the Barn, his third including Annie and The Full Monty, saying, “I’ve stated to the rest of the cast my strong feelings about the organization several times. For this show I have to credit director Dave Reinke for selling the show to all of us during The Full Monty. He sent me the script and I was immediately intrigued by all of the possibilities it presented. I also have to credit my dad, Jerry Gass for encouraging me to come out and audition. I was thrilled when Dave told me I could be in the show.”

Charlie is a Farmington Hills native and attended and played football at Harrison High School. Now 30, when he was 23, he taught English in Korea for a year. He has a Finance degree from Michigan State and now works in Data Analytics at Meridian Health Plan.  Charlie’s interests include playing and follow sports – especially college football, college basketball, and the Tigers.

Charlie had nothing but praise for every one his fellow cast mates,: “Sa’ku Floyd is the nicest person you will ever meet. He’s completely professional and puts tremendous effort into every detail of his characters. … Rob Wise is completely fearless on stage and will inevitably make you laugh. The guy can find humor in anything. … Armand Banooni brings a very special rhythm to the show that’s very hard to put into words. … Kristi Schwartz is seriously the sweetest girl on planet earth. She never shows anyone up, always has the time of day, and has a great sense of humor. … Kandi Krumins is making everybody else look bad by mastering her role in just two short weeks. It was such a boost the day she joined the cast, you could immediately see everybody’s energy level rise. … Gary Weinstein is another guy whose sheer presence raises the quality of a show. He performs at a 10 EVERY rehearsal, inspiring everyone else to do the same. … Kyle Bushre is on stage for 99% of the show. So much of his character is created by him. Every movement, stutter, and voice inflection is carefully crafted. I can’t imagine the character of George Noonan any other way.” 


The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Kristi Schwartz Sparkles as Lovely Rita in The Vast Difference


Kristi Schwartz plays nagging yet supportive wife Rita Noonan.
(Pictured here with fellow 
Torchbearer award winner Barry Cutler.)  
Jeff Daniels’ 1993 comedy, The Vast Difference, is all about relationships:  fathers and sons; husbands and wives; men and women.  While protagonist George Noonan’s primary relationship is with his father Earl, George has a lot of key female figures in his life.  George has five daughters, a female doctor, and most important, a loving – if sometimes nagging – wife, Rita.  Kristi Schwartz plays Rita in the Farmington Players production of Vast, which opens this Friday September 23 at the Barn.

Kristi jokingly describes Rita as the “mother of five girls and one boy (George!).  She is trying to be patient with George during this conflicting time, but she is also sick of being patient herself.  She has been pregnant five times and it is time for him to go through a little pain!”  Rita asks George to undergo a vasectomy, saying, "Honey, all I'm asking you to do is meet me halfway."  Kristi’s biggest challenge in playing Rita is to “make sure that I am not just nagging the whole show.  I want to be able to show her compassion, her laughter, her anger, her craziness, her jealousy, her need for affection, etc.”

Kristi knows audiences will enjoy this show because everyone will be able to relate to someone: “There are many eccentric characters in this play, so everyone will find some connection.  It is also about vulnerabilities, which we all face on a daily basis.”  Kristi uses her own vulnerability by connecting with the show’s theme of loss, saying, “I lost my own father to cancer when he was only 57 back in 2002. This devastating loss leaves an impression on you.  Earl's final speech always strikes a chord in me.  When he talks about how it is harder to picture his face as time goes on and when he says something about forgetting more than you remember, this speaks to me every single time.  I find myself forgetting how my dad's own voice sounds and I feel guilty if I can't recreate an accurate picture in my mind.  This play reminds me to cling on to those good memories because the rest, ‘It ain't all worth rememberin!’” 

Kristi has always been drawn to Jeff Daniels' comedies, having served as co-producer and Wolf Moon Dance in the Barn's Escanaba show in 2007.  While every show is special, Kristi thinks the Vast cast is “amazing ... they make me laugh and I get ‘shushed’ all the time because I can't control myself backstage!  The directors and production team are all so supportive and make the stage a safe place to try new things and come out of our comfort zones.  I appreciate all of their coaching and support!”  Kristi recently received the Barn’s Torchbearer award for her longtime service, and she lists her “loves” as theater, RV-ing with her family, music, dance, and (of course) her husband, Keith, and three children (Colin, Allie, and Drew).


The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kyle Bushre Draws on Own Father-Son Bond to Play George Noonan

"Nervous?  Who me?" Kyle Bushre (left) as George Noonan with Sa'Ku Floyd
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
The Vast Difference opens with protagonist George Noonan strapped to a gurney, about to undergo a vasectomy.  Most of the play’s action takes place in George’s mind while he’s under anesthesia, which explains some of the bizarre imagery and absurd humor in the show.  But ultimately, this quirky comedy by Jeff Daniels is a touching tribute to fathers and sons, and how that bond shapes so many of our life choices.

In the Farmington Players production, Kyle Bushre plays George, who he describes as “a guy struggling to grab hold of the kind of manliness he saw in his father and his father's heroes, Al Kaline and John Wayne. George sees his dad as the epitome of a man's man, and George simply isn't. He's a flight attendant on a regional airline, has a wife who nags him, five daughters who look like him, and the constant unsettling feeling that his father wouldn't be proud of the life he's living. On top of all that, he's contemplating a vasectomy, which he sees as the final assault that will triumphantly destroy the last bit of man left in him.”

Kyle draws on his relationship with his own father when playing opposite Gary Weinstein, who plays George’s father Earl Noonan.  As Kyle says, “There is a genuine love between George and Earl, and playing those heartwarming moments of joy and loss between father and son are the most rewarding for me. I think Gary and I have developed quite a bit of chemistry in playing that relationship. He's an outstanding actor, by the way. His performance alone is worth the price of admission for this show.”  In real life, Kyle’s father had a heart attack earlier this year and flat-lined for 17 minutes before doctors revived him, so “coming that close to losing my dad was one of the reasons I wanted to do this show about a guy and the dad he admires.”

The Vast Difference was first performed in 1993, and Kyle calls author Jeff Daniels a “prophet” for “correctly identified a slide toward gender ambiguity and the downplaying of masculinity that we see today. I think Daniels does a good job nostalgically reflecting on the days when ‘men were men and everybody knew it’ while at the same time suggesting that even in that by-gone era, the men had vulnerabilities that should be considered part of what it means to be a man.”

Despite the show’s more serious themes, Kyle knows that audiences will love this “mad-cap romp with razor-sharp wit that is absolutely absurd.”  Four guys in this show – Sa’Ku Floyd, Charlie Gass, Rob Wise, and Armand Banooni – each play about half a dozen characters, and “these guys are funny.”  A native Michigander, this is Kyle’s first show at the Barn, having moved back last year with his wife after a 13-year absence.  In a stroke of luck (or perhaps fate), he found out about the show by doing a Google search of "community theatre."  Kyle is the pastor of Doxa Church, a new church in Rochester Hills.


The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Rob Wise Is Man of Many Roles, Few Lines, and One Big Kaline

Rob Wise (left) as Al Kaline
with Kyle Bushre (George Noonan) and Gary Weinstein (Earl Noonan)

Rob Wise likes the idea of being in a show that not everyone is going to know.  As he said, “Far more people know Jeff Daniels than they do The Vast Difference.”  While everyone knows Daniels as the Michigan actor, playwright, and founder of the Purple Rose Theater, very few are familiar with his quirky 1993 comedy, which opens at the Farmington Players on September 23.  In a nutshell, The Vast Difference explores sexual stereotypes that examine the difference between men and woman.  It is also a pun on the vas deferens, the part of the male anatomy that gets snipped during a vasectomy.  The main character in our play – George Noonan – needs a vasectomy. As a flight attendant and the father of five girls, George turns a routine visit to his urologist into a psychotherapy session about life, the insignificance of the modern-day man, and the vast difference between stewards and stewardesses.

Rob Wise plays seven (7!!) male characters that embody some of the stereotypical males in George’s world, which he describes as follows: “Lyle (an arrogant airline passenger), Bob (a member of a men’s support group), Jim (a member of George's gym), Bartley (an old timer at the barbershop), the Executioner, a Tigers Bleacher Bum, and Tigers legend Al Kaline.”  While all Michiganders know Al Kaline, all Rob’s other characters are purely fictional, and some don’t even speak at all.  So how does Rob prepare for the challenge imbuing each of these characters with life?  “For me, the preparation has been mostly about determining each of my characters purposes and backgrounds because they all have to be distinguishable from each other. My main focus has been on what sets them apart from the others.  Is it the way the speak?  Is it their mannerisms? Is it an accent?”

Rob thinks audiences will enjoy The Vast Difference because “it challenges them to think beyond what is happening on stage. It has a great balance of humor and emotion that makes the whole experience very human.  As far as gender roles and how they have changed, I believe that we are certainly ahead of where we were when this show was first performed (in 1993). We still have a long way to go and I look forward to a day when the term ‘gender roles’ doesn't mean anything to anyone.”

One of the major themes of this show is the relationship between George and his father, and whether George has lived up to his father’s expectations. As Rob says, “we can all relate to how bad we all felt when we disappointed someone we love and care about. I relate greatly to the relationship between George and his father, and how at the center of it all the love between a parent and their child is completely unwavering.  My experiences with my own disappointments and my own father have helped me to relate more to what's happening around me in this show.”

Rob is 31 and has been in over 30 stage shows in his lifetime, but this is his first at the Barn.  He lives in Warren with his wife, Nickie, and their nearly two-year-old daughter, Delaney.  Rob serves as Vice President of the Ridgedale Players in Troy, but by day works as a trader for a scrap metal recycling company.  


The Farmington Players production of The Vast Difference is proudly sponsored by Mall Malisow & Cooney. The 12 performances run from September 23 to October 15, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dave Reinke Grins and Bares It as Reg in The Full Monty

Dave Reinke (left) takes charge as union leader Reg Willoughby
Desperate times call for desperate measures.  But just how far would you go to earn money to take care of your children?  This moral dilemma is at the center of The Full Monty, now playing at the Farmington Players through May 21.  The show focuses on the plight of unemployed steel mill workers some 18 months after their plant closed in Buffalo.

Dave Reinke plays Reg Willoughby, the union leader who urges the men to do what they can to take care of themselves, rather than grousing about what their union can do for them.  As Dave says, “having been divorced, a single father of three kids, I can relate to the struggles that the men go through.”  And like Reg, “I have faced unemployment a couple of times.  Just a sign of the times in Detroit.”

In The Full Monty, things start to get interesting when some of the men decide to become strippers – like Chippendale dancers – to make some quick cash.  When Reg auditions as a complete amateur, Dave embraces the role completely:  “The challenge is I had to create my own striptease as I audition to be a part of the Monty Men.  It was a lot of fun but also challenging.”  Reg’s sincere, awkward, failed attempt at a striptease is one of the audience’s favorite moments of the show.  It is so bad, it is good.  

As Dave says, “the show has a warm heart at the center of all the fun. A group of unemployed steelworkers overcome fear, self-consciousness, anxiety, and feelings of worthlessness to become the most unlikely group of exotic dancers. Often, musicals tend to depict a story and characters that are larger than life in surreal situations. But, this show is about ‘us’ – real people in real situations facing real issues forced to decide on the best solutions for them. It's a beautiful story that challenges the heart. A show that ‘strips’ down all defenses and demonstrates that family is first.”

Dave has been active as a Barn member for 13 years both on and off stage.  Next season, he will be directing the Jeff Daniels comedy, The Vast Difference.  Dave worked on the original production in 1993 when he was an apprentice at the Purple Rose Theatre Company.

The Farmington Players production of The Full Monty is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Management, but all remaining performances are sold out.

        

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Becky Fisher Strikes Comedy Gold as Zesty Jeanette in Full Monty

Becky Fisher steals the rehearsal scene as Jeanette Burmeister in her Barn debut
If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then Becky Fisher must be bursting to be back on stage. As she says, “I was actually a stay-at-home Mom for over 20 years, and took years off from the theater as well. When it was time to return to my career, and to performing, it would be an understatement to say I did so with gusto!”  Similarly, Becky’s character in The Full Monty has an infectious enthusiasm for the stage.  Becky plays Jeanette Burmeister, who she describes as a “wisecracking chain-smoking piano player, who just shows up at auditions ... ‘piano and all’! Bored with just ‘sitting and rocking’, Jeanette’s heart beats faster when she hears ‘some boys from the old mill are putting on a show.’ Given the opportunity to come out of retirement, Jeanette says, ‘I haven’t milked my last cow yet’, and jumps at the chance.”

Although she’s a newcomer to the Farmington Players, Becky is quite familiar with The Full Monty, having performed in the ensemble of a production several years ago.  In fact, it is the only show she’s ever repeated.  Why?  Because “The Full Monty is the epitome of a feel-good show; for the performers as well as the audience. Many people mistakenly think The Full Monty is nothing more than a voyeuristic opportunity to leer at naked men, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. This show is so much more than that. It’s about friendship and working toward a common goal. It’s about loving your family so much, you’ll consider doing something *way* outside of your comfort zone. It’s about pulling yourself up out of desperate situations. It’s about the journey being more important than the destination.”

Becky is a natural when it comes to comedy, but playing Jeanette does present some challenges.  As she says, “This part is a blast to play, but a challenge vocally, because Jeanette is a low alto … and I’m a soprano! An even bigger challenge is maintaining Jeanette’s deadpan persona, since The Full Monty is filled with so very many hilarious scenes. It’s one of the funniest shows I have ever seen. If you enjoyed the British movie, you will love the musical.”

Some of Becky’s favorite stage roles include “Sally” in Follies, “Muriel” in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and “Emma Goldman” in Assassins (all at Birmingham Village Players), as well as “Parthy” in Show Boat, “Ma Strong” in Urinetown, “Patricia Fodor” in Crazy for You, and one of the Liebeslieder Singers in A Little Night Music (all at Stagecrafters). When she is not the husky-voiced Jeanette, Becky sings soprano in a professional a Capella group. By day, Becky works in the area of Grants & Funding.

The Farmington Players production of The Full Monty is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Management. The show is definitely R-rated for sexually suggestive content and language.  There are 12 performances from April 29 – May 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

        

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Michael Rea Fights Battle of Bulge as Dave Bukatinsky in Full Monty

Michael Rea as Dave Bukatinsky:  Before there was Spanx, there was ... Saran Wrap?
PHOTO by Marilyn Krol
For an actor, sometimes the toughest roles to play are those that hit close to home.  While “method” actors like to channel real life experiences to shape their character’s emotions, separating yourself from your stage persona can get complicated at times. In the Farmington Players production of The Full Monty, Michael Rea plays Dave Bukatinsky, who he describes as “jovial and fun-loving, but he has to face some serious demons: his weight, his depression and anxiety over being out of work, his sometimes complicated relationship with his best friend, Jerry.  By the end, he finds the self-confidence that had been pretty hard to come by.  Exploring these ups and downs and being alternately strong and vulnerable is what I love most about playing Dave.”

Like Dave, Michael can relate to “struggling with weight, depression and self-doubt. And having a wife who supports you through your lowest lows. I have been Dave many times in my life.”  Michael has been enjoying the process of becoming Dave – he’s even “stepped up to the plate” to gain several pounds for the role – and he has no qualms about baring more than his soul onstage, saying, “How many times in your life to you get an opportunity to do something like this?”   Michael knows that audiences will love The Full Monty because “the whole show is hilarious. The production quality is really high.  Everything about this show is just fun.  The story is about figuring out how to believe in yourself, and that is pretty timeless.  As for everybody else involved in the show, WOW what a talented group.  All I can do is work my ass off trying to keep up.  I am having so much fun and I can't wait until opening night.”

Michael grew up in Clawson and now lives in Livonia. He’s 38 and holds two engineering degrees.  When he’s not working or rehearsing, he says, “It's all about family.  And occasionally karaoke and really good beer.”  Farmington Players production of The Full Monty is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Management. The show is definitely R-rated for sexually suggestive content and language.  There are 12 performances from April 29 – May 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Just Like The Full Monty, Katie Gunning is a Great Comeback Story

Katie Gunning (center, holding the blue G-string) plays Joanie Lish, who's single and ready to mingle
PHOTO by Anne Craft
Everybody loves a feel-good, comeback story.  We all root for the underdog, and if you’ve lived in the Detroit area for any length of time, you’ve probably had your own share of ups and downs, whether personally or professionally.  That is why The Full Monty resonates with audiences.  The musical is set in Buffalo in the Nineties after a plant closing, but it could just as easily have been set in Detroit.

In the Farmington Players production, Katie Gunning plays Joanie Lish, who works with Pam at the factory and is a good friend of Georgie's. Katie describes Joanie as “a single, working girl, and she's definitely ready to mingle. You can tell that she's a little boy crazy and maybe it's because she's looking for the right one or maybe it's because she's just having fun. I like to think it's a little bit of both. She's a lot of fun to play. She's got some great, comedic one-liners, and I'm loving the dancing and singing she gets to do.”

Katie has also had a recent “comeback” in her own life, as she spent much of last year battling cancer.  Now that that is behind her, she is “very focused on making 2016 a year where I do things that make me happy and doing this show definitely brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart.  I have always had a passion for singing, acting and dancing and this was an opportunity to weave all those wonderful things together.  I have met so many wonderful people working on The Full Monty. The cast and crew are all such lovely, fun people, and I feel blessed to get to play with them every week.”  

Beyond the wonderful musical numbers, Katie knows that audiences will love The Full Monty because “this show has themes that transcend time: relationship/marriage problems, being unemployed, dealing with the fall-out of divorce and children involved, body image, discovering your sexuality, etc. These are all serious themes, but they're painted in a light where they're easy for people to digest because they're saturated in humor. There is so much comedy in this show, from the conversations to the songs, it's going to have people rolling in the aisles. And even if some people may initially be nervous about the nudity involved, they will quickly find out that they're going to be laughing so much, they won't be uncomfortable, they'll be rooting for all of the characters involved.”

Katie lives in South Lyon and moved back to Michigan in 2011 with her husband after living in New York for 7.5 years. She has worked in fashion, television and radio. Since the birth of her daughter in 2012, Katie has been a stay-at-home mom, saying, “I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to be with her every day, even on the days where she is a total three-nager.”  Katie’s hobbies include knitting and other crafts, playing volleyball and the piano (not at the same time), and singing karaoke.


The Farmington Players production of The Full Monty is proudly sponsored by TruVista Wealth Management. The show is definitely R-rated for sexually suggestive content and language.  There are 12 performances from April 29 – May 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

ShareThis