2022-23 season

2022-23 season

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It Certainly Doesn’t Suck to Be Gary LaKind

Puppet Love: Kate Monster (Mary Malaney) and Princeton (Gary LaKind)

Avenue Q is definitely not for kids.  But even though most of the characters and cast members are in their twenties, the Internet Generation are not the only ones who can relate to these promiscuous puppets. In fact, Avenue Q may resonate even more closely with Baby Boomers who grew up with Muppets.  So says Gary LaKind of West Bloomfield, who plays the role of Princeton in the Farmington Players’ production.  Princeton is a recent college graduate and a new resident to Avenue Q who is looking for his purpose in life. Gary wanted to be in Avenue Q because “I love the show and I feel like the show truly speaks to someone who is my age. I grew up in the early 1970's, so I watched Sesame Street during its infancy.  I literally grew with Sesame Street.  I can also remember the excitement of watching The Muppet Show when it debuted on network television and seeing The Muppet Movie in the theater.  The lyricist (Jeff Marx) and I are the same age, so we clearly have the same generational sensibilities.  We also attended the University of Michigan at the same time, so songs like ‘I wish I could go back to college’ really resonate.”
When playing Princeton, Gary tries to focus on “Princeton's innocence.  I try to imbue Princeton with a simple, ‘aw shucks’ quality that really highlights the contradiction between a puppet and the adult nature of his words and actions.  The best part of Princeton though, is being able to sing so many amazing songs.”  Gary is no stranger to musical theater, having performed in RENT (Roger), Sunday in the Park with George (George), and Assassins (The Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald).  But in his Farmington Players debut, Gary faces some unique challenges, including “to sing, act and move while working the puppet!  I find it quite difficult and I have the utmost respect for those who do it so well.  The art of coordinated movement with the puppet is truly an art form.  We are fortunate enough to have Connor Rhoades, who plays Nicky and is a gifted puppeteer, giving us pointers and assistance.”

Although he loves musical theater and art, Gary lists “husband and father” as his greatest accomplishments, saying “nothing can really compare to my wife and son.”  And his day job isn’t a bad gig either:  Gary practices occupational medicine in metro Detroit.  So when Princeton (and others) sing, “It Sucks To Be Me,” Gary probably can’t relate …  but he is a convincing actor nevertheless.
Avenue Q opens Friday August 10 and runs through Saturday August 25.  Get your tickets at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the Farmington Players box office at 248-553-2955.  Find us on Facebook under “Farmington Players.” 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Playing a Slutty Puppet is Good Clean Fun for Lia Imbronone

When Lia Imbronone vamps as Lucy the Slut,
even Trekkie Monster (Jim Snideman) can't resist her charms.

Sometimes when I tell people that the Farmington Players are putting on Avenue Q, they ask, “Isn’t that like The Muppets?”  Um … not exactly.  While Rod and Nicky have been compared to Bert and Ernie, and there is a Trekkie Monster, when I mention the character Lucy the Slut, they begin to understand:  Avenue Q is a long, long way from Sesame Street.
Lucy the Slut has been described as “a skanky chanteuse who wows the guys, especially Princeton, with a seductive cabaret number.”  Our Lucy is played by the lovely Lia Imbronone. The 24 year-old currently works as a cosmetologist, forensics coach, and DJ, but she soon plans to move to New York City to pursue her “purpose” – a career in musical theatre.  Lia sees Lucy as “the epitome of sex appeal: when she walks into a room all the men fall in lust, and the women roll their eyes in judgment and jealousy. She’s the type of girl who will always win the affection, but can never win the love. A complete Marilyn, without even a drop of Jackie.” (To give you an idea of the power of Lucy’s sexuality, billboards and bus ads featuring the voluptuous puppet’s cleavage were banned in Colorado Springs because they were just too damned sexy!)
Lia enjoys playing Lucy because “I can completely get in touch with my sultry and sexy side while maintaining my dignity... after all, it’s LUCY talking, not me!”  She aptly compares Lucy to “a hybrid of Jessica Rabbit and Miss Piggy.” Lia wanted to be in Avenue Q because “this show is just hysterical.  It’s fun to see just how much puppets can get away with. I wanted to play a fun ‘character-y’ character, but I also wanted a challenge ... and this show is just perfect for that.” 
One of Lia’s biggest challenges has been learning the choreography: “I trip all over myself until I really get into rhythm, so adding a puppet on my arm has really been out of my comfort zone.”  She credits director Allison Boufford for all of her patience, saying, “It took a while to get into a rhythm but she let me get there on my own, never pressured me once. It can be difficult enough for me to take direction, and Lucy has a mind of her own! Trying to manipulate the body as well as the mouth can be exhausting on the arms, but practice ALWAYS makes perfect.”
Lia is making her debut at the Barn, and previous productions (roles) include Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (the Narrator), The Sound of Music (Sister Berthe), The Breakfast Club (Basketcase), Seussical (Sour Kangaroo), and RENT (Joanne).

Avenue Q opens Friday August 10 and runs through Saturday August 25.  Get your tickets at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the Farmington Players box office at 248-553-2955.  Find us on Facebook under “Farmington Players.” 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

As the Paige Turns: “Good Girl” Gone Bad as Bad Idea Bear

Bad Idea Bears (Paige Wisniewski and Jason Wilhoite)
give Princeton (Gary LaKind) some advice on how to spend his parents’ money

Your first impression of 19 year-old Paige Wisniewski is that she is as cute and cuddly as the bear puppet she holds in Avenue Q.  Blond and bubbly, she has no qualms admitting to a “lifelong love of anything Disney.” So it’s no surprise that she has played Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and Sandy in Grease, in her hometown of Houghton Lake, Michigan.  As Paige says, “I am so used to playing the ‘good girl’ in musicals and so getting the chance to be on the other side of the spectrum has been really fun for me.”
But when Paige goes to the “other side,” she goes all the way.  In Avenue Q, her main character is the girl Bad Idea Bear, whom she describes as follows: “The Bad Idea Bears are the cutest little bears who use their sweet charm to persuade some of the other characters in the show to do, well, bad things.” (For example, when Princeton receives money from his parents, the Bad Idea Bears convince him to spend it on beer.)  As Paige says, “One thing that I love about my Bad Idea Bear the best is that she is the perfect combination of sweet and sour.  She is just so cute and you want to snuggle with her and make her your best friend, but after talking to her for a few minutes you will find yourself involved in some bad things.”

Paige’s other role is Mrs. Thistletwat: “She is a crabby old Kindergarten teacher that Kate Monster works for.  I have never played a character like her before so it has been fun to play with such a grouchy character.”   Mastering the puppetry is a new experience for Paige, who says, “It will be also challenging to channel everything that I am feeling into the puppet.  It is something that is so new to me and I am anxious and excited to be able to do something so different.”  In addition to operating the Bad Idea Bear, a double rod puppet, Paige will be helping to puppeteer Trekkie Monster’s second arm and some other puppets throughout the show. 

While Paige is brand new to the Barn, she can “honestly say that throughout this process so far I have met some really great people.  I am so impressed with our cast and I feel so lucky to be a part of such a great production.  The directors and other staff have been a pleasure to work with and everyone has been so welcoming to me.  I feel that this is truly a great establishment and I cannot wait continue my experience here with The Farmington Players.”  Paige is a sophomore at Central Michigan University studying Musical Theater, Music Education, and Dance.  She was a competitive dancer for eleven years and continues to dance today in CMU’s University Theater Dance Company.

Avenue Q opens Friday August 10 and runs through Saturday August 25.  Get your tickets at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the Farmington Players box office at 248-553-2955.  Find us on Facebook under “Farmington Players.” 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Keshia Daisy Oliver is Gary Coleman? What You Talking About?

Keshia Daisy Oliver as Gary Coleman
kicking back with Trekkie Monster (Jim Snideman)
On Avenue Q, fantasy mixes with reality.  People and puppets coexist.  And even Gary Coleman comes back to life.  Yes, that Gary Coleman.  In the show’s opening number “It Sucks To Be Me,” Keshia Daisy Oliver declares, "I'm Gary Coleman, from TV's Diff’rent Strokes!"  But to Keshia, “It doesn't suck to be Gary! It’s kind of like being the guest star on Sesame Street. Being human, I don't get the added task of learning puppetry, but I do get to ignore other humans to talk to the puppets!  As the superintendent of Avenue Q, I feel like Gary just kind of oversees the day-to-day, taking phone calls, officiating weddings, street-sweeping, and giving those signature phrases that never seem to get old!”

Portraying a now-deceased child TV star make offend the sensibilities of some people, but then again, “That is the style of ‘Avenue Q, to slap you in the face, to the point where nothing offends you and everything becomes O.K.,” according to Danielle K. Thomas, who played the Coleman character for nearly three years on Broadway.  In fact, the decision to keep “Gary” in Avenue Q after his death in 2010 is consistent with the overall oddity of the show.  Jeff Whitty, a writer of Avenue Q, said, “From the very beginning, when we wrote the show, he represented a certain spunkiness and attempting to overcome life’s disappointments. … It’s a show of very heightened circumstances. In that world, I think Gary Coleman can actually live on in some degree of comfort.”  (Quotes from New York Times article by Dave Itzkoff, May 29, 2010.)

In this context, Keshia says, “I enjoy playing Gary, purely out of getting to be a fun-loving character role that gets to use questionable words and phrases! …  Avenue Q's such a good-hearted, high-energy show! It's so neat to see these small folks have big dreams, and to try to get to their respective goals practically.”   Keshia is no stranger to the part, having previously played Gary in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's production of Avenue Q last September. Despite the repeat role, she says, “It'll never get old. Being a ‘lady of color,’ there aren't a ton of roles quite as fun as this one, and I'd do it again!”  Keshia has been in love with theatre all her life, and is thrilled to make her Farmington Players debut. Some of her favorite shows she's been involved in, both on and off stage, include Miss Saigon, Bare: A Pop Opera, Fame, Cinderella, You Can't Take it With You, Baby with the Bath Water, 42nd Street, The Wiz, and West Side Story. As her day job, Keshia works as a massage therapist in Plymouth.

Avenue Q opens Friday August 10 and runs through Saturday August 25.  Get your tickets at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the Farmington Players box office at 248-553-2955.  Find us on Facebook under “Farmington Players.” 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Katie Evitts: Her “Christmas Eve” bears no goodwill towards men

Katie Evitts plays Christmas Eve, and she's the boss
of her fiance Brian (Joel Mapes)

Meet Katie Evitts, who plays Christmas Eve, in the Farmington Players’ production of Avenue Q.  Katie and Joel Mapes (who plays Brian, her character’s fiancé) are two of the three human characters in the show.  While Joel is “quite similar” to Brian, Katie couldn’t be more different that Christmas Eve.  Katie says, “Personally, I would think of myself as a shy and subtle person. This role is opposite of me and I am so excited for the challenge and a chance to learn!” 

Unlike the mild-mannered Katie, Christmas Eve is a loud, blunt, Japanese woman whom Katie describes as “a dominant woman who wears the pants in the relationship with Brian. She thinks men want an aggressive woman and has no problem pushing her fiancé around. She has two Masters Degrees and no clients. She's tried to work in a Korean deli after having no luck finding clients as a therapist. She also hands out dating advice to Kate Monster as she attempts to play matchmaker between Kate and Princeton.”

Katie admires Christmas Eve’s “bluntness,” and enjoys playing her opposite: “Working in a school, I have quite a reserved demeanor, so being in theater is my time to let loose and make great friends!”  Katie is employed with Bloomfield Hills Public Schools as an Instructional Assistant working with young adults diagnosed with severe disabilities. She also works with families whose children have limited abilities at home to promote their child's independence.  In the future, she would like to be a superintendent in public schools to advocate for students of all abilities.  In her spare time, she enjoys making cards, having "taco Tuesdays" with her dear friends, promoting the construction of an inclusive playground, and participating in theater.

A newcomer to the Farmington Players, Katie “auditioned for this show after encouragement from Keshia Oliver who is playing Gary Coleman. I had participated in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of Miss Saigon with both Keshia and Bob Cox and quickly became dear friends!! I am looking for similar results with the Farmington Players and can't wait to get to know this wonderful cast, production team and crew. … I find this show hilarious! I love the music.  I feel blessed to be chosen to be part of what I know will be a great show!!”

Avenue Q opens Friday August 10 and runs through Saturday August 25.  Get your tickets at www.farmingtonplayers.org or by calling the Farmington Players box office at 248-553-2955.  Find us on Facebook under “Farmington Players.”