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Published: 3/18/2005

Sinatra tribute, 'Godspell' in spotlight tonight

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Maribeth Hill rehearses a scene with Zach Lahey for the revue
My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, which opens tonight at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre.
Maribeth Hill rehearses a scene with Zach Lahey for the revue My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, which opens tonight at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre.
RUGGIERO Enlarge
John Hopkins, left, who is also director of the musical revue, rehearses a number with Janna Ravel. John Hopkins, left, who is also director of the musical revue, rehearses a number with Janna Ravel.
RUGGIERO Enlarge

Community theaters are tuning their instruments, preparing for the openings of two very different, but very crowd-pleasing, musicals.

Frank Sinatra returns in song and spirit, if not in body, to the Toledo Repertoire Theatre tonight through April 3.

My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra is a musical revue in the same vein as The World Goes Round, which paid tribute to the songs of Kander and Ebb, according to John Hopkins, who is doing double duty as director and a cast member.

Over the course of the two-hour production, the cast of four will sing 56 songs linked to Sinatra, such as "New York, New York," "My Kind of Town," and "All of Me."

The rest of the cast comprises Maribeth Hill, Zach Lahey, and Janna Ravel, and Hopkins says they are a delight to work with.

"Janna has sung a lot in the Toledo area. I was very excited to work with her after seeing her in A, My Name is Still Alice, he says. "Meredith is from the Cleveland area and is one of my co-workers in the symphony marketing department. She has a gorgeous voice."

Lahey, co-owner of Manhattan's restaurant, is also familiar to Rep audiences, having played Frankie in Forever Plaid and Nathan Detroit in Guys & Dolls.

Hopkins graduated with a degree in vocal music performance from Wayne State University in Detroit, where, he says, he worked for five seasons with Michigan Opera Theatre and performed in the Gem Theatre's longest-running show, All Night Strut. In Toledo, he has appeared in Crazy for You, Greater Tuna, and The World Goes Round.

Accompanying the singers will be music director Jamie Dauel on piano, Tom Montgomery on drums, and depending on the performance, Joel Hazard or David Saygers on bass.

Along with the music are stories about Sinatra and quotes from his peers, including Dean Martin and Duke Ellington. "There are a few comments here and there about Frank's way with women, but [the show] is not inappropriate,"

"My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra" is scheduled in the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, 16 10th St., at 8 p.m. today, tomorrow, and March 25, 26, and 31, and April 1 and 2. Matinees are 2:30 p.m. Sunday and April 3. There is no performance on March 27, which is Easter. Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors and students. Information: 419-243-9277.

Adrian's Croswell Opera House opens Godspell tonight with a director who may have a little more insight than usual into the production.

Michael Yuen played John the Baptist and Judas in the 2000-2001 national tour of the show.

"My experience is really helpful during the creative process," he said, but not necessarily in the nuts and bolts of the show, which is a modern version of the passion of Christ, based on the Gospel of St. Matthew.

The national show, he explained, was set amid 15-foot walls of televisions; the Adrian production has more of an industrial feel and looks as if it takes place in a factory.

Because the Croswell scheduled a production so close to Easter, a lot of thought went into just which show it would be, Yuen said.

"We wanted to put on a family show and one that had a bit of a religious message, but Godspell reaches out beyond that," he said. The show's many lessons range from "Do unto others" to the need for community, coming together for a joint purpose.

The show, by John-Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz, opened on Broadway in 1976, and it was filled with cultural references that would have meant something to people of that era, such as flower children and the Three Stooges. The cultural references and music were updated by Schwartz for the 2000-2001 national tour, and that is the version that the Croswell is putting on, Yuen said.

"The hope is to stick with [Tebelak and Schwartz's] original intentions but keep it an edgy, contemporary show."

Yuen said he is delighted to be able to consult with Schwartz, whose most recent work, Wicked, was a nominee for the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical. "It was really nice to get his input on his work; the opportunity to talk to the composer is wonderful."

Yuen's cast is headed by Joel Bauer as Jesus. "He's a musical theater student at the University of Michigan, which is the route I took and my wife took," Yuen said. His wife, Erin, and brother, Jason, both of Adrian, are also in the play.

Other members of the cast are Mackenzie Fader, Kayla Marsh, James Donahue, Colter Starr, and Don Wilson, all of Adrian; Jake Burgoon of Toledo; Heather Smith of Burton, Mich.; Aaron Joseph Taylor of Lansing, and Emmy Hill and Meg Wilson of Tecumseh.

Godspell is suitable for all ages.

"Godspell" runs tonight through March 26 in the Croswell Opera House, 129 East Maumee St., Adrian. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. There is no performance on Easter. Tickets for evening performances are $22 for adults and $20 for seniors and students. For the matinees, tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, $15 for ages 13-18, and $10 for those 12 and younger. Information: 517-264-7469.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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