From a classic mystery to a Depression-era musical to a modern exploration of genius to a tribute to Broadway and Hollywood hoofers, regional universities offer a wealth of variety on their stages this week.
At Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mark DiPietro directs Tim Kelly's adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, a Sherlock Holmes mystery.
DiPietro, chairman of the school's Division of Visual and Performing Arts and Education, said Siena Heights annually chooses a book for all students to read, and this year's was Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which has a chapter titled The Hound of the Baskervilles.
"The theme for our school year is curiosity, so I thought that the Holmes mystery would tie in with both the theme and the book."
Kelly's adaptation allows for plenty of leeway in interpretations, so DiPietro has set his piece in the mid-20th century and changed one of the characters from male to female.
In the play, Henry Baskerville, an American, inherits the vast Baskerville fortune after the death of Sir Charles Baskerville in Devon, England. The locals aren't convinced that Sir Charles' death was of natural causes, because the family is cursed. Legend has it that a huge demon dog prowls the moor, seeking vengeance against the Baskervilles. Sherlock Holmes is called in to break the curse, and his investigation turns up sinister servants, butterfly collectors, ladies in distress, and escaped convicts.
The Sherlock Holmes tales aren't as widely read as they once were, DiPietro said. "So I hope we're exposing students to something they're not used to."
The production runs a little less than two hours, intermission included, and is suitable for a wide range of ages.
"The Hound of the Baskervilles" is scheduled at 8 p.m. today-Saturday in Francoeur Theatre of the Performing Arts Center at Siena Heights University in Adrian. Tickets are $5 for Siena students and employees and $7 for the general public. Information: 517-264-7840.
The Cradle Will Rock, a musical allegory about corruption and corporate greed, opens tonight at the University of Michigan.
The show is generally known more for the events surrounding its premiere than its subject matter. Written by Marc Blitzstein in the 1930s, it was to have been performed by the Federal Theater Project, part of President Franklin Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration to provide jobs during the Depression. At the last minute, the show's debut was canceled and its theater padlocked. The official explanation was budget cuts, but it is widely believed that the incendiary plot brought about governmental censorship.
As the would-be theatergoers gathered on opening night, the show's young producer and director, John Houseman and Orson Welles, found a theater willing to take the production, and they led the audience 20 blocks to the new venue, where Blitzstein sat at the piano and began to play and sing the show alone.
Then one actress, Olive Stanton, began singing her part from the audience. (The cast was forbidden by the Actors Union to perform the piece "onstage.") Other performers followed suit, The Cradle Will Rock was performed in its entirety, and a theater legend was born.
"The Cradle Will Rock" opens tonight in Studio One of the Walgreen Drama Center, 1226 Murfin St., Ann Arbor. Presented by the UM department of theater and drama, performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 15. Tickets are $16 for the public, $9 for UM students, with ID. Information: 734-764-2538.
David Auburn's mathematical drama, Proof, runs through Sunday at the University of Findlay.
The show, about a brilliant but unstable mathematician, his two daughters, and the graduate student who is seeking access to the mathematician's notebooks, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize and Tony awards.
Directed by Vicki McClurkin, the cast comprises Christen Mathern, Matt Waugh, Chris Leitner, and Evan Potter.
"Proof" is scheduled at 8 p.m. today-Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday in the John and Hester Powell-Grimm Theatre of the Egner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Findlay. Tickets are $3 for UF students and staff and $5 for the general public. Information: 419-434-5335.
Steppin' Out, a revue of dance numbers from Broadway and Hollywood shows, is scheduled Saturday at Ohio Northern University.
Presented by ONU's department of dance, a cast of 42, plus a 17-piece orchestra, will re-create such dance sequences as "Steam Heat" from The Pajama Game, "Hot Honey Rag" from Chicago, and several scenes from Cats.
"Steppin' Out" is scheduled at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Freed Center for the Performing Arts at Ohio Northern University in Ada. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and $9 for children 12 and younger. Information: 419-772-1900.
Contact Nanciann Cherry at: