Kalamazoo Civic Theatre

Carrie Phillips

"Oh, helloooo, Dolly, well hellooo, Dolly, It's so nice to have you back where you belong..."  The song itself may never leave our mental playlist, but the show it originated from sometimes does, for years and even decades. The Kalamazoo Civic Theater will mount the Jerry Herman classic for the first time since the 1970s, in a fresh production that opens Friday, Sep 21. Three stars of the cast - Lori Moore as Dolly Gallagher Levi, Hal Hobson as Horace Vandergelder, and Ken Holda as Cornelius Hackl - plus director Tony Humrichouser and Civic marketing director Janet Gover join Cara Lieurance in the studio for a refresher on this classic.


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Writer and theater critic Gordon Bolar (and a former general manager of WMUK) finds much to be hopeful and excited about in the rich world of West Michigan live theater. In a conversation with Cara Lieurance about the 2018-19 season, Bolar says we live an unusually supportive theater community that offers opportunities to participate at all age levels. Here are the productions he picked as his most-anticipated shows of the fall.


C. Lieurance

Ranked in the top five of the 7,000 community theaters in the United States, the Kalamazoo Civic Theater is celebrating its 90th anniversary this season with a series of productions that look to the past and embrace the future. Artistic director Tony Humrichouser, development director Ben Zylman, and marketing director Janet Gover (all of whom have extensive experience performing or directing at the Civic) join Cara Lieurance to outline the 15 productions of 2018-19. They include musicals (Hello, Dolly!; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!; Once On This Island; War Paint) and comedies and dramas, from the classic Harvey to Love, Loss, And What I Wore, by the multi-talented novelist and screenwriter Nora Ephron.


Janet Gover

Portage West Middle School seventh grader Andrew Klepser and Billy Elliot, the fictional title character of a film (2000) and musical (2005), have at least one thing in common: both were kind of surprised to discover they could dance. In a live interview, director Jay Berkow, actress Allison Crockett (Grandma), Max Butkiewicz (Michael) and Andrew Klepser (Billy Elliot) discuss the characters and themes of the musical, which will be a regional premiere in west Michigan.

Set during the doomed 1984-5 National Union of Mineworkers strike in the U.K. (one of the largest industrial actions in history), it tells the story of a motherless Billy Elliot, who lives with his somewhat senile grandmother and his father and brother, both coal miners, the latter involved in violence. Billy and his friend Michael are both accustomed to sometimes harsh and neglectful parenting, and so they set out to discover their own worth through trial and error -- Billy with the help of an unlikely mentor, the frustrated dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson.

Billy Elliot opens on Friday, May 4, and performances continue through May 20. Detail at the Kalamazoo Civic website.

Kalamazoo Civic Theatre

As the 1980s come to a close, a group of misfit rockers come together to try to save their favorite club from becoming a strip mall, in the jukebox musical Rock of Ages, which opens at the Kalamazoo Civic's Parrish Theatre on Friday. The cast -- including Robert Cook, Alec Olweean, Sam Slottow and Caitlin Sackett -- will share the stage with a live rock band, singing hits by Journey, Bon Jovi, Poison, Styx, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and others. The members of the cast and director Nicki Poer joined Cara Lieurance to preview the show.

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