Category Archives: Arts

Harrison High students focus on ocean ecology in ‘Little Mermaid’

Harrison High School’s spring musical isn’t just a performance of the Disney movie, “The Little Mermaid.”

As students bring the beloved Hans Christiansen Andersen fairy tale to life March 16-19, they have also learned valuable information about ocean ecology through a partnership with the Ocean Conservancy. Their goal: to draw attention to the devastating impact of plastic shopping bags and water bottles, which choke coastal areas and waterways.

Assistant director Sue Cobb said the theater program received a $1,500 grant from the Farmington/Farmington Hills Education Foundation to make the connection. The sale of reusable shopping bags will raise funds split between the Ocean Conservancy and the theater program.

“Through this grant, we directors are adding another layer in the musical process with the students’ participation in ocean ecology through the Ocean Conservancy and its message that impacts us all … including the characters the cast will be portraying ‘Under the Sea’,” she said.

While some students hadn’t seen the movie, 17-year-old junior Chania Malcum said it was a childhood favorite, and she loves “channeling” the character of Ursula. The evil sea witch makes a pact with the mermaid Ariel (played by Bridget Smith) who dreams of living in the world above the sea and is willing to sacrifice her most prized possession – the beautiful singing voice she inherited from her late mother – so she can be with the sea-loving Prince Eric (played by Zack Heger) whose life she saves during a storm.

“I always loved Ursula,” said Malcum, who has been acting since elementary school. “She was powerful. She was so big, so out there, it was amazing to me.”

Like Malcum, castmate Julia Luterman, also a 17-year-old junior, works on stage and behind the scenes. She’s playing Arista, one of Ariel’s older sisters, but her work as a makeup artist starts three or four hours before the curtain goes up.

“We’re creating scales, gluing eyebrows … for the fish, we’re giving them a whole new skin,” she said.

Luterman also did makeup for last fall’s “10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse,” and has performed in “The Addams Family” and “Xanadu,” among other Harrison productions.

“It’s something new and fun every year,” she said, “which is part of the rush.”

Malcum said students involved in this production have worked together since their freshman year.

“Everyone’s so kind to each other and supportive,” she said. “It’s one big family.”

The directing team of Dean Cobb, Sue Cobb, Lucy Koviak and Kathy Seremet is joined by Rachael Rose, co-vocals, and Travis Cook, orchestra. In all, 100 students are participating as cast, crew and pit members – about one-tenth of the school’s population, Sue Cobb said.

If you go…

You can see this family-friendly production of “The Little Mermaid” March 16 and 17 at 7 p.m., March 18 at 6 p.m. and March 19 at 2 p.m. Kids can have their photos taken with the characters after each performance, and those 12 and under will be eligible for a drawing held at intermission. Costumed kids get a second chance at the drawing.

Student and senior adult tickets are $12, and adult tickets are $15. Tickets are available each day school is in session during lunches (11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) through March 17 or by calling the box office, 248-888-6274. All tickets are reserved. Those over 60 can get a free ticket with a Senior Adult Card from School and Community Relations. For information, call 248-489-3349.


North Farmington takes ‘Shrek’ from big screen to stage

A troupe of North Farmington High actors who grew up watching the movie “Shrek” will bring those childhood memories to life later this month in a production of “Shrek the Musical”.

On stage March 23-25 at the Cobb Center for the Performing Arts, the tale of an ogre, his four-legged sidekick, Donkey, and beloved Princess Fiona reflects a decision to produce light, fun shows this season.

“This year was all about trying to do fun things on stage,” said Sean McGuckin, who directs the show. “It’s fun for the kids to have the opportunity to be campy and a little goofy.”

Matthew Swarthout, left, and Daniel Isabella, right, play Donkey and Shrek, respectively.
Jordan Gagnon plays Princess Fiona.

Daniel Isabella, who plays the title role, said the musical is similar to the movie “with a little extra Broadway pizazz.” He’s making his own costume, shopping for extra-large t-shirts and other clothing at local Salvation Army stores and customizing a fat suit to get just the right build. Inserts in his shoes will make him taller, and prosthetics and make-up will complete the picture.

As the sidekick “Donkey,” Swarthout will also have elaborate makeup. He said his character is very flamboyant, so he plays Donkey larger than life.

“I’ve never played a character that is so active,” he said. “He moves quickly from one end of the stage to the other.”

Coincidentally, Jordan Gagnon, who plays Princess Fiona, was featured in the Sky’s the Limit Productions version of the show in her freshman year. Cast as Donkey then, she said doing the North Farmington show is like “coming full circle.”

While Fiona has a more princess-like demeanor in the movie, she is “a lot more quirky and genuinely bizarre” on stage.

“Over the past three years, we’ve done some serious shows,” Gagnon said. “This one is very silly and much more kid-friendly. I’m really excited.”

“Shrek the Musical” isn’t only about having fun, Swarthout said. One song, “Freak Flag”, is all about “accepting everyone the way they are.”

“And even a big, ugly ogre can be the hero of his own story,” Isabella added.

Performances of “Shrek the Musical” are Thursday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, March 25, at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. All seats are reserved. Adults are $15. Students and seniors 60 and older are $12.

New this year, tickets are available online by visiting and clicking “Buy Tickets” or following the link in the Upcoming Events section at — where you’ll also find show publicity and early rehearsal photos. Tickets will also be available at the door, with the box office opening at least an hour before the shows.

North Farmington High is located at 32900 W. 13 Mile Rd. in Farmington Hills.

Combined school bands present multicultural holiday concert

The combined bands of Farmington High, Power and East Middle Schools will present their 2016 “Music for the Holidays” concert at 7 p.m. on December 15, in the Farmington High School auditorium.

The multicultural celebration will include music composed and/or arranged by Bernotas, Long, Silvistri, Swearingen, and others. Musical pieces will include “The Polar Express,” “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “A Hanukkah Festival ,” “Deck the Halls,” “Sleighride,” and more.

Admission is free, but donations of canned food and cash will be accepted for Gleaners Food Bank and Farmington Public Schools music programs.

“We are pleased with the enthusiasm that the students have put into preparing for this holiday show. It will be a great night to get you in the holiday mood,” said Farmington High Director of Bands Michael Steele.

“The combined bands work very well together because we have great instrumental talent in Farmington schools and excellent teachers at all levels,” he added. “Mr. Drake’s and Mr. Wilson’s students were well prepared, and they have gelled quickly with our students for this concert, and it will show in the music.”

This will be the final musical performance in the Farmington High auditorium before it is closed for renovation in January 2017. Alumni and friends of Farmington High School are encouraged to attend.

Press release

Farmington, East, Power present holiday choral concert

The Choral departments at Farmington High School, East Middle School, and Power Middle School will present their 2016 Holiday Choral Concert on December 8 at 7:30 p.m.

The concert marks the final choral performance of the school year in the Farmington High School auditorium, which will close for renovations in January 2017.

Combined and separate choirs will take audiences on a journey through several cultures, with spirituals, Jewish classics, and traditional and modern Christmas music.

“I am thrilled to showcase the amazing voice talent of Farmington Public Schools,” said Angel Gippert, who directs choirs at Farmington and Power. “The concert will include almost every type of holiday music…ranging from Beethoven and Mozart to John Lennon, Irving Berlin, Pentatonix, Mariah Carey, and others.”

There is no charge, but donations are accepted to help develop Farmington Public Schools choir programs. Residents, alumni, and friends of Farmington High School are invited to attend.

The school is located at 32000 Shiawassee in Farmington.

Farmington Musicale sings ‘Noel, Noel, Noel’

The Farmington Musicale will present “Noel, Noel, Noel,” a free Christmas concert, at 1 p.m. on December 7, at Nardin Park United Methodist Church, 29887 11 Mile Rd., Farmington Hills.

Admission is free.

Musicale President Fern Barber will conduct a Clarinet Choir from the Farmington Community Band, along with Musicale members Mary Behnan, pianist, and Judy Reger, soprano. The Clarinet Choir will play “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.”

Pianist Mary Behnan will present “The Birthday of a King” and a Christmans medley. Soprano Judy Reger will sing “Gesu Bombino,” “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” and other songs.

Program Director for the The Farmington Musicale’s Christmas Program is Judy Reger. The Farmington Musicale is a member of the National Federation of Music Clubs. Learn more at

Harrison brings ‘Wonderful Life’ to stage – and radio

Actors in Harrison High School’s fall play, “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play” aren’t just cast in the memorable roles from the classic Frank Capra movie – they’re playing the actors as well.

It's a Wonderful Life
Stage hands Liz Pappas (left) and Grace Hawkes (right) consult with Zack Heger (George) and Bridget Smith (Mary) during “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play.”

Audiences at the 7:30 p.m. performances on December 2 and 3 will see a 1940s-style radio show, complete with stand-up microphones and a table of Foley artists who will recreate the sounds of a door closing, footsteps, and more.

“It’s not a stage production, it’s a live radio show,” said Sue Cobb, who directs the show with her husband, Dean. “The illusion will start as soon as people walk into the lobby.”

Zack Heger and Bridget Smith play George and Mary Bailey, and the actors who portray them in "It's a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play."
Zack Heger and Bridget Smith play George and Mary Bailey, and the actors who portray them in “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play.”

For the actors, creating that illusion meant first seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which has become a holiday icon. It shares the story of George Bailey, a man who believes he has lost everything but learns how rich he is, thanks to a quirky guardian angel. Senior Darius Bonner plays Clarence Odbody, Angel 2nd Class.

It's a Wonderful Life
Darius Bonner and Faith Berry portray Clarence Odbody and Freddie Fillmore, and the actors who portray them, in “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Radio Play.”

“It’s challenging because immediately you have to shift your mindset into someone from the ’40s,” said Bonner, a senior. “You have to act as someone from the ’40s…different mannerisms, the way you carry yourself.”

It's a Wonderful Life
From left, Derek Williams, Nadia Saade, and Liz Fahling are Foley artists for “It’s a Wonderful Life, a Live Play.”

Each of the students created their own actor persona. They have to stay in character as the radio show scenes change, playing actors in the background and their “It’s a Wonderful Life” roles when they hit the microphones.

Senior Faith Berry found a real challenge in playing Freddie Fillmore, the radio show’s host. She said it helped to see the on-screen story.

“I think the point of the movie was to come to terms with the fact that we are 16- and 17-year-olds playing people who are playing characters,” she said. “It’s a lot.”

Still, she said, she has really enjoyed the show, and believes audiences will, too.

“I love it. It’s a really nice story, and I think we’re going to execute it well.”

All seats are $10; tickets will be available at the door and through the box office, 248-888-6274.

Hills church hosts ‘Home for the Holidays’ concert

Trinity in the Woods Episcopal Church in Farmington Hills will host “Home for the Holidays,” presented December 8-10 by the TAF Community Performance Group, formerly Trinity and Friends.

Home for the Holidays

Performances will be held at 8 p.m. each night, with a reception following, in the church at 26880 La Muera.

The concert will feature diverse arrangements of favorite carols and classical anthems, sung by the full chorus, small groups, and soloists. There will also be an audience carol sing. Composers/writers include Irving Berlin, Mel Torme, Sammy Kahn, Martin Luther, George Frideric Handel and many more.

A unique group of all volunteer musicians, members of the TAF Community Performance Group range in skill from beginner to professional and collaborate to make music and hone their craft in a supportive environment. They have performed live with Foreigner at DTE Energy Music Theater, internationally with a mass choir in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, and as a flash mob at the downtown Farmington Farmer’s Market. TAF also regularly hosts performance workshops that cultivate an environment of ongoing learning and development in the performing arts.

Order tickets or learn more at Tickets will also be available at the door.

Press release

Farmington High takes audiences to Broadway

Farmington High can’t produce a spring musical this year, so drama teachers picked a fall show that would appeal to actors, singers, and dancers.

More than 30 students will perform in “100 Years of Broadway,” with two shows December 2 and 3, 7:30 p.m. both nights. And they’ll be the last actors on stage in the existing auditorium, which will be reconstructed as part of a Farmington Public Schools bond program.

“We tried to do a play and a musical combined, because the theater is closing for remodeling,” said teacher Lauren Keur, who co-directs the show with Carrie Ray. “Hopefully, next fall, we will have a new, high-tech, beautiful theater.”

A scene introduces each musical decade, and each of those interludes was written by the student actors. The speaking roles give students who would not typically perform in the musical an opportunity to shine.

“The way we made it cool is that a good half of the cast have solos or speaking parts or are part of a quartet,” Keur said. “Almost everyone has a moment in the spotlight. With a musical, we wouldn’t get that opportunity.”

Assisting Keur and Ray are Lucy Koviak, choreographer, and musical director Kathy Seremet.

Show tickets will be available at the door. Learn more about the Farmington High theatre program on Facebook.


Harrison High weekend festival open to young dancers

The Harrison Dance Company hosts the 11th Annual Oakland Dance Festival November 19, offering dancers ages 13-19 an opportunity to participate in a variety of master classes, including Contemporary, Modern, Ballet, Tap, Hip Hop, Pilates, Yoga, Jazz, and Musical Theater Dance.

Performance opportunities are also available for dancers wishing to showcase their solos, duets, or ensemble choreography for feedback from college representatives.

The Oakland Dance Festival is open to the public, and interested dancers may register online at High School juniors and seniors with an interest in pursuing dance in college can visit with representatives from Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Henry Ford College, Western Michigan University, Wayne State University, Marygrove College, Hope College, Ball State University, Oakland University, and University of Michigan.
On-site Entrance/Recruitment and Scholarship Auditions will be held for participating colleges and select summer intensive programs.

Joined by Artlab J, Kristi Faulkner Dance, and Eisenhower Dance Ensemble, the American Dance Festival will be coming from the campus of Duke University to provide scholarship opportunities for dancers interested in continuing their dance studies throughout the summer. And new this year, the theater departments at Wayne State University and Eastern Michigan University (EMU) invite prospective theater majors to audition for entrance and scholarships. A special Theater/Musical Theater Audition Prep class, taught by Phil Simmons (EMU Theater Professor), will be offered for students ages 13-19. To register for audition and classes, visit

The College Showcase Concert, which features participating college dance departments, will conclude the festival. The performance will begin at 7:30 p.m., and $5 tickets can be purchased at the door.

For more information, contact Toi Banks at 248-426-1167 or write to

Audition for February Farmington Players show, ‘Becky’s New Car’

Auditions for Farmington Players Barn’s first 2017 production, the story of one woman’s midlife crisis, will be held November 13.

A number of adult roles in “Becky’s New Car” are up for grabs. Auditions begin at 1 p.m., at the Barn, 32332 W. 12 Mile Rd. in Farmington Hills. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. Show dates are February 10-12, 17-19, and 23-25, 2017.

The play follows Becky Foster, who has a middling job with a boss who doesn’t appreciate her, a marriage missing its spark, and an adult son living in the basement. Change stumbles through the door of the car dealership where Becky works, in the form of billionaire widower Walter Flood. As Becky is offered nothing short of a new life, the audience rides shotgun on her exhilarating ride down the road not taken.

Learn more about the roles, requirements, and audition at

Press release