At the Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak, Stagecrafters gives us the opportunity to see one of the most unlikely Broadway musicals ever conceived – Kiss of the Spider Woman. With a book by Terrence McNally, music by John Kander, and lyrics by Fred Ebb, the play is based on the novel by Manuel Puig and won seven Tony Awards in 1993. Although it is now an accepted part of the Broadway cannon, we still wonder what that first ‘pitch session’ must have been like…
Imagine a mash-up of ‘Man of La Mancha’ and ‘La Cage aux Folles’. It’s placed in Argentina during a fascist regime and set in a squalid prison. It opens as a hardened Marxist revolutionary, who has just been brutally tortured, is nursed by his flamboyantly gay cell mate…
Right. And yet, this musical is about very human virtues, illustrating how love engenders courage and imagination begets hope. By the third scene, in which the prisoners think about those pining for them ‘over the wall,’ one can hear the audience snuffling back tears.
Once again, Stagecrafters has proven that there is an embarrassment of talent in the greater Detroit area, even for community theatre productions. The principle singers have lovely voices that embrace the difficult music. The dancers are delightful. The set, lighting and sound design have a professional feel, with just the right attention to detail. And the direction and choreography provided by John Luther is just marvelous.
John Nowaczyk, of Ferndale, gives a moving portrayal of Molina, who is serving time on a trumped-up deviant behavior charge. Molina copes with prison by reimagining the over-the-top romantic films of his childhood, featuring the beautiful actress Aurora (brought to life courtesy of the talented Maria Tilmosof Novi). Gary Castaneda,of Warren, is the tough revolutionary Valentin, who initially resists Molina’s stories, looking for solace in the works of Karl Marx. Slowly, a bond builds between the two men, and Valentin finds the healing influence of Molina’s cinematic narratives. Hovering over the entire prison, however, is the specter of The Spider Woman. This is Aurora’s only dark role – the personification of death – whose kiss releases the tortured souls from pain and despair.
John Luther was eager to direct this production. ‘While rarely performed, Kiss of the Spider Woman has some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking music ever written for the stage and allows me as a director/choreographer to explore some larger questions in life…. One character is hoping to be loved, the other is hoping to change the world and together they cope with the oppressiveness found all around them through the fantasy of movie musicals.’
Kiss of the Spider Woman runs through February 12 at Royal Oak’s Baldwin Theatre. Curtain for shows on Thursday through Saturday is at 8:00 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $18 and $20 and can be purchased online or by phone at 248-541-6430. If shows have not sold out, tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performance for an additional $2.00 per ticket.
Kiss of the Spider Woman Cast (in order of appearance)
Maria Tilmos (Aurora/Spider Woman)
Isaac Thomas (Guard)
Michael Ameloot (Guard)
Gary Castaneda (Valentin)
John Nowaczyk (Molina)
Jeff Weiner (Prisoner 7 / Aurelio)
Perry Jenkins-Holmes (Prisoner 8 / Amnesty Int. Observer)
Dez Walker (Prisoner 5/Aurora’s boy)
Jason Skidmore (Prisoner 6 / Emilio)
Matthew Miga (Prisoner 1 / Gabriel)
Ryan Quinn (Prisoner 2 / Fuentes)
Billy Dixon (Prisoner 3 / Duarte)
Eric Kent Franz (Prisoner 4 / Carlos)
Rae McIntosh (Molina’s Mother)
Elizabeth McIntosh (Marta)