Small-Town Drama to Hit Stagecrafters in THE RED VELVET CAKE WAR
The characters are as believable as they are over-the-top in Stagecrafters' latest offering The Red Velvet Cake War by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, showing March 24-April 9, at the Baldwin Theatre in downtown Royal Oak.
In the small town of Sweetgum, Texas, the three embattled Verdeen cousins each find themselves in a dicey situation that culminates in the dreaded family reunion in this rollicking comedy, packed with one liners, that celebrates tenacious women, the bonds of family, and the show's namesake red confection adored in the South.
In bringing the show to life, director Vonnie Miller of St. Clair Shores must walk a tightrope between creating realistic characters and the zany situations that they are embroiled in. "There are just an abundance of unusual people that the authors have put together to make a great evening of entertainment. One would probably never have a whole party of characters like the group from Sweetgum, Texas, but the audience will find their cousin or great uncle or even best friend in the people from Sweetgum," says Miller.
The three cousins have been having a rough go. Gaynelle (Jenni CarMichael Clark of Royal Oak) is on the edge after having "accidentally" crashed her minivan through her husband's girlfriend's double-wide. Peaches (Melanie Olmsted of Huntington Woods), the premiere mortuary cosmetologist in the tri-county area, wonders if it's time to have her long-absent trucker husband declared dead. Finally, Jimmie Wyvette (Cindy Cole Hansen of Troy), an unpolished western wear purveyor, is engaged in a battle with a neighbor for the affections of Sweetgum's newest widower.
The ladies' self-righteous Aunt LaMerle (Sandra Marselle of Rochester Hills) points out their antics are causing quite a stir in the little town and rumors are swirling. It seems like a horrible time for the impending family reunion. But rather than backing out, the ladies decide to embrace it and hold their heads high.
The reunion unfolds on the hottest day of Texas tornado season with an incident with a neighbor's hungry pet, a visit from a one-eyed admirer, and a high stakes wager among the cousins on who can bake the best red velvet cake. As events hilariously spin out of control, this is a family reunion like no other.
A comedy about strong Southern women facing adversity draws obvious comparisons with Steel Magnolias, a show Miller has appeared in four times. While Miller points out the The Red Velvet Cake War captures the family closeness of Steel Magnolias, The Red Velvet Cake War is much wackier. "Even more it reminds me of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. That movie has been so popular for so many years because it is so believable and the characters are so real. This play is like that - the people are a bit crazy and a bit over-the-top. But you know there are people like that. Maybe not all in the same circle of relatives and friends, but we will all relate to someone."
"Funny people just naturally have great timing and empathy inside. But pace is very important in comedy. It has to be spontaneous. But there also needs to be an emphasis on subtlety. It can't just be one laugh after another. I want the audience to feel the love these people have for each other amid the mishaps and competition between the cousins and their aunt," says Miller.
"I have a very talented cast and some have been together in other productions so we have some history with one another. Also, in between rehearsals we will have outside bonding get-togethers," says Miller of her efforts to create believable relationships on stage.
To kick off the show's run, Stagecrafters is offering Ladies Night Out on the evening of the dress rehearsal, Thursday, March 23. Festivities begin at 6:30 pm followed by an 8 pm performance. Attendees will enjoy Southern-fried fun including Southern drinks, a taste of Texas family reunion fare, favors, and a tin can raffle. Bakers are invited to participate in the Red Velvet Cake Contest, which will be judged by a professional pastry chef, for a chance to win one of three prizes. Tickets are $30 and available online at stagecrafters.org or from the box office.
Patrons attending the March 24 opening night performance are invited to participate in the complimentary pre-glow of hors d'oeuvres. The pre-glow runs from 7:00 to 7:45 pm.
Show tickets are $20 on Thursdays, $22 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Tickets may be purchased online at www.stagecrafters.org (online handling fees apply) or by phone at 248-541-6430 using Visa or MasterCard. All seats are reserved and there are no refunds or exchanges on individual tickets. If shows have not sold out, tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performance. Student, military and senior discounts are available for specific performances. The Baldwin Theatre is located at 415 S. Lafayette in downtown Royal Oak. The Red Velvet Cake War is Rated PG.
Show dates and times are as follows:
Thursday, March 23 at 8 pm (Ladies Night Out at 6:30pm)
Friday, March 24 at 8 pm (Toast Club at 7pm)
Saturday, March 25 at 8 pm
Sunday, March 26 at 2 pm
Thursday, March 30 at 8 pm
Friday, March 31 at 8 pm
Saturday, April 1 at 8 pm
Sunday, April 2 at 2 pm
Thursday, April 6 at 8 pm
Friday, April 7 at 8 pm
Saturday, April 8 at 8 pm
Sunday, April 9 at 2 pm
CAST LIST BY COMMUNITY:
Nick Szczerba (Newt Blaylock)
David Lusk (Aubrey Verdeen)
Therese Wisnewski (Elsa Dowdall)
Michael Ameloot (Purvis Verdeen)
Melanie Olmsted (Peaches Verdeen Belrose)
Sandra Marselle (LaMerle Verdeen Minshew)
Ed Berger (Sheriff Glover Lout)
Jenni CarMichael Clark (Gaynelle Verdeen Bodeen)
Kathleen Lietz (Cee Cee Windham)
Tara Makar (Bitsy Hargis)
Cindy Cole Hansen (Jimmie Wyvette Verdeen)
Eileen White (Mama Doll Hargis)
Stagecrafters, a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit community theatre, is in its 61st year of providing opportunities for members of the community to develop their talents and to volunteer their time to create an enriching, quality theatrical experience through its Main Stage, 2nd Stage, and Youth Theatre productions. At the Baldwin Theatre since 1985, Stagecrafters has been named Best Community Theatre by Hour Detroit, Detroit Metro Times, and Daily Tribune. Stagecrafters offers shows that appeal to a wide variety of ages and interests and prides itself on providing professional quality shows at affordable prices, making the performing Arts Accessible to individuals in our "regional" community.
Pictured: Peaches (Melanie Olmsted), Gaynelle (Jenni CarMichael Clark) and Jimmie Y (Cindy Cole Hansen) enjoy some red velvet cake during a family reunion on hot Texas day in the heart of Tornado season. A high stakes wager among the cousins on who can bake the best red velvet cake leads to events that spin hilariously out of control. Photo by Lance Luce.