The Croswell Opera House will mark its sesquicentennial with “150 Years at the Croswell,” a musical tribute to the history of Michigan’s oldest theater.
The show, which opens Sept. 17, uses music from a variety of periods to tell the Croswell’s story, from 1866 to the present day.
It opens with a modern-day stagehand, played by A.J. Howard of Adrian, getting ready for a show when he encounters one of the ghosts that have been long-rumored to haunt the building. The ghost reveals herself to have been one of the first actresses to ever perform on the Croswell stage.
The ghost is played by Leah Fox of Ypsilanti, last seen as the title character in “Mary Poppins.” She begins telling the stagehand about the things she has witnessed over the last 150 years. She is joined by two friends: a 19th-century Croswell manager, played by Peter Stewart of Adrian, and Charles Croswell, the Michigan governor after whom the theater is named, played by Steve Antalek of Adrian.
Together, they share stories from the Croswell’s earliest days, when the theater hosted everything from traveling theater troupes to animal trainers. Historical figures like Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony, both of whom spoke at the Croswell, play a role in the story, as does legendary bandmaster John Philip Sousa.
The story also pays tribute to the 50 years the Croswell spent as a movie theater, with tips of the hat to early film stars like Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
The second half of the show tells the story of how the Croswell was saved from destruction in 1967 and showcases some of the musicals the theater has produced in that time — as well as talking about shows that are yet to come.
The cast is sprinkled with real figures from throughout the Croswell’s history. Charles Waters of Holland, Ohio, plays Frederick Douglass; Joyce Collins of Clinton plays Susan B. Anthony; and Deveny Rosebrock of Adrian plays abolitionist Laura Haviland, who is known to Adrian residents as the woman whose statue sits in front of the Lenawee County Historical Museum. Ben Rosebrock and Tim Ray, both of Adrian, play Harry Angell and Robert Codd, the two men who purchased the Croswell in 1919 and turned it into a movie theater.
Rounding out the cast are Jessica Adams, Jonathan Antalek, Matthew Antalek, Kiersten Brackelman, Debbie Corbin, Noelle Drews, Lauren Howard, Alexandra June, Abigail Knight, Casey Noce, Lisa Ohlinger, Tyaira Smith, Gabriela Terrones, Dylan Zamzow-Masters, all of Adrian; Max McEwan of Blissfield; Bruce Hardcastle of Brooklyn; Maggie Page of Clarklake; Halle Bauer, Makayla Bender, Maya Bender and Emily Kilpatrick, all of Onsted; Reilly Cardella, Cleon Grooms-Broussard, Kyle Haeussler, Richard Lindsay, Sarah Nowak and George Reasoner, all of Tecumseh; Derrick Jordan of Toledo; Lucy Hagedorn of Oregon, Ohio; and Brittanie Kuhr of Sylvania, Ohio.
The show is directed by Doug Miller, who is also the scenic designer. Allison Kuhr is the choreographer, Dave Rains is the music director and arranger, and Wynne Marsh is the vocal director. Costume design is by Emily Gifford.
“150 Years at the Croswell” opens at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, and continues at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18. Shows the following weekend are 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25. To purchase tickets, click here or call 517-264-7469.
Opening night coincides with the Artalicious fine arts fair in downtown Adrian.
The Croswell Opera House is at 129 E. Maumee St. Because the front of the building is under construction, parking behind the theater is recommended.