It may be Homecoming, but this weekend”s big game won”t unfold at the Big House.
Instead, players will face off for the Homecoming football game on the Mendelssohn Theatre stage in the musical comedy “Good News.” The University Productions show, which coincides with the University”s Homecoming weekend, follows the fate of a 1920s college football team and their avid fans.
“It”s a real throwback to old Homecomings and the spirit of carefree youth,” said director Mark Madama.
The plot revolves around Tait”s star player, Tom Marlowe, who struggles with his studies, and Connie Lane, the only Tait student who isn”t interested in football. Connie must tutor Tom in order to for him to be eligible to play in the Homecoming game. The show also examines two other romantic subplots while following the football team.
Football fans among the cast have a chance to portray college athletes. Senior David Reiser, who plays Tom Marlowe, watches the Wolverines from his second-row seats on football Saturdays. He said he loves being the football star in “Good News.”
“It couldn”t be any more appropriate than here at Michigan, where football is such a big tradition,” he said.
The show highlights one of the Michigan football”s traditions, Tom Hemingway”s play-by-play commentary. Hemingway announced the football games on Ann Arbor”s WUOM for nearly 40 years before retiring in 2000. His voice will be heard from off-stage announcing the Tait game in “Good News.”
The production also features faculty members who were involved in the 1993 revival of “Good News.” Director Mark Madama wrote a new script for the 1927 Broadway musical, and choreographer Linda Goodrich worked on his production for the Music Theater of Wichita. Both are returning to the script after an eight-year hiatus.
“Other people get the rights to the show, and they only get the paper,” said senior Kristin Williams, who plays Connie Lane. “We have the artists with us, and we know how they wanted the show to be.”
The University production offered Madama the chance to perfect his script. He added in a finale that he did not have time to include in the 1993 show and tinkered with some parts of the script.
“To hear all the lines again, to go back to it after a long time, it”s like rediscovering it all over again,” Madama said. “Hearing it with the new voices, it just brings a new sensibility to it.”
Those voices will be singing the classic period tunes that make up the show”s score, including “You”re the Cream in My Coffee,” “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” “Button Up Your Overcoat” and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” Madama said “Good News” will introduce these catchy songs of the 1920s to students in the audience as well as the cast.
“One of the goals was to let the students discover some of this music that has been such a mainstay in American culture since the 1920s,” Madama said.
The actors did research on the 1920s while reading the script, Williams said. They watched documentaries and looked at photographs so they could better understand the lighthearted nature of the period, she said.
Reiser said it is hard to perform in a carefree show when the country is undergoing a mourning period, but he said he hopes “Good News” will lift the spirits of its audience, at least temporarily.
“I really do think that not only is it a nice escape for people to be able to come and forget their cares for a while, but it also helps you recall a time with fewer worries,” he said.