July 23 2014 12:00 AM


The summer is about halfway over and the cinemas have already beaten our brains senseless with yet more installments of violent transforming robots, planet conquering apes and the conflicts of misunderstood mutant heroes. Looking at the month ahead, the “blockbusters” aren’t even close to being done with us yet — more Marvel superheroes, more sword-and-sandal epics and yet another serving of heroes in a half shell. Fortunately, the local theater scene has plenty of alternatives for kids … and adults looking for an oasis from summer’s sequel sizzle.

First up, All-of-us Express Children’s Theatre is tackling the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale “The Little Mermaid.” The play, based on the original Danish fairy tale and not the 1989 animated Disney film, follows Pearl, an ambitious young mermaid who dreams of love and adventure in the world above the waves. Those familiar with Andersen’s story might recall the more grisly aspects of the story (at one point, the titular character is tasked with stabbing her beloved prince and spill his blood on her feet to save her own life), but All-of-us Express’ creative director, Sarah Willis, is full of assurance for leery parents.

“We understand it’s children’s theater,” Willis said. “Some of it is our own interpretation.”

The play features an all youth cast, many who are under the age of 10. Willis also has an array of eye-pleasing costumes, unique lighting effects and tall vibrant sets. “It’s probably the most beautiful play we’ve ever done” says Willis.

Over at Lansing Community College, the Performing Arts Department continues its outdoor Summer Stage Under the Stars series with “In a Grove: Four Japanese Ghost Stories.” The play is appropriate for all ages and tells four short stories, all having to do with a grove of trees which stands where a small village called Kogisu once stood.

The play is written by playwright/ sceenwriter Eric Coble, whose list of notable works include several original works, such as “The Velocity of Autumn” and “Bright Ideas,” as well as his adaptation of Lowis Lowry’s “The Giver.”

But if supernatural creatures like mermaids and ghosts aren’t your thing, there are still more options for families seeking live theater, as long as you don’t mind a little magic. Riverwalk Theatre’s Young Artisans workshop debuts its take on the classic children’s play “Peter Pan.”

The production adheres to the original J.M. Barrie yarn, but with a small aesthetic twist: Rather than being adorned in the “slops” (traditional Elizabethanera pirate garb), Riverwalk’s pirates will bear the ornate gears and goggles of the steampunk genre.

For those itching to be on the stage rather than being in the audience, Wharton Center will hold Take it From the Top, a fiveday musical theater class led by several theater professionals under the direction of Broadway vet Paul Canaan.

“We try to maintain a wide variety of material so everyone gets to experiment with a style they may not be familiar with while showcasing their strengths,” Canaan said. Classes of this nature in other parts of the country can set you back well over $1,000, but Take it From the Top is meant to be available to everyone. For those reconsidering their aspirations for the stage so they can save their money for “Expendables 3” instead, Canaan confidently sets the record straight.

“The arts are valuable and worth the investment.” 

The Little Mermaid

Hannah Community Center 7 p.m. Friday, July 25; 2 p.m. & 4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26 (continues Aug. 1-2) $7/$5 age 17 and under (517) 333-2580 ext. 0, allofusexpress.org

“In a Grove: Four Ghost Stories”

LCC Outdoor Amphitheatre, Washington Square, Lansing 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 23-Sunday, July 27 FREE (517) 483-1488, lcc.edu/ showinfo

“Peter Pan”

Riverwalk Theatre 7 p.m. Thursday, July 24-Saturday, July 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, July 27 $8/$6 children (517) 482-5700, riverwalktheatre.com

Take it From the Top

Monday, July 28-Friday, Aug. 1 Prices and times at whartoncenter.com


I’m a Beer Hound will host another food/beer pairing on Thursday that will be a match made in tailgate heaven. Bratwursts that were made fresh at Monticello’s Market in Haslett will be paired with craft beer from Frakenmuth Brewing Co. to highlight the complex flavors of each. Tickets for this event will get you five 4-ounce or 6-ounce tastings of beer and five mini-brats. The pairings of beer and brats will be: Pilsner paired with Chicken Spinach and Feta Brats; Twisted Hellas paired with Cheezy Jalepeno Brats; Oktoberfest paired with Cherry Walnut Brats; Hefeweizen paired with Pineapple and Habanero Brats; and Batch 69 paired with Bacon and Blue Brats. 7 p.m. $25. REO Town Pub, 1147 S. Washington Ave., Lansing. imabeerhound.com


The comics industry has had as many as struggles as its most iconic heroes. No matter the state of the industry, however, the comics’ most iconic heroes will always have a permanent fixture in our popular culture. Barnes & Noble bookstore in Lansing celebrates this week with DC Comics Weekend as part of its month-long series, Get Pop Cultured. The “weekend” kicks off on Wednesday with Batman Day with a costume contest for adults and kids, a craft corner where kids can make Batman or Catwoman masks and Batman trivia. The rest of the week will include giveaways, exclusive limited Funko Pop Dolls (featuring deceased “Game of Thrones” characters), a visit from comic artist Corey Marie and the 501st Imperial Storm trooper Infantry on Saturday. Call Barnes & Noble for the week’s full schedule of events. 9 a.m.-9 p.m. FREE. Barnes & Noble, 5132 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing. (517) 327-0437, bn.com.


The Student Greenhouse project has a grand vision for everyone who loathes those long walks across Michigan State University’s campus during the winter: A tropical biodome, complete with exotic flora, a tumbling waterfall and more. However, this oasis isn’t just going to spring up from the ground. Dublin Square hosts the next fundraising event for the Student Greenhouse Project Thursday in East Lansing to benefit the project’s continued effort to build a new greenhouse/social hub, filling in the gap left by the closing of the MSU Botany Garden in 1997. Spokesman Jeff Herzog wants to assure attendees that it’s not just about reaching out to people who potentially have deep pockets. “The event is as much about raising awareness of our project, goals and objectives as it is about raising money,” he said. Local musician Taylor Taylor will provide the evening’s entertainment until 10 p.m., but the Greenhouse Project members will we be there all night to accept donations and share info. 8 p.m. Dublin Square, 327 Abbot Road, East Lansing. studentgreenhouse@gmail.com, sgp.msu.edu.


Stephanie Burgis was a frequent visitor of the East Lansing Public Library when she was growing up. She became an author, so obvioiusly spending that much time around books left some kind of an impact. Burgis, a Fulbright Scholar, is the author of the “Kat, Incorrigible” series; she will appear at the East Lansing Public Library for an event called Books and Bagels on July 30. Burgis will discuss her writing and the journey that led to become a published author. This event will allow visitors to meet with the author and will have free bagels, donated from the Frandor Panera. The “Kat, Incorrigible” trilogy is geared toward 9- to 13-year-olds, but the event is open to all ages. FREE. 2-3:30 p.m. East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road, East Lansing. (517) 351-2420, elpl.org.


“The Art of … ” series continues with the one of Italy’s delectable desserts. Gelato is made from milk, cream, various sugars with flavoring such as fresh fruit and nut purees. James Sumpter, Executive Chef of Tannin in Okemos, will host the event. Tannin features contemporary and creative Italian cuisine embellished with elements from a variety of other culinary traditions, and gelato is one of its specialties. 6 p.m. $35/$25 for members. Broad Art Museum, 547 East Circle Drive, East Lansing. (517) 884-3900, broadmuseum.msu.edu