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‘Lysistrata Jones’ updates the classic Greek comedy at Meadow Brook Theatre

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Lysistrata Jones at Meadow Brook Theatre

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More than 2,400 years after Aristophanes penned his classic comedy “Lysistrata,” the primal desire for sexual congress continues to be a goldmine for silly situations and the most essentially human form of hilarity -- thwarted lust.

In the original, the heroine Lysistrata organizes the Grecian women to join her in a boycott of sex until their men agree to stop killing each other in the Peloponnesian War. The resulting end of hostilities led, no doubt, to the first toga party.

Meadow Brook Theatre is staging a retelling of this classic tale – not as high-minded, perhaps, but calculated to deliver a thoroughly 21st Century evening’s entertainment. The Tony-nominated play “Lysistrata Jones,” with music and lyrics by Lewis Flinn and a book by Douglas Carter Beane, transfers the action of the Athenian army to a fictional American college, Athens University, where the basketball team hasn’t won a game in more than 30 years.

As proof of how lame the Athens U sports program is, the team mascot is a Spartan – yes, the enemy of their namesake city state. But nothing seems to matter to this laidback group of students.

Enter the school’s newest transfer student, Ms. Lyssie J, who is horrified by the team’s complacency and the pervasive losing attitude. And so, modeling her strategy after her Athenian namesake, young Lysistrata enlists the support of the cheerleaders and announces that they will stop “giving it up” until the team wins a game.

“It’s a battle between the sexes that has lasted nearly 2,500 years,” MBT Artistic Director Travis Walter says. “It’s a great opportunity to introduce our friends and patrons to a fun musical update of an ancient story.”

Of course, even in musical theatre, the story has to be about something more than just basketball… and sex. In fact, each of the characters takes a journey of self-discovery that leads them to the source of their true passion. That includes the poetry of Walt Whitman, the desire to win, and a few unexpected romantic attachments. Serving as their guide on this journey – advisor, counselor, consoler, and coach – is the wonderful character of “Hetaira.” Hetaira is the ancient Greek word for a type of highly skilled courtesan – often an educated woman, a valued companion, and a legitimate part of Greek society.

In “Lysistrata Jones,” Hetaira is played by the wonderful Tamara Anderson, who previously appeared at Meadow Brook in “70, Girls, 70.” Ms. Anderson’s voluptuous voice caresses her deep, sexy and soulful songs like a Motown goddess with serious street creds. As Hetaira, she steers the star-crossed lovers onto a legitimate path – one with more than a few twists and turns before it’s all sorted out in the end.

The sparkling cast of “Lysistrata Jones” introduces a team of young, vibrant talent to the MBT audiences. Lyssie J is played by Kara Dombrowski and original "Lysistrata Jones" Broadway cast member, Teddy Toye, is her put-off boyfriend, Mick. The rest of the cast includes: Karen Burthwright, Kathryn Terza, Minami Yusui, Tim Dolan, Jason Williams, Michael De Souza, Jake Wood, Hannah Dubner, Ben Holtzman, Lizzie Rainville and Dave Roy.

The clever set design by Brian Kessler – essentially a basketball court that coverts to a brothel – has the advantage of an upper level in the “gym” where the band plays. Having the live performers incorporated into the show adds to the energy and raw entertainment value. The band, which performs under the direction of Greg Kenna (Keyboard) includes: Matthew Croft (2nd Keyboard), Sig Hepler (Guitar), P.J. Vasquez (Bass), Nick Matthews (Drums) and Sam Parsons (Percussion).

"Lysistrata Jones" is directed by Travis Walter with choreography by Raquis Petree and Minami Yusui. Terry Carpenter is the stage manager, costumes by Corey Globke, lighting by Reid G. Johnson and sound by Mike Duncan.

“Lysistrata Jones” runs through March 9 at Meadow Brook Theatre, with performances on Wednesday through Sunday – check the theatre calendar for exact times. Tickets range from $25 to $40 and are available by calling the Meadow Brook Theatre box office at 248-377-3300 or going online. Student discounts are available at the box office. Groups of eight or more should call 248-370-3316 for group pricing. Please note that “Lysistrata Jones” contains adult language and situations. Meadow Brook Theatre is located on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester.

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