Grosse Pointe News - North teacher to take center stage
at Music Hall

by Ann Fouty

01/26/2006 - Mary Jane is single. She wants a husband and sets down a few specifications. He must be rich and famous and want to end her loneliness. She is Catholic. She is a member of St. Agnes Parish in Detroit where Father O'Neal, Father Bingo, is the priest. Mary Jane will be brought to life in four performances through the singing and acting talents of Grosse Pointe North's Michelle Stackpoole in the production "Father Bingo," an original musical about risks and miracles and written by Bill Nilsson.

"Father Bingo" is set in Detroit and comically weaves political intrigue and mistaken identity into the stories of several people looking for salvation. A parish priest fights to save his church; a mayor tries to win the hearts of his voters in support of casino gambling, and Mary Jane searches for a man to end her loneliness.

Stackpoole said her students and staff are anxious to see her on stage, as opposed to her behind the scenes involvement at North, where she teaches acting, dance, public speaking, debate and film literature. Since 2001, she has also directed and choreographed all of North's productions. This year, due to her commitments, Stackpoole is assisting with this year's musical. However, that doesn't stunt her love of the stage. "I act because I love it," she said. "It is a great way to escape from my everyday life and pretend to be someone else. I love to be creative and express myself on stage."

Acting, singing and dancing burst forth early in her life when she started dance classes at the age of 4 years and singing lessons in high school. "I always sang around the house and started taking voice lessons in high school, which I continued through college and still take with Grosse Pointe Park voice teacher Tam Lehew Whitty.

"I started studying dance when I was four and still occasionally take a class at the Turning Pointe. I danced with Sandra Brewer's Encore Dance company in Flint for six years. I have been doing shows, mainly musicals, since I was eight and played a Munchkin in 'The Wizard of Oz.'"

Her credentials continue and include "Crazy for You," "Grease," "Damn Yankees," "West Side Story," the radio version of "It's a Wonderful Life," "The Diary of Anne Frank," "Don't Dress for Dinner," "Good News" and "Sr. Amnesia . . . Jamboree."

Stackpoole has a Bachelor of Science degree from Central Michigan University in communications/theater and a master's in teaching from Marygrove College.

Between her job of teaching at North and rehearsals, Stackpoole's days are filled. Organization is key to keeping on schedule, she said.

"I have to be very organized to balance everything. I try to get as much done during the day as I can so that I can have some down time to myself before I go to rehearsal at night," she said.

After teaching all day, Stackpoole and the cast of 30 practice three nights a week, plus some Saturdays. She also said she must spend time rehearsing music and lines.

"My goal is one day to make a living as a full-time actress," she said. "I would love to be able to do that here. I am doing more work in voice-overs and narration and I really enjoy that. Plus with the advancements in technology I can record things here to be sent anywhere in the world. With each experience I am getting closer to fulfilling my dream."

For now she will hopefully fulfill Mary Jane's dream of ending her loneliness.

Singing with 'Father Bingo' Annie Reinholz, 23, of Grosse Pointe Woods and 2000 graduate of Grosse Pointe South is in the chorus of "Father Bingo." The production is slated for Feb. 10, 11 and 12 at the Music Hall Center in Detroit. The audience will see her in the ensemble and singing the "Bingo Mama" number. A senior at the University of Michigan - Dearborn, she was an athlete before coming to the stage. "I was an athlete, playing ice hockey and lacrosse. I developed a singing voice in high school," she said. Since then she has taken voice lessons and has been in 25 shows, one after another, she said. "I love to sing and act and dance, as well," Reinholz said. She loved it so much, Reinholz approached her parents about taking a music theater major in college. Talking it over, she decided to get a degree in education and pursue acting on the side. "At this time, I enjoy it on the local level, the semi-professional level." The best part of acting for Reinholz is being able to lose herself in another person's character. She went on to say that being awarded a part in the locally-written show was something of a fluke. She was searching on the Internet for Detroit-area theaters and ran across "Father Bingo" try-out dates. Between acting gigs, she is doing her student teaching in French classes at South High. She will graduate in June with a bachelor's degree and will be certified to teach French seventh grade through 12th grade.

"Father Bingo" performances are at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, Saturday, Feb. 11, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, and Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Music Hall Center, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit. Ticket prices range from $19 to $49 and are available through TicketMaster online at or by phone at (248) 645-6666, or through the Music Hall box office.