Former Clio resident debuts among leads in Detroit show

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

By Ed Bradley (810)766.6258

Former Clio resident Michelle Hooks-Stackpoole just wanted to be part of the company for the staging of the new musical comedy "Father Bingo."

She ended up landing one of the lead roles for the Detroit-set show, to premiere at the Music Hall Center in four performances Friday through Sunday.

"I was attracted to 'Father Bingo' because it was an original piece, and I thought it would be a challenge to be a part of something new," Hooks-Stackpoole, a 1996 Clio High School graduate, said in an e-mail interview.

"I was just hoping to get in the chorus, but getting one of the lead roles was very exciting. I think it's a story that most people from southeastern Michigan can relate to."

With book, lyrics and music by William G. Nilsson - a 77-year-old play-writing newcomer from Dearborn - "Father Bingo" is a tale about risks and miracles that weaves political intrigue and mistaken identity into the stories of several people looking for salvation.

In the production, Hooks-Stackpoole plays a single woman who wants a perfect matrimonial match to save her from her loneliness. Meanwhile, a Detroit parish priest fights to save his church, and a mayor tries to win the hearts of his voters in support of casino gambling. Overseeing these foils is the Big Guy Upstairs.

"Everyone knows about the problems that Detroit has faced and the controversy surrounding gambling in the area, but this pokes fun at it and gives people at chance to laugh with others," Hooks-Stackpoole said. "Also, I'm Catholic and I liked the idea of Father O'Neal (Father Bingo) trying to save his church, because that too is a realistic situation for a lot of parishes."

"Father Bingo" features two original Vandellas of Motown fame - Rosalind Holmes and Annette Helton- along with talented local musicians and a cast of dozens.

"There are some really talented people in this cast, and I'm happy to be on stage with them," Hooks-Stackpoole said. "This experience has really stretched me as an actor and a singer, and I'm hoping that good things are in the future for this show."

Now a resident of Harper Woods, Hooks-Stackpoole teaches acting, dance, public speaking and debate at Grosse Pointe North High School. She's also a part-time actress who hopes to make it full-time work soon, either on the stage or in frequent voiceover work (she's the TV voice of Spring Arbor University, for example).

Hooks-Stackpoole said she "grew up" in the theater group Clio Cast & Crew. She danced for Sandra Brewer locally for many years and appeared in multiple "Christmas at Whiting" shows. She studied theater and communications at Central Michigan University and has a master's degree in education from Marygrove College.

"I do theater whenever I can, but I made time in my schedule for 'Father Bingo,'" she said.