The Burns Park Players don't put on just regular plays, by the way, but musicals, with live orchestras, a strategy that ups the ante for catastrophic failure. And going for total insanity, they also involve dozens of elementary school students in the chorus numbers. You don't have to be a theater snob to imagine these Burns Park Players productions as fertile soil for some wickedly bad amateur theatrics—Waiting for Guffman bad.
But it's not like that at all. The Burns Park Players produce consistently sparkling, exuberant productions. Directed by a different U-M musical theater student every year, the productions have covered every subgenre of musical, from wheezy period oddities like Bye Bye Birdie (2004) to airbrushed, slick Disney fantasies like Beauty and the Beast (2008) and solidly golden-era Rodgers and Hammersteins like Carousel (2000). The sets have for years been a labor of love by Mark Tucker (creator of FestiFools) and artist Jeri Rosenberg. Real talent lurks in Burns Park. BP being Ann Arbor's Upper West Side, the talent is often highly trained, if overlaid by years of better-paying professional careers or parenthood. The kids—dozens of them—herded quickly on and off, usually in the chorus numbers, through some alchemy are consistently an adorable and inspired surprise. And here's a bonus: the old-fashioned, well-spaced upholstered seats in the Tappan Auditorium are nap-time comfy.