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“Free to Be …You and Me” opens Friday at Ramsdell Theatre

The main cast of "Free to Be...You and Me" rehearse the opening number, "Let's Hear it for Babies," Monday at the Ramsdell Theatre of the Manistee Civic Players production. The production opens Friday. (Sean Bradley/News Advocate)

The main cast of “Free to Be…You and Me” rehearse the opening number, “Let’s Hear it for Babies,” Monday at the Ramsdell Theatre of the Manistee Civic Players production. The production opens Friday. (Sean Bradley/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — The production of “Free to Be … You and Me” is important to director Connar Klock.

“There are a lot of dogmatic views that are laid on children when they’re young,” Klock said. “I think things like the idea that a girl can’t be a firefighter or like to play with trucks, or a boy can’t play with dolls — ‘you’ve got to have a football, you’ve got to have a baseball bat’ — (are done) in ways that are harming our kids.”

The musical production by the Manistee Civic Players is based on the children’s book of the same name written by Marlo Thomas and released in 1972. It encourages a message of gender neutrality, individuality, tolerance and comfort with personal identity.

Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Ramsdell Theatre, located at 101 Maple St. Additional performances take place at 7:30 p.m. on July 1 and 2 and at 2 p.m. on July 3.

The music in the production comes from the album of the same name released in 1972 that included people such as Michael Jackson and Tina Turner.

JoAnn Muma, executive director of the Manistee Civic Players, said the production emphasizes the importance of people being who they are.

“It’s a real homegrown, organic kind of musical that takes children from infancy and how we need to nurture them along and allow them to express themselves individually and grow and adapt and be part of society,” Muma said.

Klock said the character of William, played by Johnathon Wertheimer, wants to play with a doll but the boy’s father won’t let him, making him play with a football or soccer ball, while Richard, played by Kyle Carter, doesn’t understand this mentality.

“This is intentional in the script to make it understood that playing sports is not (a bad thing), but the choice should be available to play with what you want to play with,” Klock said.

“Free to Be … You and Me” 


  • Johnathon Wertheimer as “William”
  • Madi Shank as “Janet”
  • Macie Goodspeed as “Vickie”
  • Kyle Carter as “Richard”
  • Bonnie Brown as “Grandma”


  • Director: Connar Klock
  • Conductor: Madalyn Harvey
  • Vocal directors: Cynthia Burt and Connar Klock
  • Accompanist: Cynthia Burt

Madi Shank, from Ludington, plays the character of Janet.

“Janet is really fun loving and wants to be nice to everybody,” Shank said. “She’s really comfortable with herself and is kind of a role model in that way for other characters to find themselves throughout the play.”

She said an audience of both younger people and adults will enjoy the show and its message, which may be more prevalent now than ever.

“I think people were struggling with these things then but it’s kind of more prevalent now,” Shank said. “While it’s becoming more and more accepted in society today (to be different), we can push it further with this kind of show.”

Klock was intrigued by the script when he first read it because of the friendly, platonic relationship between the characters of Janet and William.

“I think it’s really important we highlight different gender friendships that don’t have to be sexualized or romanticized,” Klock said. “They can be a boy and a girl that are friends.”

Klock thinks the small cast creates better a better production due to its size.

“We have a very loose relationship,” he said. “We have a lot of fun. We talk a lot. We spend a lot of time working on the show but we also make sure we spend time in between joking and laughing and creating a relationship you can definitely see on stage when they’re acting.”

There is a cost for admission.

Tickets can be purchased at mynorthtickets.com or by calling (800) 836-0717 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, online at www.manisteecivicplayers.org, or in person at the theater’s box office at 101 Maple St. in Manistee or call (231) 398-9770.


Posted by Sean Bradley

Sean is the city and cops and courts reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the entertainment and Reasons to Celebrate pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3109 or sbradley@pioneergroup.com.

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