Ann Arbor in Concert’s "Spring Awakening" was lovely and heartbreaking


Ira Glass

Spring Awakening rehearsal photos by John McCarthy.

For a few moments during Ann Arbor in Concert’s production of Spring Awakening on Saturday night at the Power Center, all the heightened hormonal chaos, longing, joy, freedom, and frustration of adolescence was on resplendent display.

The number, which I’ll politely refer to “Totally F-ed,” arrives late in the Tony-winning stage musical, and in the words of Rohit Gopal (who played Moritz) during the talkback, “It’s a banger.” The entire cast embodies revolt through song, and at one point Christopher Campbell’s deft choreography clearly dictates that each performer “rock out on your own as the spirit moves you.”

And boy, does the overall effect work.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #645



The Reminders *, a debut novel by writer, singer-songwriter, and actor Val Emmich (Vinyl and Ugly Betty) is the unlikely friendship between a gifted child who remembers everything and a grieving man who is trying to forget.

The 10-year-old Joan Lennon Scully (named after her father's favorite songwriter) has HSAM: highly superior autobiographical memory. While she can recall every minute detail of her life, she is frustrated that everyone else forgets, even the most important things and people in their lives. She thinks winning a local songwriting contest might make her unforgettable.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #644



Michigan author Karen Dionne's hardcover debut The Marsh King's Daughter * transports her readers to the wilderness of Michigan's Upper Peninsula where a woman must risk everything she has and use every skill she learned to hunt down the dangerous criminal who taught her everything she knew - her father.

When Helena Pelletier heard on the news that the notorious murderer/kidnapper known as "The Marsh King" has killed two guards and escaped from Marquette maximum security prison, she knew she could no longer outrun her past.

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Dholing Out the Jams: Red Baraat at Ann Arbor Summer Festival


Red Baraat

Red Baraat had Ann Arbor dancing (and applauding its soundchecks). Photo by Sairah Husain.

Red Baraat set Rackham outdoor stage ablaze on Saturday night. The eight-piece, Brooklyn-based band's melodious mix of Bhangra dhol beats and big-band brass had the approximately 300-person crowd at Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park throwing their hands up and shrugging their shoulders in high-energy Bhangra form.

For those unfamiliar with Bhangra, the dance moves are commonly described as being like a "light bulb twist." Though I cringe a bit at that cliche, Red Baraat leader Sunny Jain used this very description to encourage audience members to dance to his electrifying dhol drumming.

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Kickshaw mounts a first-rate production of "Really"


Really, Kickshaw Theatre

Girlfriend (Shaunie Lewis) helps Mother (Pamela Bierly Jusino) try to capture the moment in Kickshaw's staging of Really.

There's a standard announcement before Kickshaw Theatre’s production of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Really: Director Lynn Lammers reminds spectators to turn off phones and that “the taking of photographs is strictly forbidden” by the actor’s union. Before she can finish, a young photographer appears, camera in hand. Click.

But no rules have been broken. The photo won’t be developed. Calvin, the photographer, is dead.

That doesn’t mean he’s out of the picture. Calvin is at the center, the only character who has a name. Mother and Girlfriend may have outlived him, but they are defined by their relationships to him. Mother is visiting Girlfriend, a photographer who has invited her for a photo shoot.

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Things I Learned From Ira Glass


Ira Glass

His American life: Ira Glass talked about some of the things he's learned during 22 years of being on the radio.

A sold out crowd flocked to see National Public Radio star Ira Glass, host of This American Life, at the Power Center Saturday night, where he presented a show titled 7 Things I’ve Learned as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s main stage series.

Using film and audio clips, and armed with nothing more than a tablet, Glass -- wearing a tailored silver suit with a white shirt -- shared what turned out to be 10 things he’s learned since getting involved with public radio at age 19, and launching TAL in Chicago in 1995.

“But they’re not the only seven things I’ve learned,” Glass emphasized during his intro, saying the lessons he’d be focusing on weren’t even the seven most important things he’s learned. (He’d tried, as an exercise, to determine those, too, but he quickly realized that that’s “the most stoner question ever. Like, chewing and swallowing, maybe?”)

Instead, the highlighted “things” were various bits of knowledge related to Glass’ work, and a quietly moving personal epiphany involving musicals. Here’s a taste of what he shared.

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Quick Wit and High Kicks: Theo Katzman at Sonic Lunch


“I can do my comedy thing up here, and I’m not afraid to do it,” joked guitarist, singer-songwriter, and Vulfpeck drummer Theo Katzman to a packed Sonic Lunch crowd on Thursday, June 29, at Liberty Plaza. “I have a safety net of 300 people to catch me if I fall”

Katzman’s songs are filled with this kind of honesty and humorous self-reflection, which is what makes them instantly relatable. His poetic and catchy sound blends elements of classic rock, soft rock, pop, and R&B, and his lyrics often revolve around the difficult and rewarding aspects of romantic love.

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Of Jokes and False Starts: The Church's merry psychedelia rocked The Ark


The Church

The Church spent a few days in Ann Arbor soaking up the vibes before its show at The Ark.

Before the first encore of The Church’s set at The Ark on Wednesday, June 28, guitarist Peter Koppes joked, “We can use the encore to rehearse for tomorrow's festival.”

Every good jape contains a kernel of truth, and Koppes’ honesty hit the mark. Singer-bassist Steve Kilbey said this was the band’s first show in a year, and The Church spent a lot of the show working out the kinks: adjusting their sound mid-song, dealing with equipment malfunctions, and relearning songs new and old.

Even after hitting stages around the world for 37 years, it's nice to know that the band best known for the 1988 hit "Under the Milky Way" can sometimes still feel like absolute beginners again -- and do so with giant smiles on the muscians' faces.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #642 & #643



Fabulous Fiction Firsts #642

The Garden of Small Beginnings * by Abbi Waxman is a story of loss but also the joy of second chances.

It has been three years since Lilian watched her husband died in a car accident 50 feet from her front door. After a breakdown and hospitalization, she is back at her job as a textbook illustrator in a small LA publishing house and making a life with her two young daughters, Annabel and Clare.

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Deep in the Mix: REMIX & ReMIXED Reality at Ann Arbor Art Center


REMIX & ReMIXED Reality

Andrew Rosinski and ICON Interactive created these virtual-reality works that are only viewable through a phone app.

REMIX, an exhibition at the Ann Arbor Art Center’s 117 Gallery, contains two exhibitions: one in the physical space of the gallery and one virtual. Described as an “augmented reality experience,” ReMIXED Reality was created by Andrew Rosinski and ICON Interactive.

In addition to the works of art hanging on the walls, visitors can download the custom virtual reality app, which can be found in your phone’s app store. The app creates a virtual gallery that is “superimposed” over the physical artworks on the gallery walls and can be viewed on your phone. Throughout the gallery are small symbols on the wall that can be scanned by the ReMIXED application to bring up an array of virtual works of art.

The virtual gallery includes imagery ranging from digitally made virtual paintings to photographs and kaleidoscopic views. Some of the pieces move with you as you move through the gallery space. Other symbols create a perspectival virtual space that extends behind the square, black symbol, or projects in front of it.

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