Preview: Company, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre


Robby Griswold will be in good company as he stars in Ann Arbor Civic Theater's production of Company

Robby Griswold will be in good company as he stars in Ann Arbor Civic Theater's production of Company.

Ann Arbor Civic Theater will open the New Year with a sparkling new production of the beloved musical Company, which is, according to its seasoned AACT director Rachel Francisco, “about relationships…interactions between spouses and the deep feelings that underlie many marriages.”

The plot centers on Bobby (Robby Griswold), who on the eve of his 35th birthday, questions his bachelor status. Married friends surround him, full of advice about relationships. But is marriage the best option? Will it lead to happiness? His current and former lovers (Kimmy Elliott, Chris Joseph, and Kate Papachristou) make his choice even more difficult.

When Company opened in 1970, it was a landmark in Broadway musical history. A “concept” musical composed of short vignettes, it was the first collaboration between two theater legends: composer Stephen Sondheim and director/producer Hal Prince.

Nominated for 14 Tony Awards, the production won six, including Best Musical. Sondheim’s music for the show (including “Being Alive,” “Another Hundred People,” and the Elaine Stritch showstopper “Ladies Who Lunch”) was sublime. New York Times critic Vincent Canby, reviewing the 1995 Broadway revival, raved that Company contained the most “dazzling and bittersweet show tunes Mr. Sondheim has ever written.”

Jennifer Goltz is the Music Director for this first show of the 2016 year and choreography is by Rachel Francisco and Emily Olson.


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Company runs Thursday through Sunday, January 7 - 10 at the University of Michigan’s Arthur Miller Theatre, 1226 Murfin Ave, 48109. Tickets are available online at Ann Arbor Civic Theater's website, by calling the A2CT office at 734-971-2228, or at the door. Additional information is available by visiting the theater's website.

READ MORE  

Preview: Winter Dance Sharing


Dance out the winter blues with the Winter Dance Sharing

Dance out the winter blues with the Winter Dance Sharing

Let the music move you! If you enjoy meeting performers and interacting with them, this event is designed with you in mind. To kick off the Winter Dance Sharing, Christina Sears-Etter (Artistic Director for the People Dancing Company) will teach a sample SOMAdance class in a workshop format. SOMAdance helps dancers use their bodies to express imagery, which can be enhanced by increasing mind body integration. You do not need prior dance training to enjoy and benefit from this workshop. SOMAdance is designed for teenagers and older. On-site childcare will be provided during the workshop with advance reservations.

Following the SOMAdance workshop, you can enjoy live performances in the studio with works choreographed by Sears-Etter and Abigayle Cryderman.


Heide Otto Basinger is on the Board of People Dancing.


Winter Dance Sharing will take place on Saturday, December 19, 2015, from 4:30-7:30 pm at the Arts in Motion Dance Studio (6175 Jackson Rd., Suite B). The suggested donation is $8.

READ MORE  

I'm Dreaming of a Stockingful of Holiday Stuff

Dash through the snow (dirt?) to these holiday events!

Dash through the snow (dirt?) to these holiday events!

December is upon us and, like the giant rolling boulder in that one Indiana Jones movie, the holidays are rumbling ever closer.

If you need some tips to help you celebrate the season, here's a handy list of festive holiday things going on in the area:

Dickens: An A Capella Carol
Friday, November 27th - Sunday, December 20th
Performance Network Theater - Ann Arbor, MI

National Theatre of Scotland: A Christmas Carol
Thursday, December 17th - Sunday, January 3rd
Power Center for Performing Arts - Ann Arbor, MI

Ypsilanti Community Choir's Annual Holiday Concert
Thursday, December 17th
Washtenaw Community College - Ann Arbor, MI

Gifts of Art presents Holiday Harmonies with Counterpoint
Thursday, December 17th
University Hospitals - Ann Arbor, MI

Home for the Holidays! with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Friday, December 18th - Sunday, December 20th
Detroit Symphony Orchestra - Detroit, MI

The Corner Christmas! (Not Your Family's Christmas Party) at the Corner Brewery
Saturday, December 19th
Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery - Ypsilanti, MI

Krampus Costume Ball
Saturday, December 19th
The Dreamland Theater - Ypsilanti, MI

Scones and Shopping at the Eyrie
Saturday, December 19th
The Eyrie - Ypsilanti, MI

X'mas Explosion 4 feat. Archimime, Meridians, Scapegoat and The Path Of Exile
Saturday, December 19th
The Maidstone Theater - Ypsilanti, MI

Museum of Natural History Planetarium: Season of Light
December 19th-20th, 27-30th
University of Michigan Museum of Natural History - Ann Arbor, MI

Winter Solstice Celebration
Tuesday, December 22nd
Cultivate Coffee and Taphouse - Ypsilanti, MI

Gifts of Art presents Sweet Sounds of the Season with Wanda Degen
Thursday, December 24th
University Hospitals - Ann Arbor, MI

Black Christmas Feat. The Suicide Machines, The Black Dahlia Murder, BIGWIG, Mustard Plug, Koffin Kats
Saturday, December 26th
The Majestic - Detroit, MI

Mittenfest X
Tuesday, December 29th - Saturday, January 2nd
Bona Sera Cafe - Ypsilanti, MI


Nicole Williams is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and she's been listening to Christmas music since July.


READ MORE  

Review: Henry IV, Part I, University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance


UMSMTD gives the devil his due in their production of Henry IV

UMSMTD gives the devil his due in their production of Henry IV

Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I isn't really about King Henry IV. It's about the rivalry between Henry's son, Prince Hal, the future Henry V, and the heroic and headstrong Harry "Hotspur" Percy.

The play is full of jolly roistering and clashing swords, but its theme of delayed maturity seems to fit well for a university production. And the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance offers a perceptive and action-packed production.

The heir to a much-disputed crown is happier in a tavern than on a battlefield and his father worries that Hal will never assume his proper role. Meanwhile, the son of one of his allies, Hotspur, has won acclaim for his daring. Hotspur and his father and aunt (a change of gender for the role) will soon change allegiance and lead a rebellion. Will Hal meet the challenge?

Not if an old, soused knight named Falstaff has any say in the matter. Falstaff is of course one of Shakespeare's great creations. He's a lecher, a drunk, a buffoon, a coward, and a great party animal. He's a "bad influence" but closer to Hal than his own father and something of a modern day cynic.

Director Priscilla Lindsay pulls all these elements together in a rousing, traditional staging of one of the Bard's most popular works. The production moves smoothly from the bawdy confines of the Boar's Head Inn to the royal court to the bloody fields of battle. Shakespeare's language is a challenge for young actors and the clarity of some of the actors is less than it should be. But Lindsay gets some excellent work from her three major actors.

Robert M. O'Brien is a handsome, charming, and playful Hal. He speaks the language well, he moves gracefully and, crucially, he makes a convincing move from party boy to a leader of men. He conveys some of the sadness and loss that that move will cause him.

The plum role in any production of this play and its sequel is of course Sir John Falstaff. Graham Techler may need padding to fill the obese profile, but he is a superb Falstaff. He handles both the rapid verbal wit and the complex physical comedy excellently. He's hilarious, but in his famous comments on "honor," he also conveys a deeper understanding of what he's saying.

But, the real find here is Caleb Foote. His Hotspur is a raging revelation. He is fierce, rapid-tongued, and physically athletic and on-edge. Foote's command of Shakespeare's language is amazing. He understands perfectly that the best approach is to speak it naturally as your own and in this case he even gives it a rough north English accent. When he is on stage, he commands the stage. He bears himself like a young Jimmy Cagney, which is perfect for the reckless if honorable warrior he plays.

Key roles are played by Larissa Marten as Hotspur's ambitious aunt, Matthew Provenza as the title character, Elyakeem Avraham as a Welsh lord and Jesse Aronson, Samuel Bell-Gurwitz, and Sten Eikrem as Hal's Boar's Head companions.

The complex battle scenes are excellently staged by fight director Robert Najarian. Costume designer Christianne Myers helps define the players by putting the king's men in golds and tans and the rebels in silver and gray.

The production concluded Sunday at the the Power Center on the central UM campus.


Hugh Gallagher has written theater and film reviews over a 40-year newspaper career and was most recently managing editor of the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers in suburban Detroit.

READ MORE  

Preview: National Theatre of Scotland: A Christmas Carol


The puppets of Christmas past, present, and future visit Scrooge in the National Theatre of Scotland's A Christmas Carol

The puppets of Christmas past, present, and future visit Scrooge in the National Theatre of Scotland's A Christmas Carol

Every year, at this time, audiences can choose from countless stage and screen versions of A Christmas Carol. Tiny Tim, Scrooge, and the Ghost of Christmas Past--characters created by Charles Dickens in 1843--are part of our shared holiday heritage. With so many professional and amateur productions each year, what new can be brought to this timeless and familiar classic?

With uniquely intimate staging, the National Theatre of Scotland brings its acclaimed version of A Christmas Carol to The University Music Society (UMS) for the holiday season. Using a mixture of puppets and actors, live music and a set that forces the audience into the action, director Graham McLaren mounted a theatrical experience that has Dicken’s original text at its core and will “challenge all notions of sentimental stage and screen adaptations.”

The Daily Telegraph raved that “every aspect of the piece contributes perfectly to its irresistibly magical atmosphere” and that the National Theatre of Scotland’s A Christmas Carol “deserves to be remembered as one of the classiest pieces of theatre to have been staged in Scotland, not only in the winter season, but at any time of year.”

Only 125 audience members will be seated at each staging, so it is best to get seats early.


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Performances of A Christmas Carol will run from Thursday, December 17 through Sunday, January 3 at The Power Center, 121 Fletcher St., Ann Arbor. For ticket information, visit ums.org.

READ MORE  

Preview: The Three Musketeers, Young Actors Guild (YAG)


All for one and one for all with YAG's The Three Musketeers

All for one and one for all with YAG's The Three Musketeers

Ann Arbor’s Young Actor’s Guild (YAG) presents The Three Musketeers, based on Alexandre Dumas’ classic historical novel chronicling the adventures of D’Artagnan and the Musketeers of the Guard in 17th century France. On the road to adventure, young D’Artagnan finds more than he bargains for with fellow swashbuckling musketeers Athos, Porthos, and Aramis as they slice their way through considerable court intrigue in an attempt to thwart the scheming and powerful Cardinal Richelieu.

YAG’s performance is teeming with fight choreography led by trainer Melissa Freilich, a teacher of the Alexander Technique and advanced actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors.


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Performances of The Three Musketeers are Friday, December 18, 7:30 pm; Saturday, December 19, 2 pm and 7:30 pm; and Sunday, December 20, 2:30 pm, at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, University of Michigan campus, 911 N. University Ave. Tickets are $5.00 students, $10 adults ($15.00 for any two performances). Additional ticket information available at the YAG website.

READ MORE  

Review: The Light in the Piazza, University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance


A talented cast brightens the stage in The Light in the Piazza

A talented cast brightens the stage in The Light in the Piazza / Photo by Peter Smith

The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance loves to boast about the many graduates who are making a name for themselves on Broadway and in regional theaters across the country.

A new production of The Light in the Piazza at the Arthur Miller Theatre on the UM North Campus just might add significantly to that list. An uniformly outstanding cast gives life to a musically challenging work that is at times comic, romantic, and richly melodramatic.

The musical with book by Craig Lucas and music and lyrics by Adam Guettel is base on a 1959 novella by Elizabeth Spencer about a mother and daughter trip to Italy. The time and lush setting suggest the romantic, Technicolor movie melodramas of the 1950s in which a family secret creates a tension that can only be resolved through love.

The UM production on the intimate Miller stage leaves the splendor of Florence, Italy, to the audience's imagination (for how could it ever be presented on a stage). The stage is bare except for chairs, a table and, in one key scene, a bed. These are moved about fluidly by the ensemble cast who remain on stage as a chorus of Florentines. The small orchestra is also on stage. Up front a common story plays out. Mother and daughter go to Italy, where once upon a time the mother and her husband had a carefree holiday before the realities of business and life intruded. The pretty but fragile daughter finds romance with a passionate young suitor from an equally passionate Italian family.

The "secret" is a childhood injury that has left the young girl mildly developmentally impaired. But this is the 1950s, and her parents want to protect her, or is it control her. A mother-daughter struggle ensues.

This is not your typical musical comedy. The music is rich and varied, moving from the lift of a jazz combo to the complex drama of grand opera. Music director Catherine A. Walker leads a five member orchestra through the score superbly. Walker also plays beautiful piano from boogie-woogie to rising romantic flourishes. This is not the kind of show in which you leave whistling a tune, but the songs musically and lyrically capture the range of emotions that are at the heart of the show.

The cast is challenged in unusual ways. The songs are in English and Italian. Some cast members must sing and speak in Italian and in the halting English we associate with Italian immigrants. They must also move easily from operatic passion to quietly tender emotion to joyful humor. Guest director Brian Hill makes it all work seamlessly. He has his young cast performing beyond their years and capturing every nuance of a richly nuanced play.

Christina Maxwell plays the delicate, charming daughter Clara. She perfectly captures the sweet innocent early on and the fierce young woman trying to make a life of her own as the story develops. He voice is sweet but, even in the tight confines of the Miller, needs more projection.

The Naccarelli family are a joy, even as they embody a variety of well-worn Italian stereotypes. Luke Steinhauer as Fabrizio, the suitor, is magnificently over the top in love. His "Il Mondo Era Vuoto" is at once passionate but outrageous and the reactions of his more knowing brother and father are hilarious. Ben Bogen is the philandering brother Giuseppe, quick and lively, who distracts his brother with a little jazz. Liesl Collazo is Giuseppe's tart-tongued, jealous but passionate wife and family translator, who also believes in love. David Barnes is suave and precise as the family patriarch who falls to the charms of Clara's mother and has a sweet duet with her. Kalia Medeiros brings spark to a giddy scene where she provides an explanation for what's going on when a family argument ensues in raucously rapid Italian.

But in this uniformly fine cast, one member stands out. Kaity Paschetto gives a star performance as Margaret, Clara's caring but tense mother. Paschetto resembles a young Angela Lansbury and seems to move as easily from comedy to drama to musical expression as that esteemed actress does. Her singing voice is bright, expressive, and emotional. She expresses excellent comic timing in her efforts to put off the suitor without causing a scene. But her best scenes are her sad encounters with her angry daughter and her long-distance conversations with an estranged husband (Charlie Patterson).


Hugh Gallagher has written theater and film reviews over a 40-year newspaper career and was most recently managing editor of the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers in suburban Detroit.

READ MORE  

I'm Dreaming of Mortality

Joseph Keckler

Performance Artist and Vocalist Joseph Keckler / Photo by M. Sharkey

If you’re growing weary of all the holly jolly happenings that this time of year has to offer, then it might be time to take a break to contemplate mortality. I mean really take some time, like four hours worth, and spend it observing a classically trained vocalist perform operatic death after operatic death.

In Let Me Die, Joseph Keckler ties together and performs hundreds of deaths from the history of tragic opera. The project also involves a series of videos, incorporating operatic fragments into stories and images of contemporary life, realized in conjunction with Holly Hughes' Interarts class. Performance and video will be shown, surrounded by an environmental installation that sparsely combines operatic set elements. Audience members are welcome to come and go as they please during the four hour performance. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. MOCAD galleries and Cafe 78 will be open during the performance.

Joseph Keckler has spent the last few months as Witt Artist in Residence at the University of Michigan working with students to create music videos and to delve deeply into the world of the tragic. He has spent endless hours researching operatic deaths and has expertly categorized them under such headings as “the Stabbies,” "the Sickies,” and “the Poison People.” You can read more about his process in this great interview by M. Starkey.

Still not convinced? Then watch this video as a preview of the greatness that you will witness. Keckler sings Schubert to a cat. Need I say more?

Death is, quite simply, what gives meaning to life. Shakespeare understood this well as he wrote in King Richard II,
“O, but they say the tongues of dying men enforce attention like deep harmony.” Go to MOCAD this Saturday and face your mortal anxieties straight on.


Anne Drozd is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library and is mortal.


Joseph Keckler performs Let Me Die Saturday, December 12, from 1 – 5 pm at MOCAD, 4454 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201. In partnership with the Penny Stamps Speaker Series , the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), and the Roman J. Witt Artist in Residence Program. This event is free of charge and open to the public.

READ MORE  

Preview: Once Upon An Ever After, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Jr.


Fairy tales get muddled in A2CT Jr's Once Upon an Ever After

Fairy tales get muddled in A2CT Jr's Once Upon an Ever After

What might happen if Goldilocks, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood were to stray from the forest path and into each other’s stories? Find out in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s Junior Theatre presentation of Once Upon an Ever After, a fun-filled mash-up fairy tale featuring dwarves, bears, princesses, and surprising plot twists improvised by a talented ensemble of 22 kids ages 6-15.

Director Andrea Klooster collaborated with her cast to produce the script, which developed from brainstorming sessions and improv games - an idea she came upon while teaching a drama class at Interlochen Arts Camp in 1991. “I had recently seen Into the Woods for the first time, and I thought it would be fun to see what my students would do if we mixed some stories together. Once Upon an Ever After is a much more involved version of that idea.”

After the brainstorming sessions, the kids improvised their way through various scenes playing different roles each time, while the assistant director took notes of great ideas and dialogue that Klooster would eventually incorporate into a final script.

The result is both a play that didn’t exist before and an organic process for the actors, mixing familiar characters with unexpected and off-the-wall ideas performed by the very people who came up with them. “Because we didn't cast anyone in a specific role until after the script was written, the actors all experienced many of the roles and can see their own ideas throughout the show.”

Klooster had loads of fun and is proud of the kids’ efforts: “I was hoping the performers would unleash their creativity and create something awesome, and they have exceeded my hopes! This show is full of ideas that I would never have had, and is so much better than it would have been if I had just tried to write it myself.”


Amy Cantú is a Production Librarian at the Ann Arbor District Library.


Performances of Once Upon An Ever After are December 4-6, 2015, at the Children’s Creative Center (1600 Pauline Blvd., Ann Arbor, MI 48103). Friday night’s performance is at 7:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday performances are at 1 pm and 3:30 pm both days. Tickets are $5 for children and $8 for adults, and seating is general admission. Tickets available at the door or by calling the A2CT box office at 734–971–2228. Additional information is also available at www.a2ct.org. Appropriate for ages four and up.

READ MORE  

Preview: An Almost British Christmas, Theatre Nova


British Panto comes to Ann Arbor in Theatre Nova's An Almost British Christmas

British Panto comes to Ann Arbor in Theatre Nova's An Almost British Christmas

With the Holidays just weeks away, local professional theater company Theatre Nova will unwrap a delightful early Christmas present for local audiences.

An Almost British Christmas, based on popular British theatrical traditions of Panto or Pantomine, will blend elements of music, comedy, slapstick, and vaudeville. Audiences can boo the villain and cheer the hero in this family-friendly, fast-paced production, directed by Artistic Director Carla Milarch and featuring Wayne David Parker, Jennifer Graham, and Vicki Morgan.

This musical comedy, recommended for ages 5 to adult, will also highlight a special celebrity guest at each performance. Mayor Chris Taylor, Laurie Atwood of the Children’s Creative Center, local jazz singer Courtney Riddle, and the Gemini family are among those scheduled for a British Christmas visit. The guest list also includes Elsa from Frozen, and, of course, Santa Claus.


Tim Grimes is manager of Community Relations & Marketing at the Ann Arbor District Library and co-founder of Redbud Productions.


Performances of ​ An Almost British Christmas ​begin Friday, November 27 and will run through December 20, with performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. For information, visit www.theatrenova.org, or call 734-635-8450. Theatre Nova is located at The Yellow Barn, 416 W. Huron in Ann Arbor.

READ MORE