The seaway to true love is full of perils in Disney’s The Little Mermaid but, of course, the young lovers bridge land and sea for a happy ever after. And the magical production of the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Department carries us smoothly along to that expected Disney end.
The Little Mermaid production at the Power Center for the Performing Arts is light, airy, expertly performed and a fine display of how imaginative staging can turn fluff into gold. The production continues 8 p.m. April 14 and 15 and 2 p.m. April 15 and 16.
The developmental premiere of the new stage musical adaptation of Into the Wild opens this weekend at The Encore Theatre. The play (and book that it’s adapted from) are based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, an Emory graduate who abandoned all of his possessions and stopped communicating with his family when he chose to hitchhike to Alaska.
Into the Wild is directed by Mia Walker, who has worked on some of the most influential plays in the musical theater world over the last ten years. She directed the current national tour of Pippin, acted as associate director for both Waitress and Finding Neverland on Broadway, and was the assistant director of Invisible Thread (previously Witness Uganda) at Second Stage Theatre.
The play is written by Niko Tsakalakos (music and lyrics) and Janet Allard (book and lyrics). Tsakalakos studied at Tisch School of the Arts under the mentorship of William Finn, composer of Falsettos, A New Brain, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Recently, I was extremely fortunate to have an in-depth email interview with both Mia Walker and Niko Tsakalakos, where I had the chance to ask them about both the show and their career paths up until this point.
The University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society (UMGASS) hits the stage at the Mendelssohn Theater again this weekend with what must be their umpteenth production of The Pirates of Penzance. Pirates is far and away Gilbert & Sullivan's best-known work, well-represented in popular culture, as demonstrated by Muppets, Animaniacs, Kevin Kline, and even a complete production in Yiddish.
UMGASS takes Pirates seriously, which is to say, not seriously at all, delivering a delightful community production, loaded with talent and laughs, that stays true to the original work without casting it in amber.
It’s been over 20 years since the Banff Mountain Film Festival launched its “world tour,” bringing various films from the competition to over 40 countries and hundreds of cities around the world. Ann Arbor has been lucky enough to be a stop on the tour for more than a decade.
The film festival, which takes place at Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada each fall, features short films and documentaries about outdoor recreation of all sorts. Eight of the best films from the festival were shown at the Michigan Theater this past Tuesday evening.
This year’s selections offered a refreshing dose of unusual sports and unique humor. The festival opened with Metronomic, a 5-minute film from France about a team of “flying musicians.” The stuntmen swing off of tight-ropes and parachute off of cliffs, all while playing their respective instruments. Most amazing was the drummer, Freddy Montigny, who flew with his entire drum set.
Next was a film about canine sports, Dog Power, that covered much more than dog sledding. Focusing on the lasting relationships that form between athletes and their dogs in dog-powered sports, the film showed canicross (running with dogs), bikjoring (biking with dogs), skijoring (skiing behind a team of dogs), and various distances and team sizes of sled-dog racing. It was fascinating to learn about the breeding and care that goes into making dogs into athletes. One racer emphasized that the dogs are just as important a part of the team as the human. Banff Film Festival’s films often focus on skiing and snowboarding, climbing or mountain biking, so it was exciting and heartwarming to see a film like Dog Power.
Another feel-good film from the show was Four Mums in a Boat, the amazing story of four middle-aged British mothers who decide to compete in a race rowing a boat across the Atlantic Ocean. They all met one another while dropping their kids off at school, and took up rowing on the local river. After learning about the 3,000-mile race across the Atlantic, one of the mothers convinced the other three to sign up for it with her. The film showcases the trials and tribulations that the women undergo as they spend almost 70 days (20 more than planned) rowing across the ocean. From a loss of power (meaning they had to spend 10 hours a day hand-pumping ocean water through a filter to make it potable) and a broken rudder to rowing into Hurricane Alex, the women demonstrate admirable strength, endurance, and determination, and a great deal of humor.
Young Guns is a 30-minute film about two young rock climbers, was also a crowd-favorite. Kai Lightner was 15 years old when the film was made and Ashima Shiraishi was just 14. The two are gaining worldwide notoriety as the film opens, winning national championships and beating climbers much older than them. Friends both at the climbing gym and outside of it, they spend their spring break traveling together with their families to Norway, where extra challenging rocks put their skills to the test. Their quiet maturity and amazing climbing skills had the audience gasping with delight, especially when Shiraishi becomes both the youngest person ever and the first woman to climb a V15 boulder in Japan at the film’s conclusion.
Other films shown on Tuesday were Being Hear, a brief film about the importance of listening to nature, The Perfect Flight, a five-minute film about falconry, The Super Salmon, about the fight by many Alaskans to protect the Susitna River from being dammed, and Danny MacAskill’s Wee Day Out, a charming, amusing film about one man’s day mountain biking through rural Ireland. Banff Mountain Film Festival, which is locally sponsored by U-M’s Recreational Sports association, Moosejaw, and Bivouac, is a special treat each year. The films offer viewers the chance to see aspects of outdoor sports and life that often aren’t captured at the Olympics or other major televised sporting events, and the unique perspective that each filmmaker brings to his or her work casts each movie in a different emotional light. This year’s distinctiveness, with its focus on sports like falconry, rowing, and canicross, made for an extra special experience. Luckily for anyone who missed the festival -- or for anyone who is excited to see more outdoor films -- Banff Mountain Film Festival will be back in 2018.
Elizabeth Pearce is a Library Technician at the Ann Arbor District Library.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour stops in Ann Arbor at the Michigan Theater every April.
Two local art exhibits highlight equality on University of Michigan’s campus: one focuses on two particular campus buildings while the other looks at the students and campus as a whole.
You’ve driven by them dozens of times: the Michigan Union and the Michigan League. You know that inside these iconic campus buildings are study rooms, eateries, visitor suites. But did you know they were originally envisioned as being separate facilities for male and female students?
The UMMA exhibit “Constructing Gender: The Origins of Michigan’s Union and League” highlights the fascinating -- and very gendered -- beginnings of these structures. Early planners intended the entire university to be gender segregated. President Marion Burton said in 1921, “[M]en’s interests will center south and west of campus … while new buildings for women will go to the north of campus” and these buildings were no exception. The Union (opened in in 1919) was intended for men while the League (opened in 1929) was to be the domain of women. To raise funds for the buildings, fundraisers pitched the League as “The House That Jill Would Build” while the Union used the slogan, “What 2,000 Michigan men go after they are certain to get.”
An April 2017 LibraryReads, Kate Eberlen's engaging debut Miss You * brings to mind One Day by David Nicholls, where two souls that are meant to be, crisscross each other for years without connecting, after a chance meeting as 18 year-olds.
Tess and (An)Gus first met in a dim church in Florence and bumped into each other on the Ponte Vecchio while on holiday, before heading off to university in London.
The Literati Bookstore typewriter is home to patrons’ left-behind thoughts, many of which are touching, profound, or funny.
On Thursday, April 13 at 7 pm, Ypsilanti-based composer Garrett Schumann’s new work based on these typewriter musings will be premiered Literati as part of an evening of contemporary music presented by ÆPEX Contemporary Performance.
We talked to Schumann about how he came up with the idea for the piece, his favorite books related to music and composing, and what else you can look forward to from ÆPEX Contemporary Performance in the coming months.
The stage musical adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County, now making its Michigan premiere at Pinckney’s Dio Theatre, ends its first act with a moment that feels like a key catching in a lock -- and in that instant, you feel each person in the audience make a choice: they’re either checking out or they’re all in.
Why? Because the show’s story, set in Iowa in 1965, focuses on a lonely, middle-aged, Italian former war bride (Francesca, played by Marlene Inman) who, while her husband and two teenage children are away for a few days at the Indiana State Fair, finds herself irresistibly drawn into a love affair with an itinerant National Geographic photographer (Robert, played by Jon McHatton) who’s in town to shoot pictures of the local covered bridges.
Saturday evening’s sold-out, star-studded True Blue! A Tribute to Michigan event at Hill Auditorium, celebrating U-M’s bicentennial, began like Michigan football games do: with the sonorous voice of Carl Grapentine.
But instead of introducing the Michigan Marching Band, Grapentine introduced two of the evening’s emcees, Glee star Darren Criss (’09) and Grimm star Jacqueline Toboni (’14), who welcomed musical theater majors to the stage to perform a special version of “The Victors,” arranged by A.J. Holmes (’11); and theater majors, who delivered a rap about U-M’s founding and growth -- wherein we learned that the school was originally called Catholepistemiad -- or University -- of Michigania. (Thankfully, the name didn’t stick. Imagine spelling that in the stadium.)
It's fair, if lazy, to call Wizard Union a stoner-metal band. The Ann Arbor-based three-piece specializes in huge, slow sounds with roots running back to Black Sabbath, and its song titles and lyrics namedrop ancient bongs and wizard pipes. But there's a simple, no-gimmick efficiency and economy of scale to what they do that's also punk as punk.
On their latest record, Phantom Fury, released late last year, the band refined its chugging, earworm sludge, while also introducing classic rock shuffles and early grunge grooves (and an outro to one tune that could be a sequel to "KISS: Love Theme From KISS."). In the middle of it all, guitarist and vocalist Samir Asfahani's throaty bark sounds shredded and desperate not to get drowned out by the drones.
On Saturday, April 8, Wizard Union will play Crossroads Pub in Ypsilanti along with Toledo-based old school death metal band Mutilatred and hardcore punk acts No/Breaks and Hellghillies. Chances are good every human in attendance could compulsively lurch in rhythm when the band launches into old favorites, like "Into the Wizard's Sleeve."
We talked to Asfahani by email about the band's new efforts as a collective, demoing songs in his car during his lunchbreak at work, reviewing extreme music for his entertaining and informative personal blog, and distancing himself and the band from the sexism and misogyny that "plague" the metal scene.