Hamilton in Michigan

The hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” is finally coming to Michigan after being on Broadway since 2016.  The show will be playing in three different theaters across the state throughout the 2019-2020 season.

The Broadway show “Hamilton” seemed to become a new classic from the moment it started in April 2016.  The writer, star, and producer Lin Manuel Miranda shot to stardom because of this show. He played Hamilton during its first run on Broadway and will occasionally come back and play him again for special performances.  An example of this is during Hamilton’s Puerto Rican show to raise money for people in Puerto Rico who are still affected by the hurricane.

The show seemed to be so popular that was even hard for celebrities to get tickets.  There seemed to be constant stream of pictures of different celebrities watching Hamilton each night.  It may not be surprising then to find out that tickets were about $500 a person to go see the show. Luckily the tickets for the three shows in Michigan are a little more manageable.

Hamilton’s first stop after Broadway was Chicago, where tickets were still expensive and hard to get your hands on.  I was lucky enough to go to a performance and see Hamilton in Chicago. They stayed in Chicago for several months before getting ready to tour elsewhere.  Hamilton’s show in Puerto Rico was the start of their tour that will be all over the United States for the 2019-2020 season.

One cast member on this touring company is University of Michigan alumni, Simon Longnight.  He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2018, and is playing Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson on the tour.

The Broadway hit musical “Hamilton” is coming to Detroit, Grand Rapids, and the Wharton Center within the next year.  Tickets for the Detroit showings have already gone on sale!

The View from the Pit

Last week, I played in the orchestra pit of the University of Michigan’s Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s (UMGASS) production of The Grand Duke. W.S. Gilbert was a writer and Arthur Sullivan was a composer, and together they were a famous musical-writing duo during the Victorian era. UMGASS is a university-affiliated program that has put on Gilbert & Sullivan musicals every fall and winter semester since 1947. The Grand Duke is my second production with UMGASS, following Iolanthe last spring.

You sit in front of the stage, facing the audience and the conductor. There are special lights on the music stands that you switch on to see your music when the house goes dark. You never play anything the same way twice. Some singers speed up the tempo, some of them slow it down, but you always have to follow what they’re doing. If someone forgets a line or misses an entrance, you do your best to improvise and find your way back to the rest of the orchestra. In the Mendelssohn Theater you can’t hear anything but the person onstage and the person you’re sitting next to, so you just use your best judgment and hope for the best.

Gilbert & Sullivan musicals run for a solid two hours and forty-five minutes including intermission, and the pit musicians are playing for a majority of that time. Between Thursday night and Sunday afternoon, we played five shows. I once acted onstage in a musical that ran multiple times a week for several weeks, and that experience was not nearly as challenging as playing viola for just five performances and two dress rehearsals in one week.  

As a musician, I often think of playing my instrument as an entirely mental process. I depend on my brain to make sure the right fingers are going down at the right time, and I never realize that it’s actually my body that is doing all the work of actually producing the music. Even now I’m feeling a little stunned thinking about how when I was playing in the “Finale” of the first act in the musical, my arms were continuously moving for twenty minutes straight. It has been 48 hours since our final performance, and my muscles are still sore. The experience has made me think a little more critically about my future plans to be a freelance musician. I would need to practice a couple of hours a day and go to the gym every day to maintain my endurance for daily performances. I feel a bit silly saying this, but I really think music is a sport!

I am grateful for the experience and I had fun! But now I’m nursing my arms back to health while simultaneously preparing for my performance jury next week and my orchestra concert tonight. This is the life of a musician. I should really hit the gym.

Bringin’ Disney Back: Aladdin in Toronto!

OMG. Like my nineties kid-self (inside my about to graduate, 21 year-old body) is so excited for the new Aladdin stage musical, I could jump onto a magic carpet and go to the moon.

Yes, Aladdin I will always accept

Aladdin is being revamped for Broadway, but is pre-showing in Toronto.  Finally, my proximity to the moose and maple leaf country pays off!  The show runs at the Ed Mirvish theater in Toronto for nine weeks (Nov. 1 – Jan. 5) before heading to Broadway in 2014.

At the bottom of this post is a teaser featuring Alan Mencken (the artistic genie-us behind ‘A Whole New World’) and the rest of the cast and crew.  It will please everyone to know that Jonathan Freeman who originally voiced Jafar, will be reprising his infamous villain role for the stage.  There are few sounds in the world that I would love to hear live, but the real voice of Jafar saying, “Prince Ali Abu-bu” is one of them.

Some other sounds that I am looking forward to hearing are the deleted songs from the film that have been reworked into the story line.

Aladdin, Jasmine, and the genie have new cast members, but judging by their enthusiasm and energy in the teaser, I’d say this show is going to be a win for all of us.  I don’t know when I’m going (I am hoping to convince my sister and brother-in-law to road-trip it through the wild Canadian landscape) but this will happen.

The original movie came out the year I was born.  Hard to imagine that prior to 1992, we lived in a world without ‘One Jump’ and ‘Friend Like Me’.

The next Aladdin stage show that I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see, would be Robin Williams performing the 16 hours of extra material for the genie.  Okay, maybe not all 16.  But I would definitely attend a ‘Aladdin Genie: Live!’ performance put on by Robin Williams.

Would LOVE to see this
Would LOVE to see this

And now, without further ado…the Aladdin Teaser!