PREVIEW: The Reign of Pops

A new year means new music from the Michigan Pops Orchestra. For the fall semester, Michigan Pops is taking over the world with its show, “The Reign of Pops.” The great theme of royalty can be seen in the music of Swan Lake, Prince of Egypt, and many Disney tunes. As usual of Pops concerts, The Reign of Pops will combine vocal performers, special effects, and multimedia for an unforgettable musical experience. The concert is Sunday, November 18 at 7pm at the Michigan Theater. Tickets are $5 for students, $8 for adults, and free for students in public schools and seniors 65+. Tickets are available at the door on the night of the concert.

REVIEW: Weaving

It all started with a quote.

“I said to the sun, ‘Tell me about the big bang.’ The sun said, ‘it hurts to become.’” -Andrea Gibson

This quote actually embodies the theme of the play “Weaving” quite beautifully and fittingly, a story about becoming one’s true self and finding a place of belonging as that acceptance starts to settle in.

Vero and Bastion are two best friends in high school, both struggling to accept an identity that is true yet scary. Avery starts talking to Vero, lending her many books. Dominic and Bastion have been friends for a while, playing basketball every so often, but as Dominic is in his senior year of high school and Bastion is a year younger, confusing tensions and dynamics start to flare up.

In this play, Vero and Bastion were experiencing similar journeys in their denial and reluctant acceptance of their sexuality. However, they both couldn’t bring themselves to admit this to each other, showing how isolating such a revelation can be. It can be hard to admit something that the government and society has deemed as a sin or a vice or an indecent and inhumane act, whether it’s to yourself or your closest friend or your potential love interest that has sparked this all within you.

Bastion delivered a moving soliloquy during his history presentation, using prohibition as a metaphor for the LGBT community. The government can try to restrict people with all its power and the law, but the people will always persevere and push back. There was a rhythm and emotion to this speech, giving it a slam poetry-esque vibe that Sébastian Butler nailed with every trembling word and frantic pace.

Books played an important part of this play, with Avery giving Vero many books as her way of dropping a hint. For her paper, Vero wrote a literary criticism from a feminist lense, and while her teacher failed to appreciate what she had to say since she didn’t follow the prompt and quickly dismissed her objections to the heavily male-dominated curriculum in literature, Vero expressed the frustrations and the desire for recognition that many women feel today.

Hodges Adams wrote a chillingly realistic play of the everyday life of high schoolers in a town they couldn’t stand any longer. Every character in this story had some struggles. No one’s life is perfect, not the bullies or the happy, supportive friend. Natasha felt the pressures of applying to colleges and a suffocating grandfather. Though Marcus beat up Bastion in an act of homophobic violence, he was struggling with a substance-abusive family, having his own powerful take on prohibition. While this doesn’t excuse his intolerable behavior, it just shows that everyone is dealing with something under the surface others can’t see, accurately capturing the complexity of life and people.

I am incredibly grateful that Hodges Adams wrote this important piece of art and that they got to see it come alive in the Keene Theater by the RC Players. This play was incredibly moving and difficult to watch, precisely because it portrays the hard and strong life people of the LGBT community have to live to survive within themselves and within society.

PREVIEW: An Evening with Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald, one of Broadway’s most decorated and talented performers, is going to be gracing Ann Arbor with her presence in Hill Auditorium on November 17 at 8pm. She has won six Tony awards and was the first performer to have earned the Tony Grand Slam, winning a Tony award in the four top award categories: “Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play”, “Best Featured Actress in a Musical”, “Best Featured Actress in a Play”, and “Best Actress in a Musical.” The beauty in her voice belongs to a truly beautiful soul, and her love for music and life translates to her love for activism for at-risk youth and LGBTQ rights.

Join renowned performer Audra McDonald on Saturday for an evening of songs from the American musical theater that is sure to be a beautifully phenomenal night.

REVIEW: MACFest

MACFest had all the elements of a typical a cappella concert: people standing in a half circle, many hand gestures, and neat beatboxers. All 15 University of Michigan a cappella groups performed, along with a special guest performance by the Flint Octaves. Everyone sang great, but some groups stood out in particular with some memorable highlights of the night.

Amazin’ Blue kept up its legendary reputation with “Nowhere to Run,” bringing quality music that they are known for. Maica Mori of Good News sang “Hills and Valleys” with a soothing elegance and beauty, her pure voice floating through the air. Maica literally has the voice of an angel, and I could listen to her sing forever. Then, Maize Mirchi sang a calming and gentle “Au Re Chanda Pt. 4”, showing how diverse and talented the groups on campus are.

Friars, the a cappella group of the Men’s Glee Club, pulled a fast on on us. Starting out with “Ava Maria”, they quickly turned the tables and started rocking out to the Jonas Brothers’ classic hit, “Burnin’ Up.” This got the audience excited, who previously thought they were going to have to sit through the beautiful yet less-than-exciting “Ava Maria.” Instead, they pull out freshly dorky dance moves and gave us an enjoyable throwback to the 2008 hit.

The DJs brought some classy sass to the stage, with Taylor Adams rapping and singing “White Lillies/White Lies.” The all-female group Sirens had a sultry yet powerful rendition of “Cotton Eye Joe” with tantalizing harmonies and melodies. Finally, the G Men ended the concert in a way only the G Men could, storming the auditorium in soccer jerseys before closing with “Other Side of Paradise,” soloist Kyle Kim filling the stadium by hitting some impressive notes.

The groups all brought power and energy to the stage with only the miraculous sounds of their voices. While they all only performed one song, it was clear each group had their own dynamic and style and they’ll have a great year of music and passion ahead of them.

PREVIEW: Cabaret

Cabaret is the 1966 musical that focuses on the Kit Kat Klub in 1931 Berlin. Young American writer Cliff Bradshaw and English cabaret performer Sally Bowles navigate a relationship during this tumultuous time. Meanwhile, German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor, come to grips with their doomed romance.

Even though it takes place during the rise of the Nazi Party, this musical is timeless, so come out in 2018 and watch MUSKET put on a performance that remains powerful today. Tickets are on sale at MUTO (in the Michigan League Underground) or can be purchased online. Shows are November 16 and 17 at 8pm and November 18 at 2pm at the Power Center.

PREVIEW: Weaving

“Stay true to yourself” seems to be the advice of the century as society becomes more accepting of different identities and supportive of individual aspirations. However, what happens when that advice starts to affect your closest relationship? Weaving, a new play by Hodges Adams, follows the friendship of Vero and Bastian, as well as their inner lives, as they each come to terms with their identities and the turmoil that comes with it. This LGBT coming-of-age story about books, love, feminism, and friendship is being performed by the RC Players on November 9 and 10 at 8pm in East Quad’s Keene Theater with a suggested ticket price of $5.