PREVIEW: Don Giovanni

What: Mozart’s legendary opera, considered one of the greatest of all time, produced by the SMTD’s Department of Voice and featuring the University Symphony Orchestra


  • March 24, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 25, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 26, 2023 2:00PM

Where: Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

Don Giovanni tells the story of “an incorrigible young playboy who blazes a path to his own destruction in a single day” (Opera Atelier). It is based on the story of Don Juan, a fictional Spanish libertine and seducer. The opera is regarded as one of the greatest of all time for its ambiguity between comedy and tragedy, and, of course, its music. This production of Don Giovanni is directed by Mo Zhou, who arrived as an assistant professor of music at the University last fall, and whose directing debut with the Boston Baroque was recently awarded a 2023 Opera Grant for Women Stage Directors and Conductors. The last opera I saw here was Cendrillon in 2021, and that performance gave me goosebumps, so I can’t wait to see how the Department of Voice interprets this famous story.

REVIEW: A Chorus Line

8:00pm • Friday, March 17, 2023 • Power Center

MUSKET’s A Chorus Line blew me away! I can’t imagine a more perfect first time seeing the show. In particular I need to shout out Mariangeli Collado (Diana) and Catie Leonard (Cassie) for their incredible solos, “Nothing” and “The Music and the Mirror.” Collado’s voice is spectacular, and I hope I’ll get the chance to see her in a couple more performances while she’s studying here. As for Leonard, I couldn’t imagine how exhausting the intense combination of dance and song in “The Music and the Mirror” must be, but she appeared to leap and twirl effortlessly across the stage, gracefully transitioning between movement and music. I’d also like to shout out Nicholas Alexander Wilkinson II (Richie) for his ridiculously impressive dancing abilities, practically flying off the stage throughout the performance.

I’m not always great at reviewing dance performances because I’ve never been a dancer. I explain it to friends as trying to analyze an essay in a language I don’t understand. However, even to my untrained eyes, I could appreciate the precise synchronization of this cast. The actors seemed to move as one unit (like a chorus line, I suppose), a cohesive entity even in the scenes where each character was wrapped up in their own story. In the beginning scenes, I thought about how messing up a dance in exactly the right way must almost take more skill than executing it perfectly, because you need to know what you’re “supposed” to be doing as well as how to screw it up properly.

I saw MUSKET’s Fall 2022 production of Little Shop of Horrors, which was a lot of fun, but I appreciated how A Chorus Line played to a different set of strengths. This production was sleeker, perhaps because its set and costuming were more minimal. Whereas LSoH played up MUSKET’s set design and drew on the group’s wacky side, A Chorus Line was subtle, highlighting the student organization’s ability to execute a highly technical production. The quality of the performance was indistinguishable from any UMS or SMTD event I’ve seen yet, and surpassed quite a few. Walking home from the show, I was just struck again by the luck of being a nobody sociology student at the number-one school for musical theater in the country.

If you have the chance to see the final performance of A Chorus Line tomorrow (Sunday, March 3) at 2:00pm, I urge you to do so! It’s only $7 for students, and when else are you going to have the opportunity to see a show like this for $7? I mean, really. MUSKET deserves all of our standing ovations for this one, and I can’t wait to see what they create next year.

PREVIEW: A Chorus Line

What: a classic musical that doesn’t need much introduction, produced by MUSKET


  • March 17, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 18, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 19, 2023 2:00PM

Where: Power Center

Tickets: $7 for students, $13 regular

A Chorus Line is a bucket list musical, and since I have seen MUSKET’s excellent work first-hand, I have high expectations for this performance. For those who are unfamiliar, A Chorus Line was originally produced in 1975, and features seventeen Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line, while exploring the personal histories and motivations of each dancer. The musical has won 9 Tony awards and a Pulitzer Prize, and remains the 7th longest-running Broadway show ever. If you have a free evening this weekend, I highly encourage you to take advantage of this affordable, accessible opportunity to see one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all time, performed by one of our strongest student production organizations.

For me, A Chorus Line at the University of Michigan also marks the beginning of the student production season! I realize that there have probably been plays going on all semester I didn’t know about, but I look forward to the final shows of organizations like MUSKET, Rude Mechanicals, and In the Round at the end of the semester. I encourage folks to take a look at other musicals and plays coming up in the final few weeks of school. It’s such an easy way to enjoy art and relax amidst the stress!

REVIEW: Bonnets: How Ladies of Good Breeding are Induced to Murder

8:00pm • Friday, February 17, 2023 • Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

I had a fun evening attending Bonnets last Friday, although I was more impressed by the acting and production than the writing itself. My cast shout-outs go to God, played by Sophia Lane, Prudence, played by Kaylin Gines, and Valerie, played by Olivia Sinnott: partially because they were just my favorite characters, but also because the three actors filled their roles with particular verve. One thing I appreciated about the script was that each actor had their time to shine. Each character developed a type that, once placed in a scene with another, created surprising and entertaining dynamics, especially once the timelines became crossed.

The set, designed by Lance Vance (depicted in the image above), lent itself to the plot, with the overlapping frames above the three settings visualizing the colliding timelines. While unchanging, it remained dynamic by virtue of the way the actors interacted with it in many dimensions. The costumes, designed by Mallory Edgell, were similarly ingenious. Each character wore a period gown rendered in pale neutral fabric, save for a panel or two which were patterned in esoteric characters reflecting the playful sci-fi elements of the plot. I liked how the uniformity of the costumes, all of which used roughly the same fabric, unified the women’s narratives while the cut distinguished each character by period and class. The costume change in the end was also clever, evoking the punk movement of the 1990s and recentering the story in the present, where women continue to be “corseted” in contemporary ways.

This brings me to an element brought up in the panel discussion after the play which I found interesting. A question was posed to the panelists about how the play breaks barriers of representation, and two of the panelists answered frankly that they didn’t believe it did. I’m inclined to agree; the feminism of the play didn’t feel particularly radical. Perhaps the embrace of violence as a means of resistance was meant to be the element of surprise in the play, but it leaned a little too deeply into comedy for me to take it seriously. Overall, I wasn’t enamored with the particular brand of camp written into the script. I felt like, considering its themes, the play could have afforded to take itself a little more seriously, and ultimately the campiness came across more as a product of a rushed storyline.

Of course, none of this is to criticize the impressive cast and production staff who brought this performance together. Regardless of whatever issues I had with the script, I enjoyed the play immensely, congratulate the student actors who will be graduating shortly, and look forward to seeing the others again in future performances.

PREVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest

**Photo from the Ann Arbor District Library blog

What: Oscar Wilde’s classic “trivial comedy for serious people,” performed by students in the Department of Musical Theatre


  • February 17, 2023 8:00PM
  • February 18, 2023 8:00PM
  • February 19, 2023 2:00PM

Where: Arthur Miller Theater (map)

Tickets: $13 for students, $23.50 regular

I love The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy of manners by Oscar Wilde. One of my favorite memories from high school involved myself and my classmates, many of whom were friends from drama club, reading the play in turns during English. I struggled to describe the story in a nutshell myself, so I’ll quote a fan-blog from 2015 which describes it as “the story of two bachelors, John ‘Jack’ Worthing and Algernon ‘Algy’ Moncrieff, who create alter egos named Ernest to escape their tiresome lives. They attempt to win the hearts of two women who, conveniently, claim to only love men called Ernest” (source). I am super excited to see the work interpreted by the Department of Musical Theatre (although the play is decidedly not a musical, so I’m curious what the reasoning was there), and how they have shaped it to fit the in-the-round style of the Arthur Miller Theater. On a more serious note, laughter can be a strong form of self-care, and after this long and sad week, I highly recommend this show to anyone who feels it might help them recover.

PREVIEW: Bonnets: How Ladies of Good Breeding are Induced to Murder

What: a campy, absurdist play performed by SMTD depicting how easily three women become murderers


  • February 17, 2023 8:00PM
  • February 18, 2023 8:00PM
  • February 19, 2023 2:00PM

Where: Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre (map)

Tickets: $13 for students, $27.50-$33.50 regular, purchase online

 Bonnets: How Ladies of Good Breeding are Induced to Murder. Most of the websites where I looked for details mentioned camp, absurdism, and themes of love and violence. A few suggested that the play was narrated by God. I’m excited to see where the story goes, and I do love absurdism so I’m hoping to get a couple laughs (although, if anything, this year I’ve conditioned myself never to expect simple comedy performances). The play was originally commissioned by the Big Ten Theatre Consortium, an organization which aims to promote writing and producing stories centering women in professional and academic theaters in the U.S. It was written by Jen Silverman, the most-performed playwright in the country, and a panel discussion after the performance will explore how her work embodies the idea of creative destruction, featuring UM faculty Dr. Ashley Richards, Dr. Kristie Dotson, and Professor Amy Chavasse.