REVIEW: ComCo The Big Show

When my friends and I grabbed seats near the front of the Lydia Mendhelson theater we had arrived over 40 minutes early to ensure prime seats, and yet the first several rows were already packed with people.  Despite being held in a bigger venue than the past several shows I had been to, the seats started filling up quickly, and even with ten minutes left before the start of the show all I could hear was a dull roar as both the main floor and balcony were filled with noisy students excited for their pre-finals fix of improv comedy.

The show opened with a short video clip that prepped the audience for the show they were about to be treated to.  With a dramatic narration done ala morgan freeman, describing the club as if they were not merely a (very good) improv group, but instead a group of heroes destined for greatness, it sent ripples of chuckles through the audience.

Once the Comco members took to the stage the audience was cheering like mad, ready for the show to begin. They opened with a long-form game called “monologue.” Two cast members would  come up and give short monologues based off of a prompt given by the audience, and then the rest of the cast members would riff off those stories for a god 10-15 minutes, jumping in and out as needed.  Some of the situations and stories were so absurd I couldn’t help but laugh, but the cast members did a wonderful job keeping each scene flowing and relating them back to the previous scenes for added laughter.

One of my favorite games of the night was when two cast members had to act as the arms for another two, either working in unison or sabotaging them, and reacting to whatever scene was taking place. The scene was two passengers in a turbulent air plane ride, one freaking out while the other tried to calm them down, to no avail.  Watching the cast members helplessly going along with whatever their “hands” decided to do was nothing short of hilarious.

I’d like to also emphasize how well the cast members bounced off each other as well as read the audience.  If a joke was ever falling flat they did a good job of picking it right back up or cutting the joke short.  Conversely, whenever a joke was doing particularly well they were able to really play it up, reacting in time to the audience and giving them whatever caused the largest cheers.  That being said my friends and I were constantly cheering  and laughing throughout the night, ensuring that my cheeks were red and sore by the time we were leaving the theater.

One of the most touching moments of the night was when the Comco players said their farewells to the graduating seniors, giving them large posters with every show they had done in Comco on the front, and touching personal notes on the back. Both the comco members on stage, and several audience members were holding back tears.

Finally, after that touching moment it was time to close the show just as they close every show, with the game “I like my men like I like my ______,” allowing audience members to fill in the blank to humorous responses. I especially like that they invite Comco alumni onto stage to complete that game with them.  My friends and I couldn’t stop talking about our favorite moments from the show the entire walk back, and despite this being their very first Comco show, they are raring to go back next year.  Check out Comco at their facebook page, here!

REVIEW: Dance Mix 2017 The Galaxy Edition

What a night. I started walking over to the Power Center with my friend five minutes before the concert started to find a building packed with students. Before the first group took the stage, the organizers announced that this was the second sold-out concert in a row.

 

Some sold-out concerts don’t feel sold out. You can spot empty seats and the audience is tame. Not so for this young, rambunctious crowd that hooted and hollered names of friends in the dance groups all throughout the event. Between the energy of the audience and the students moving around on stage, the 2.5 hour event felt like taking a shot of espresso.

When things get hot and heavy on stage

First off, I have to apologize at not being able to keep track of the names of the groups. Every group that took the stage was incredibly talented in their own unique way. Alas, I did not have a program with me during the concert so I could not tell exactly which group was on stage at a particular time.

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t imagine it’s easy to fit a wide variety of student acts into one concert, but Dance Mix 17 pulled it off through smooth transitions between more traditional ballet (top left picture) and decidedly modern hip-hop (top right picture), as well as dancers that both to the melodies of ballads and rock songs alike.

One of the highlights of the group was Revolution and their stringless yo-yo performance. Countless students walked across the stage slinging their plastic yo-yo’s like divine beings levitating rocks. Those plastic yo-yo’s flew across the stage and around the slingers and every trick drew fresh cheers from the crowd. Even the tricks that failed still felt like successes, and I was definitely not the only one entranced by the performance.

 

Later, Photonix performed in the dark with glow sticks, producing images like the one you see in the header photo of this blog. Towards the end of the performance, they unleashed hundreds of mini glow sticks into the audience.
The audience being composed almost entirely of students, everyone went wild.

Another highlight of the night was a Bollywood rendition of Top Gun (by Michigan Manzil I think). The story was a cliche telling of a young fighter pilot who loses his friend in a fight, but this isn’t a Hollywood film and the performance was one of the standouts of the second half of the night.

The Bollywood-esque peformance went through half a dozen wardrobe changes without a hitch, in addition to props and set pieces, and above all it was entertaining as heck.

Rounding out the rest of the night were performances by EnCore (picture below), Outrage, and FunKtion again.

I’m incredibly glad I was able to attend this event, and if you’re reading this blog and didn’t go this year, you NEED to attend next year.

REVIEW- Insurrection: Holding History

Reading the synopsis of this play online had done little to prepare me and my friend for the powerful, and emotional journey into the US’s dark history of slavery that awaited us in the intimate space of the Arthur Miller theater. This interpretation of Robert O’Hara’s 1995 play was brilliantly adapted by the Department of Theater and Drama into a nearly three-hour long production filled with twists and turns.  O’Hara’s play is a time-traveling look into Nat Turner’s 1831 slave insurrection, from the point of view of Ron, a modern-day college student completing his thesis on slavery, and his 189 year-old grandfather, T.J., who was a part of the rebellion himself.

Before the play even began, I noted how intimate the Arthur Miller theater was, and that proved to only add to the emotional impact of the play itself.  The set was minimal and yet entirely sufficient to capture the feeling and multiple locations of the play.

One of my major takeaways was that every single actor had their intensity dialed up to the very top for the majority of the play’s runtime.  There were moments that left me breathless, as the actors went through emotions of extreme fear, anger, sadness in quick succession.  In the second act this was particularly noticeable, as the few moments that were quieter in nature were even more impactful, soft whispers standing in drastic contrast with the high energy shouts and cries of other scenes. Most of the actors also played multiple characters, and I was shocked at how easily they seemed to switch from one to the other.

Additionally, the actors were clearly working hard physically, with a large portion of the play being heavily choreographed or strenuous to do. I noticed that many of the actors would be sweating by the end of a short monologue, which only added to the emotional intensity.  While I know little about stage direction, it was an extremely lively play with never a dull moment, as the actors tripped, danced, and ran around not only the stage, but the entire theater.
I wasn’t expecting there to be the amount or level of comedy in this play as there ended up being.  Almost every other minute the actors sent the audience into a load roar of laughter.  Considering the dark themes of the play, the comedy felt uncomfortable at times, but I assume that was part of the point.  

I highly recommend attending future shows put on by the Department of Theater and Drama.  I couldn’t have imagined a more entertaining or engaging weekend.

REVIEW: The Little Mermaid

Tonight I had the opportunity to see The Little Mermaid performed by students in U of M’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and it was wonderful!!!  It brought me right back to my childhood and dreams of being a Disney princess.  There honestly was not one character in the show that I didn’t like.  The audience immediately fell in love with the quirky, adventurous mermaid Ariel (Halli Toland) and the charming Prince Eric (Trevor Carr).  And Sarah Lynn Marion rocked those crazy Ursula solos, with thunderous applause after each one!  Other noteworthy characters included Ariel’s best friend Flounder (Matthew Kemp), the “smart” seagull Scuttlle (Barrett Riggins), Ariel’s father King Triton (Jordan Samuels), Prince Eric’s guardian Grimsby (Elliot Styles), and the crustacean Sebastian (Liam Allen).

“Under the Sea” (Photo Credit: Peter Smith Photography)

 

The applauses were endless after numbers like Halli Toland’s beautiful solo of “Part of Your World”, the biggest number with dancing fish and even a giant stingray – “Under the Sea”, and Sarah Lynn Marion’s evil “Poor Unfortunate Souls”.  If I could see this show over and over again, I would!

The Little Mermaid can still be seen Saturday and Sunday April 15-16 at 2pm.  Tickets are on sale now: Reserved seating $26-$32 and Students $12 with ID.

Ticket information can be found at: http://tickets.music.umich.edu/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=3001

PREVIEW: The Little Mermaid

This weekend, take a journey “Under the Sea” with the University of Michigan’s School of Music Theatre & Dance at the Power Center!  The Little Mermaid will awaken the child in all who see this Disney classic.  Those who didn’t grow up with this princess will still surely fall in love with the story, the characters like Flounder and Sebastian, and songs such as “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World”.

The Little Mermaid is the tale of a young mermaid named Ariel who wants to adventure into the human world, but her father King Triton won’t allow her since it is too dangerous.  Ariel saves Prince Eric after he falls off of his ship, and falls desperately in love with him.  So in love that she trades her voice for legs with the evil sea witch Ursula.  Ariel finally gets the chance to experience human life!  She gets help from her beloved friends, Flounder the fish and Sebastian the crab, along the way.  The only catch is that she must kiss the prince within 72 hours or else she will lose her voice, and her freedom to Ursula forever.

The Little Mermaid can be seen Thursday April 13 at 7:30pm, Friday April 14 at 8pm, and Saturday and Sunday April 15-16 at 2pm.  Tickets are on sale now: Reserved seating $26-$32 and Students $12 with ID.

Ticket information can be found at: http://tickets.music.umich.edu/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=3001

Review – True Blue: A Tribute to Michigan!

If you have ever felt the pride of being a Michigan Wolverine, being at this event magnified that feeling by 100%.  True Blue!  A Tribute to Michigan brought together those who share the love and passion of two colors: maize and blue.  Some of the biggest celebrities were on the stage of Hill Auditorium, telling their stories of their time at the University of Michigan, and everything that they have accomplished after graduating with a U of M diploma.

Tribute to Ann Arbor squirrels (Photo Credit: Matt Weigand)

There were so many amazing performances that I will do an overview.  Many videos were played throughout the night including ones of the history of U of M, the Diag, the Ann Arbor squirrels (my personal favorite), U of M couples, Bo Schembechler’s “The Team” speech, U of M professors, and the alumni.

“The Victors” performed by the Department of Musical Theatre Majors (Photo Credit: Scott C. Soderberg)

The Jazz Ensemble played a nice medley of “Michigan Through the Ages”.  The Department of Musical Theatre Majors did a stunning rendition of “The Victors” that definitely made me tear up a little as I felt the pride of being a Michigan wolverine.  The Department of Theatre & Drama Acting Majors performed multiple pieces such as “Catholepistemiad Rap” about the history of U of M, “Clarence Darrow and the Ossian Sweet Trial” alongside Emeritus Professor of Voice George Shirley, and “Tribute to Activism”.  The Michigan Men’s Glee Club sang a chilling “Glory” from the movie Selma and “I Remember, My Michigan”.  The Contemporary Directions Ensemble played multiple pieces such as “The Little Victors”, “Concerto for Two Violins”, “Back to Michigan”, and the cellists played a “Tribute to Raoul Wallenberg”.

The Friars and Theatre & Drama Acting Majors in the tribute to the Engineering Arch (Photo Credit: Matt Weigand)

The Friars made an appearance to sing “In the Still of the Night” as a hilarious tribute to the Engineering Arch, in which Theatre & Drama Acting majors acted out couples walking through the “arch”.  The Department of Dance Troupe performed “The Little Victors”.  The RFD Boys, alumni of U of M, played a “Michigan Medley”.  Multiple professors spoke such as Ralph Williams, Kathleen Sienko, and also the chair of the Department of Neurosurgery Dr. Karin Muraszko.  “The University” was sung by the University Chamber Choir.  Shortly after, the Michigan Marching Band flooded the stage performing all of the classics: “Victors Valiant”, “The Yellow and Blue”, and “Michigan Fanfare and The Victors”.

Emcee Darren Criss (Photo Credit: Robert Buechler)

The emcees included actors Darren Criss and Jacqueline Tobini, neurosurgeon and medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and NBC sportscaster Andrea Joyce, all of which are U of M alumni.  Other famous alumni speakers included: Civil Rights activist Cecilia Munoz, mayor of Ann Arbor Christopher Taylor, sports legends Desmond Howard and Jim Harbaugh, Broadway producer

Alumni and football legend Desmond Howard with other U-M sports legends onstage (Photo Credit: Scott C. Soderberg)

Jeffrey Seller, space explorers Afred Worder, Kiko Dontchev, Steve Walton, Mike Hess, and Hashmita Koka, Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of Americans Committed to World Responsibility Judy Guskin, and of course U of M’s President Dr. Mark Schlissel.

This event was absolutely extraordinary and I couldn’t be more proud to be a wolverine!  Go Blue!!!

Football coach and alumni Jim Harbaugh (Photo Credit: Matt Weigand)

Upcoming Bicentennial events include:

June 26 & October 26: President’s Bicentennial Colloquia

June 26-27: UMich200 Summer Festival

August 26: U-M’s 200th Birthday

September 15: Detroit Festival

October 26-28: UMich200 Fall Festival

For more information: bicentennial.umich.edu