PREVIEW: Here Be Sirens

Were you the weird kid in middle school who was obsessed with Greek mythology? Can’t believe that anyone hasn’t seen the Percy Jackson movies? Love listening to people scream-singing while wearing large wigs and formal clothing?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’ll just love Here Be Sirens, an opera telling the tale of the lives of a trio of sirens. Oftentimes, these creatures are made out to be one-dimensional monsters, evilness being their only characteristic. Composer, performer, and playwright Kate Soper approaches her main characters with a more open mind, giving them internal desires and dreams that conflict with the caricature that outsiders typically see.

Come on down to the Kerrytown Concert House this Thursday, November 29 at 8 PM to experience Soper’s masterpiece. Tickets are absolutely FREE with your passport to the arts ticket, or $10-35 if you are PTTA-less.


College is a time for doing stupid things, they say. And having done more than my fair share of them myself, I can attest to the highs and lows of adulting. But at least I learned a little about myself in the process.

That’s the feeling Pacek and Paul — Michigan students themselves when they wrote the show — knew all too well. And it’s the feeling Edges hits right on the head.

Edges is more a song cycle than a full musical with a plot and fleshed-out characters, a show that feels more like an intimate confessional than a Broadway spectacle. Penny Seats’ staging did justice to that. Kerrytown Concert House is literally a converted house, adding to the idea that these characters were more than just written constructs — they could have been any of us.

The first half of the show was set up almost like a group therapy session. The only sets were a pair of stools, and when it was each character’s turn to sing, they would take a stool and tell their story as the other actors watched from the audience. This worked with the material of the show, but at the same time, some of the actors sat on the right side of the stage, where there were no audience members and where the majority of the audience couldn’t see. I don’t want to fault the company for working within the confines of their space, but this setup annoyed me slightly throughout, as the actors would be turned to the side at times singing to the other characters, making them hard to hear.

Edges operates in two halves — essentially, falling in love and falling out of love. After the opening number (a quintessential “I want” song about being afraid to be who you really are), various characters took their turn singing about all of love’s messy parts. The songs themselves were intensely relatable, but adding to that was the fact that the characters are not given names, adding to the idea that they could be any of us.

One highlight was “I Hmm You” — one of the few songs in the first half sung by two characters — which was equal parts awkward and delightful. The actors executed perfectly what it was like to be a 20-something in love.

But Edges had its share of emotional numbers as well, my favorite of which was “Lying There.” The song, about lying next to the person you love, unable to sleep wondering if they feel the same way, was resonant and heartfelt.

The show’s shift happened at “The Facebook Song,” the first ensemble number since the opener. “The Facebook Song” was hilarious (even if slightly outdated — the number one way you can tell this show was written in 2005 is that Facebook was not only the go-to social network for college-aged kids, it was still called “the Facebook”) and the choreography — where each character held up a cardboard Facebook icon and turned it over to reveal certain postings — only added to the song’s comedy. However, I also felt that the song almost didn’t belong in the show. The other numbers, while not necessarily connected, showed a clear arc, but “The Facebook Song” seemed to not fit in with that arc. It seemed almost as if it were in the show as a marker of sorts between the first half and second half. However, “The Facebook Song” brought down the house and for good reason, so I’m loathe to say it didn’t belong.

In the second half, the audience learns that the relationships set up in the first half haven’t been going well, as the various characters come back onstage and sing an array of breakup songs that are at times hilarious and heartfelt. Actor Emily Manuell — who nailed the emotionally-resonant “Lying There” in the first half — was given a complete change of pace in “In Short,” a number about all the ways she wished the person that once kept her awake would just die. She nailed the comedic timing of the piece, another showstopper that left me laughing out loud.

The show wrapped up with another ensemble number where the characters come together saying they’re ready to be loved again. They’ll likely go through all the same feelings again, but at least they’ll be better for it. And that’s where the show packs its real punch.

At times, Edges was almost painfully relatable, eliciting uncomfortable laughter and the kind of awkwardness that’s funny because it’s real.

That’s how you know they nailed it.


Thirteen years ago, two 19-year-old Michigan students had a problem. They were being shunned from their school musicals.

Well, that’s not exactly true. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul were still cast, but were given background roles. That’s not out of the ordinary for underclassmen. But, well, theatre kids and college students can be cocky — I should know, I’ve been both — and Pasek and Paul weren’t satisfied. So they decided to write their own show, Edges, about their experience. After all, when you write the show yourself, you can have whatever role you want.

Ask most people today, and they’ve never heard of Edges. And it’s mostly theatre buffs who know the names Pasek and Paul. But their other works are a different story.

La La Land. Dear Evan Hansen. The Greatest Showman.

The accolades are piling up for the pair. They’ve won Golden Globes, Oscars, Grammys and Tonys — a meteoric rise for two guys who graduated only a decade ago.

And while Pasek and Paul are more known for their recent work, Edges — a coming-of-age song cycle written about our generation — is still a cult classic among a certain subset of college students. Edges is no slouch, either, as it won the pair a Jonathan Larson Award (named after the late Rent composer) at the age of 19 — the youngest to ever win.

This week, we, too, can return to Pasek and Paul’s roots and be transported into a world not so different from our own.

I wonder what Pasek and Paul, the 19-year-old theatre “rejects,” would think if you told them that in 2018, their story would almost seem like one right out of a musical — the cocky youth, the show-within-a-show, their rise to the top.

And I don’t know about you, but I want to see where it all began.

Edges, presented by the Penny Seats Theatre Company, runs at the Kerrytown Concert House February 8-9 and 14-16 at 8 PM and February 11 at 4 PM. Tickets are $15 general admission online or at the door, or free with a Passport to the Arts.

REVIEW: Michael Malis Trio at the Kerrytown Concert House


The Michael Malis Trio performed on Friday evening at the Kerrytown Concert House.

The atmosphere was intimate and the audience was engaged and respectful throughout the entire performance. The talented musicians all seemed to know how to manipulate their instruments. Additionally, the musicians employed silence well and sometimes the silent moments were the most effective as well as most memorable moments.

Bassist Ben Rolston employed some experimental techniques such as plucking and artificial harmonics. Furthermore, drummer Stephen Boegehold performed well and seemed to master the technique of brush-playing. The talents of pianist Michael Malis, however, brightly shone throughout the performance. Moreover, the pianist sometimes performed alone rather than accompanied by Rolston and Boegehold. These moments seemed more intimate because the performance shifted from dialogue to monologue.

Additionally, Malis addressed the audience and provided them with some background information. For example, he said that poetry and literature inspire his compositions. This source of inspiration makes sense because jazz and poetry share several similarities. For example, both jazz and poetry have rules but also make room for improvisation.

Malis will perform again this month at The Raven’s Club. Click here to peruse his website!

PREVIEW: Michael Malis Trio at the Kerrytown Concert House

The Michael Malis Trio will perform tomorrow evening at the Kerrytown Concert House!

The group will debut their newly-released album, Lifted from the No of Nothing. Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press recently labelled Malis’ music “sumptuous” and “impressive.” He continued to characterize the music as “loose and spontaneous, alert to dynamics and textural variety while balancing formal detail and discipline with freedom.”

The group consists of twenty-somethings Michael Malis, Ben Rolston, and Stephen Boegehold, all Southeastern Michiganders. Malis studied at the University of Michigan with internationally-known pianist and composer Geri Allen, Rolston attended Community High School, and Boegehold studied at Wayne State University.

Student tickets: $5

Click here for more information!

Click here to read Stryker’s article in the Detroit Free Press.

REVIEW: Earth Without Ice

Earth Without Ice

On Thursday October 25, the Kerrytown Concert House hosted an ‘Out of the Box’ musical performance, arranged and enacted by professors from several departments: Henry Pollack of Geophysics, and Steve Rush and Michael Gould of the School of Music. As part of the Abacus and Rose: SciArt Live series, which pairs scientists with artists, the trio of scholars created a stylish, modern piece called ‘Earth Without Ice.’

The performance consisted of a series of noises that soundtracked a slideshow of images projecting from screens on stage that faced the audience. The ‘immersive sonic landscape’ was composed of ‘found sounds’ taken from the Huron River. The photos came from Dr. Pollack’s visual journal as part of his most recent transit of the Northwest Passage from Alaska through the Canadian archipelago to Greenland. They featured vast oceans, floating chunks of ice, inuit peoples catching and gutting fish, elders laughing together, youngsters playing, seals and polar bears splashing, open earthen landscapes, and lots and lots of factories. The contrast between the natural images and the industrial environment was striking. The music was appropriately mixed to match the effect of the scenery. The recorded, manipulated, and live noises created an unusual interplay of sound which caused a strong affect on the curious audience.

The inspiration for the content came from Dr. Pollack’s recent book ‘A World Without Ice.’ The style, however, seemed to be inspired by a  hybrid of John Cage’s Water Walk and Andy Goldsworthy’s nature photography. I liked the performance a lot.  It conveyed a strong message about expressing the danger of climate change through artwork. It was a very unusual performance, but equally entertaining and certainly out of the box.