REVIEW: Lisa Hilton

The cold, rainy Saturday that we experienced just as spring was beginning to grow left many of us disappointed with the mood that the weather brought that day. Even so, I was lucky enough to attend a performance by Lisa Hilton at the Kerrytown Concert House that day, an event that warmed my spirits as it sheltered us from the cold outdoors. As expected, a large proportion of the people who attended this event were older and only a few of us were younger adults. However, I came to realize how much this disparity didn’t matter because of how Lisa Hilton was able to connect to us with music that was universal.

As the show began, the back half of the concert house was almost completely full. The lights in the main room dimmed and the lights projecting onto the stage became more bright in contrast. Lisa Hilton walked onto the stage as we applauded her entrance and she stood by her piano to give an introduction. While she normally brought along a few bandmates to play the drums and the bass during her performances, she stood up there alone with only her Steinway piano that day. From this, I immediately felt excited about how intimate and stripped down this performance would be because I felt that we would be able to see into her personality the most with a solo performance

During her conversations with the audience, Lisa Hilton spoke very politely and gave her commentaries in an organized manner. In other words, she was able to articulate the exact motives behind each of her pieces very well and I believe this helped us recognize the importance of the messages of each piece. In the minutes during which she would play, you could tell that she was passionate about her performance and her compositions. She would sway on the piano bench, look up at the ceiling and back down at her hands, and look to smile at the audience while playing her pieces. As I noticed this, I thought about just how many hours she had dedicated to this moment: to be able to play a full-length piece that she wrote and to perform this piece without making mistakes undoubtedly took numerous hours of the majority of the days in a year to master. With this, I develop a large appreciation for musicians like her who dedicate so much of their time to perfect their craft.

In terms of the style of her compositions, I was very pleased to hear something unique yet simple. During one of her commentaries, she explained to the audience that she wanted to be able to inject emotion into her pieces; she could do so much to master an exceptionally difficult classical piece but even that may not be able to truly convey her feelings, and so she took to writing from the heart in every circumstance. As she demonstrated her mastery of the technical aspects of the piano, she made evident throughout her performance her mastery of musicianship, creating a modern style with abstract melodies and filling these melodies with jazz-like rhythms.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber and soul of Lisa Hilton’s performance. She was able to convey her emotions through her pieces by using a unique style with universal moods. After attending this performance, I left the venue glad that I was able to de-stress with an event showcasing the impressive and beautiful work on the piano.

PREVIEW: Lisa Hilton

Hailing from the coast of central California, critically acclaimed jazz pianist and composer, Lisa Hilton, is a performer whose work has transcended among the sounds of various genres and time periods in history. Her work consists of both modern and classical flavors and her ability ranges from orchestral melodies to the vibrant sounds of jazz. Having completed an art degree in college, she describes her work as compositions painted by harmonies and sculpted by textural and rhythmic elements. Hilton has worked with many notable composers and musicians, including George Gershwin and Horace Silver, who all have influenced the emotion and the energy apparent in her pieces.

This Saturday, she will be taking the stage at the Kerrytown Concert House performing songs from her newest album, OASIS, and more. I am beyond excited to attend this performance because I will be able to experience someone perform music of their own that could resemble compositions performed by other high-caliber musicians and orchestras.

As a note, this event is available to all students for no cost through the Passport to the Arts offered by the Arts at Michigan program from the University of Michigan. Without further ado, I hope to see you there!

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!