PREVIEW: Home

Come see the interesting and ambitious idea to build a house on stage. The advertisement that this play will feature the making of a real house on stage was enough to make me get the ticket. However, there’s a deeper intention behind why this is being done: the play is supposed to be a question about what makes our home.
A home is an interesting place: it’s people’s most intimate place to rest, yet it doesn’t have to be a fixated area – remember the strange feeling you felt when you haven’t been to a place long but felt so relaxed and comfortable when you’re there. It’s also a reflection of taste-imagine the diversity of dorm rooms. Also, it can be threatened as well, because of social, political reasons, gentrification, or various reasons. Musing about the idea of home shows that it’s an interesting concept with lots of debates to be done on it- come see it done on the stage this Friday and Saturday(April 22th, 23th), at the Power center.

More information about the tickets can be found here.

REVIEW: Somebody’s Children

Somebody’s Children, a tale of children who lives just next door to the land of the fairy tale, Disney land, but whose life isn’t so fairy-tale-like, asks the audience whether it’s really ok that some people are actually living in sucn unstable homes and clearly provides the answer-it’s not Ok. The play is written by José Casas, assistant professor at the University of Michigan, and the actors were consisted of students in SMTD. The setting takes place in a run-down motel just outside Disneyland, and while their personal stories are told in beautifully and powerfully written vignettes, the sorrows in characeters’ lives expands into a problem of social structure by the contrast of their unsafe living place and children who laughs happily in Disneyland, which is so close to where they are living. The stage design made this interesting setting even more clear – there was a huge and gorgeous sign that spells out ‘Disneyland’ on the right side of the stage. Glowing white, the sign had an aura that made sure that the audience was not missing it, but the actual shape of Disneyland was not shown; as if symbolizing that the real Disneyland did not existed to children living in the motel. With this direct contrast, the deprived feeling and anger that the characters are feeling is strongly delivered while raising the point that they could have also been the careless children who have a great time in Disneyland, and highlighting the brutallity of reality in which the children were pushed into. They were somebody’s ‘Children’. Their sorrow is valid and raw, but they are children, who should be kept away from those things. Who are to protect them? the play asks.

I want to highlight the actor’s amazing performances – as mentioned before, the play mainly consited of vignettes, so the lines were symbolic and poetic, rather than straight to the point. The actors expressed out the emotion that the children is reciting the vignette so well; the sad but happy, nostelgic look of a girl who danced with her imaginary quinceañera dress, how two boys exchanged roles to between a police man that stopped them on a night’s walk to get some ice and the boys who got pinned down even though they did nothing wrong swiftly was just awestrucking. Production was amazing as well – using sitting actors as poles to put up police line was not only visually intersting but also symbolized that the children in the motel were deeply embedded in all the tragedy happening in the place.

In all, Somebody’s Children was a beautiful and socially-conscious play that used experimental lines-vignettes-to deliver the theme and did it, not over-dramatically but emotionally affluently. Highly recommend to anyone looking for performances that speaks about the modern world.

PREVIEW: Somebody’s Children

Somebody’s children will be on stage on April 9th and 10th at the Arthur Miller Theater. Written by U of M’s Assistant Professor José Casas, this play was already celebrated as an award winner of the 2009 Waldo M. and Grace C. Bonderman Playwriting Workshop and being featured in a rehearsed reading at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. The story will take place near Disneyland, in a run-down motel, shedding the light on people who live without permanent housing. The play will take the form of a series of spoken-word poetry vignettes.

I’ve heard much admiration from friends who have already seen the performance. Many appraisals were given to the stage design and the props, including the Disneyland sign, and there was also an appreciation for how different languages were realistically mixed in the lines. I’m really excited to check out this play, both for its focus on the social issue of homelessness and the many appreciative reviews about the beauty of this play. Don’t miss your chance to see this performance live on stage!

REVIEW: Legal Courtship

NERDS (Not Even Really Drama Students) return to the stage with a full-length original musical written by Adrian Beyer and Emma Laible. A fun, quirky story about a court case, a very big building, and finding love amidst (or even through!) conflict, Legal Courtship centered around a lawsuit over scientist Jeff Spaceballs’ laboratory building in the city of Courtlandia.

With a pun-loving judge, a distracted jury, and a defense and prosecution that can’t stop bickering, the pressure builds… but what explodes in the end isn’t Jeff Spaceballs’ building (through which he intends to commit insurance fraud), it’s love. Prosecutor Zephyr and defense attorney Jove, who have long-seated conflict from back in the law school days, end up finding their gay love for each other in the middle of a heated trial, coming together to figure out just what to do with Spaceballs’ building. Jeff Spaceballs also rediscovers love, discovering that insurance fraud and his capitalistic tendencies just aren’t worth it, when his building and his wealth could be used to serve the community and he could fully dedicate his time to his ex-wife, who he still loves.

Congrats to NERDS for their return to the stage and for their continued dedication to produce and perform student work! It’s always inspiring to see such support for student creativity and the enthusiasm the performers and crew bring.

REVIEW: Funny Girl

I remember walking past the sign “Funny Girl Auditions ↘” in the Michigan league and wondering what “Funny girl” was. This was in September. I find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that Ummusket was able to audition for people in September and showcase something as good as Funny Girl in November.

The actors were phenomenal. From the very beginning, watching the protagonist Fanny walk down the theatre aisle, I could guess this will be a show to remember. The actors had skillful control over their voice and there were hardly any-if any at all-moments when the signing or the dialogue delivery was not good. The actors had good chemistry: not just the main lead and her love interest but the mother, the brother, the aunt, and many more.

The dances were well done. There were scenes where Fanny took a trust fall while singing, actors sang while jumping, pretending to fall etc. and their singing was still impeccable. The costumes mimicked the period of the play very well. The props, the lighting-all these were planned strategically and their use was top notch.

The orchestra, like always, was just wonderful and really helped the musical.

One thing about the musical was that the story does jump around a little. The beginning is about Fanny not being pretty/skinny enough to be a broadway star but she gets the main roles quite easily and then the story turns into a romantic drama and we don’t really touch on the subject we started off with. The jokes, dances, and songs of the play keep the story interesting.

All and all, hats off to everyone who worked in the production of Funny Girl. All throughout the play, the audience members were loving it and cheered everyone on. In the end, people gave the cast a standing ovation so you know this was a crowd favorite!

Do. Not. Miss any productions from Ummusket.

REVIEW: Funny Girl

Musket’s production of Funny Girl, originally a Broadway musical with Barbara Streisand, has an electric energy that can’t be forgotten. Running for just three nights at the Power Center on Central Campus, it can easily be missed; but, for all musical-lovers and Michigan students within walking distance of the theatre, keep your eye out for future productions at this location and other productions by Musket. The effortless humor and colorful characters of Funny Girl filled the venue with a liveliness that stuck with me even after I left.

I am typically not a musical-goer, as I prefer the believable effects and immersive atmosphere of typical movie theaters, but something about Funny Girl set it apart and drew me directly into the bustling and competitive setting of New York City. Surrounding the life of the awkward, stubborn, yet uniquely charismatic actress Fanny Brice, the musical explores her strenuous rise to fame. We witness her navigate the cutthroat competition of theatre in the Big Apple; we see her embrace her triumphs and mourn her defeats; and, most notably, we watch as she learns how to navigate the complexities of love and family in her gold-gilded life as a star. My favorite aspect of the story— besides experiencing the exciting growth of such an interesting character— is the focus on theater. Watching a musical about musicals adds a sense of realism; the actors are performing a story, but it is a story that is relevant to their own experiences. Many songs are performed in a fictional musical, so watching those scenes in an actual musical theater setting feels completely immersive.

The stellar cast raises the performance to another level. Carly Meyer, who plays Franny, captures the awkward humor and headstrong demeanor of the character perfectly. From classic clumsiness to goofy dance moves, the loud and unapologetic ambition of Franny echoes throughout the venue, as well as her strong and expressive voice. Each cast member brings incredible vocal talent to the stage as well as a specific energy and personality; ranging from the mysterious and wealthy Nicky Arnstein, played by Sohil Apte, to the brashly humorous Mrs. Meeker, played by Gavin Brock, the variety adds to the excitement of the show.  The score is iconic and unforgettable, featuring fast-paced classics and romantic ballads. The live pit orchestra added dimensionality and depth to the lively music. Through the live music and incredible vocal talents, the sound of Funny Girl is magical at the very least.

The relatable and in-touch nature of the subjects of Funny Girl— the awkwardness, the difficulty of love, and the blinding allure of success— creates a production that is far from fantasy. Funny Girl enticed me with its characters, drew me in with its realism, and captured my heart with its nostalgic score. Next time Funny Girl comes around, or any other Musket production, be sure to grab your $7 student ticket and catch it while you can.