REVIEW: The Mystery of Irma Vep

Porscha Kazmierczak’s senior thesis, The Mystery of Irma Vep, was an amazing adventure that was a great break from studying for finals because it provided plenty of laughter and relieved stress. The play runs December 8 through 10 and there are shows at 7pm and 11pm. I went to the 11pm showing on December 9 and the audience were just as good for the show as the actors. It was amazing that two actors played every character in the show and it was highly entertaining. The thing that impressed me the most was how the actors could go from playing a completely different role in a matter of seconds and they always stayed true to whatever character they were playing. Eric Krawczyk and Jackson Pierce were both able to maintain four different characters and switch easily between them as well as deal with quick costume changes. It really displayed the talent of the acting and directing at the University of Michigan because the script as well as how it was portrayed were perfect.

The supplementary actors were great as well. There was an actor who prompted applause, laughter, and gasps with signs and this added to the comedic atmosphere of the play. The sound designer was so good. He sat on the side of the stage and played different sounds depending on what was happening in the scene. He was very into the play and it was obvious that he was having a good time, which made the audience have a good time as well. The actors were not afraid to show a large amount of expression and they even interacted with the audience quite a lot.

The sets of the play were interesting as well because there were different backdrops and they were wonderfully designed. The main sitting of the play was Mandacrest manor and it looked like a genuine mansion.  I have yet to see a play at the Walgreen Drama Center that I did not love. I feel so privileged to see these amazing plays and musicals for free only five minutes away from my dorm. I would recommend that anyone who does not mind commuting to north campus or is already there to see any play put on at the Walgreen Drama Center. Before I came to the University of Michigan I did not have opportunities to see beautifully casted and directed play like this one, so I am extremely content that I have that opportunity now. Take advantage of the talent we have here!

REVIEW: The Little Dog Laughed

Going into “The Little Dog Laughed,” I had no information about it other than my friend was the assistant stage manager. As I looked at the program I was uncertain of how the play would unfold. I could infer that it was about celebrities of some sort and that it was a comedy. I saw the play on November 18 at the Walgreen Drama Center at 11PM. The set was so simplistic and yet it delivered the necessary atmosphere for the play. The show was put on by Basement Arts and involved four characters: an actor, his agent, an escort, and the escort’s “girlfriend.” Each actor portrayed an interesting personality. Madeline Sharton, who played Diane, was not afraid to get wild and she had unlimited movements, which made for a very exaggerated performance (in a good way). The audience at the show contributed a lot to the quality of the mood of the show. They laughed in all the right places and knew when to be silent as well. The play had a powerful message that I think a lot of college students can relate to because it was about staying true to yourself no matter what the circumstances. I really enjoyed this play because the acting was brilliant and the plot was wonderful. It was also cool seeing so many people that I have seen in plays around University of Michigan in the audience for a change. This play made me realize how much I love the University of Michigan theatre department because it is simply amazing that I can see such a high-quality play for free. I would encourage everyone to attend as many plays put on by Basement Arts and other drama groups here at our school because they are full of talent, emotion, and brilliance. To check out more events like this one go to:

REVIEW: Just Like Mardi Gras

Treme is an area in New Orleans where the New Orleans brass band scene came to life and Rebirth brass band is a great representation of the spirit of Treme.

“A Night in Treme,” which was on November 11, 2011 at Hill Auditorium, was an energetic show that literally got the crowd on their feet. Rebirth brass band combines traditional brass band music with funk, hip-hop and jazz to create a sound that is unique and completely their own.

Near the end of the show, the band welcomed the audience to get up on stage to dance with them. It was so incredible that spectators were able to go on stage at Hill Auditorium and jam with a famous band. The Rebirth brass band was featured on the soundtrack of the HBO series “Treme.”

There were also many featured artists during the show including Donald Harrison, Jr. who played saxophone, Christian Scott (a trumpet player),  a trombone player named Glen David Andrews, and a clarinetist, Dr. Michael White. The featured artists were really talented and their solos were mind-blowing. A few of the soloists even sang vocals, too. The band played classics like “When the Saints Go Marching In” as well as some original pieces. The audience was so enthusiastic and many people were dancing and clapping along. The band really encouraged everyone to cut loose and let go of all the troubles they had encountered during the week.  Overall, it was a relaxing and carefree concert and it was a great stress reliever. The Rebirth brass band provided amazing entertainment and their talent was infinite. The show really made me want to visit New Orleans because I really got a feel of the area just from seeing Rebirth perform. Next time you want to let go of your worries, listen to some Rebirth brass band.

REVIEW: To See or Not to See

The Rude Mechanicals’ creative interpretation of the Shakespeare classic, Hamlet, was refreshing. It was done at the beautiful Mendelssohn Theatre, where the actors did not even need microphones. I have never seen a Shakespeare play performed live and I am glad to say that it was a wonderful experience.

The play was set to the 1960s-based show, Mad Men, and it was expressed the importance of sharp suits for men and elegant dresses for women. This also reflected the uptight personalities of some of the characters in Hamlet, such as Claudius (Hamlet’s uncle and stepfather) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Hamlet’s deceiving school friends). I was a bit skeptical of the thought of Hamlet in a totally different era and location, but the interpretation was perfect.

The sounds the play was set to were interesting too because there were certain themes for different characters, like the ghost of Hamlet’s father. The set was brilliant as well because it really captured the essence of a big city and it was versatile for the needs of each scene. The director’s note explains the concept of her idea very well, mentioning that most of the characters in Hamlet are held to certain standards and they try to follow the norms and that is why it was possible to relate the play to Mad Men, a show where the characters seem perfect and successful to society, but are crumbling within. The character Hamlet was portrayed a bit differently than my impression of him from reading the play. In the Mad Men setting, he seemed suave and confident, whereas I always thought of him as timid and a bit awkward in some regards. However, Hamlet’s lines in the play have a very confident air since he often goes against the status quo and is not afraid to wittily insult characters that do not understand his veiled criticisms. In Shakespeare’s play, Ophelia, who could be classified as Hamlet’s love interest, is used as a tool for those concerned with Hamlet to observe his behaviors. Therefore, the Mad Men version of Ophelia was great because women were seen as objects in the setting of the show, but they still play vital roles in the plot of the story. So, although Ophelia was used by Polonius, Claudius, and Gertrude, she was also necessary to unravel the mysteries of Hamlet’s emotions. Her deterioration over the course of the play was wonderfully portrayed by the actress (Jacqueline Toboni). The actor who played Hamlet (Kris Reilly) was not afraid to use his body to capture the confidence and strangeness of Hamlet and so he did a great job doing actions that could make other players seem uncomfortable. Overall, the idea was solid and the play turned out very well. This is a must see if you are a fan of Shakespeare or want to see the interesting concept of Mad Men versus Hamlet.

REVIEW: Band-O-Rama Displays Talent and Versatility

On Friday, October 28, at Hill Auditorium, an amazing performance made many people realize how much talent and tradition exist at the University of Michigan. If you have not yet made your way to Hill Auditorium, I would suggest doing so because it is historic, beautiful and a bit famous.

The beautiful and resonant Hill Auditorium.
The beautiful and resonant Hill Auditorium.

Band-O-Rama featured U of M’s Concert Band, Symphony Band, and Marching Band. The Concert Band began the concert with both fast and slow pieces that got the crowd excited and made us want to hear more. The acoustics of Hill Auditorium added to the quality of the already brilliant sound of the band. The Symphony Band played tribute to America, U of M and Russian culture by playing all different types of medleys. Carol Jantsch, a U of M alum, was featured on the tuba for a pice called “Czardas.” She was proof of the fine teaching and learning that happens at Michigan because she is the principal tubist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. After a brief intermission, the Michigan Marching Band got the crowd on their feet with tunes reflecting the spirit of U of M and also popular hits from artists like, Ah-Ha, the Beatles, Nirvana, Madonna, Daft Punk, Eminem and many more. It was interesting seeing and hearing the Marching Band in an actual auditorium rather than in the huge Big House stadium because the sound was captured much better and the movements that were planned so thoughtfully were much more visible. The drumline was featured during the show as they often are during the Michigan football games and their choreography as well as percussion technique was incredible. If you would like to see a bit of what they do you can go to:

The Marching  Band also paid tribute to the Michigan Symphony Band’s expedition to Russia in the 1960s with classic Russian pieces such as the Great Gate of Kiev by Mussorgsky and Russian Sailors’ Dance. Overall, each of the three bands brought something different to the stage and they all featured immense skill and a great presence. If you would like to see any of the Michigan Bands perform, which I highly recommend, you can go to for a complete listing of events and performances.