Thursday, April 13, 2023 • 7:30 pm • Power Center

SMTD’s Rent was an incredible experience! Everything from the artists to the accompaniment to the set and costuming was spot-on, and I’m so grateful I got to see this iconic show live.

Shoutouts for favorite performers go to Alex Humphreys (Joanne Jefferson) and Sevon Askew (Tom Collins). I loved Humphreys’ tightly-wound portrayal of Joanne, holding back until her full voice finally exploded through in “Take Me or Leave Me.” Askew played a perfect Tom Collins, simultaneous dreamer and voice of reason. The duet with Angel (“I’ll Cover You”) was beautiful while somehow still hinting at the tragedy to come, and the reprise was heartbreaking.

As I mentioned earlier, the set for this show was super cool. The structure evoked a corner of the East Village circa 1990, every element of the stage simultaneously a darkened street, a lot, a tent city, a community of apartments. Not that I can exactly vouch for its accuracy, but it matched my generation’s faux-nostalgia for the grungy late-80s, early 90s. The program detailed a little of the dramaturgs’ approach to the historical integrity of the play, including details like following AZT dosage instructions or matching the brands of makeup popular at the time. As far as the set goes, I liked how the lack of borders between elements of the set seemed to reflect the transience of housing in the show–one moment the cast was in Mark and Roger’s apartment, the next they were on the street.

The last time I watched the 2005 screenplay version of Rent was probably 2018 or so, when I was in ninth grade, and I think a lot of it went over my head, especially the historical elements like the HIV/AIDS crisis. I took a course on social movements this year where we spent a long time analyzing the ACT UP movement, which brought me a whole new level of appreciation for Rent‘s relationship to and portrayal of the epidemic.

I’m glad I got to see SMTD’s last show of the season, and I can’t wait to check out some of their 23/24 lineup when I get back after the summer. Access to so many incredible performances is one of the things I love most about living in Ann Arbor, and if you’re a student reading this, I hope you’ll take this opportunity and make the most of the campus art scene while you’re here.

REVIEW: Everybody

2:00pm • Sunday, April 2, 2023 • Arthur Miller Theater

Everybody was a very strange experience. The play is based on the 15th-century play Everyman, a morality tale which uses allegorical characters such as Death, Everyman, Fellowship, Kinship, and Good Deeds, to explain how one attains Christian salvation. This adaptation, written in 2017 by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, modernizes the story into a more inclusive, interfaith exploration of morality, death, and afterlife. Jacobs-Jenkins points out similarities with Buddhist philosophy in the story’s moral framework, and builds upon those similarities by questioning reality and emphasizing points such as Everybody’s attachments to the material world and the self. He also makes the play more interactive, using a lottery at the beginning that determines which actors will play which characters, and opening the play with several of the actors hidden among the audience.

I appreciated how the affordances of the physical space of the Arthur Miller Theater, the elements of audience participation, and the blending of the cast with the audience added to the surreal tone of the play. I wasn’t entirely sure when the performance had actually started, because the “ushers” spent a long scene in the beginning explaining the theater etiquette and executing the lottery. These elements made the play feel personal and “real,” which made the more surreal scenes even more jarring. For example, immediately after bantering cheerfully with the audience and explaining the reasoning behind the play, the ushers became conduits for the voice of God, speaking simultaneously and doing simple, mildly disturbing partner gymnastics while a distorted, echoing recording played over their voices.

By chance, two different cast members sat next to me over the course of the performance. The first was there when I entered the auditorium, noisily interacting with (who I later realized were) other cast members in the audience. The second actor played the role of a random child, which meant that midway through the performance a person in a puffy Alice-in-Wonderland-looking dress entered quietly, plopped down next to me, and rummaged around in her pocket for a Fruit Roll-Up. She put one end in her mouth and unrolled the whole thing into her lap, slowly sucking the strip into her mouth. It was weird, and I was uncomfortable. I felt this brief sense of relief when I realized she was an actor, but also sort of guilty. What if those actors had just been people being people? A more critical awareness of my own “othering” tendencies was an unexpected result of the performance.

I appreciated the weirdness with which SMTD executed this production of Everybody, and I wish the audience had been a little fuller, although it was a Sunday matinee performance. The cast did a great job, and I look forward to hopefully seeing them in some other productions during the next few semesters.

REVIEW: Don Giovanni

8:00pm • Saturday, March 25, 2023 • Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

I was skeptical of all the articles I read before attending Don Giovanni that said it encapsulated “the full spectrum of human emotion.” I feel that when I attend live performances, I am easily impressed by talent in singing and dancing, but I’m rarely moved. However, this production of Don Giovanni was genuinely movingThe artists onstage deftly wove between moments of comedy and tragedy, creating an emotional journey that was surprisingly engaging.

Some of my favorite examples include Donna Anna’s reaction after the murder of her father and her duet, “Ah, vendicar, se il puoi, giura quel sangue ognor!” with Don Ottavio, which realistically captured her shock and grief and his devotion.  There were also laugh-out-loud moments, such as the opera’s first interaction between Don Giovanni, Leporello, and Donna Elvira and particularly “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” (although I must qualify that I was more entertained by the delivery of that aria than its contents). Throughout the performance, though her character was often used comedically, I was captivated by Donna Elvira’s complicated combination of longing, betrayal, rage and vengefulness, as well as her piety.

Because I love giving shout-outs to my favorite artists, for this production of Don Giovanni, I want to highlight Sitong Liu (Donna Anna) and Joshua Thomas (Il Commendatore), who had, in my opinion, the most beautiful voices of the evening. Liu’s regality and her icy grief were a stark contrast to some of the more comedic elements of the play, and her voice was breathtakingly clear. I regret that the character of the Commendatore has so few arias, because I would have enjoyed hearing quite a bit more of Thomas’s voice. Finally, my favorite all-around performance was probably from the aptly-named Aria Minasian (Donna Elvira) for her ability to embody both the humor and the darker, more painful emotions of the story. She really had the best facial expressions.

There’s so much to talk about with this opera, but I wanted also to note some dramaturgical choices which were made with this production. The program describes how the production crew wanted to be critical and careful of the themes of abuse and violence towards women, a mindset which I feel they executed well. I could see how they emphasized the relationships and support among community members which make accountability possible in the play, as well as realistically and sensitively portraying the impact of the traumas the female characters experience.

In conclusion, this production of Don Giovanni helped me appreciate opera on a new level. Even though the performance was over two and a half hours long, it remained engaging, and as I continue to reflect on the performance I can dive deeper and deeper into my admiration of the story and the art form.

PREVIEW: Don Giovanni

What: Mozart’s legendary opera, considered one of the greatest of all time, produced by the SMTD’s Department of Voice and featuring the University Symphony Orchestra


  • March 24, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 25, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 26, 2023 2:00PM

Where: Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

Don Giovanni tells the story of “an incorrigible young playboy who blazes a path to his own destruction in a single day” (Opera Atelier). It is based on the story of Don Juan, a fictional Spanish libertine and seducer. The opera is regarded as one of the greatest of all time for its ambiguity between comedy and tragedy, and, of course, its music. This production of Don Giovanni is directed by Mo Zhou, who arrived as an assistant professor of music at the University last fall, and whose directing debut with the Boston Baroque was recently awarded a 2023 Opera Grant for Women Stage Directors and Conductors. The last opera I saw here was Cendrillon in 2021, and that performance gave me goosebumps, so I can’t wait to see how the Department of Voice interprets this famous story.

REVIEW: A Chorus Line

8:00pm • Friday, March 17, 2023 • Power Center

MUSKET’s A Chorus Line blew me away! I can’t imagine a more perfect first time seeing the show. In particular I need to shout out Mariangeli Collado (Diana) and Catie Leonard (Cassie) for their incredible solos, “Nothing” and “The Music and the Mirror.” Collado’s voice is spectacular, and I hope I’ll get the chance to see her in a couple more performances while she’s studying here. As for Leonard, I couldn’t imagine how exhausting the intense combination of dance and song in “The Music and the Mirror” must be, but she appeared to leap and twirl effortlessly across the stage, gracefully transitioning between movement and music. I’d also like to shout out Nicholas Alexander Wilkinson II (Richie) for his ridiculously impressive dancing abilities, practically flying off the stage throughout the performance.

I’m not always great at reviewing dance performances because I’ve never been a dancer. I explain it to friends as trying to analyze an essay in a language I don’t understand. However, even to my untrained eyes, I could appreciate the precise synchronization of this cast. The actors seemed to move as one unit (like a chorus line, I suppose), a cohesive entity even in the scenes where each character was wrapped up in their own story. In the beginning scenes, I thought about how messing up a dance in exactly the right way must almost take more skill than executing it perfectly, because you need to know what you’re “supposed” to be doing as well as how to screw it up properly.

I saw MUSKET’s Fall 2022 production of Little Shop of Horrors, which was a lot of fun, but I appreciated how A Chorus Line played to a different set of strengths. This production was sleeker, perhaps because its set and costuming were more minimal. Whereas LSoH played up MUSKET’s set design and drew on the group’s wacky side, A Chorus Line was subtle, highlighting the student organization’s ability to execute a highly technical production. The quality of the performance was indistinguishable from any UMS or SMTD event I’ve seen yet, and surpassed quite a few. Walking home from the show, I was just struck again by the luck of being a nobody sociology student at the number-one school for musical theater in the country.

If you have the chance to see the final performance of A Chorus Line tomorrow (Sunday, March 3) at 2:00pm, I urge you to do so! It’s only $7 for students, and when else are you going to have the opportunity to see a show like this for $7? I mean, really. MUSKET deserves all of our standing ovations for this one, and I can’t wait to see what they create next year.

PREVIEW: A Chorus Line

What: a classic musical that doesn’t need much introduction, produced by MUSKET


  • March 17, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 18, 2023 8:00PM
  • March 19, 2023 2:00PM

Where: Power Center

Tickets: $7 for students, $13 regular

A Chorus Line is a bucket list musical, and since I have seen MUSKET’s excellent work first-hand, I have high expectations for this performance. For those who are unfamiliar, A Chorus Line was originally produced in 1975, and features seventeen Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line, while exploring the personal histories and motivations of each dancer. The musical has won 9 Tony awards and a Pulitzer Prize, and remains the 7th longest-running Broadway show ever. If you have a free evening this weekend, I highly encourage you to take advantage of this affordable, accessible opportunity to see one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all time, performed by one of our strongest student production organizations.

For me, A Chorus Line at the University of Michigan also marks the beginning of the student production season! I realize that there have probably been plays going on all semester I didn’t know about, but I look forward to the final shows of organizations like MUSKET, Rude Mechanicals, and In the Round at the end of the semester. I encourage folks to take a look at other musicals and plays coming up in the final few weeks of school. It’s such an easy way to enjoy art and relax amidst the stress!