The Department of Musical Theatre’s production of Hair was two and a half hours of some of the highest-caliber performance I have ever seen. The revolutionary “tribal love-rock musical” Hair is a powerhouse of a musical, anti-war and counterculture sentiment in its bones, filled with unapologetic depictions of drug use, sexuality, and even nudity. 

As an audience member, I was enthralled from the first moment all the way until the end. Every moment of the performance was perfectly crafted, the movement on the stage always dynamic and exciting. Each vocal performance was special in its own right, and I found myself with chills from the power of the cast’s collective voices multiple times, especially in the compelling final reprise, “Let the Sunshine In.” It’s hard to pick a favorite moment, but one fun visual that stood out to me was the song “Air,” performed flawlessly by Maggie Kuntz as Jeanie, while members of the Hair Tribe surrounded her with a cloud of bubbles from bubble guns. The majority of the second act, which centers on the visions of Claude’s hallucinogenic trip, was a stunning showcase of choreography, costuming, and striking lighting design. 

A flyer for the in-show Be-In, handed out during the performance

Hair, in my opinion, is an important musical. The director’s note at the beginning of the program asks audience members to consider, in response to questions about the “shocking” nature of the show, why the language and brief nudity on stage draws more attention and challenge than the thought of sending young people to war. Hair asks us to reconsider what we are told is “normal.” The Department of Musical Theatre worked in collaboration with a cultural sensitivity specialist, an intimacy director, and other experts to create this show, building an understanding of the musical and the topics it tackles, connecting it to today’s context and conversations.

My only wish is that I could have seen this more than once. This was an incredible last musical to see at the University of Michigan as a student supporting my peers. I could not be filled with more love for live theatre and the incredible talent and energy in the student productions here at this university.


Read more about SMTD’s production process for Hair in this Michigan Muse article.

REVIEW: M-agination Film Festival

After two years away due to the pandemic, the M-agination Annual Film Festival made a reappearance at the Michigan Theater this week. The film festival showcased 13 short films, all of them written, produced, and acted by students.

I was largely impressed by the range and quality of these productions. There were a good amount of comedy sketches, some of which fell flat and felt like a group of friends just messing around on camera. Some of them, however, had me laughing out loud in my seat. I particularly enjoyed “Buster,” a gruesome short film about a sentient pet rock, and “Dunked,” a well-executed comedy in which nothing really made sense. There were also a handful of more serious, dramatic pieces, including the spooky, suspenseful short “Familiar,” which I was surprised to find out was partially filmed in my campus residence. I was particularly struck by a piece called “Leisure Activities,” which told a story with no words at all about someone going into the woods to paint. The cinematography and coloring in this one in particular that made this one stand out to me as a masterpiece. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this film festival. The “short” nature of short films meant that we got to see 13 different stories, and there was something for everyone. M-agination created a fun night out–I hope they are able to host their festival next year as well! 

REVIEW: Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?

Last night at 11pm, the doors to the Newman Studio opened, letting an excited crowd in to an intimate studio stage decorated in the style of an outdoors campsite: a tent, logs around a fire pit, and the centerpiece, a tree with a mysterious hole in its trunk.

Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm? is a 90-minute one-act horror play, set in the Michigan upper peninsula woods near Lake Superior in the year 2042. Three queer college-age students make a visit to the campsite that Harper, an AFAB nonbinary person, and their childhood friend Olive used to visit each summer. Olive’s recent girlfriend Gray tags along, putting a strain on the childhood best friends’ relationship as they settle into the campsite. The ongoing climate crisis and its consequences are worried about as they come to the site, which is growing increasingly more run-down and abandoned as the world tumbles into desolation. The play takes place over the course of a single night. Written by Emerson Mae Smith and directed by Mirit Skeen, the play was gripping and intense from beginning to end. The talented three-person cast, consisting of Alex Christian, Claire Vogel, and Edie Crowley, stunningly carried forward the plot of the play, revealing mysteries, secrets, and horrors at various twists and turns. 

I was amazed by this play and how it ensnared the attention. In such an intimate setting, it was nearly impossible to remove oneself from the interactions that were going on in the middle of the studio. I find myself, the next day, still grappling with elements of the story and striking moments that stuck with me. The director’s note called the show “an opportunity to explore transness and horror,” and the author’s note emphasizes the importance of queer and trans representation in media: “When trans people are allowed to be full human beings in fiction, with all the complications that brings, we will be allowed to be full human beings within the world.”

I cannot congratulate the writer, cast, and crew enough for this fantastic performance. I will be thinking and talking about this one for a long time.

REVIEW: Once On This Island

The highlight of my weekend, by far, was seeing Musket’s Once on This Island performed at the Power Center this Saturday night. I can easily say that this was one of the most fantastic performances I’ve ever seen on a stage—there was so much incredible talent on the stage and in the seams of this show, and the cast brought so much energy and love to this story.

Once on This Island is a story set in the modern day French Antilles. An orphan girl, spared by the gods from a storm that swept her village, is taken in by an older couple and lovingly nicknamed Ti Moune. One day, a car crashes with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island, Daniel, inside. Ti Moune saves his life and falls in love with him, but when she pursues him back to the city, she is shunned by him and his people. The gods make a deal betting which is stronger, love or death, and Ti Moune, full with love and forgiveness for Daniel, loses her life. The gods transform her into a beautiful and strong tree, a tree so large it breaks open the city’s gates and provides shade to all people of the island. 

Simone Clotile, a University of Michigan junior, led the cast as a stunning Ti Moune. Clotile’s vocals are unmatched: clear, strong, and full of heart. My lungs were knocked clean of air during Ti Moune’s introductory song, “Waiting for Life.” Other standout performances included Tonton Julian, played by Nile Andah, and the gods: Abigail Aziz as Erzulie with a stunning solo “The Human Heart,” Mama Euralie played by Sarah Oguntumilade, and a sly and (wonderfully) terrifying portrayal of Pape Ge, the death god, by Jackson Kanawha Perry. Everything from costumes to choreography shined. The band, which was on the stage, blended into the set and story seamlessly, contributing to the masterful collaboration of music, dance, and acting on stage.

Musket does a fantastic job with their productions, and this was no exception. Congrats to the cast and crew for an amazing performance!

REVIEW: Antigone

I had the pleasure of seeing the Department of Theatre & Drama’s Antigone this Thursday. While written by Sophocles in 441 BCE, Antigone has themes that can relate to today, delving into death, grief, and control. 

Antigone is the story of Antigone’s rebellion against Creon, the new king of Thebes, who forbids Polyneices (Antigone’s brother, who died in battle) to be buried. Antigone commits civil disobedience by honoring her brother’s body before the gods, but she is punished by Creon who sees her act as a disobedience against him, the country, and… masculinity.

The cast brought life, passion, and sometimes humor to the roles. The chorus was beautifully-costumed, a task headed by SMTD production students. The choreography was imaginative and modern, well juxtaposed with the classical setting of the play. There were striking and dynamic individual performances by named characters at every turn, but a constant throughout the play was the impressive effort of the chorus, moving in coordination, many times speaking in unison. 

A story of action motivated by grief is somewhat fitting for our current times, as we continue to navigate the pandemic and what it has left in its wake. Antigone defies cruel laws and the threat of death to bury her brother, which she sees as right in the eyes of the gods. Her act sends out a ripple effect, long after her tragic punishment.

Antigone is playing at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre February 17-20. Get tickets here.

REVIEW: dodie

I’ve been a follower of dodie since her YouTube days—singer-songwriter Dodie Clark is a gentle ball of light who has never failed to delight with her original songs, often demoed on her YouTube page with simple acoustic guitar/ukelele and dodie’s soft voice. dodie played at the Royal Oak Music Theatre last night as part of her Build a Problem tour. It was a fantastically orchestrated concert, from beginning to end.

Before dodie, we got to see Lizzy McAlpine, a 22-year-old singer-songwriter from Philadelphia, as the opening act. McAlpine commanded the stage with just her guitar and indescribably smooth voice, playing snippets of newly released music, old top hits, a fun cover of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag,” and a soon to be released song called “Ceiling” that the audience listened to with reverent ears.

After McAlpine’s lovely acoustic set, we were ready for dodie, awaiting her appearance with great anticipation. The hints of strings tuning and lights changing signaled the show was about the begin, and soon enough a shimmery bright blue curtain was falling away to reveal dodie and her lovely band, complete with musician friend Orla Gartland backing up on guitar, keys, and sometimes percussion.

The concert was both soft and energetic, with moments ranging from the heartbreaking, pining song “When” to the incredibly fun dance jam “In the Middle” (complete with cute choreography from the band). dodie jumped from ukulele to piano to guitar to clarinet to percussion, interacting with her band and delivering short asides to the audience. It was a treat to watch such a talented, angelic human doing their thing on stage. It was incredible to see her in person.


dodie’s concert was a kind and open space. Crowd members were kind to each other, complimenting on outfits and hairstyles, singing along but respectfully listening as well. If you aren’t familiar with dodie, I recommend checking her out, and seeking out the experience of a concert one day.