REVIEW: RCP Red Eye Winter 2022

Each semester, the RC Players hold their Red Eye Theatre, a spectacular event that is succinctly contained within the confines of a 24-hour period, starting on Friday evening and ending in a showcase performance on Saturday night. What happens in between?

Students audition to write, direct, and/or act in pieces that are concocted and created based on the group of performers present. The group comes together for the first time on Friday evening in East Quad, meeting each other briefly before teams split up to do their own work. While the actors sharpen their improv skills and bond with each other, the writers are banging out comedy skits for their assigned casts. 

Sometime in the early morning, the actors and directors finally receive their scripts, and from then on it’s a race against the clock to put it on the stage: fully blocked, set, costumed, memorized, and energized. This is all unseen to the audience, who roll in at about 8pm to witness the products of this bizarre sleep-deprivation process.


Before the Red Eye acts, there was a delightful performance by the Improfessionals—a UMich comedy improv group who set the stage for the wacky comedy ahead. 

The Red Eye acts did not disappoint. The first act took a “princess switch” approach to a prince who doesn’t want to get married (Kyle) and a lonely peasant who just wants a girlfriend (Mina). In a fantastic fairy tale ending, the prince follows his musical dreams and gives a concert for the kingdom, the queen falls in love with the Mina’s rock-eating mother, and Mina ends up with the princess Kyle was supposed to marry. The second act was a twisted play on Dora the Explorer: Boots is feeling like Dora doesn’t see him as an important part of the team anymore. As Backpack and Map are mysteriously murdered one after the other, it’s discovered that Boots will truly stop at nothing to get Dora’s attention. 

Broad summaries don’t do justice to the amount of comedic detail and timing put into the performances, a testament to the work put into these pieces over the span of just 24 hours. The actors brought full energy and action to the pieces, and it worked: even I, who had gotten a full 8 hours of sleep, found myself cackling at the delirious humor that had been created and performed as the result of a group collective all-nighter.

The next Red Eye won’t be until the Fall 2022 semester, but if you’re interested, keep an eye out for how to get involved. Or, if staying up all night isn’t your style, at least make sure to check it out next time it hits the stage.

REVIEW: Much Ado About Nothing

This weekend, the RC Players put on a fantastic rendition of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The choice to set the tale in a modern-day office environment was a good one, suiting well a story of drama, deception, and debate. Beatrice and Benedick can’t stand each other, but their scheming friends know they’re perfect for each other. While Beatrice’s cousin and Benedick’s fellow soldier friend await their wedding day, they scheme with Don Pedro to get the two fated lovebirds Benedick and Beatrice together. Through classic knowingly-overheard conversations and witty banter, the scheme works! But the besotted bickering couple can’t meet a happy ending without some scandal first, involving public disgrace and a rumored death…

Shakespeare, for the modern general audience, can be a little hard to digest, but director and assistant director Will McClelland and Darby Williams did a fantastic job of making the story engaging and entertaining on many levels. Shakespearean shenanigans were well carried out by the energetic cast who scarcely ever hesitated on a line’s delivery. I was especially impressed by Leonato’s scorning-his-daughter monologues performed by Laila Krugman and Maeson Linnert’s suave Don Pedro.

A truly great performance!

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: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

One of the best parts of living in Ann Arbor is its many performance venues, which draw performers and artists from around the world. I’ve been a fan of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra since high school when I myself played in jazz bands, and it’s been a treat to be a student with such easy access to concerts such as JLCO’s nearly annual appearances. This Sunday, I took my seat in the packed Hill Auditorium and waited with anticipation for this year’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra experience.

Holiday music, at least the popularized songs I always heard on the radio as a kid, are rooted in the big band and swing style, evoking a certain kind of nostalgia when hearing familiar tunes. But that’s exactly what jazz happens to be, a musical oral history passed down from those who came before. Trumpet player and co-director Wynton Marsalis embodied this with his in-between-song banter, telling stories of the legendary jazz musicians and the rich histories of the popular songs we often take for granted.

JLCO was joined by jazz vocalist Alita Moses, who dazzled the audience with her smooth, warm vocals and joyful stage presence. Moses led the band in the spiritual “Mary Had a Baby,” showcasing her beautiful, crystal-clear voice and also giving the band a chance to sing some, too. I thoroughly enjoyed a Coltrane-inspired arrangement of “My Favorite Things,” where a saxophone section completely comprised of soprano saxes each took a whirl at solos, and a killer piano solo had me laughing in my seat. Near the end of the performance, a more emotional moment came when the band debuted a new piece composed by co-director Marcus Printup titled “I’m Still Here This Christmas,” written in memory of those we have lost in the past few years in the pandemic.

With true Michigan spirit, Wynton Marsalis opened the performance with talking about the OSU game, and ended it by quoting “The Victors” in a solo during an arrangement of “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” One of the things I love most about jazz is the beautiful spontaneity of it, creating moments like that which carry and twist lines of music like a private joke.

I left feeling happy, warm, and in the holiday spirit, cheered by the energetic, danceable swing of their Big Band Holidays music.

REVIEW: The Friars 66th Annual Study Break Concert

I’m a huge fan of student performance groups. Going to see my peers create amazing music and theatre is one of the coolest things about being at the University of Michigan. With so much talent on campus and so many types of performance to watch, it’s hard to pick a favorite. However, if you asked me for recommendations for what concert you should attend at this vast university, I would definitely have to point you to The Friars.

The Friars have always been fun to watch. I’ve attended their concerts from my first year, watching the group evolve and change with graduating seniors and incoming members. 9 men, 4 vocal parts, and lots of a capella arrangements. Their annual “Study Break” concerts live up to their name: by combining phenomenal music, silly choreography, humor, and showcasing each Friar’s personality, their concerts are entertaining from start to finish.

The Friars pulled out some challenging arrangements for this concert. One mash-up of “Virtual Insanity” and “Stayin’ Alive,” arranged by Friar junior Brenton Svacha, filled the auditorium with energy. I also enjoyed their throwback music, including a rendition of The Bonneville’s “Zu Zu” from the era when the Friars were founded. My personal favorite was an arrangement of Jesse McCartney’s “Beautiful Soul,” with a fantastic solo from tenor 1 Carter Krumins and an all-Friar improvised dance section during the choruses. 

Another amazing aspect I’m always warmed by is the student support at these performances. At Friars concerts, the Men’s Glee Club members sit in the lower right hand corner of Rackham Auditorium and cheer for their peers. It’s such a wonderful thing to see the encouraging, music-inspired camaraderie both on stage and in the audience.

It was a joy to watch The Friars perform again on stage. I’m looking forward to the next time I hear their incredible a capella in concert!

REVIEW: Ashnikko at the Fillmore Detroit

If you’re on TikTok, chances are you’ve heard one of Ashnikko’s songs at least once. A queen of Internet virality, Ashnikko has a repertoire of music that is brash, unapologetic, and laced with “fantasy and chaos.” Unsurprisingly, I simply had to see her perform her haunted alt-pop rap live on stage, and check that she was real.

So of course, I went to see Ashnikko at the Fillmore in Detroit this Thursday. 19-year-old YouTube songwriter Chloe Moriondo opened, playing a cute and catchy set that set up the main concert perfectly.

Ashnikko’s characteristic long electric blue locks (which are, apparently, all real) were the first thing I was shocked to witness live and in front of my eyes. Next, her down-to-a-science evil laugh—how does one contain so much childish glee and dark undertone into a single giggle?

My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the entrancing Harajuku and Halloween-y graphics as stage backgrounds that were equally quirky in aesthetic as her music.

As for the crowd surrounding me, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people with colorful hair in the same room together. Even I came dressed in my fishnets and funkiest jewelry, knowing it was the perfect chance to do so: the weirdest was welcome, and even expected. Ashnikko’s style and music scream of protest against the norm, in many forms: the heteropatriarchy, fashion, sexual norms, “manners,” and the music industry. I was reminded, standing in the buzzing crowd, that music is oftentimes much more than just music. It has the ability to be a movement, a feeling, or a way to bring vastly different people together through something shared.

When Ashnikko’s most popular songs started playing, there were few people in the audience who weren’t singing or bopping along. Being at a concert collectively screaming to angry breakup beats like “Deal With It” and “L8r Boi” (inspired by Avril Lavingne’s 2002 “Sk8r Boi”) and slinky queer anthems like “Slumber Party” was cathartic, if nothing else. I left feeling energized, confident, and little bit different than before.