REVIEW: Peter and the Starcatcher

Photo taken from

Have you ever wondered what life was like for Peter Pan before he actually was Peter Pan?  How the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell, and Neverland came to be?  How Captain Hook lost his hand?  Your questions are bound to be answered in the tale of Peter and the Starcatcher; directed by Gillian Eaton, assistant directed by Martin McGuire, and musically directed by Brian E. Buckner, James Fischer, and Riley Palmer.

Jeffrey James Fox as Black Stache (photo taken from

This lighthearted show swept the audience off their feet and into the adventure-filled life of Molly (Kourtney Bell), a young girl who is on a secret mission with her father (David Newman) to destroy what is called “starstuff”.  On Molly’s ship, The Never Land, she comes across three orphans, one of which is unnamed (Brooks Inciardi), and immediately befriends them.  Pirates, island natives, a crocodile, and mayhem are all prevelant throughout the journey.  The story of Peter Pan magically unfolds before your eyes in this easy-to-love show.

Kourtney Bell as Molly and Brooks Inciardi as Boy (photo taken from

Shows run in the Power Center on December 8 @ 7:30pm, December 9 & 10 @ 8:00pm, and December 11 @ 2:00pm.  Reserved seating is $22 and $28, and students $12 with an ID.

Tickets can be purchased online at


Trolls Preview

Finals Season is upon us! If you need a break from craziness and want to live in a technicolor dream ( or rather CGI dream) then go see this colorful pic! It has the honest, cynical character named appropriately Brash and the cheerful happy-go-lucky character named Poppy! And it is about Poppy facing a problem once and these two working together to come and fix things!
If a visual color fest and clashing of personalities is not enough for you to go and see this, then another reason is nostalgia! Does anyone remember the 90s figurines with the funny colorful hair! I sincerely do. Which is why I am going to see it. Especially because my Daddy used to buy me those and he died a few months ago. It took me a while to write again for the Artscene blog. But as my first attempt- I thought that this would be a good movie that could help me write again.

PREVIEW: The King’s Singers Christmas Songbook

On Saturday, December 10, UMS will present the internationally-acclaimed vocal sextet, The Kings Singers. The Seattle Times hailed the British a cappella ensemble as a group that “can do almost anything a full-sized chorus can do, with a degree of perfection that drops the jaw and delights the ear.”

Founded in 1968, the Grammy-award winning group will be presenting a program of wintertime favorites, just in time for the holidays. Pieces that will be on the program include Christmas classics like White Christmas, Silent Night, and Sleigh Ride, as well more traditional works by composers Lassus, Tchaikovsky, and Holst.

The concert will be on Saturday, December 10th at 8pm in Hill Auditorium. Tickets are available at or at the League Ticket Office. Come soak up the sounds of the season!

REVIEW: Contemporary Directions Ensemble

Last night, the Contemporary Directions Ensemble presented a concert of works by established living composers, their second of the semester. The five works on the program varied greatly in instrumentation, but they were tied together by the overarching theme of the power of words. The members of the ensemble are hand-picked from the School of Music and range from upperclassmen to grad students. Their high level of playing was obvious, and gave me the freedom as a listener to develop opinions of the pieces themselves that they presented.

Opening the evening was Missy Mazzoli’s “Set that on Fire” for piano, violin, clarinet and bass clarinet, flute and piccolo, and trumpet. While the composer’s program note promised a piece that builds a “seemingly sturdy musical structure that quickly explodes, disintegrates, and blazes into something unexpected,” I felt that at most the piece achieved a crackling, dancing campfire, rather than the powerful explosion that I was expecting. The fluid, interlocking parts created an interesting chord progression and strangely solid texture, but this quickly plateaued. Overall the piece lacked a certain “tightness,” and seemed to continue for the sake of continuing.

I thought that Rzewski’s “Coming Together” was a much stronger addition to the first half of the program. I had actually heard the piece performed  two years ago, and it was an enjoyable experience for me to hear it again, as my taste in music has gotten dramatically more open-minded since my first listen. The large ensemble work has a peculiar instrumentation, most easily categorized as a sinfonietta with the additions of synthesizer, an extra percussionist, and narrator. Overhead projections on the back wall of the stage before and after the piece told the story surrounding this deeply political work, which is a setting of a letter by Sam Melville, who was one of 43 inmates who died as a result of the 1971 Attica prison riots. The rhythmic tightness lacking in the Mazzoli was drastically made up for in this piece, which was driven by incessantly repeating rhythmic patterns that kept building the intensity as the narrator read and reread Melville’s cryptic letter. The ensuing silence that resulted at the conclusion of the piece from  the overhead projection’s continuation of the story was an apt way of providing the victims of the riot with the respectful silence that the New York government seems to have failed to pay them and their families.

The second half opened with Lembit Beecher’s beautifully colorful and evocative “The Art of Remembering,” with flowing textures that interacted profoundly with the percussionist’s tubular bells near the end of the piece. Caroline Shaw’s “Taxidermy” for percussion quartet followed immediately after, with no applause in between the pieces. The quirkiness of the  piece was embodied in the unusual instrumentation, which consisted of marimba, vibraphone, and 8 pitched porcelain flower pots (the performers jokingly told me later about how annoying they must have been as they struck all of the pots in Home Depot in order to make their instrument selections). Still, the simple harmonies and delicate timbres gave the piece a sparklingly beautiful quality.

David Lang’s “Increase” for large ensemble provided a similar “going out with a bang” effect as the Rzewski. Driving ostinato patterns that never seemed to exactly land on the beat carried on throughout the entire piece, propelling it forward as it gradually, as promised, increased in volume and complexity.

After the concert, I asked for the opinions of some of my fellow music majors who attended despite their unfamiliarity with contemporary music.  Their reception of the concert was quite positive.  Seeing their excitement over music that they’ve only begun to expose themselves to made me equally excited for the future of new music. It is remarkable to go to a University that gives students the opportunity to hear today’s music at such a high level. I’ll be eagerly awaiting CDE’s next stellar performances in the upcoming semester.

REVIEW: Japanese Prints of Kabuki Theater at the UMMA

When I first ducked into the UMMA, thankful to leave the cold gusting wind outside, I had to search around the lobby to find my tour group for the exhibit, Japanese Prints from Kabuki Theater.  Tucked behind a corner, the tour group only consisted of a handful of mature patrons.  As the only one there under the age of 50, I was immediately singled out by the tour guide, “You do know this is the tour group, right?” and then a few moments later, “Is this your first time here?”  After laughing and responding that yes, I was here for the tour and have spent ample time exploring the museum’s many nooks and crannies we started on our tour.  The group was small enough to take the service elevator up to the second floor, where the elevator deposited us right in front of exhibit entrance.


The exhibition is laid out beautifully and clearly, with extensive descriptions beside most pieces.  Even without the extra information provided by the tour guide, the descriptions alone greatly enriched the exhibit.  That being said, the tour guide was wonderful.  She took us through the exhibit in a logical fashion, keeping the pace moving at a manageable clip.  She pointed out individual pieces and provided anecdotes about those pieces to further elevate the experience.


For those as in the dark as I was, Kabuki theater is traditional Japanese theater style that reached massive popularity during the Edo period in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Usually found in the pleasure district, Kabuki is a spectacle in every sense combining elaborate costumes, intense makeup, advanced stage effects and exciting action.  Even today Kabuki has maintained some of its popularity, and visitors to Japan can go and experience it for themselves. What I found most fascinating about Kabuki is that certain actors would develop fan bases and avid supporters would bring them gifts and swoon at the chance to meet them. Seeing this popularity, artists decided to capitalize on the craze and create prints of Kabuki theater that fans would then collect, and soon there was a massive demand. Some artists were so prolific that they would be making a handful of prints in a single day. Most of the art in the exhibit were these such prints. The subject matters varied from specific scenes from popular plays, the interworking’s of the dressing room for fans’ voyeuristic pleasure, a combination of popular actors at the time, or specific characters.


At the very first wall of prints we reached, the tour guide also reminded us of another interesting detail, that all Kabuki actors were adult males. Therefore, even the prints of female characters we would be seeing would be, in fact, played by men. A

img_3477t this point she pulled out a binder that showed step by step how a print was made. It was truly fascinating to watch the piece build up layer by layer, color by color, and get a glimpse into the production process. I was in awe of the intricate details they included in the finished piece. This gave me a greater appreciation of the prints that were to come.


As we slowly moved along the far wall of the exhibition space img_3474a few pieces stood out to me. There was one piece featuring a character wearing a gorgeously detailed robe, and in the design of the robe itself another story was taking place.  The tour guide pointed out a print of an actor who had committed suicide, and after his death prints of him had become wildly popular because of the tragic nature of his passing.  There was another print of an actor who was so popular that he continued to act even though his legs had been cut off, because of the intense fan demand, but he had to be carried onto stage by a group of men. Thus all prints of him would only be from the waist up.


img_3487We eventually came to a beautiful robe embroidered with a detailed phoenix motif hanging in a glass case.  This was an example of the intricate costumes that could often be seen on the Kabuki stage. On the opposite wall was a TV playing video recordings of Kabuki theater, allowing visitors who had never experienced Kabuki for themselves to get a glimpse at the spectacle.


By the time the tour had ended, I truly felt like I had gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of Japanese prints, and Kimg_3485abuki theater in general.  The tour guide had clearly been knowledgeable on the subject, and my fellow tour-goers had been delightful company.  I hope to attend more gallery talks in the future, and plan on revisiting this particular exhibit at least once before it closes on January 29th.  There is an additional gallery talk coming up on January 8th from 2-3 PM.  Admission to the museum is free, and its doors are open until 5 pm on most weekdays, so there is no reason to not stop by!


You can check out more about the exhibition here:

And can learn more about the UMMA’s various gallery tours here:

If you are interested in learning more about Kabuki theater and watching some clips of the spectacle itself, the brief video below is a great place to start. According to my tour guide, the effects they managed to create even so long ago are “able to put Hollywood to shame.”



PREVIEW: Peter and the Starcatcher


Want to take a break from the stress of cramming (I mean studying!) for exams?  What better way to relax and unwind than by seeing U of M’s Department of Theatre & Drama’s performance of Peter and the Starcatcher this weekend?  This show, a prequel to the famous story of Peter Pan, will take you on an adventure and help you forget your troubles!  Also, be sure to listen for pre-show music, written by the incredibly talented co-music director and keyboard player James Fischer, playing in the Burton Tower carillon.

Shows run in the Power Center on December 8 @ 7:30pm, December 9 & 10 @ 8:00pm, and December 11 @ 2:00pm.  Reserved seating is $22 and $28, and students $12 with an ID.

Tickets can be purchased online at