REVIEW: Layla and Majnun

I bought my tickets last-minute to be at the performance of Layla and Majnun, which meant I’d be all the way at the top of the balcony at the Power Center. Granted, the view wasn’t the greatest — especially when the dancers were active on house left. However, I was still able to fully receive the emotions conveyed through music and movements on stage even when I was practically the farthest from stage. Colors, poems, and artists skillfully created a space where a tragic love story can be told. It may be an understatement to say I was impressed.

The first time I saw the Silk Road Ensemble perform was four years ago. I was curious about how the so-called Western and non-Western instruments can come together and form a cohesive ensemble. They proved me at that performance that it’s totally doable, and music can, indeed, transcend borders. The ensemble reinforced that again at this performance, where a group of string players — violin, viola, cello, bass, Persian kamanche, and Chinese pipa — supported the two Azerbaijani singers and the entire dance crew as a true ensemble. I was also moved by Mr. Evan Ziporyn for his skill on clarinet to be able to be mellow and flexible enough to adapt to the Azerbaijani musical tradition on an instrument made for Euro-American settings. I also appreciated the production team for making the music just loud enough, but not overpowering. With the music so sensitive, all it needed was a slight amplification to reach an audience afar (like me!) — which I thought was executed very well.

Photo by Susana Miller. Father-and-daughter Alim Qasimov (left) and Fargana Qasimova (right) are incredible singers!

I had never heard of Mark Morris Dance Group, but the fact that Mr. Yo-Yo Ma has referred to the group as “the preeminent modern dance organization of our time” made me look forward to seeing them. Their movements on stage were very convincing, even to my non-dancer eyes. I was most impressed in the last act, titled “The Lovers’ Demise”, where the dancers fall down one-by-one to the ground after what seems to be a despairing moment but none of them fall exactly the same way. Their control over their own bodies and connections with other dancers and musicians are incredible and memorable.

Going to this performance was a great way to wrap up my busy week and start off my fall break. I was also happy to see many other students in the audience experiencing the same beauty, in an art form that I’m sure most of us were not very familiar with. Ann Arbor offers so many different performances that are new to me, and they never seem to disappoint.

REVIEW: The Drowsy Chaperone

If you have yet to see a show done by University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, & Dance, I highly recommend you start by seeing this show.  The seats weren’t completely full but by the laughter that filled the room, one would think it was oversold.

Cast of The Drowsy Chaperone-Press Release Photo

The show begins in the dark with a monologue from the star of the show, Man in Chair (Alexander Sherwin).  He describes what it’s like waiting for a show to start and he captures it spot on.  The Man in Chair puts in his favorite record, The Drowsy Chaperone, and the show comes to life onstage.

Janet Van de Graaff (Hannah Lynne Miller) and Robert Martin (Kyle McClellan)-Press Release Photo

The big opening number, Fancy Dress, drew the crowd in immediately.  All of the characters are introduced and you fall in love with them right away.  Mrs. Tottendale (Isabel Stein) is the sweet, confused hostess who can’t seem to remember that everyone is there for a wedding.  Her spit-take with her employee, Underling (Aidan Ziegler-Hansen), is priceless.  Robert Martin (Kyle McClellan), the dashing groom has a high-energy, fun tap number called “Cold Feets” with his frazzled best man George (Christopher Campbell), which was personally one of my favorite numbers!  Broadway producer Feldzeig (Riley McFarland) will do anything to stop the wedding from happening so he won’t lose his leading lady Janet Van de Graaff.  Kitty (Jo Ellen Pellman) is a ditzy wanna-be-star constantly trying to convince Feldzeig that she’s fit for the role of the leading lady.  Gangster #1 (Joseph Sammour) and Gangster #2 (Simon Longnight) stole the show every time they were onstage!  Both disguised as pastry chefs for the wedding, the gangsters were hilarious as they made pastry puns and starred in the exciting number of “Toledo Surprise”.  Adolpho (Charlie Patterson) was another audience favorite.  As a Latin “lover of ladies”, he was put on a mission by Feldzeig to seduce the bride, but amidst the chaos, ends up seducing the wrong lady.  Bride Janet Van de Graff (Hannah Lynne Miller) can’t seem to give up the spotlight, as we see her “Show Off” in her large number, doing cartwheels, high kicks, and smiling for any camera around.  Miller played a stunning leading lady.  The Drowsy Chaperone (Nkeki Obi-Melekwe) killed it in her song titled “As We Stumble Along”.  The chaperone is supposed to be making sure that Janet Van de Graaff doesn’t see Robert Martin on their wedding day, but always seems to be stumbling around with a drink in her hand.  She hits every comedic line perfectly and wows the audience in any and every song she sings.  Definitely another audience favorite.  Trix (Cydney Clark), the aviatrix, also has a stunning voice as she sings “I Do, I Do in the Sky”.  The Superintendent (Griffin Binnicker) makes an appearance at the end of the show.  He may have few lines, but he definitely makes the most of them!  And finally, you can’t forget about the ensemble (Spencer Crow, Audrey Kennedy, Carina Kay Louchiey, Christopher Washington)!  Their dancing was phenomenal and they seemed to have such a fun time onstage!  Whether they were news reporters, maids, or a plane, they helped make the show complete.

The Drowsy Chaperone (Nkeki Obi-Melekwe)-Press Release Photo
The Drowsy Chaperone (Nkeki Obi-Melekwe)-Press Release Photo

There were many people in the show within the show, but the Man in Chair was the true star.  He deserves a huge pat on the back for this role.  It must not have been easy to memorize the pages of lines, and to make sure he is continuously connecting with the audience.  A job well done on Sherwin’s part.

Man in Chair (Alexander Sherwin)-Press Release Photo
Man in Chair (Alexander Sherwin)-Press Release Photo

The music, choreography, and acting was simply spectacular.  As the Man in Chair says “Musicals take you into another world; they help you escape the dreary horrors of the real world.”  And that is exactly what this show did.  Whether you are an actor, a theatregoer, or someone who has never seen a show, I promise that you will form some sort of connection with this musical.  I highly recommend seeing this once, if not more.

Tickets are on sale online at, or you can get them at the door.  $12 for students with a valid ID and $22-$28 for others.  The show runs October 13-16 and October 20-23.  Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2pm.

PREVIEW: Mark Morris Dance Group

What? A performance of Layla and Majnun by the Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by UMS

Where? Power Center for the Performing Arts

When? Thursday October 13 at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday October 14 and 15 at 8:00 pm

How much? Starting from $30

Why? The Mark Morris Dance Group is one of the most well-known dance companies in the world, and this September is their world premier of Layla and Majnun, a tragic and beautiful Persian love story. It is a performance not to be missed.


by Kim Sinclair

PREVIEW: The Drowsy Chaperone

The Drowsy Chaperone is literally a musical within a comedy, as the poster states.  It is a hilarious story about the chaotic events occurring before a wedding.  I had the pleasure of performing in this musical a year ago and it was honestly one of my favorites.  The show is so light and fun, and is bound to make you fall out of your seat laughing at one point or another.


U of M’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is putting on this wonderful production and I am beyond excited to see it tonight!  The music is so much fun and the story is extremely loveable.  Later, I will be posting a more in-depth summary of the show with my review.

Shows run October 13-16 and October 20-23.  Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm.

PREVIEW: Layla and Majnun

Layla and Majnun is an “opera” based on a Persian poem about lovers who will never be allowed to unite. Alim Qasinov and Fargana Qasimova, singers from Azerbaijan, will be showcasing their majestic voices accompanied by the Silk Road Ensemble and Mark Morris Dance Group as they tell this emotional story.

Just looking at the photos and sneak-peek videos make me happy. There are so many colors, emotions, movements, and art.

Photo by Susana Miller
Photo by Susana Miller

Layla and Majnun, to me, seems like the epitome of performing arts: a skillful combination of poetry, dances, fashion design, visual art, and of course, music — both improvised and composed. And that’s what excites me about it. Collaboration among different art forms is something that I’m striving to achieve in my final year of undergraduate degrees, and I can’t think of a better example than Layla and Majnun.

The show will be on Thursday October 13 at 7:30pm, and Friday & Saturday October 14 & 15 at 8pm. Tickets are running out, so get yours ASAP from the Michigan League Ticket Office or

PREVIEW: C. Dale Young Reading & Booksigning

This week’s guest of the Zell Visiting Writers Series is C. Dale Young. Mr. Young is not only the author of numerous books and the recipient of numerous literary prizes and fellowships, but also a fully licensed physician.

I invite you to his web site to view a sample of his poetry, or here to read a sample of his prose.

Much of his work revolves around love and nature, and each poem of his that I have read is simple, yet pleasant and enriching.

Thursday, October 13th

5:30 PM in Helmut Stern Auditorium (basement of UMMA)