REVIEW: Spring Awakening

There are those musicals that are frivolous; the ones that of course you still enjoy, but you leave saying, “Oh, that was cute!” Some leave you cross-eyed, uttering, “What did I just watch?” Then, there is Spring Awakening where you leave physically hurting, the tension of the show washing over you in waves, long after the final chords have faded away. A musical that can make you feel the magic of intimacy, the pain of betrayal, and the beauty of the human existence can be deemed unbelievable, I suppose, but even that is sort of vague and nonspecific. It was awesome, let’s call it that.

I’ve seen the show before and heard the music thousands of times; however, the School of Musical Theatre here produces and attracts such remarkable talent that I could honestly say that I’d never heard the show like those students performed it last night. Conor Ryan, as previously seen in Caberet last semester, was an extremely impressive male lead playing the character of Melchior, a “radical” who goes against the grain of the 1890s German society of restrictions, regulations, and rules against young adolescents. His acting and vocal talent is postively flawless. Erika Peterson played the female lead, Wendla, with remarkable flourish and a moving vocal performance. I would honestly say I’d rather see her play the role again than ever watch Lea Michele as Wendla, as made famous from the show Glee but previously debuted the role of Wendla on Broadway. Granted, I have only heard Michele sing the songs; however, I truly loved Peterson’s voice for the part and thought she was spectacular. Her body language when she performed was so timid yet powerful as she spent most of the show, shoulders hunched and hands laced over her stomach. It’s a hard thing to describe and I’m sort of struggling here, but just trust me when I say it worked; it just worked.

My favorite performer of the show, if I had to choose, would be Ryan Vasquez in the role of Moritz, another male lead playing side-by-side as best friend of Melchior (Conor Ryan). I loved him in the role so much and afterwards, I could not get his interpretation of the song “Don’t do Sadness” out of my head. If you haven’t seen the show, this is not going to make much sense, but he added a bunch of rifts to the song that gave it a newer and more desperate quality. I got chills. The torment of his character was evident in every movement of his body and the songs he sang. I cried at the beginning and the end for poor Moritz.

After the show ended, I wanted desperately to close my eyes, rewind time, and just watch the show over and over. It’d only been about four years since I’d first seen the show, but in no way was I numb to the passion of this show. I hope that everyone has the opportunity to see Spring Awakening at some point because it is just so phenomenal of a musical that everyone is bound to find something they adore within its contents.

REVIEW: Mock Rock 2012

Oh my goodness. I had such a blast at Mock Rock last night. For those that don’t know, Mock Rock is an annual fundraiser to raise money for several awesome organizations, like student athletes volunteering for social change, Mott’s Children’s Hospital, and a few others I don’t quite remember. The actual event is a variety show, put on by the student athletes, which includes dance numbers, skits, and even a little bit of singing. It was, in a word, amazing.

I’m really bummed because I was so engrossed in what was happening on stage, I completely forgot to take notes on my favorite acts! I do of course remember the men’s swim team – in all their Speedo and fabulous abbed-glory, stripping for all the drooling ladies in the audience. I remember the marching band did an adorable rendition of several Justin Bieber songs while the storyline of the music video was supposed to be how this guy, the actual drum major, couldn’t fit in anywhere at UM, so he decides to try marching band. It was sooo precious (and our drum major is pretty much the cutest thing ever, so that definitely contributed to their overall performance).

Remembering a few others, I know the football/volleyball duo skit was very sweet, the football players being nerds and the volleyball players the pretty, popular crowd all the poor nerds wanted to get with. The cheerleading team…yikes. I don’t know if it was because the lighting was so good on the stage of Hill auditorium and/or because I am used to seeing them from a distance at football games, but it was a little more than brutal to watch. As the girls were hoisted on the shoulders of their stud-ly gentlemen, they shook and swayed until at the last final pose, the music stopped, but their momentum didn’t as the two end-girls actually toppled over. I think I shrieked a little, but was relieved to see the mat beneath them caught their falls – or, at least softened it a smidge. And women’s golf was painful too, unfortunately. They did a sort of- cutesy version of Legally Blonde’s “Bend and Snap” scene; however, the nasty recording and bad acting left a lot to be desired. Thank goodness they’re so good at golf because acting is quite honestly not a good option for any of them.

All in all, a fabulous job and I was so proud to be a wolverine last night, seeing all the dedication the athletes put in to this fundraiser and to their jobs as representatives of the university. It was an amazingly fun night, and I’m so glad I went. I’ll be sure to be there again next year!

REVIEW: Bang, Click, and Falala

Last night, I went to an outstanding benefit show for Appreciate + Reciprocate, a group of scholarship students who work to raise money to provide more scholarships to those in disadvantaged positions. The performance involved four groups and lasted a very appropriately-designated hour. GROOVE, RhythM Tap ensemble, 58 Greene, and the Harmonettes joined forces to put on a truly awesome display of passion, music, and energy that was well worth my $7.

First of all, let me just say I am the biggest fan of GROOVE there is. Okay, no, I’m sure there are greater fanatics than I, but seriously, GROOVE is the best thing ever. And I’ve seen STOMP, a similar world-renown group that makes instruments out of garbage cans and broom sticks, but GROOVE brings that youthful energy I think STOMP greatly lacks. They left me on the edge of my seat, wanting more after their three or four songs were over. I’m so there for their spring concert.

I’d never seen and/or heard of the group RhythM Tap ensemble, so seeing them for the first time was really awesome. They’re synchronization and athletic abilities were a marvel. I’m totally going to keep an eye out for their future performances.

58 Greene. Why did you choose those songs? Some oldies mixed with who knows what; honestly, I love the a cappella groups on campus and I am a huge fan, over all, of 58 Green and they’re work. However, this performance was simply not their best. I’m sure their concert will be better, and maybe it was just a weird staging, but I was not a big fan of their work last night.

The Harmonettes, on the other hand, were a huge success. I would say that it was one of their best performances I’ve seen. The soloists were talented, but not overbearing, and the song choices were fun, upbeat, and varied enough to hold my attention.

Wintry Mix was a huge success and I’m so proud of my friend who worked diligently to put on the show. The LSA Emergency Student Aid Fund is such an outstanding cause, working to “pay forward” the due respects they’ve earned through their scholarships to attend the University of Michigan. I’ll be sure to look out for any other future events of theirs.

PREVIEW: Wintry Mix by Appreciate and Reciprocate

Hello friends, nothing to do this Friday night? At 8pm, come support a wonderfully musical presentation featuring multiple groups on campus sponsored by the group Appreciate and Reciprocate. Appreciate and Reciprocate is “a community of Michigan scholarship students devoted to enriching the cycle of giving from which they’ve benefitted” ( With a sort of “pay it forward” mentality, they work to raise money for the LSA Emergency Student Aid Fund to help Michigan students stay enrolled after experiencing unexpected and difficult circumstances. One of my close friends is part of Appreciate and Reciprocate, and she ensures me that this event is going to be a ton of fun. So come out, enjoy, and support a great cause helping out your fellow students.

Tickets are between $7/$8 and its 8pm-9pm on January 27th. Location TBA – see website later in the week.

REVIEW: Michigan’s Best Dance Crew

The Michigan’s Best Dance Crew Competition took place Thursday night at 8 p.m. in the Union Ballroom. The ballroom was packed with students and families cheering on their favorite dancers–the mood was electric. Many crews auditioned for a spot in the final show, but only 8 were chosen to compete for cash prizes in the finale. The ballroom was transformed to resemble MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC), complete with large projector screens on which videos of each crew would play before they made their entrance on stage. Also like ABDC, three judges were chosen to provide feedback after each crew performed. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t provide much helpful feedback for the audience. They said a lot of nice things to each crew, but they didn’t provide any sort of objective critique. And I’m not sure that they were all the most qualified judges. One judge had no dance experience whatsoever, but liked to party and knew how to dougie. How does this make one an expert on dance? (I should have been a judge!!)  The night was hosted by our resident comedian, Eli Yudin, who also opened up for Russel Brand at EMU.

First to take the stage was Encore, a huge hip-hop dance troupe. They provided a really great opener for the show. They were incredibly energetic and had a good mix of hip-hop and techno songs in their performance. I have to give them props for having so many people on such a tiny stage, all dancing in sync together. But, I thought there were too many songs mixed in their set, with awkward transitions. In part of the performance the music transitioned from a techno/hip-hop song that was building in intensity, to an R&B slow jam, where the dancers slowed down to some lyrical hip-hop, then picked up the pace in the next song. That song choice sort of caused them to lose momentum and energy in their performance.

The Arabian Dance Ensemble was next to perform. The belly-dancers were the most unique dance group of the evening. They were really entertaining to watch, and I loved their costumes. It made me want to take a belly-dancing class! However, it was really difficult to judge such a different dance style against the predominantly hip-hop style of the show.

Also not fitting into the popular hip-hop style was Rhythm Tap, a tap dance troupe,  and Impact Dance, whose dancers do a variety of styles including lyrical, jazz, and hip-hop. It was great to see a variety of dance styles represented in the show. However, I don’t feel that they really fit in to the overall idea of a “dance crew,” which insinuates a hip-hop style. I think they realized this too, so in order to compensate these groups chose hip-hop music to dance to in their respective styles, which I wasn’t a big fan of. I couldn’t hear the dancers’ taps when Rhythm performed because the music was so loud. Being able to hear the dancers’ taps is important in judging for accuracy and togetherness in the movements. Impact Dance also performed some jazz/lyrical steps to hip-hop songs, which didn’t seem to fit with the choreography. I think they sacrificed a lot artistically in doing this. Even though they may have stood out more from the other crews, and may have been more difficult to compare to the other crews as a result, at least they would have shown the audience the best of their respective dance styles, rather than trying to mesh with a style that isn’t their own.

Several other hip hop dance crews performed in addition to Encore, including an all-girl group called Dalliance, who performed to a montage of 80’s and 90’s hits by popular R&B and rap artists. The choreography also included a lot of popular dance steps from the 80’s and 90’s. Dalliance had a lot of great energy and really gave the performance their all. Vertigo was another hip hop crew that performed, unique in that the crew is comprised of only medical students. Though they were lacking a bit in technique, they really seemed to enjoy dancing, and they ended their dance with a cute medical reference–a heart monitor flat-line.

Dance 2XS is another hip-hop crew that performed. These dancers are incredibly professional–I was impressed. They were all dressed alike in white button-down dress shirts and red ties, boys and girls alike. What I really liked about Dance 2XS is that both the guys and the girls perform equally difficult technical dance steps. The other crews that performed hip-hop throughout the night were guilty of filling their choreography with cheaper steps–booty-popping and sexier movements. I really respected Dance 2XS for never letting up the technically difficult hip-hop isolations and movements throughout their performance. They used a lot of interesting formations, and persisted with sharp, strong movements in unison. Most of all, you can tell they all LOVE to dance. Even after the performance was over and the DJ played music while they were counting votes, they all got back up and starting dancing around, just for fun, while everyone was leaving. They never stop. (Can you guess who I voted for? 🙂 )

Finally, FunKtion finished out the night as the last performance before voting opened. This all-male, multicultural group was incredibly entertaining. The guys came out on stage to “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO, flexing their muscles and strutting their stuff like they were in the club trying to grab all the girls’ attention–it was hilarious. I liked how they could do a variety of things within their style, from comedic routines to more serious, hard-hitting hip-hop, to really sweet, romantic songs that charm the girls. They were pretty versatile as hip-hop dancers, and really fun to watch.

I’m sure by now you’re dying to know who won. And the winners were…. In third place, Encore! In second place, FunKtion! And in first place…. Dance 2XS!

I was so delighted to see how many great dance opportunities there are at the University of Michigan for non-dance majors. Watching everyone else perform made me really miss dancing myself. I’ll have to keep an eye out for auditions to some of the crews that performed at the show! Maybe next time you’ll see me up there dancing with them…

Preview: Who wouldn’t want to walk the Pink Carpet at a Celebrity Gala?

Spectrum Anniversary Doing it for 40 years!
Spectrum Anniversary "Doing it for 40 years!"

Have you heard? The University of Michigan Spectrum Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary of being here on campus and we have all

been invited to the multitude of events they are putting on, and have put on, all year long. This coming weekend is the biggest weekend of the year, full of events, shows, parties, alumni, food, football, and anything else you can think of to do here on campus. For those who don’t know, the Spectrum Center is the first ever office to deal with LGBT affairs on a college campus. It is now the oldest one and has inspired countless others in universities all over the United States. Founded by Jim Toy in 1971, the office helps students from all parts of campus to become active in the LGBTQA community, to become more comfortable with themselves, and educates the campus community about what it means to be LGBTQ or an ally.

That being said, let’s talk about this weekend! So many things are happening that I had to choose, so of course I went with the Gala full of Broadway celebs and David Burtka, American Actor and Chef, engaged to Neil Patrick Harris. The show includes performances from musical theater stars and also a tribute written specially for the Spectrum Center’s anniversary by Laura Anne Karpman, a UofM School of Music Graduate.

Cutest Dads EVER!
Cutest Dads EVER!

Feel encouraged to check out the Spectrum Center’s website for more info about other events happening this weekend and to explore a little bit more of their history and function.

The Pink Carpet Gala Event takes place at 8pm in Rackham Auditorium. Tickets are free, so I highly recommend coming to this event. How often do you get to see something so fabulous?

Sending you love and light (all that’s needed to make a rainbow),

Danny Fob