REVIEW: Stop Kiss

Rude Mechanicals completes their 2023-24 season with the 1999 play by Diana Son, Stop Kiss. Seeing this play was a new experience for me, and quite a beautiful one.

Set from Stop Kiss in the Arthur Miller Theater.

The play follows two young women, Callie (Emilia Vizachero) and Sara (Victoria Vourkoutiotis), who meet in New York City and begin to have feelings for one another. One evening, they share a kiss in the West Village, and it results in a terrible hate crime leaving Sara with a life-altering injury. The play follows a non-linear storyline, jumping from Sara and Callie’s first interaction to weeks after the attack.


I am not cultured on much queer theater, so I haven’t been exposed to many pieces where characters are actively discovering their sexual identity during the show—rather many pieces I’ve encountered have characters come in with their sexuality seemingly decided. I enjoyed this piece’s honest and sincere exploration of queerness.

I was immediately struck by Audrey Tieman’s beautiful onstage set when I walked into the Arthur Miller. It brought me directly into the moment of the show with an ornate pink apartment—the 1990s, young, and within a metropolitan city. The major part of the set was far upstage, juxtaposing the thrust space. This left the apartment scenes feeling more presentational than personal, counteracting the intimacy of a thrust. All of the scenes outside the apartment were on the thrust, such as the detective’s office or moments when characters were strolling through the streets of New York City. An interesting choice, that sometimes led me out of the detail of the world that was created in the embellished apartment set.

Emilia Vizachero and Adam Rogers delivered individually exquisite performances. Rogers is effortlessly charming as Callie’s undefined partner, George, and Vizachero brilliantly leads us through a journey of Callie’s many complex emotions over two timelines—one I would be happy to experience again. Vourkoutiotis also played a sweet and gentle Sara, with wholesome chemistry alongside a witty Vizachero.


Emilia Vizachero as Callie.

Direction (by Reese Leif) was cohesive and thorough. Scenes and dramatic moments felt naturally paced, at times skimming on hyper-realism, making the play’s brutal contrast of content duly apparent to the audience.


The illuminating kiss that closes the play leaves a fully realized portrait of Callie and Sara’s relationship. This perfectly placed scene becomes charged over the duration of the play due to the revelations about what lies behind and ahead of these beloved characters. It was an unforgettable (and titular) moment of the piece, yet left my heart aching for the two women.



Leo Kupferberg (a fabulous and frequent SMTD Dramaturg) made a beautiful point in his dramaturgy note about the “in-between” of the piece, which I left the theater pondering. This show revels in the lack of certainty, unwavering bravery, and messiness many women navigate through. Stop Kiss can feel limited to its darkness and crucial messaging of the tumultuous experiences of many LGBTQ+ relationships, but Leif brings out the beauty in such darkness, reminding us that love always prevails.






April 20th, 8pm. Arthur Miller Theater. Images thanks to @umrudes on Instagram.

REVIEW: Falsettos

[Title photo: Sam O’Neill (left), Caleb McArthur and James Parascandola.]

It’s not often that I see a show that leaves me as moved as Basement Art’s production of Falsettos did.

Basement Arts is an organization whose mission is to create “inclusive student-produced theatre by allowing students from across campus to execute all aspects of the theatrical production process”. They perform three shows a semester, as well as produce the annual Late Night events such as the Mx. Walgreen Pageant and 24-Hour Theater. This semester already featured some emotional heavy hitters —Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties by Jen Silverman and For Colored Girls/When The Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange.

Falsettos is a culmination of merging two one-act musicals, March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, produced individually in 1981 and 1990. A fully sung-through musical— there are few moments without song. However, much of the show reads as a play, with heightened drama in every moment and not a single superfluous word. The show follows a Jewish Family in New York City in the 1970s— Marvin (Sam O’Neill), the frustrated ex-husband of the underappreciated Trina (Caroline Patterson), and partner to the stylish Whizzer (Caleb McArthur). Trina and Marvin’s son, Jason (James Parascandola), is growing up quickly, rapidly reaching the age of his bar mitzvah. Among all this, Trina and Marvin’s psychiatrist, (Sammy Guthartz), fall in love and get married. Thus, completes the web of this unusually interwoven family. That is, until you meet the quirky lesbians from next door in Act II, Dr. Charlotte (Abby Lyons) and Cordelia (Kate Cummings).

Falsettos was written by the incomparable William Finn and James Lapine, both Jewish writers (and Finn identifying as queer himself). It’s hard not to love this gem of a show. Its mechanical musical composition and emphasis on developing endearing and complex characters make the show feel complete and questionably familiar. The music is fun and catchy yet requires exceptional musical expertise to execute well (skillful music direction by Caleb Middleton).  The story blends humor and heartache while these characters are on their quests for happiness and acceptance.

The relevance that Falsettos retains from its 1992 premiere is remarkable. Difficult family dynamics, a rapidly changing social landscape, and a world that feels like it’s uncontrollably crumbling around them. Successful musicals stand the test of time, and after over three decades it’s clear that Falsettos made the cut.

The tense family dynamics were masterfully cultivated by director Naomi Parr and navigated equally as masterfully by this intense and thoughtful cast. Patterson (the needy, Trina) has one of the most captivating voices in the show—she does not shy away from the luxurious lines in the score while capturing Trina’s true angst and frustration with the imprudent men in her life. Her dynamic alongside the charming and perfectly awkward Mendel (Guthartz) was sublime. O’Neill and McArthur navigate perhaps the most complicated relationship dynamic in the show, one loaded with lust and devotion, sprinkled with violence and need for acceptance. The nuance the two brought to this unbelievably deep relationship was remarkable. Whizzer and Marvin’s poignant love maneuvered through each twist and turn, even past the heartbreaking finale—an arduous task beautifully achieved. Underneath these two intricate relationships leaves Jason (Parascandola), who left to pick up the pieces (literally and physically). Parascandola’s playful exchange with youth and hope left me rooting for Jason, wondering where his little life will take him next. It’s plain to see how this cast ripped my heart out and left it in the 1970s with them.

The cast of “Falsettos” and director Naomi Parr.

Parr states in her director’s note: “Falsettos addresses devastating tragedy but lives instead in the celebration of life, including mishaps that surround these moments of grief.” With one of the most responsive and touched audiences I’ve ever encountered, it seems the only thing missing from Falsettos was another weekend of shows.


April 6th, 9pm. Newman Studio. Images thanks to Naomi Parr and Basement Arts.

REVIEW: Will Liverman and Karen Slack at Stamps Auditorium

April 7th, 2pm.

The Department of Voice and Opera eagerly welcomed Will Liverman and Karen Slack to a residency this semester, both of whom have enjoyed wildly successful careers as opera singers worldwide.

Karen Slack is an American soprano known for her powerful and emotive voice, as well as her versatility across a range of musical styles. She has performed with major opera companies and symphonies worldwide, in both traditional operatic repertoire and contemporary works. Slack debuted the role of Billie in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones at the Metropolitan Opera in 2019, as she maintains a strong commitment to performing the work of living composers. She was awarded the Sphinx Medal of Excellence in 2022, a prestigious award for artistic achievement. She is an active educator and coach in Universities across the country, including our own! In addition to her vocal presence, she also hosts an interview web series called #KikiKonvos. It began on Facebook Live in the height of the pandemic and has continued ever since.

Will Liverman is an American baritone with a collection of prestigious operatic credits as well as successful discography and concert work. He debuted the role of Charles in the Metropolitan Opera’s Fire Shut Up In My Bones, by the fabulous Terence Blanchard. (The album of which won the 2023 GRAMMY Award for Best Opera Recording.) Last season, he sang the title role in Anthony Davis’ groundbreaking work, X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X at the Metropolitan Opera. As well as a highly desired singer, Liverman is also a composer. The Lyric Opera of Chicago presented the world premiere of Liverman’s new opera, The Factotum, which he starred in and composed with DJ King Rico. He has performed worldwide in operas and recitals while making time to educate and coach in universities across the country. He also has the most fabulous shoe collection I have ever seen.

The two held a 3-day residency at the School of Music Theater and Dance, holding a departmental Q&A, a vocal masterclass, and finishing out with a stunning recital featuring the two. It was incredible to hear these performers speak about their lives as opera singers, as they have been instrumental figures in modern-day classical music.

The recital featured a collection of songs by Margaret Bonds, Harold Arlen, Nina Simone, Florence Price, Undine Smith Moore George Gershwin, and Shawn Okpebholo! The repertoire choices were predominantly by Black and female composers, a majority that is not often represented in the classical canon. Their performances of these art songs and arias were each thoughtful and provocative, with thoughtful emphasis on the text. There was a true connection and conversation within each piece, along with some of the most virtuosic vocalism I have ever encountered.

The two wrapped up the recital with the iconic duet from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, “Bess You Is My Woman Now”. A beautiful and heartwarming duet, I thought a wonderful way to end the evening—until their encores! Liverman performed a beautiful and pensive song he composed, and Slack sang Giordanni’s “Caro mio ben”, a tune brought into the mainstream from Beyonce’s new album.

Their residency was truly spectacular, filled with inspiring vocalism and encouragement for aspiring singers. What a gift to welcome these educators and performers to our University!

REVIEW: Samara Joy comes to Ann Arbor

Let me start this off by saying that I don’t have much experience in music. It started with the obligatory piano lessons in first grade from my Korean parents, then a short-lived, shame-riddled violin career in eighth grade that never left the classroom. That’s all to say that I have little to no credentials to be reviewing Samara Joy, two-time Grammy-winning jazz vocalist at only twenty-four. Yet here I am, still listening to her hit album, Linger Awhile, and writing my thoughts on her performance. This “review” will be drawn from the haphazard notes I took from March 27, meant to be more of a poetic retelling of my experience than a critique of the evening.

Joy’s performance began with a phone loudly ringing and a baby’s cry slowly fading off as they were escorted out from their seat. Still, Samara’s lilting voice reverberated as she took the audience across the map of her musical notes. The accompanying band fell into her rhythm, Evan Sherman on the drums shining in particular as his light beats sped through the composition. The crowd stilled as Joy went through her vocal runs, until we broke into cheers of awe. Following family tradition, Samara joy began singing in church and later at a jazz band at Fordham High School for the Arts. She later attended SUNY Purchase’s jazz studies program, meeting the late Barry Harris, to whom Linger Awhile is dedicated to.

Throughout the program, there were moments where each artist could shine; Jason Charos on trumpet took the stage in You Stepped Out of a Dream (Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Gus Kahn) as Samara stepped to the side, her vocals accompanying the lead of his trumpet. Trombonist Donovan Austin got the limelight as he performed his original A Fool In Love Is A Clown, a slower rendition from the previous song. Transitions between instrumentation and vocals were incredibly seamless, the synergy pulsating from the stage.

The lighting team were part of this synergy; the slow shift of magenta into blues, rimmed with a golden light at the perimeter. A truly beautiful moment was when the light shifted into a red pink hue as A Kiss From You (Benny Carter) opened up, and later, into a soft purple as Now and Then (Barry Harris), arranged by alto saxophonist David Mason, was performed.

Perhaps one of my favorites was Samara Joy’s take on Sweet Bumpkin, originally written by Ronnell Bright and later covered by Gloria Lynne. The genre blending, the plays with silences, pauses, skips of beat, before sliding back into a playful burst of energy. Kendric McCallister on tenor saxophone particularly shined during this performance. And of course, I have to give a shoutout to the classic bossa nova Chega de Saudade (Antônio Carlos Jobim, lyrics by Vinícius de Moraes), which has been a top track in one of my many playlists, truly highlighting the beautiful duo performance between Charos and Donavan Austin on trombone.

More information of Samara Joy’s tour can be found on her website, and if you can’t make it to one of these venues, I highly recommend you all to listen to her music on any of your streaming platforms. A big thank you to UMS for their amazing programs; more can be found on their site!

Image thanks to the University Musical Society.

REVIEW: 28th Annual Exhibition of Artists in Michigan Prisons

[Title photo: Kings Gambit by Marte’nez Sr.; Acrylic]

The Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) is an initiative through the Residential College at The University of Michigan with a mission dedicated to bringing those impacted by the justice system to the U-M community for artistic collaboration, mutual learning, and growth. The program hosts a variety of workshops in visual art, theater, choral music, photography, and more. The Duderstadt Gallery is hosting an exhibition of a year-long collaboration with PCAP featuring art by incarcerated artists.

To produce the gallery, the PCAP community visited 24 adult prisons throughout the state of Michigan to handpick the selection of art being presented. During their visits, the volunteers review artwork and have the opportunity to discuss and exchange insights with artists, fostering a profound understanding of the intent behind each distinctive piece.

[30 Animal Granny Square Blanket by Douglas Bail]

The gallery intrigued me with the inherent individuality behind each piece. There were paintings, pencil drawings, sewn creations and figurines—and more! There was truly a collection of artistic mediums and untold stories.

[Boxed In by THE TEXAN; Acrylic, Canvas]

The gallery is open until April 3rd, and the hours of operation are listed below. Much of the art is for purchase at a variety of price ranges, from $35 to well over $500. There are many resources located at the gallery with ways to get involved with PCAP and other community and outreach groups in Michigan at the University and beyond. I left the gallery with the quote from the welcome guide ruminating through my mind:

“Art has truly saved my life. It has broght light in a place designed to keep us in the dark. It allows us to tell our story, or express how we feel not having to say a word. Art gives voivce to the voiceless…”   —DaJuan



Gallery Hours:

Sun & Mon 12PM – 6PM

Tues – Sat 10AM – 8PM


More about PCAP here.





[Piano Jewelry Box with Drawer & Bench by Kimmy L. Emig; Wood]

REVIEW: Color Cabaret

Biennially, the students of the SMTD Department of Musical Theater put together a cabaret to uplift the diversity within their department. Color Cabaret features BIPOC performers from all four years of the department performing many Broadway Classics and music from the Musical Theater canon. The group hosted two shows on February 22nd at 7p and 11p; around 60 minutes and II Acts. The Towsley Studio in the Walgreen Drama Center was packed to the brim with some of the most eager family members, students, and colleagues I have seen at a student production.


The directors of this performance were Oluchi Nwaokorie and Haoyi Wen, along with music director Caleb Middleton and choreographers Abigail Aziz, Keyon Pickett, and Logan Saad. The show consisted of a collection of Musical Theater numbers, fully choreographed dances, lighting, and orchestrated with a five-piece band. The performers hosted infectious energy that bled through the room—vibrant dance numbers, satisfying harmonies, and one-of-a-kind arrangements.


Many of their numbers used Broadway tunes with rewritten lyrics by the performers describing the experience of People of Color and the stereotypes placed upon them. Arrangements, lyrics, and poems were re-written by many of the members of the Cabaret, including Alyssa Sunew, Ryo Kamibayashi, Brendan Johnson, Drew Perez Harris, Aaron Syi, Angeleia Ordoñez, Anna Zavelson, Aidan Jones. (Along with two additional arrangments by Stephanie Reuning-Scherer and Catherine Walker/Henry Crater).

Every single aspect of this performance was led and created by Students of Color. Directing, marketing, arrangements, lyric re-writes, choreography, lights, band and music direction (etc.). Each number was truly unique—from Part of You World performed in different languages, to a witty Book of Mormon rewrite and medleys from Once On This Island, Falsettos, High School Musical & Rogers & Hammerstein’s music, I was on the edge of my seat after each performance. This group truly created a beautiful piece of theater on a rather bleak February night.

Color Cabaret is an enormously special part of SMTD and a thrilling way to amplify BIPOC voices in the Musical Theater Department. Be sure to catch Color Cabaret in 2026 (if you’re still here!). Next, The Department of Musical Theater will perform A Little Night Music  April 18-21, 2024. Tickets are available here.