REVIEW: Orpheus in the Underworld

Unlike what the title suggests, Orpheus in the Underworld (Orphée aux enfers) didn’t focus much on Orpheus being in the Underworld nor did it remain true to the romantic and sorrowful story told in Greek myths. Instead, what SMTD brought to life was a goofy comedy contrasted with powerful French opera, and they described it as “a cheeky twist” on the famous love story between Orpheus and his wife, Eurydice.

In mythology, Orpheus and Eurydice were deeply in love, so when Eurydice met her untimely death, he played the lyre (an instrument similar to the harp) and used his musical genius to charm his way into the Underworld and bring her back to the world of the living. 

In this version, the two shared a terrible marriage and were both cheating on each other. They portrayed Orpheus as a lackluster violinist, which was one of the many things that drove his wife crazy. Eurydice constantly asked for a divorce, but Orpheus always refused with sweet words. He had a different plan in mind to get rid of her. When Eurydice died, he jumped with joy; however, his happiness was short-lived when soon after he was threatened by Public Opinion to save his wife and thus dragged to the Underworld. 

Operas place a greater importance on music than storytelling, so although the dialogue was in English, the majority of the show was in French. Orpheus in the Underworld was performed at The Power Center for the Performing Arts, and they provided screens with English subtitles for the audience to follow along. Some technical difficulties threw off the timing of the words, but I wasn’t that disappointed since the students’ acting and singing were so captivating it felt like a waste to take my eyes off them.

The story took place in the late 1950s, so all of the backdrops, from the farm to Olympus and the Underworld, were all unique. I also loved the wardrobe, especially the outfits of the gods. They were totally different from the traditional white robes I normally associate with Greek mythology. My favorite costume was when Jupiter, also known as Zeus, transformed into what was supposed to be a seductive fly.

Overall, I had fun! It was my first time watching an opera, and it combined humor with musical prowess. I’ve really enjoyed each of SMTD’s productions and look forward to watching more.

REVIEW: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

SMTD’s performance of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was so good: it was immersive, hilarious, and well put together. It sounds like it’d be a wholesome musical since the main characters are children but to my surprise, it wasn’t child-friendly at all. The script made use of sexual innuendos, exaggerated stereotypes, and religious satire to crack jokes. The audience, me included, ate it up. As described on the SMTD website, it truly is a musical that “charms audiences with effortless wit and humor, making the Bee one unforgettable experience”.

One part of the experience I loved was how they included the viewers in the spelling bee and gave each of them fun and quirky personas, such as “being raised by wolves” and having “denim as their favorite color”. The actors looked so natural when interacting with the audience members that it took me a bit to realize it wasn’t staged. If the participants spelled their given word wrong, they were escorted off the stage with a juice box and were serenaded with the song Goodbye that poked fun at their failure in the bee. The funniest part was when to proceed with the plot, it became time to kick the surviving participants off the stage by challenging them with ridiculous words. Despite their efforts though, one of them actually managed to spell something incomprehensible from a Scottish dialect, shocking everyone. The actors did a great job of improvising by calling her back to the microphone and giving her another word, which this time she failed to spell. As a reward for being the last one standing though, she got her own special rendition of Goodbye sung to her. 

The characters that stood out to me the most were William Barfée, a snotty (quite literally) nerd, Logainne Schwartzy, a girl with a heart of gold, and Leaf Coneybear, who for some reason always had to spell the names of South American rodents. However, my favorite character was actually Vice Principal Douglas Panch. The actor did such a good job of portraying the classic slightly odd and suspicious adult figures I remember from my own elementary school days. Although these characters left the biggest impression on me, I genuinely loved everybody because they all had so much personality to them.

An inconvenience though is that it took place at The Encore Musical Theatre Company, a performance venue in Dexter that’s an eighteen-minute drive from central campus. Once I got there though, I realized how big of a role the stage set-up and background played in really bringing this musical to life. Most importantly when performing Pandemonium, a song and dance that really showcased the crazy and wild side of children. They were running around, jumping on tables, spinning seats, and even hanging from the basketball hoop. 

This was truly a musical I’m so lucky to have seen, and I highly recommend others to see it if given the opportunity!

REVIEW: The 7th Annual Multicultural Yardshow

At 8:06 PM on Friday, October 27th, the Imperial Zeta Chapter of the Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, Inc. hosted their 7th Annual Multicultural Yardshow in the Diag featuring eight multicultural Greek organizations:

Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc.

Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc.

Delta Tau Lambda Sorority, Inc.

Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Kappa Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc.

Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority, Inc.

Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc.

Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, Inc.

I was super excited to see this year’s performance because I attended last year’s Yardshow as well. Similar to the 6th Annual Multicultural Yardshow, the crowd was enthusiastically supportive of each group and that’s what truly separates the Yardshow from other showcases. Because this event places a strong emphasis on expressing and having pride in one’s background and culture, there was a diverse selection of music. I was unfamiliar with most of the songs but that didn’t take away any of the enjoyment; I appreciated getting to explore new genres of music and sharing the experience with others. What brought the various communities together and incited the most cheers was when the groups incorporated elements of a stroll into their choreographies. 

Strolling is a dance form that was created by the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), also known as the Divine 9 (the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities who are a part of the NPHC). The Multicultural Greek organizations also practice strolls as a way to pay homage to the NPHC who paved the way for ethnic minorities to start their own Greek organizations. Movements in a stroll are meant to represent the Greek letters in their fraternity or sorority’s name; for example, sharp diagonal arms may represent the Greek letter kappa. It’s often hard to pick up on what dance moves count as part of a stroll as well as what Greek letter they signify, but one way to tell is if the audience suddenly goes wild. A key part of a stroll that’s easy to identify is when the performers start to dance synchronously in a line and circle the stage. This part is heavily influenced by African-American culture and African roots to show power and unity against racism. 

Some of the organizations practice salutes instead of strolls. Similarly, salutes are performed in a line but instead of dancing, they chant together. It’s a powerful form to watch since they synchronize their speech in a fierce yet poetic manner, expressing the history and passion they have for their sisters or brothers through not only words but strong movements. Being in sync is extremely important since the members are very close to each other, making it much more obvious to tell if someone is out of rhythm. Each group nailed it and I was super impressed by how much hard work they must have put in to accomplish that.  

Overall it was a great event featuring groups, music, and forms of art I couldn’t see anywhere else. 


Last Saturday, October 21, the Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO) held a spooky Halloween-themed techno event at Club Above from 10 p.m. to around 2 a.m. This was my second MEMCO event of the semester at Club Above, and it has to be one of my favorite clubs on campus. If you are like me, being in cramped, tight spaces with loud music and bright lights can be extremely overwhelming. Luckily, Club Above has a huge dance floor with enough room in the back for seating, a pool table, and bar. When you walk in, a wide variety of people come together to dance and listen to music. Compared to other club cultures on campus, MEMCO events are a safe space for people of all identities and orientations, the neurodivergent community, and people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Needless to say, when me and my friends go out, we go to MEMCO events.

Photography By: Noah Jackson

On the dance floor, I was surrounded by people dancing either in their own worlds or creating one with their friends. I came as the second DJ, BUBU, played their set, highlighting fracturing sounds and haunting melodies. The crowd was bouncing, grooving, and shaking their bodies with the fast-paced rhythm of the speakers. My favorite way to enjoy the music is to close my eyes and see how my body inherently responds to the music. Sometimes, I like to sway my hips and throw my arms in the air; other times, I find myself jumping on my heels with a smile because of my intense euphoria. A disclaimer: I am a dancer and study dance at the University. I firmly believe in implementing dance into more public spaces with a safe and judgment-free culture, and MEMCO’s events perfectly fulfill this. Dance should be celebrated by everyone, and Techno spaces like MEMCO’s really highlight the beauty of community building through dance.

Photography by: Noah Jackson

The third DJ, ZAGG, was my favorite. You could feel and hear his improvisational experimentation with the music in the best way possible. He created music that I reacted to by dancing, and in response, he would alter the sound just slightly, then drastically–it was highly unpredictable. Which I believe made it all the more fun. The songs were not recognizable until DJs switched, which offered a beautiful precedent for creating, receiving, and celebrating raw and spontaneous music. The music left me and the audience constantly wanting more. Mainly because the rhythm of Techno music is usually quick; it makes the body react by moving at that same speed. The fast-moving environment is compelling because of the combined energy that lifts you up and out of the dance floor and into a realm of solely music and movement.

Photography by: Noah Jackson

Although the event wasn’t entirely scary, which is honestly for the best, the unsettling Halloween Techno music was a perfect way to get into the spooky holiday season. If you can attend a MEMCO event, I highly suggest going with an open heart and mind. Also, be prepared to dance until you are exhausted, which may sound daunting but can be the most liberating feeling. For me, all of my stress and anxiety from my personal life disappeared, and all I could focus on was the music and dancing!

REVIEW: M-agination Film Festival

At the M-agination annual film festival last Thursday, student filmmakers, actors, directors, producers, photographers, and composers truly impressed. M-agination, a student-run organization, allows students to spearhead their own creative projects, producing 8 short films a semester, 16 total every year, that are showcased at an annual film festival held at the Michigan Theater. For student filmmakers, it was an incredible success and a culmination of everything they have accomplished over the year. For the audience – family, friends, and just interested students – it was an amazing viewing experience. 

M-agination left no parts of the human condition untouched. There was love. There was sorrow. There was partying. There was death. There were mobsters who believe in astrology. Although you could definitely tell that the short films were being run by students, I was awed at the creativity of some of the concepts. The audience certainly was too. After every joke, there was roaring laughter; after every sad scene, hushed murmurs. And with several people leaving after every short film finished, it was clear that some people were there to support friends who had been working on this project for a whole year. 

My favorite show of the night was a hilarious and truly touching depiction of a man after a breakup. Directed by the star actor, this unfortunate soul consults a rabbi (a 19 year old rabbi) for advice on how to turn his life around. After being dumped, he had posted a nihilistic tweet online – only to get more than 100,000 views. Realizing that social media was turning him into a pessimistic, likes-obsessed person, he deleted his twitter account. Denouncing religion itself, he sets off to form a new life. For a student creator, it’s a giant achievement to create a short film that’s funny, sad, and sincere all at once. 

If I had one piece of advice for M-agination student filmmakers: don’t shoot your movies in an echoey room. If you absolutely must, turn on subtitles. Other than that, congratulations on yet another year of making movies and taking names.

REVIEW: ComCo Presents The Big Show

It takes a special kind of courage to get up on stage with no idea whatsoever what you’re going to do. Yet that is what ComCo members do, delivering an extraordinary and hilarious performance each time. Imagine practicing for a play, getting up on stage, and then realizing that you and everyone else in the show completely forgot their lines. Then imagine putting on an even better show than you were going to in the first place. 

I know that when I go to a ComCo show, everyone in the group is going to walk up on stage, looking all excited and confused, and I’m going to have a mini heart attack every time I think one of them doesn’t know what to say. I know that I’m going to go through all five stages of grief as I watch someone struggle as an awkward silence descends over the crowd. I know I’m going to consider leaving because I can’t stand the anticipation anymore. But I also know that at the end of the night, I’m going to be roaring with so much laughter I feel like I can’t breathe. That’s the beauty of improv: its epic highs and lows. 

According to their website, ComCo is the oldest improv troupe on the University of Michigan campus. I’ve been going to every one of their shows since freshman year (one time I went to the Midnight Book Club, another improv group, and then immediately after went to watch ComCo for two total performances), but I most look forward to a final show. Boasting a slighter fancier atmosphere in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, the final show has a bigger turnout and a more high-stakes atmosphere. It’s the culmination of the hours of practice I know ComCo members have been putting in throughout the year. 

Rather than getting right into it, they started the performance with a hilarious pre-shot video: improv has grievously been abolished in the United States, and ComCo members have been dispersed throughout the globe in hopes of starting a new life. But when one member remembers his tragic past, the hunt begins to track everyone down again. Together, members travel around the world – including a prison camp in Russia – to unite the troupe and put together the best show they ever have. 

And that’s exactly what they did. ComCo never fails to fill silence with laughter, awkwardness with comfort. With five of their key members graduating this year, I’m incredibly excited to see what amazing new improvers are going to join the troupe next year. If you didn’t make it to The Best Show this year, be on the lookout for the first show of ComCo’s season next fall.