PREVIEW: Festifools


Ever been walking in downtown Ann Arbor in April and all of a sudden been accosted by a horde of gargantuan, raging puppet heads? That would be FestiFools— unless some other wild force is taking the town that we don’t know about.

“FestiFools is a non-profit production of the STARTProject, a University of Michigan LLoyd Hall Scholars Program initiative.” Several years ago, professor Mark Tucker incorporated the age old idea of puppet theater into his LHSP class “Art in Public Spaces,” in which 20 non-art majors crafted gigantic puppets and took them to the streets of Ann Arbor. Today, other departments of the university and townies of all kinds are invited to work in groups or individually to craft puppets for the parade (specific qualifications for entry enumerated on the website). Now, the community event has an affiliation with the city of Ann Arbor beyond the boundaries of the university.

Inspired by Italy’s Carnevale di Viareggio,the parade makes political and social commentary through the use of puppetry. According to their creed, “FestiFools brings students and community volunteers together to create unique public art that is free and accessible to everyone. Specifically, we make huge-mongous papier-mâché puppets and march them around downtown Ann Arbor on a Sunday early in April.”

Last year was FestiFool’s sixth year running, but it was the first year they included FoolMoon. Puppets take the street by moonlight. In Keeping with LSA’s Winter 2012 theme semester, the theme of this year’s FullMoon parade is “Language.” Every Sunday for the past month, build-your-own Luminary workshops have been taking place at Workantile on Main St in preparation for the midnight promenade. On Sunday March, 25th, the UMMA held a workshop as well. There are instructions on how to make a luminary as well as info on the closest spots to town to buy a kit- if you feel inspired to get crafty- on the Festifools website.

Don’t miss this whimsical, comical, fantasmic parade of art and joy that is unique to Ann Arbor.

Click here to get to the Festifools YouTube channel and watch some funky videos from last year’s parade.

And check out the FestiFools website for more information, and some light comedy. They’ve got a pretty decent sense of humor.


REVIEW: Next to Normal

In an audience of musical theatre majors, my three friends and I sat to watch a small cast of six put on a musical we’d all hoped to see, called “Next to Normal.” There was very little publicity for the event, and it was pure chance that we found out they were even doing it. I’m so glad we did because it was yet another fantastic evening of musical-wonderfulness for me!

“Next to Normal” tells the story of a dysfunctional family dealing with the turmoil of everyday life. The mother of the family is a bipolar/schizophrenic character who struggles with coping, the father of the family is in denial of pretty much everything, and the sister has to deal with regular teenage angst while being raised by two struggling, and mostly absent, parental figures. The mother’s character was, as I’m sure you can tell by her description, a definite challenge, but Chelsea Wilson was absolutely amazing. She pulled off crazy so unbelievably well. Everyone was just cast so perfectly, like C.J. Eldred as the role of Gabe and Ted Stevenson as Dan, I could hardly believe it.

Complaints bring color to a review, but I’m seriously struggling here. It was long? Yeah, 2 and a half hours, I’d say, and a few of the songs dragged, like the saga “I miss the mountains.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t just press skip this time when it came on.

The passion of the show exploded off the stage for sure, and I felt the musical shift perspectives constantly, from mother, to son, to daughter, to father. The lighting would tilt and change its tone as the melodies would lift and fall. It’s one thing to hear the recording bajillions of times, and an absolute other thing to see it performed in front of you. I’ll never hear THAT recording the same way again.

It was such a great show, and I’m so so glad I have friends who are more informed than I to tell me what is going on in the distant woods of north campus. If you read this in time, go tomorrow night!

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: Little Women, Big Hearts

This Friday I got out of work very frustrated and ready to go to bed, but then I walked into Arthur Miller Theater to see the Department of Musical Theatre Studio Production’s Little Women the Musical. As soon as the show started it was like I was taken back to my own childhood as we explored the adventures of the young protagonist Jo March. Her family, consisting of her mother, her three sisters, her father away at war, and the later addition of their friend Laurie, went through both hardship and joy as Jo grows up with a dream of writing. This story is famous and is a piece of classic American literature. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, has inspired and

moved millions of Americans and has led to the production of a movie, a musical, an opera, and a play. It is such a beautiful story and it always gets to me (I saw the opera last year) because I also have three siblings and I often feel like it is the four of us up on stage. Anyway, enough about yours truly.

The show! The music is original, magnificent, and fun. A large portion of the story takes place in Jo’s childhood, and the music reflects that perfectly. It is bouncy, fun, and sort of quirky sometimes like Jo herself. The lyrics are also cleverly written to reflect the youth and innocence so important to the story. All the actors carry out the scenes of adolescence so well. The funniest things happen and they dance around like mad, but they never break character. But of course, they are fantastic. For those who often visit the campus musical theater scene, these actors are locally renowned for great performances and you may recognize their names; Jane Bruce as Jo, Trevor St. John-Gilbert as Professor Bhaer, Ali Gordon, Samantha Massell and Paige Silvester as the sisters, Katherine Thomas as Marmee, and Harry Katzman as Mr. Lawrence (Full Cast). I preferred this version of the show to the opera, but I have a feeling that the reason is because the musical is a little more cheerful. I remember that the opera seemed really depressing and a little slow, whereas this one seemed to moved faster and, though it was sad, it didn’t leave me sad the entire night. I just cried the whole second act with a friend of mine. No big deal.

I was also excited to finally go the Arthur Miller theater. Last time I went there was for freshmen orientation! I enjoyed the set design of the show, being very open with few props. The set allowed for multiple entrances, giving it a much more interactive feel. The audience was also right next to the stage and the theater donates an almost Shakespearian theater style, taking place right among the viewers.

Although this is my not my favorite musical, I did enjoy it very much and I was so glad to go out and support all of the wonderful performers, especially since it will be my last time seeing many of them. This will also be my last art[seen] post for seven months! That’s right folks! I’m studying abroad this winter in Italy at the University of Bologna! Luckily for me, Italian is my major, which means studying abroad is basically required. But don’t worry. If you will miss me, you can see my blog posts every week because I’m moving over to arts, ink. for the semester as an ambassador abroad! So if you are looking for me online, just check out my weekly blog on the arts, ink. website. I’ll be writing about art in Italy, which obviously isn’t that hard to find.

I hope you are all worker harder than I am on exams, because I know I need to crack down. So with that, I begin yet another paper and I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. Here’s to a new year and a new country!

Sending you love and light,

Danny Fob

(Coffee is on me if you can name the show that my sign off is from!)

Seriously, read my blog at arts, ink.!

REVIEW: Little Women the Musical

Speaking as someone who knows Little Women the Musical, as in memorized the soundtrack, researched the musical history, and followed the actors who have played the roles in the show, the performance of the students of the Musical Theatre department fit the way I’d imagined the show nearly perfectly. It was actually a little spooky how well cast everyone was to their characters:

Jo March, played by Jane Bruce, was absolutely perfect. Quirky, lively, and strong, she played Jo March with perfection. In many incidences throughout the play, I was brought to tears by her emotional and heart-warming vocal performance and gut-wrenchingly truthful interpretation of the character.

Furthermore, the character of Marmee March, the mother of the March sisters, by Katherine Thomas, was equally as impressive. One of my favorite songs of the show is “Days of Plenty,” where Marmee urges Jo to have faith that the death of her sister Beth is not completely in vain, encouraging, “You have to believe, there is reason for hope.” She performed it beautifully and did not disappoint.

All of the characters had amazing chemistry. Laurie, played by Joel Sparks, was dorky, adorable, and lovable. He fit the role perfectly, but in a different way than I’d previously imagined his character. It was for the better, I’d say, that Laurie’s character wasn’t the dashingly handsome hero who won Amy March’s heart but brought the audience to tears when he didn’t end up with his best friend Jo. I felt his interpretation of Laurie was fitting in that you saw, even from the beginning, that Laurie and Jo would never last together, at least on Jo’s end. I think the chemistry between Laurie and Amy overpowered any feelings of disappointment that anyone felt for the lack of union between Laurie and Jo.

The role of Professor Bhaer, played by Trevor St. John Gilbert, was equally as ideal. I felt he really understood how he and Jo fell in love: amongst bickering, arguments, but in the end, beneath a shared, “Small Umbrella in the Rain.”

Even the opening scene was magnificent. They had all the characters flying through the stage, ascending and descending from all sides, and moving set pieces with ease and distinguished flair. I saw the entire play as a story, seen through Jo’s eyes, set in the magical attic of the March household. Perfection.

This musical was tremendous and the entire cast did such a fantastic job. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see this play performed (finally!!!) and I can now put a proper backdrop behind my favored and well-loved Little Women soundtrack.