REVIEW: Royal Shakespeare Company: Richard II

David Tennant as Richard II   (photo courtesy of The Daily Mail)


In his first production as artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, director Gregory Doran presented a expertly crafted and wonderfully mesmerizing production of Richard II. Set in its own time period, this production details the downfall of King Richard II, a vain and somewhat villainous king who bases his power on divine right. Through the use of a simple stage design, lighting, and beautifully sung music, this production felt as if it were in a church, which heightened the religious undertones of the play. King Richard’s assumed god-like authority was further highlighted through the costuming choices, most notably his long mane of hair, white or light colored flowing robes, and the ever present cross around his neck.

The simplicity of the stage design and prop choices allowed the audience to focus on what was really important in the production–Shakespeare’s diction and the spectacular acting of the ensemble. David Tennant’s portrayal of Richard plays up Richard’s powerful and vain nature with a gold manicure and a sense of haughtiness. The real strength of Tennant’s performance, however, is the emotion he pulls out of the character. In one of his best moments on stage, Tennant forces everyone to sit on the ground with him and, as he pulls his knees to his chest and rocks with grief, tell the sad stories of the deaths of kings. Showing Richard’s vulnerability in the moment he realizes his power as king is gone allows Tennant to succeed in attracting the audience’s sympathy for a king who throughout the play is seen as wasteful and abusive of his power.

Although Tennant drew a lot of the attention, in no way was this production a solo act. With Nigel Lindsay’s portrayal of Bolingbroke as an intense and powerful man who is not afraid to mock and scorn Richard’s theatricality, Oliver Ford Davies’s emotional and somewhat comedic portrayal of the Duke of York, a man torn between two loyalties, and Michael Pennington’s portrayal of John of Gaunt as a dying man enraged with Richard’s actions, the entire ensemble worked together to create a production that was nothing short of fantastic.

There will be another broadcast of the play December 11th at 7pm at the Michigan Theater. I highly recommend it to anyone with any interest in Shakespeare.


Groove’s Facebook event cover photo

Who: Groove
What: Groove presents #TRASHTAG
When: December 6, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Michigan Theater
Cost: $5 for students, $8 for adults. Tickets available at the door.

Groove, campus’s premier percussion group, will be taking the Michigan Theater to a technological and technical level Friday night for their fall show #TRASHTAG. The performers are known for using a variety of surfaces to capture and uniformly create percussion beats. This show will be an opportunity to showcase their talents on a wide scale, and it will be interesting to see how their viral, hashtagged, techy theme plays out.

RSVP to the event on Facebook, visit their official website, or check out some of their performers on their YouTube channel.



REVIEW: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

What I truly love about UMS is the variety of their performances. This season, we have classical pianists, Indie rockers (as I’m calling James Blake…sorry if that makes anyone mad), traditional Sufi music, and this: an orchestra of ukulele players from England. It was so unlike anything I’ve seen before at UMS. There wasn’t anything to analyze or interpret. Nothing to look at and be like, “Wait…why are there lambs on stage?” It was just exactly what you were expecting: an hour and a half of covers of songs performed on the ukulele. Don’t get me wrong; I like risqué, innovative, renegade material as much as the next person, but it was a nice change to know what was coming.

And it was fun too! Everyone left with a smile on their face. Prior to the performance, audience members were asked to bring their ukuleles and several people did! In the middle of the show, they played Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and uke-playing audience members took up the challenge and played along! It was a really cute way of engaging the audience. And such a great way of utilizing the smallness of the ukulele! It’s such a lap-friendly instrument! I mean, if they had brought a harp orchestra to Ann Arbor, you couldn’t necessarily ask people to bring along their harps to play along mid-show. It was the perfect way of getting the audience involved without making people nervous or annoying those who didn’t want to participate.

One thing that seemed to detract from my personal experience of the show was my age. All the songs were covers and while I did recognize “Pinball Wizard” and a truly fabulous rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, the rest of the songs were from a time before my generation. I understand that UMS audiences tend to be on the older side, so I know there were a lot of people who got more out of the performance than I. Which is fine – I’m happy that they enjoyed the show (and I think they did because oftentimes just after three chords were struck on stage, I’d hear elderly whooping erupt behind me). It was still good music and fun to watch just how awesome all the band members were at the ukulele…I just think I would have liked it even more had I been more familiar with more of the songs.

Great show, lots of fun, and super cute. Glad I went. Going to shop around for a ukulele so I can learn too!

Review: James Blake – Blown Away

James Blake came into my auditory life about a year ago through a friend who’s taste in music I hold in high regard. After adding Blake’s music to some play lists and burning a couple CD’s for car trips (yes, I still make mix ‘tapes’) Blake became a staple. It wasn’t until this past summer that I started learning more about this phenomenal musical talent.

Blake released his first EP “Air and Lack There of” in 2009, at the ripe age of 21. It was picked up by BBC Radio 1 where he was later asked to come in and do some mixes. In 2010 Blake’s single cover of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love” was released and made 47 on the UK Singles Chart. After this rating Blake received nominations for awards in the UK as well as increasing interest from the press. His self titled album was related in February 2011, later that year he collaborated with Bon Iver. His second album “Overgrown” was released in April 2013. This album awarded him with the UK’s Mercury Music Prize for best new album, Blake has previously been nominated for this award in 2011. This past Summer Blake toured Europe and entered the states to continue his tour in October.

Which brings us to his performance on Monday night at the Michigan Theater, sponsored by UMS. Michigan Theater has beautiful acoustics. It was an interesting choice for this type of music because of the permanent seats, which aren’t very conducive to ‘grooving’ to the music. However, the audience compromised by standing in their rows or clustering against the lip of the stage.

Nosaj Thing ( opened with an excellent DJ set whilst people were milling about the lobby sipping beer and wine. He could hardly be seen as a black silhouette illuminated by a strikingly blue light.

When James Blake and his fellow musicians Ben Assiter on drums and Bob McAndrews on guitar and sampler, the light show began and the crowd was captivated for the next two and a half hours. James Blake’s music isn’t just something you listen to, it is something you experience. I have never said this about any other musical talent I have had the pleasure to witness live; Blake’s music goes inside your body and captures you in an entirely unique way. The beats he uses in his music reverberate through your bones, his smooth, versatile voice slides into your ears and activates something within you. Seeing Blake live was a visceral and emotional experience. I have never been so affected by a performance in my life. In addition to the sound, this performance had the added sensory experience of Chris Bushell’s lighting design. Light of red, orange, white, blue and purple flickered in rhythms and patterns. They reflected off the walls, the audience and the atmospheric fog blown on to the stage. The musicians were alternately lit from above, behind and from all sides creating beautiful silhouettes and visual landscapes.

James Blake is by far the most talented musician I have ever seen perform live. This performance completely blew my mind.

Do yourself a favor and go listen to him immediately. If you are able to buy one of his albums on vinyl and put it on a decent sound system you will be much happier than digital. Barring that, hook your i-whatever up to some speakers and ride the wave.

James Blake: Measurements

PREVIEW: Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Tuesday, November 12 at 7:30 pm in Michigan Theater, UMS presents a quirky group of seven ukulele players in the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Members George Hinchliffe, Kitty Lux, David Sulch, Jonty Bankes, Richie Williams, Peter Brooke Turner, and Leisa Rea come together to bring you a very diverse program of classics and modern pop hits. This group is definitely not to be missed.

Annnd if you’re curious to learn more about ukuleles and their history, check out this clever infographic on the ums lobby website, designed and crafted by yours truly 🙂

Hope to see you there!! Student tickets only $10!!

Preview: James Blake

Who: James Blake
What: British electronic music genius.
Where: Michigan Theater
When: Monday 11 November 7:30pm
How Much: $20-$44 (

This 25 year old man is an amazing musician, combining hauntingly beautiful vocals, piano and electronic beats and sounds.

Blake began his music career in 2009. This year, after his second nomination, Blake won the British Mercury Music Prize, a prize for best album in the UK and Ireland, for his second album “Overgrown.” He has been touring the world this year, to much international success.

This concert is a thrilling opportunity to experience this amazing young talent!

Even if you are unable to attend this concert, do your self a favor and listen to his music!


Video: James Blake: A Case of You

Video: James Blake: Love What Happened Here