Preview: “The Audience” – National Theater Live – Helen Mirran

What: “The Audience” – a play
Where: Michigan Theater on Liberty
When: Sunday the 8th of September 7pm and Tuesday the 10th of September 7pm
Tickets: $22

Coming out of the West End in London, Helen Mirran (The Queen, Red, The Debt, Hitchcock) and Peter Morgan (director of The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon) come together once again for a performance about Queen Elizabeth II. Bound to be another spectacular production with Mirran as the head of the British crown.

Michigan Theater’s Website has this to say about the production:

For 60 years Elizabeth II has met each of her 12 Prime Ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace – a meeting like no other in British public life – it is private. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said. Not even to their spouses. The Audience breaks this contract of silence – and imagines a series of pivotal meetings between the Downing Street incumbents and their Queen. From Churchill to Cameron, each Prime Minister has used these private conversations as a sounding board and a confessional – sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive.

From young mother to grandmother, these private audiences chart the arc of the second Elizabethan Age. Politicians come and go through the revolving door of electoral politics, while she remains constant, waiting to welcome her next Prime Minister.

The Audience reunites writer Peter Morgan and Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren following their collaboration on the critically-acclaimed movie sensation The Queen.

The Audience is directed by Academy Award-nominated director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours) and presented in the West End by Matthew Byam Shaw for Playful Productions, Robert Fox and Andy Harries.



On Friday night, the student group Groove put on an energetic, fast paced performance in the Michigan Theater. The bi-annual event has a different theme each year and this season the subtitle was “Innocent Until Groovin’ Guilty.” The evening opened with a spoof film of a criminal case in which Groove members were prosecuted for making too much noise. The convicts were detained in a cell and when they were finally freed, they sprang forth from the silver screen onto the stage and began drumming with spirit. Using non-traditional instruments, such as garbage cans, bicycles, ladders, umbrellas, newspaper, and more, the show turned regular objects on their heads and made them entertaining in a whole new way. The performers also demonstrated their talent with traditional instruments, like guitar, drum set, electric violin, and keyboard. Each scene told a story using a variety of wild costumes and lots of bold singing and acting. One of the funniest sketches was a rap battle between two sections of a middle school band in which the lyrics spoofed off of popular rap songs but using lyrics associated with pre-pubescence and the terrible awkwardness of middle school. Another memorable sketch was a play on the James Bond theme, where some Groove members were taken hostage while others came to the rescue, all the while hammering away a beat.

The audience was totally packed and seemed to love every second of the show. It takes a lot for a student group to pack a full house at the Michigan Theater!  Some fans were also there to support to opening acts, EnCore and Rhythm student dance groups, as well as interluding musicians James Cornelison and Julian Allen.  The exciting evening concluded with a sentimental- albeit comedic- farewell to the senior Groovers as well as an audience shout out from a large sum of Groove alumni who had returned to Ann Arbor for the special event. It was a totally energetic evening, full of comedy, musical talent, and pure entertainment.

PREVIEW: Esperanza Spalding

2011 Grammy winner for “Best New Artist” and 2012 Grammy for “Best Jazz Vocal Album,” Ms. Spalding returns to wow Ann Arbor audiences this Saturday, April 6 at 8pm at the Michigan Theater. Singer, bassist, and composer, Ms. Spalding will demonstrate how her talents encompass various stylings and rhythms. Young, beautiful, and vibrant, she is going to rock the stage Saturday night, and you’re going to want to be there. Billboard writes, “Whether exploding into vocalese or making her bass solo sound like a horn, she’s a spark plug who dances as she grooves through a funked-up and rock-out repertoire.” Esperanza Spalding will blow you away as she returns to present her new album, Radio Music Society.

More information can be found at her website:

REVIEW: Ann Arbor Film Fest Animated Shorts

Ann Arbor Film Fest Animated Shorts

On Friday night, I attended my favorite film event of the festival: the Animated shorts. The screening 14 mini films ranging from 1 to 1o minutes. The style of each was highly varied, though the recurring theme remained the same throughout: darkness and sadness. While some films used traditional cartoon animation, others used collage, paintings, fibers, and other mediums of animation. Some used dialogue and human voice, dialogue, and narration,  while others used electronic music, abstract soundscapes,  and silence. With film makers from all over the world using influences from literature, personal biography, and political polemic, the series was a very strong curation of artwork.

However, the sadness factor was all-pervading. The films touched dark moments in the psyches, representing disturbed and distorted images that were transportive albeit harrowing. After the show, I ran into a woman I work with at the UMMA and she shared her opinion: “It’s this kind of a thing that makes everyone else think that all artists and depressed!’ It is true that it was depressing, but finely produced and worth seeing- had I had the caveat in advance.

On Sunday, the competition screens the cream of the crop, the winners from each category. I imagine that  one or more of these films will take him recognition at the end. They creative, unusual, and interesting to witness. To read about the animated film makers and watch clips from the animated shorts, click here. I hope you enjoyed the film fest and, if you didn’t make it this year, be sure to check it out in the future!

PREVIEW: Ann Arbor Film Festival

Ann Arbor Film Festival

The Film Fest is my absolutely favorite Ann Arbor event of the year. Every March since high school, I have visited the town during this celebrated week of film, friendly competition, and finest art. If you are trying to get your daily Starbucks this week and find that the line from the Michigan Theater is out the door and down the block, don’t panic. It’s just Ann Arbor voyeurs trying to get their art film kick!

With shorts, documentaries, animated’s, feature lengths, panels, lectures, opening receptions, after parties, juries, and more, the Film Fest takes over the the entire town in its revelry. From Tuesday, March 19th to Sunday March 24th, the Michigan Theater will host all the screenings of the festival. Restaurants like Sava’s, The Raven’s Club, The Bar, Arbor Brewing Co. and more will host the after-screenings. Tickets run at $7 for students and showtimes happen all day long. So if you are just catching a flick between classes, thats ok! With its range of genres and highly acclaimed status in the industry, this festival is not to be missed.

Click here for a full schedule of the lineup. Enjoy the show, and definitely see you there!

Review: Band of Horses… Horses… Horses

My friend and I arrive at The Michigan Theater with plenty of time to spare. After some shawarma and a couple of cigarettes we went to our seats in the balcony, which had a great view of the stage if you ignored the large piping which i can only assume is there for safety purposes.

The Opening act for Band of Horses was really quite awful. They never told the audience their name, other than “Jason and Lyonel,” their sound was melancholic but with an amateur sound I kept wondering if I was in middle school, in some friend of a friend’s garage listening to their “indi” sound. The lyrics were forcefully quirky, despite their use of pre-recorded keyboard beats, there was little to follow in the music which was mostly made up of power chords. Interesting choice for an opening act.

After another cigarette and some mindless chatter with strangers and some friends who showed up, Band of Horses started. I’ve always been impressed with their sound but was completely unprepared for the excellence that is their live performance.

Their lighting designer deserves a metal for not being too obnoxious but creating a colorful ambiance to accompany the narrative lyrics, epic guitar, organ and amazing drumming. They had some beautiful images projected on the back wall of the stage through out the show that created some really interesting shadows and really added to the whole effect of this band and their music.

Unfortunately people were comfortably seated with their popcorn and beer so there was little dancing initially. However, after the first couple song my friends and I stood in the back of the theater to thrash our little hearts out. There was a moment where the stage lights illuminated our position and we got a “wave out” from the band! a great moment.

The drums were much heavier live than they come across on the album, which i must say i prefer. Over-all i enjoyed their live performance more than their recorded music, which I already love. Out of all the concerts, big and small, I have seen over the years (first one, 2000 TRL tour with Destiny’s Child) this show is ranking number one!

If you ever have a chance to see a band you love perform live, go. Seeing how they hold up under the pressure of immediate success/ failure is always interesting and illuminating.

By the last couple of songs there were people flocking to the stage and those of us in the balcony were standing and jammin. Fantastic performance and show of enthusiasm and appreciation from the fans.