REVIEW: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

I really had no idea what to expect from this musical.  Before last Saturday, I’d never seen it performed or heard any of the songs.  Perhaps that’s the best way to go to a musical–with a completely open mind.  Let the cast members do what they will with the story.

One of the first things I noticed, before the show even started, was how amazing the set was.  Kudos to whoever designed it and set it up.  The spelling bee was set to take place in a school’s gymnasium, complete with wooden floorboards, crappy metal bleachers, and even a basketball stuck between the hoop and the backboard.  It was perfect.

The musical itself was a delicate balance between hilarious and touching.  Much of it was lighthearted and funny–the definitions and sentences given for each word were my favorite part.  The introductions of each contestant were great, too:  someone was “writing an opera in Braille,”  while another was “kicked off Project Runway for creating that outfit.”  Audience participation was a huge part of the first half, but just because someone was brave enough to go on stage in front of hundreds of people didn’t mean they would get treated gently.  Aside from the Project Runway line, someone was referred to as “Babycrombie and Fitch,” and the last holdout in the spelling competition was given the most difficult words possible, until he failed and left no one on stage but the cast members.  I was really, really glad I hadn’t volunteered!  I just laughed comfortably from my vantage point in the auditorium seating.

I thought there were a couple standout performances (Maddy Trumble, Jordan Harris, Tyler Jones), but the real magic came from how the cast worked with each other.  In a musical that could have easily coasted on the hilarity and quirkiness of the writing, everyone on stage dug a little deeper and found a way to make each character’s story poignant and gripping.  By the time the contestants are whittled down to Olive and William, the audience has felt the loss of each kid that dropped out, and doesn’t quite know who to root for to win it all.  Even so, when one kid does win, all of a sudden it feels like that’s exactly how it should work out and everyone goes home happy.  All in all, I felt like the show did exactly what a show should do:  it was entertaining, and at the same time, it left the audience with some deeper issues to think about on the way home.  If you ever get a chance to see it performed, I highly recommend it!

PREVIEW: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

In the mood for a musical this weekend?  You’re in luck!  MUSKET is presenting The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on March 25-27:  Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm.  All shows will be at the Power Center.  It’s the first time ever that this musical has been produced on campus–we’ve got some really ambitious performers in our midst!  It’s a Tony Award-winning, comical musical about 6 awkward adolescents competing in–you guessed it–a spelling bee, and the stakes are ridiculously high.  The original recording was also nominated for a Grammy.

Tickets are $7 for students, $13 for adults, available at the Michigan League Ticket Office.  It’s not sold out yet, but anything put on by the music school is pretty much guaranteed to be popular–grab a seat, and enjoy!

Preview: Sankai Juku

Dance means different things to different people. To some, it is ballet or  classical dance forms full of graceful movements.  To some, it is an expression of their reaction to music- hip-hop, jazz dance, tap dance,etc.  To others like me who are not so graceful or particularly born to dance, it is a fun way to  exercise. And to some, like Sankai Juku’s founder Ushio Amagatsu, it is butoh.

Ushio Amagatsu
Ushio Amagatsu

According to Amagatsu, the dance form of butoh represents “a dialogue with gravity”.  Be it ballet, hip-hop, Irish dance or any other dance, gravity defying movements are a huge focus of modern-day dance. But butoh is about “sympathisizing with gravity” (to quote Amagatsu) and thus it comprises of entirely different set of movements.

What I feel Sankai Jukus butoh symbolises- the call of gravity
What I feel Sankai Juku's butoh symbolises- embracing the call of gravity

Sankai Juku will be performing the work “Hibiki: resonance from Far Away”, at the Power Center this weekend. Be prepared for stunning imagery and some inventive and impressive choreography.

Show times:

Saturday, October 23 | 8 pm
Sunday, October 24 | 2 pm

Power Center

Tickets @ the Michigan League Ticket Office; more info on the UMS webpage

PREVIEW: Paul Taylor Dance Company

Paul Taylor is a name that is revered in American contemporary dance. He has done over 130 dances and is known for his lively, creative and powerful choreography.  This week, the Paul Taylor Dance Company is in Ann Arbor.  This will be a visual treat as the dancers are known for their athletic and powerful performances on a variety of subjects.  There are 3 shows and each one of the shows offer something very unique.

Paul Taylor Dance Company
Paul Taylor Dance Company

The program for friday has Taylor’s version of the well-acclaimed “Orbs”  and another recent dance called “Also playing”.  This latter dance is set to Donizetti ballet music and has an element of humor to it.

The legendary Paul Taylor
The legendary Paul Taylor

For saturday, we have the sizzling “Piazzolla Caldera” and a couple of other lovely pieces from Taylor’s vast repertoire.

Click this link for a glimpse of Taylor’s awesome work- Scudorama

Show times:

Thursday, October 7 | 8 pm
Friday, October 8 | 8 pm
Saturday, October 9 | 8 pm

@ Power Center

Tickets @ $ 10 at Michigan League  or the Box Office before the show

See you there!

for art[seen],


Preview: The story of Macbeth’s power lust unfolds @ the Power Center

‘Macbeth’ is Shakespeare’s most intriguing and bloody tragedies ever. It has all the elements for a perfect thriller. We have sinister witches with their equivocal prophecies, a power- hungry wife who eggs her husband on to get a crown that doesn’t rightfully belong to him, a war-hardened man who kills his way to the throne, visits from ghosts,  lots of bloodshed (like in Tarantino’s “Inglorious basterds’- this one’s not for the queasy too!), cunning plots and then of course, the tragic  and dramatic climax. Though it was Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, it was one that left the readers/viewers with shudders. No one can forget Lady Macbeth sleepwalking and lamenting thus- “Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!”

The U of M production of ‘Macbeth’ by the Department of Theatre & Drama and directed by Philip Kerr, is set in a military hospital during the early 20th century. ‘Macbeth’ is about the erosion of the soul by guilt and how one’s deeds will catch up with them eventually. War also ravages the soul quite a bit, often leaving everybody involved with a question as to its point  (if not convinced, see  “Saving Private Ryan”, my personal favorite among war movies) .  All things are fair in love and war – and in politics and in gaining power! So it will be extremely interesting to see how Philip Kerr’s production is staged and how they portray the story as this play has so much of potential for the actors to really bring out their talents.

They say that Shakespeare had used real witch spells and that “the Bard’s play” brings  bad luck to actors and the theatres, so much so that actors and other theatre people often consider it bad luck to mention Macbeth by name while inside a theatre. So people, don’t mention “Macbeth” inside th Power Center and bring a horseshoe for some extra good luck, ok?

Show times:

Dec 10th @ 7.30 pm; Dec 11th & 12th @ 8 pm; Dec 13th @ 2 pm- Power Center

Tickets @ the Michigan League Ticket Office (Students $9)

Yours truly,

Krithika  for [art]seen

P.S. Hmmm… did the weather in Ann Arbor get so bad because ‘Macbeth’ is playing and there was “Double, double toil and trouble;fire burn and cauldron bubble”?