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Let's Hear It From The Girls! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Thursday, 20 June 2013 18:20

If your instant visualization of a jazz musician is a middle-aged gentleman, possibly with a receding hairline, a slightly wrinkled face and a constantly tapping toe, visualize again!

Bria Skonberg at the 2013 Elkhart (IN) Jazz FestivalNothing could be farther from the reality of two of the most talented jazz musicians being featured in the Elkhart Jazz Festival 2013.

Both are young, very talented, very attractive and very well-versed on the subject of jazz — past and present — and undoubtedly will play an important part in its future.

The only difference is that Bria Skonberg plays trumpet and flugelhorn and Ariel Pocock can be found at the piano.

Both will be familiar to regular visitors at past EJFs.

Bria came to the 2009 EJF as a member of the west coast sextet Mighty Aphrodite, an all-girl group which was a definite plus that year. She not only played but sang. Today she leads the Bria Skonberg Quintet and has changed her “coast of residence” to New York City.

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 June 2013 21:29
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'Addams Family' To Visit Kalamazoo PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Monday, 21 October 2013 19:24

The Addams Family Miller Auditorium Kalamazoo MI“They’re creepy and they’re kooky,

            Mysterious and spooky,

They’re altogether ooky,

            The Addams Family.


Their house is a museum

            When people come to see-um,

They really are a scre-um

            The Addams Family.

   (neat, sweet, petite)

So get a witch’s shawl on,

            A broomstick you can crawl on

We’re going to make a call on

            The Addams Family!”

The familiar theme for the TV version of Charles Addams’ famous cartoons in The New Yorker magazine is one song you won’t hear in composer Andrew Lippa’s score for the touring production set to play Tuesday and Wednesday evening in Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich.

All the Addamses — Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma, Uncle Fester and even Lurch — will be ready to greet visitors at 7:30 pm. Also invited for dinner are Wednesday’s boyfriend Lucas Beinenke and his parents, Mal and Alice.

Word is this will be a ”spooktacular” meal. It seems everyone has something to hide and more than a few skeletons in their closets.

Book for this new Addams Family adventure is by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice who also are responsible for “Jersey Boys.”

Tickets range from $35 to $58. For reservations, call (269) 387-2300 or visit www.millerauditorium.com.


Last Updated on Monday, 21 October 2013 19:46
 
'Hair' At The Barn For Musical Love-In PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Friday, 08 August 2014 16:07

In 1967, a show was born in Joe Papp’s Public Theatre — the first non-Shakespeare production in that space — that was destined to change the face of musical theater.

It moved to Broadway in 1968, settled in for a four-year run and has never stopped filling the stages of theaters, professional and non, around the world.

Hair  The Barn Theatre  Augusta  MIThe Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich., opened its fifth production of that show Tuesday evening. In case you can’t “name that show,” it was/is “Hair,” aka “The American Tribal Love Rock Musical.”

“Hair’ was/is unique. Called the “first concept musical,” it had little or no plot but musically addressed numerous problems facing America including racism, drugs, sexual repression, free love. environmental destruction, poverty, corruption in government, violence at home and, certainly not least, the Vietnam War and its conscripted army.

The almost non-stop score came to define the term “rock musical” and, through the years, has ebbed and flowed almost as much as the political and social climate of the United States.

In its infancy, it undoubtedly was a forceful shocker. The famous nude scene (all of about 20 seconds) and language (songs include “Hashish,” “Sodomy” and “Colored Spade”) met with active protest against touring productions. South Bend’s Morris Civic refused to book the show and angry religious groups picketed and/or boycotted its appearance..

Hair  The Barn Theatre  Augusta MILooking back (after all it has been 47 years!), it is not so much a protest of current ills as a memory play with intermittent jabs of reality. Book and lyrics are by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, who frequently took the roles leading of Berger and Claude, respectively, and who claimed those characters were modeled on themselves.

Whatever one remembers from the original script, it is the music that has remained rather unforgettable. Many of the songs — “Aquarius,” “Let The Sunshine,” “Good Morning, Starshine,” “Easy to Be Hard,” “Frank Mills” and, of course, the title song — may not be at the forefront of your memory but once The Barn cast starts singing, they are front and center.

There are several main roles at the core of The Tribe (which utilizes the entire apprentice company plus). Choreographer Jamey Grisham is Claude, the newest Tribe member whose only wish is to be “invisible.” Kevin Robert White, who also serves as bar show accompanist, is Berger, Tribe leader and protest instigator. Both have, along with the rest of the group, extremely long and shaggy wigs and a lot of music to sing.

Hair  The Barn Theatre  Augusta   MIOther soloists are Melissa Cotton as Sheila, Eric Tsuchiyama as Woof, Khnemi Menu-Ra as Hud, Dallyn Brunck as Jennie, Donica Lynn as Dionne, Anna Segatti as Crissy, Nicholas Fuqua as Walter, Dwayne Everett Johnson as Ronny and Patrick Hunter as a tourist (in drag!). Senior members portray parents (Eric Parker and Penelope Alex), policemen (Bruce Hammond and a beard-less Charlie King) and a tourist (Hans Friedrichs).

Most are on stage most of the time, which adds up to a large number to put on the not-over-large stage. Luckily they have to lie or sit down (primarily on each other) for a good portion of that time. The costuming is almost too similar and too clean to be actual period, but it serves the purpose.

The just-off-stage band, which precedes the opening with an ear-shattering rendition of the national anthem a la Jimi Hendricks, plays almost constantly. Until the opening night sound levels are adjusted and balanced, they just drown out the ensemble and the soloists.

When lyrics provide 99 per cent of what storyline or character background there is, the inability to hear them really leaves the audience wondering what’s going on. And hand mikes definitely do not help! Spoken dialogue is little better as projection seems not a priority. Only Parker, Alex and Hunter are able to reach the back of the house.

Many in the opening night audience were a) fans of the show or b) fondly reminiscent of the ‘60s, and many obviously enjoyed the chance to be a part of the “all-dance” “Be-in” after the somber finale. A goodly number of “tie dye” shirts, flowers and headbands were evident but there were no elephant bell jeans in the lot.

HAIR” continues through Aug. 17 at The Barn Theatre on M-96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For performance times and reservations, call (269)  73`-4121 or visit www.barntheatre.com.

Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 16:38
 
'Wonderettes' Sing Back The Years PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Saturday, 16 August 2014 15:26

In the beginning there was “The Taffetas” (1988), followed closely by “Forever Plaid” (1990), the only male entry. The last in the nostalgia-based, strictly-singing., small-cast musicals was “The Marvelous Wonderettes” (1999), which opened Wednesday evening in Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre.

Marvelous wonderettes  Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INConsidering WW’s major success with its productions of “Plaid,” it’s only puzzling that “The Marvelous Wonderettes” has not made an appearance before this.

That said, the ladies are worth the wait.

There is no doubt that all “mini-musicals” are saddled with obviously contrived plots devised solely to facilitate the insertion of as many “golden oldies” as possible.

There is no attempt at being believable in any area — excepting the music. Here the quality of the solo voices as well as their blend is what counts. It’s what makes it worth sitting for the two hours it takes the Wonderettes to deliver about 30 songs. All are designed to take you back to a melodic youth or let the youngsters hear the tunes that helped mom and dad (or grandma and grandpa) fall in — and out — of love back in “the good old days.”


Director/choreographer Scott Michaels has his work cut out for him, creating movements for each number that are different yet similar and keeping the action moving along. As always, he delivers.

In this melodic time travel he has the talented Wonderettes — Leigh Ellen Jones as Cindy Lou, Kira Lace Hawkins as Missy, Sarah Jackson as Betty Jean and Jennifer Dow as Suzy — with which to work. And they succeed in creating definitely individual characters and turning back the clock whether the tempos from conductor/keyboardist Thomas Stirling and his outstanding “band of five” are up or down.

The storyline is tangled, beginning with the Wonderettes last-minute call to entertain at their 1958 high school prom. They reveal the prom theme, “Marvelous Dreams,” and announce voting (by one section of the audience) will determine the prom queen who will then choose her king.

There is an on-going rivalry between best friends Betty Jean and Cindy Lou and it becomes obvious that Suzy is dating the boy running the lights while Missy has a crush on Mr. Lee, the teacher who led the group to the cheerleading finals. (NOTE: Mr. Lee is chosen from the gentlemen sitting in the front row as is Mrs. MacPhearson, the English teacher who counts prom ballots.)

The second act is at the 10 year reunion. Suzy is married and expecting and both she and Betty Jean are having marital problems. Missy is still hoping for a proposal and Betty Jean and Cindy Lou are still feuding.

The Marvelous Wonderettes Wagon Wheel Theatre Warsaw INAnd that’s just for starters.

But no matter how flimsy the plot (and who expects believability?) the important part is the music and, from start to finish, it is solid.

Each of the quartet has at least one solo, proving all have solid voices, but their four-part harmony is the most remarkable. Difficult to deliver side-by-side, it is even more impressive when done from the four corners of scene designer Jacki Andersen’s nostalgically prom-in-the-gym setting.

Costume designer Stephen R. Hollenbeck finishes the official summer season with wonderfully decade-spanning costumes that recreate the colors and styles of the time. And the great wigs by Dow are the icing on the pastel ensembles.

There is no doubt many of the songs will bring back memories, good or not-so-good. “Mr. Sandman,” “Allegheny Moon,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Secret Love,” “Wedding  Bell Blues,” It’s My Party,” “Son of A Preacher Man” and “Respect” are only a few of the hits from the 1950’s and ‘60’s found in the repertoire of “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”

Whether you could sing along with every tune or are just hearing them for the first time, the Wonderettes make them marvelous.

“THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES” plays through Aug. 23 in the arena theater at 2515 E. Center Street in Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041 or visit www.wagonwheeltheatre.org

Last Updated on Saturday, 16 August 2014 16:36
 
'Hair' Plays Tonight At Miller Auditorium PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marcia Fulmer   
Wednesday, 27 February 2013 15:30

The Age of Aquarius, it seems, is always with us.

hair  tour Miller Auditorium  Kalamazo MichiganOriginally on Broadway in 1968, the James Rado/Gerome Ragni/Galt MacDermott musical appropriately titled "Hair," returned to the Great White Way in 1977 and 2009, winning numerous awards with each incarnation. The most recent is now on tour, bringing its look at the movement of the '60s and '70s that changed America forever to theaters across the country. From its score, many songs have joined the list of hits on the Great American Songbook. Among these "Let The Sun Shine In," "Aquarius," "Good Morning Starshine" and the title tune.

Claude and his peace-loving friends will be on stage in (and out) of appropriate hippie attire at 7:30 p.m. today in Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University. For tickets, call (800) 228-99858 or (269) 387-2300 or visit www.millerauditorium.com.

For those who were "there" — and those who were not— its one way to review past mistakes and keep them from repeating themselves.  

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 February 2013 03:38
 
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