Tags: Cedar Point Avalanche Run, Cedar Point Disaster Transport, defunct coasters, Disaster Transport, Space Spiral, toboggan coasters
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It’s been a long time coming — and Disaster Transport (nee Avalanche Run) will offer its last toboggan run on Sunday July 29th. The ride is slated for demolition (along with Space Spiral a few weeks later) to make room for next season’s new B&M-manufactured wing coaster.
Built in 1985, Avalanche Run opened with great fanfare along with a handful of the toboggan coasters opening across the country.
Seen here outdoors, it was a fast favorite of fans, despite its low thrill factor, with very long wait times and slow load times. A few years later in 1990, Lake Erie, sand, and the elements were beginning to have their way with the track. Throwing good money after bad (most parks that installed the toboggan coasters removed them within a few years because of the extraordinary and expensive maintenance required on them vs the low interest/thrill factor) Cedar Point enclosed it in a large warehouse type structure; themed it to outerspace transport gone amok, and Disaster Transport was rebranded.
Known mostly as the coaster you road when it was really hot outside; Cedar Fair did little in the way of maintenance. As lighting and effects wore out, they were simply abandoned. The queue line was shortened to its current lackluster state. Over the years paint, lights, animatronics, and other effects were simply afterthoughts and most current riders don’t even know what it looked like in the early 90′s since most of the effects have been gone for 15 years.
There are plenty of other blogsites that carefully discuss the history and the effects in the ride — so I will leave that to them, and to your Google search.But I will leave this for last, a photo of Disaster Transport taken from the Skyride with Space Spiral in front of it. I had a final ride on Disaster Transport/Avalanche Run yesterday — and for all those many years of lackluster (but fun and air conditioned) rides, I salute you. Goodbye Disaster Transport.
Tags: Croswell Opera House, Les Miserables Student Edition
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Having now seen two high school versions of LES MISERABLES, it begs to ask the question, is this the best High School musical ever?
25 years ago, I don’t think any of us would have ever thought that high schools might be doing this musical today. In fact, it seemed so “adult” and so “current” that it was hard to imagine anyone but professionals doing the show. Yet here it is.
Pioneer High School did a decent version a few years ago. Croswell Opera House did a whiz-bang knock-out version of it this past two weekends. Both casts had decent singers and mediocre ones — and yet both versions worked equally well.
Cut to 2.5 hours instead of the 3 hour running time, most audience members will be unaware of the cut material unless you are a true Les Mis expert. Some of the detail is gone, but its barely missed.
What is evident is that this is a show that features dozens of “parts” and the stronger performers are cast in leads while your average high school dramatists are equally happy playing the many many different ensemble parts. The parts fall directly into the vocal ranges of 16 – 18 year olds.
The music is not difficult to perform. Throw in a great orchestra and some straight-forward sets, and you have what might easily become the best current high school musical on the market for those schools tired of Bye Bye Birdie and Hairspray.
That brings me to special kudos for Croswell’s production. Musical Director Jonathan Sills has done a superb job with his (large) high school cast, and the orchestra was simply stunning. No cut-down orchestrations here; the full orchestra sound is lush and glorious.
Doug Miller designed a beautiful set, complete with detailed barricade. If the staging was a bit similar to the recent 25th Anniversary tour of the show, it can only be said that most shows without a turntable are pretty much going to look like that.
In short, I love youth theater and have directed a lot of it — but I was a bit green with envy at the stagecraft (and budget) on display at Croswell Opera House.
One caveat: if you are planning to do the show in your high school, make sure that you have plenty of men. Like most musicals of the last twenty years, its male-centric and you need plenty of them that can act, sing, and (kinda) dance (or at least move to the beat).
Tags: Adam Woolsey, Ann Arbor Musical Theater Works, Chip Mezo, Jayna Katz, KW Productions, Lora Knight, The Last 5 Years
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Those explosions you heard over downtown Jackson the last couple nights have been caused by Jayna Katz and Adam Woolsey blowing the roof off of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra performance space during The Last 5 Years, the Jason Robert Brown two-person musical.
Telling the story of a meeting, a wedding, and a breakup (hers from end to beginning, his from beginning to end), the song-cycle musical is a cult favorite of musical theater folks and a standard repertoire piece across the country. KW Productions/Ann Arbor Musical Theater Works does a spectacular job with their presentation. Performing in the lovely JSO space, the production brings the story to emotional life, backed up by an ever-present orchestra stage center (and they sound superb. Kudos also to sound engineers KJ Rowan and Amanda Mahoney). Conductor/Pianist Lora Knight and her ensemble make beautiful music together.
Artistic director Chip Mezo keeps the affair moving at a swift pace (90 minutes without an intermission) but the true stars of the show are Jayna Katz and Adam Woolsey, who infuse this powder-keg of songs with enough energy to lift the roof. Its hard to review either performance individually because they are so interdependent on each other — and what they achieve here is spectacular: lilting ballads, bitter drama, and soaring emotion. Jayna has a strong background in musical theater and this performance sends her off to her move to Chicago in spectacular style. Adam has performed locally and in NYC, and was a contestant on American Idol Season 11. Together, they are a force to reckon with, and you should not miss it.
The near-sold out audience leapt to its feet at the conclusion of the show: and if you plan on seeing it, call your reservations in right now…the theater space is small and tickets will surely be gobbled up fast. Word of mouth is spreading like wildfire. Let me put it in print — do not miss this production.
Catch the fireworks two more times: Saturday night July 14th at 8:00, and Sunday the 15th at 3:00. Tickets can be reserved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are 15.00 at the door. JSO is located at 215 W. Michigan Avenue, downtown Jackson, MI. For you Ann Arborites, thats a short 35 minute drive.
Tags: Encore Musical Theatre Company, Fiddler on the Roof, Stephen West
Tevye (Stephen West) and family in Fiddler on the Roof (photo courtesy Encore Musical Theatre Company)
Fiddler on the Roof opened at the Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter, MI last night, and if the crowd response was anything like it will be throughout the run, Encore has another hit musical on its hands and you should get your tickets now.
Full disclosure: I am not a proponent of large proscenium-theater based musicals being crammed into black boxes with reduced orchestrations. That being said, this is the best “large cast” musical that Encore has presented in their theater space. That is both a compliment and a liability.
Guest Equity actor Stephen West is spectacular in his role of Tevye. The show belongs to him, and he commands your attention in every scene he is in. His voice resonates throughout the theater, and his charisma is infectious. He also has the acting chops to make the journey memorable from beginning to end. Do not miss this performance.
The leads in Fiddler are consistently good to excellent…among the standouts are strong performances by all three of-age daughters as played by Katherine Kujala (Tzeitel), Clare Lauer (Hodel) and Hannah Clague (Chava). Marlene Inman-Reilly holds her own as Tevye’s wife Golde, and their scenes together are musical theater gold indeed. “Do You Love Me?” is a highlight of the evening. Sebastian Gerstner turns in a dynamic performance as Perchik (and makes the most of being saddled with the musical’s worst song, “Now I have Everything”). Also good are Judy Dery as Yente the matchmaker; Tim Brayman as Lazar-Wolf; and John Hummel as Motel.
The Ensemble here is good, but insufficient. There is that liability I spoke of earlier. The show is lacking at least 8 men. I don’t blame this at all on Encore, but our over-saturated big-musical market in the Ann Arbor area where men who can sing and dance are at a premium and spread over at least 7 other musicals this summer. When Encore veers from smaller musicals, they are in the same boat as all the other community theaters in the area: beg, borrow, plead, and cajole to get enough men into the ensemble. Want to know how to help out guys? AUDITION!…But Fiddler is probably not the best choice for this small space. The Original Broadway Cast and 70‘s and 90’s revivals included 45 members. The 2004 revival 40. The Encore production 25.
This results in curious moments like the Rabbi’s son drinking in the inn…and awkward costume/makeup changes like Jesse Barfield playing Russian Fyedka in one scene, and a bearded local in the next. Awkward. It also leads to a less-than-compelling “To Life” in the Inn — there aren’t enough men to cover both the Russian and the local factions, and the ensemble is out of breath after their dance number so that vocal highlights are missing throughout. Other ensemble scenes work better, but are generally hit-or-miss.
Toni Auletti has designed a beautiful woodwork village set; and the integration of Marc Chagall imagery works well. Costumes are generally serviceable, with more attention paid to the leads, and less to the ensemble. Lighting is good. Cheryl Van Duzen’s 5-piece orchestra sounds wonderful, though anemic. The Fiddler orchestrations are written for 19 pieces, and reduced to 10. 5 just is insufficient for this large musical.
There are some curious directing choices that have been made by director/choreographer Barbara Cullen. The use of the Fiddler on stage works in some scenes, while it is intrusive in others. Emily Slomovits is an accomplished violinist, and she is fun to watch on stage (usually). Scene changes are “danced” which is a brilliant addition in Act One, but becomes intrusive in later goings as things turn more serious. Things in Act One work generally better than those in Act Two as it makes its slow slogging march to the inevitable conclusion, shedding daughters as it goes. That isn’t Encore’s fault, nor the directors, but a function of the show itself. While the cast hits its marks in the bits of business required, Jewish (and Russian) intonations and accents come and go, and there is a sense that many in the cast are going through the motions and mannerisms without really understanding why they are doing them –and nobody touches a Mezuzah when entering through doorways in this very religious community. This is a very white-bread Jewish community to say the least.
But I save the most glaring problem for last. I don’t know why a decision was made to end Act One after Tevye’s Dream rather than as written to end after the wedding and the Russian demonstration. This is a glaring problem and I have never seen this done with Fiddler. One loses the passage of time, and the intended drama of the piece. Its a mistake.
Fiddler on The Roof continues at Encore Musical Theatre Company through August 12th. Tickets are available at the theater box office at 3126 Broad Street; by phone at 734-268-6200 or online at theencoretheatre.org