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This “Chicago” will Blow You Away – Downriver Actors Guild (Review) January 22, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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Downriver Actors Guild is on a roll — now comes Kander and Ebb’s great musical Chicago, a rollicking good time in a spectacular production directed by Denny Connors and Choreographed by Betsy Genrich, with Musical Direction by Melanie Aue. This is not-to-be-missed musical theater brought to you by way of our friends in Wyandotte.

Both Paige Wisniewski and Spencer Genrich are remarkable in their roles of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly respectively. They sing, dance, crack jokes, and entertain in number after number and still have energy to spare for the synchronized fosse-esque “Hot Honey Rag” finale. Note that this production uses the revisal script still currently running on Broadway and on tour. Brava.

Leo McMaster is a dashing Billy Flynn and Lucinda Chavez is a hilarious Mama Morton. But wait, there’s a super-surprise in store for you later when Samuel Xavier lets loose in “Mr. Cellophane” as Amos Hart. His performance is downright amazing. Welcome home, Sam.

The entire ensemble is super-charged, and the choreography and vocal work is excellent. There are no mis-steps here, and the show simply sounds and looks spectacular. Credit also Joel Bias for the terrific lighting and sound. Costumes by Debbie Aue and Rebecca McKinney look spot-on, and the on-stage band couldn’t be better under the direction of David Waggoner.

Everything moves at lighting pace – and Connors and Genrich understand how to keep it all moving. This is entertainment, originally billed as a “new musical vaudeville” in 1975. Updated for audiences used to faster pace and higher thrills, the revisal ramps up the dance, the jokes, and the flash. But all the familiar songs are there — “All that Jazz”, “Nowadays”, “Give Em the Old Razzle Dazzle” — And dazzle us they do.

This is a production that you simply should not miss. Tickets, probably sparse at this point, are available online at downriveractorsguild.net – don’t hesitate. Chicago runs through January 29th at The Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle Avenue, Wyandotte.

Very Highest Recommendation

Spring Awakening at Dexter Community Players January 21, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, musical theater, Musicals.
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DCP is currently presenting Spring Awakening, the 2006 Steven Sater/Duncan Sheik alt-rock musical that won a slew of Tony awards and was recently revived to acclaim.

This production breaks with traditional staging and as such is somewhat hard to review since the convention of having the singers/performers always on stage with the band entering scenes as needed and singing backup throughout is somewhat different here — that changes the alt-rock-concert approach to more one of a standard book musical and I’m not sure that works. There are also specific themes of  disconnection, dissimulation, unconnectedness and misunderstanding that are incorrectly addressed here. I won’t go into that – there are 110 years of doctoral dissertations written on Wedekinds original source material play.

DCP has assembled an excellent cast of singers in a reduced-size cast that for the most part works well. They are consistently overwhelmed by the orchestra throughout, whether that is solos or ensemble numbers, sound here is problematic throughout. Mics dropped in and out during the first half but seemed better in the second half. A general note: crank your vocalists up absolutely as loudly as possible without getting feedback. No need to sound natural in this setting, just crank out the sound because this show is about the lyrics and when you can’t make them out, well…

There’s a great performance by Laura Chodoroff as Wendla — she is a young performer that I have always loved directing, and I have always hoped there would be an appropriate larger part for her, and this is it. Her acting is spot on, and her vocal work here is terrific. Also great is Chris Joseph as Moritz. He delivers powerhouse vocals and an angst-ridden character that you feel for as the drama progresses. Matt Wallace has a good voice but seemed totally uncommitted as Melchior and had little chemistry with Wendla. His later scenes were better when they were more self-centered…albeit his mic was working by that point too.

Costumes by Kristi Kuick look great. Lighting cues were frequently missed and sometimes missing altogether on the wide stage. Brian Rose’s musical direction is terrific and his band sounds fantastic, if far too loud for the space.

Spring Awakening continues through January 29th at Copland Auditorium in Dexter Michigan. http://www.dextercommunityplayers.org for tickets.

 

 

Avenue A Capella Auditions January 16, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment.
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Caught up in the acapella craze yet? Well if you are a vocalist and you like acapella music, here’s your chance! Wyandotte’s Downriver Actors Guild has a terrific group now going on its second season called Avenue A Capella and they are holding replacement auditions on February 12th beginning at 6:00 pm. The group recently presented a very professional full-concert production in November and also contributed to DAG’s holiday show in December.

While a-capella music groups have been around through the ages (singing without instrumental accompaniment), their recent popularity has been buoyed by the movies Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, the Broadway musical In Transit, and frequent use of a-capella sequences on Glee.

To audition, send an email to melaniemdspartans@gmail.com — she’ll set up an appointment time for you. Join the fun, learn some new vocal skills, or use yours to contribute to a great group of singers. I had the pleasure of attending their concert back in November and had a blast. While still a young group, they already had the sound of a much more experienced ensemble. Give credit to musical director Melanie Aue and her experience singing a-capella at Michigan State University, a skill which is readily apparent in her work with Avenue A Capella.