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Memphis lives in me (Thoughts on closing) August 24, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Michigan, musical theater, Musicals.
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This isn’t a review. And it isn’t a random entry. This is truly an article about what “Memphis” means to me.

Yesterday, we played our final performance of MEMPHIS the Musical at The Croswell Opera House in Adrian, MI. It was a show that earned rave reviews (two were published right here!) and almost instantaneously became the major theater event of the SE Michigan/NW Ohio theatre scene. It was called “moving”, “electric”, “triumphant”, “joyous”, “energized”. But it also garnered the type of comments that meant much more: “dug deep into the talent pool so underutilized in this area”, “ spiritual”, “inspiring”.

Not familiar with the show? Well, it is about the birth of rock and roll, based on the black rhythm and blues roots of Memphis underground clubs, and how that sound eventually made it into the mainstream, primarily by way of teenagers and younger listeners who craved that type of upbeat dance music. It led to things like “the generation gap” and took place many years before the 50’s created in “Grease” or the early 60’s of “Hairspray”.

I had the honor of playing the supporting part of Mr Simmons, the radio station (later television station) owner — a great comedic part, and a risk-taker: sure, he was out for money, but he was a businessman who was open-minded enough in 1951 to hire a DJ that spun “colored music” (also known as “race music” at that time), and even permit an all-black television program down the road. When things spin out of control in Act II, he is astute enough to recognize that he needs to get his black performers “home, where they will be safe”.

But there is a secondary storyline — that of white disc jockey Huey Calhoun and his pursuit of black singer Felecia Farrell — and the racial tension that ensues in both the white and black communities when they fall in love with tragic consequences.

You would think that would be enough to keep you entertained, right?

Well, there is an even deeper level of what happened in Adrian this summer — and it was the miracle of a fully integrated cast at Croswell. 19 black cast members. An equal number of white. And that was a small miracle and one that seems like it shouldn’t be something we need to celebrate in 2015 — BUT WE DO.

While I consider Croswell the theater nearest and dearest to my heart I also do shows primarily in Ann Arbor. I’ve never done a show that had an integrated cast in this area. Years ago we did Big River at Ann Arbor Civic Theater with 4 black cast members (it needed about 15). On occasion I’ve gotten one or two diverse auditioners at shows I direct — in Ann Arbor.

Imagine the feat that took place in Adrian with Memphis. When the show was announced last fall, many people raised their eyebrows and thought, “what? where are they going to get that cast?” I hate to admit I was one of those people. In fact, I went up to the artistic director that night and asked her that same question.

But what happened was that people “believed”…starting with Jere Righter and the Board of Directors — they believed they could do it. Director/Choreographer Debra Calabrese believed she could get the cast. She used that belief to round up some of the most talented dancers in the area. Some were local to Adrian, others came from Toledo, in particular from schools of dance and fine arts. While those of us who had already been cast sweated out hearing if the show was on for sure, these people who believed were out there making the impossible happen.

We had an all-cast meeting early in the summer — and that initial meeting set the tone for what was to come. One by one, in groups, and in carpools, the cast arrived. Most had never been to Adrian before, let alone inside the Croswell Opera House. Some had never even been in a musical before. I looked around and found myself surprised and bewildered — there we were, one of the most diverse groups of colors, sizes, shapes, and ages.

Slowly people started talking — we introduced ourselves. We laughed. We sang a round of the curtain call song with our musical director Dave Rains who smiled and said “yeah, that will work”.

And we started to believe too.

The skeptics around SE Michigan were starting to become more vocal when I told them the show was coming together in a way beyond any of our dreams. It couldn’t be. Really? “I heard you’re using offstage singers” (yes, but so do other shows across America). “I heard your lead hasn’t even arrived from NYC yet” (yes, but when she did, the remarkable Tatiana Owens knew every single line of dialogue, blocking, and music). “I heard your spending a lot of time in dance rehearsals” (Well, duh, its a heavy dance musical). “I heard you have two separate casts” (no — we had an integrated cast of black and white performers who were all at rehearsals together every night – it was true that there are numbers that feature only the black cast, and others that feature only the white cast, but many of them featured both).

But the excitement was mounting. Tati arrived, and was instantly welcomed and enveloped by the cast. The show was becoming one big moving cog-and-wheel machine: scenes were landing with the correct emphasis on jokes and balanced with seriousness; dances were taking a shape that I have rarely seen on any local stage — when you have some of the finest dancers available, you can do some of the finest choreography — and they were, and it was.

But something else was happening — this integrated cast was becoming a tight, cohesive family. Black and white. Arriving early every night so that there was time to socialize. Lingering after rehearsals to chat in the parking lot. Grabbing meals together. Texting non-stop. Supporting each other on Facebook during the day — looking forward to the next rehearsal.

And everyone believed in this show, and this cast, and the quality. There wasn’t a single person who thought that this was not going to work (or if there was, I was certainly not aware of it).

By the time we got to tech week, we knew we had a hit. The emotions were flowing just right. The invited dress audience was ecstatic. The rest is history — the reviews were stellar, the ticket sales took off and the box office was swamped with calls and online orders and the sellouts followed. There was an outpouring of “Memphis-love”. I joked that my favorite thing was getting home at the end of the night and reading my Facebook feed each night after a show, which had exploded with Memphis posts.

And the audiences were just as diverse as the cast — certainly not 50/50 like the cast itself, but far more diverse than any other audiences I can ever remember at Croswell…and the energy was palpable. I could feel it from the stage. The cast thrived on every audience gasp, and ooh, and ah and reaction to kisses, and broken records, and by the second act it was simply electric in the house. Older cast members shared stories of discrimination and human rights. An older white man in the audience told our director that “he had no idea he had made it so difficult for people back then”.

Absolutely nothing creates that type of energy but live theater. It is why I have been involved with theater since being a young kid. I’ve directed 45 musicals, and I’ve probably been in about an equal number, and I’ve never felt what I did during Memphis, both onstage, and afterwards each night. Audience members stayed and wanted to meet the cast after the show. Audience members stopped us in the parking lot on our way to our cars to take selfies and talk about the show. Adrian was abuzz — reports came from people talking about the show at their hair stylists, at their nail salon, at the library, at Adrian College, and Sienna Heights, at Sauce restaurant. The two topics that dominated Adrian life were the new Buffalo Wild Wings opening near “the mall” and Memphis.

This is a good a time as any to thank the many many audience members that came and supported the show and were moved and told their friends and brought them back to see the show a second time. It is time to thank every single merchant downtown and around the area that displayed a Memphis poster in their windows. Its time to thank people for making everyone feel welcome. And it is time to thank Croswell for supporting something that will hopefully keep diversity alive and well on its stages and audiences.

If there is something I wish comes of this experience for everyone is that those young folks who are growing up in Adrian and thinking that they are somehow different and not welcome — stop, believe, know that you belong, and come audition for future shows. Discover your talents. Discover your uniqueness. Be a part of this big, organic thing that is theater and live performance.

There were more tears backstage on closing night (they actually started the night before already) than I have witnessed at other shows — and that was a tribute not just to the feeling that had been created on stage, and with the intensity of the rehearsal/performance process — but also because this big diverse family was performing together for the last time.

After the show, the tears flowed for real. Cast met audience a final time. Some lingered over a meal and drinks with friends, others went home. I met with a best friend and we couldn’t stop talking about the show. When he later posted a clandestine 10 second clip of the curtain call online, I watched it over and over, probably 20 times. I was having a hard time letting go as well. I felt I didn’t have closure. I wanted to keep these people in my life every single night.

I have 40 new friends, and I can’t wait to see what they do next — be that in Toledo, Ann Arbor, Adrian, or wherever. I can’t wait to see these folks again. We took a spiritual journey together. Cast, crew, orchestra, artistic staff. I know I will work with many of them again.

I believe this is the start of something wonderful.

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream…Michigan Shakespeare Festival 2015 Off to a Great Start July 12, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Michigan, Shakespeare, Theatre.
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Okay, truth be told, I should not review shows at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, since I am the Vice Chair on the Board of Directors of the MSF. But that doesn’t mean I can’t tell you about it anyway. And its my blog. So if it happens to be a great production I can mention that, right? And not having had a hand in any aspect of the production (in fact, I saw it for the first time last night), I have some thoughts…

The MSF 2015 season opened with a rousing production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream last night. Swiftly and expertly directed by MSF Artistic Director Janice Blixt, the production times in at 2.5 hours with the intermission, and there’s a terrifically talented cast onstage.

Shawn Pfautsch is back! And he plays an impish and athletic Puck — another amazing role for him (some will recall he played Hamlet last summer for MSF). He effortlessly delivers his lines while romping around the forest-set, and he’s hilarious to boot. But its expertly crafted — watch one of his exits in which an invisible force pulls him offstage by one leg for example.

AMND is one of my personal Shakespearean favorites — not because its his most interesting, or funniest, or even most creative…but because it really is a showcase for actors and wide-open to the interpretation of directors. Everything in this production looks great, and the acting can’t be beat.

There are some lovely pairings here — David Blixt and Janet Haley as Oberon and Titania…Lydia Hiller and Brandon St Clair Saunders as Hermia and Lysander…and Laurel Schroeder and Milan Malisic as Helena and Demetrius.

The Rude Mechanicals are humorously played by Alan Ball (Bottom), David Turrentine, Dan Wilson, Edmund Alyn Jones, Eric Eilersen and Andy Head.

Matthew Fahey, Annie Keris, Daniel Helmer, Rick Eva, Sarah Pidgeon and Evelyn Blixt round out the wonderful cast. The well-known dialogue comes trippingly off the tongue across the board, and as usual at MSF the action is staged cleanly and it is all easy to follow, even for Shakespeare newbies.

It all looks and sounds great on Jeremy Hopgood’s set, with Renae Skoog’s costumes, Diana Fairchild’s lighting, and Kate Hopgood’s sound design and musical composition.

Its a great way to get the MSF season of too a terrific start — Henry IV (both parts) and Sheriden’s The Rivals follow with openings next weekend. All three productions move to the Village Theater on Cherry Hill in Canton two weeks from now.

MichiganShakespeareFestival.com for tickets. In repertory through August 16th.

Wedding-filled “Always a Bridesmaid at the Dio (review) July 5, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Michigan, Theatre.
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Watching a Jones Hope Wooten comedy is a bit like sitting back and binge watching four episodes of your favorite new television sitcom.

Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, collectively know as Jones Hope Wooten, have written many comedies, including the Dio’s current offering “Always a Bridesmaid” (one of their most performed shows, after “The Dixie Swim Club”, which the Dio has also presented in the past). Coming from the rich world of television comedies (including The Golden Girls), their writing is always crisp, easily relatable, and truly funny.

And when its presented as well as the Dio’s current production, there is nothing better than sitting back and letting everything just entertain you for a few hours. Here, we follow a group of women over 7 years and their weddings — they have made a vow it appears that they will always appear in each others weddings as bridesmaids. It is instantly recognizable material, from the reluctant no-longer-a-debutante to the drunk bride’s speech at a wedding. And there are more weddings over the years than there are characters.

Steve DeBruyne directs this swiftly-paced comedy and the one-liners fly fast and furious. Anne Dilworth gets things started as the tipsy bride and ties together each segment with a short introduction that becomes increasingly boozy as it goes along. Her Mother is played by Nancy Penvose who is quick becoming one of my favorite local actors. She doesn’t miss a beat as the shenanigans of four separate weddings ensue – each the subject of subsequent scenes of the play . The entire ensemble cast is terrific, including Fran Potasnik, Sonja Marquis, Wendy Hedstrom, and Amy Morrisey.

The simple but appropriate set is designed by Matthew Tomich, as is the lighting design. Norma Polk does her usual excellent work with costumes — and wait till you see what she has in store when “elegant French dresses” are called for in Episode 3, I mean Scene 3.

Chef Jarod has prepared a wonderful dinner to start things off on the right foot — of his delicious chicken, vegetable lasagna, mixed vegetables, and an excellent salad bar (you could stuff yourself on the salad alone, with its mixed meats, cheeses, and other toppings). Dessert is served during intermission. (Don’t forget to tip your waiter/performer!).

The Dio continues its string of excellent productions and tasty (filling) dinners with “Always a Bridesmaid”, and you will have a great time. The production continues through August 2nd. Tickets online at diotheatre.com or by phone at 517-672-6009  177 E. Main Street, Pinckney, MI.

Recommended.

Michigan Shakespeare Festival 2015 — Ready to go! June 15, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in Detroit, Entertainment, Michigan, Shakespeare, Theatre, Travel.
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Hello fellow Shakespeare lovers! You know me as the owner/reviewer of my blog — A2View.com…but I wear other hats as well…I own and work as a neuropsychologist at BrainTrainers Brain Injury Day Program…I direct (coming up: Bonnie & Clyde for Encore Musical Theatre Company)…I perform (this summer as Mr. Simmons in Memphis the musical at Croswell Opera House)…

But today I am writing as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

When I first moved to Michigan from NYC, I came across this small outdoor theatre festival in Jackson, Michigan that performed outstanding Shakespeare productions in the park — and from the first show I saw I was hooked. The Festival has since grown tremendously in scope and nature, has for many years been located indoors in state-of-the-art, air-conditioned, bug-free splendor, and has continued to present remarkable theatre for five weeks every summer.

This year, the Festival is expanding to include three weeks in Canton, MI as well! We know that many of our audience members travel to Jackson from the SE Michigan area, and now we are pleased to be in our own backyard, centrally located in Canton. We don’t ever plan to leave Jackson, but its an exciting expansion into Wayne county which is more convenient for Detroiters and Ann Arborites.

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival is a professional Actors Equity Association-LORT theatre festival, featuring all-professional actors, artistic staff, and technicians. Everyone gets paid a living wage — except for us Board Members of course.

Because the Festival maintains high artistic professional standards that result in top quality productions utilizing artists of the highest caliber, it is no wonder that the company is the most award-winning theatre in the state, garnering not only local but national acclaim. Reviews called last season’s productions “Outstanding” (MLive), “You may never again see this play done so well” (Encore Michigan),  “Remarkably relevant” (Examiner), “Four out of Four stars” (Detroit Free Press), and “Exquisite…gorgeous…perfect” (Jackson Citizen Patriot).  BroadwayWorld named last season’s production of Hamlet the Best Shakespearean Production of 2014.

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival has also been named the “Official Shakespeare Festival” by the State of Michigan.

If you have never attended — you should. Its kind of a big deal. Come see why the shows win all those Wilde Awards every year. If you have, then you already know that the festival regularly gets visitors from all over Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Chicago, and Canada…its destination theater year after year.

This July 9- August 16, 2015 the Festival will offer William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and both parts of Henry IV, along with Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals, at both venues — in Jackson and in Canton. Tickets are now on-sale.

Jackson performances are July 9 – 19 at Jackson College in the Boughman Theatre…and Canton performances are July 29 – August 16 at Village Theatre…the complete schedule for every night is at michiganshakespearefestival.com

Tickets are available at all sorts of price points — with special reduced preview performances, and other deals. Group sales are also available.

But as you know, (and this that part of the post where owning your own blog comes in handy once a year), ticket sales make up a very small proportion of the monies required to keep a professional theater company up and running. We depend on our sponsors, theatre patrons, and you to make it all happen summer after summer. We’re not talking outdoor-theatre-in-the-park anymore —- we’re talking something that rivals every other professional Shakespeare Festival company nationwide (and that other big festival in Ontario).

If you can, won’t you please take a moment to remember the Michigan Shakespeare Festival with a donation or sponsorship? It’s easy. Just make out a check to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival and mail it to the address below, or call the phone number, or donate online. There are all sorts of sponsorship packages available — from program ads to sponsoring almost every aspect of the shows and festival itself. What a great way to get your name affiliated with something pretty cool and hip. I’m proud to say that my company BrainTrainers is a sponsor of the Festival as well.

We’ll thank you, we’ll applaud you, we’ll salute you with another season of awesome Shakespeare. And you’ll know that you made the difference.

Thanks in advance — hope to see you at our shows this summer!

Ronald P. Baumanis

MSF Board of Directors, Vice Chair

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival

215 W. Michigan Ave.

Jackson, MI 49201

517-998-3673

www.MichiganShakespeareFestival.com

Lead Performances drive this “Parade” (Peppermint Creek) Review November 15, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Michigan, musical theater, Musicals.
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Love it or hate it, any theater company takes a risk when producing the Alfred Uhry/Jason Robert Brown musical “Parade” — it is a hard sell to get an audience to empathize with a jewish factory manager who may or may not have committed the murder and rape of a 13-year old factory worker in 1912 Atlanta, Georgia. You might be familiar with the story from the 1987 movie “The Murder of Mary Phagan” or the 2009 The People v Leo Frank.  Its a challenging and complicated musical to be sure, but one that has Peppermint Creek fortunately sold out throughout its run.

What really makes this particular production soar is the outstanding lead performances by Adam Woolsey as Leo, and Mary Maurer as his wife Lucille. Individually and together, their vocals and acting soar, and make this a compelling piece of musical theater. I’ve seen Adam in several productions now, and the work here surpasses anything he has done previously, and comes unexpectedly — that the show works here is in large part due to his subdued and empathic performance. There is also very solid vocal work from up-and-comer Ben Cassidy as Frankie Epps (among other small roles).

If you don’t already have a ticket, you won’t be able to see this remarkable singing performance — but look for other works by Peppermint Creek in Lansing — I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the local premier of the off-Broadway Pasek and Paul musical “Dogfight” this spring.

Kudos to a theater company willing to take risks — and not perform the “same old stuff” — and what better way to see that rewarded but sold-out houses.

 

Extraordinary “Cabaret” at the University of Michigan (review) October 17, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Michigan, musical theater, Musicals.
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The University of Michigan’s Musical Theater program in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance is generally known for producing the best local musical theater presentations. Every now and again, even they outdo themselves and their production of the revisal version of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret is one of those musicals.

Every aspect of this production is just right — from Joe Locarro’s direction and Ron De Jesus’s brilliant choreography, to Bruce Brockman’s outstanding set design (I’ve never seen the stage of the Lydia Mendelssohn so amazingly transformed) and Rob Murphy’s lighting design, and the great musical theater program student cast.

Taking the 1998 revisal and lightening it up a bit (the Broadway version is actually a bit darker, and certainly costumes its cast in much less) until the (heavy-handed but affecting) ending, the production has the audience engaged from opening note. My one regret is that the revisal cuts my favorite numbers from the original production: “Telephone Song” and “Why Should I Wake Up?” – though it does substitute the latter with the grimmer “I Don’t Care Much” later in the show.

Watching UM musical theater productions is a bit like watching a pre-Broadway tryout, since that is where many of these actors will end up, some sooner than others. I can’t imagine it will take long for this production’s Emcee, Mackenzie Orr, to land a role there. He is in a word, magnificent. I could not take my eyes off of him, whether he was performing one of his (many) numbers, or simply lounging about the Berlin-based cabaret set, watching, wordlessly witnessing a world disintegrating on the evenings just prior to one of humanities greatest human tragedies. What makes this musical work so well is that the audience knows how it ends, while watching and witnessing a group of people who have no idea what their future will (or will not) bring – and the suspense is palpable (and why the original production did not feel the need to tack on the ending later added to the revisal).

Isabelle McCalla is a beautiful Sally Bowles, and she is directed to play the part similarly to leading ladies on Broadway (think Michelle Williams, Natasha Richardson), somewhat subduing the original humor and sassiness of the part. Dylan Stasack plays Cliff Bradshaw with the bravado necessary to be one of the few people on stage who see where this world is heading; the other is Ellie Todd playing a wonderful Fraulein Schneider (she who understands that marrying a Jewish suitor, Kyle Timson as Herr Schultz, is not the correct choice at the time).  Brian Flores plays a dynamic Ernst Ludwig, growing from friendly English-student nebbish to something far far more menacing. The entire singing/acting/dancing cast is excellent.

Kudos to musical director/conductor Catherine A Walker for superb work with the diction and blend, and her spririted on-stage orchestra. Good work is also done by Jim Lillie in his sound design, where every word is audible, and every sound has meaning (where were you during Les Miserables last season, Mr Lillie?).

If you have seen Cabaret before in its reincarnated version, you will find it is all here, with a few added surprises. If you have only seen the original 1966 version or the 1972 film version, you’ll find this to be an altogether completely different experience, and if you have never seen the show, you are in the for biggest surprise of all. Cabaret made musical theater history when it opened on Broadway. To see it performed live-on-stage, where you become witness to a world spinning out of control while dancing and boozing the nights away, leaves you with a sense of something profound. When you see it performed this well, it becomes extraordinary.

Very Very highly recommended.

All tickets for Cabaret are sold out for the duration of its run. Cancellations, if any, might be available at the door, although expect a long line ahead of you.

 

10 Reasons you need to get to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival this summer August 9, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Michigan, Shakespeare, Theatre.
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With only a couple weekends left, it has come to my attention that some of you have yet to get out to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival this summer…so what are you waiting for? Here are the top 10 reasons you should get out there now, before its over for another season….

1. Shawn Pfautsch in Hamlet

2. Shawn Pfautsch in Hamlet

3. Shawn Pfautsch in Hamlet

4. The superb sparring partners in The Importance of Being Earnest — Joe Lehman and David Blixt are both hilarious, as are Lydia Hiller and Rachel Hull who exude their own merry camaraderie

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5. Cymbeline — the rarely produced dramedy is like finding a twenty dollar bill in your pants pocket — you’ve probably never seen it before, and you might not see it again anytime soon…so see it now because it is a magical colorful production.

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6. The strong direction of Janice Blixt and Robert Kauzlaric. These folks know what they are doing, and you’ll appreciate the very well edited and clearly focused productions.

7. Its inside!! I can’t believe people still think the Michigan Shakespeare Festival is outside — its not. And its been indoors at Jackson College (nee Jackson Community College) for the past decade…in sumptuous air conditioned bug-free splendor…and next summer it adds three weeks in Canton! So if you are thinking that an evening at the MSF means sitting in a bug-filled Ella Sharp park, then you have waited far too long to go see a show there.

8. MSF is LOA/LORT professional theater — and the quality is superb…and they have Wednesday matinees!!!

9. To count the number of cucumber sandwiches, muffins, and breads that David Blixt consumes over the course of Earnest…and to watch Joe Lehman laugh at him because he doesn’t have to.

10. Because it rivals the Stratford Festival in quality and variety and every season gets stronger and stronger — and its right here in your backyard. I’ve been attending shows at MSF for almost twenty years, and they get better and better each season — they’ve long surpassed my minimal expectations and quite frequently surpass my most stringent expectations.

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Presented in Repertoire, you still have the chance to catch:

Saturday Aug 9  – 2:00 Hamlet — 7:30  The Importance of Being Earnest

Sunday Aug 10 –  2:00 Hamlet

Wednesday Aug 13 – 2:00 Hamlet

Thursday Aug 14 – 7:30 Cymbeline

Friday Aug 15 – 7:30 The Importance of Being Earnest (closing)

Saturday Aug 16 – 2:00 Cymbeline (closing) and 7:30 Hamlet

Sunday Aug 17 – 2:00 Hamlet (closing)

Get tickets at http://www.michiganshakespearefestival.com

 

 

Hamlet – Michigan Shakespeare Festival – Shawn Pfautsch July 26, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, Michigan, Shakespeare, Theatre.
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I just got home from this afternoon’s performance of Hamlet, in repertoire at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. While I don’t usually review non-musicals, I have to give two shout outs…

First, this is an excellent production under the guidance and direction of MSF Artistic Director Janice Blixt. Set in modern era clothing, it resounds as powerfully as it most likely did 420 years ago. Her direction is swift, perfectly focused, and edits are judicial and appropriate. Its a tight, gorgeous production, with beautiful lighting and scenic design, and a small, expertly crafted acting ensemble.

Second, Chicago-area actor Shawn Pfautsch turns in an amazing performance as the Dane…at first reserved and almost lifeless, he quickly takes on the role with an energy and performance force that you have to see. By Act two, he’s barefoot and galavanting around the stage faking his mental deterioration; while instantly being able to transform to composed, plotting, and revengeful. By Act V, he’s a force to behold. Combine his natural abilities with Blixt’s sure directorial hand, and this is a fine, fine Hamlet indeed.

I’m looking forward to the Festival’s other two offerings this summer — The Importance of Being Earnest, and the little-performed Cymbeline — but Hamlet is clearly this season’s centerpiece — and its a remarkable work of art.