1. School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s “Cabaret”
In mid-October, SMTD performed “Cabaret,” an award-winning musical from the 1960s, for their fall production. “Cabaret” tells the story of the performers and patrons of the Kit Kat Club, a nightclub in Weimar Republic, Berlin just before the Nazi rise to power. Director and visiting professor Joe Locarro added several touches to make SMTD’s version of the show unique. First, they transformed the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre into an old-fashioned cabaret by building the stage over the orchestra pit and placing the band onstage. Second, Locarro added six new characters to the show to perform some historically accurate songs before the musical began to allow the audience to feel as though they really had been transported back in time.
2. “Rocky Horror Shadowcast”
Deep in the heart of East Quad on Halloween night, hundreds of students gathered outside the doors of the Keene Theater, hoping to see the first Rocky Horror Shadowcast in Ann Arbor in years. Since its release in 1973, “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” a musical, has emerged as a hyper-sexualized, melodramatic, indescribably weird cult classic. In some circles, it’s become a Halloween tradition to perform the show via shadowcast – lip-synching the dialogue and lyrics in front of a screen projecting the original film, starring Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon. The RC Players, a student-run theater group known for their bi-annual Evening of Scenes and Kamikaze (24 hour theater), tackled the show, complete with Rocky Horror traditions like audience participation, low budget hilarity, obscure props, and, of course, the “ceremonial virgin sacrifice.” Don’t know what I’m talking about? See the show next fall. Just get there early. This past production was standing-room only.
3. “Sea Legs: A Nautical New Musical”
At the end of February, Basement Arts, a student-run theatre organization that provides free productions to the Ann Arbor community, staged a new student written and student composed musical called “Sea Legs: A Nautical New Musical.” The show, which was written by graduate Tyler Dean and composed by Wayne State University graduate Michael Tooman, tells the story of four friends who live in the quaint New England seaside village of Sweet Ann Harbor and dream of adventure. Their dreams come true in a big way when the quirky residents of Periscopia, an underwater utopia, wash up on their shores, determined to find the person responsible for sinking their underwater haven. The show was Dean’s love letter to Ann Arbor as his graduation approached and he was set to enter the real world. “Sea Legs” had an off-Broadway run in September thanks to The Araca Project, which helps recent graduates from several universities, including the University of Michigan, get a jump start in their careers by putting on their work.
4. “Doing White Nights”
While the number of student productions that are conceived and performed in the Ann Arbor community continue to grow, it’s still relatively rare for a performance to be entirely student organized and executed. Many things account for this, school being an enormous and obvious factor, yet “Doing White Nights,” a completely student-run original play, was able to pull off three consecutive nights of fantastic drama and humor while the participants juggled school and other extra-curriculars. A story of two best friends on a road trip gone sour, the play explored the themes of mental illness, sexuality and belonging in a tasteful and touching way, all while utilizing the uniqueness of the venue, The Yellow Barn, to create the central setting of an off-road cornfield.
5. Ryoji Ikeda’s “superposition”
Born in Japan and working primarily out of Paris, Ryoji Ikeda is an internationally acclaimed visual and electronic musical artist whose work forges a bold and thoughtful connection between ideas and theories from quantum mechanics, experimental modes of visual representation and principles of classical composition. In November, he brought his most recent project, superposition, to the Power Center. In a live setting, his aesthetic pioneering translates into an austere, beautiful and immersive experience at the limits of sight and hearing. One of the great interests of Ikeda’s work lies in his ability to craft tensions and resolutions gleaned from the likes of Bach but brought into a register of sonic and visual harshness that challenges the artistic vocabulary many audiences bring to the table.