Amidst the horror and upheaval surrounding the events of Sept. 11, it was comforting to know that there was some joy in 2001. Much of this joy came from the year”s best in fine and performing arts, a banner year for quality shows. From Itzhak Perlman to “Mamma Mia!” the world”s major stars took their respective fields in new directions. The following is the best in fine arts for the year 2001.

Paul Wong
The cast of the racy “”Chicago”” brought the house down at the Power Center<br><br>Courtesy of Ricky DeNardis

– best musical off broadway: “Mamma mia!”

Originating in London and then traveling to the states this year, “Mamma Mia!” became a huge hit among critics and audiences alike. Some may have rolled their eyes at the thought of an ABBA musical, but former bandmates Benny Andersson and Bjrn Ulvaeus proved everyone wrong with this entertaining musical. Everything the costumes, lighting, singing and particularly the dancing, are nothing short of spectacular. Fortunately for us, Detroit will be the home of “Mamma Mia!” for the next month.

– best musical Ann Arbor: “CHicago”

MUSKETs production of Kander and Ebb”s “Chicago” was so good it”s hard to believe it was put on by students. Running last November at the Power Center, “Chicago” was the most stylish show of the year, showcasing some difficult choreography and some very witty dialogue. Perhaps we”ll best remember “Chicago” for the “Cell Block Tango,” a hilarious homage to deceased husbands and their “wrongly imprisoned” wives.

n best art exhibit: “treasures of the royal tombs of ur” at the dia

One of the most interesting exhibits ever to pass through the Detroit Institute of Arts, the “Treasures” exhibit is part archeological dig and part story. A collection of jewelry, sculpture, ornaments, prints and musical instruments, the exhibit was a labor of love for British anthropologist Leonard Woolley. Viewers were treated to some fine work with lapis lazuli and numerous headress of Sumerian Queen Puabi. The crown jewel of the exhibit was “The Great Lyre,” a magnificently detailed harp with a goat”s head as a decoration.

– best classical album: classic yo-yo, yo-yo ma

World-renowned cellist and philanthropist Yo-Yo Ma is considered the reigning king of classical music and with Classic Yo-Yo, it”s easy to see why. This release, spanning a myriad of genres, is the most versatile album of the year. It”s title is somewhat paradoxical, as Classic Yo-Yo is less of a return to Ma”s classical roots and more of a reflection of Ma”s ability to tackle any genre. From fiery tangos to heartfelt bluegrass tunes, Ma”s work is always a technical marvel. His collaborations with John Williams and Bobby McFerrin alone are worth the purchase of this disc

– best film score: a beautiful mind, by james horner

Released only a couple weeks before the year”s end, James Horner”s “A Beautiful Mind” score is a perfect companion to one of 2001″s best films. Horner”s work on “Titanic” was overbearing, but his lyrical, repetitive string themes are perfectly suited to “A Beautiful Mind.” Teen opera sensation Charlotte Church also lends some haunting vocals to the score, adding to the dramatic flavor of the film.

– best choral concert: Sweet honey in the rock

Five voices in perfect harmony, the ladies of Sweet Honey rocked Hill Auditorium last november with an uplifting show. Their ability to blend a variety of choral styles, including rap, gospel and blues, was quite a treat for the ears. And perhaps their musical message of peace, cooperation and community is relevant now more than ever.

– best classical concert: berlin Philharmonic

It”s a testament to how strong the arts are in Ann Arbor when the Berlin Philharmonic makes four stops in the U.S. and Hill Auditorium is one of them. Under conductor Claudio Abbado, the Berlin Philharmonic gave one of the most powerful interpretations of Beethoven”s “Symphony No. 5” in recent memory. The finest orchestra in the world came to one of the most acoustically perfect auditoriums in the world it doesn”t get much better than that.

– best comedy show: spalding Gray

“The WASP Woody Allen” came to Michigan Theater last month with his “Interviewing the Audience” show, a hilarious question and answer session with local residents. Gray”s trademark wit and intuitiveness generated some sentimentality and a lot of laughs.

– best reason to stay in ann arbor last summer: ann arbor art fair

Even in sweltering heat, the outdoor Ann Arbor Art Fair was a blast, displaying thousands of original crafts, paintings and sculptures.

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