The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre started its 2011-2012 season off with a show meant for the kid in all of us who has realized growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The Tony Award-winning musical had only recently been made available for community theaters, and AATC proved they were more than ready for a brand new challenge. Featuring puppet and human performers, “Avenue Q” actors were required to animate themselves and their stuffed counterparts as they sang about everything from racism to the uncertainties of life after college. Director Wendy Sielaff and her multi-talented collection of singing, dancing and puppet-wielding cast members brought the show to life in all of its rude, crude and sweetly poignant glory, ensuring that they mastered its adult humor while tickling the child in all of us.
As the dancers floated across the stage, the audience was silenced, captivated by the energy and elegance of the performers. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company made a thrilling appearance at the Power Center on its farewell tour this past February, following the death of legendary dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham in 2009.
Displaying portions of more than 150 dances Cunningham had choreographed, the program highlighted his ingenuity and influence in the field of dance. Many of the pieces were revived, not having been performed for several decades. The program was also intriguing because it incorporated artistic contributions from other collaborators who worked with Cunningham, including John Cage, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. This performance was a fitting final tribute to Merce Cunningham and offered a last chance for audiences to see his choreography presented by his very own trained company.
“The Full Monty” opened to audiences at the Mendelssohn Theatre in October. It provided a touching, albeit PG-13, story of family, love and struggling against all odds. The show followed the lives of six unemployed factory workers in Buffalo, N.Y. as they took to strip dancing in a last-ditch effort to make ends meet. The show also struck a familiar note amid difficult economic times as it reminded people of the struggles they undergo when circumstances beyond their control force them into down-and-out conditions. The show’s heart-warming and catchy melodies were received with ovations from the audience.
The Department of Musical Theatre chose a true jewel from the Golden Era of musicals as the finale for its 2010-2011 lineup, and the selection proved that, even after more than 60 years, the show’s quaint characters and dulcet melodies could charm audiences of all ages.
Lerner and Loewe’s “Brigadoon” details the blossoming love story that unfolds between Tommy, a New Yorker looking for a break from life in the big city, and Fiona, a resident of the magical town of Brigadoon, which only awakens from within the misty hills of Scotland for a single day every 100 years. Director Linda Goodrich ensured that dancing remained an integral part of the show, which had originally been staged by legendary choreographer Agnes De Mille, and her cast members shined with movements as polished as their voices. With a nostalgic yet timeless look and feel, “Brigadoon” was a beautiful venture into musical theater’s past.
For all the quality theater at the University this past year, nothing quite compared to MUSKET’s November production of “Cabaret.” Director Roman Micevic, an MT&D senior, perfectly captured the excitement of Berlin’s cabaret scene during the 1930s as well as the terrifying rise to power of the Nazi party. While the 1972 film version, which starred Liza Minelli as the sexy and free-spirited chanteuse Sally Bowles, gained cult status, the stage version revealed a range of powerful and dark themes the movie failed to convey — including the attitude of apathetic fatalism that many Germans adopted toward fascism. Yet in spite of the musical’s more sinister elements, it was impossible to resist the beckoning hand of the manic and larger-than-life emcee (played by the talented MT&D sophomore Conor Ryan) as he invited audience members to forget their troubles in his opening number, “Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome.”