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September 28, 1984 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-09-28
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w w w w w w

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C o V E R








(Continued from Page 3)
sonations became extremely accurate
during the '20s when the Opera was at its
financial peak.
Possibly the most convincing leading
lady was Lionel Ames of Bay City who
played Suzanne in the 1923 Opera Cot-
ton Stockings, Ames is reputed to have
gone on to become a professional
female impersonator in Hollywood and
In that, their most successful year,
the Opera traveled to 16 cities including
New York, Washington, Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago and
Detroit. During the tour the Opera set a
record by grossing more than any other
amateur production before it in its per-
formance at New York's Metropolitan
Opera House.
Several photographs were printed in
various newspapers showing Ames
daintily posed in evening gowns with
captions like, "What girl wouldn't envy
those arms!" or "And that svelt back!
You'd never dream that it belongs to a
man, would you?"
Aside from his actual performance,
there were a variety of ways to test the
believeability of a leading lady.
Durwood Grimstead who played the
part of Miss Julienne in Contraire
Mary went to the Daily in his feminine
garb accompanied by L. C. Clayton,
who was also in the cast.
Clayton introduced Grimstead to the
managing editor as a Russian actress
who could speak only French and
Russian. The managing editor fell for it
and went through all sorts of hand
gestures in trying to communicate.
The leading lady from A Model
Daughter went to an Ann Arbor cafe
after rehearsal one evening only to hear
the professor sitting next to him say,
"see that stunning woman over there,"

to his colleague.
Certainly though, the playing of a
female part by a male did not feminize
the man in the eyes of the audience who
watched the Union Operas.
For example, football center Bob
Ingalls was tremendously popular in
the 1940 production of Four Out of Five.
Tom Harmon, Michigan's only
Heisman Trophy winner, played in the
same Opera, and in fact, Harmon's ap-
plication card was among the
memorabilia found in the cabinets.
Although it was popular among stud-
ents, the Shakespearian tradition of
men playing the female's role was not

Union Opera.
He laughs heartily with satisfaction
when recalling that making a lead role
in ,the Opera was the zenith of his
college career.
He says that Thomas E. Dewey, a
1923 University graduate, also had a
lead role in Top 'O the Morning, told
him in a 1957 meeting that it was the
highpoint of his college career as well.
Dewey went on to win the Republican
Presidential nominations in 1944 and
1948 when he lost to Harry Truman in
one of the closest political contests in
American history.
Wagner recalls Dewey as being

See pages 10 and 11 for more pictures
found in the Union Study Lounge cabinets.

controversy free. Some of the -alumni
complained that the Opera represented
a "he-man" University though a 'she-
man" show.
Nonetheless, the leading "lad"ies
were quite entertaining in their
Lilias Wagner, 83, of Ann Arbor
graduated in 1925 and attended many of
the Operas. When she recently looked
through some old pictures of "Jack"
Frost from the 1921 Opera Top 'O the
Morning she said, "Now, this was Jack
Frost. See what a beautiful gal he
And when looking at the men dressed
as chorus girls, she added, "Oh, those
beautiful gals!''
Just then her husband, Herb Wagner,
87, sauntered into the room with a car-
dboard box full of more memorabilia
from the same production in which he
played Michael O'Hara.
Wagner said that he came to
Michigan in 1916 with two goals in
mind: One was to make the glee club
and the other to be in the Michigan

somewhat reserved, but organized. He
said "He was always kind of stiff and
not what you would say was affable and
down to earth."
Dewey's song in the Opera was
"Satan put a Devil in the Irish":
Satan put a Devil in the Irish
And mingled them with wops and
He furnished them with tempers to
get them into fights
And in their throats he put a thirst
that sends 'em out at nights
Oh Satan put a Devil in the Irish.
According to Wagner Dewey's song
didn't go over very well, "and he was a
little down in the dumps."
That Opera was set in Ireland where
it was decided that there would be kings
again. Most of the story concerns a plan
to put Dewey on the throne.
In the middle of the scheming, with
sparkled eyes, Wagner raised his voice
and recapitulated his climactic lines:
"but will they be ready to follow us to
revolution, to victory!"

Yet Dewey was critical of that par-
ticular play, sayig that, "it was a
plotless story and a plotless Opera.
Others criticized the Opera. on the
same grounds. A L. Weeks, who wrote
the 1918 Opera Let's Go said, "the plot
is so thin that it has been suggested that
the play would have been more ap-
propriately named Let's Go - Crazy"
Nonetheless, the carefree and non-
sensical discontinuity of the Union
Opera may have been a reason both for
its enormous collegiate success and a
factor in its demise.
In 1929, Merrie-Go-Round was such a
financial disaster that the Operas were
discontinued. While its failure was
something of a surprise, it did come af-
ter several years that saw a gradual
decline in sales, faculty enthusiasm,
new ideas, and student interest.
Several unsuccessful attempts were
made to bring back the opera. Two
Operas produced in 1934 failed, and
others went without success in the
years immediately before and after the
second world war.
MUSKET (Michigan Union Show and
Do-Eds Too) was created in 1956 in an
attempt to combine the Union Operas
with the women's theatre group.
One difference between today's
MUSKET and the old Union operas is
the lack of student involvement in
writing the music and script in today's
Rob Markus, Vice President of
Programming at UAC (of which
MUSKET is a part) says, "MUSKET
included in its plans to do more
established, broadway-type shows, and
encourages their growth."
MUSKET has attempted two original
student musicals in 1974 and 1979, but
neither met with success.
Yet MUSKET has its similarities to
the Union Operas, albeit on a smaller
scale. It too has played before the
Metropolitan Opera House in New
York, and in 1966 and 1967 went on ex-
tended tours in the South Pacific and
Unlike MUSKET, though, the ex-
citement and high student involvement
created by the Union Operas may never
be repeated in University theatre.
But the legacy of those Operas is with
us still.
the Glee Club continues to sing songs
that were originally written for the
Operas. In fact, of 18 school songs in the
current University songbook, six are
direct products of those Opera scores.
Also, without the funds raised from
the Operas, there would be no Union -
and no Union Study Lounge - at least
not as we know them today.
Plans are currently being made to
display some of this historical
material in the Union's Study
Lounge. The remainder will be tran-
sferred to the Bently Historical
Library so that it will be available to
Michigan Students and Alumni.
Anderson is a first year
psychology student in Rackham and
coordinator of the Union study
lounge. He will be appearing Friday
at 6p.m. on WCBN on the Arts and
Ideas show.

mid-'60s; in a few cases the dedication
is easily enough to fool your friends
with (i.e. no one willever believe you're
really playing a ne w record). e
"Is this supposed to be progressive
music?," you might ask, smirking.
SWell,shut up. The name of the game
here is FUN, and these discs are plenty
of FUN.
The curious but uneducated are en-
couraged to start with Voxx Records'
Battle of the Garages Vol. 11 Battle of the Garages Volume II, a
Ba Vtotally boss compilation of no less than
Various Artists 16 smart young bands, coming straight
Voxx Records from the nation's high schools and
living rooms to you. The production
On Fyre values are, actually, excellent, and the
The Lyres variety of music is remarkable,
Ace of Hearts Records ranging from The Impossible Years'
terribly pretty (Despite unpretty lyrics:
It's About Time "Tinker toy/kills the boy/slight
The Pandoras depression") "Attraction Gear" to
dance freak-outs like Yard Trauma's
Voxx Records

Zontar Must Die!
The Wombats
Voxx Records
By Dennis Harvey
Yeah man! It's just too cool that at a
time when the later crests of ancient
"new wave" are beginning to crash on-
to Top 40 Shores (thus rendering
several previously ace bands BORING,
not too coincidentally), a new un-
derground has surfaced - the
garage/paisley/psychedelia/ '60s-pop-
redux revolution.
Choose your own term; however
classified, there's no doubt that a large
percentage of what's really happening
in music right now is looking backward
to Nehru jackets and the Summer of
Not that many of the various bands
conveniently lumped into this category
bear much resemblance to one another.
The leaders of the pack don't even
necessarily sound just like they were
pulled out of a time capsule, either. The
Rain Parade's increasingly melan-
choly, spacey mixture of Neil Young,
the Byrds and the Strawberry Alarm
Clock creates a surprisingly serious
new form of psychedelia, while such
popsters as the Three O'Clock, Let's
Active, the dB's and the Bangles re-cast
classic '60s hit-single formulas with
distinct post-wave sensibilities.
Some of the most pleasurable of the
new releases are, however, pretty
much straightforward flashes back a
couple of decades. The records detailed
below are all more or less pledged heart
and soul to the garage band sound of the

"Some People." Nearly every song
deserves a mention, but rather than
wasting valuable newspaper space on
them, I'll instead order you to go and
blow your money on the record.
A sheet (with photos) is included to
provide valuable info on the bands,
none of which are from that new-
psychedelia capital city, L.A. - it was
wisely decided to instead devote all of
the upcoming Volume III to that scene.
The projected Volume IV will concen-
trate on international garage bands, a
mind-boggling prospect that I, for one,
salivate at the vary thought of. Where
Volume I (released way back in 1981)
had a large number of cover versions,
Vol. II is almost entirely original
material. And very fine stuff it is, well
played too.
The fact that the first record featured
such current luminaries as the Chester-
field Kings, the Slickee Boys and the
Wombats (see below) makes it clear
that the combatants on the Battle of the
Garages today may well' be the un-
derground faves of tomorrow.

The Wombats typify the mixture of
the 60s and '80s, of pure bash-around
crude verve and imaginative skill that
has made both of the Battle records so
much fun. Their debut LP, Zontar Must
Die!, is an eclectic but always feverish
collection of teen punk tunes
somewhere between the Standells and
Stiff Little Fingers. These boys can
sound like music to slam or do The
Swim by, but at either extreme they
remain loud, danceable, slightly fuzzy-
sounding (producer: Steve Burnett)
and very likeable in a sort of the-band-
next-door way.
Like the Ramones (though with
perhaps a few more variations on the
theme musically), the Replacements,
and other classic rock instances of
arrested adolescence, the Wombats
have that kind of screamy beat-crazed
energy that could come careening off
stage or disc and go splat at any
minute. Zontar Must Die! never gets
sloppy, but it has just the hyperven-
tilating looseness one might hope for in
a psychedelic-punk group from Ohio.
Important tracks include "Split in
Two," "In a Minute" and "Tallahassie
Boston's cave-teen heroes The Lyres
have a swell album out at last. On Fyre
is an excellent rave-up party platter
that, with its combination of archival
summer-of-'66 perfection and wildly
rescusitating enthusiasm, could con-
ceivably fit as well at a frat bash as at
your own next go-go/Nehru-themed
It's difficult to capture this sort of
boys-at-play unadorned dance rock on
vinyl without losing some critical
energy, but Rick Harte's production
leaves the Lyres sounding clear but not
Rat-a-tat beats, those ace organ
backdrops, and those reverbs man!
Plus vocals of real swaggering juvenile
artlessness by Monoman. The songs,

too, are of w
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lots of it.

Once again .. .
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Dewey (second from right) and Wagner (far right): High point of their college careers

4 Weekend/Friday, September 28, 1984-

Weekend/Friday] S

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