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November 04, 1993 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-11-04

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, November 4, 1993 - 3

'Moon' is sentimi
Sappiness is a "no-no" in the eyes of many viewers,
but nonetheless, filmmakers continue to drown them-
selves in it.Too often, it's only wishful thinking to assume
thata movie can be touching without being misinterpreted
as comedic.
"Man in the
Moon" provides
a refreshing
change from this
norm. A full
moon, the sound
e ofElvis' "Loving
You" and, fi-
nally, the switch to two sisters discussing life appropri-
ately sets the mood for the gently moving film that
Unlike other coming-of-age stories, which tend to
focus on a boy's journey into manhood, "Man in the
Moon" is the story of Danni Tramt (Reese Witherspoon),
a 14-year-old girl who is confronted with the dilemmas of
growing up. She has an older sister, Maureen (Emily
Warfield), who is the prettiest, smartest and most desired
girl at school, and until Danni's heart is broken, they are
each other's confidantes. At the core of Danni's distress is
her infatuation with neighbor Court Fontet (Jason Lon-
don), who is three years her elder and determined to
prevent theirrelationship from surpassing the buddy stage.
Although Danni is well aware of her inexperience and the
boldness of pursuing an older man, she considers his offer
to be just friends a rejection, and is devastated when Court
and Maureen fall in love.
As stated, this plot summary runs the risk of being
mistaken for corny, but having seemingly foreseen this

ental without sap
hazard, the film's creators are careful to provide other
elements which prevent such a disaster. Danni's charac-
ter is beautifully portrayed by Witherspoon, who is able
to maintain a tomboy persona while making herself
completely believable as an adolescent on the verge of
discovering her sexuality. The jealousy she feels towards
her sister realistically progresses throughout the film.
She begins with a sincere wish to be just like Maureen
and later claims they will never be friends again. But
when they do reconcile, it is with sincerity and without
the typical mushiness of sisters assuming blood relation
to mean automatic friendship.
The setting for "Man In the Moon," rural North
Carolina in the 1950s, provides another aspect of the
film's surprising depth by creating an interesting parallel
to Danni's maturation. At times, she releases her child-
hood energy among the splendor of nature, bounding to
and fro without a care in the world. But it is also among
nature, in the solitude of a swimming hole, that she is
allowed her first taste of love; it's hard to imagine a
scenario of equal tenderness unraveling in the privacy of
a suburban backyard.
In addition, the stereotypical '50s frame of mind,
continually perpetuated by the "Leave it to Beaver"
ideal, serves to illuminate Danni's situation. Ideally she
should be a proper little lady, but when she adopts this
image, it backfires. Her expressions of frustration are
heart wrenching as she realizes that being a little lady is
a lot harder than being a tomboy. But nothing can keep
her from wanting the man she can't have.
"Man in the Moon" is more concerned with the true
trials of life than a conclusion that ties them neatly
together and sets them aside to be dealt with later. And if
that's corny, there's no hope.

The company taps away furiously in the opening of "42nd Street." A stem Julian Marsh (Ryan Bailer) looks on.
-disCover In upbeat '42nd Street'

Relics of the old, happy-ending
Broadway musicals hold firm the be-
liefthatasong anddance cancurejust
about any existing ailment. Whether
you've broken up with your signifi-
ant other, or you're doing badly in a
lass or even just having a bad hair
'W ay (or bad hair decade, as some of us
Jo), a chorus and a tap dance will
make you forget about your petty
problems and send you off singing
"Hello, Dolly." So MUSKET has
made a good decision in deciding to
produce "42nd Street," the quintes-
sential song-and-dance show.
"42nd Street" began, oddly
enough, as a film in the midst of the
3reat Depression. Soon word spread
about "one of the liveliest and one of
the most tuneful screen musical com-
edies to come out of Hollywood," as
one reviewer called it. It was mounted
as a musical for the stage in 1980, led
by the great impresario David Merrick
as producer. It was a triumph for
Merrick and director/choreographer
Gower Champion (seven-time Tony
winner for this show, "Bye Bye
l irdie," "Hello, Dolly" and "The
Happy Time"; also responsible for
"Carnival," "I Do! I Do!," "Sugar"
and "Mack and Mabel"). Champion
died on the eve of the show's open-
ing. But "42nd Street" lived on.
Brett Havey, who directs the
MUSKET production, talked about
the excitement of "42nd Street." "It's
about performing ... as you watch it
*oo get to learn how a show is put
And what we do see is the casting,
rehearsing and production of a show.
Big-timeproducerJulian Marsh (Ryan
Bailer) is mounting what promises to
be the biggest musical to hit the stage
in years, "Pretty Lady." Since it is the
Depression, and times are tough,
Marsh gets private funding, but is
forced to cast the aging star Dorothy
Brock (Heather Dilly) in the female
I E *e1 m " St ua ly ame J LoVue
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lead. But things getrough when Brock
breaks her ankle in the middle of
opening night. The show will be can-
celed! Unless they replace Brock ...
with a dime-a-dozen chorus girl who
happens tobeanamazing littlehoofer,
Peggy Sawyer (Tamlyn Shusterman).
And Sawyer goes out there a young-
ster and comes back a star.
Havey stressed the show's famil-
'I think that really what
('42nd Street') Is
about Is ... questioning
performance and
finding a passion, and
finding yourself.'
- Brett Havey, director
iarity. "Idon'tknow how many people
know '42nd Street' as the show itself,
but so many songs that we hear on TV
and commercials and hear people sing-
ing were written for this show." For
example, any of us who have ever
found some spare change in the sofa
cushions have broken in to "We're in
the Money."And we've all listened to
"The Lullaby of Broadway." "This is
where it all started," Havey added.
But Havey also highlighted an-
other aspect of the show beyond the
fluffy songs and fancy hoofing. "I
think that really what it is about is ...
questioning performance and finding
a passion, and finding yourself." The
plotmaybe thin, and the songs cheesy,
but the message hits home.
"A lot of the characters ... have
this mask on them, but by the end of
the show they all find themselves and

their true person," Havey commented.
There is another interesting twist
about the MUSKET production. One
of the leads actually fell ill and dropped
the show, and had to be replaced
quickly. "So we had to live the show
andexperience it for ourselves, which
is kind of good actually because it
helps build the energy," Havey com-
mented with a stressful sigh. "It's
made it very exciting."
And as an added bonus for dance
lovers, choreographer Val Boreland
has managed to obtain the original
Broadway choreography for the open-
ing number and the title song. Debra
Draper, resident choreographer/pro-
fessor in the University's Musical
Theater program, served as dance
captain in the show's original pro-
duction, so she helped MUSKET out.
Faithful MUSKET followers will
note that "42nd Street" is going up in
the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, leav-
ing many wondering why the much-
larger Power Center (MUSKET's
usual venue) is not being used for this
big song-and-dance show. Havey ex-
plained, "There's something very ster-
ile about the Power Center ... (and)
there's something that's really per-
sonal (about the Mendelssohn); you
can really contact with your audi-
ences, especially with this show,
which really gets to the heart of per-
42nd STREET will be performed at
the Mendelssohn Theatre November
4-6 at 8 p.m. and November 7 at 2
p.m. Tickets are $8 ($7 students)
and are available at the League
Ticket Office. Friday and
Saturday's performances are both
sold out. Call 764-0450.

"Man in the Moon" is a sincere coming-of-age story, without the sap that usually accompanies female Donaing.
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