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January 18, 1994 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-01-18

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Can I Have your Autograph?
U Professor Teshome Wagaw will be signing copies of her new book
"For Our Soul: Ethiopian Jews in Israel," which looks at the sole Black
Jewish community in Israel. Yet another free event at Borders Book Shop *
at 7:30 tonight.
Give it an Evil Eye
Organized in conjunction with the theme semester "The Theory and
Practice of Evil," offered by the Religion Department, the North Campus
Commons Atrium display the art exhibit, "Perceptions of Evil." The exhibit
examines subjects of oppression in the 20th century. It'll be there until
Friday, so catch it while you can.
Asian American Art Show
And speaking of art, the 1994 Asian American Art show is currently
being featured in the Michigan Union Art Lounge. Works of over 20 student
artists are displayed --paintings, drawings, ceramics, prints and sculptures
- celebrating the artistic strengths, talents and passions of Asian Ameri-
cans. It runs through January 28.
Play about King sends'
a soulful message

All over campus people gathered
to remember Martin Luther King Jr.
There were speeches and discussions
on every aspects of a multicultural
society. No small part of the days
events were the artistic celebrations
of King's birthday.

Jonathan Beck Reed and Courtenay Collins were two of the only bright spots in the Birmingham Theatre'sp
Little amusement in 'I

Sometimes you see a play or a movie, and it's
really stupid, but it's the best thing you could
possibly see at that moment. And two days later
you could see that same play, and it's the stupidest
Little Me
Birmingham Theatre
January 8, 1994
thing you ever saw. The Birmingham Theatre's
production of "Little Me" is a perfect example of
this polarity. The show, currently at the Birming-
ham through January 30, waffled between stu-
pidly enjoyable and stupidly inane, and ended not
with a bang but with a whimper.
"Little Me" itself is not a particularly strong
show. Based on the novel by Patrick Dennis (of
"Auntie Mame" fame, which in itself should be a
sign of bad things to come), the show tells the life
story of Belle Poitrine, a woman from Venezuela,
Illinois, who dedicates her life to the acquisition
of "wealth, culture and social position." Using
Belle as a would-be author for a frame of refer-
ence, the play is a series of flashbacks, acted out
by 11 actors playing some 39 characters. The big
hitch of the show is (are you ready for this?): Belle
is played by a man in drag - here the famous
Charles Busch, who received top billing. (In the
original incarnation, incidentally, the role of Belle
was not played by a man in drag.)
Neil Simon provided the book, with lyrics by
Carolyn Leigh and music by Cy Coleman. There
are a few memorable songs - "The Other Side of
the Tracks," "Deep Down Inside," "Real Live
Girl" and the title song. But the show seems to be

a melange of more famous musicals - "Sweet
Charity," "Chicago," "Gypsy," "Mack and Mabel"
to name a few. Simon does provide some snappy
dialogue, usually well-delivered by the actors.
The most enjoyable aspect of this production
was watching the actors play so many different
characters. In fact, the funniest moment of the
evening was when Jonathan Beck Reed, who was
running on and off playing two men in one scene,
came on stage as Noble, still wearing Val du Val's
mustache. Courtenay Collins gestured to him (in
character) and he took the mustache and placed it
on the hand of the General (to make a hand
puppet). But Collins was laughing so hard she
couldn't talk! So of course the audience broke out
laughing. With mock accusation, Reed turned to
the audience and chastised us, "Oh stop! You try
to keep one on!" Waiting for Collins to stop
laughing, he tried to elicit his cue from her -
"Three words! Sounds like --"It's a sad comment
when the funniest moment is when the actors
break character.
The biggest disappointment was the perfor-
mance of Busch, succesful playwright ("Psycho
Beach Party," "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom")
and novelist ("Whores of Lost Atlantis"), billed as
the star. Busch was costumed beautifully, and he
has better legs than most of the women in the
show, but he was eclipsed by virtually every other
performer in the show. In duets with the younger
Belle (Courtenay Collins), Busch never shone.
Instead of a seeing a glamorous diva, we saw what
was left over - an aging, soon to be washed-up
drag star.
Jonathan Beck Reed, who played all the men
who had influences on Belle's life, was hilarious.
Granted, most of the characters are really carica-
tures, but he gave each one 100 percent concentra-
tion and dedication. Collins gave an equally ener-

production of "Little Me."
Attle Me'
getic performance as the young, "well-built" Belle.
She deserves special commendation for parading
around without pants the whole show; if she
wasn't wearing a short, tight shirt, she was just
wearing nude tights and high heels (plus different
snazzy jackets and such, of course). But she has a
nice, clear voice, and a dynamic stage presence.
James Morgan designed a very posh set, re-
plete with ornate gold and black scroll-like orna-
mentation, pink doorways and lots of angels (how
trendy), finished off with a lovely chaize-lounge
with pearl brocade upholstery.
Worth Gardener deserves some
commendadation for getting all those characters
on and off stage relatively expediently, and for
managing the erratic storyline. His style of direc-
tion adapts well to Neil Simon shows - every-
thing loud, big and downstage center (see Michael
Kidd, "The Goodbye Girl"). The final scene at
Belle's Southampton estate ("Here's to Us") was
a little too overdone; balloons were dropped from
the ceiling, lest you forget what fluff youjust saw.
Of course, most audience members ate it up -
"Look, Gladys! I caught a balloon as a souvenir of
our evening!" - but faithful theatergoers were
overcome with a short wave of nausea.
Depending on how much you're craving mind-
less entertainment on a given evening, "Little Me"
might be for you. However, if you want angst,
spirituality and well, substance, you might be
more than a little disappointed. In the end, this
critic has little good to say about "Little Me."
LITTLE ME plays at the Birmingham Theatre
(211 S. Woodward) through January 30.
Performances are every day except Monday at
8 p.m., plus Sunday and Wednesday at 2 p.m.
There is a special 2 p.m. performance on the
27th at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $19.50 to
$37.50. Call 644-3533 for more information.

Ain't Got Long
to Stay Here
Michigan Theater
January 17, 1994

While the Winans were at Power
Center, the touring production of
"Ain't Got Long to Stay Here" visited
the Michigan Theater. This produc-
tion chronicled the life of Martin
Luther King Jr. through song and
The cornerstone of the show was
definitely the music. Traditional gos-
pel songs performed by the six mem-
ber ensemble carried the show
through. It was knowing that a song
had to be coming soon that made the
often slow paced dialogue bearable.
The ensemble was definitely on fire
during the musical numbers, but were,
by contrast, lacking in the other as-
pects of the performance.
Shining vocal performances were
given by Jeff Carr, Connye Florance
and Jackie Welch. Also helping the
vocals along was the choir from the
Ann Arbor based New Hope Baptist
Church. The presence of the choir
added a realistic aspect to the church
Barry Scott, who wrote the play,
gave an astounding rendition of King.
His voice mirrored that of the historic
orator, leaving the audience with the
feeling that they had actually wit-
nessed King's original speeches.
"Ain't Got Long ..." documented
all the well known events in King's

career, including the Montgomery bus
boycott, the bombing of the Ebenezer
Baptist Church of Atlanta, the "I Have
a Dream" speech, his stay in the Bir-
mingham, Alabama jail and his assas-
The set was well designed by *
Stephen Schmidt for the versatility
the show required. It transformed into
a church, the sight of the lunch counter
sit-downs and a jail. It was this versa-
tility which helped the audience to
envision the many settings required
to lend credibility to the play.
The costumes were simplistic in
all black. This facilitated easy charac-
ter changes with the addition of a hat
or a coat. This, along with accent
changes by the performers, allowed
for manybcharacters to be played by
the same person.
However, the show was not one
that will go down in the history books
as a stellar piece of theater. Often it
seemed choppy in its effort to cover
many aspects of King's career as a
civil rights activist. Scenes jumped
from one major event to the next with
little or no transition. Also missing
from the biography was information
on King's personal life. Thus, King
was reduced to a man who lived his
life for the civil rights cause without
taking into consideration the sacri-
fices of his family.
It isn't hard to make King's words
impassioned and stirring, but the play
needed a little more original dialogue
to make it work. It could not stand on
snippets from King's speeches alone.
Added dialogue would have helped
with the transitions, as well as added
more insight to the atmosphere of the
"Ain't Got Long to Stay Here"
tried to recreate the life of a man who
is respected by people throughout the
world, and while it gave some insight
into the life of this great man of his- 0
tory, it couldn't hold a candle to the
real thing.

THE PIANO (R) - Tues: 12:15,2:30,4:45,7:15, 9:55
Wed, Thurs: 4:45, 9:55
HEAVEN & EARTH (R) - Tues: 1:00, 4:00, 7:00, 9:45
Wed, Thurs: 4:00, 7:00, 9:45
FRE EE 32 oz. DRIK I
with purchase of a .arg popcorn (26 value)
Present this coupon with purchased ticket thru 2/1/94J
L X- ------------------

Various Artists
Before Benga vol. 1 & 2
Original Music
When the Kenyan government
made Swahili the national language
in the late 1960s, a strange thing hap-
pened in popular music. Instead of
converting to Swahili, local musi-
cians voiced their regional pride by
singing in local languages throughout

the '70s. This was Benga.
Yet before Benga and before
Zairian and Congolese sounds swept
through Eastern Africa, Kenyan mu-
sicians of the '50s to the '60s crafted
some indigenous guitar masterpieces.
Volume One, "Kenya Dry," high-
lights the many sounds of Kenyan
acoustic ("dry") guitar bands. Culled
from local recordings and pioneer
ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey's
field work, these are the most beauti-
ful and intimately crafted songs I have
ever heard. They range from power-
ful local idioms, such as the thumb
piano solo, to interpretations of Ameri-
can pop, such as the barbershop quar-
tet vocals of the Nairobi Shoeshine
Surprisingly, old-time American
county licks and icons surface within
these strongly Kenyan ballads. The
intro melody of the Wayo Trio's tune
is lifted from a standard American
country lead-in and the Kipsigis song
"Chemirocha" is entitled and dedi-

cated to Jimmy Rogers, the 1930s US
country music star.
But what distinguishes volume one
is the home-grown guitar virtuosity
of these Kenyan song-smiths. Mixing
Cuban rhythms with snappy Congo-
lese melodies and Swahili vocal duos
with ubiquitous Fanta bottle percus-
sion, these songs reveal the diversity
of local traditions and the force of
foreign influences.
Volume Two, "The Nairobi
Sound," features mid-'60s Kenyan
pop. The electrified riffs show the
big-city sophistication of these re-
cordings. Though they lack the aural
impact of volume one's acoustic gui-
tars, the softened licks gained wider
popularity than their rural counter-
parts. Despite the lulling reverb on
the Pichen and Tsotsi numbers, the
lyrics carry strong political and social
messages. And in the midst of these
African twists lurk beautifully quirky
syncretisms, like Isaya Mwinamo &
his Merry Men's version of "La


For more information and application
materials, call us at 764-7521 or visit us at the
Pilot Program Office
Alice Lloyd Hall
100 South Observatory
Preliminary Deadline is January 20, 1994

Bamba" ("Bamba ya Afrika").
You don't need to be a xenophile
to enjoy these two volumes of Kenyan
music. Hear the evolution of dandling
Kenyan guitars from decades past.
- Chris Wyrod
Barenaked Ladies
You have to love it when musical
experiments work. "Gordon" by
Barenaked Ladies, has a cute, spunky
sound, rich in creativity and texture.
They poke fun at all kinds of topics (a
la They Might Be Giants) with a light
heart and a twangy acoustic guitar
that is certain to tickle the fancy.
Their clever, mocking themes are
presented in a unique musical format
rich in vocal harmonies which at times
can even resemble the Manhattan
Transfer. The guitar is exclusively
acoustic, placing the album partially
in the folk arena. The bass guitar is
very fretless and twangy, neatly ac-
centuating the sweet, silly vocals. The
percussion department isn't quite as
inventive, but its peppy pace estab-
lishes a kind of folk-pop fusion, mak-
ing them more than just a contempo-

" GSTA salary
(.40 or .25 fraction)
" Tuition waiver
. aci.A r Inhal cuiap

The Pilot Program in Alice Lloyd Residence
Hall is seeking Resident Fellows for 1994-95.
Resident Fellows are Resident Advisors and
teach first-year courses. They have both aca-
demic and residence hall responsibilities in-









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