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December 09, 1994 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-12-09

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, December 9, 1994 - 9

'Angels' flies into the Arena

By J. DAVID BERRY
"Angels in America," Tony Kushner's award-winning
two-part drama, closed its doors last Sunday, ending one
of the longest and most heralded runs a straight play has
ever enjoyed on Broadway. If you were like me and
missed this tremendous opportunity to be a part of Broad-
way history, you have several options: 1) Hop on the train
to Chicago, pay huge hotel and ticket costs and see the
touring company; 2) Wait the eternity it's going to take to
get the show to the Fisher Theatre in Detroit; 3) See it for
free in the Arena Theatre this weekend.
This weekend, Basement Arts is presenting a scaled-
down version of the first part, "Millenium Approaches,"
directed by BFA Theatre majorJames Steortz. The play itself
is an enormous undertaking, focusing on many of the largest
and mostcontroversial issues in the news today. Those issues
include Mormonism, Judaism, prejudice, and - more sig-
nificantly - homosexuality and the AIDS crisis.
"'Angels in America' addresses a lot of issues," said
Steortz. "It also bashes a lot of stereotypes." In order to
give this production of the wide-sweeping play more
focus, and to make it easier to produce in the Arena,
Steortz has cut out one major character and a few relating
scenes.
Despite the cuts, Steortz believes he has maintained
the integrity of the piece and the flow of the action. Rather
than simply presenting an evening of scenes, Steortz
assured that there is a definite dramatic structure to the
work.
While some may wonder how a monumental Broad-
way-style production will translate to the smaller space of
the Arena, Steortz believes the space might be an im-
provement. "I think it gives a much more intimate feeling
between the actors themselves and the actors and the
audience." Incidentally, the production currently in Lon-

"'Angels in America" addresses a
lot of issues. ... It also bashes a lot
of stereotypes.
- James Steortz, director
don, and the original production mounted by Kushner and
the New York University Graduate theater program were
both in much more intimate theaters than the enormous
Broadway proscenium.
Also, one may question just how well a Basement Arts
production can deal with such a difficult work. Despite
having only three and a half weeks to rehearse and having
to work around the performance schedules of many of the
cast members, Steortz is very optimistic about the result.
"I think it came together quite well, and it will be an
evening of entertainment," he said.
If you haven't heard of "Angels," or if you haven't
been blessed with the opportunity to read or see it yet, you
owe it to yourself to go. Kushner's "Millennium Ap-
proaches" and its counterpart, "Perestroika," are arguably
the best pieces of work to come out of the theater commu-
nity in the last decade. The plays will, no doubt, be the
beginning of a resurgence of straight plays onto the
Broadway circuit. Steortz hopes "to affect the audience in
a realistic way. I want (the audience) to go out saying they
were affected viscerally by it."
If this production is half as good as the play itself,
there's no doubt that it will be one of the most memorable
theatrical experiences of your life.
ANGELS IN AMERICA: MILLENIUM APPROACHES
is playing in the Arena Theatre tonight and Saturday at
5p.m. and again on Saturday at 11:30 p.m. Admission
is free, but seats can be reserved by calling 662-3861.

JUDITH PERKINS/Daily
Basement Arts brings Broadway to you. This weekend they present scenes from "Angels in America."

Chieftains bring Irish charm and
sterful music to Hill, giving
an early Christmas celebration
By EMILY LAMBERT
Wednesday may have been just another evening in December for some, but
it marked an early celebration of Christmas for the audience at the Chieftains'
"Christmas in Ireland" concert, held in Hill Auditorium. The Chieftains, a
masterful sextet of traditional Irish musicians, convinced the enthusiastic
*rowd that, via Ireland, December 25 had arrived.
Group leader Paddy Moloney extended holiday greetings in his native Irish
tongue, and Derek Bell, harp and key-
- board player, wore Santa Claus socks.
Surrounded by poinsettias and Christ-
The Chieftains mas trees, the Chieftains took the
exhilarated audience on a seasonal,
Hill Auditorium musical tour of Ireland.
December 7, 1994 The stage seemed to disappear as
the witty Chieftains joked with each
other over Irish pub songs, folk tunes and dance music. Using its characteristic
spontaneity and improvisation, the group created a wonderfully diverse
program which included carols, country and western music and, as Moloney
put it, "the Achey-Breaky Heart of Irish music" - the rousing "Cotton Eyed
Joe."
The personality of the ensemble was delightful, but the music that each
member produced was even more
engaging. Each The personality of the musiciansoloed
on his respective instrument, and
the display of tal- (Chieftains) was ent was awe-in-
spiring. Fay's delightful, but the fiddle solo was
Wnfortunately out of tune, but any
other problems music that each with pitch dis-
appeared into the member produced was flexibility and
freedom that good folk music al-
lows. Molloy even more engaging. played his heart
and hands out on Each musician soloed his six-keyed
wooden flute, and M o l o n e y
wailed on the ex- on his respective otic looking and
sounding Uileann instrument, and the pipes.
The energetic group also ex-
ibited a sensitive display of talent was side.Moloney's
auntingly beauti- awe-inspiring. ful tin whistle
melody conjured up images of a
lonesome Irish landscape, and Bell's harp playing was exquisite.
Christmas carols were sung, with help from the University's coed a capella
group, Amazin' Blue, and from a vocally reticent audience. The Donny
Golden Irish Step Dancers, "all the way from Long Island," teased Moloney,
appeared in full costume and gave a seasonal performance of the Wren Boys,
an old Irish custom. The dancers, with amazingly fast feet, were the envy of
the audience. The desire to get up and dance was strong, but the crowd resisted
,he urge and toe-tapped the night away.
In the band's 32-year existence, the Chieftains have become amazingly
popular, and even a much abridged list of their accomplishments is impressive.
In addition to winning several Grammy awards, the Chieftains have performed
in Carnegie Hall, on "Saturday Night Live," on the Great Wall of China, in the
U.S. Capitol Building, and with leading orchestras around the world. Their
31st album will be released this January, and the Chieftains have been
officially named Ireland's Musical Ambassadors. The existence of their
worldwide fans testifies to the music's wide appeal.
Wednesday's audience, composed of people young and old, showed that
the attraction of the Chieftains' much acclaimed music transcends age, as well.
There was a contented feeling in Hill Auditorium on Wednesday night. Full of
good music and good humor, the concert was more like an intimate gathering
of friends than a performance by international superstars. The animated
Chieftains, with merry Irish antics and amazing musical talent, epitomized the
"spirit" of the season.

Don't say 'bah! humbug!'to this 'Christmas Carol'

By JENN MCKEE
We are fast approaching the time
of year that bings out the best in us all
- a time that celebrates hope, broth-
erhood and the indefatigable human
spirit.
If you rolled your eyes at this
thought - which translates into a
modern day "humbug" - you might
need to take a break from papers and
exams, lighten up, and see this year's
production of "A Christmas Carol" at
the Michigan Theater.
This year's production is being
presented jointly by the Purple Rose
Theater and the Michigan Theater
Foundation. Philip Kerr, a professor
in the University's Department of
Theatre and Drama, returns in the role
of Ebenezer Scrooge.
"Scrooge isn't truly wicked," ex-
plained Kerr. "The scary thing about
him is he makes a lot of sense. What
he's saying at the beginning is logi-
cal. Not to get political, but I'll see
headlines of (a politician) saying the
same type of things: 'Are there no
jobs? Let them getjobs!' But then you
have to remember, it's not that simple.
There are people involved."
Kerr finds the Michigan Theater a
particularly apropos setting for a pro-
duction of this play. "You look at
when Dickens wrote 'A Christmas
Carol' - it was in the 1840s during
the Industrial Revolution."
"London was a harsh, depressed
area, and it is (London) that Dickens
is living and drawing from in his
writing. And then you look at the
Michigan Theater, which was built
during the Depression. You look up
and see all the gilt and ornamentation
- all this was to get your mind off
your troubles and allow you to be
entertained," Kerr said.
Entertainment is the main goal of
the familiar production. Before audi-
ence members even set foot in the the-
ater, everyone knows the story of the
three ghosts and the play's resolution.
"The wonderful thing about this
play is that you can look at it on so
many different levels," said Kerr.
"You can look on it on an academic
level, thinking about the context from
which it was written and playing with
the possibilities of different settings
- from elaborate traditional scenery
to minimalist to Industrial Revolu-
tion. Or, on the human side of things,
you simply have a man who has given
up on everything experiencing a kind

of re-birth, finding hope and happi-
ness. We love to see that - to watch
that transformation."
This is not the first time that Kerr
has portrayed the miserly misan-
thrope. "I suppose I like to play
(Scrooge) because I'm a little grumpy
myself. And it's fun."
Groups of children will be coming
to see the play, but due to its religious
theme, not as many will be attending as
you mightexpect. However, many chil-
dren are directly involved in the play as
part of the large cast. Kerr is enthusias-
tic about the young people who will be
exposed to it, regardless of whether
they are spectators or actors.
"It's important for children to be
exposed to theater while they're
young," Kerr explained. "The act of
preparing for the actual event of dress-
ing up and going out to see a play -
if this doesn't happen, to wax sober
for a moment, we won't have an audi-
ence in the future."
We all see the story of the night-
capped, humbugging Ebenezerin some
form or other each Christmas-whether
it be in a theater oron "The Fresh Prince
of Bel Air" - but seeing the story
performed again seems to signify that
Christmas is really upon us.
"It's encouraging," stated Kerr,
"that one associates the action in-
volved with going to the theater, sit-
ting in the dark with a lot of other
people, and sharing something with
everyone else with a holiday that
brings us all closer together. I don't
know why it's such a natural associa-
tion, but it's definitely telling of what
the play has come to mean as a part of
our culture. It's very hopeful."

Decrease the surplus population of
the Graduate Library's reading room
and get a new lease on life, in the form
of a ticket to "A Christmas Carol."
A CHRISTMAS CAROL is playing

at the Michigan Theater, tonight
and Saturday at 7:30, Saturday and
Sunday at 2:30. Tickets for children
are half price. For ticket informa-
tion, call (313) 668-TIME.

Phillip Kerr stars as Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol."

EMMAUS
VINEYARD
CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP
10 minutes south of 1-94 and US-23
ANN ARBOR YPSILANT 424 HURD
MILAN

CARPETER
KEXIT s s
CKen Wilson, Pastor

973-6910
439-2400
Christ-Centered
Contemporary
Music
Sunday
School
& Nursery

SUNDY SRVIC 10A.M

Schoolkids'-The Annex
(in the Michigan Theater Bldg.)
Waxrax & TVT!!!
Cool stuff on sale at a cool store!

I ZJL'A~W

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