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January 07, 2002 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-07

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 7, 2002





Classical music,
theater shine in '01

Fast-paced, dazzling 'Mamma'
brings ABBA magic to Detroit,.

By Jim Schiff
Daily Fine/Performing Arts Editor
Amidst the horror and upheaval sur-
rounding the events of Sept. 11, it was
comforting to know that there was
some joy in 2001. Much of this joy
came from the year's best in fine and
performing arts, a banner year for
quality shows. From Itzhak Perlman to
"Mamma Mia!" the world's major
stars took their respective fields in new
directions. The following is the best in
fine arts for the year 2001.
Originating in London and then
traveling to the states this year,
"Mamma Mia!" became a huge hit
among critics and audiences alike.
Some may have rolled their eyes at the
thought of an ABBA musical, but for-
mer bandmates Benny Andersson and
Bjorn Ulvaeus proved everyone wrong
with this entertaining musical. Every-
thing - the costumes, lighting,
singing and particularly the dancing,
are nothing short of spectacular. Fortu-
nately for us, Detroit will be the home
of "Mamma Mia!" for the next month.
MUSKETs production of Kander
and Ebb's "Chicago" was so good it's
hard to believe it was put on by stu-
dents. Running last November at the
Power Center, "Chicago" was the most
stylish show of the year, showcasing
some difficult choreography and some
very witty dialogue. Perhaps we'll best
remember "Chicago" for the "Cell
Block Tango," a hilarious homage to
deceased husbands and their "wrongly
imprisoned" wives.

One of the most interesting exhibits
ever to pass through the Detroit Insti-
tute of Arts, the "Treasures" exhibit is
part archeological dig and part story. A
collection of jewelry, sculpture, orna-
ments, prints and musical instruments,
the exhibit was a labor of love for
British anthropologist Leonard Wool-
ley. Viewers were treated to some fine
work with lapis lazuli and numerous
headress of Sumerian Queen Puabi.
The crown jewel of the exhibit was
"The Great Lyre," a magnificently
detailed harp with a goat's head as a
World-renowned cellist and philan-
thropist Yo-Yo Ma is considered the
reigning king of classical music and
with Classic Yo-Yo, it's easy to see
why. This release, spanning a myriad
of genres, is the most versatile album
of the year. It's title is somewhat para-
doxical, as Classic Yo-Yo is less of a
return to Ma's classical roots and more
of a reflection of Ma's ability to tackle
any genre. From fiery tangos to heart-
felt bluegrass tunes, Ma's work is
always a technical marvel. His collab-
orations with John Williams and
Bobby McFerrin alone are worth the
purchase of this disc
Released only a couple weeks
before the year's end, James Horner's
"A Beautiful Mind" score is a perfect
companion to one of 2001's best films.
Homer's work on "Titanic" was over-
bearing, but his lyrical, repetitive

By Jim Schiff
Daily Fine/Performing Arts Editor

A classy musical based on ABBA tunes? Who would
have thought? Well, former ABBA members Benny
Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus did with their new show,
"Mamma Mia!" An energetic, fast-paced romp from
beginning to end, "Mamma Mia!" is one of the most
entertaining musicals to come out in years.

Courtesy of UMS
Conductor Abbado of the Berlin Phil.
string themes are perfectly suited to
"A Beautiful Mind." Teen opera sen-
sation Charlotte Church also lends
some haunting vocals to the score,
adding to the dramatic flavor of the
Five voices in perfect harmony, the
ladies of Sweet Honey rocked Hill
Auditorium last november with an
uplifting show. Their ability to blend a
variety of choral styles, including rap,
gospel and blues, was quite a treat for
the ears. And perhaps their musical
message - of peace, cooperation and
community - is relevant now more
than ever.
It's a testament to how strong the
arts are in Ann Arbor when the Berlin
Philharmonic makes four stops in the
U.S. and Hill Auditorium is one of
them. Under conductor Claudio Abba-
do, the Berlin Philharmonic gave one
of the most powerful interpretations of
Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5" in
recent memory. The finest orchestra in
the world came to one of the most
acoustically perfect auditoriums in the
world - it doesn't get much better
than that.
"The WASP Woody Allen" came to
Michigan Theater last month with his
"Interviewing the Audience" show, a
hilarious question and answer session
with local residents. Gray's trademark
wit and intuitiveness generated some
sentimentality and a lot of laughs.
Even in sweltering heat, the outdoor
Ann Arbor Art Fair was a blast, dis-
playing thousands of original crafts,
paintings and sculptures.

Masonic Temple
Through Feb. 9th

"Mamma Mia!" takes place on a
small Greek island, where 20-year=
old Sophie (Michelle Aravena) is
about to get married to Sky (Ryan
Silverman). Sophie's mother, Donna
(Dee Hoty), a free-spirited single
woman who operates a hotel on the
island, has never known the true
identity of Sophie's father. Plagued
by curiosity, Sophie steals her moth-
er's diary and reads of her mother's
relationships around the time she
was born. Without Donna's knowl-
edge, Sophie sends wedding invita-
tions to three men who could be her
father. To everyone's surprise, all

three show up, giving Donna a headache and the island a
lot to talk about.
Sophie's predicament lends itself to a number of comi-
cal situations, bolstered by perpetually cheery ABBA
music and a host of colorful characters. Among the most
colorful are Donna's two gal-pals and former "Donna
and the Dynamos" bandmates, Tanya (Mary Ellen
Mahoney) and Rosie (Gabrielle Jones). Middle-aged
blonde vixen Tanya is easily the funniest character in
"Mamma Mia!" Her flirtations with the locals and phys-
ical comedy take the show to hilarious heights. Both
Rosie and Tanya bring Donna out of depression with

® uo":sx.::x+oxsw.:aomoomooaaaa~x~.+x~scn?:::..a:": x, . -.Courtesy of Joan Marcus
Tina Maddigan of the London cast finds love in 'Mamma MIal'
soulful renditions of "Chiquitita" and "Dancing Queen."
It's almost frightening how well the ABBA songs fit
into the storyline. The lyrics, particularly to songs such
as "Slipping Through My Fingers" and "Lay all Your
Love on me," provide much insight into the show's char;
acters. Themes of past love, commitment and growing
older are all embedded in the music, which is often quite
The set is surprisingly simple - there are only two
adobe-shaped buildings and a few pieces of furniture.
But what "Mamma Mia!" lacks in props it more than
makes up for in choreography and lighting. The dancer
driven numbers, such as "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!',
and "Voulez Vous" are glamorous disco spectacles. And
while such a show might seem out of place on a tiny
Greek island twenty years after disco died, these dance
sequences are certainly the highlight of "Mamma Mia!"
Decked out in rhinestone-covered pantsuits or bellbot-
toms, the dancers showed off their best moves to Antho"
ny Van Laast's stellar choreography.
While much of the story focuses on Sophie's quest to
find her father, "Mamma Mia!" ultimately belongs to
Donna. The audience sympathizes with Donna not onWl'
because of her stressful life circumstances, but also
because she's such a likable person. Dee Hoty, a three-
time Tony nominee, tackles the part with conviction. As
a woman confronted with her daughter's wedding and
three of her past flings on the same weekend, it's a
remarkably complex role - but Hoty, like her character,
is as genuine as they come.
"Mamma Mia!" only borders on cheesy at the very
end, when the cast breaks into a marathon of ABBA
dance songs, such as "Waterloo." But while cheesiness is
often considered a no-no in musical theater, it works irr
"Mamma Mia!"--the flashy costumes and even flashier
lighting are part and parcel of the entire experience. You
might be skeptical about a musical based on ABBA
tunes, but "Mamma Mia!" gives you no reason to worry:
By the show's finale, you'll be on your feet, partying
like its 1979.

Courtesy o y NRcky DeIaris
The cast of the racy "Chicago" brought the house down at the Power Center

Courtesy otJoan Marcus
Tanya (Mary Ellen Mahoney) sizes up the flirtatious Pepper.

Catchy, memorable 'Pajama
Game' visits Mendelssohn

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By Jim Schiff
Daily Fine/Performing Arts Editor
"The Pajama Game" is one of
those cute little musicals that leaves
you humming long after the perfor-
mance. The songs might be simple
and the charac-

s w T he
Game" is based

ters might be
al, but both are
nonetheless very
memorable. This-
past weekend,
the Ann Arbor
Civic Theater
brought this
wonderful show
to a packed
greeted by a
warm audience
"The Pajama
on the comedic

The Ann Arbor Civic Theater
reminded us once again why "The
Pajama Game" was such a smash.
Set in the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory
in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the show
gives us insight into courtship, labor
relations, and of course, pajamas.
Sid Sorokin (Kevin Binkley), the
handsome new superintendent at
Sleep Tite, immediately faces a vari-
ety of problems on the job. One such
problem is the factory grievance
committee, a small group of workers
led by feisty Babe Williams (Melissa
Henderson). The workers threaten a
strike without a 7 1/2 cent raise on
their paycheck, but Sid is torn
between the demands of his boss,
Hasler (Fred Kahle) and his affec-
tions for Babe.
The best thing about "The Pajama
Game" is the sense of community it
creates onstage. Professional and
personal lives are intertwined
through the factory, which is a
hotbed for gossip. The camaraderie
among the workers, in particular,
lends itself to some of the show's
best numbers. "Racing With the
Clock" and "Once a Year Day" are
energetic pieces that poke fun at
assembly line efficiency and lack of
time off. Watching the management
bicker is also a lot of fun. Hines'
(Anthony J. Provenzola) crush on
secretary Gladys (Emily Phenix)
creates some comical situations, the

funniest of which involves a pair of
faulty pajamas.
Consisting of all non-professional
performers, "The Pajama Game"
was extremely well-cast. Binkley0
and Henderson's voices blended well
together and had good chemistry
onstage. The real stars of the pro
duction, however, were the support-
ing players, who definitely had the
showier roles. Provenzola was. espe-
cially comical as Hines, the knife-;
throwing efficiency expert at Sleep"
Tite, who also served as the quasi-
narrator for the show.
Under the adept direction of Ron
Baumanis, the A2CT production of
"The Pajama Game" achieved a high
level of professionalism. The often
complex dancing, particularly in
sequences such as "Steam Heat" and
"Hernando's Hideaway," were executed
flawlessly. No matter how difficult it
might have been to bring the show to
the stage, the actors never missed a
step. It looks like they had a blast mak-
ing "The Pajama Game" and in return,
the audience had a blast watching it.

novel, "7 1/2 Cents," by Richard
Bissell, which was a bestseller back
in 1954. The book was adapted for
the stage by Jerry Ross and Richard
Adler, the creative team behind such
musicals as "Damn Yankees!" Boast-
ing a stellar cast, including Holly-
wood actors such as John Raitt (the
father of musician Bonnie Raitt) and
Janice Paige, "The Pajama Game"
was an instant hit, sweeping the
Tony awards that year and jump-
starting the careers of Ross and


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