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January 15, 2003 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-01-15

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January 15, 2003



'Smile' takes on beauty pageants

By Jim Schiff'
Daily Arts Writer
Beauty pageants have always been
one of Hollywood's favorite targets.
Films such as "Miss Congeniality"
and "Drop Dead Gorgeous" poke
fun of the big hair, big teeth and
even bigger smiles. It comes as no
surprise, then, that musical theater
offers its own take on the subject.
The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's pro-
duction of "Smile" this past week-
end had all the glitz and glamour of
pageant films, with an added dose
of song and a huge helping of heart.
"Smile" tells the tale of the 2003
Young American Miss pageant, a
fictional contest taking place in
Santa Rosa, California.

of guacamole dip, try to sabotage
her chances of winning. And
beyond the expected bickering and
gossip among the contestants, there
are a few girls who doubt their abil-
ity to triumph, such as girl-next-
door Robin Gibson (Kristina
Thompson) and perky blonde Doria
Hudson (Kristin Ritter).
While not as sophisticated as, say,
"West Side Story," "Smile" is
nonetheless a tricky musical to per-
form: The dancing numbers, such as
"Shine" and "Y.A.M.," require a
great deal of precision and syn-
chronicity. Thankfully, the A2CT
cast was more than up to the chal-
lenge, anchored by the highly-tal-
ented chorus of contestants. The
girls were not only in-

Sixteen incoming high-
school seniors from all
over the state convene
in a hotel, and immedi-
ately begin perfecting
their talents, their
dancing and, most of
all, their widened
grins. Couple Brenda
DiCarlo (Elise Stemp-

At The Lydia
Mendelssohn Theater
January 9th-12th
Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

step, but they also
allowed their charac-
ters to shine through.
In particular, Lorna
Colon as Maria Gonza-
les hit all the right
notes; striking a bal-
ance between saccha-
rine and cunning, she
crafted an endearing, if

Courtesy of the WB
Ho? Check. Short person? Check. Washed up rocker? Check. Washed up rapper? Check. Corey Feldman? Double check.

ky) and Big Bob Free-
lander (David Andrews), the
pageant's organizers, try to keep
everything running smoothly, while
hoping to please the show's ticket
holders and sponsors.
As with all pageants, things go
awry, and "Smile" certainly has its
share of bloopers. Flamboyant
dance instructor Tommy French,
played to a hilt by Kevin Gill,
insists on having a runway on the
pageant stage, while some of the
girls, upset over a Mexican contest-
ant who can whip up a mean batch

maybe a tad naive,
pageant princess.
The lead roles, though a little
underdeveloped, were also handled
well. Andrews, as Big Bob Free-
lander, brings, an aw-shucks quality
to his well-intentioned character,
while Stempky steals every scene.
she's in as Bob's wife. Coming to
grips with her own pageant disap-
pointment 20 years prior, she finally
lets out her frustration on her
coworkers, and the result is both
funny and a little scary.
Ritter also strikes gold as one of

the more prominent contestants,
showing off her considerable vocal
talent on songs such as "Disneyland."
Despite fine performances all-
around, the real stars of this produc-
tion were the costumes and the
lighting. Kudos to designer Susan
Pearlman for creating innovative
and colorful outfits that were flat-
tering without going over-the-top.
Similarly, the gold-lit backdrop
towards the end of the second act
was truly a sight to behold; one
could easily see such a spectacle at
a real beauty pageant.
With "Smile," director and chore-
ographer Ron Baumanis truly outdid
himself. He assembled a fine cast,
which beautifully brought to life a
story that's been told a thousand
times. A2CT productions, always of
high quality, have never been quite
this seamless. After viewing a per-
formance like this, one couldn't
help but, well, smile.

By Jaya Soni
Daily Arts Writer
This is the true story of seven strangers, picked to live
in a house to find out what happens when people stop
being polite and start getting surreal: "The Surreal Life."
Intended to be the WB's newest gem on the reality
show circuit, "The Surreal Life" places seven ex-
celebrities in the confinement of country
guitarist Glen Campbell's house for 10
days and nights. However - no surprise
here - the characters cause conflict as
their personalities are thrown into the
intimate realm of a cozy, multimillion- THE S
dollar home. L
Unlike shows such as "The Real Thur
World," these experienced entertainers 9p
walk into the house with personal and Th
emotional baggage already known to the
general tabloid reading public. Or, if you
are 2001 Playmate of the Year and "Baywatch" star
Brandy Roderick, you'll walk in with several designer
suitcases barely sustainable for this week-and-a-half
California vacation.
Thirty-one-year-old Corey Feldman ("The Goonies,"
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles") has grown up and
tamed his wild addictions with the support of his close
girlfriend Suzy. Similarly, MC Hammer has reformed as
a pastor and adoring father. Vince Neil of M6tley Crie

maintains the rocker image while Gabrielle Carteris
("Beverly Hills, 90210") still looks and acts like Andrea
Zuckerman. Jerry Manthey of "Survivor" has simply
traversed from one reality show to the next and upholds
her defensive demeanor. Among the entertainers
brought back from the syndication afterworld,
Emmanuel Lewis ("Webster") has changed the least and
remains four feet tall with a bigger than life laugh.
Though the seven cast members first
met at "The Surreal Life" taping, many
found in the first episode to they had
* common interests and unusual similari-
ties. Both Jerry Manthey and Brandy
URREAL Roderick are recent features of "Playboy"
IFE and Corey Feldman's ex-wife intermin-
sdays at gled with Vince Neil.
p.m Except for these occasional "coinci-
ie WB dences," the house interactions are
unexciting. The only controversy
includes Corey Feldman's annoyance.
with Gabrielle's motherly attitude, and MC Hammer's
refusal to eat sushi from a naked woman (although the
women had no problem with it). The most promising
of scenes is scheduled for the final episode when
Corey weds Suzy on live television, arising from an
impromptu proposal in episode one.
"The Surreal Life" lacks the adventurous tasks normally
assigned in other reality shows. Exciting events are limited
to trips to the grocery store where gaping customers are
caught calling home to brag of the bizarre scene produced
by these former celebrities. The cast has yet to leave the
house for any social event except to collaboratively deliver
brownies to other elitest neighbors. Not even this simple
task creates any drama. The neighbors are not amused with
the sight of unimportant and middle aged adults.
The creators attempt to stir controversy with a daily
"Surreal Life" tabloid that reveals cast member secrets and
conflicting opinions. The tabloid caused little tension in the
primary episode but may cause trouble for frustrated
houshold members later in the season.
"The Surreal Life" allows viewers to learn all the irritat-
ing characteristics of ex-entertainers that the public never
wanted to know. Many of the cast members have reached a
plateau both socially and professionally and the show sim-
ply proves that some famous people can have semi-normal
lives. "The Surreal Life" offers little entertainment for the
reality show fan and the creators should realize that this
only creates boredom.

New Beatz the same old story

By Joel Hoard
Daily Arts Writer
Swizz Beatz put himself on the map producing for his
uncles' Ruff Ryders collective, doing tracks for DMX, Eve
and Drag-On.
His unique, relatively sample-free produc- b
tion style quickly made him one of hip-hop's
most sought-after producers, and he was soon
working with artists ranging from Jay-Z and-
Busta Rhymes to Limp Bizkit and Marilyn SWIZZ
Manson, hauling in millions of dollars and PRE'
dozens of platinum hits. He even had the G.H.E3
privilege of contributing to the score of Oliver STC
Stone's "Any Given Sunday."
But apparently all of that wasn't good Swiz:
enough for Swizz. Maybe he was sick of just DreamWo
seeing his name in liner notes and wanted'it
on the cover for once. Maybe he wasn't satis-
fied with only two multi-million dollar mansions. Whatever
the reason, he decided to release his own record, Swizz
Beatz Presents G.H.E. TTO. Stories.


Despite only rapping on a few of the album's 17 cuts,
Swizz proves himself a competent MC on tracks like
"Ghetto Stories" and "Guilty." Ironically, it's the produc-
tion that suffers. After all these years and all those hits,
Swizz's style has become tiresome and repetitive.
He does shake things up by sampling
Booker T's "Sunny Monday" on "Ghetto
Love," but any good that pretty, little
acoustic guitar bit does is destroyed by shit-
meister LL Cool J and rhymes like "Face me,
BEATZ baby / Put your fingers in my mouth i Let me
ENTS taste the gravy."
.T.O. Fortunately for Cool J, his track isn't the
UES worst on Stories; that honor goes to Metallica
and Ja Rule's "We Did It Again." If pairing
Beatz Metallica and Ja Rule sounds like a bad idea,
{s Records it's because pairing Metallica and Ja Rule is a
bad idea. Over a typical wah-guitar Metallica
line, Ja does his best James Hetfield impres-
sion, shouting "I'm a rock star, baby!" No, actually you're a,
shitty Tupac rip-off who doesn't deserve a bit of his hope-
fully fleeting success. How embarrassing.

Mria still without the glitter

By Joseph Utman
Daily Arts Writer

Any fan of Mariah Carey's epony-
mous debut LP has likely been dis-
appointed with her more-recent,
better-recognized work. Her initial
opus was an auspicious offering that
displayed her considerable vocal tal-
ents and this melodic crooning was


Courtesy of the WB

Pizza dude's got 30 seconds.

Genius the GZA is back to
save hip-hop from the mindless

By Joseph Utman
Daily Arts Writer

2002 laid to rest any remaining
doubt: Hip-hop has officially been
coopted by mainstream pop music.
Actually, not all Hip-hop has been
seized by a mass audience, though cer-
tainly the mindless, hook-driven works
from artists like Nelly have.
This phenomenon is perhaps only

nal," the Wu's most talented soldier
challenges the audience to both keep
pace and understand his involved flows.
This task is further complicated by
GZA's efficiency, sparing no beats and
spitting no filler.
Really, Legend serves as a lyrical
playground for one of hip-hop's most
under-appreciated emcees, and a track
like the sonic, celebrity invenzione
"Fame" serves as a reminder that the

further showcased, and
her merit validated, by
her fantastic perform-
ance during "MTV
Since then, Mariah
has consciously moved Maria
away from that vocalist Island/Def
niche and instead set G
up shop in the world of
hip-hop (neighbored to the west by
the inferior town Nellyville), secur-
ing her place as a prominent R&B
star known for catchy hip-hop col-
laborations with rappers like ODB,
Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z. However,
following her well-documented and
much-lampooned nervous break-
down and break up with Sony
Records, the embattled singer has
returned on a new label with a very
eclectic, underwhelming album.
On Charmbracelet, Carey appears
torn between the various styles and
images she has previously cultivated
during her 12-year career. This con-
fusion and ambivalence makes many
of the record's opening songs
unimaginative and trite. There are
standard ballads, like lead single
"Through the Rain," generic medi-
um-paced R&B tracks, like "The
One," and tired rap-laced tracks,

like "Boy (I Need You)." (This last
track is particularly unfortunate, as
it is simply Carey singing over
Cam'ron's "Oh Boy" with a new
verse from Cam addended to the
end.) The album's first half is so bad
- boring, formulaic, and hollow -
that not even guest appearances
from Carey's standby, Jay-Z, and his
Roc-A-Fella disciple, Freeway, can
save it from being skip-
worthy on a CD player.
If one were to listen
to this record from
BRACELET beginning to end, he or
she might be ready to
[h Carey turn it off by the eighth
4 Jam Music or ninth track, but that
roup would be a mistake.
Carey is able to shake
off the rust she accumulated while,
most likely, pitying herself in vari-
ous negligees (as her turn on "MTV
Cribs" demonstrated) and produces
some quality songs set reminiscent
of Mariah at her peak during both
her smashing entrance into music
conscience and her reign as hip-hop
diva. The hip-hop infused "You Had

Your Chance" and "Irresistible
(West Side Connection)" are both
decent head-bobbers, while "Sun-
flowers for Alfred Roy" is a well-
arranged song reminiscent of
Mariah's "Vision of Love" era - a
refreshing revival.
Ultimately, though, Charm-
bracelet will leave listeners disap-
pointed, because not even the
record's better songs make up for
the awfully forgettable ones that are
too frequent throughout this LP.

cause for lament
because the glorifica-
tion of such mediocre,
and sometimes awful,
music relegates real
rappers to the industry's
background. It is there-
fore unfortunate that a
rapper's rapper, the
GZA, returned to the
scene at the end of a
year that saw his brand
increase in obscurity.

MCA Records

Genius is- hanging
upside down from the
monkey bars, sticking
out his tongue at other
emcees and listeners
trying to keep up.
However, the album is
not devoid of significant
messages. Rather, the
GZA uses his third solo
LP as a chance to com-

porarily saved by the listener devoting
most of his or her attention to the words
being dropped.
Those seeking pop rap need not cop
this, and should instead save their
money for some Air Force 1's. Real
hip-hop heads should be rushing to the
record store.

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