REVIEW (EncoreMichigan.com): Ann Arbor Musical Theatre Works’ ‘Love Story’

screen-shot-2017-01-03-at-10-52-34-amANN ARBOR, Mich. – When I was a kid, a hardcover copy of Love Story – now being staged by Ann Arbor Musical Theatre Works – peeked out from my parents’ living room bookshelves. Being a voracious reader (and a budding junior romantic), I asked my mom if I could read it. She said yes, and I gobbled it up, feeling like I’d been handed a ticket to the world of adults. And indeed, the slim volume was packed-to-bursting with family drama, romance, humor, sex, and tragedy, which is probably why it had previously been such a huge hit in 1970, both as a novel and a film.

Erich Segal’s iconic story focuses on a love affair between Harvard hockey player Oliver Barrett IV (Kevin Kaminski) and a baker’s daughter studying piano at Radcliffe, Jenny Cavilleri (Colby Cesaro). Oliver’s wealthy father (Jared Hoffert) doesn’t approve of the match, so when the pair decide to marry, Oliver is disinherited, leaving the couple to financially fend for themselves. Jenny works as a teacher while Oliver attends law school, and when a lucrative law career in Manhattan beckons, it seems the couple’s sacrifices have paid off. When they can’t seem to get pregnant, though, Jenny’s blood test reveals that she has a serious illness and limited time.

I would have said “spoiler alert,” but the musical – with a book and lyrics by Stephen Clark, and music and additional lyrics by Howard Goodall – begins at Jenny’s funeral. The show’s creators obviously assumed that many will come already knowing how the story ends, so they frame it instead as an opportunity to focus on how these characters reach this point. READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp preview of 50 First Jokes at The Ark, happening January 3rd!

50FJ2017PosterFinal.jpgOrganizing 50 people to be part of a show is never easy. But organizing 50 comedians?

“It’s cuckoo,” said Shelly Smith, who programs and hosts Ann Arbor’s 50 First Jokes show at The Ark, happening Tuesday, January 3 at 7:30 p.m. “It’s completely ridiculous.”

But that’s part of the fun, of course.

The show was the brainchild of comedian John F. O’Donnell, whom Smith met as part of the Ann Arbor comedy scene in the early 2000s. When O’Donnell moved back to New York more than a decade ago, he had the idea to gather comedians in Brooklyn to deliver their first new joke of the year.

“The first show was not exactly super-organized,” said Smith.

Now, though, 50 First Jokes has taken root in 10 different cities across the country, and three years ago, at O’Donnell’s urging, Smith brought the annual tradition to Ann Arbor. The show combines comedians of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels — from headliners to those now earning their stripes — and seats 25 at a time on stage, where they have a maximum of two minutes to lay their first joke of 2017 on the crowd. READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp preview of Ann Arbor Musical Theater Works’ exclusive U.S. production of ‘Love Story’

Screen Shot 2017-01-03 at 10.52.34 AM.pngMounting new musicals that haven’t been locally staged before is quickly becoming Ron Baumanis’ calling card.

“It’s one of the things I love to do,” Baumanis said.

In January 2015, for example, Baumanis directed an Ann Arbor Civic Theatre production of the stage musical Bonnie & Clyde,” which won over audiences so much that Baumanis went on to stage the same musical at Dexter’s Encore Theatre and Wyandotte’s Downriver Actors Guild. Now, Baumanis’ company, Ann Arbor Musical Theater Works, will present the regional premiere of the stage musical adaptation of Love Story at Ann Arbor’s Children’s Creative Center from January 5-15.

Based on the 1970 bestselling novel by Erich Segal — with a book by Stephen Clark, music by Howard Goodall, and lyrics by Stephen Clark and Goodall — Love Story tells the story of a young man (Oliver) from a wealthy East Coast family who falls in love with a poor young pianist (Jenny) of Italian descent. Against his father’s wishes, Oliver marries Jenny, so then he must find his way in the world without his family’s wealth. He goes to law school while Jenny works as a teacher, but when bad news arrives, both Oliver and Jenny have no choice but to alter their plans for the future. READ THE REST HERE

My latest Art & Soul segment (with Lisa Barry) on WEMU-FM

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With Barb Chaffer Authier in WEMU’s studio.

This month, on WEMU’s Art & Soul segment, Lisa and I chatted with Barb Chaffer Authier from The Ark about the upcoming Folk Fest, as well as 50 First Jokes and Crossroads Ceili. We also talked about other upcoming local cultural events, including the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra’s annual Mozart Birthday Bash, author Colson Whitehead’s upcoming visit to U-M, the Purple Rose Theatre’s new world premiere production of Brian Letscher’s “Smart Love,” and the unique dance piece “Idiot-syncrasy,” presented by UMS. Click the link to listen to our entire 8 minute segment.