My Pulp preview of Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie’s Scared Scriptless Tour show at A2SF

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 6.24.23 PM.pngWhose Line is It Anyway? stars Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie — appearing Saturday night at the Power Center as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival — have been doing improv comedy together since they met in the early ’90s, so they have a long-established, familiar rapport with each other.

“There’s almost a sibling rivalry that happens backstage and on stage, and that becomes part of the show, watching us try to outdo each other,” said Mochrie.

Sherwood, meanwhile, confessed that he’s always looking for the chance to make his improv partner laugh on-stage. “It’s hard, because (Mochrie’s) the most stoic of all of us,” said Sherwood. “He’s granite. … If I actually say something that makes him laugh, I’ll hear, under his breath, an involuntary spasm for half a second. But that’s about it.” READ THE REST HERE


My Art & Soul performing arts segment with Lisa Barry on WEMU-89.1 FM (for July)

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 6.38.08 PM.pngCheck out my latest WEMU 89.1 Art & Soul segment with the lovely Lisa Barry! This time, we spoke with Eric Lofstrom, music director of Ann Arbor in Concert’s upcoming town-and-gown staged concert production of “Spring Awakening.” We also talk about Ira Glass’ A2SF main stage show, the Squirrel Nut Zippers playing the Ark, Penny Seats Theatre’s production of “Peter and the Starcatcher” in West Park, and Billy Bragg coming to town to talk about his new book, “Roots, Radicals, and Rockers.” Listen to the 8 minute segment here!

REVIEW (Pulp): World premiere of Joseph Zettelmaier’s ‘Renaissance Man’

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 11.14.36 AM.pngThe resistance wears elf ears.

At least, it does in Joseph Zettelmaier’s Renaissance Man, now having its world premiere via Penny Seats Theatre.

A riff on Macbeth and staged outdoors — at West Park, in front of the band shell — Renaissance tells the story of behind-the-scenes unrest at a fictional Renaissance festival called Gloriana. Longtime knight Martin Mackabee (Patrick Loos) and art school dropout/face painter Emma Murtz (Kelly Rose Voigt) connect partly through their shared frustration that the fair is not more historically accurate, and bristle against the inclusion of anachronisms like drench-a-wench, elves, leather corset vendors, gypsy fortunetellers, and turkey legs. Gloriana’s benevolent, permissive “king,” Chuck Duncan (Robert Schorr), earns the pair’s scorn, and Emma takes action, entrapping Chuck so that he must resign from Gloriana.

But if you remember your Macbeth — or even if you don’t — you can probably guess that Martin finds that, to quote yet another Shakespearean king, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” When Martin and Emma transform the face painting tent into a plague tent, and turkey legs are replaced by boiled herring and turnips, and charming minstrel Eli Duffy (David Galido) is recast as a consumptive beggar, the fair’s business dries up, and Martin and Emma have to reflect on their actions, motives, and ambitions. READ THE REST HERE

REVIEW (Pulp): Rhiannon Giddens at the Power Center

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 10.14.17 PM.pngArtists have a long history of transforming pain (communal or personal) into something beautiful — and right now, no one does that better than celebrated roots musician Rhiannon Giddens, who played an Ann Arbor Summer Festivalmain stage show at the Power Center on Wednesday night.

Giddens, who first drew mainstream attention as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and now appears on the TV drama Nashville, opened Wednesday’s two-hour set with her haunting take on Bob Dylan’s “Spanish Mary,” during which Giddens’ gorgeous vocal storytelling countered the song’s heavy, thumping drumbeat; and “The Love We Almost Had,” a jaunty chronicle of longing and regret that Giddens concluded with some grade-A scatting.

Dressed in a navy blue corset top and bolero jacket (like the one she wears on the cover of her latest album, Freedom Highway) and a dark, floral print skirt with an asymmetrical hem, Giddens — barefoot, and with hair streaked bright red — was accompanied by four male musicians on stage. Plus, Giddens’ sister, Lalenja Harrington, appeared occasionally to provide additional vocals for songs, including the siblings’ spare, piercing gospel duet “One More Day.” (The Giddens Sisters featured the song on their 2013 album, I Know I’ve Been Changed.) READ THE REST HERE

REVIEW (Pulp): Pink Martini w/ China Forbes at the Power Center

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 10.09.45 PM.pngIf you’re at a concert, and during the course of the evening, one of the performers says, “That last song was in Turkish, and this next song is in Armenian,” it’s a pretty sure bet you’re seeing world music super-group Pink Martini. (Lucky you!)

A sold-out crowd packed the Power Center on Tuesday night to see the 11-member, Oregon-based band, which filled the second slot in this year’s Ann Arbor Summer Festival main stage season after Diana Krall kicked things off last week.

Upon her first entrance, vocalist China Forbes put the (hot) pink in Pink Martini, wearing a voluminous, elegant fuschia gown and glittering platform shoes. The 10 male musicians surrounding her on stage, meanwhile, wore neutrally colored (but equally natty and contemporary) suits. The overall effect married the formality of the music industry’s past to the individuality of the present, reinforcing Pink Martini’s vibe: elegance, whimsy, and something I can only describe as “modern retro.” READ THE REST HERE

My Concentrate A2 story on the local performance storytelling scene

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 6.31.59 PM.pngIn 1992, Judy Schmidt and three other public school librarians organized the first local Tellabration, an event that Schmidt describes as “a storytelling night for grownups.”

“It sounded funny at the time, because back then, storytelling was seen as something you do with kids,” Schmidt says.

Today in Ann Arbor, as across the nation, storytelling is just as much a “grownup” entertainment as it is for children. Thanks to events hosted by The Moth and the Ann Arbor Storytellers Guild – as well as occasional, themed, one-off indie shows – more and more people are looking to connect with others by sharing (or hearing) stories in a public space. READ THE REST HERE

REVIEW (Pulp): Diana Krall’s A2SF main stage concert

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 9.13.20 AM.pngChart-topping jazz pianist/singer Diana Krall kicked off the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s main stage season on Tuesday night by making the nearly packed 3,500 seat Hill Auditorium feel as intimate and cozy as The Bird of Paradise.

That long-gone Main St. jazz club, which closed in 2004 after nearly 20 years in business, hosted performances from Krall early in her career (which she mentioned early in the evening); and I’m likely not the only one who had flashbacks of being in that smaller space again as Krall opened Tuesday night’s show with her fun, flirty take on “‘Deed I Do,” and then, shortly after, applied delicate, quiet keystrokes on the Nat King Cole hit “L.O.V.E.” – a song featured on Krall’s latest album, Turn Up the Quiet just released in May.

But Krall had yet another local tie: accompanying her on-stage was U-M professor and bassist Robert Hurst — along with guitarist Anthony Wilson, violinist Stuart Duncan, and drummer Karriem Riggins. Each musician performed like a star in his own right, featured repeatedly on complex, transporting solos throughout the evening, but they were also extraordinary as a musical unit.

“I love playing with you guys,” Krall told her band at one point. “I’ve got the best seat in the house.” (Krall also said, later in the show, after another solo-packed tune, “Sometimes I forget there’s a singer in the band.”) READ THE REST HERE

My Pulp preview of Theatre Nova’s ‘The Legend of Georgia McBride’

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Nick Yocum and Vince Kelley in Theatre Nova’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride.” (Photo by Brandy Joe Plambeck)

Sometimes, when you’re down and out, you have to pull yourself up not by your bootstraps, but by a pair of sparkly platform heels.

As least, that’s one way to read Matthew Lopez’s comedy The Legend of Georgia McBride, which opens at Theatre Nova Friday.

The play — which premiered in New York in September 2015 — tells the tale of an Elvis impersonator, Casey, who performs regularly at a failing bar in Panama City, Florida. Just as Casey’s wife learns that the couple will soon be parents, Casey finds himself in professional freefall: the bar’s owner has hired drag performers to see if they can help turn the bar’s fortunes around. But when one of the new hires faints before going on stage, Casey finds himself reluctantly filling in, only to discover that he’s not so bad at drag.

“It’s very charming,” said director Brandy Joe Plambeck of the play. “I was initially surprised to find out that the show was one of the top 10 most produced scripts in the nation last year, but then I thought, both people who are straight and gay can watch it and find it accessible. It’s about two different worlds colliding. … And I find it’s more than bubble gum sweet. … It has really memorable characters and really great dialogue. And I love the music numbers. It’s just a beautiful play.” READ THE REST HERE

My VisitAnnArbor post about June local event highlights

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 6.53.34 PM.pngJune may be one of the best months to be in Washtenaw County. The kids are in their last days of school, everyone’s excited to spend time outdoors, and lots of concerts, festivals, movies, and activities pop up across the county.

So whether you love music, running, films, car shows, theater, or all of the above, you have tons of great choices this month. Check out these highlights to get your planning started. READ THE REST HERE