REVIEW (Pulp): ‘Anything Goes’ at Dexter’s Encore Theatre


Olivia Hernandez and Sebastian Gerstner star in “Anything Goes” at Dexter’s Encore Theatre. (Photo by Michele Anliker)

“Tap Your Troubles Away” isn’t one of the songs featured in the screwball musical comedy Anything Goes, but it’s nonetheless what popped into my head upon leaving Dexter’s Encore Theatre on Sunday.

Why? Because this silly confection of a Depression Era, vaudeville-infused musical, jam-packed with wordplay and witty Cole Porter tunes, offers a pleasurable, two and a half hour escape from our increasingly stressful world.

Originally staged in 1934, with a new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman (original book by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, and Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse), Anything Goes tells the story of Wall Street broker and ladies’ man Billy Crocker (Sebastian Gerstner), who stows away on his boss’ cruise liner upon spotting the woman he truly loves, heiress Hope Harcourt (Emily Hadick), on board with her British fiancee, Lord Evelyn Oakley (David Moan). Hope’s family suffered great losses during the Crash of ’29, so her engagement is more pragmatic than romantic, and her heart secretly belongs to Billy. Meanwhile, brassy nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Olivia Hernandez) only has eyes for Billy, too, but over time, an unlikely friendship grows between her and Oakley.

Oh, and there’s a scheming, wisecracking gangster-in-hiding (Moonface Martin, played by Dan Morrison) and his moll (Erma, played by Elizabeth Jaffe) because isn’t there always? Some featured Porter songs in the show (besides the title number) include “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-Lovely,” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” READ THE REST HERE

REVIEW ( ‘The Color Purple’ touring production

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The fantastic touring production of John Doyle’s “The Color Purple” recently came to Detroit’s Fisher Theater for a limited engagement.

If you’re part of a historically oppressed demographic – or even if you’re just a person who tries to focus on people’s potential for kindness and empathy – this year has been brutal. Between white supremacists openly marching in Charlottesville and planning to come to Michigan, to Hollywood’s seemingly endless supply of real-life sexual assault and harassment stories, and horrifying mass shootings, it’s been harder than ever to find reason to hope.

Which may be why the touring production of The Color Purple, now in Detroit for a limited engagement at the Fisher Theater, feels so electric, and so emotionally satisfying in this moment.

Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel, and set in rural Georgia in the early twentieth century, The Color Purple tells the story of Celie (Adrianna Hicks), a poor young black woman who’s repeatedly told she’s ugly – especially when compared to her studious, pretty, beloved sister Nettie (N’Jameh Camara) – and who’s been twice impregnated by the man she believes is her father (J.D. Webster). The man gives both of Celie’s babies away, then brokers a deal with a gruff, mean, widowed farmer named Mister (Gavin Gregory) to marry her off.

The story spans 40 years in Celie’s life, and the show’s wonderfully rich music (by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, with a book by Marsha Norman) nods to popular genres of the early twentieth century, including boogie woogie, ragtime, blues, and gospel. READ THE REST HERE

My Concentrate story about AADL’s new book imprint for local authors, Fifth Avenue Press

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 7.01.03 AM.pngThe Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) has long offered a staggering range of materials and resources, but the library recently added yet another community role to its ever-growing list: publishing books.

 “It’s like we’re book doulas,” says AADL deputy director Eli Neiburger, referring to the library’s newly launched Fifth Avenue Press. “We help with the birth, and then we hand the baby to you and say, ‘Good luck!'”

Inspired in part by AADL’s well-attended monthly creative writing classes and workshops, Fifth Avenue Press (5AP) – named for the street the downtown library is located on – just held an official launch party for its first nine titles by local writers. The nonuplets, to continue Neiburger’s analogy, are a diverse bunch, ranging from poetry to memoirs to a comic book. READ THE REST HERE

My Michigan Alumnus newsletter recap of the Ann Arbor to Entertainment panel

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 6.49.49 AM.pngCall it musical chairs meets the media panelists. Last Friday, Nov. 3, in the Rackham Assembly Hall, nearly 30 lucky students enjoyed not just a steaming smorgasbord of gourmet dishes, but the wisdom of alumni in the entertainment industry. What’s more, it was all free, courtesy of the Alumni Association.

The event, titled “Ann Arbor to Entertainment,” featured a panel of five alumni, followed by a dinner in which each hosted a table. The students were able to table-hop twice, giving them a chance to have personal conversations with three of the five alumni over coffee and dessert.

Here are some of the secrets of success they shared. READ THE REST HERE