When we think of Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States, we tend to think of the Vietnam War. Not many know that just days after LBJ stepped in as president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he approached Congress with his first priority as president: the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
“Miller.” For many residents of Southwest Michigan, that one word conjures up visions of an auditorium that has spent 50 years as a backdrop for performers, making them laugh, cry, ponder and cheer.
There is a scene early on in Finding Neverland where playwright J.M. Barrie (Billy Harrigan Tighe) is talking about the play he’s working on with theater producer Charles Frohman (Matthew Quinn). Charles tells him that the play can’t be too short or too long. It also can’t be too funny or too serious. It needs to make people think but not think too hard. Finding that perfect balance isn’t always easy in a play, but Finding Neverland makes it look as effortless as lifting a feather.
When Andrea Arvanigian soulfully sings “Love is who we are and no season can contain it,” from Sara Bareilles’ sweet 2011 song “Love is Christmas” in the second act of The Barn Theatre School’s Christmas Cabaret, it’s impossible not to feel the truth of those lyrics straight from the heart of all the performers most regularly seen here during the summer months.
In the mid-century American classic play “The Miracle Worker,” by William Gibson, the child Helen Keller punches, kicks, flings food, throws whatever’s in her clutches, pulls hair, screams, wails, and otherwise throws physical tantrums like a feral animal. She’s a brilliant yet obstinate, wildly spoiled child in her upper-class, post Civil War Alabama home in which all her kin are cousin to General Robert E. Lee. From a baby with enormous vitality to a deaf-mute child, she is pitied for her disabilities caused by illness, and since none of the finest quacks money could buy helped, her family nearly ruins her for any kind of productive life.
The Nutcracker, like so many holiday traditions, is an experience rich with nostalgia. For many, the classical ballet is the only ballet they’ve ever seen; for others, it’s an annual tradition that began in childhood; for others, the music, characters and movement summon memories of the times when they’ve played or danced it themselves.
Farmers Alley Theatre couldn’t possibly have known when they selected their season that December 2017 would offer the perfect cultural moment for a light-hearted jukebox musical in which three iconic female archetypes beaten down by the misbehaving men in their lives risk everything to strike out on their own — only to find beautiful harmonies and support in each other.
Torrey Thomas has been teaching dance — or what he calls “Torreography” — for more than 20 years. He was born and raised in Grand Rapids and loves his roots here in West Michigan. He is known around the community for his eccentric personality, talented dance moves and teaching abilities, working with theater productions and giving lessons. Recently, Thomas received a Grand Award for best choreography for his work on Ragtime at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. We talked with Thomas about where his passion to teach, dance and work comes from.
When they were first released, some holiday classics could hardly be considered successes, said James Sanford, a film critic and former creative manager of Kalamazoo’s Alamo Drafthouse.
A Christmas Carol has taken many forms, but a two-day run with Grand Rapids Ballet will be one of the most unique by far.
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