Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: see Bruce Hornsby, Mayer Hawthorne, fireworks and more

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Neo-soul star and Ann Arbor native Mayer Hawthorne will play at the Power Center as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival main stage series. (Photo by Jake Michaels)

There are some great ongoing theater productions the area right now, so before we get into events scheduled this week, I’d also recommend checking out Purple Rose Theatre’s phenomenal production of “Morning’s At Seven” (see my review here); Encore Theatre’s terrific staging of my all-time favorite Sondheim musical, “Assassins” (my review); Theatre Nova’s impressive world premiere drama “Spin” (my review); and Penny Seats Theatre’s outdoor production of “The Canterbury Tales” finishes up its run at West Park this weekend (my review).

Plus, Ann Arbor Summer Festival/Top of the Park rolls along this week, with free outdoor movies at dusk on Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday; and free concerts and retreats and kids’  activities starting at 5 p.m. at U-M’s Ingalls Mall, every night except Monday.

For even more event options for this week, keep reading, and thanks for visiting the site! (Plus, since I’ll be vacationing next week, happy 4th of July to you all!) Continue reading

Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: A2 Book Festival, comic John Heffron and more

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Brazilian vocalist Bebel Gilberto has an Ann Arbor Summer Festival main stage show at the Power Center on Saturday.

Theater production runs of Shakespeare in the Arb’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and Encore Theatre’s “Assassins” continue this week, as does the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park at U-M’s Ingalls Mall, with tons of free live music in the evenings on Tuesdays-Sundays, and outdoor movies at dusk on Sundays and Tuesdays-Thursdays.

But this week’s list begins with a community gathering to mourn those murdered in Orlando this past weekend.

Requiem for Orlando. On Tuesday evening, there will be a community performance of Mozart’s Requiem to honor the victims of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The concert is free; no tickets are required. Through a social media and email campaign launched on Sunday, graduate student Austin Stewart and Kevin Fitzgerald, both alums of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, were able to bring together 50 instrumentalists and more than 135 singers to participate in the concert. Fitzgerald will conduct the performers, which include SMTD students, faculty and alumni, as well as representatives of many local orchestras, such as the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Rochester Hills symphonies, and the Michigan Philharmonic. “In the aftermath of the tragedy in Orlando, there has been a lot of discussion among friends about building sanctuaries,” Stewart said. “We are striving to do that by creating a safe space with music, by creating a tapestry of voices representing every race, creed, sexuality and background. This is a timeless piece that expresses the full range of emotions that come with grief and healing. Our hope is for the concert to build solidarity and strength through music and communal reflection.” Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Hill Auditorium, 825 N. University Ave. in Ann Arbor.

A2SF Main Stage shows. On Wednesday, Gregory Alan Isakov and The Ghost Orchestra take the stage at Ann Arbor’s Power Center. Plaintive and poetic, Isakov crafts stunning, sepia-toned compositions that tell a story of miles and landscapes, captivating and haunting his listeners. With nods to Leonard Cohen and Andrew Bird, his lush arrangements lend themselves to a fuller sound, and he will be accompanied by his band, as well as a mini-symphonic ensemble. In a tour that includes headlining Red Rocks and The Kennedy Center, this is a rare opportunity to see a unique performance with one of indie folk’s most admired new singer/songwriters. Poet Andrea Gibson opens the show, with a set that may include mature themes. Wednesday at 8 pm at the Power Center, 121 Fletcher in Ann Arbor, and tickets cost $27-$40.

On Saturday night, A2SF presents Bebel Gilberto at the Power Center. This popular Brazilian singer, daughter of the legendary Brazilian singer-songwriter and guitarist Joo Gilberto, weaves sultry pop and soft electronica into her sophisticated bossa nova and samba repertoire. Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Power Center, 121 Fletcher Rd. in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $30-$35, available in advance at tickets.a2sf.org or 734-764-2538.

Frontier Ruckus plays Sonic Lunch. Popular experimental bluegrass-based folk-rock ensemble from Lake Orion plays a free show on Thursday at noon at Liberty Plaza, near the intersection of Liberty and Division in Ann Arbor.  Continue reading

Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: see A2CT’s ‘The Wedding Singer,’ Sonic Lunch, Cinetopia, Taste of Ann Arbor and more

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Chip Mezo stars in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of “The Wedding Singer.” (Photo by Lisa Gavan)

Friday’s Judy Collins show at the Ark may be sold out, but if you look at both sides now (see what I did there?), you’ll see there are lots of other great choices for leisure activities this week. Check out some of your options below.

Aoife O’Donovan at The Ark. The former vocalist of a Boston neo-bluegrass outfit called Crooked Still, O’Donovan is a honey-voiced pop-folk singer-songwriter who’s regularly featured on “A Prairie Home Companion.” Her new CD, “In the Magic Hour,” is a collection of introspective explorations of memory and mortality written in the wake of her grandfather’s death. Tuesday at 8 p.m. at The Ark, 316 S. Main in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $15 (members, free), available in advance at mutotix.com, theark.org, or by phone at 734-763-TKTS.

The Leastaways’ “West of Elsewhere.” This traveling theater troupe, founded by Ann Arborites, performs its multidisciplinary show that follows the intersecting lives of illegal train-hoppers during the panic of 1893, when a depression drove hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes in search of a better life. Interwoven with music, the story concerns American idealism, hardship, living in uncertainty, and the pursuit of belonging. Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Pointless Brewery & Theatre, 3014 Packard in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $10 at the door.

Sonic Lunch kicks off Thursday. One of the best things about being around downtown Ann Arbor in the summer is walking to Liberty Plaza on Thursdays at noon to see a free Sonic Lunch show. (In case of rain, the shows are held in the Ark on Main Street.) Performers in Sonic Lunch’s lineup range from local and regional favorites to nationally known acts, and this year’s series kicks off Thursday with Wild Belle. Enjoy seductive, musically sophisticated retro-pop with a reggae groove by this critically acclaimed band, led by the sibling singer-songwriter duo of vocalist Natalie Bergman and saxophonist/keyboardist Eliot Bergman, who founded the popular Afrobeat band Nomo when he was a U-M student. Thursday from noon-1:30 p.m. at Liberty Plaza, located on E. Liberty St. at S. Division. Free. Continue reading

Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: see Ellie Goulding, Cyndi Lauper, ‘Station Eleven’ author and more

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Cyndi Lauper will play a concert at the Michigan Theater on Saturday night!

Ellie Goulding at EMU. Enjoy catchy electronic pop (with elements of dance music and ambient synth-pop) by this young British singer-songwriter who first gained attention with her 2010 hit singles “Starry Eyed” and “Guns & Horses.” She has a new best-selling CD, “Delirium.” Opening acts are Bebe Rexha, an Albanian American electropop singer-songwriter who co-wrote Eminem’s 2013 hit “Monster,” and Years & Years, a London (UK) synthpop trio. Monday at 7 p.m. at EMU Convocation Center, 799 N. Hewitt (north off Washtenaw) in Ypsilanti. Tickets $35-$59.50, available in advance at Ticketmaster.com and (800) 745-3000.

For Pete’s Sake: A Pete Seeger Birthday Tribute and Memorial at The Ark. This celebration of the late folk legend features in-the-round performances, with lots of sing-alongs and between-song stories. The all-star lineup of area singer-songwriters includes Chris Buhalis, Judy Banker, Billy King, Paul Tinkerhess, Matt Watroba, Annie & Rod Capps, and Gemini, an acoustic quartet now that twin brothers Laszlo and Sandor Slomovits have been joined by San’s daughter Emily and bassist Jacob Warren. A benefit for the Ark. Wednesday at 8 p.m. at 316 S. Main in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $15, available in advance at mutotix.com, theark.org, and 734-763-TKTS.

See “Station Eleven” author Emily St. John Mandel at WCC. Check out this reading by bestselling NYC-based writer whose 2014 novel, “Station Eleven,” was chosen as the 2015-16 Great Michigan Read (and it’s one of my favorite novels of recent years). Set in the aftermath of a future flu epidemic, the novel tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region. Wednesday at 7 p.m. at WCC’s Morris Lawrence Bldg., in Towsley Auditorium, 4800 E. Huron River Dr. in Ann Arbor. Free. Continue reading

Ann Arbor Summer Festival announces Top of the Park lineup

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Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park features free outdoor concerts, retreats and activities (alongside several food vendors) and is scheduled to happen between June 10 and July 3, 2016. (Photo by Myra Klarman)

Woo-hoo! The Ann Arbor Summer Festival has just announced its outdoor Top of the Park series music performances for the 2016 season. From folk pop ensembles and a rogue marching bands, to the pioneers of Baltic Brass Band, there is something for everyone at Top of the Park.

Highlights include:

Air Traffic Controller, Annabelle Road, Barbara Payton and The Instigators, Chris Bathgate, Boogat, Dixon’s Violin, Fanfare Ciocarlia, George Bedard and The Kingpins, Jill Jack Band, Madcat Midnight Blues Journey, Misty Lyn and The Big Beautiful, Son Little, The Infatuations, The Outer Vibe, The Record Co, The Sun Messengers and The Third Coast Kings.

The Top of the Park series runs from June 10th through July 3rd, 6 nights each week for nearly 4 weeks, starting at 5 pm. The entire festival features an eclectic mix of over 150 events showcasing the best in music, dance, comedy, film, spoken word, contemporary circus, street arts, and family entertainment with select events through August. Continue reading

Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: Water Hill Music Festival, ‘Purple Rain’ and more

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A special screening of Prince’s film, “Purple Rain,” has been scheduled at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Theater on Saturday.

Several theater productions continue this week, including the world premiere of Matt Letscher’s “Gaps in the Fossil Record” at Chelsea’s Purple Rose Theatre, and the new, original musical “Irrational” at Ann Arbor’s Theatre Nova (housed at The Yellow Barn on Huron St.). At Dexter’s Encore Theatre, “Always … Patsy Cline” continues, and at Huron High, “Drop Dead” finishes its run this weekend. For more entertainment options, read on!

“Rock of Ages” at Pioneer High School Theater Guild. Will Branner directs students in Christopher D’Arienzo and Ethan Popp’s Broadway musical comedy, set in L.A. in the 1980s, about an aspiring rocker who encounters friendship, deception, and love on his road to stardom. The score is comprised of iconic ’80s songs, such as “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “The Final Countdown,” and other songs by Journey, Poison, Styx, and Bon Jovi. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (through May 7, 2016) at PHS Schreiber Auditorium, 601 W. Stadium in Ann Arbor. Tickets cost $15 (seniors age 65 & over and students, $10), available in advance at showtix4u.com.

Ark highlights. Heywood Banks is the stage name of Howell native Stuart Mitchell, a very animated comedian known for his silly musical spoofs, goofy prop humor, and sight gags. Since adopting the nerdy, quietly psychotic Banks persona in the mid-80s, he has risen from a regional favorite to a national star. Friday at 8 p.m. at The Ark; tickets are $25.

On Saturday night, you can check out The Ben Daniels Band. You’ll hear artful, dynamic rock and roll by this Chelsea quintet, led by singer-songwriter and guitarist Daniels, whose influences range from Robert Johnson to Dylan to Jack White. Saturday at 8 p.m.; tickets cost $15.

Both shows happens at The Ark, 316 S. Main in Ann Arbor, and show tickets are available in advance at mutotix.comtheark.org, or 734-763-TKTS. Continue reading

Things to do around Ann Arbor this week, April 12-17

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Hannah Flam and Joseph Sammour in U-M’s production of “Guys and Dolls.” (Photo by Peter Smith Photography)

Ann Arbor’s Jewish Film Festival continues this week, as does EMU Theatre’s run of “One Man, Two Guvnors” – but there’s tons more on offer, too. Check out all the details below. It’s a little overwhelming. In a good way.

See author Alice McDermott. The U-M English Department Zell Visiting Writers Series presents a reading by this Washington, D.C.-based National Book Award winner (for the 1998 novel, “Charming Billy”). “Someone,” McDermott’s 2013 novel that follows the sharp pains and unexpected joys of an ordinary life, was praised by Booklist as a “keenly observed, fluently humane, quietly enthralling novel of conformity and selfhood.” (McDermott will also be interviewed by author/U-M English professor Peter Ho Davies on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at UMMA’s Helmut Stern Auditorium.) McDermott’s reading happens on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the UMMA Apse, at 525 S. State St. in Ann Arbor, and the event is free. Continue reading

Things to do around Ann Arbor this week: FoolMoon & Festifools, Hash Bash, Ani DiFranco and more

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Mark Tucker, founder of FestiFools, will bring his students’ (and community artists’) giant puppets back to Ann Arbor’s downtown streets on Sunday for a parade. (Photo by Myra Klarman)

Lucinda Williams, Ani DiFranco and more, presented by The Ark. The Monday and Tuesday night Williams shows at The Ark are sold out – sorry to be the bearer of bad news – but 50 year old Ann Arbor folk venue has lots of other great artists on offer this week, including Wednesday’s 8 p.m. Brad Phillips Family Benefit show, featuring “The Voice” finalist Joshua Davis, Brian Vander Ark, Millish, and May Erlewine and Seth Bernard (tickets cost $25). The always-popular RFD Boys on Friday at 8 p.m. (tickets $11); and Ani DiFranco at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., on Saturday at 8 p.m. (tickets $30-$55). The Oh Hellos will play The Ark on Sunday night, but that, like the Williams shows, are already sold out. (Always have to keep your eye on that Ark calendar, folks!) The Ark’s located at 316 S. Main St. in Ann Arbor. To order tickets for shows, visit mutotix.com, theark.org, or call 734-763-TKTS.

See “Yellowman” playwright Dael Orlandersmith. Part of the U-M Institute for the Humanities Living Room Series. Orlandersmith is known for her Obie-winning drama “Beauty’s Daughter,” as well as her 2-actor, multi-character love story “Yellowman,” a 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Drama finalist (staged by Ann Arbor’s Performance Network Theatre in January 2015). This actress, poet, and playwright presents “Forever,” her semi-autobiographical one-woman drama about a pilgrimage to the famed Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris – the final resting place of such artists as Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison – that prompts a meditation about the relation between the family we are born into and the family we choose. Thursday at 8 p.m. at Kerrytown Concert House, 415 N. Fifth Ave. in Ann Arbor. Free. Continue reading

My Concentrate feature story: As arts coverage fades, how will local arts organizations attract audiences?

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The cast of The Purple Rose Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” (Photo by Sean Carter Photography)

After having launched my career as an arts reporter at The Ann Arbor News in 2004, I had become, over the course of nearly 12 years, the only long-term staff entertainment writer left standing in Ann Arbor when MLive Media Group announced a round of layoffs on January 6, 2016.

This time, though, my name was on the list, too.

Beyond my own personal circumstances, the layoff meant that artists/local arts organizations would take yet another hit in regard to press coverage, and thus find it even harder to share their triumphs, struggles, ambitions, and events with the community. Yes, the rise of social media has made it possible for arts organizations to be in regular contact with their subscriber list – but how, without minimal press coverage, will they now reach beyond that?  READ THE REST HERE

39th Annual Ann Arbor Folk Fest’s second night thrills sold-out crowd

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STORY BY ROGER LELIEVRE

On night two of the annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival, it was all about the genre’s elders.

The annual musical buffet, held in Hill Auditorium and sold out Friday and Saturday, is the main fundraiser for The Ark, Ann Arbor’s nonprofit home for acoustic music and more.

Sure, the kids impressed during the first part of Saturday’s show, with deserved standing ovations for Michigan’s own The Accidentals, who opened the evening (the audience loved “Michigan and Again and Again”), and Joshua Davis of “The Voice” and Steppin In It fame. He did a fine job with his easygoing band, despite a muddy sound mix, especially on the Detroit/Flint ode “The Workingman’s Hymn.” The vocal quartet Darlingside (four guys gathered around a single mic) offered sweet, spot-on harmonies that pulled from folk, pop and barbershop traditions and earned another standing O.

Alan Doyle, best known as lead singer for Newfoundland’s beloved export Great Big Sea and touring with his more recent band, got the crowd fired up with Celtic-influenced songs like the bluesy “Testify (Take Me To The River)” and the rowdy GBS-style drinking tune “1,2,3,4” which might as well be subtitled “Whiskey Whiskey.” Much to the delight of this Great Big Sea fan, he also included the GBS song “Ordinary Day” as the capstone of his set. The only problem here was over-amplification – the vocals were on the unintelligible side, though part of the problem was probably Doyle’s charming but thick accent.

But after intermission was when the night really began to sound like a good old-fashioned folk music revival. Continue reading