Performance Network Theatre: Jerry's Girls

Ann Arbor's Performance Network Theatre is showing Jerry's Girls, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, through Jan. 5. Herman worked on the concept with Larry Alford and Wayne Cilento. From the theatre's webpage: "Fabulous, flamboyant and fun for the whole family, 'Jerry's Girls' is the larger than life musical revue of Jerry Herman. Winner of four Tony Awards, including the Lifetime Achievement of Theatre, Jerry Herman and his music are synonymous with some of Broadway’s biggest hits – Hello Dolly!, La Cage Aux Folles, Mame, Mack and Mabel, Dear World, and more. Complete with large scale production numbers, tap dancing, and a little bit of drag – this is the perfect holiday excursion . . . " Ticket information is here.

TV Spotlight: The Newsroom

The Newsroom is a hot, new, critically acclaimed television show that takes places behind the scenes of a television newsroom, reporting on actual news topics. The fictional ACN is home to a nightly broadcast featuring anchor Will McAvoy, played brilliantly by Michigan’s own Jeff Daniels. The prickly McAvoy returns to work after a hiatus to learn that his staff has left to work on another show. He and his new executive producer (also his ex-girlfriend) and the newsroom staff are the focus of the show as they produce a nightly news program under high pressure.

I’ll admit it took more than a couple episodes for me to get into The Newsroom, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Created and principally written by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, the show is an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes and it’s a good group of characters to follow along with as they deal with their own personal dramas amidst the newsroom. There's some really great writing, and since it deals with real news topics it can get emotional at times as well. There have been two seasons thus far, and HBO has confirmed that there will be a season three.

Wild Swan Theater: The Firebird

Wild Swan Theater presents The Firebird Nov. 21-24 in Towsley Auditorium in the Morris Lawerence Buildong at Washtenaw Community College. The performance is for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. From the Wild Swan web page: "Young Ivan, Prince of Russia, must outwit one evil character after another in his quest to find the Firebird who has been stealing the Czar’s golden apples. A thrilling version of the classic Russian folktale, Wild Swan’s production features a host of fantastical creatures including the witch Baba Yaga, Nurl the Gnome, and Sistchik the Snake King as well as swirling Russian folk dancing set to a lively balalaika score." Ticket information is here.

The Kings of Summer on DVD & Blu-Ray

A sleeper hit of the summer, The Kings of Summer is a thought provoking coming of age tale that tells the story of teenage Joe. Living with his controlling father is becoming unbearable and he wants to escape. He decides that he and his friend Patrick are going to build a house in the woods to live in, just for them, with no parents to tell them what to do. As they head into the woods they are joined by the bizarre Biaggio, and the three boys discover independence, girls, freedom, how to make choices, and what it really means to need others.

It’s a great dramatic, somewhat comedic, film directed by Royal Oak native Jordan Vogt-Roberts. I saw the film at The Michigan this past summer, and Vogt-Roberts was there to do a Q & A after the film, and it was delightful to hear him speak of his film and where it came from. This film gets filed under little boy adventure stories along with things like Stand By Me and The Goonies, both of which inspired the feel of The Kings of Summer.

Wild Swan Theater: The Ugly Duckling

Wild Swan Theater will present "The Ugly Duckling" Oct. 17-Oct. 19 in the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College. Resident playwright Jeff Duncan has put his own spin on the classic tale by H.C. Andersen. The performance is designed for children in preschool through second grade. More information is here.

Amazon Teen Bestsellers: The Mortal Instruments

Slots 5 through 9 on the current list of Amazon teen bestsellers are books from the The Mortal Instruments series. Not a bad showing for author Cassandra Clare. The popularity of her series may be fueled by the August release of the film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. The book City of Bones, which sounds exotic and exciting, is described on Amazon: "When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died . . ."

Performance Network: "An Iliad"

Performance Network Theatre in downtown Ann Arbor presents "An Iliad" adapted by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson from September 26 through October 27. The Performance Network webpage offers this description of the play: "In this present-day retelling of Homer’s classic, a lone figure appears on an unadorned stage and shares the tragic narrative he is fated to tell for eternity. This epic narrative brings humor, pathos, and excitement to the ancient tale of the Trojan War, colliding it with the contemporary world and creating a wholly captivating theatrical experience." Performance Network is located at 120 East Huron St. and ticket information is here.

Purple Rose: The Vast Difference

The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea is presenting "The Vast Difference," a comedy by Jeff Daniels from September 19 to December 14.
From the Purple Rose website: "George Noonan is having a mid-life crisis. The father of five girls and a flight attendant for a small Midwestern airline, he is scheduled to have a vasectomy. As he works up the courage to go through with the procedure, George becomes reflective on his struggles with his career, living up to his father's expectations, and the nature of "being a man" in the modern world. Contains mild adult language and themes." The play is directed by Guy Sanville. Tickets may be purchased here.

The Boy Who Could Fly

In 1986, the film The Boy Who Could Fly came out to decent reviews, although it didn’t make much of a splash. But over the years, it has become one of those movies that people remember and want to see again.

Milly and her family move next door to Eric after the recent, tragic suicide of her father. She quickly notices something unusual next door, from something flying by her window to Eric spending lots of time on the roof. Milly becomes intrigued and eventually befriends Eric, who is autistic and lives with his alcoholic uncle. Eric’s parents died in a plane crash, and Eric as been obsessed with flying since the tragedy.

The actors who play Milly and Eric give nuanced and effecting performances. Fred Savage is delightful as a kid whose strategy for coping with his father's death is both grim and comically engaging. The adults in The Boy Who Could Fly add breadth and depth to the story: Bonnie Bedelia as the frazzled mother; Colleen Dewhurst as the understanding Mrs. Sherman; and Fred Gwynne as Uncle Hugo, a loving guardian who is battling his own demons.

Whether Eric can really fly is open to discussion, but this heartwarming and delightful film tells a great story.

Performance Network: My Name is Asher Lev

Performance Network in Ann Arbor is showing My Name is Asher Lev through September 8. The play is by Aaron Posner, adapted from the 1972 novel by Chaim Potok. The story is about a boy growing up in the 1950s in a tight Hasidic community. After he discovers he has strong artistic talent, the boy creates "The Brooklyn Crucifictions," and fears he will bring shame on his family and community. Ticket information is here. Performance Network is located at 120 E. Huron St. in downtown Ann Arbor.

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