Phantom Phacts You Probably Didn’t Know!

By: Tony Rastigue with information provided by THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

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As we enter our final weekend of the spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Miller Auditorium through Feb. 17, here are a few Phun Phacts about the show!

  1. Total Broadway attendance is over 17 million and the show recently marked its 31st anniversary on Broadway.
  2. Over 65,000 performances have been seen by 140 million people in 35 countries and 160 cities in 15 languages.
  3. This show has won more than 70 well-deserved major theater awards.
  4. 20 trucks are used to move the production from city to city (16 trucks in the building and 4 more trucks for the advance).
  5. This new production uses over 1,200 costume pieces and each ballet girl goes through a pair of ballet shoes every 2-3 weeks.
  6. Over 120 wigs travel with Phantom and about 50 of them are used in the show every night. Plus, all the wigs are made from human hair except for 5.
  7. Over 200 speakers are used in the production and 50 of those are used just for the surround sound package.
  8. The famous chandelier has over 6,000 beads on it and weighs 1 ton.
  9. The new chandelier was designed by Howard Eaton, who designed the Olympic rings for the London ceremonies.
  10. The main scenic wall weighs 10 tons and rotates around the stage.

Want to learn more about THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA? Visit https://ustour.thephantomoftheopera.com/

Tickets for THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, playing through Feb. 17 at Miller Auditorium, are still available: https://tickets.millerauditorium.com/11316?psn=11316

Back to the ’80s with Rock of Ages

By: Tony Rastigue

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Sam Harvey in ROCK OF AGES National Tour – Jeremy Daniel, 2018

As I eagerly anticipate my first ever experience with Rock of Ages: 10th Anniversary Tour at Miller Auditorium on Jan. 16, it is easy for me to reflect upon my love for classic rock music from the 1980s. While I may have been born years after this “tubular” decade, the music that emerged from that time continues to stick with and energize me more than any other genre.

I was introduced to the genre by my father at a fairly young age. As he would drive me to school, he’d always play the greatest hits by his favorite bands that he frequently jammed to while in college. I favored the works of Van Halen, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Queen, Poison and Scorpions, many of which were formed in the 70s and ultimately created a vibrant culture in the 80s. My dad would always associate a fun and crazy memory with every song and it would allow him to recall times of spontaneous and rebellious fun.

He would always tell me how he preferred to listen to this type of music specifically because each song always took him back to the fun of his youth. It made me realize that the enlivening and powerful music of anyone’s youth has the power to resonate with them for years down the line. 80s nostalgia has continued to be popular as multiple forms of entertainment immerse audiences into the radical decade of mullets and power ballads.

The 80s were a time where American youth were often less supervised and laid back which allowed for them to thrive in a decade of exciting times echoed by timeless music. It is easy to see why the 80s culture has carried into new generations as a reminder for how distinct and unique that time was and how our current generation can be inspired to bring back that enthusiastic atmosphere for both the youth and reminiscing adults to continue enjoying.

Learn more about Rock of Ages on their official site and tickets for the Miller Auditorium performance are available now at https://www.millerauditorium.com/rock-ages.

American Girl Memories

By: Tony Rastigue

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When I was 12, my family and I ventured off to explore Chicago. Upon experiencing a shopping spree unlike any other, one particular stop intrigued me–especially since an upcoming Miller show made me think back to that time. My younger sister was beyond eager to enter the American Girl store and while any other doll store would’ve bored me, this specific brand has held my interest even to this day.

It was a pretty big deal for my parents to purchase an American Girl doll for my sister. As I got older, I recognized the importance that the brand brings to its line, which showcases cultural significance as a doll’s American personality is carefully implemented. Since each doll comes with a set of books that detail their life in America, young girls are easily immersed into the doll’s life. More importantly, these books depict specific time periods of historic social issues and how the doll’s character deals and overcomes these issues. Each doll’s story complements relatable topics that younger girls appreciate and provides uplifting elements of femininity, racial identity, ethnicity and what it means to be an American.

As American Girl Live, an all-new musical coming to Miller on Jan. 5, 2019, brings some of these fictional characters to life, I anticipate that this show will warm the hearts of many in a way similar to the joy I saw in my sister’s eyes after she first held her Kit Kittredge doll. Conveying can-do attitudes and inspiring emotions aligns beautifully with true American spirit. American Girl’s fictional stories in historical settings can beautifully inspire young girls with confidence and lessons in American history.  It astonishes me that these dolls have the power to accomplish these wonders, which makes them not only a part of brand, but a cultural sensation.

You can learn more about American Girl Live at http://americangirllive.com/ and at https://www.millerauditorium.com/american-girl-live

Cirque Dreams Holidaze: Uniting An Audience

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By: Tony Rastigue

Preparing for the holiday season is both intense and exciting. Aside from hanging lights and enjoying holiday films, a particular experience at the theatre has been crafting a unique holiday spectacle unlike any other. Cirque Dreams Holidaze brings about a combination of both family-friendly entertainment and seasonal wonder that founder/director Neil Goldberg proudly presents. Goldberg has stated that he aims to “unite the audience” and immerse them into a 2-hour sensation that’ll feature 300 imaginative costumes, 20 world-class astonishing acts, the finest singers and original music. It’ll have everyone feeling the true warmth and enjoyment of the holidays.

“Uniting the audience” is a very unique way of going about presenting audiences with this particular show. Since Christmas and New Year’s only come around once a year, the anticipation leading up to those days are meant to be full of heart and joy, and Cirque appears to offer just that! Maintaining an audiences’ attention is one thing, yet uniting them altogether is certainly a difficult accomplishment I’d imagine. Goldberg has allowed his creation to fully captivate audiences through the formation of such a magnificent sense of awe-inspiring and uplifting production that instantly emerges as the ultimate holiday gift.

The tactic of “uniting the audience” is certainly a powerful and effective strategy when discussing this show, as it perfectly aligns altogether with the emotional theme of this time of year. Having the audience collectively experience delight and astonishment will surely enrapture families together with a sense of community engagement. The spirit of Christmas and New Year’s will instantaneously expand and carry on within everyone that unites themselves among a show like Cirque Dreams Holidaze. Learn more at https://www.millerauditorium.com/cirque-dreams-holidaze

 

Five Ways to Survive Finals Week

By: Tony Rastigue with Lauren Hufford

1. Make yourself at home at Waldo Library
From Monday, Dec. 10 through Thursday, Dec. 13, WMU’s Waldo Library is open for 24 hours. Finals week can be hard to bear when you are set up in your own space – there are so many distractions! Head to the library to avoid all of that. Just remember your headphones and some snacks.

2. Be sure to verify details with your professors
Most professors are happy to verify your grade so far in the semester and reiterate the deadlines and expectations for the final. They want you to do well just as much as you do. Meeting with them will give you extra insight into what you need to work on, and they might even drop a few hints about what to really need to focus on while studying.

3. Acquire productive study groups
Sometimes you don’t have a choice on who you study with, but when you have the choice, make sure you make good decisions. Don’t just pick classmates or friend who you can have fun with, but also people that will help you. If you know section A really well and a friend knows section B, get together and teach each other. Not only will you have a tutor, but you can solidify the knowledge you already have by teaching it to someone else.

4. Silence those social media accounts
Change your Facebook password, delete the Twitter app for a few days, go to the computer lab and refuse to log in to anything other than your email. Social media is a fun and easy distraction, but that isn’t what you need right now.

5. Reward yourself for all the hard work
As you study, it can feel like you will never get through everything you need to. It’s a good idea to give yourself some mini goals. If you finish a unit of your chemistry class, watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix. After a hard exam, head over to a campus café and buy yourself a hot meal! In the unforgettable words of Parks and Rec’s Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle: “Treat Yo Self.”

Good luck this Finals Week, Broncos!

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Spamalot Fun Facts

Compiled by: Amelia Manley with information provided by MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT

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MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT comes to Miller Auditorium in just a few weeks, so we wanted to share some fun facts in advance of the show.

What is SPAM?

SPAM is a canned “shoulder pork and ham/spiced ham” pork product made by the Hormel Food Corporation. SPAM luncheon meat, like most other luncheon meats, is precooked. However, SPAM is often pan-fried or otherwise heated through again to add texture.

How Monty Python Gave the Word a New Meaning:

SPAM was one of the few meat products excluded from the British food rationing that began in World War II (and continued for a number of years after the war), and the British grew heartily tired of it. The British comedy troupe Monty Python used this as the context for their Spam sketch, which gave rise to the term spam.

In the Python sketch, a restaurant serves all its food with lots of SPAM, and the waitress repeats the word several times in describing how much SPAM is in the items.

When she does this, a group of Vikings in the corner start a song:
“SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, lovely SPAM! Wonderful SPAM!” That is, until they’re told to keep quiet!

Thus the word SPAM became a term to describe something that keeps repeating and repeating to great annoyance. Today, the term “spam” also means network abuse on the Internet, particularly junk e-mails and massive junk postings.

Hormel, the maker of SPAM, does not object to the term, but insists that it be spelled in lower case so as to distinguish it from the capitalized SPAM trademark.

Where is most of the SPAM in the U.S. made?

Austin, Minnesota is home to the plant that produces the SPAM for most of North America and Europe. That is also where the SPAM Museum is located.

What state consumes the most SPAM?

The state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam consume the most SPAM per capita.

What is the SPAM Club?

The SPAM Club is a group of devoted Eric Idle and Monty Python fans. SPAM Club members get exclusives throughout the site, such as e-mailed issues of The Daily Dirty Fork newspaper, Adopt-An-Eric, access into virtual parties, and, such club events, as “The SPAM Bag” and “Get Well Soon Eric.”

…But what exactly is a Grail?
In the Medieval Legend, the Grail is the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. The origin of the “Legend of The Holy Grail” is believed to belong to the ancient Britons probably of Welsh and Celtic heritage. There are two explanations for the term. One is that the term “grail” itself is believed to originate from the Latin “gradale” meaning a dish used during a meal. This Latin term evolved into the Old French word “grail” meaning a “broad and capacious dish or slaver.”

What is so magical about The Grail?
It supposedly possesses the ability to heal the sick, or in King Arthur’s case, the mortally wounded. It also has the power to ensure all who are worthy to approach it remain youthful; and the power to provide sumptuous food of any type except for those who are not worthy to eat from it or approach it, as they were regarded as cowards. In Christian terms this means only those being strong enough and pure of mind, body and spirit are able to seek and approach it. Anyone else approaching it would simply see it disappear before their eyes.

Christian Grail romances became popular during the late twelfth and early thirteenth century, with “Robert de Borron” being the first poet to bring the legends of King Arthur seeking The Grail to print. The Quest for similar vessels that have magical, mythical powers like The Holy Grail can be found in most ancient belief systems such as ancient Greek mythology.

Come learn more about SPAM and the quest for The Grail when MONTY PYTHON’S SPAMALOT comes to Miller Auditorium for four performances from Nov. 9-11, 2018. Learn more at https://www.millerauditorium.com/monty-pythons-spamalot.

Staff Profile: Amelia Manley

Name: Amelia Manley

Amelia photoTitle: Marketing Assistant

Years at Miller Auditorium: About a year and a half.

Hobbies: I don’t really have hobbies. I just do graphic design… Which is my major. I don’t have time for hobbies.

Favorite Miller Shows: I’m really excited for The Phantom of the Opera this spring! My favorite show that I have actually attended (and haven’t worked) was Kinky Boots this past season.

One of the craziest experiences you’ve had while at Miller: During the The Lion King last year, I got to go backstage and look at the amazing costumes, puppets and props. I was really surprised that the hyena costumes weren’t made of just a patterned fabric, but were hand painted.

-Compiled by Lauren Hufford

From Stage to Screen

By: Amelia Manley

Over the years, many a musical has been adapted to be featured on the silver screen. Here are a few of the more popular stage to screen adaptations.

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Hairspray
Hairspray is a bit of a unique situation. This story started as movie, then was adapted into a stage musical and then readapted to become a movie musical–and most recently, a live TV musical. Hairspray follows the trials and tribulations of Tracy Turnblad in 1960’s Baltimore. She may not be the best student, but she does have a passion for dancing. She auditions for the Corny Collins Show, although she does not quite fit their ‘ideal,’ being a plus-sized young woman. She soon makes friends with Seaweed J. Stubbs and gets involved in the Civil Rights Movement in Baltimore.

A classic, in my opinion. It is rather lighthearted, considering the heavy subject matter it tackles. For those whom have only seen the original John Waters movie, there are some great songs in the musical including “Good Morning Baltimore,” “Welcome to the 60’s” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”

Les Misérables
Les Misérables began on the page and the popular musical adaption was based upon the 1862 novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, but there have also been eight film adaptations and the most recent was the 2012 movie musical starring Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway. Jean Valjean is the main character, however, this Les Misérables has an ensemble cast. Several different story lines occur at once and the plot spends time with each character. The central conflict of Les Misérables follows Valjean’s 30 year game of cat and mouse with the righteous Inspector Javert.

The musical, to some people’s surprise, is sung from beginning right up until the end–there is no spoken dialogue. Having seen both the 2012 movie and the stage musical, I prefer to see Les Misérables on the stage because it is so much more dramatic to see the events of the novel play out live.

Mamma Mia
First a 1999 musical based on the songs of ABBA, movie adaptation of Mamma Mia followed in 2008. The story centers on Sophie Sheridan in the days leading up to her wedding. She finds her mother’s diary and in it, three names–one of which may be her father. Sophie then invites all three of these men to her wedding, without her mother knowing, in the hopes that she will be able to recognize her father at first sight. This eventually gives way to chaos, which peaks during the wedding.

My parents went to the Mamma Mia musical while they were still dating. They’ve always raved about how much the stage musical was like a concert. The movie and musical, in my opinion, are both pretty fun. Other than slight differences in plot, both of these are great productions and a great way to enjoy ABBA’s classic hits.

Little Shop of Horrors
Initially a 1960 film, then a 1982 musical and finally a 1986 movie musical, Little Shop of Horrors has gone through some transformations. First and foremost, this is a dark comedy. Little Shop of Horrors follows the happenings at Mushnik’s Flower Shop. Seymour Krelborn and Audrey are co-workers at Mushnik’s. They both lament their situations in life. Seymour has a secret crush on Audrey, and when he comes across a strange plant, he eagerly names it Audrey II. This plant is soon revealed as a man-eating plant with the song “Grow For Me.” The plant soon gains a consciousness of its own, forcing Seymour to do things for him. But along with its appetite, Audrey II’s fame keeps growing throughout the show.

There are major differences between the stage musical and the 1986 movie. I won’t ruin it for you, but the ending is quite different in each, so if you haven’t had a chance, it’s worth checking both out. All in all, I like both versions, but one is definitely more uplifting than the other.

Theater Superstitions

by: Lauren Hufford

I think most of us know that theater-goers and actors alike are a superstitious bunch, but what are the biggest superstitions in the live stage world? I’ve got the history behind some of the biggest theatrical superstitions right here for you!

“Break a Leg”

It is pretty common practice for performers to be wished “break a leg!” before the performance instead of “good luck,” but where did the phrase come from? I always assumed that it was simply to combat jinxing the performance, but there might be some more historical implications. Some say it might have grown from ancient Greece, where they would stomp their feet instead of clapping. There is also a connection to the Elizabethan term for bowing, “to break the leg.” My favorite origin story, is the most modern, I think and it has quite spiteful undertones. It might have begun from understudies (hopefully jokingly) wishing the actors would “break a leg” so the understudies had a chance perform.

“The Scottish Play”

I didn’t learn of this superstition until high school when my class read Shakespeare’s Macbeth but, in essence, uttering the name of the play on stage or in the theater is a terrible curse. There are several instances of sudden deaths during performances of the play which suggests the curse dates back to its inception in the 17th century. There are a few work-arounds for the curse, however. You can call it “The Scottish Play” or you can say the character Macbeth’s name, but cannot use it to refer to the play as a whole; and if you do slip up, you can run outside, spin three times, spit on the ground and say a Shakespearean insult.

MacBeth

“The Ghost Light”

It is said that the ghost of Thespis, the first known actor in ancient Greece, wreaks havoc upon theaters around the world. The ghost light is a single light bulb lit upstage, center when the theater is empty that supposedly wards off the ghost and any other spirits. Some say, however, that the light does not ward off the ghosts, but gives them a chance to perform on stage themselves when the theater is empty and their actions will not cause any harm. Practically, the light helps stagehands, managers and actors not fall into the orchestra pit and to find the rest of the light switches when the theater is dark and empty. It is also known as an “equity light” because actors tend to enjoy relaxing and talking with costars after a performance. To signal that the actors are no longer on the clock, the stage manager will put the light on stage.

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“Whistle While You Work”

This is less a superstition, but I still thought it was interesting. In the beginnings of large-scale productions in Europe, most of the stagehands were out-of-work sailors. Much of the rigging backstage is similar to that of the ships they had experience with. This also meant they had a system of communication, coded whistling. So if you don’t want a sandbag or a huge set piece dropped on you, don’t go whistling across the stage.

Taking a Bite Out of The Big Apple

By: Tracey Lawie

I recently visited New York City for the Broadway League’s annual Spring Road conference where Broadway presenters from across the country converge  to discuss the latest marketing trends, hot topic issues, meet with producers and agents and, of course, take in as many Broadway shows as possible while there!

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This year did not disappoint. As always, we garnered much information on the latest hot topics including building/show accessibility, venue security, best practices for social media, the latest contract negotiations with various unions effecting the cost of touring shows and our personal favorites–creative conversations with casts and crews from shows currently playing Broadway.

We were treated to a private showing of the revival of My Fair Lady on our first night in NYC. While not my favorite show, I walked away stunned by how beautifully it was done. It was amazing and the freshness of this production was welcoming. Other shows I took in over the week included Frozen, The School of Rock, Summer and Come From Away.  My favorite of the week was Come From Away. It is based on the true events that occurred on September 11, 2001 when air traffic was shut down in the U.S. and all flights rerouted to other locations, including 38 planes that were sent to the small town of Gander, Newfoundland. Over 6,000 “plane people” were welcomed by the locals of Gander for several days while awaiting the clearance to fly on to their original destinations. It is a beautiful musical about the selflessness and giving nature of the human spirit. I hope to be able to bring the national tour to Kalamazoo in the next few years.

While Come From Away was the stand out show for me that week, the others deserve high marks as well. Frozen was breathtaking and Disney magic abounded. The School of Rock left me in awe of the talent of the young cast. Summer had me singing along with all of my favorite Donna Summer songs, not to mention being surprised and genuinely entertained by her life story.

As always, it was a fast and fabulous few days in New York. We hope to be able to bring some of these amazing shows to Miller in the near future!