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

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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.

GhostLight

“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!

2018 Tony Award Nominations

By: Lauren Hufford

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Nominations for the 72nd annual Tony Awards were announced last week and we’re already counting the days until Broadway’s biggest night on Sunday, June 10 at 8 p.m. on CBS. Let’s look at the musical nominees and and start with Frozen, which is only up for Best Musical category, no other nominations, unfortunately.

A theater form of the hit cinematic hit, Mean Girls is up for a total of ten nominations, which are as follows:

-Best Musical

-Taylor Louderman – Best Leading Actress in a Musical

-Grey Henson – Best Featured Actor in a Musical

-Ashley Park – Best Featured Actress in a Musical

-Scott Pask, Finn Ross, and Adam Young – Best Scenic Design of a Musical

-Gregg Barnes – Best Costume Design of a Musical

-Casey Nicholaw – Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography

-John Clancy – Best Orchestrations

-Brian Ronan – Best Sound Design in a Musical

Another strong Tony contender is SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical coming in with nine nominations:

-Best Musical

-Ethan Slater – Best Leading Actor in a Musical

-Gavin Lee – Best Featured Actor in a Musical

-David Zinn – Best Scenic Design of a Musical and Best Costume Design of a Musical

-Kevin Adams – Best Lighting Design of a Musical

-Tina Landau – Best Direction of a Musical

-Christopher Gattelli – Best Choreography

-Tom Kitt – Best Orchestrations

-Walter Trarbach and Mike Dobson – Best Sound Design in a Musical

The Band’s Visit is another Broadway favorite this season with a total of nine nominations:

-Best Musical

-Tony Shalhoub – Best Leading Actor in a Musical

-Katrina Lenk – best Leading Actress in a Musical

-Ari’el Stachel – Best Featured Actor in a Musical

-Scott Pask – Best Scenic Design of a Musical

-Tyler Micoleau – Best Lighting Design of a Musical

-David Cromer – Best Direction of a Musical

-Jamshied Sharifi – Best Orchestrations

-Kai Harada – Best Sound Design in a Musical

Best Revival of a Musical is a fantastic category full of heavy hitters. There are only three nominees this year, but they all have a multitude of other nominations for their cast and crew. First up is Carousel with twelve nominations – the most of any show in this year:

-Best Revival of a Musical

-Joshua Henry – Best Leading Actor in a Musical

-Jessie Mueller – Best Leading Actress in a Musical

-Alexander Gemignani – Best Featured Actor in a Musica

-Renee Fleming – Best Featured Actress in Musical

-Lindsay Mendez – Best Featured Actress in Musical

-Ann Roth – Best Costume Design of a Musical

-Brian MacDevitt – Best Lighting Design of a Musical

-Justin Peck – Best Choreography

-Jonathan Tunick – Best Orchestrations

-Scott Lehrer – Best Sound Design in a Musical

One of my favorite shows, and the first professional show I ever saw, My Fair Lady continues to steal the hearts of theater goers everywhere and it shows with their ten nominations:

-Best Revival of a Musical

-Harry Hadden-Paton – Best Leading Actor in a Musical

-Lauren Ambrose – Best Leading Actress in a Musical

-Norbert Leo Butz – Best Featured Actor in a Musical

-Diana Rigg – Best Featured Actress in a Musical

-Michael Yeargan – Best Scenic Design of a Musical

-Catherine Zuber – Best Costume Design of a Musical

-Donald Holder – Best Lighting Design of a Musical

-Bartlett Sher – Best Direction of a Musical

-Christopher Gattelli – Best Choreography

Once on This Island has come back to Broadway with eight total nominations this year.:

-Best Revival of a Musical

-Hailey Kilgore – Best Leading Actress in a Musical

-Dane Laffrey – Best Scenic Design of a Musical

-Clint Ramos – Best Costume Design of a Musical

-Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer – Best Lighting Design of a Musical

-Michael Arden – Best Direction of a Musical

-AnnMarie Milazzo and Michael Starobin – Best Orchestrations

-Peter Hylenski – Best Sound Design in a Musical

I, personally am so excited for this season’s line up. Keep an eye out for more Tony Awards fun and games from The Backstage Pass in the coming weeks!

Miller Staff Profile: Lauren Hufford

LaurenPicName: Lauren Hufford

Title: Marketing Assistant

Years at Miller Auditorium: Almost three. 2015 is when I started as an area manager and I joined the marketing office in the summer of 2017

Hobbies: Crochet, reading, playing with my cat, watching Game of Thrones, being very nerdy about Latin and Greek.

Favorite Miller Shows: My favorite show I have gotten to see is The Book of Mormon, but I am really excited for Disney’s THE LION KING, too! I also have always loved working Commencement every semester. It is a long day, with three to four ceremonies each time, but it is so awesome to see how excited families and friends get for the ceremony and I get to hang out with the other people I work with all day.

One of the craziest experiences you’ve had while at Miller: I think the time I got to take a few of the New York cast members of Disney’s THE LION KING over to Sprau Tower to buy some coffee. I walked into work expecting to just sit at my desk and work, and in the span of just a minute or two, I was meeting cast members! Or when I got to meet Adam Savage after Brain Candy Live a few months ago.

-Compiled by Amelia Manley

 

Serve Me Up Another Helping of Waitress

By: Thom Cooper

Some of my co-workers and I recently attended a production of WAITRESS, and JEEPERS! Did this show deliver!

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The national tour of WAITRESS took to the road with a cast lead by Desi Oakley. Others in the cast include Charity Angel Dawson, Jeremy Morse and Larry Marshall, who had all performed in the Broadway production before hitting the road. And, while these actors may have more experience with the show, the entire cast seems like they have been together forever.

For those who don’t know, inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film of the same name, WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life. It is directed by Diane Paulus and features a Tony and Grammy award nominated score by Sara Bareilles, an American singer-songwriter, actress and author who has sold over one million albums and is known for several popular songs including “Love Song” and “Brave.”

The songs are catchy and fun, yet they really drive the production advancing the story in a way most musicals don’t. For example, in the song ‘”What Baking Can Do,” we see Jenna teaching us how she makes her pies, but as we listen to the lyrics, we discover how she she has dealt with life since childhood. “I can fix this. I can twist it into sugar, butter covered pieces. Never mind what’s underneath it. I have done it before. I’ll bake me a door to help me get through. I learned that from you Mama, it’s amazing what baking can do.” This show doesn’t waste your time. Each track takes you deeper into the character’s stories.

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The designer’s work is fantastic as well. All of the elements from costumes to sound, set and lighting add to the magic of the evening. The fluidity of the set changes are fun to watch. Going from the diner to the doctor’s office and then to the home is just a fascinating turn of events. They are choreographed as much as the actor’s movements and while well done, they do not distract or take away from the performers.

Overall, the production was quite enjoyable. I will admit I have never seen the film, so I can’t compare the two. If the film is half as enjoyable as this tour, it would be worth seeing. But go out and see that live performance of WAITRESS. You’ll be happy you did.

Classical Theater History

By: Lauren Hufford

I love theater and new, exciting things happening around the world on stage, but I am also a huge nerd about Greek and Latin. I am a Latin major here at Western Michigan University in addition to working at Miller Auditorium, so I feel a little honor bound to talk about the start of what we consider Western theater.

For ancient Greeks, spoken word had so much more weight and importance compared to written word that even the classical Greek philosopher, Socrates believed that once something was written down, it lost its ability for change and growth. This made it very easy for the Greek culture to accept theater as a form of storytelling and praise to the gods. Some of the earliest record we have of Greek theater, is a tragedy competition and festival for Dionysus – the god of wine and fertility – starting in 508 BC.

 

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Until the Hellenistic period – from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC to the beginning of the Roman Empire in 31 BC – all tragedies were unique pieces written in the honor of Dionysus and were played only once. We primarily only have pieces from this era that were still remembered well enough to have been repeated when the repetition of old tragedies became popular. Accidents of survival and the preferences of Hellenistic librarians played a large role, as well, in limiting the amount of classical Greek theater we have access to now.

Now, as for Roman theater, a lot of the traditions and qualities are similar to, if not the same as, Greek traditions, because it was largely shaped by Greek theater. In 270-240 BC, there was a huge expansion of Romans into Greek territories. Also during this time was a devastating plague in 364 BC. Both of these things influenced the addition of theatrical performances to Roman public ceremonies in order to appease the gods (and hopefully stop any more plagues).

In 240 BC, during the largest public ceremony held during the year, Ludi Romani, Livius Adronicus became the first playwright to translate and create a performance of Greek plays on a Roman stage. I think this is really interesting because Ludi Romani was a celebration of the god Jupiter – the Roman equivalent of the Greek Zeus. My question is, why incorporate Greek writings into a Roman festival about the most important god? I don’t really have an answer for you, I just think that it is a really risky move.

pic2Early Greek and Roman theater was not what we would think of as traditional theater – plays, musicals; tragedies, comedies; and everything in between. The practice began as mostly dance and song storytelling. It didn’t fully evolve into what we think of as a play – filled with dialogue and action – until after the Third Macedonian War (171-168 BC) where Rome defeated Macedon, a Greek kingdom. This greatly increased Roman exposure to Greek literary drama which in turn influenced the theater that was portrayed although Romans actively decided to use the dominant local language, Latin, instead of Greek in these new productions. These productions eventually became the primary means for citizens to express their political emotions.

Sorry about going full-on nerd there for a bit, but I just really like Greco-Roman history. So now you know a very brief synopsis of how Western theater got started!

How to Prepare for WMU Commencement

By: Lauren Hufford

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With the semester coming to an end, it is time again for a very important event: Western Michigan University commencement. For the fall semester ceremony, WMU will present a total of 1,734 diplomas. 1,260 of those diplomas are at the bachelor’s level, 443 at the master’s level and 31 at the doctoral level. From my perspective – as a Miller Auditorium employee – commencement is a very interesting day. With three ceremonies back-to-back, the day is busy to say the least. Along with the fact that so many people are coming into Miller Auditorium, many for the first time, I think it might be helpful to give some quick tips. So here are a few things to keep in mind when attending a commencement ceremony.

1. Tickets are required to come into the ceremony. Your student gets a link to the tickets electronically and can then send them off to you. Although the tickets can be printed more than once, they can only be scanned once. Duplicate tickets with the same bar code will be denied entry. Every person in your party, regardless of age, needs a ticket to the ceremony.

2. Seating is general admission. That means that lines of people are fed into the seating area and are assigned seats as they enter. The general rule is that you are allowed to save two seats per party so make sure your entire group is with you and ready to sit down or you might be separated from your group.

3. The ceremonies will last approximately two hours and there is no intermission. You are welcome to leave and come back throughout the ceremony. After the ceremony, you will meet your graduate outside – so bring a coat!

4) It is a good idea to arrive at Miller Auditorium 30-40 minutes before the ceremony begins due to possible traffic concerns. Parking is free in all parking areas near Miller, including the attached parking structure.

5) If you need special seating arrangements, please call us at (269) 387-2320 as soon as possible to make sure we can accommodate you.

6) Graduates will be assembling in Shaw Theatre next door approximately an hour before the ceremony begins. More information about the timeline for graduates was sent out to all who are walking in the ceremony.

7) Please leave large bags, strollers and gifts in your vehicle. Please also be aware that balloons, air horns and large signs are not permitted in the seating area.

We are honored to host graduates along with their friends and families for this very important day. Congratulations, new grads!

50th Anniversary: First Season Memories

By: Amelia Manley

As we approach Miller Auditorium’s, we are looking back at the many great shows to visit our stage–including Wicked, The Book of Mormon and The Phantom of the Opera, to name just a few. Right now, though, we want to take a look back at our very first season at Miller Auditorium.

In 1968, we had 18 shows that made up our season. Some of the acts included Marcel Marceau, The Association and The Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Out of all of the wonderful shows we had during our Grand Opening season, I chose to highlight a few:

1968 Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

We’re proud that the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra often performs at Miller Auditorium in 2017 and that the KSO has been performing at Miller since our very first season.

National Ballet of Washington D.C.

This internationally renowned company performed at Miller only five years after it was  founded in 1962.

Ferrante & Teicher

This piano duo was known for their light piano arrangements that included show tunes. They were also known for their rapid fire piano performances. Both artists graduated from the Julliard School of Music, then went on to experiment with traditional piano playing. The duo would add found objects to the piano strings to produce percussion-like noises which made for inventive and memorable performances.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

This was the first musical to grace the Miller Auditorium stage. This lighthearted tale was later adapted for the silver screen with Barbra Streisand and was featured on the 100 Greatest Musical films by the American Film Institute.

As we look back on 50 great years of entertainment, we salute all the talented performers who have set foot on the Miller stage.