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!


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.


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.



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


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.

Broadway Dinner Menu

By: Lauren Hufford

I think we’ve all had this problem: You plan to go to a matinee performance of one of your favorite shows, but don’t know what to do about dinner after the show! Now, you could just go to a favorite restaurant, or try a new place, but why do that when you can have a perfectly themed homemade dinner? Here is my perfect post-show dinner for the whole family.

To start, we have a wonderful Julius Caesar Salad. Are you a fan of Shakespeare? Or do you, perhaps, just enjoy a good, classic salad? This recipe is perfect for a fresh, spring day. Perhaps the Ides of March?

Julius Caesar Salad

After a wonderful show and all the emotions flying throughout the seating area, you just need a good helping of soul food. Our main course for the night is a hearty, warm chili ready to get you through every last heart-wrenching ballad and peppy tap tune. It will make everyone in your family say, “Gimme Gimme!”

Thoroughly Modern Chili

I decided that we needed something a little lighter to compliment the heartiness of the chili and so we have some Kiss Me, Kale Chips! Now be careful when you take these baked treats out of the oven or you’ll be shouting that it’s “Too Darn Hot.”

Kiss Me, Kale Chips

When there is nothing ado, come and enjoy these delicious blueberry muffins. They can inspire wedding vows in anyone! Everyone who tastes them will exclaim, “Get thee a wife!”

Much Ado About Muffin

Now, I know our run of Kinky Boots is done, but you will get a resounding cheer of everybody saying “YEAH!” with these yogurt and kinky fruit parfaits!

Kinky Fruits

The perfect accompaniment to this delicious meal for your “Wandering Child” is some Fanta of the Opera the fizzy orange drink that will have the kids saying “Bravo, Bravo!”
For the adults in the room, Caberet Sauvignon pairs well with chili. It’s so good, you’ll think you’re in trouble and say “Don’t Tell Mama.”


Daniel Tiger and Mr. Rogers

By: Lauren Hufford

This probably shows you how young I am, but I remember watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on my way to kindergarten. His show was not just about learning to count or the letters of the alphabet, but more about emotional issues and real problems children face. For instance, when Mister Rogers’ goldfish died, he didn’t just replace it with an identical one, but talked to his viewers about death – pretty heavy hitting for a children’s show, I know.

While Mister Rogers’ show ended in 2001, the concept of his show wasn’t forgotten and the Fred Rogers Company decided to bring back the ideas and characters we love in Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. This new show is animated and the main characters are the next generation of kids from the Land of Make-Believe. Daniel Tiger is Daniel Striped Tiger’s son, Prince Wednesday is the second son of King Friday XIII and Queen Sarah Saturday. O the Owl is X the Owl’s nephew, Henrietta Pussycat’s daughter is Katerina Kittycat and Miss Elaina is Lady Elaine’s daughter. The concepts and execution are very similar between the new and old shows. Music is used to reinforce the ideas presented throughout the episode and the most memorable moments of the show – like Mr. Rogers putting on his sweater and shoes – are still in each episode. The spirit of Mr. Rogers really lives on in the new series.

I would highly recommend any parent start their preschoolers on this show. Not to mention Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE: King for a Day! is coming to Miller Auditorium on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 2 p.m. Single tickets are on sale now! We look forward to celebrating the spirit of Mr. Rogers with Daniel Tiger in January.

Kalamazoo Wears the Kinky Boots!

By: Amelia Manley

Last week, a famous pair of red boots strolled their way into Kalamazoo! And a lot of famous Kalamazoo faces had a chance to try them on while they were here.

Kinky Boots opens Miller Auditorium’s Zhang Financial Broadway season for four performances from Oct. 20-22. To get ready for this very special event, we visited local celebrities with the red kinky boots in tow. I had the honor to watch the boots get zipped up and yes, they can be hard to put on, but we were there to assist.

Thanks to all the local boots wearers who took part: Dana Marshall with WKFR 103.3 FM, Mike McKelly with 107.7 WRKR FM, Bobby Guy with K-102.5 FM, Dr. David Montgomery with WMU’s Bronco Marching Band, Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell, Portage Mayor Peter Strazdas, Alan Park with Zoo City Cycle, WMU’s First Lady Mrs. Kari Montgomery, Kim Carson with FM 106.5 WVFM, Ken Lanphear with WKZO AM 590, Miller Auditorium‘s Director Rob Pennock and Daniel Brier, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra‘s Resident Conductor.

The famous boots have their own backstory with the show:



In a show called Kinky Boots, “you’ve gotta get the boots right,” says Gregg Barnes, costume and footwear designer for the Tony Award-winning musical. The show, based on a real story and independent film, about a failing English shoe factory which turned its fortunes around by niche-marketing sturdy boots for drag artists, has become a sold-out Broadway phenomenon. With a book by Harvey Fierstein and a Tony winning score by pop icon Cyndi Lauper, Kinky Boots relies heavily on its visual designs, and, of course, those boots by Barnes.

The designer says it was quite a challenge to create those thigh-high boots, with six inch stiletto heels. “What’s really funny about our experience with Kinky Boots is that my team, and the cobblers who made the boots, we had the exact same story as in the musical,” explains Barnes. “Everything they talk about in terms of reinforcing the heel and all of that stuff, we had the same learning curve!”

Learn more about Kinky Boots and reserve your tickets now at

Theatre Memes Ranked and Rated

By: Amelia Manley

As a former high school theatre geek, my social media is littered with references and satire that I scroll through on a daily basis.


So here are a few of my favorites that I have come across, tailored to Miller’s upcoming season, of course. Without further ado, here are the Impact font laden memes I promised.

10. Now, I recognize that Cats is not everyone’s favorite musical, but what would you expect from a show that is about Cats singing their names at the audience for two hours? However, since this contains an actual cat, it gets higher marks.


  1. I run into this DAILY. Being a former theatre kid, as in no longer. My heart breaks a little more every time I reference Dear Evan Hansen or even Wicked and no one understands it.


  1. This is a rule of thumb for theatre. Just look at some of the classics, basically everyone dies in the second act. Case in point: (spoiler alert!) Spring Awakening.


  1. I have gotten literal sighs when I put on my music. But every once in a blue moon, I’ll hear a squeal of excitement instead–and those are the moments I live for.


  1. Lion King is classic for my generation. That is all. (Also cat)


  1. You have never hustled until you have danced to “Something Familiar” in double time.


  1. There are so few consistencies throughout life, however one consistency is that for any moment in life, there is song in a musical.


  1. Hamilton was not going to be left out of this list. Also, the final essay struggle is real.


  1. The combination of these two musicals is so nonsensical, yet so perfect.


  1. When you realize these musicals have similar songs in not at all similar sequences.



Broadway Reading List

By: Lauren Hufford & Amelia Manley

We thought it would be fun to put together a little reading list for other book and theater enthusiasts, so here are some memorable shows that started out as books.


Les Misérables is a French novel by Victor Hugo that was published in 1862. The musical version debuted in 1980 in Paris and lyrics were written by Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel and Herbert Kretzmer with music by Claude-Michel Schӧnberg.


Fiddler on the Roof was inspired by a series of stories by Sholem Aleichem. The stories center around Tevye and his five daughters, their Jewish and cultural traditions, and the eviction of Jews from their village. In 1964 the stories were transformed into a musical by Jerry Bock, for music; Sheldon Harnick, for lyrics; and Joseph Stein for the book.


The String of Pearls: A Romance was a penny dreadful serial in 1846 and 1847 written by James Malcom Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest and was put into book form in 1850. It follows the antagonist of the story, Sweeney Todd. In 1973 the serial was transformed into a play by Christopher Bond titled Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. In 1979 it debuted as a musical thriller. Music and lyrics were written by Stephen Sondheim and the book by Hugh Wheeler.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was an American children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum in 1900. Baum wrote the lyrics and book for the 1902 Musical version of his book and the music was written by Paul Tiejens. The well-known film version of the story came about in 1939.


Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West written by Gregory Maguire in 1995, adapted from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Maguire created a revisionist view of the Land of Oz and the characters within, making this novel more suited for an adult audience. Wicked the musical premiered on Broadway in 2003 with lyrics and music by Stephen Schwartz.


The original story of Christine Daaé first appeared in a serial in Le Gaulois 1909-1910, written by Gaston Leroux. Then story was later adapted into a novel volume in 1910 named le Fantôme de l’Opéra, which was later adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber in his 1986 musical with lyrics by Charles Heart and Richard Stilgoe.


Matilda, a precocious 5-year-old with the gift of telekinesis and a love of reading, originally came from the 1988 novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. With music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin, Matilda the musical made its West End premiere in 2011, winning seven Olivier awards. It premiered on Broadway in 2013.


Camelot is based upon T.H. White’s four part book The Once and Future King, written in 1958. The original 1960 production ran for 873 performance racking up four Tony awards with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe.


The hustling and bustling Story of Sky Masterson originated from the short stories by Damon Runyon “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure.” The Guys and Dolls music and lyrics were written by Fran Loesser with the musical premiering in 1950. This also spawned a 1955 movie adaptation starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra.


Mary Poppins started with eight children’s books written by P.L. Travers from 1934 to 1988. The series was adapted into a musical film by Walt Disney in 1964. From there it was adapted again into a 2004 musical by Cameron Mackintosh, with music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers. The movie Saving Mr. Banks (2013) was also inspired by the bewitching nanny, but it focused on the writer of the series, P.L. Travers.

Miller Auditorium’s Usher Corps

By: Lauren Hufford

Miller Auditorium on a show night is a fascinating orchestra of staff. Backstage, they are preparing lighting, sound, sets and the cast. The Ticket Office is selling tickets and working with will call pick ups. The front of house staff is preparing concession stands, the bar and the seating area. One of the essential parts of Miller’s event staff can be found in our Usher Corps. Founded in 1967 with only a handful of people, the Usher Corps has grown to be 250 members strong and consists of a dedicated team of students and community members.


Ushers arrive approximately 60 minutes before the posted curtain time for a particular show. They are informed of the specifics for that evening’s event, any emergency policies and are notified of any schedule changes. They also stuff programs, help with concessions, assist with the bar and tend to any other pre-show needs. The ushers stay until 10:30 or 11 p.m. (depending on the length of the performance) to help clean the seating area. In addition to meeting new friends and catching up with long-time friends, ushers often get to enjoy the show they are volunteering for.

Does that sound fun? Well, you’re in luck–anyone is welcome to be a part of the Miller Auditorium Usher Corps. To be an usher, you must be at least 18 years of age or a student at Western Michigan University. You will also need to complete an on-line application. All ushers need to attend a training session before their first ushering assignment. During this training we will go over customer service, auditorium and university policies/procedures, and take a tour of the building. This training is in addition to the organizational meetings held each semester, where ushers are updated on policies/procedures and receive a schedule of events that need ushers.

If you are interested in joining the Usher Corps or would like more information, you can contact Shannon Rininger, Patron Services Manager, by email.