Maranda’s Park Party Recap

By: Lauren Hufford

Miller Auditorium was happy to take part in Maranda’s Kalamazoo Park Party in Bronson Park last week. Maranda, the host of WOTV 4’s “Where You Live,” has hosted her Park Parties for the last 23 years, inviting families to enjoy some free summer fun and a free lunch for anyone under 18 provided by the Michigan Department of Education. Maranda’s Park Parties are recognized by the USDA as one of the nation’s largest summer feeding programs and she knows how to make it fun!

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More than 4,000 people enjoyed the festivities at Bronson Park – it was PACKED! It was a day of fun acts on stage, big blow-up obstacle courses and a rock wall. Miller was there in full form, prize wheel spinning and a coloring table ready to go. Kids of all ages were having a blast spinning our wheel for candy, temporary tattoos, frisbees and more!

We have plenty of fun, family friendly shows coming to Miller Auditorium this season and we are so excited! We had coloring pages and crowns to decorate for each of the shows, and a drawing to win a family four-pack of tickets to either Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live: King for a Day or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical.

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It was an amazing day! The sun was out and the sky was blue. Bronson Park was full of kids and parents alike just having fun – Miller staff included! Here’s our favorite selfie of the day featuring Miller’s Thom and Bethany along with the one-and-only Maranda!

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Amelia and I were also there, testing out our ‘Millergram’ frame in advance of WMU’s Bronco Bash this fall.

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To experience and learn about the excitement of live entertainment and Maranda’s Park Party was an awesome way to reach more kids and families to show them how much fun the theater can be!

If you would like more information on the Park Parties, take a look at Maranda’s page:
http://wotv4women.com/2017/06/12/2017-maranda-park-party-schedule-everyones-invited-and-everythings-free/

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2017 Tony Awards Recap

By: Jimmy Brand

The 71st Annual Tony Awards have come and gone, but here’s your recap of the highs, lows and more from theater’s biggest night of the year.

Speeches:

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While you may never have wondered who would win in a fight, Bette Midler or and an entire orchestra playing her off stage, you now need to wonder no longer. The septuagenarian, winning on her first Tony nomination, continued her speech long past the play off attempt, at one point shouting, “Shut that crap off!” While her more than four-minute speech was the longest, it was by no means the best of the night.

Another notable speech of the night came from Best Featured Actress in a Musical winner, Rachel Bay Jones of Dear Evan Hansen. Jones told a heartwarming story of her Nana selling her engagement ring so that the young Jones could move to New York and become an actor. She also took time to thank her parents for “cursing me with a love of the theater.”

Honorable mention for the cutest speech of the night goes to Mr. Ben Platt. Platt was awarded the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for his stunning performance as the titular character in Dear Evan Hansen. Platt, clearly emotional, addressed “all the young people watching at home” in his speech reminding everyone “Don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.” Here’s Ben Platt and the cast of Dear Evan Hansen‘s Tony performance of Waving Through a Window: https://youtu.be/0vkTxakkho4

Everything Else:

Photo from Getty images for Tony Award Productions

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Photo from Getty images for Tony Award Productions

Broadway musical Side Show had an unexpected revival on the Tony Awards stage when Tom Sturridge and Olivia Wilde presented the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play. With their similar looks and close stance, you can almost hear the Side Show showstopper, “I Will Never Leave You,” playing.

The musical Bandstand is likely to draw considerable post-Tonys attention due to a heartfelt introduction from Former Second Lady, Dr. Jill Biden. She received a standing ovation as she walked on the Tony stage. Dr. Biden talked about the partnership with the organization Got Your 6 and the musical Bandstand to highlight the experiences of American veterans. Dr. Biden went on to say, “To our veterans, on behalf of Joe, myself, the company of Bandstand and everybody else here, we’ve got your six.”

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Photo credit: Theo Wargo/ Getty Images

Proving that good things do eventually come to those who wait, Jane Greenwood took home the 2017 Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Play for Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. This nomination and subsequent win marks Ms. Greenwood’s 22nd Tony nomination. She did receive a Tony Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. Ms. Greenwood, who had been called the Susan Lucci of the Tonys, must be quite pleased to have her first competitive Tony.

Ending on a bright note, we have new friends to add to the EGOT watch list. EGOT of course referring to the short list of people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. After taking home a Tony Award for co-producing the revival of Jitney, John Legend is only one letter away from joining this select group of people. All he needs now is the E to add to his GOT.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul won the Oscar for Best Original Song for City of Stars from La La Land earlier this year and the Tony for Dear Evan Hansen, and are now 50% of the way to the coveted EGOT. They could be potentially Emmy-bound for their special musical episode of The Flash, which aired in March. They could also be strong candidates for the 2018 Grammys where they would be eligible for their original music from both La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen. While a long shot, the two are well on their way to EGOT status with the chance to do the whole kit and caboodle in just around 12 months.

Here’s to another great Tony Awards ceremony! You can get all the Tony details here: https://www.tonyawards.com/index.html

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Miller, Broncos!

By: Lauren Hufford

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I’m happy to welcome all the new members of the Western Michigan University family to campus! New students started arriving last week for orientation and it’s been great to see them here on campus. Our WMU community is built of so many different people, experiences, and events and I want to introduce new students to Miller Auditorium.

As students here at Western, you have the ability to buy tickets to most Miller season events at 50% off regular prices thanks to a fund established by the President’s Office. Now, you are limited to one discounted ticket per event with a Bronco ID, but this discount includes most shows presented by Miller Auditorium–including both the Zhang Financial Broadway in West Michigan Series and the Lake Michigan Mailers Spotlight Series.  Just make sure to visit or call our Ticket Office at (269) 387-2300 and have your Bronco ID handy.

This season is going to be filled with some absolutely amazing shows as we celebrate Miller Auditorium’s 50th Anniversary and I couldn’t be more excited about what is going to be going on around us. Kinky Boots, Trevor Noah, STOMP, Disney’s THE LION KING and so much more–and WMU students can use their 50% discount on all these shows!

I have loved being here at Western as a student and it has only become more exciting and fulfilling after I became involved with the amazing opportunities available on campus like being a member of the Bronco Marching Band and working events at Miller. The shows you get to see, the movies, the concerts, I promise you’ll love them all. Welcome to WMU, new Broncos!

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Broadway League Spring Road Conference

By: Tracey Lawie

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Every spring, I hear the call of the Big Apple….the annual Broadway League conference where performing art centers from across the country converge in New York City to network, learn the latest trends in marketing and Broadway buying behaviors, take in the latest Broadway shows and get to interact with the creative teams and actors of various shows.

My week started off with bang – I got to see the revival of Miss Saigon on my first night.  A young newcomer plays the lead, Kim, and hers is a special story.  Eva Noblezada was a 2013 finalist for Best performance by an Actress at the Jimmy Awards (the National High School Musical Theatre Awards). There, she caught the eye of New York casting director Tara Rubin who was in the audience. She was so moved by Noblezada’s performance that she spoke with her afterwards and contacted theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh who was preparing of the West End production of Miss Saigon at the time.  Long story short…Noblezada was cast in the role of Kim and made her debut in the West End in 2014 and now does 8 shows a week on Broadway.

Other shows I took in during the week include The School of Rock (my personal favorite), The Great Comet of 1812 (this show has the most interesting staging – the audience is on it and fully interactive throughout the show), A Bronx Tale (a lovely musical that reminded me a lot of Jersey Boys) and Beautiful: The Carole King Story (I dare you not to sing along with every song).

It was a fantastic week and I look forward to implementing some of the things I learned for our next season.  And, hopefully, you all will get a chance to see these great shows too when they tour and come through Miller in the years to come.

On a personal note…one highlight of the week was getting to meet Josh Groban who is currently starring in The Great Comet.  He is an amazingly nice person!

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Miller Tunnel Tour

By: Jimmy Brand

Many of you have been through the doors of Miller Auditorium, but our building holds many secrets. I would like to share one of those not so closely guarded secrets with you.
Construction began on Miller Auditorium in 1965 and came with a price tag of 5.5 million dollars.

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The curtain rose for the first time on Jan. 12, 1968 to a sold out house. Since that time, millions have walked through our doors. However, few have seen some of the behind the scenes areas at Miller, one of which is Miller’s tunnels.

 

Like many theaters, tunnels run the width and breath of the auditorium providing access to necessary utilities (and occasional housing for the Phantom).

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Photo taken from tunnels located just below the seating area.

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Access tunnel located under the main seating area.

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Admiral Ackbar would be proud of this tunnel tour guide self portrait.

Our backstage staff are the most frequent visitors to the tunnels. Sound and light cables can require a trip down, as does the occasional dropped cell phone.

Miller has many more hidden spaces to share with our readers–stay tuned for more looks at Miller’s hidden gems.

Taking Motown to the Schools

By: Thom Cooper

Music is timeless and crosses all ages. Never is that more true than with the music of Motown. This spring, Miller was able to bring a deeper level of appreciation of Motown to the three Kalamazoo Public Schools high schools.

With the help of Motown legends Bertha McNeal and Cal Street of The Velvelettes, we were able to work with choir directors, Theresa Williams-Johnson of Kalamazoo Central, Julie Pelligrino of Loy Norrix and Phoenix High, to educate a group of approximately 50 high school students on the history of the Motor City’s famous music powerhouse. I had the chance to follow along on the once-in-a-lifetime experience that started in the classroom, but took to the road.

Ms. McNeal and Ms. Street went to the high schools and conducted mini history lessons on how The Velvelettes were formed right here on the campus of Western Michigan University for a student talent show. They also gave background on the group and where they’ve been and how they still perform today with the original lineup. The ladies provided each group with a behind the scenes look at what it was like to be a part of the Motown Cavalcade.

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Students learned about the etiquette and finishing school classes that all stars were required to attend, under the tutelage of Miss Maxine Powell. In fact, Motown was the only in-house finishing school at any American record label. The artists were taught how to sit, stand, walk and talk. They may have come to Hitsville U.S.A. as voices in the rough, but they went out on stage polished to meet kings and queens.

One of the activities the students enjoyed was learning a Motown hit and choreographing a number themselves. Each school had one group of young ladies do a number of The Velvelettes or The Supremes and one group of gentlemen do a Temptations piece. Watching the groups perform was very entertaining.

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As part of the educational journey, the groups went to the Motown Museum in Detroit to see where it all started. We toured the house that Berry Gordy bought with an $800 loan from his family and recorded some of the most famous songs in the world. We saw the second-story area where Berry and his family lived, the attic where they ran mixes to create the reverb that is so much a part of the Motown Sound and the first floor office area that was where it all happened.

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Finally, we were able to attend opening night of MOTOWN THE MUSICAL at Miller Auditorium. We were able to see and hear the story, as told by Berry Gordy himself. After the show, we participated in a Q & A with ten cast members. They were kind enough to stay, chat and even take photos with us. What more can I say? For the past month, we have had a great time immersing ourselves in everything Motown. Hopefully, you got a chance to come see MOTOWN THE MUSICAL at Miller and were dancing in your seat!

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2017 Tony Nominations

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By: Jimmy Brand

There are precious few things on this planet that will get me out of bed early, but the Tony Awards® nominations are one of the events that compel me to do so. The 2017 nominations did not disappoint this year

Personally, the first thing I do when reviewing the total list of nominations is to see which show raked in the most. Leading the pack this year is Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, which took home 12 nominations with Hello, Dolly! and Dear Evan Hansen coming in second and third with 10 and 9 noms respectively.

Also of note were the numbers of Best Musical nominees! In a Broadway season with so many wonderful shows, many wondered if the nominators would choose to honor a fifth show with a Best Musical nom, as they did last year. Comet, Hansen, Groundhog Day and Come From Away were the lucky four this year. These four represent a highly eclectic range of shows and unlike last year’s Hamilton runaway, this year looks like it may be a photo finish.

The Hello, Dolly! nominations likely resulted in a very happy Bette Midler, as this is marks The Divine Miss M’s first ever Tony nomination.

Also this year, all four playwrights in best play slots, Paula Vogel, Lynn Nottage, J.T. Rogers and Lucas Hnath, were making their Broadway Debuts—an almost unheard of feat.

The full list of nominees can be found here: https://www.tonyawards.com/index.html

The 71st Annual Tony Awards® air live on Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 8 p.m. EST on CBS, so grab a popcorn and unwrap your hard candy. It is awards season. Don’t forget to turn off your cell phones, Patti LuPone is nominated for War Paint and you don’t want her to catch you with a phone.

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Miller Auditorium’s Golden Anniversary Season: Broadway lineup announced

By: Amelia Manley

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Many shows have have graced the Miller stage in 50 years and this year there are four great Broadway shows to celebrate Miller Auditorium’s golden anniversary season. Our upcoming Zhang Financial Broadway series shows are: Kinky Boots (Oct. 20–22), The Wizard of OZ (Jan. 5–7, 2018), The Sound of Music (Feb. 9–11, 2018), and Disney’s The Lion King (April 4–15, 2018).

This upcoming season features a wide variety of shows from the modern Kinky Boots to classics Like The Wizard of Oz, and The Sound of Music. Each show brings something new to the stage. Disney’s The Lion King will make its west Michigan debut by closing our our 2017-18 Broadway season.

Tickets to all these shows are now available as part of a Miller Auditorium Broadway subscription. Learn more here and view our order form. And there’s more to come! Stay tuned for more additions to our 50th Anniversary season in the coming weeks at www.millerauditorium.com. We hope to see you at the shows!

Learn more about our Zhang Financial Broadway shows:

KINKY BOOTS: Oct. 20–22, 2017

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KINKY BOOTS is Broadway’s huge-hearted, high-heeled hit! With songs by Grammy® and Tony® winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper, this joyous musical celebration is about the friendships we discover, and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind. Inspired by true events, KINKY BOOTS takes you from a gentlemen’s shoe factory in Northampton to the glamorous catwalks of Milan

Charlie Price is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family business of Price & Son. With the factory’s future hanging in the balance, help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, a fabulous performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos

THE WIZARD OF OZ: Jan. 5–7 2018

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There truly is no place like home as the greatest family musical of all time, the wonderful WIZARD OF OZ, twists its way into Kalamazoo! The entire family will be captivated as they travel down the Yellow Brick Road and beyond with Dorothy, Toto and their friends the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow in this lavish production, featuring breathtaking special effects, dazzling choreography and classic songs. A spectacular celebration of the iconic 1939 MGM film, THE WIZARD OF OZ will blow you away from the moment the tornado touches down and transports you to a dazzling Oz, complete with munchkins and flying monkeys. Don’t miss the chance to travel Over the Rainbow and experience this national treasure on stage.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC: Feb. 9–11, 2018

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The beloved musical story of Maria and the von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award® winning Best Score, including “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and the title song. THE SOUND OF MUSIC features music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, suggested by “The Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Trapp.

DISNEY’S THE LION KING: April 4–15, 2018

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More than 90 million people around the world have experienced the phenomenon of Disney’s THE LION KING, and now you can, too, when this best-loved musical comes to Miller Auditorium. Winner of six Tony Awards®, including Best Musical, this landmark musical event brings together one of the most imaginative creative teams on Broadway. Tony Award®-winning director Julie Taymor brings to life a story filled with hope and adventure set against an amazing backdrop of stunning visuals. THE LION KING also features some of Broadway’s most recognizable music, crafted by Tony Award®-winning artists Elton John and Tim Rice. There is simply nothing else like THE LION KING.

Magical Cinderella weekend at Miller

By: Jimmy Brand

Magic was in the building with Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The show graced the stage of Miller Auditorium for four performances from March 24-26, 2017.

The show, originally written for the famous 1957 television performance starting Julie Andrews, made its Broadway revival debut in 2013. The Broadway show features a new book by Douglas Carter Beane along with the music & lyrics of the Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein that we have all come to love. With a new book comes some twists on the well-known story we all have come to love.

Most notably, the new book has a few changes to Cinderella’s personality. The titular character presents as a strong willed, intelligent and soulful. If you are looking for a cookie cutter damsel in distress, you will not find her here.

The show contains so many important messages for young people, especially young woman, and Miller Auditorium was lucky to be able to share that message with nearly 100 Girl Scouts, troop leaders and parents from the greater Kalamazoo area. The Girl Scouts joined us for the opening night performance of the show and then stayed for a visit by the Cinderella cast and a Miller Sleepover!

The Girl Scouts also started their Saturday morning at Miller with a master class in waltzing from a Western Michigan University Dance student.

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With the always important message of being kind and generous, we hope Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella helped inspire and pass along a little magic to our friends with the Girl Scouts.

One Night of Queen Returns to Miller

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By: Thom Cooper

In two weeks we are having one of my favorite shows back for one night of great music.  One Night of Queen is coming Friday, March 17.  Gary Mullen and The Works put on a two-hour long tribute show full of stage theatrics, lights and of course, the music. I had the chance to see them when they were at Miller a few years ago.  They are incredible.  The lead singer, Gary Mullen, does a fantastic impersonation from clothes, to mustache, to voice, to movements.  He really embodies Freddie Mercury.

 For two solid hours, they will rock you!  They hit all the classics from “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” “Killer Queen,” “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Another One Bites the Dust.”  The guys really get the crowd involved also.  They told the audience to get on their feet and dance, and dance we all did.  I am looking forward to another night of exciting showmanship!

 Join the fun at One Night of Queen performed by Gary Mullen & The Works at Miller on Friday, March 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets available now online and by calling our Ticket Office at (269) 387-2300.