Apply to be a part of the 2013-2014 editorial staff! Visit mercercluster.com/apply to apply for an editor position.
Applications are due Friday, May 3 by 10 p.m.
Apply to be a part of the 2013-2014 editorial staff! Visit mercercluster.com/apply to apply for an editor position.
Applications are due Friday, May 3 by 10 p.m.
Jordan Witzigreuter, known on the music scene as The Ready Set, gave this year’s BearStock an energetic opening with his dance-able, alternative-pop music. Before the show, The Ready Set sat down with representatives from Mercer’s media outlets, including Mercer 99 and the Cluster. This is the exchange between The Ready Set and the Cluster.
Cluster: What’s coming up next for you? Any tours, any albums?
Jordan: Yeah. We’re finishing this month and a half of just college shows, playing at tons of different colleges, and then, pretty much in between every show, I’m flying back to LA, working on an album and then finishing up the entire thing in May, so that’s pretty much done. And then we have a couple other things coming up too, as far as new music releases. Not really sure for touring yet, but there’s gonna be something, probably at the end of summer, and fall and winter and all that.
C: I was wondering; you said you’ve been playing a couple colleges lately—you’ve got a college tour going on. Do you find anything different about playing for a college scene rather than just an overall concert venue, or is it basically the same?
J: I think with college shows you kind of get a lot of passerby and people who aren’t necessarily there for the show so much as they’re there to see something happen, so that’s pretty cool. I think it kind of exposes you to a lot of people who might not otherwise have ever heard of you, and that’s definitely cool. But they’re seriously all completely different things. Like, sometimes we’ll do them and there will be just a couple hundred people, and then other times there will be like 5,000 people. You never know what you’re going to get into. It’s kind of a thrill.
C: You’ve been saying “we” a lot in your interview. The Ready Set is you and the backup band that travels with you. Can you tell us a bit about who you play with—who makes up the band—and what that dynamic is like?
J: The Ready Set is pretty much just me, but when we tour it’s a band. So I’ve been able to have it be a thing where it’s just my friends who come out with me, so it’s not random-awkward-guy tryouts for a position. It keeps it really consistent, the guys I’ve had with me I’ve had for a few years now, so it feels more like a band than anything; I guess that’s why I tend to say “we.” We have a guitar player named Deryck, a drummer named Travis and a bass player named Mike, and it’s pretty much a completely different vibe than what I do in the studio. It definitely becomes more of a rock thing—I guess it shows—than pop, really, which is kind of what I always wanted to do. I never wanted to put on a pop show; I guess I wanted it to be more energetic than that.
C: How did these guys come together? You said you kind of wanted it to be friends rather than strangers.
J: I’ve had a lot of different changes and different setups with the band, but throughout touring over the past few years I’ve been able to pick people from other bands who maybe stopped touring or stopped being as active, so I could just kind of be like, ‘Hey, do you want to come on the road with me and just have a good time?’ And it kind of works out. I’ve known everyone for a really long time, so it’s just a really cool, laid-back environment.
C: I’m curious about your new album. How does it stand out from the albums you’ve put out before? Are you exploring anything new? Has there been a development in your sound?
J: Definitely. I’m really excited; I feel like it’s the first chance I’ve really had to kind of do exactly, 100 percent what I want. I’ve had a lot of time to do it. I’ve been writing it for over two years, honestly—like, ever since I put out the last album I’ve been writing—so I’ve got over 70 songs and I really only like maybe six or seven of them. Writing that many songs and just going through that process so many times kind of made me figure out exactly what I want it to be like. It’s going to be a lot less electronic and a lot—I dunno—a lot less dance-y. I’m going to do a lot more tracking, with real drums and real pianos. It’s going to be a lot more natural, and I’m excited about that.
C: I know it’s hard to say, as an artist, that you ever listen to anything recreationally, because you’re probably always getting some kind of influence and thinking about how it can apply to your music. But what do you like to just listen to?
J: I’m kind of all over the place with that. I grew up listening to metal bands, punk bands and stuff like that. I guess some of that sort of stuff, and like I was saying earlier, I like to find random new things. I like to look on iTunes before flights and download albums and listen to everything I possibly can. I feel like there are certain types of music that when I start to listen to it, I start to apply it too much to what I’m doing. If I listen to the radio, there’s always that pressure of, ‘Oh, this is what big songs are like, maybe I should try to do that,’ and I think that’s a bad way to think, really. So I just try to draw influences from everything. That’s the most relaxing thing: just getting completely out of my world of writing in this style and get into other stuff for a little bit. So pretty much everything that’s not what I’m doing is what I like to listen to.
C: Were you listening to anything today before you came here?
J: Today, what have I been listening to? Nothing today, but recently I’ve been listening to a band called the xx a lot.
Look for the upcoming album release this fall, and check out The Ready Set at thereadyset.com. For the full interview, visit the Mercer 99 YouTube page.
I really wanted to like “42”. The story of Jackie Robinson is a truly inspiring one about the fight against racism, a pivotal moment in sports history. Also, because parts of the movie were filmed in Macon, I felt obligated to like it out of loyalty.
On a surface level, I did enjoy the movie—but only as a movie. As a biopic, as a critique of the racist attitudes that existed then and persist now, and as a historically accurate piece, the movie fell far short of what it could have been.
The acting of the movie was fairly good throughout. The film was dominated by two strong performances: Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the team executive for the Brooklyn Dodgers; and Chadwick Boseman, who took the titular role as Jackie Robinson. Ford’s role carried the film as the driving force behind Robinson’s career in the major leagues, to the point where his role overshadowed Boseman’s Robinson. This isn’t to say that Boseman didn’t do a good job at channeling Robinson’s feats of restraint in the midst of heavy verbal and cultural abuse, but the part he was given did not give Boseman very much to work with. This leads into my biggest critique of the film: the writing failed the epic promise made by the legend it sought to capture.
Brian Helgeland’s script was heavy-handed and tried too hard to imbue every scene with a deep, gripping significance. Some of the scenes were actually very good: I would like to cite the scene in which Robinson finds out local men in the town he’s staying in intend to jump him, or the scene in which Rickey shows one of the other Dodgers the folders full of threatening letters that Robinson had received since he had started playing on white teams. Honestly, though, Helgeland tried too hard, and the attempt to make every scene epic made quite a few of the grand speeches feel thin and weak. There was very little levity in the movie. Harrison Ford delivered quite a few funny lines in Rickey’s warm growl, and there is one awkwardly humorous moment when one of the other Dodgers asks Robinson why he won’t shower with the rest of the team, but even those moments feel as if they are supposed to have some kind of great weight behind them. The audience just feels exhausted.
Most of the characters—including, to a degree, Robinson himself—were not very well developed. Racists were all unintelligent and had Southern accents, and none of Jackie’s teammates played enough of a role in the movie for the audience to even tell the individual players apart. You would think that if the movie was going to spend much of its time emphasizing how Rickey stood behind Robinson, it would also spend time highlighting the team that came to accept and support Robinson as well. This is not the case; teammates either do not change their attitudes toward Robinson or do abruptly. Also, the film attempted to incorporate into the film a young Ed Charles, who—as the concluding montage will inform the viewer—went on to win the World Series with the New York Mets. This was not well developed at all, and Charles’s character became a vehicle for explaining the rules of baseball in an over-the-top, Leave-it-to-Beaver delivery.
What troubled me most, though, was the film’s handling of racism. For one, as previously noted, it portrayed all of the people who were against Robinson’s joining white teams as snide antagonists, frowning bystanders or blatantly ignorant meatheads with Southern accents. This is an oversimplification of racism—and a dangerous one. As much as we would love to believe that racism is confined to “stupid” people, this isn’t true. There are highly intelligent, charismatic people who are racist. And there are quiet, sweet people who harbor racist tendencies. The film addressed the ugly face of racism, but not the rest of the body, and the rest of the body—the insidious, unexpected part—is the one we need to worry about.
Additionally, the film seemed to try to tell a success story of a national failing overcome. With the repeated line of “The world is changing,” Helgeland’s script argues that the world has moved past racism. This is simply not true, and a quick drive from Mercer to the movie theatre will confirm that there is still segregation and racism, even if it is not openly or legally supported.
As a movie, I give it a B. Decently acted, nice to look at and with all the typical feelings of triumph and camaraderie that come with most sports movies. But I was disappointed. For a film about a man who took an active stand against racism—not by retaliating on the ball field, but by his speeches, public appearances and advocacy—“42” falls far short of what its hero stood for.
Karen Zacarias’ play “Legacy of Light” is the last show I will ever see as a Mercer student, and I am not exaggerating: the Mercer Players could not have ended this season on a better note. Visually stunning and brilliantly acted, “Legacy” shows how well the Players can take a wonderful (albeit strange) script and turned it into a breathtaking piece of art.
“Legacy of Light” interweaves the stories of Émilie du Châtelet, a French physicist whose notable work was translating Isaac Newton’s “Principia”, and Olivia Hastings Brown, a modern astrophysicist who has recently discovered a new planet in its beginning stages. Crossing the lines of space and time, the story follows both women as they hit the same pivotal point in their lives: pregnancy.
Émilie becomes pregnant at the age of 42 by her young lover (who is neither her older lover, the poet Voltaire, or her husband, the Marquis du Châtelet) and fears childbirth might cause her death, while Olivia—after a brush with death herself—decides she wants a baby and, because she cannot conceive, turns to a young woman named Millie for her help as a surrogate mother. Throughout the play Émilie and Olivia wrestle with the complications a new child will bring to their work and their identity. It is a play about vocation, parenthood, dreams and legacy.
The Mercer Players took this rich, layered material and ran with it. As per usual, director Scott Mann hit a home run with his selection of the ensemble. Julie Allen was fantastic as Émilie, bringing a stateliness and composure that fit her wealthy French character very well. Allen’s portrayal brought out the calculated restraint required of a brilliant, powerful woman in a patriarchal society.
Patrick Mathis brought an energized performance as Émilie’s devoted and hot-tempered lover, Voltaire. Mathis—in what may be his best performance I’ve seen on the Backdoor stage—delivered some of the funniest lines in the show with finesse, capturing Voltaire’s barbed tone but also the depth of the poet’s feeling for Émilie and her daughter Pauline. Speaking of Pauline, Maggie Rogers did a wonderful job bringing her character to life during Rogers’ debut as a Mercer Player. Her character was noticeably younger than the others of her time period, and she pulled off the role with a sweetness and youthful exuberance—as did Kevin Kersey, who played Émilie’s young lover Saint-Lambert. John Farrington made a steady, affectionate Marquis that seemed befitting of a Frenchman who was tolerant of his wife’s many lovers.
From the contemporary half of the play, Maconite Liane Treiman was wonderful as the brilliant but scatterbrained Olivia. Her performance was convincing, particularly strong at her moments of crisis as she wrestled with her fears that she cannot handle being a mother. Her dynamic with Liam McDermott, who played her husband Peter, was lovely to watch; the two picked up each other’s lines in a very natural way, as one would expect of a long-married couple. This role was very different from McDermott’s previous performances, and he brought a paternal warmth to his character that was a pleasant, refreshing surprise.
Suzanne Stroup was perfect as Millie, the young woman chosen to carry the Browns’ baby. Stroup convincingly conveyed the mood swings of being pregnant and being young and impulsive. She had great chemistry with Alex Preston, who played her brother Lewis. In the second act, Preston’s confrontation with McDermott’s character creates one of the strongest scenes in the play, carried off flawlessly by the excellent acting between Preston, McDermott, Stroup and Treiman.
Visually, the show was beautiful. The backdrop looked like a watercolor of the halos cast by differently colored lights, and the trees crafted by the cast lent a visual element to the play’s recurring mention of Newton’s story in which he discovers gravity thanks to a falling apple. However, the most stunning visual element of the show was the lighting. Marian Zielinksi outdid herself with lights that cast fragmented patterns on the floor, the backdrop and the actors, as if they were cast through a stained-glass window. The lights evoked the idea of constellations, fitting the show’s emphasis on physics and astronomy, and created a lovely continuity between the two different time periods.
“Legacy of Light” was probably my favorite of all the Mercer Players shows I have seen during my time here, and I would like to personally extend a thank-you to the cast and crew for such an incredible performance. Good luck to the graduating seniors: the Backdoor Theatre will miss you dearly. And to the actors and crew they leave behind: break a leg. May you have many more performances like this one.
Alternative rock band Switchfoot delivered a fantastic performance at BearStock this year, engaging the audience both with music from their newer albums in addition to their hit “Dare You to Move”. Switchfoot could not linger long after their performance April 13, but the Cluster managed to catch the band before they boarded the tour bus going back to the Atlanta airport. Bassist Tim Foreman took a few moments to answer a few questions with the Cluster.
Cluster: Thank you guys so much for coming. My first question: What have you guys been up to since “Vice Verses”?
Tim Foreman: We have been up to everything. We’ve been working on a film and a new album. We spent the last year kind of traveling around the world. We hand-picked some of our favorite surf spots and booked concerts there. The whole idea is trying to collide music and surfing and find home in the journey.
C: So is that the idea behind “Fading West”?
TF: That’s the idea. And it started out as just a film with a soundtrack, and then we decided, ‘You know what? Why would we just make a soundtrack? Why don’t we just make our ninth record and, you know, do it right?’ So we’ve been holed up in the studio for the last six months, really taking our time to make the best record we’ve ever made. That’s always the goal, you know?
C: What’s going to set the ninth record apart from the previous albums? What’s new about your sound? Are you exploring any new ideas?
TF: Yeah, we’re really taking our time. It reminds me of what we did with “Hello Hurricane”. We’ve written another 80 songs and we’ve just really gotten lost in the studio, which is a good thing. We’ve allowed ourselves to make some mistakes along the way in order to find some new sounds, and we’re really proud of how it’s coming out.
C: What’s your favorite of all the songs you guys have written to perform? That’s a big question, I know.
TF: It is. It’s different every night. Tonight, I think my favorite was the last song we played, “Where I Belong”, which is usually a highlight for me, but tonight especially felt really great out under the stars.
C: I’m a big fan of that one too. How is playing for a college audience like this different from playing for a regular audience?
TF: I love it. I mean, it’s where we started playing music, was in college. I was still in high school, but we played colleges, you know, and that’s kind of where our music grew up. I think college is a great place for people to kind of be searching, both musically and theologically, and just kind of asking the big questions, which is always where music lives and breathes, so we always feel really at home playing colleges.
C: What were you guys like as students, if you don’t mind me asking?
TF: Oh, gosh. Well, I was studying computer science and physics, so I was pretty math-oriented in college. But we surfed a lot, so that maybe balanced me out.
C: What’s the biggest trouble you got into as a student?
TF: All the trouble I got into was in junior high and high school. I got all that out of the way before I got to college.
When it comes to animated shows, they seem to be spiraling down in quality. Cartoon Network has been reduced to airing live-action shows such as “Dude What Would Happen?“ or “Unnatural History”. The golden age of cartoons seems to have passed by with “Samurai Jack”, “Courage the Cowardly Dog” or the long-running “Ed, Edd, and Eddy.” These shows were usually open and entertaining to most audiences and more often than not were enjoyed by whoever was watching. The new shows available do not seem to have this same ability; they seem to only be focusing on a very tight niche in their audience with each show. Two examples that seem to rise above this are “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show.”
When they both aired, each seemed only to be a ragtag collection of episodes with little to no plot. Each episode contained different and new wacky adventures in strange locations that were designed to grab the audience’s attention for the duration of the episode. Both shows achieved this perfectly, offering new worlds and characters for the audience to interpret. This practice, although initially successful, fails to work after longer periods of time. Without a continuous plot the episodes become pointless without character development. For younger audiences this is perfectly acceptable, but for those who continuously track a show it has the potential to quickly become stale.
In this regard, “Adventure Time” managed to surpass “Regular Show”. While both shows started out as random episodes, Pendleton Ward, the creator of “Adventure Time”, quickly came up with an extremely elaborate backstory and character connections. The world in which the show is set is called Ooo. It is a post-apocalyptic Earth that was destroyed in the Great-Mushroom War. In the rare full-globe shots the show provides, the earth has huge chunks missing from it as if it were a half-eaten apple. From this spawned all of the strange characters that the main characters, Finn and Jake, encounter.
Each of the main characters in the show have their own detailed backstory. The main antagonist, The Ice King, is at first seen as only a deranged lunatic whose sole purpose in life is to steal princesses. Later his backstory is revealed, over the course of several unrelated episodes, to prove that he lived before the Mushroom War and is in fact very easy to sympathize with.
Another main character is Marceline the Vampire Queen. She is introduced at first only as a harbinger of chaos and pain, but in time her backstory places her as one of the shows most-liked characters. There are several other characters who receive very detailed backstories, each helping to connect the audience with the show.
Throughout the series the show not only establishes a rich storyline but also attempts to handle themes that may not be expected on a Cartoon Network show: body image in “Princess Monster Wife”, sexuality in “The Hard Easy”, transgender identity in “Princess Cookie”, god complexes in “All the Little People”, rape in “Hug Wolf”, Asperger’s syndrome in “You Made Me” and Alzheimer’s in “I Remember You”. All of these important issues are approached in an understandable way that makes it easy for any audience to comprehend.
Another rarity is the large and primary focus on female characters. The show routinely promotes a positive female image by having most of the sub-characters being princesses with full control over their respective kingdoms.
“Adventure Time” offers viewers a unique, fun world with a rich and intriguing storyline. When compared to other contemporary cartoons, “Adventure Time” shines above with its ability to reach and connect with many different target groups, be they young children who only need stories of adventure or older viewers who are looking for interesting portrayals of modern societal issues.
Senior at Vanderbilt talks about her speculative fiction novel
Kat Zhang’s novel “What’s Left of Me”—the first book of the Hybrid Chronicles—takes place in an America like our own except in one respect: every person is born with two souls in their body.
For most of childhood, the two souls coexist harmoniously, sharing their body and their life like siblings. By the time the child reaches a certain age, one of the souls—the “recessive” soul—fades away naturally. Except, sometimes, it doesn’t.
Eva is a recessive soul who never faded away. She and her sister Addie secretly share the same body, keeping Eva’s soul hidden from everyone in the outside world. If Eva is discovered, the girls will be sent to an institution for Hybrids, who are considered dangerous and unstable.
Eva’s existence is little more than a passenger in Addie’s head until the girls meet two other Hybrid teenagers, who know a way to let Eva “out” to move the girls’ body and act of her own will again. Eva desperately seizes this chance to live again.
What begins as one girl’s lust for life quickly unravels into a taut plot of intrigue with a corrupt government, underground movements, the paranoia of authority and the lengths to which individuals will go to not just exist, but to really live.
Zhang, a senior at Vanderbilt University, agreed to a phone interview with the Cluster. After discussing that her book was not, as many readers have labeled it, “dystopian” in the true sense—it does not take place in the future as the consequence of present actions, but instead takes place in an alternate reality to our own—she went on to talk about her book, the writing process and the experience of completing a novel while still in college.
Cluster: Where did the idea come from?
Kat Zhang: Basically it came from the idea of the little voice in the back of people’s heads. It could be called your internal monologue or whatever. When I explain it to younger people, I refer to it as the voice that tells you to do your homework when you’d rather be playing video games. I started thinking, what if that voice was a whole other person? They couldn’t control your body, they could only talk to you. I kind of imagined what it would be like to be stuck in your own body like that, how frustrating that would be. That’s how we got to Eva, and the rest of the story kind of took off from there.
C: Could you explain how a Hybrid works? Is it essentially two different people in one form, or one person with two personalities?
KZ: I guess that’s something I sort of left up to the reader. It’s definitely a complicated question. I think different readers see it in different ways. Most people interpret is as two people occupying the same body, but it’s interesting to see it as two facets of the same person. Everyone’s got different facets. I think it’s interesting to see it either way.
C: Could you tell us about the relationship between Eva and Addie?
KZ: It’s a really special relationship. Actually, it’s one that came surprisingly easy for me to write. They have a strange relationship because they are sisters, but they’re not really sisters. They share the same body; they’ve had, up until this point, identical experiences. They’re really only different in the way people perceive them and in their innate differences. I think of them as two people who have to be bound together, and because they’re bound together they have this very special relationship.
C: Speaking of Addie and Eva, is there any significance to their names?
KZ: I’ve had people point out to me in that their names reminded them of Adam and Eve, but I didn’t intend that. I did choose the name Eva for the definition. In Hebrew it means life, or the living one. …When I wanted to come up with a character who is literally trying to regain her life, it seemed like a natural name for her. With Addie, the name just kind of felt right.
C: A lot of reviews I’ve seen say your book takes on the issue of “what it means to be human.” Was that what you were going for?
KZ: I think a lot of times when I write—especially this one, because it was one of the first major projects I undertook—I didn’t think a lot about how I wanted to send a message. I just told naturally the story I thought needed to be told. In my head, it was always about this girl who had been denied this chance to live by society, and her fight to regain her life and to show the rest of the world that she deserves this life and that just because she’s doing it differently doesn’t mean she’s doing it wrong.
C: How did you find the balance between a busy college life and a demanding book project?
KZ: It does mean sometimes there’s less time for other things. One of the good things about writing is it is done in spurts. Sometimes my editor will need something at the end of the month, so it will be a really busy month. Then I might have time after that; while she’s reading things might be a little more chill. Most of it is time management. I might be in fewer clubs on campus. Mostly I think it works because I like writing so much and I really enjoy this project. It’s sort of like a job and a hobby at the same time.
C: What did you read while you were writing? Did any of that have an effect on your book?
KZ: I was so busy in high school reading high school reading list books, I didn’t read a whole lot of young adult fiction at the time. Personally, I wasn’t reading a ton… I think I was actually inspired by books I read when I was 12-13. “The Golden Compass”, “Ender’s Game”. For “The Golden Compass” I think it was the whole world. It was the first time I felt like that world could be really real. I really loved the main character. Still now, when I read books, or when I try to write, the most important thing to me is the characters. With “Ender’s Game”, I liked the complexity of the characters and how they were multifaceted. That didn’t exist in the books I’d been reading before.
C: What does your writing space look like?
KZ: I’m not super picky, mostly because I have to write anywhere. Generally, if I can choose, I like to be somewhere really quiet because I get so easily distracted. So, quiet, kind of dim. I do a lot of my writing at my desk or on my couch or on my bed or something.
C: Did you ever have issues with writer’s block? How did you overcome that?
KZ: It was a big problem. I was 12 when I decided I was going to publish a book, but I never finished one until I was 17. Between 12 and 17 I would start all these books that I would never finish. In a way it was just all about pushing through. Have you heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)? That was actually what helped me finish my book. I’m a perfectionist, but having that helped me finish. Once you have it out there, you can revise. That’s how I push through now.
Zhang is currently preparing for graduation from Vanderbilt and for a book tour to seven cities in the U.S. The second book of the Hybrid Chronicles, “Once We Were”, is scheduled to hit the bookshelves this fall on Sept. 17. For more information, visit her website at katzhangwriter.com.
Which animated version of Batman is the best? David Ellis offers the answer.
Since the dawn of time humankind has asked itself the important questions. Apples or oranges? Soup or salad? Sadly, the answers to these questions elude most people, but the answer to an even greater question might be answered: Which Batman series is the best?
There have been many incarnations throughout the ages: Adam West’s “The Batman”, “Batman: The Animated Series”, “Batman Beyond” and the several versions of “The Justice League”, to just name several. Each of these saw success and still have a very dedicated fan base. Most would say that “Batman: The Animated Series” holds the crown for best animated version, shortly followed by “Batman Beyond”.
Two other animated versions have received varied support. “The Batman” is largely seen as a very off depiction of Batman. The backstories and history of all the characters were completely overhauled, character models drastically changed and the animation style was questionable. Somehow the show managed to hold on for five seasons despite these faults. The other series is “Batman: The Brave and the Bold”.
It is the most recent of the Batman remakes and, sadly, was cancelled after only three seasons. This show went starkly against what most see as the classic Batman: dark and brooding. Rather, the show harkened back to the original Batman: the comedic and jovial Adam West portrayal. A light mood is held constantly throughout the series.
This portrayal made some groups upset, saying that this was not truly Batman. This may seem the case at first, but with time the show blossoms into an unforgettable series.
The series boasts an outrageous number of characters. There are at least 100 characters, and most have a detailed backstory. Each character’s history fits, mostly, to what has been accepted canon for that character, making the show easy for comic book conneseurs to enjoy the show. This wide variety of characters requires a huge base of voice acting talent, pulling some recognizable voices to the show: Neil Patrick Harris, Adam West (the prodigal voice of Batman himself), Kevin Conroy and many other notables appear in the show. There is also a wide host of memorable voices but perhaps not names, such as the dad from “Dexter’s Laboratory” as the Joker.
Most of the time, each episode contains two stories. The opening sequence usually starts with an independent story focusing on a random batch of characters. For example, one episode opens with Batman being assissted against Ma Murder by a haunted tank piloted by Confederate General Jeb Stuart‘s ghost. These introductions are usually simply for fun and help to show unheard-of heroes and forgotten comic book characters.
Another uncommon factor about this show is the existence of Bat-Mite. First introduced in 1959, he appears in this show in his original rendition. Bat-Mite serves as a comedic character and proclaims himself Batman’s number one fan. He exists in a different dimension than Batman, and has a huge collection of memorabilia from throughout the ages. In several episodes he breaks the fourth wall, conversing with the audience about his favorite Batman moments. The most notable episode of his is the final episode of the show. Shown to be in mourning, he mocks the audience, wondering how his favorite show could possibly be canceled. Throughout the episode he messes with the story, placing Batman in the most outrageous costumes. He even changes the voice actor of Aquaman, simply because he can.
Another hit-or-miss factor of the show is the sheer number of puns. Aquaman seasons his dialogue with sea-insipred sayings such as “Great Neptune!” and “I‘ll flatten you like a flounder.” Some of Batman’s best dialogue comes from an episode where his personalities each gain their own body and proceed to argue with over whether or not Batman eats nachos.
The show has many strong points that should have lasted it throughout many seasons. Regardless, the show was cancelled before its time. The show offers a brand new yet throwback version of Batman that is not found in other adaptations. It may not stand against “Batman: The Animated Series”, but it offers an extremely tough challenger. For any wishing to enjoy a new and happy interpretation of Batman, this series is perfect. Very quickly any viewer will see this Batman, as Aquaman calls him, as an “old chum.”
Jim Crisp, Jr. has done it again at Theatre Macon on Cherry Street. His cast and crew bring Meredith Wilson’s classic, “The Music Man”, to life with energy and enthusiasm.
I had never seen a production of “The Music Man” before the Sunday matinee on April 7, but I can say that Theatre Macon has won me over to the show. The ensemble cast sounded great singing together, and the humorous and well-executed choreography made it hard to look away. Overall, the production left audiences with that feel-good factor for which “The Music Man” is so well known.
The show opens on a train full of traveling salesmen, who are ranting about a certain swindler going by “Professor Harold Hill.” Hill’s ability to con whole towns into buying instruments and uniforms from him is so effective that he ruins the territory for other salesmen. Certainly, though, his “marching band” trick won’t work in Iowa.
Hill overhears the conversation and takes it as a challenge, setting out immediately to pull his “music man” trick in little Iowa town. He turns the town on its head, staying one step ahead of the mayor’s cabinet (whom Hill turns into a barbershop quartet) and a sharp librarian determined to find the truth. The show is comical, lighthearted and fun, with a winning and optimistic resolution.
Crisp’s casting decisions were, overall, great. Kevin Epperson was a fantastic choice as Harold Hill. He owned the stage with his dynamic, energetic movements, and he delivered his lines with all of the warmth and charisma of a convincing conman. Epperson’s singing voice was not the strongest in the ensemble, but it was still enjoyable to hear, and what he lacked vocally he more than made up for with his commanding performance.
The rest of the cast was hard put to match Epperson, but most turned in strong performances as well. Gail Johnson was wonderful as Marian the librarian’s Irish mother, and all four members of the barbershop quartet shone in their acting and their singing. Rachel Chabot’s performance as Marian Paroo, the town librarian and recipient of Hill’s romantic attentions, was satisfying, though somewhat weak. Mercer’s own Clayton Mote did a great job as the rascally Marcellus, playing well off of Epperson’s Hill.
Crisp recruited a horde of children, most under the age of 10, to fill the ranks of the River City band, and all of them were delightful and adorable. Grey Faulkner tugged at the audience’s heartstrings as little Winthrop Paroo. The cast should be most commended for making a full, dynamic background against which the main characters could act. Every individual was in character even if he or she was not in the spotlight, and the result was an immersive experience that made the town of River City feel considerably more real.
The production was unfortunately plagued by technical difficulties. Two scene transitions were long to the point of being awkward, and there were some obvious issues with the microphones. There was one scene in which an actress clearly forgot the lines to her song and spent the last fifteen seconds of the music mute. Another of the actresses assured me after the show that I had come “on the worst night.”
I have to say, though: if that was the worst night of the run, then the show is going to do very well. Difficulties aside, Theatre Macon’s “The Music Man” is a delightful crowd-pleaser, and will continue to fill that role until its run ends on April 20.
I have a secret obsession with ballet. I watch a lot of documentaries and movies like “Center Stage” far too often. Because of this, I was thrilled when I heard that the Russian National Ballet was coming to The Grand Opera House with Prokofiev’s “Cinderella”.
Reading the program notes, I was excited about how the story differed from the Disney version that I was so used to. Basically, an old beggar woman comes and asks for something to eat, and while the stepsisters and stepmother scoff and turn her away (while handing her the only remaining picture of Cinderella’s mother), Cinderella gives her some bread. In return, the beggar woman gives her back the picture, and then reveals her true form as the Fairy Godmother. The rest of the story is basically what you’d imagine.
There were a few highlights of the show. The first was the fairies. The Fairy Godmother brings the fairies of the seasons, and as each fairy dances, the season changes with her. They even get to go to the ball! They dance with the ambassadors from Spain, China, Russia and Mauritania before the ambassadors bring out the princesses of their countries to try to win the Prince’s heart.
Another highlight was the comic relief in the show. Ballets are known to be stuffy and pretentious, but this one had the audience laughing. It helps when your dance features a dance master who is being chased by the (cross-dressing) stepmother, a jester who likes to make fun of the stepfamily (he also played the clock, which was unintentionally hilarious) and stepsisters with such distinct personalities that they could never be missed.
Sadly, I was disappointed with parts of the show as well. The ballet was cut down, maybe because The Grand didn’t believe that Macon audiences could deal with three hours of ballet, but all of the parts of the story that I was excited about seeing (the beggar woman, the picture, the kitchen transforming into a magical glade) didn’t happen. I watched the Disney version, just danced.
Another disappointment was Cinderella. Most of the parts in this ballet are double cast, including Cindy, so I’m not totally sure who I’m disappointed with. Of course, she was a great dancer and was probably just having a bad night, but she made every move look so difficult. The audience could see her arm shaking, or her turn breaking. Also, almost every dancer (with the exception of the Prince) wound up their turns. It was such a pretty performance, with a beautiful set and costumes, that lost a lot of its zest because of the dancing. During the duets with the Prince and Cinderella, I found myself watching him, which is not what ballerinas are going for.
All in all, I’d give it a 3.5. I had a great night, it was pretty and it kept my interest for two hours. That’s already saying a lot.