Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summertime abounds with free outdoor concerts, movies in Saginaw, Midland, Bay City

Saginaw Area Youth Jazz Ensemble

compiled by janet i. martineau

Saginaw, Midland and Bay City once again offer a long list of free outdoor concerts and movies this summer. All readers need to do is pack up a lawn chair or blanket and head on out to....

PRIDE’S Friday Night Live
5:30-9pm in Morley Plaza, next to the Temple Theater at 203 N. Washington in Saginaw. Those 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Food and drink vendors.

-- July 11, Classic Rock Night. Headliner: Sound Alternative. Opening: Grefe, Gaus, Grefe
-- July 18, Country Night.  Headliner: Chris Stapleton. Opening: Mandi Layne & The Lost Highway
-- July 25, Latin Night.  Headliner: Baraja De Oro. Opening: Conjunta Champz
-- Aug. 1, Jazz Night. Headliner:  Michigan Jazz Trail Big Band. Opening: Robert Lee Revue
-- Aug 8, Oldies Night.  Headliner: Billy Mack & The Juke Joint Johnnies. Opening: Josh Ramses Band
-- Aug. 15, Motown Night. Headliner: KGB. Opening: Soul Street

KCQ Country Music Fest
7am-5pm Saturday, June 21, on Ojibway Island in Saginaw. (Section 98 seating $29.98, preferred gold seating $9.80, parking on island $15 -- rest of island free seating and parking off island free). Classic car show, food tent, arts and crafts show, children's area.

-- 11am, Dani Vitany and Ten Hands Tall
-- 1:30 pm, Frankie Ballard
-- 3:30pm, Montgomery Gentry

Montgomery Gentry

20th Anniversary Freak Show
Noon-9pm Saturday, June 14, in Midland's Central Park, Rodd at Collins. Coolers and picnic baskets welcome. 

-- 12:00 No Strings Attached
-- 12:45 Poetry Reading by Larry Levy
-- 1:15 Cody Cruz Box and Will Jackson
-- 2:00 Brett Mitchell 
-- 3:00 Fireball's Revenge 
-- 3:15 Mellodic Terror
-- 4:15 J.Parx Band
-- 5:00 Killer Kong
-- 6:00 The Outlaws of Zen 
-- 7:00 Dan and Adam 
-- 8:00 Devils on Your Shoulder

Freeland Palooza
12:30-10pm Saturday, June 14, in  Tittabawassee Township Park, 9200 Midland Road in Freeland.

Performing are War Machine, a KISS tribute band, along with Greta Van Fleet, Deadman Serenade, Kyle Mayer, The HitMen, Ban Shee, Barbarossa Brothers, Magic Flight, Marsupial Creampie and Armor The Forest. Activities for the kids:  arts and crafts, a bounce house and a climbing rock.

Jazz in the Garden
7pm Wednesdays in the Andersen Enrichment Center Rose Garden, 120 Ezra Rust in Saginaw.

-- July 9, Brush Street with Julie Mulady
-- July 16, New Reformation Band
-- July 23, Cool Lemon Jazz
-- July 30, Saginaw Area Youth Jazz Ensemble 

Old Saginaw City Lawn Chair Film Festival
Dusk on Sundays, corner of Ames and N. Hamilton in Saginaw. Food vendors.

-- June 29, "American Hustle"
-- July 6, "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
-- July 13, "Young Frankenstein"
-- July 20, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
-- July 27, "The Big Lebowski"
-- Aug. 3, "The Lego Movie"
-- Aug. 10, "Dancing Queen"
-- Aug. 17, "X-men: Days of Future Past"

Tunes by the Tridge 
Unless otherwise noted, 7-9 Thursdays by the Tridge in downtown Midland.

-- June 12, Ray Kamalay & His Red Hot Chili Peppers, jazz
-- June 19, The Hit Men, R&B/Motown
-- June 26, Loose Change, rock
-- July 3,  Matt Moore, Christian
-- Friday, July 4, at 5:30-7:30 pm: Butch Heath, country; 8-10 pm: Steve Armstrong and the 25 Cent Beer Band, country
-- July 10, The Saucecats, Cajun/zydeco
-- July 17, Double Dawn, country
-- July 24, David Gerald, blues
--July 31, Resonators, percussion
-- Aug. 7, ROCK the Tridge, Battle of the Bands

Party on McCarty
5:30-9pm Thursdays on the grounds of the Saginaw Township Soccer Complex, 3576 McCarty. Food vendors. Beer and wine tent. Concerts free but $5 for parking on site.

-- June 12, Margarita Night. Bullseye Band with special guest Ali Denman and Air Margaritaville
-- June 26, Hot Mix Night. Dani Vitany and Ten Hands Tall Band and Cancel Monday with special guest Shubha Vedula
-- July 10, 80s Night. Riptide with special guest Elizabeth Soule and Jedi Mind Trip with special guest Jenny Cohen
-- July 24,  R&B/Motown Night. Honesty and the Liars with special guest Rachael Garner and Serieux
-- Aug. 7, Country Night. 25 Cent Beer Band and Mandi Layne and the Lost Highway featuring special guest Rachel Seamon
-- Aug. 21,  Classic Rock Night. Under Advisement

Frankenmuth Concerts in the Park
7pm Sundays at the Palmer Schau Platz in Memorial Park. Hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, strawberry shortcake, hot fudge sundaes, root beer floats, soft drinks for sale.

-- June 22, Elvis Tribute featuring professional actor Max Pellicano.
-- June 29, Tribute to the Rat Pack. A celebration of the lives and music of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. 
-- July 6, Johnny Cash by Terry Lee, who has appeared on stage with Marty Robbins, Bill Anderson, Ernest Tubb, Sonny James, Conway Twitty and Willie Nelson. 
-- July 13, Abbamania, a Canadian-produced musical which takes you back to the disco era of one of its best bands.
-- July 20, Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive" Tribute
-- July 27, Neil Diamond Tribute, featuring Will Chalmers.
-- Aug. 3, The Diamonds, performing the songs that made them famous, like “Little Darlin," “Kathy O” and “Why Do Fools Fall in Love."
-- Aug. 10, Tribute to John Denver

Wednesdays in the Park
6-6:45pm opening act, 7-8:30pm headliner, Wenonah Park in downtown Bay City.

-- June 18 , Your Generation featuring 50 Amp Fuse, a musical revue from 60’s to present. Opening Act: Bob Hausler
-- June 25 , Bay Concert Band. Opening Act: The String Thing
-- July 9 , Battle of the Bands winner Operation 13 . Opening Act: Elements of Funk
-- July 16 , Saginaw Elite Big Band. Opening Act: Jason Singer
-- July 23 , Bee Gees “Night Fever” tribute act. Opening Act: The Seagulls
-- July 30 , Jimmy Buffet “Pirates of the Caribbean” tribute act. Opening Act:  Oehrlein Dance School
-- Aug. 6 , Phil Dirt and the Dozers. Opening Act: Joe Balbaugh

Saginaw Eddy Concert Band
(NEW VENUE) 7pm Sundays in First Merit Event Park, 300 Johnson in Saginaw.

-- June 14, "Dance Fever Under the Stars"
-- June 22, "Summer Songs"
-- June 29, "Musical Travelogue"
-- July 3, "Star Spangled Spectacular"
-- July 13, "Oldies, Hits and Favorites"
-- July 20, "Celebrations and Holidays"
-- July 27, "3M: Marches, Movies and Musicals"
-- Aug. 3, "The Best of the Eddy Band"

Tittabawassee Township Concerts in the Park
Unless otherwise noted, 7pm Wednesdays in Tittabawassee Township Park, 9200 Old Midland Road in Freeland.

-- June 18, Butch Heath Country Classic, 5-10pm (rain date June 25), food and drink vendors. Burt Watson Chevrolet in Freeland will run a free shuttle from its dealership on M-47 to the concert grounds from 4 p.m. to close. 
-- July 9, The Beets, music from 1950s-1990s
-- July 16, The Sinclairs, rock/pops/classics
-- July 23, Laurie Middlebrook Family Night, country music, with a beer tent, food vendors, activities for children 
-- July 30, Empty Pockets, rock
-- Aug. 6, Pete Woodman and The Hips, classic rock/Motown/blues
-- Aug. 13, Honesty and the Liars, rock/pops/blues
-- Aug. 19 (a Tuesday), Pangbourne and the District Silver Band, a British brass band from England

Thomas Township Picnic in the Park
6:30-9pm Tuesdays in Roethke Park, 400 Leddy Road in Shields. Concessions.
Brush Street With Julie Mulady

-- June 17, Day 8 Band
-- June 24, The Toppermost Beatle Tribute
-- July 8, Brush Street with Julie Mulady
-- July 15, The Beets
-- July 22, Butch Heath and the Country Reunion
-- July 29, The Rock Show
-- Aug. 5, Laurie Middlebrook Band
-- Aug. 12, CEYX
-- Aug. 19, The Bullseye Band

Music From the Marsh
7-8pm Saturdays at the Bay City Recreation Area Visitors Center, 3582 State Park Drive in Bay City. In case of rain, moves indoors at the adjacent Saginaw Bay Visitors Center. Concerts. Free but there is a vehicle entrance fee to the park.

-- June 14,  Bob Hausler, “Flag Day & Patriotic Songs”
-- June 21, Jill Jack,  "Jill Jack's Pure Michigan"
-- June 28, Elden Kelly, “Gibson Guitar...Born & Bred in Kalamazoo”
-- July 5, Doug E. Rees, “Making Tracks with Train and Truck Songs”
-- July 12, Lee Murdock, “Great Lakes Ghosts & Shipwrecks”
-- July 19, George Heritier, “Drunk Bugs & Bay City Ballads”
-- July 26, John Latini, “Baseball, Beaches & Other Summer Time Songs”
-- Aug. 2, Siusan O’Rourke & Zig Zeitler, “Our People: Migration to Michigan” 
-- Aug. 9, Dave Boutette, “Saturday Night With the Campfire Kid”
-- Aug.16, Magdalen Fossum (age 13),  “Girls Rock! Women Who Made History in Michigan” 
-- Aug. 23, Jamie-Sue Seal, “Motown...Hits & History from Hitsville USA”
-- Aug. 30, Jay Stielstra & Judy Banker, “Manistee Waltzes & Tittabawassee Tunes” 

Classic Legacy Band of Saginaw
At 7:30pm June and July; 7pm August in the Andersen Enrichment Center Rose Garden, 120 Ezra Rust in Saginaw.

-- June 19
-- July 17
-- Aug. 21

Fridays at the Falls
6-7pm Fridays at Third Street Waterfall Park, Third and Water Streets in Bay City.

-- July 4, Scott Baker and the Universal Expression
-- July 11, Magic with Tommy Anderson
-- July 18, The String Thing
-- July 25, The TOYZ
-- Aug. 1, Singer/Songwriter Andy Reed and Friends
-- Aug.  8, Big Dreams
-- Aug. 15, Magic and Ballon creations with Cameron Zvara
-- Aug. 22, Josh Ramses Band

Historical Society of Bridgeport Concerts in the Park
7-8:30pm Tuesdays by the Donna Lamb Memorial Gazebo in the Bridgeport Historical Village, 6190 Dixie Highway. If  weather is bad, concert inside site's Old Town Hall. Popcorn, pop and water available.

-- July 8, Crockpot Band, classic country
-- July 15, Knee Deep, variety
-- July 22, Treblemakers, Operation 13, rock
-- July 29, Sandra Bauman, polkas and waltzes
-- Aug. 5, Bob Holtzapple's Talent Roundup
-- Aug. 12, Laurie Middlebrook / Eva Stone Trio, acoustic
-- Aug.19, Road Dawgz, classic rock
-- Aug. 26, The Baytones, big band

Dow Gardens in Midland
Noon-1:30pm Wednesday. Technically these events are not free. The gardens at 1809 West St. Andrews sells a yearly pass for $10, which makes them close to free, or $5 per visit without purchase of the pass

-- June 18,  Gary & Julie Tussie, blues and jazz
-- June 25,  Stringtown Trio, Irish folk music
-- July 2,  Honesty & Jim, oldies
-- Runs through Aug. 20, rest TBA

Folk Music Sundays:
4-6 pm July 6 and Aug. 3  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mortgage burning party celebrates end of long road for Theodore Roethke's boyhood home

Theodore Roethke's boyhood home, right, and his uncle's home at left

story and photo by janet i. martineau

Friends of Theodore Roethke today (May 15) announced it has made the final mortgage payment on the childhood home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Saginaw-raised poet. 

To celebrate, the group will host a hot dog roast and mortgage burning party from 1-4pm Sunday, May 25, at that 1805 Gratiot dwelling. The date also commemorates Roethke’s 106th birthday. He died in 1963 and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery.

“This is the realization of 15 years of hard work and fundraising,” said Annie Ransford, president of The Friends of Roethke.  The organization has long struggled to secure the home, which is also the Great Lakes Bay Region’s only National Literary Landmark, and the stone home next to it, which housed Roethke's uncle, Carl Roethke. 

Final payment on the two properties was secured in large part through a generous grant from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, which supplemented the contributions made by Friends of Roethke members and other donors.

While state and national entities often provide support for educational programming, grant money was not available for the mortgage note, utilities and other necessary maintenance expenses. Private fundraising efforts had been constant, but relatively small, until Dow stepped in.

“Finally, this property truly belongs to our communities,” Ransford said. “Now Roethke’s memory can forever be preserved in this tangible, usable space.”

Last fall, under the DowGives program, more than 100 company and community volunteers also worked at the Roethke Home Museum properties over two days, to paint, remodel and landscape.

“Dow is proud to play a role in helping to secure the long-term future of this important institution,” said Dow spokesman Mike Kolleth, who led the DowGives program for the company. “The Roethke Museum is an important cultural and historical touchstone for the entire Great Lakes Bay region.”

The non-profit Friends of Roethke purchased the two homes and their property in 1998 to establish as a center for the literary arts. Roethke, who was featured on a US postage stamp in 2012, is widely considered one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century. His poems are in virtually every textbook and anthology throughout the world.

Much of his work was inspired by the family’s massive greenhouse business, which once stood behind the two homes.

“Our thanks goes out to the Dow Foundation and the hundreds of members and donors who have contributed to the organization over the years,” Ransford said. “Thanks in large part to the Dow and The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, the museum is in is the best shape that it has been in physically and financially for many years. 

“We have a strong foundation upon which to grow and flourish. We welcome all members of the community to join us in celebrating this next chapter in our development and building our region’s literary heritage.”

The May 25th celebration event is open to the public and admission is by freewill donation. Members of the River Junction Poets and longtime Roethke supporter Rosie King, a poet, will throughout the afternoon read Roethke poems in the backyard.

Salads, a birthday cake and ice cream will be served along with the hot dogs. The mortgage burning will take place at 3pm. 

Friends of Roethke is also embarking on a project to reacquire some of the original Roethke furniture for the 1805 home. Many of its furnishings were sold at auction following the 1997 death of the poet’s sister, June Roethke. Records from the auction sale are no longer available.

We know what furniture was in the home, we just aren’t sure where it ultimately ended up,” Ransford said. “We would be delighted to repurchase the items to help us maintain the historical integrity of the museum.”

Those with information on the furnishings or an interest in joining the group can contact the organization at (989) 928-0430 or via e-mail at

Friday, May 9, 2014

Five actresses set fire to Midland's "The Dixie Swim Club"

Debbie Lake, left, and Denyse Clayton

review and photographs by janet i. martineau

High school days. Career changes. Medical issues. Marriages… multiple ones. Children. Grandchildren. Aging. Breast lifts and implants. Martinis … multiple ones. Petty squabbles. Not so petty squabbles. Hurricanes. Health food. Homemade biscuits…

In two wonderful hours, the five actresses in the Midland Center for the Arts production of "The Dixie Swim Club" will tug at you in every which way in a PG-13 script that delivers the goods on nostalgia, friendship, and life's twists and turns. The show opens tonight (May 9).

The premise of the script is five southern high school friends who were on a swim team together have, each year sense graduation, gathered for an August weekend at a beach cottage on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

In its four scenes we spend time with them at ages 44, 49, 54 and 77.

They are:

-- Sheree, played by Debbie Lake of Saginaw – a health food fanatic and over organizer.

-- Dinah, played by Susie Polito of Midland  – a high-powered lawyer who never saw the need to be a mother.

-- Lexi, played by Denyse Clayton of Midland – a multi-married woman so so in love, with herself.
From left, Polito, Winans-Bagnall, Lake and Clayton

-- Jeri, played by Trina Winans-Bagnall of Midland – a nun without much sense of fashion.

--  Vernadette, played by Jeanne Gilbert of Bay City –  best described as a hypochondriac with out-of-control children.

If you know anything about community theater in Midland, or for that matter mid-Michigan, these are five of the most talented actresses we have. And from the get-go they do not disappoint in this ensemble piece extraordinaire.

Every voice inflection, every body movement, every word out of their mouth is pure character. No one delivers better than the others. Their characters ARE long-time friends and everything that entails. 

And in the final scene, which we will not discuss in this review nor which are we showing in the pictures published with this review (but will publist at the end of the run), they elevate their performances into the stratosphere. 

But, then, everything else about this show is perfect as well.

The script by Jesse Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten is insightful, funny, poignant, filled with solid one-liners, serves up great arguments, is “clean.” 

What we enjoyed the most is whenever one or more of the women is out of sight, she is fair gossip game for the rest gathered on the front porch, which is where all the action takes place. Loving and concerned gossip, of course. Well, sometimes.

Director Adam Gardner's impact is all over the production. Nice tableaus and movement. Swift pacing. Detail, detail, detail. An evenhanded direction of five powerful actresses.

And the set and costuming are a riot of color. Greenish cabin with the orange glow of the sky in the background. Four costuming changes for each woman and in one case more. A wonderfully angled set with several levels.

Even the between-scenes action is fun as the set decorations are changed. A screen is lowered and projected are old-time slides of women's swim teams as well as clever  pictures taken of the cast  indicating the progression of their character's lives.

In watching the show, this reviewer felt the cast members were so into their characters and the whole atmosphere so real that more than once she just so badly wanted to join in on the conversation.

For more pictures:

In a word, Pit & Balcony's "Spring Awakening" is stupendous

Seated center is lead Ben Hendricks and at right with hand up is Nolan Good

review and photographs by janet i. Martineau

Where, oh, where to start with a review of Pit and Balcony Community Theater's production of the musical  "Spring Awakening," opening tonight (May 9).

There are so many avenues to pursue with it. So many.

So we will take the easy way and quote from director Tommy Wedge, who writes in his program notes, "This is not your average musical. It is so much more."

Indeed it is, and we applaud Pit for having the courage to stage this controversial show because the end result is stupendous, just stupendous.

The minimal yet stylistic set…the inventive and eye-pleasing choreography (also by Wedge)…the energetic acting and singing…the costuming and lighting… all just soar and are impossible to describe in words. This truly is one of the most visual shows Pit has staged.

And then there is its topic. In "Spring Awakening," which won eight Tony awards including best musical, 1891 meets 2007. 

Maggie Dehart, left, and Meagan Eager
Its script was written in 1891 by a German and deals with sexual oppression. Erotic fantasies, date rape, child abuse, homosexuality, suicide, abortion,  masturbation .... all there.

No wonder, back then, the play was banned and censored in Germany, New York, England. It is hard to believe it was written in another century because it is still edgy today.

Fast-forward to 2007 when to the play's words was layered on an un-oppressed contemporary rock/alternative music score with song titles like "My Junk," "The Bitch of Living"  and "Totally Fucked." More edginess.

Added to that we see and are asked to buy into a cast dressed in 1890s costuming, dealing with life as it was lived back then with their words, suddenly from  suit jackets pulling out microphones and singing the daylights out of a contemporary world song.

Nothing about this show should work. But it all does. And please don't be frightened by it.

Sitting there, taking it all in, and despite being nearly 70 years old, we flashed back continually to our own youth and sexual insecurities and repressive 1950s society. 

Suddenly we got to thinking, oh we weren't so different after all. We also got to thinking, oh if kids today see this show maybe they won't feel so different either. We got to thinking, oh this is truly what good art does.

Besides, it may call itself a rock musical but the music also is lush and memorable. And beautifully played by the seven-member orchestra.

Ben Hendricks and Meagan Eager are outstanding as the two leads, a young couple drawn to each other in a tragic way. No matter what they sing they nail it.

Nolan Good as Ben's distraught friend raises hair on the neck when he does an intense  meltdown song sequence.

Danessa Hellus and Carly Peil in the song "The Dark I Know Well," about family incest, punch us in the gut.

Ensemble work also propels this production, in particular in the songs "Totally Fucked," "Those You've Known"  and "The Song of Purple Summer."

And all of them, the entire cast, thanks to Wedge's strong directing hand, deliver acting performances that are just as strong as their singing skills.

Whatta show.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

CNN's Candy Crowley takes Horizons Town Talk audience on a tour of U.S. political scene

CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley signs autographs after her Horizons Town Talk

Making points during her speech

Story and photos by Janet I. Martineau 

When, several times, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney  appeared to charge towards her, presidential debate moderator Candy Crowley didn't think anything of it back there in October 2012.

"I raised two sons," CNN senior political correspondent Crowley told her Horizons Town Talk audience on Tuesday. 

"I  thought at the time, 'I get this, they are prowling around in that establishing territory type thing men do.' I didn't think anything of it. I just thought they were roaming.

"It was way cool; the most fun I've ever had. I never felt the heat that somehow came across on TV."

What she did feel was pressure, she said.

"I had spent the whole day at a town hall gathering  getting questions to ask the two candidates, and I was aware during the debate of how much time we didn't have and how many people's questions were not getting asked.

"I had a producer talking in my ear piece always. We were aware of the fact that Obama talked slower in answering a question than Romney, and that we had to balance their time being heard vs. answering the questions."

And, of course, during the event she challenged Romney on one of his answers, an event that led to much criticism...and support.

"It was what it was," she said. "After the event I'd walk on a plane and people would applaud. I would walk in a coffee house and people would come up to me and challenge what I did. 

"We knew before the debate half the country would hate what we did and the other half would like it; we just didn't know which."

Crowley, 65, has been with CNN  since 1987. Currently she hosts its weekly Sunday show "State of the Union." Earlier  she worked for the Associated Press and NBC and has, at this point, covered nine presidential campaigns as well as many other political races.

Before discussing her career on the Washington DC scene, however, Crowley paid homage to Michigan, "which is home to me, where my soul belongs."

She was born in Kalamazoo, her grandfather worked in a South Haven canning factory, she recalled childhood summers up north, using flashlights to find night crawlers. The family still has property in the Sleeping Bear Bay Area, where she vacations ...  singing Saginaw songs as she passes on her way driving there.

In her hour-long talk, Crowley admitted that yes the U.S. Congress is frustrating. But she also laid the blame on those of us seated before her, the voters of United States.

We like to congregate with people like us, she said, hence redistricting every six years to "assure" one party or the other seats in the Congress. In the last election, she said,  245 of the House members were elected by 60% or more of the vote. "So they feel no need to compromise."

Voters in the midterm Congressional elections use their anger at whomever is president at the time, she said, sweeping his party out "in droves." And in particular lately sweeping out anybody who is a moderate "whose survival rested in reaching across the aisle. The center in Congress has shrunk and almost disappeared.

"It's who we vote for that has helped lead to this dysfunction," the award-winning journalist told her audience.

And adding to the problem, she said, is the pure economics of living in Washington DC. House members face reelection every two years, she said. At one time they moved their families to Washington DC and stayed there most weekends. But with the rising cost of living in that town, most of them leave their families back home and go back there every  weekend and increasingly for extended recesses.

"This results is them not knowing each other except when they are on the floor and yelling at each other; instead of attending their children's baseball games  together.  If they stayed in DC they would connect with each other and not demonize each other."

She recalled the bonding and bill-passing legacy of senators Dick Lugar, an Indiana Republican, and Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, whose families knew each other because they lived in DC. Their children even bought back to back homes in Virginia, "so it became a bipartisan playground. That just doesn't happen anymore. They learned to trust each other by being with each other, and if you can't trust each other then compromise won't get done."

These days it is often a nightmare to book her Sunday show, she said,  "because invited guests tell me, 'I won't sit there with so and so.' That's not good. It's a failure to understand. That kind of thinking does not work in the world of business."

In frustration, she says, more and more centrist congressional members are not running for office again, including four from Michigan (Sen. Carl Levin, Reps. Dave Camp, Mike Rogers and John Dingell). "With those four who are retiring, Michigan will lose 139 years of experience."

She also challenged the rise of the 24  hour news cycle which speeds everything up,  with news organizations more interested in getting the short, snappy sound bite first at the expense of researched detail.

"It leads to snap judgments. It sets up sides immediately. We don't think before we speak." 

Instead, she is a proponent of longer interviews, so viewers can get to know the personalities rather than the flat characters of the people she talks to. "That way people learn to disagree yes but at least respect the place where this person is coming from when they have found out how they came to that place."

Crowley advised her listeners to never watch just one network or read just one newspaper, "ones that reflect your own opinions. Get beyond your comfort levels." She is saddened that the most strident and one-sided networks get the highest ratings.

Not wanting to leave her audience in a downer mood, she said after 30 years of covering Washington DC, "the parts are better than the whole. Most of your congressmen want to do what is right, they try to do a good job, they love their country.

"The people you send to Congress by and large are good people."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra soars amid "The Planets"

Review by Janet I. Martineau

It's not every day a laptop computer is held aloft by a percussion section musician taking a bow at a symphony concert.

But, then, it's not every day a symphony orchestra goes techno.

Such was the case at the delightful Saturday night Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra concert, subtitled "The Final Frontier."

As the  title might suggest all the selections on the evening's program dealt with exploration and/or outerspace.

The techno piece, titled "Mothership" and by composer/DJ Mason Bates, imagines the orchestra as a mothership that is docked by several visiting soloists.

An apt description, that, because it was commissioned for one of the neatest ventures in music history -- theYouTube Symphony Orchestra. Musicians from all over the world auditioned via YouTube, a panel picked finalists, YouTube fans voted from those finalists, and then the winners all assembled to perform "Mothership," and other pieces, in Sydney, Australia. Technology meets classical music.

Something like 101 musicians from 30 countries. And, of course, it was broadcast live over YouTube. It was the most-watched live music concert on the Internet and the most frequently viewed concert in the history of the video-sharing website.

So that Saginaw was privileged to hear this composition literally live was a treat in and of itself. But that it was so utterly charming and fun, with its electronic beeps, bleeps, bloops, blurps and burps, was even more delightful. And it did indeed sound otherworldly.

But it was not the superstar of the evening.

As a long time concertgoer I think I have heard Holst's "The Planets"  performed at least four times. But never ever like I heard it Saturday night.

I have no idea how maesto Brett Mitchell did it, but he made our orchestra sound like twice as many players were sitting up there on the stage, delivered every nuance you could possibly find in the piece, and generally raised  hair on the back the neck.  The colors in this performance were as brilliant as the sun.

The seven-movement please visits the seven companion planets in our solar system,  from a thundering and bombastic Mars to a quiet and gentle Neptune with its contingent of eerie female wordless  voices floating in from offstage.

In the subtitles of each piece Holst visits war, peace, a winged messenger, jollity, old age, magic, and the mystic. Indeed all that is there and more. Lots of little solo interludes from various musicians. All out attack when they combine. Always has been a  marvelous piece of music, and on Saturday night even more so. It is still reverberating in my mind.

The evening also included Jabert's visit to "The infinate Spaces" and a couple of John Williams pieces, including… obviously…the theme from "Star Wars" as an encore.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Les Miserables" hits home run at Midland Center for Arts

Review by Janet I. Martineau

Alrighty Midland Center for the Arts... bravo, bravo, bravo on your barricade for the musical "Les Miserables," which opened Friday night. It was as clever as heck, and we just didn't see it coming.

Mum is the word though. Not going to say anymore about it because seeing it in action is part of the fun – maybe all of the fun. Very impressive.

Bravo, too, on the staging of Javert's death plunge. Hope the actor in that role is OK. It looked a little too real. The massive set was appealing to the eye with its various levels, especially the trap doors leading underground.  And the gunfire was rip-snorting loud and flash-filled.

But enough about the detail-rich look of this show because director Carol Rumba has hit a home run when it comes to the cast ... all 58 of them, ranging in age from 4 to 72. Imagine overseeing and corralling something of that breadth, the majority of them amateurs.

Things did get off to a slightly sluggish beginning Friday night, but it just kept building and building like a steam engine heading down the track until you realized somewhere along the way you were witnessing one of best musicals ever at the Midland Center for the Arts.

There is no way a review can do justice to all 58 people in the cast. Suffice it to say that yes there standouts, and I will discuss them, but this is an ensemble piece bar none with a chorus to die for.

From start to finish Rumba  created various attractive tableaus with her cast members, and they stayed in character solidly in them; sometimes in the shadows when the action was taking place and was lit on another part of the stage. And the chorus dynamics just rocked the place.

Ten members in particular caught our attention: Dominic Zoeller as the hero Jean Valjean, True Rogers the thug Javert, John Saint Jones as the bishop, Laura Brigham as the dying Fantine, Madeline Day as the ignored Eponine, Celeste Lang as the lovely   Cosette, Tony Serra as the student leader Enjolras, Matt Fox as the love struck Marius, Jamie Miller as the tiny revolutionary warrior Gavroche, and Ruth Pasek as Little Cosette.

Zoeller nicely captured the aging process, starting as a young man and ending as a feeble old man. Day knows how to totally sell a song emotionally and dramatically. And all 10 of them delivered goosebumpy singing and heart-tugging acting.

Behind the scenes, kudos to scenic designers Evan Lewis and Kristen O'Connor for the whole look of the show, not just the barricade; costume coordinator Laurelei Horton for the wealth of costuming, dressy and slummy; lighting designer Matt Kidwell, for those moody shadows, and Jim Hohmeyer and his glorious orchestra.

Some of the set changes were a little clumsy and noisy, but that was but a small glitch in the three-hour show that delivered in abundance.