TheaTour!: The Michigan Theater

Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor Michigan

In Ann Arbor, the Michigan Theater sports a couple pizzazzy drinking fountains (above). In this otherwise straightforwardly outfitted venue, they’re the BANG… the sexy earrings, the stylish cufflinks.

Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor Michigan

The rest of the theater seems to shrug, “yeah, I’m good looking… (thank you, by the way)… but look at the play, not me, why don’t cha?” Sort of like a perfectly-dressed date: good looking, but not too effortful. Not self-obsessed. Into plays, not flash.

Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor Michigan

The metaphor continues. The lobby is the coiffure, something well-groomed and classy but not overwrought. Not over-gelled or sprayed or dyed.

Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor Michigan

The box office is the shoes, of course. Functional. Brown. Sturdy.

Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor Michigan

But where to kiss this date? Where are the lips?

Hmm…

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That Other Disney Magic


On Broadway, the word “Disney” is synonymous with “big,” “spectacular,” “humungous”—pretty much any word large enough to encompass human-sized dancing cutlery or a plastic light-up underwater grotto. (Cough, Beauty and the Beast, cough, Little Mermaid.)

But after catching a performance of Mary Poppins tour in Pittsburgh, I realized “Disney” just might be synonymous with another word: intimate.

Ok, ok, physically, Poppins is anything but small. There is, after all, a 30-foot, light up umbrella, a house (with a staircase!), and denizens of dancing statues. But the story, about a family finding its way back to itself, is heartwarmingly simple and surprisingly emotional: Mary Poppins teaches two children generosity, gets a father to value his home life, and returns a mother her peace. Yes, there are enough super-sized tap numbers and expensive design shenanigans to make spectacle-hungry audiences happy, but the really important storytelling business is about nothing more (and nothing less) than humans connecting. 

The show’s final image proves as much. It features not a set piece or a stunt, but a simple family portrait: the Banks family, together, walking forward, united in step and heart.

I’ll take that over a flying nanny any day.

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Photo by Wayne Taylor at the age.com.au, featuring the Australian cast of 
Mary Poppins.

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