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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Indie Music: Zach Churchill "Surrender"

by Germar Derron


"Hey, indie music." "Hey Germar, what's up?" "We are not in Kansas anymore."

I used to produce indie music. It never sounded like this. It's hard to think of this as "indie." And yes, I understand that "indie" doesn't equal not good. But this sounds like a song teachers play, in a production or songwriting class, as an example of what radio-ready commercial music should sound like. It's a "comp track." The professor might say something like, "if your track doesn't sound like this, then you're not done yet."

"Surrender" is predictable in the best sense. I sang along, on the first listen, before I'd heard a single lyric. That aural predictability ties to logic and structure--comfort. It's comfortable. And we crave comfort. The lyrics are relatable.

I appreciate the increasingly rarer legitimate chorus included here. He's not afraid to tell his story through rhyme, melody, and repetition (i.e., with lyrics--song).

The mix, production, and arrangement are all 5-star. The vocal is tucked into the track just enough to cut through while also maintaining an aural equity with the other instruments. Someone behind the glass really respects all of the many pieces of this craft.

The message here feels real. Churchill isn't merely singing. This isn't acting or pretense. He believes these lyrics and needs an audience to believe them too. That desperation is most evident on the ending lyrics, over mellow keys and strings or pad, "you can change if you want to."

The song clocks in at over five minutes. That's long for radio destined popular music. But somehow, here, it feels brief. It seems cliffhanger-ish: "what happens next?" The runtime works because of a subtle and pleasant continuing variation in rhythm, vocal style, chords, and melody. Ultimately, Churchill shows us more than enough on "Surrender" to leave no doubt about the beautiful experience to come on his new album, Greater Than.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Indie Music: Bel-la, "Nothing's Gonna Get You Back"

by Germar Derron



Are those crickets?

The music video for "Nothing's Gonna Get You Back" thoughtfully explores its theme through image, rhythm, melody, and soundscape. For a more stripped-down, pristine, studio version, the single also exists untethered from video.

But even before I watched the video, the song pushed a visual--night, solitude, a journey, light that obfuscates, and dreams.

This song, mix-wise, goes hard against the grain, and triumphs unscathed. The instrumental portion is produced and mixed dry and straightforward. The vocal is heavily treated, wet--dreamy. Here, Bel-la reminds me of every Dido song. I love Dido. Typically, this split, or contrast, in styles produces a track that is disconnected. The vocals usually seem to sit on, or ride on, top of a backing track--like a clumsily produced home recording. But here, it works. It adds to the solitude. It's not at all distracting or unappealing. 

I compare the content of the song to "One Sweet Day," by Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey. Of course, the tone and genre share little resemblance. But Day began as two different songs. I believe Boyz II Men had a song about the murder of their road manager. Carey's song lamented a lost romantic relationship. Even as a young child, I could feel the push and pull in that track, before I knew the story behind why. Here again, on "Nothing's Gonna Get You Back," I feel both senses of loss. But there is no push and pull, there's a painful agreement.

Beyond the mid-point of this track, a guitar solo replaces the vocals of Bel-la. It's the first time that an instrument takes lead or takes on the dream, or dreamy quality. And when the vocal returns, the entire track is somehow even more cohesive. And that cohesiveness feels like consolation, relief, release--a resolution.

Similar to Dido's "Here With Me," Bel-la's "Nothing's Gonna Get You Back" would do very well as the theme song on a hit television show.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Rankings: the Theeuhtahr [Updated: 7/16/22]

You love lists and Look to the Cookie doesn't do enough of them. Plus, Germar's life has shifted from music, to film, to . . . stage. And because he sees so many theatrical productions, he will rate and rank them here. Additionally, you're going to click this link because you want to know where your production ranks. 

And remember, a score of 5.5 does not equal 55% failure. It means that the show was better than 55% of all shows.

Photo: Josh Sisk

39. Silent Sky (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 6/10 This is the toughest entry. People involved in this production will think I'm a hater. But a large component of the scores is "rewatchability." And even though this show may be better technically than "Mermaid" or "Wonka," it's not something you'd watch again and again. And that might not be fair, because we sing along to the hits from "Wizard of Oz," "Mermaid," and "Rock of Ages." But rules is rules. To justify this ranking, I'll include quotes from audience members: "the leads lacked chemistry" "I didn't get the set" "where were they supposed to be" "it didn't really catch me" "I didn't get the lights" "why are those stairs so big?" COVID-era shows are tough.  

38. The Wizard of Oz (2013, Southern Arizona) 7.2/10 Monkeys flew, witches melted--an all-around technical achievement. But it was also three hours long and you know how it ends.


37. It's a Wonderful Life (2018, East Central Indiana) 7.2/10 The leads dazzled. But you really have to love this era of storytelling, to love this show, in 2018.


36. Willy Wonka (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.2/10 It's always all about the Oompa Loompas! It was Wonka . . . wacky and colorful and kid-friendly.


35. The Wizard of Oz (2021, East Central Indiana) 7.2/10 One of the best family-fun summer experiences imaginable. Great performances, but a super non-traditional show.


34. Black Super Hero Magic Mama (2022 Baltimore, north) 7.2/10 These stories, writers, and performers are important. As a loud proud Black man, I love this. But I've never really loved Black "message" stories. In part, "we" tell them a lot. And I lived it, so I understand its import and accuracy. But as an audience member, I'm unfortunately always a choir member (where writer/director is a preacher). A few special performances and fun tech made this well worth the price of admission. 


33. Bakkhai (2022, Baltimore Center) 7.2/10 Stellar performances, perfect light design, classic story, but maybe not the best fit for the current climate.

32. 2 Across (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 7.2/10 Pandemic plays = smaller shows, smaller casts, smaller sets, smaller audiences, smaller applauses, smaller laughs. Two people talking on a train is a tough sell, even when it's perfect.


31. The Complete History of America (Abridged) (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 7.2/10 Tough to believe that three non-professionals (cast members) could pull this off--but they did.

30. The Little Mermaid (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 7.2/10 Full disclosure: Germar works on most of these productions. He failed this production. Amazing performances, but inconsistent tech and art direction. #maskup  


29. Harvey (2020, Central Indiana) 7.2/10 Each cast member played their part to perfection. Also, see above: It's a Wonderful Life.

28. A Musical Christmas Carol 7.3/10 (the 2020 pandemic, Farmland Indiana) The same perfect performances that we now take for granted from this production company. BUT a really poor technical outing. Me thinks "the -VID" strikes again.

27. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 7.3/10 (2021, Farmland Indiana) "Hunchback" is one of the oddest shows that people absolutely adore. Great performances and decent tech, but overall inconsistent.

26. Is Edward Snowden Single? 7.3/10 (2022, Baltimore, in the city) The story . . . ummmm is maybe the worst one on this list. But then it does pull together nicely at the end, and I appreciate that. The production was about as good as any on this list. It was immersive and technically creative. The co-leads performed perfectly. And the venue played its part superbly. 


25. Julius Caesar (2022, North of Center Baltimore) 7.3/10 "So it's like Hamilton?" Well, the cast is Black and the hip-hop influence is flawless. But it's good because it's good, not because it's the next Hamilton.

24. Mamma Mia! (2021, East Central Indiana) 7.3/10 This theatre consistently does the biggest best most-crowd-pleasing-fantastical-colorful-creative-imaginative shows of all community theaters. Mamma Mia! definitely kept that streak alive.

23. Mamma Mia! (2019, Michiana) 7.3/10 This Sophie SANGS. Beautiful cast. The director and choreographer put professional stamps all over this thing.

22. Tarzan (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.3/10 They used a real baby! They swung on vines and climbed trees. Go-ril-las stole the show. 

21. Scrooge: The Musical (2017, East Central Indiana) 7.4/10 Classic and timeless tale, done by a big diverse cast. Costumed fun.

20. Into the Woods (2019, Central Indiana) 7.4/10 Talented cast. The set designers and builders optimized, and creatively utilized, a tight space.


19. The Music Man (2019, Michiana) 7.5/10 The best ensemble performance ever. 


18. West Side Story (2018, East Central Indiana) 7.5/10 Every time Maria was on stage was the best thing you've seen on a stage. Rosalia . . . Anita . . . . Tony.


17. Now and Then (2019, Michiana) 7.6/10 Casual and modern. And by the end of the show, it's life-changing.


16. Cinderella (2018, Tour) 7.6/10 Beautiful set, world-class dancing, but no soul.

15. Into the Woods (the 2020 pandemic, Farmland Indiana) 7.6/10 Pitch perfect ensemble singing. 

14. The Little Mermaid (2018, East Central Indiana) 7.6/10 Ariel nailed it. And the magic of the sea was felt throughout the performance.

13. Big River (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.7/10 I can't decide if the show is a story about:   1) two cons on the run; 2) crazy Tom Sawyer; or most likely 3) a love story between a white boy with a heart of gold and a runaway slave. Five outstanding performances made this a tough call.


12. First Date (2020, Michiana)  7.7/10 A show for people born after 1984, who would rather see a movie than a play. A home-run from the director.

11. Of Mice and Men (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.7/10 Tough tough show, made better and worse by excellent performances.    

10. Animal Farm (2012, Southern Arizona) 7.9/10 Beautiful, moving, and important. When those pigs started walking around in their overalls, you couldn't help but feel the hopelessness of the cycle. 

9. Peter and the Starcatcher (2018, East Central Indiana) 8/10 Odd. And one of the best stagey mcstage plays of all time. And who doesn't love Peter Pan?


8. Sister Act (2019, East Central Indiana) 8.5/10 F.U.N. Also, it's sexy (or it could be), funny, and colorful. Everyone in the cast got a chance to shine.


7. Glitterus: Dragon Rising (2022, Baltimore, downtown) 8.6/10 A world premiere. It's an inclusive "Wizard of Oz/Wiz," by and for millennials. Tech knocks this down a bit. "Community theatre" production, professional-level singing.

6. Matilda (2020, East Central Indiana) 8.7/10 Story? Weak and common. Writing? Random and superfluous. 8000 kids dancing in perfect sync, and singing in perfect harmony with perfect pitch in perfect Harry Potter accents? Nailed that shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

5. My Fair Lady (2017, East Central Indiana) 9/10 The perfect Eliza. Perfect direction.


4. [title of show] (2021, Michiana Indiana) 9.1/10 Four people. Four chairs. No set. These emeffers pulled it off. Good choreography and sick vocals made this an instant classic.
Photo-David DuFour

3. Rock of Ages (2018, East Central Indiana) 9.3/10 If you like the 80s, or listen to the same 10 songs on some whack work FM stations, you'll love this. Plus, it's sexy and makes no sense.

2. Annie (2018, East Central Indiana)  9.5/10 THIS is cheating. Cute little girls, performing classic choreography, to Jay Z's most popular song.

1. Beauty and the Beast (2019, Farmland Indiana) 9.6/10 Everyone sang everything like Whitney sang The Star-Spangled Banner. Plus, they DANCED--DANCING in a show, in Indiana!!! I guess when you collect a check, you get the steps right.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Indie Music: Blunda, "Brighter Days"

by Germar Derron



On Brighter Days, Blunda presents a pleasant mix of moods via a musical journey. A central mode drives the project, but a light blending of a few genres makes this unique. Beyond the style of music, here, Blunda also manages the tiniest bit of a journey through time. 

Pieces of Brighter Days feel familiar because it's a modern sound (where modern means the last twelve years of indie or alternative pop and rock). And some tracks evoke that similar familiar feeling by connecting to sounds and songs of thirty to forty years ago.  Each method is equally effective.

Overall, here, Blunda seems unafraid to do whatever they want. Vocals. No vocals. Synth. Guitar. Pop. Rock. And at least on "Beginning," . . . audio scene. 

Much of this project sounds bigger than music alone. It does not lack without the connection, but it's easy to imagine landscapes, or scenes from television or movies. So learning that Blunda composes for television and film comes as no surprise. This mood feels ripped right from the soundtrack of forty years of popular media.

Beginning with "Beginning" is risky. It sets a tone, a scene that's not necessarily the tone and scene of the project. But it's also announcing that this project is all about tone, mood, and scenes. On "Beginning," listeners are immediately transported to a beach, or rainforest--somewhere barefooted, wet, and peaceful.  

On the very next track, "Lost Without You," all of the distinct energy of "Beginning" is immediately tossed in favor of something that is more traditional, perfectly balanced . . . lyrical. But beyond the immediate shock that the quick switch causes, it too is pleasant--another fun listen. And that's my takeaway.

This album is fun, produced well, and mixed well--an aural and emotional cleansing. 

Very well done.








 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Indie Music: 1st Base Runner, "Light Roars"

 by Germar Derron


This is good, real good. 

I thought of Radiohead well before I read that Radiohead creative director, Dilly Gent, provided some guidance on the project. And though comps are not everyone's cup of tea, a favorable comparison to many serious artists' favorite band is always a compliment.

Light Roars goes a step beyond Ellis and into something bigger, more defined, and maybe more commercial, but not for commercial's sake. Overall, Light Roars presents a master class in production, engineering, and arrangement. To really appreciate it, listen to it on the best sound system that you can access or a really good pair of headphones. This project is not meant for your laptop or smartphone speakers.

The EP begins, "In the Beginning." The vocal on the track has that common airy quality done better than is commonly heard. It's hard to imagine how it was recorded because the attacks, consonant sounds, and frequencies seem to have no beginning or end. It's a sort of constantly drifting quality that maintains clarity and spirit. As a former church worker, I cannot help but think of Genesis at the sight of, "in the beginning." That is the vocal feel--of something forming and moving, not quite solid, but also beautiful. The drums' soft, subtle, perfection marries that vocal. The quality of stereo composition on the drums is better than any similar attempts typically heard in indie music. And somehow the toms ring without the sound of the attack of a stick. This track soothes and moves. 

"Pushing Away," like every track here, fits the sonic aesthetic of the EP well. But somehow the guitar POPS, while still fitting tightly. The guitar here sounds more present, grating, rough, and raw, but not at all out of place. Like on Ellis, every track here exploits each instrument as much as the vocal. And that's maybe most evident on "Dead Wood" where the melody seems to be shared between vocals and what must be a guitar. The split between the two instruments is so evenly matched and paired that on the first listen I did not realize when the vocals stopped.

On "Give Up The End" the drum sound mimics that guitar role on "Pushing Away," which is also present here on GUTE. While listening to this track, I realized that these choices are purposeful beyond "let's make a great record." Serious thought has gone into the sonic composition of each track as an individual song and as a part of this whole.

At the end of the EP, "Planter" introduces a new style and feel that again somehow ties perfectly to the overall aesthetic. It feels faster or more driving--but . . . it's not. But it is the right feel at the right time to stave off monotony and get a party started.

This is really good.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Indie Music: Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz, "The Loss We've Won"

 by Germar Derron


Timely.

I listened to this album after another senseless mass shooting in the United States--the fourth or fifth within just a few short weeks. It helped. Apparently, Anders and O'Bitz are known for their social commentary and immersive moods. I may not be in a place to dissect commentary, but the immersive mood calmed me.

None of the nine tracks here sound uplifting in the traditionally bright, loud, or fast sense. And, honestly, sometimes that pleasant plucking can agitate or even infuriate. But even without the smiles and rainbows, something about The Loss We've Won feels hopeful. Somehow, the overall mood of the project appeals to an inner, likely repressed, longing or necessity. They've crafted a feeling more than a sound.

A common debate poses this question: do we listen to music that fits our mood, or do we listen to music to change our mood? Somehow, here, Anders and O'Bitz answer "yes" to both questions. Often, when the soul saddens we turn to nostalgia, like the music of our past--a time when life was light and joy-filled. Sometimes we turn to pop or dance--shiny, sparkly things that distract--instant mood boosters. The Loss We've Won fits the mood of this dark moment, while still promoting peace, calmness, and relaxation.

While listening to "Family Song," I felt this missing familial love before I read the title or noticed the clearer than glass lyrics.  

This perfect immersive experience is not coincidental or even mere serendipity. A well-balanced mixed and carefully considered arrangement bears the weight of all this goodness. 

The project is summed perfectly in its title. This is not "The Loss." It's either "the loss we've earned" or "in the losing, we have won." Under either understanding, it is what it is and we experience it all together. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Indie Music: Chris Forte, "Backyard Astronomy"

 by Germar Derron



Backyard Astronomy is the sonic equivalent of an academic degree in music. No, listeners will not walk away four years later with a piece of paper, wedding gigs, and students. But here, Chris Forte does mimic four years of musical exploration and progression. The tracks represent a journey through genres, regions, and eras.

Forte touches at least six different genres here, but the project could probably be divided fairly into equal and opposing halves. Half of the album could be a jazz combo, recorded live. And that would be a "jazz" combo in the broadest sense: skilled and educated musicians having fun with various genres, standards, tempos, and rhythms. That half of the album sounds rough, raw, and unpolished--mirroring the experience of a combo playing at a recital, coffeehouse, bar, or lounge.

The other half of the album sounds just a tad smoother and more polished. It might be called educated easy-listening or elevated elevator music. And I mean easy-listening and elevator music in the most complimentary ways. These tracks would work anywhere, for any audience. And that ubiquity does not diminish the obvious talent, skill, and musical IQ. Even on this more universal half, Backyard Astronomy remains a scholarly pursuit, and without pretentiousness.

By including the titles "Covidy Blues" and "Quarantine Coronatones," Forte does not conceal the album's impetus. And pieces of it do recall that period where we all dusted off our horns and keys and wondered and worried about the future. But these aural reminders here are somehow not accompanied by angst or melancholy. These pieces bring a sense of peace and relaxation. 

If peace, relaxation, jazz, funk, easy listening, and free education are your turn-offs--"wait, there's more!" Despite its title, "Messed Up World" may be the most hopeful and overall pleasant sounding and inspiring song to come out of the 2020 pandemic. Then later, "Baby Steps" defines cinematic. It's the spy movie worldwide conspiracy theme that 2022 needs.

At any other time in our history, I might call this uneven or inconsistent. But today, we get this. It perfectly parallels the past two years, while always looking up and ahead, with hope.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Indie Music: Ajay Mathur, "Talking Loud"

by Germar Derron

 

Some may say that Talking Loud by Ajay Mathur is by-the-book Americana. It might be. But it is definitively American. From the first note of the first song, it evokes American summers, America in the 80s, American sunshine, American barbecues, and American love. Talking Loud is not annoyingly dated or nostalgic for nostalgia's sake. This is 1987 summertime, summer fling, feel-good American in the best way.  The album feels like when you watch a movie and it opens with a song that you forgot you loved from decades ago. 

Beyond the nostalgic warm fuzziness, throughout the album, Mathur displays sweetness and sincerity. Multiple tracks and lyrics present clear messaging that pushes toward positivity but doesn't hint at chastisement or judgment.

If Mathur makes a misstep here, it may have been in an area not under his control. Some combination of production, mixing, and mastering may be missing the musical point. Yes, this is indie music. But the lyrics, melodies, and instrumentation are so good that this doesn't need to be "garage" or DIY. Most of the album plays a bit jagged and ragged, where a smooth "sheen" and a bit more vocal processing makes this radio-ready. And that's a positive, even though radio may not be an ultimate goal.

A couple of tracks sit adjacent to Dave Grohl on the softer tracks of the Foo Fighters' 2005 double album hit In Your Honor. And I believe that's the ceiling here--a reasonable and achievable goal.

Under the American and 80s umbrella of this project, Mathur does tour, or sample from, a few other genres. "Don't Want the Phone to Ring" features classic pop storytelling. And the title track, "Talking Loud," if remixed and released decades ago would top the rap charts. And even today, "Talking Loud" stands out as a special song in this collection. 

I never do ratings, but if I did, this earns a solid 3 of 5 stars. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Rankings: the Theeuhtahr [Updated: 5/15/22]

You love lists and Look to the Cookie doesn't do enough of them. Plus, Germar's life has shifted from music, to film, to . . . stage. And because he sees so many theatrical productions, he will rate and rank them here. Additionally, you're going to click this link because you want to know where your production ranks. This list does not include grade school or "junior" productions.

And remember, a score of 5.5 does not equal 55% failure. It means that the show was better than 55% of all shows.

Photo: Josh Sisk

37. Silent Sky (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 6/10 This is the toughest entry. People involved in this production will think I'm a hater. But a large component of the scores is "rewatchability." And even though this show may be better technically than "Mermaid" or "Wonka," it's not something you'd watch again and again. And that might not be fair, because we sing along to the hits from "Wizard of Oz," "Mermaid," and "Rock of Ages." But rules is rules. To justify this ranking, I'll include quotes from audience members: "the leads lacked chemistry" "I didn't get the set" "where were they supposed to be" "it didn't really catch me" "I didn't get the lights" "why are those stairs so big?" COVID-era shows are tough.  

36. The Wizard of Oz (2013, Southern Arizona) 7.2/10 Monkeys flew, witches melted--an all-around technical achievement. But it was also three hours long and you know how it ends.


35. It's a Wonderful Life (2018, East Central Indiana) 7.2/10 The leads dazzled. But you really have to love this era of storytelling, to love this show, in 2018.


34. Willy Wonka (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.2/10 It's always all about the Oompa Loompas! It was Wonka . . . wacky and colorful and kid-friendly.


33. The Wizard of Oz (2021, East Central Indiana) 7.2/10 One of the best family-fun summer experiences imaginable. Great performances, but a super non-traditional show.


32. Black Super Hero Magic Mama (2022 Baltimore, north) 7.2/10 These stories, writers, and performers are important. As a loud proud Black man, I love this. But I've never really loved Black "message" stories. In part, "we" tell them a lot. And I lived it, so I understand its import and accuracy. But as an audience member, I'm unfortunately always a choir member (where writer/director is a preacher). A few special performances and fun tech made this well worth the price of admission. 


31. 2 Across (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 7.2/10 Pandemic plays = smaller shows, smaller casts, smaller sets, smaller audiences, smaller applauses, smaller laughs. Two people talking on a train is a tough sell, even when it's perfect.


30. The Complete History of America (Abridged) (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 7.2/10 Tough to believe that three non-professionals (cast members) could pull this off--but they did.

29. The Little Mermaid (the 2020 pandemic, Michiana) 7.2/10 Full disclosure: Germar works on most of these productions. He failed this production. Amazing performances, but inconsistent tech and art direction. #maskup  


28. Harvey (2020, Central Indiana) 7.2/10 Each cast member played their part to perfection. Also, see above: It's a Wonderful Life.

27. A Musical Christmas Carol 7.3/10 (the 2020 pandemic, Farmland Indiana) The same perfect performances that we now take for granted from this production company. BUT a really poor technical outing. Me thinks "the -VID" strikes again.

26. The Hunchback of Notre Dame 7.3/10 (2021 Farmland Indiana) "Hunchback" is one of the oddest shows that people absolutely adore. Great performances and decent tech, but overall inconsistent.

25. Is Edward Snowden Single? 7.3/10 (2022, Baltimore, in the city) The story . . . ummmm is maybe the worst one on this list. But then it does pull together nicely at the end, and I appreciate that. The production was about as good as any on this list. It was immersive and technically creative. The co-leads performed perfectly. And the venue played its part superbly. 


24. Mamma Mia! (2021, East Central Indiana) 7.3/10 This theatre consistently does the biggest best most-crowd-pleasing-fantastical-colorful-creative-imaginative shows of all community theaters. Mamma Mia! definitely kept that streak alive.

23. Mamma Mia! (2019, Michiana) 7.3/10 This Sophie SANGS. Beautiful cast. The director and choreographer put professional stamps all over this thing.

22. Tarzan (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.3/10 They used a real baby! They swung on vines and climbed trees. Go-ril-las stole the show. 

21. Scrooge: The Musical (2017, East Central Indiana) 7.4/10 Classic and timeless tale, done by a big diverse cast. Costumed fun.

20. Into the Woods (2019, Central Indiana) 7.4/10 Talented cast. The set designers and builders optimized, and creatively utilized, a tight space.


19. The Music Man (2019, Michiana) 7.5/10 The best ensemble performance ever. 


18. West Side Story (2018, East Central Indiana) 7.5/10 Every time Maria was on stage was the best thing you've seen on a stage. Rosalia . . . Anita . . . . Tony.


17. Now and Then (2019, Michiana) 7.6/10 Casual and modern. And by the end of the show, it's life-changing.


16. Cinderella (2018, Tour) 7.6/10 Beautiful set, world-class dancing, but no soul.

15. Into the Woods (the 2020 pandemic, Farmland Indiana) 7.6/10 Pitch perfect ensemble singing. 

14. The Little Mermaid (2018, East Central Indiana) 7.6/10 Ariel nailed it. And the magic of the sea was felt throughout the performance.

13. Big River (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.7/10 I can't decide if the show is a story about:   1) two cons on the run; 2) crazy Tom Sawyer; or most likely 3) a love story between a white boy with a heart of gold and a runaway slave. Five outstanding performances made this a tough call.


12. First Date (2020, Michiana)  7.7/10 A show for people born after 1984, who would rather see a movie than a play. A home-run from the director.

11. Of Mice and Men (2019, East Central Indiana) 7.7/10 Tough tough show, made better and worse by excellent performances.    

10. Animal Farm (2012, Southern Arizona) 7.9/10 Beautiful, moving, and important. When those pigs started walking around in their overalls, you couldn't help but feel the hopelessness of the cycle. 

9. Peter and the Starcatcher (2018, East Central Indiana) 8/10 Odd. And one of the best stagey mcstage plays of all time. And who doesn't love Peter Pan?


8. Sister Act (2019, East Central Indiana) 8.5/10 F.U.N. Also, it's sexy (or it could be), funny, and colorful. Everyone in the cast got a chance to shine.


7. Glitterus: Dragon Rising (2022, Baltimore, downtown) 8.6/10 A world premiere. It's an inclusive "Wizard of Oz/Wiz," by and for millennials. Tech knocks this down a bit. "Community theatre" production, professional-level singing.

6. Matilda (2020, East Central Indiana) 8.7/10 Story? Weak and common. Writing? Random and superfluous. 8000 kids dancing in perfect sync, and singing in perfect harmony with perfect pitch in perfect Harry Potter accents? Nailed that shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

5. My Fair Lady (2017, East Central Indiana) 9/10 The perfect Eliza. Perfect direction.


4. [title of show] (2021, Michiana Indiana) 9.1/10 Four people. Four chairs. No set. These emeffers pulled it off. Good choreography and sick vocals made this an instant classic.
Photo-David DuFour

3. Rock of Ages (2018, East Central Indiana) 9.3/10 If you like the 80s, or listen to the same 10 songs on some whack work FM stations, you'll love this. Plus, it's sexy and makes no sense.

2. Annie (2018, East Central Indiana)  9.5/10 THIS is cheating. Cute little girls, performing classic choreography, to Jay Z's most popular song.

1. Beauty and the Beast (2019, Farmland Indiana) 9.6/10 Everyone sang everything like Whitney sang The Star-Spangled Banner. Plus, they DANCED--DANCING in a show, in Indiana!!! I guess when you collect a check, you get the steps right.

 
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