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WE ST MICHIG AN’S ENTERTAINMENT GUID E FO R 32 YE ARS » MARCH 2020

FREE!

Jeff Foxworthy | Maria Bamford | Comedy Events | Family Fun Guide

THE FUNNY ISSUE I N S I D E :

T H E

C O M E D Y

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WHAT’S INSIDE

March 2020 |

Volume 32, Issue 3

SCENE: 14 What’s Going On 16 Biz Beat 18 Potshots

SOUNDS: 20 Of Montreal 22 Dermot Kennedy

STYLE: 26 Winning with Accessories

REVUE ARTS: 1A Visual arts, classical and jazz music, theater, arts event previews, and more. (See the center of this issue)

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THE FUNNY ISSUE: 27 32 33 34

The Comedy Project Bob Fredericks Pat Sievert Comedy Calendar

SIGHTS: 36 38 39 40

Jeff Foxworthy Miranda Sings Kathleen Madigan Maria Bamford

FAMILY FUN GUIDE: 42 Feasting with Family 44 Events for Everyone 46 Super, Extremely, Extracurricular

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DINING & DRINKING: 48 Mexican in the Midwest 50 Liquid Concept Albums REVUEWM.COM | MARCH 2020 |

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/// LETTER FRO M TH E E D ITOR

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person walks into a bar. They see a magazine sitting on a table. They pick it up and think, “Oh, this should be funny!” So far, it’s not.

President/Publisher, Kasie Smith

EDITORIAL Editorial Director, Amy L Charles

OK, you’re thinking, it does say “Funny Issue,” there must be some jokes in here somewhere! Well, the joke is on you, because this issue is actually a heartfelt look at the local comedy scene and where it’s headed. Gotcha! Despite my best efforts, we don’t have the 10-page spread of dad jokes I lobbied for. What you will find are conversations with people bringing laughs to West Michigan and getting local talent involved while building a community. You might not know it, but local comedians are out there constantly busting their butts, trying to hone their craft. They honestly just want to make you laugh (and maybe make a few bucks while doing so). If you do want to read something funny, just f lip to any of this month ’s inter views with big-name comedians, like Maria Bamford, Kathleen Madigan, Miranda Sings or Jeff Foxworthy. These people have been doing it their whole lives; they have a hard time not being funny. Even if you think you’re not into live comedy, I suggest getting out of your comfort zone and heading to any one event we’ve helpfully listed in the pages ahead — love it or hate it, you’ll never forget it. We also have the Family Fun Guide in this issue, because when you’re a parent, it can feel like the whole world is designed to keep you from going out. We assure you, that’s not the case! There are plenty of events, restaurants and classes that are perfect for you and your kids to enjoy together, and we’ll help you find them. Now that I think about it, kids are pretty funny too. I just remembered a joke of my own invention from when I was about 5 years old. I was super proud of it at the time, so I think it’s time to bring it back. Feel free to use this one: Why did the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cross the road? To get to the pizza. ’Til next time,

Managing Editor, Josh Veal josh@revuewm.com

DESIGN Art Director, Courtney Van Hagen

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Abi Safago Andy Balaskovitz Dana Casadei Eric Mitts Elma Talundzic Jack Raymond Allison Kay Bannister

John Kissane Marla R. Miller Megan Sarnacki Michaela Stock Missy Black Rich Tupica Amy McNeel

ADVERTISING / (616) 458-8371 Media Sales Manager, Kelli Belanger kelli@revuewm.com Media Sales Coordinator, Haleigh Beasley haleigh@revuewm.com

DIGITAL EDITOR: Josh Veal FIND US ONLINE: revuewm.com/arts twitter.com/revuewm facebook.com/revuewm instagram.com/revuewm

Josh Veal, Managing Editor

UPCOMING ISSUES APRIL: Cannabis Issue

©2020 Serendipity Media LLC. All rights reserved.

ON THE COVER

We’ll take a look at West Michigan’s budding cannabis industry, talking to advocates, sellers, and buyers about how far we’ve come and what’s next.

Revue is published monthly by: Serendipity Media LLC 535 Cascade West Parkway SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546 (616) 458-8371

MAY: Food Issue Year by year, the West Michigan food scene continues to grow. In this issue, we explore the top locally owned destinations for five-course meals, cheap eats and everything in between.

TO ADVERTISE: Call (616) 458-8371 or email sales@revuewm.com. Space reservation is the 15th of the month before publication.

THE COMEDY PROJECT STAFF Photo by Katy Batdorff

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SEE MORE ON PAGE 27


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/// SCEN E

WHAT’S GOING ON THIS MONTH |  Compiled by Revue Staff Irish on Ionia. COURTESY PHOTO

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3/12-13

BOTTLES & BITES

AN EVENING WITH LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO

Downtown Market 435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids March 6, 5-9 p.m. downtownmarketgr.com If you’ve ever wanted to become an expert in beer, wine and food overnight, Bottles & Bites is a great place to start. This special evening at the Downtown Market fills the upstairs greenhouse and banquet room with more than 75 wines, as well as beer, sake and food. The tables are set up with themes like Sunny California and Italian Gems to help you compare and contrast vino from all over. Plus, you get discounted wine purchases from Aperitivo.

Listening Room 123 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids March 12 & 13 listeningroomgr.com Ladysmith Black Mambazo has won five Grammy Awards and been around for more than 50 years, and for good reason. The South African group sings in perfect harmony, dances together and banters onstage, making for the perfect up-close show in the intimate Listening Room. Their performances are full of joy, love and fun.

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3/11

THE SOUND OF MUSIC: AN INTERACTIVE MUSIC EVENT

CINEMA LAB PRESENTS: LOVING VINCENT Wealthy Theatre 1130 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids Mar. 11, 7-10 p.m., FREE grcmc.org Cinema Lab and the Grand Rapids Public Library bring you a screening and discussion of the Academy Award nominated film Loving Vincent. Not only is this film visually gorgeous, it’s the world’s first fully painted feature film. Using the talents of more than 100 artists and 65,000 paintings, Vincent Van Gogh’s story comes to life in his unique painting style before your eyes.

Kalamazoo State Theatre 404 S. Burdick St., Kalamazoo March 14, 6 p.m., $15 kazoostate.com Kalamazoo is alive with, yes, the sound of music! This classic movie is coming back to the big screen like never before, with full audience participation. If your family is tired of you singing along at home whenever you watch the movie in your living room, head to this event and let it all out with everyone in the Kalamazoo State Theatre. Local actor Lori Moore will be there to lead crowd participation.

IRISH ON IONIA 25 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids March 14, 11 a.m.-10 pm., $20-$65 irishonionia.com There’s really nothing like Irish On Ionia, Michigan’s largest St. Patrick’s Day street party. The huge festival is now in its 10th year, with years of green beer and green shirts under its green belt. The street closes down so you can dance and drink to your heart’s content, with performers playing all day. Irish dancers, DJs and Celtic bands all take the stage, so you get a good variety from beginning to end.

GRAND RAPIDS BOURBON FEST Studio D2D Event Center 401 Hall St. SW, Grand Rapids March 14, 4-11 p.m., $50 grandrapidsbourbonfest.com The first-ever Grand Rapids Bourbon Fest is here, featuring roughly 100 whiskeys, food and live music. General admission tickets include entry, a souvenir glass and 10 half-ounce pours. Head online to see the massive list — many of the bourbons have multiple varietals, meaning you can compare and contrast different versions and barrels of the same whiskey.

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Price is Right Live. COURTESY PHOTO

DeVos Performance Hall 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids March 17, 7:30 p.m., $62+ devosperformancehall.com If you can’t make it out to Los Angeles to see Price is Right and spin the big wheel in person, now’s your chance. Whether you’re hoping to win big or just watch the fun from the crowd, The Price Is Right Live brings the show to the stage so you can watch it all happen in real time. Appliances, vacations, even new cars — it’s all up for grabs!

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3/31

AN EVENING WITH JOSH RITTER

AN EVENING WITH MICHAEL BUBLÉ

Fountain Street Church 24 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids March 21, 7 p.m., $35-40 audiotreepresents.com Americana singer-songwriter Josh Ritter is stopping at Fountain Street Church on his solo tour, A Book of Gold Thrown Open. With a focus on quieter, narrative music, Ritter will perform an intimate set of songs old and new. If you want to forget about Michigan’s grey skies for a moment, grab a friend and head on over to this show. Your winter blues will be cured in no time, thanks to the venue’s colorful stained glass and music to match. Art is medicine, after all. 

Van Andel Arena 130 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids March 31, 8 p.m., $65 vanandelarena.com Michael Bublé — dreamboat, singer and songwriter — is bringing his silkysmooth voice to Grand Rapids. He’s won four Grammy Awards, sold more than 60 million records and had multiple singles, all from singing endlessly about love. His latest album, Love (stylized as the red heart emoji), features two singles, “When I Fall in Love” and “Love You Anymore.”

3/28 THE PRICE IS RIGHT LIVE

Ladysmith Black Mambazo. COURTESY PHOTO

3/21

LADYFEST GR 2020 The Pyramid Scheme 68 Commerce Dr. SW, Grand Rapids March 28, $15-$25 pyramidschemebar.com LadyFest is back once again to celebrate all women, with speakers, vendors and bands. Headlining the event this year is Thao Nguyen of The Get Down Stay Down, also featuring performances from Sierra Skye Baker, Girls Rock Grand Rapids and more. The speakers include community figures like diversity and inclusion consultant Graci Harkema. Michael Bublé. COURTESY PHOTO


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/// SCEN E: NE WS

Pinktail Poke. COURTESY PHOTO

WEST MICHIGAN

BIZ BEAT

A Roundup of Openings, Closings and Other Local Business News OPENED: The poke wave is here — no, not Pokémon again, but bowls of diced raw fish served with other ingredients. Pinktail Poke opened in the Downtown Market at 435 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, right alongside High Tide Sodas. The shop’s owner also runs Fish Lads and Carvers, meaning they already have access to super high-quality fish. It’s all customizable, so you can order a signature bowl and tweak it or build your own from the base up. Try the Yuzu Salmon, with soy, yuzu marmalade, gochugaru, cilantro, edamame, cucumber and crispy onions. You can finally get your barbecue on when you’re downtown, thanks to Sparks BBQ. Opened at 15 Ionia Ave. SW in Grand Rapids, the new shop has come down from Traverse City after years of building a reputation up north. Sparks has all the meat you could ask for, alongside classic sides like mac ‘n’ cheese, sweet & spicy corn, broccoli slaw and more. Get it as a sandwich, taco, nachos or big plate of meat. Sparks also has beer, wine and cocktails. Sometimes, you just need to bounce some balls around: That’s why a bunch of bars in West Michigan now feature pinball machines. But if you’re looking for a place to bring the family, you’ll want to head to Pinball Land at 114 Courtland St. Rockford’s new arcade offers 12 machines that are a mix of retro and more modern technology. Just pop in and get a wristband and you can play to your heart’s content, all day! You can even feel free to head out for some ice cream and hot dogs, then come back for more. Plainfield finally has Thai food in the form of Paul Thai Restaurant, open at 3912 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids. The new spot is already getting good reviews, and seems to offer some unique dishes you wouldn’t find anywhere else, like the

Avocado Curry: shrimp, squid and scallops with avocado, bell peppers and basil in a special curry sauce. They’re open Monday to Saturday for dine-in or take-out.

CHANGES: Zoko822 has temporarily closed while it heads to a new home, as Sandy Point Beach House is moving into the space at 822 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids. The owners said it makes sense to open this second Sandy Point — which has been successful in West Olive — here because of the outdoor patio, container bar and food truck court. The menu will feature burgers, halibut, steak, mussels and weekly specials. Sandy Point also comes with some new events, including Live Jazz Thursdays, Easy Listening Music Fridays and Reggae Saturdays. The owners plan to relocate Zoko822 to 2130 Plainfield Avenue, in the Creston Neighborhood.

– Compiled by Josh Veal

If you have closings, openings or other business news for REVUE, e-mail josh@revuewm.com.

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MARCH 2020 |

A monthly roundup of marijuana news and notes.

MONTH BY MONTH, the number of retail recreational cannabis stores continues to grow — including in West Michigan — where several shops have opened since the new year.

A handy map produced by MLive shows seven recreational provisioning centers in West and Southwest Michigan: two each in Muskegon, Calhoun and Van Buren counties and one in Newaygo County. As of Feb. 2, the state had approved licenses for 43 recreational dispensaries and 18 growers, according to state data. The region’s population center, Grand Rapids, continues its slow entry into the market. The city’s first medical marijuana dispensary — Fluresh, in Southwest Grand Rapids — opened in early February to celebratory crowds. (A less enthusiastic friend of mine groaned at the $60 price tag for an eighth of an ounce of flower.) Nonetheless, Grand Rapids’ willingness to embrace the recreational market is a victory for cannabis reform activists who basically pleaded with the city to get moving in recent years. MiBiz reports that the city’s Planning Commission approved recreational regulations at a Feb. 13 meeting, with public hearings slated at the City Commission in March. As of now, the city may start accepting recreational applications in April. Now, about those prices. Over the past six months, state off icials have taken a

deliberately slow approach to unrolling the recreational market, approving licenses in a few places at a time. As has been well-documented, though, the supply hasn’t been able to keep up with demand. (How could it, if recreational grow operations, which take months to produce product, are approved at the same time as stores?) A portion of stores’ medical supplies have been allowed for recreational sales, but across the state, customers have lamented sky-high weed prices. The impacts — which advocates and some lawmakers warned about months ago — are especially hard on medical marijuana patients who rely on cannabis for treatment. Despite the hiccups, the state reported nearly $18 million in sales through December and January, capturing just under $3 million in tax revenue. (For what it’s worth, Illinois’ sales reached nearly $40 million during its first month of recreational cannabis.) The state’s handling of the medical and recreational markets have had a mixed impact on the jobs market, according to a recent report by Leaf ly. Prior to the new regulatory system, the group estimated Michigan had roughly 15,000 jobs across

the state. In 2019, the report estimates Michigan lost about 7,000 of those jobs. It’s a “huge loss,” researchers have said, but expect a rebound within the next few years as more communities allow businesses. That’s not the only noteworthy employment aspect of Michigan’s cannabis market: Earlier this year, the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency proposed rules that would require “labor peace agreements” with companies and employees. These don’t force unionization among workers, but typically mean employers won’t impede workers’ efforts to unionize if they choose. The proposed rules have made strange bedfellows between Republicans and cannabis activists who were once at odds over legalization in the f irst place, as Bridge Magazine notes. The MR A held a public hearing in Lansing this past month, with critics calling it a “cockamamie scheme” and an “extraordinary precedent” that could apply to other industries. Cannabis workers, though, feel they need more representation in the rapidly growing industry. As one budtender from Kalamazoo reportedly put it: “Currently, we as workers have no representation or power as the industry booms and some people make millions of dollars. I worked hard and played by the rules. Companies should do the same thing.” – Compiled by Andy Balaskovitz

Fluresh. COURTESY PHOTOS

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/// SOUN DS: TOURING Of Montreal. PHOTOS BY CHRISTINA SCHNEIDER

music for misfits Experimental pop group Of Montreal has a blast with new album

| by Michaela Stock

RULES CAN’T BE BROKEN WHEN THEY DON’T EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE.

A

t least, that’s how Kevin Barnes, frontman of the band Of Montreal, plays the game when it comes to being an artist. “I don’t even think about rules,” Barnes said. “I feel like it’s way more fulfilling to experiment and try on different genres and blend them together. You’re supposed to be adventurous with your art.” Known for their experimental pop and theatrical performances, Of Montreal is currently touring alongside their 16th studio album, “UR FUN” — yes, the quotes are part of it — released on January 17. The synth-heavy songs in “UR FUN” represent an upbeat phase in Barnes’ life. “My personal life is really stable, and healthy, and wonderful. The album was a great pleasure to make. My mental health definitely affects my work a lot. If I’m in a darker frame of mind, then it’ll have a pretty pronounced impact on what kind of music I make.” While the record boasts tunes made for a good time, the title “UR FUN” is suspiciously wrapped in quotes. Though one might think this foreshadows irony in joy, it was merely an aesthetic choice inspired by an ’80s movie poster Barnes saw. “There’s this really weird, not great remake of the Garth film Breathless, starring Richard Gere. We saw a poster for it, and for some reason something clicked inside our heads,” he said. “We were like, ‘Oh that would make a really cool album cover actually.’” For Of Montreal, aesthetics go beyond quotation marks and caps-lock: They play a major role in the band’s live performances. “What we do is a combination of theatrics, music and visuals,” Barnes said. “There are lots of costumes, makeup, props, psychedelic visuals, and all sorts of things that I think hopefully set it apart from your everyday concert you might go see at a club.” These costumes often include wigs, makeup and other elements of cross-dressing. Though the concept of gender identity has recently become a more mainstream conversation thanks to social media, Barnes has been pushing the status quo with his performances since Of Montreal began 24 years ago. “Gender constructs are just laziness. It’s just

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people not really challenging themselves, just accepting the reality that is presented before them,” he said. “If you just follow the narrative that’s created by CNN, Fox News and the major networks, you would have this perception of America as being very vanilla, very conservative and uptight. But then you realize, no this isn’t true. “The conservative reality is a delusion.” It’s a challenge to explore gender and sexuality no matter the context, but part of Barnes’ comingof-age story as a musician was also realizing that he didn’t need artistic affirmation from his parents or the Catholic church his mother raised him in. “I read this Frank Zappa book where he’s like, ‘The worst thing a musician can do is try to get respect and affirmation from their parents.’ You know, just don’t even expect it. Don’t even think that’s an option,” Barnes said. “If that happens, then great, that’s awesome. But if it doesn’t happen, then don’t worry about it.” This cavalier attitude has taken Barnes far. Since the ’90s, Of Montreal has been touring and releasing records that have encouraged their audience to be themselves. “When we go on tour and play shows, it makes me really happy when people say that a song or a record helped them through a difficult time in their life. That means a lot to me because I also lean on music to do that, so it feels really great to know that I’m contributing something positive to a person’s life,” Barnes said. Though Barnes doesn’t believe in rules when it comes to making music, if there were any, one could say that Of Montreal has broken them all. Between their immersive performances and unpredictable songs, they’ve made it clear they’re not your run-of-the-mill club band. “We’ve taken a lot of chances musically. The albums are pretty different from each other, but there’s a musical, conceptual and spiritual thread that connects them all together,” Barnes said. “I feel very proud of all the love, energy and effort that went into the project, how many people we’ve met through it, and all the experiences we’ve had traveling the world. “If it were to end tomorrow, I’d feel like it was a satisfying run.” ■


OF MONTRE AL w/ Lily and Horn Horse The Pyramid Scheme 68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids March 9, 7 p.m., $23 pyramidschemebar.com

Sunday Brunch Buffet 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

FEATURING BREAKFAST & LUNCH ENTRÉES

Including custom-made omelettes, oatmeal station, fresh fruit, salad, soup and a dessert bar. Some Gluten-free items are available as well.

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ONE FREE WITH THE PURCHASE OF 2 BEVERAGES

Coupon valid Sunday only 10 a.m. - close. Not valid with any other offers, promotions, or discounts. Not valid in combination with bonus certificates. Expires 3/29/20.

alpenroserestaurant.com 4 East 8th Street, Holland | (616) 393.2111

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/// SOUN DS: TOURING

Without shortcuts How Dermot Kennedy blazed his own trail | by Michaela Stock

Dermot Kennedy. COURTESY PHOTO

F

rom the snooze button to spilled coffee, nothing good comes from Monday mornings — unless you’re Dermot Kennedy. The Irish singer-song writer wrote “Outnumbered,” his f irst major hit, in a sleepy studio session after an early f light from Dublin to London. “I got a f light at like 5:30 in the morning and went straight to the studio from Heathrow. So often, my Monday in the studio on those trips can be a total writeoff because whatever I do, my brain just isn’t working,” Kennedy said. “On this day, it was a really lovely thing. I was so tired that I had my walls down a little bit, and I just was a bit more open in the studio. That song sort of showed itself.” “Outnumbered” was released last year on Kennedy’s debut album, Without Fear, and it went on to garner millions of Spotif y streams and linger on top charts for weeks. It pushed Kennedy from street-busker to star. “Around the time the album was coming out, I had this big billboard up in Times Square. I was thinking, ‘This is def initely crazy. This is a big, big moment,’” Kennedy said. Kennedy’s music fuses pronounced hip-hop production with the tenderness of a singer-song writer. Known for his haunting voice, Kennedy began singing 20 years ago while his sister practiced piano. Later inspired by his cousin, he got his f irst guitar and began busking as a teen. Today, well, you know how the story ends — or in Kennedy’s case, is just beginning. “It’s hard to process that and realize a few years ago I was playing in the street and I couldn’t dream of this,” Kennedy said.

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Without Fear cycles through lyrics of love, loss and hope. The LP’s stormy sound didn’t come out of nowhere, though: It has a story to match. “Someone very dear to me passed away, and in the midst of that, I also fell in love. There was this beautiful and slight collision of the two most intense feelings I had ever had addressed. It gave birth to so many songs, and I kind of couldn’t stop writing about it,” Kennedy said. “I think the loss set me up in a very good way to know how to love somebody.” W hile this disorder of emotions eventually found rest in his writing, Kennedy puts the most pressure on himself when it comes to lyrics. “Since day one, I’ve just known when I care enough about lyrics to live in the song. I think I’m very, very picky, (because) I’m going to have to tour whatever I’m writing for a long time, and I have to feel it every night.” Kennedy doesn’t collaborate lyrically, so he goes by his gut while choosing what stays and goes. “W hen a lyric gets you like that, and you know you care about it, and you could sing it for the rest of your life, I think it just has to exist.” This authenticity is tied with Kennedy’s appreciative lens on life and are core motivators of his career. “In the least cheesy way possible, I feel like that’s just the way I am,” he said. “I spent so long not being successful. I used to send about 50 emails a day to record labels and agents and promoters and all that, and no one would ever reply. So now that I am doing it for real, I just appreciate it so much, and I think I’m very determined to not let it get away from me.”

Part of staying authentic and appreciative also means avoiding shortcuts, even if they could shoot Kennedy even faster to stardom. “You’ve got to stick to your guns these days. There are so many potential shortcuts in the industry, and I think I have probably written about 20 songs that could’ve been hits and could have made it so that everybody has heard my song on the radio in America. But, I just haven’t gone there because I feel it’s just a short road.” Cutting corners is as dangerous as the snooze button on Monday mornings. Kennedy sometimes even misses the eager frustration that came with trying to make it big while busking, as point for him isn’t a short walk to a life of fame — it’s the walk itself. “I’d love for one day to be able to go back and just play in the streets,” Kennedy said. “I was so frustrated and impatient. I wanted to do big things, like, yesterday. Now that I’ve got it, I kind of wish I could go back and just feel what it was like to be trying. “I guess you never know when the world is going to pay attention.” ■

DERMOT K ENNEDY W/ SYML 20 Monroe Live 11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids March 13, $32, 7 p.m. 20monroelive.com


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5TH ANNUAL 5TH ANNUAL 5 NNUAL 5TH ANNUAL 5TH AN 2020 5TH ANNUAL


5TH ANNUAL 5TH ANNUAL 5 NNUAL 5TH ANNUAL 5TH AN I T ’ S B A C K ! M A R K YO U R C A L E N D A RS :

VOTING KICKS OFF MARCH 25! There are 100 categories that fall under:

DINING | NIGHTLIFE | ACTIVITIES SERVICES & PEOPLE SHOPPING | DRINKING | MUSIC WHO WILL BE THE BEST OF THE WEST?

Top 3 finalists in each category will be announced in May!

W I N N E RS W I L L B E A N N O U N C E D AT O U R

LIVE EVENT IN JULY

SAV E TH E DATE: JULY 28, 2020 | 4:00 -6:00PM | 20 M ONRO E LIV E


/// STYLE

winning with accessories | by Missy Black

THERE’S POWER IN SMALL PIECES. SHOP LOCAL FOR A FEW PICK-ME-UPS TO HOLD YOU OVER, UNTIL SPRING REALLY ARRIVES.

HAIR FLIP APPROVED Perky jeweled hair ties in a variety of colors, fabrics and stones are an ideal way to jumpstart your mood. Each hair tie is embellished with pearls and sparkly stones — the shades are perfect for transitioning to spring. Bonus: These hair ties double as bracelets, so it’s essentially a two-in-one. Available at Lennon & Willow, $4.

T

he harsh reality is that warm spring weather won’t be coming anytime soon. If you’re sick of wearing sweaters and your tired old winter gear, but simply can’t move forward and spend money on next season’s new arrivals, accessories can be an easy f ix. This sweet spot allows you to refresh your wardrobe without making a huge commitment. Here are a few fun pieces to add a little energ y to your looks.

BRACELETS FOR CHANGE… Whether dazzling with diamonds, a simple leather band, or beads of color, a bracelet adorns the wrist and brings visual interest to your outfit. Why not make it mean something too? Stay Seymour was created when the owner’s friend attempted suicide. During that friend’s recovery, founder Tiffany Baker made bracelets as reminders of her love and support, something her friend could wear every day. That positivity turned into a business that donates a portion of its profits to local mental health programs and is dedicated to encouraging discussions about mental health. Stay Seymour is also dedicated to offering environmentally friendly products. Each set of bracelets is handmade from second-hand, repurposed beads. These simple bracelets keep plastics out of the ocean, keep people talking about how they’re doing, and keep you looking great.

EVERYDAY ELEGANCE This trendy handbag features a circular shape with gold-studded details and front tassels. This vegan leather bag features interior pockets and may be worn on the body via the strap or carried as a clutch. This simple pop of spring color is an easy way to brighten your mood — right when we need it on the last long haul out of the cold.

All the bracelet sets are $34 each.

Available at Lennon & Willow, $54.

Visit stayseymour.com to peek at the goods or purchase them at Copper Corners Art Gallery in Caledonia .

Lennon & Willow is located at 953 Cherry Street SE in Grand Rapids. ■

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Stay Seymour, Lennon & Wilow. COURTESY PHOTOS


MARCH 2020 REVUEWM.COM/ARTS

FREE

WEST MICHIGAN'S CULTURAL ARTS GUIDE

on page 16A WEST MICHIGAN SYMPHONY SHOWCASES CELLO WHIZ AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMPOSERS

SENSATIONS

Spotlight

IN THE

PAGE

4A

PAGE MOVING MOUNTAINS SCA brings adventure to West Michigan

10A

PAGE JUSTICE FOR ALL 'Scalia/Ginsburg' crosses the aisle

14A

BIRTHDAY BOY

REVUEWM.COM/ARTS MARCH Beethoven| turns 2502020 |

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2A

| REVUEWM.COM/ARTS | MARCH 2020


[visual arts] President /Publisher Kasie Smith EDITORIAL Editorial Director  Amy L Charles Managing Editor  Josh Veal DESIGN Art Director Courtney Van Hagen CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Dana Casadei John Kissane Marla R. Miller Megan Sarnacki Amy McNeel Abi Safago

FIND US ONLINE: revuewm.com/arts twitter.com/revuewm facebook.com/revuewm instagram.com/revuewm

For advertising, subscription and distribution inquiries, e-mail: sales@revuewm.com Revue is published monthly by: Serendipity Media LLC 535 Cascade West Parkway SE Grand Rapids, MI 49546 (616) 458-8371 ©2020 Serendipity Media LLC. All rights reserved.

ON THE COVER:

SUJARI BRITT Sensations in the Spotlight

SEE PAGE 16A

BUTTERFLY BIRTHDAY Meijer Gardens’ winged exhibit celebrates a milestone COURTESY PHOTO

BY ABI SAFAGO If you’re looking to be transported to another world — specifically a warmer, greener world — head to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Meijer Gardens celebrates its 25th annual Butterflies Are Blooming exhibit this year — featuring more than 7,000 butterflies. Among these many butterflies, you can find 60-70 different species, so if you’re determined or an insect lover, you can put your skills to the test to see if you can spot them all. Hitting 25 years makes this a special year for the exhibit, which means a lot to Meijer Gardens, as well as the West Michigan community. It’s not just about the potential learning experience — it’s also about tradition. “People come back for so many reasons. I think it’s a one-of-a-kind experience that people turn into their own tradition,” said horticulturist Laurel Gaut, who works with the butterflies and the gardens in the greenhouse. “There’ve been people who have come back for their second time, but also people who have come back for over 10 years.” For many, the butterflies have been a wonderful experience for learning. For kids, they can spot the caterpillars and chrysalis easily and learn. For those of us who are grown up, we get to see species we’ve never seen. Additionally, the West Michigan community has made sure it’s a topic in and out of schools. Year after year, many schools bring their students to Meijer Gardens to visit this exhibit to talk about what they learn in class on a larger scale. Outside of the classroom, it has been fairly common to see families and friends come together to see the butterflies — making traditions of their own.

This year’s exhibit is also all about history: specifically, the Wardian Case. The Wardian Case, a precursor to the modern terrarium, is used to transport insects and plants. It’s meant to provide adequate sunlight and the ability to keep life inside alive. Meijer Gardens has a large Wardian case in its Victorian Gardens, and the butterfly exhibit itself is in a sort of Wardian case: the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. One of the most interesting things about this exhibit is how light affects the butterflies. If you’re looking for a day where the butterflies are being active, the sunny days are best. Thanks to the style of the room, the light that comes in through the glass causes the butterflies to interact more. If you’re looking for a better photo-op day, the sun might not be best. “Usually on cloudy days or darker days, the butterflies fly lower. They’ll follow patches of sun as they move around the room from the windows, so sometimes you can just follow them,” Gaut said. The exhibition naturally encourages exploration and curiosity, especially since its subject is so stunning. We’ve gotten used to our Michigan butterflies, which are beautiful, but you’ll see far more than that here.

“The ones coming in are really vibrant,” Gaut said. “The colors will pop, and they won’t blend as easily as our native butterflies would in here.” On top of all the wonderful things you’ll see — like the colorful butterflies or their decorated chrysalises — Gaut thinks there’s one thing to keep in mind about it all: It’s an experience, so you should actually be in it. “I know people love photo ops, and it’s really fun. We all do it. But make sure to put down the phone for a bit while you’re in here, really take in the beauty of it all,” she said. “You’d be surprised what you miss if you’re watching through the camera instead.” ■

Meijer Gardens Butterflies. PHOTO COURTESY OF TARA FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY

FRED & DOROTHY FICHTER BUTTERFLIES ARE BLOOMING Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park 1000 E. Beltline Ave., Grand Rapids March 1-April 30 meijergardens.org

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[visual arts] Saugatuck welcomes reality with a film festival and installation in March

GETTING REEL BY JOHN KISSANE Each year, the Real to Reel Film Festival brings crowds of people to Saugatuck, where they take in art, participate in activities, and rhapsodize about, frown at, and argue over movies. In an era when you can watch a movie while taking a bath, there’s value in getting out among like-minded folks; if nothing else, there’s no danger of dropping your phone into the tub. The festival will be home to more than 65 films, largely part of Mountainfilm on Tour, a series of films focusing on outdoor adventure. Many of the films are inspirational, or educational, or both; all of them are short, many just a few minutes long. Subjects range from women who climb mountains to D et ro i t re s i d e nt s w h o ke e p b e e s . Spectacular visuals are a given. The festival officially launches on March 21 with “Films For Families,” which offers 90 minutes of films curated for all ages. Animals from John Ball Zoo will be

part of the fun, and attendees will be encouraged to try their hands at projects and climb Mt. Baldhead. For the week after that, thousands of students will visit the theater for a week of films. On March 27, Megan Altieri’s Sonder will go on display to the public. Not a film, but an art installation, Sonder debuted at ArtPrize in 2018. It was a collection of clothing onto which Altieri had handstamped snippets of conversation she had heard in passing, everything from “he has epilepsy, so that’s not easy” to “I’m pretty liberal, just give me salmon.” Encountered outside after passing through rooms of other (often less satisfying) entries, Sonder was as refreshing as a cool glass of lemonade. It was surprising, witty, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes heartbreaking. The installation launching at the Real to Reel Film Festival will feature more than twice as many pieces as before. Altieri has taken the best of her prior work and added more to it. From 6:30-7:30 p.m. on March 28, she’ll demonstrate the printing process, talk about the exhibition, and autograph copies of Sonder: The Art of Empathy Through Eavesdropping, her newly released coffee table book. Attendees will be able to try on the clothing. This worries her less than it does me. “I guess it’s possible that clothing could be damaged,” she told me, “But whatever! It’s all in the spirit of connection. I want people to step into these stories, to feel them as intimately as possible.

“Several pieces were actually stolen during ArtPrize, but honestly that didn’t bother me that much. They obviously felt a connection to the piece. All that to say, connection is more important than preservation.” Altieri found that working on the project changed her. “I find myself tuning in to my environment more than I ever have, and realizing just how much private information people are willing to share in a public space. It’s made me much less judgmental. Not even necessarily because I’ve reached new heights of compassion, just because it’s becoming more natural for me to consider hypotheticals or reasons for someone.” Her piece is born out of curiosity, empathy and a willingness to engage without preconceptions; it isn’t film, but in every way that counts, it’s a spiritual sister to the films that will be onscreen. And it’s an important one, especially now, when the opportunity to cut ourselves off from the world around is greater than ever. “The festival is a platform for building community,” said Whitney Valentine, education and exhibitions manager for Saugatuck Center for the Arts. “That’s really the goal: How can we be a bridge and conduit for community?” Planning for the event began

Real to Reel Film Festival. COURTESY PHOTO

more than a year ago, prior even to last year’s festival. Many man hours and much coordination went into setting it up. The goal was to create an experience: From the moment visitors enter the center, Valentine wants them to see good art, smell delicious food, and know that they’re somewhere special. “Everyone loves film,” Valentine said. “It’s for everyone. And the films we’re lucky enough to screen this year are terrific. Super high-quality, high-caliber, curated for themes and topics that our community cares about: outdoor adventure, equity, indomitable spirit. (They’re) thoughtful, amazing films that tell stories.” One such story is told in By Hand, the feature film of the festival, screening on March 27. The film captures the journey of two twin brothers who decided, why not, to ride paddleboards from Alaska to Mexico. Mexico is not a quick plane from Alaska. It’s really not a quick paddleboard ride. Still, they set themselves a challenge and they accomplished it. For what they took from the journey, you’ll have to see the film. The film, of course, is a celebration. So is the festival. The next day, March 28, hosts the big day of short films, with three venues showing 65 films from Mountainfilm on Tour, all exploring equity, the environment, adventure, and curiosity. Referring to her own work, Altieri said, “It’s about empathy, but it’s really just about curiosity. Being curious about each other makes room for empathy. We can’t feel for each other if we don’t want to know each other.” ■

REAL TO REEL FILM FESTIVAL: March 21, 27-28 SONDER: March 27-May 24 Saugatuck Center for the Arts | 400 Culver St., Saugatuck | sc4a.org

Sonder. PHOTO BY SCOTT MEIVOGEL

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Meijer Gardens Butterflies. PHOTO COURTESY OF TARA FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY

[visual arts]

PREVIEW

It’s March in Michigan, so it’s probably still snowing outside or just plain cold. Know what you should do to avoid that? Head to one of the many art galleries in the area and check out what’s hanging on their walls. This month, there aren’t too many new openings, but there are two annual exhibitions that feature elementary, middle and high school students’ artwork. Do it for the kids. BY DANA CASADEI

BROAD ART MUSEUM 547 E. Circle Dr., East Lansing broadmuseum.msu.edu, (517) 884-4800

FREDERIK MEIJER GARDENS & SCULPTURE PARK

KATRÍN SIGURÐARDÓTTIR Through March 1

1000 East Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids meijergardens.org, (888) 957-1580

NEVER SPOKEN AGAIN: ROGUE STORIES OF SCIENCE AND COLLECTIONS Through Aug. 23

REBECCA LOUISE LAW: THE WOMB Through March 1

JOHN LUCAS AND CLAUDIA RANKINE: SITUATIONS Through May 31

FRED & DOROTHY FICHTER BUTTERFLIES ARE BLOOMING March 1-April 30

VISUAL CITIZENSHIP Through July 19

CALVIN UNIVERSITY CENTER ART GALLERY

GRAND RAPIDS ART MUSEUM 101 Monroe Center, Grand Rapids artmuseumgr.org, (616) 831-1000

1795 Knollcrest Circle SE, Grand Rapids calvin.edu/centerartgallery/studio, (616) 526-6271

A NEW STATE OF MATTER: CONTEMPORARY GLASS Through April 26

SELECTIONS FROM THE DONNA SPAAN COLLECTION Through July 31

LOOKING (AT•INTO•THROUGH) GLASS Through April 26

THE UNDEFEATED: A TRAVELING EXHIBITION Through April 24 A series of original paintings by Kadir Nel son is on displ ay as par t of this traveling exhibition. The exhibition is opening its three-year national tour at the university and is in conjunction with the Festival of Faith & Writing. The exhibition’s name is inspired by Newbery Award-winning author Kwame Alexander’s children’s picture book of the same name. Nelson, a world-renowned artist and author in his own right, did the original illustrations for the book, and those images are brought to life in The Undefeated.

DESIGN HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PERMANENT COLLECTION Through Aug. 2

CHERITH LUNDIN EXHIBITION March 2-April 25 VERSAILLES: CONTEXTUAL EXPLORATIONS WITH PROFESSOR CRAIG HANSON March 2-April 25

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BEAUTY, DRAMA, AND NATURE: UKIYO-E PRINTS FROM GRAM’S COLLECTION Through April 26 First created in Tokyo during the Edo period (1603–1868), ukiyo-e prints — which literally mean pictures of the floating or fleeting world — are at the forefront of this exhibition. Three genres of the method will be on display, female beauties (bijin-ga), kabuki actors (yakusha-e), and landscapes. A fourth section will be dedicated to how the art genre influenced European and American art from the 19th century up to the present. The woodblock prints were well-known for frequently depicting the courtesans and famous Kabuki — the classical Japanese dance-drama — actors of the urban pleasure districts.

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KALAMAZOO INSTITUTE OF ARTS

WEST MICHIGAN ARTIST SERIES Through May 10

314 South Park St., Kalamazoo kiarts.org, (269) 349-7775

EXCELLENCE IN FIBERS V Through March 15

NATURAL FORMS: CONTEMPORARY ART BY JAPANESE WOMEN Through March 22

THE ART OF MAKING: SCULPTURE AND FIBER FROM THE PERMANENT COLLECTION Through March 22

DAVID PARK: A RETROSPECTIVE Through March 15

20 FOR 20: CELEBRATING MICHIGAN ILLUSTRATORS Through April 19

KIRK NEWMAN ART SCHOOL FACULTY REVIEW Through March 8

EXPRESSIONS 2020: 38TH ANNUAL MUSKEGON COUNTY STUDENT ART EXHIBITION March 25-April 26 Here’s some more kick-butt student artwork. The annual event — now in its 38th year — features work from Muskegon County K-12 students. Expressions 2020 is a collaboration between the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District and the MMA. Each piece is selected by art specialists from each of the public, charter and private schools in the county.

YOUNG ARTISTS OF KALAMAZOO COUNTY March 21-April 11 One of the KIA’s most popular exhibits of the year is the annual Young Artists of Kalamazoo County. Each year, art teachers from private, public and char ter schools in the area show off the work of some of their best pupils and submit pieces to the KIA. The exhibition is filled with art created by students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

LAFONTSEE GALLERIES 833 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids 410 W. Center St., Douglas lafontsee.us

SOLID GROUND Through March 14

SAUGATUCK CENTER FOR THE ARTS 400 Culver St., Saugatuck sc4a.org, (269) 857-2399

HUMANÆ Through March 7 ALIEN NATION Through March 7 SONDER March 16-May 24

LOWELLARTS! 223 W. Main St., Lowell lowellartsmi.org, (616) 897-8545

WEST MICHIGAN ART COMPETITION Through April 8

MUSKEGON MUSEUM OF ART 296 W. Webster. Ave., Muskegon muskegonartmuseum.org, (231) 720-2570

IN A PURSUIT TO STAY WILD March 13-May 24

URBAN INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS 2 Fulton W., Grand Rapids uica.org, (616) 454-7000

TRANSLATING VALENCE Through May 3 A BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE Through June 14


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[theater]

Race. COURTESY PHOTO

COMPLEX CONVERSATIONS ‘Race’ asks the tough questions to build a stronger community BY MEGAN SARNACKI In the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre’s latest production, David Mamet’s Race running through March 14, Director Stephen Carver opens the dialogue for audience members to take a look at their own assumptions about race and create a more accepting environment where the community can learn from one another. “Race in our society is seen by some as taboo, offensive or not appropriate, so we stay away from discussions on race. But it’s not just black and white,” Carver said. “What Mamet is doing is exploring why that is and why we can’t just have a dialogue so we can understand each other. That’s why we open a dialogue, so we can get a better understanding of the person opposite us and what their life is like, instead of making assumptions.” Tackling provocative issues of sex, accusations and race, this play aims to challenge not only the community of West Michigan, but also the cast and crew. “The most rewarding thing right now is to talk with the cast and have an open dialogue about the issues that race brings up for the characters that they’re playing,” Carver said. As a white man, Carver came into the rehearsal process with full knowledge that he would never be able to understand the characters of a different race. “I cannot imagine I would know anything about what Henry or Susan — who are

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African-American — are going through, but I can work with the actors who are playing them and together we can figure out the best approach.” Performed at the Parish Theatre in Kalamazoo, Race features actors Dustin Morton D.C., Ron Ware, Emirrora Austin and Scott Horn. The play centers on two lawyers who must defend a wealthy white executive charged with raping a black woman. When a new legal assistant gets involved with the case, numerous twists and turns will lead the story in a new direction. Though the play is classified as a drama, Carver notes this play also has moments of thriller and black comedy. “The humor in Race is pretty prevalent,” he said. “It’s meant to be a funny play, so we can disarm the topic a little bit and use the humor to leverage the seriousness of the subject. It’s one way of bringing an important subject in society to light and starting a community conversation.” Because this play wants to inspire viewers to change their thought paradigms, Carver hints that the play does not give audience members a clear conclusion. “No one’s right and no one’s wrong; it’s meant to spur conversation. Good theater entertains you. Great theater makes you think.” With complex issues and strong language used throughout the play, the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre recommends only mature audiences, ages 16 and up, see this play. While it may not be a

family-friendly experience, it is a highly engaging story for anyone interested in social justice or the conversation of race. “The play doesn’t just talk about one race,” Carver said. “It talks about everything — the Jewish community, the immigrant community, the white community and the black community. It tries to be all-encompassing.” By putting the topic of race on the table, Carver hopes audiences leave the theater with a conversation starter to share with others, and with a greater appreciation of one another. “When we can actually get to know each other, we can have a conversation that is meaningful, which can lead to a strong community,” Carver said. “By taking a subject that is as pivotal and volatile as race, having an open conversation about it, and leaving the emotional issues out for a second, we can actually walk in the shoes of our fellow community members — and my hope is that it brings us closer together.” ■

RACE Kalamazoo Civic Theatre 426 S. Park St., Kalamazoo Feb. 28-March 14 kazoocivic.com


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[theater]

OPERATIC HONORS

‘Scalia/Ginsburg’ sings the comedic story of an unlikely friendship

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BY JOHN KISSANE It’s not, perhaps, the most obvious sell: The story of a friendship between two Supreme Court titans, one conservative and one liberal, done as a comic opera. Then again, Hamilton sounded nuts, too. Scalia/G insburg tell s the stor y of — you guessed it — the late Antonin Scalia, hero to the right and bugbear of the left, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who continues to fill the opposite roles. They agreed on more or less nothing, but bonded over mutual respect for the warp and woof of the other’s character, and over a shared love of opera. Librettist-composer Derrick Wang wrote the opera. Being interested in music and legal theor y and histor y, he took the hard way out, enrolling in both graduate school for music and law school. His twin passions aligned, resulting in this work. Emilee Syrewicze, executive director of Opera Grand Rapids, is pleased to be helping premiere the opera; Grand Rapids will be among the first cities to stage it. “A lot of people make the assumption that all the great operas have already been written, but the reality is that we have a number of creators who are redirecting their attention toward opera. I mean, there’s an opera based on The Handmaid’s Tale,” Syrewicze said. “We like the apolitical nature of this. It’s nice to be able to have a subject matter that can draw from American politics but still maintain its status as an apolitical work. It’s kind of brilliant. It allows us to borrow from the political world without being contentious.” “ Thi s i s th e tim e to do it ,” adde d Jenifer Zetl an, who pl ays G insburg. “ We do live in a really divisive time. And this is a show about f inding commonalities.” The opera has proven to be accessible to audience members. The music draws from classical works so wellknown that anyone familiar with Bugs Bunny has heard at least some of them; the operatic precedent is well-established. And you don’t need to be able to tell your writ of certiorari from your ad litem to follow along. It’s worth stressing: Scalia/Ginsburg is a comic opera. While it uses reality as a starting point, it departs from it whenever there’s a good laugh to be had. Many Supreme Cour t devotees know that Ginsburg works out; fewer, surely, expect to see her doing squats in court.

Zetlan’s role requires her to balance h u m o r a n d c a r i c atu re w i t h t h e re sponsibility of playing someone who matters to her personally. “I’m a mother of a young daughter, and (Ginsburg) has done so much for women.” She watched the documentary and studied videos, but Zetlan isn’t doing a straight impression: The show exaggerates the personalities of its lead characters; the bright, bubbly person onstage is not wholly removed from the real Ginsburg, but she does take on some aspects of the justice as meme: Notorious RBG. Zetl an previously pl ayed the role for Opera Delaware. At the time, the ending was different; Scalia was still alive. After his death, Wang rewrote the ending, weaving poignancy into a show that was often a high-spirited romp. “People tell me that they didn’t expect to be laughing until they were suddenly crying,” Zetlan said. Peter Drackley plays Scalia and, like the justice, has a large presence in every sense. Scalia brought his core convictions to his rulings, but he also brought a theatrical air and a love of l a n guag e; n o on e e l se wo uld have tossed out “pure applesauce” and “argle-bargle” with quite as much panache. Ginsburg once said that he could be so outrageous, it was all she could do not to burst out laughing during cases. In the end, this is a story about staying true to your beliefs while having not just cordiality for, but true friendship with, someone whose beliefs vary sharply differ from your own. Zetlan often disagrees with her husband, but has not (as of this writing) pushed him into traffic. “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, g e t a n o t h e r j o b , f o r P e t e ’ s s a k e ,” Scalia once said. Extend that to politics in general and you have a message that bears repeating in this election year, plus laughter and good music. Who could disagree with that? ■

SCALIA/GINSBURG Opera Grand Rapids 1320 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids March 14-15, $50 operagr.org


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[theater]

PREVIEW

Holy moly, there are a lot of plays and musicals coming to the area this month. We’ve got Pulitzer Prize-winners, new productions from promising playwrights, and a bunch of productions that will get your toes tapping. Go grab your planner and fill in those empty dates with the shows listed below. BY DANA CASADEI

ACTORS’ THEATRE, GRAND RAPIDS 160 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids actorstheatregrandrapids.org, (616) 234-3946

SECOND SPACE: LUNGS March 28-31, April 4-6 D unc an Macmill an’s stor y follows a couple, M and W, as they navigate their rel ationship in the midst of star ting to consider beginning a family. Macmill an’s drama t akes a look as they struggle and question family, change, hope, betrayal and the terrible pain that can only be caused by the people you truly love.

DOG STORY THEATRE NAPLES’ STORY WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD Through March 1, $15 TV PROGRAM IT’S LATE March 5-6, $15

CLOSED MIC COLLECTIVE: NEW WORKS BY DAVID BROWN AND FRIENDS March 21, $10

122 Lyon St. NW, Grand Rapids broadwaygrandrapids.com, (616) 235-6285

221 Farmers Alley, Kalamazoo farmersalleytheatre.com, (269) 343-2727

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY March 10-15, $40+ The songwriters behind Hairspray have brought the beloved Roald Dahl’s story to the stage in musical form, Oompa Loompas and all. For those who somehow don’t know the tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory focuses on Charlie Bucket, who has just won the golden ticket, as he and four other winners go on the adventure of a lifetime inside Willy Wonka’s infamous factory.

LOST IN YONKERS March 13-29, $29+ Farmers Alley Theatre celebrates the Broadway Master of Comedy, Neil Simon — who passed away in 2018 — with his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Lost in Yonkers. This Tony Award-winning and semi-autobiographical play focuses on two teenage brothers who go to live with a trio of characters: their intimidating German grandmother, their childlike aunt and their gangster uncle. BALLOONACY March 21-28, $15

OLD RINGERS March 6-14, $15 Sometimes you do what you gotta do to make some money when you have a shrinking pocketbook . In the case of Joe Simonelli’s comedy, a group of senior women do just that, albeit in a way that makes for great comedy. After these four women receive a highly unsolicited obscene phone call, they decide to take it upon themselves and open their own business: a home phone sex service. You do you, ladies.

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JUMPSTART 2020 March 6-8, $22+

GRAND RAPIDS CIVIC THEATRE 30 N. Division Ave., Grand Rapids grct.org, (616) 222-6650

MATILDA THE MUSICAL Through March 22, $22+

GRCC PLAYERS Spectrum Theater, 160 Fountain St NE, Grand Rapids grcc.edu/theater, (616) 234-3946

TIGERS BE STILL March 26-28

THE MEETING March 13, $14

BROADWAY GRAND RAPIDS

421 Columbus Ave., Grand Haven centralparkplayers.org, (616) 843-3906

341 Ellsworth Ave. SW, Grand Rapids grballet.com, (616) 454-4771

7 Jefferson Ave., Grand Rapids dogstorytheater.com, (616) 425-9234

FARMERS ALLEY THEATRE KALAMAZOO

CENTRAL PARK PLAYERS

GRAND RAPIDS BALLET COMPANY

FESTIVAL PLAYHOUSE, KALAMAZOO COLLEGE 1200 Academy St., Kalamazoo reason.kzoo.edu/theatre, (269) 337-7333

SILENT SKY Through March 1, $15

GILMORE THEATRE/ WMU THEATRE

GVSU THEATRE 290 Lake Superior Hall gvsu.edu/theatre, (616) 331-2300

THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD March 27-April 5, $16 When this show originally premiered in 1946, it was met with riots and boycotts, but now, almost 75 years later, it’s John Millington Synge’s most produced work. Set in early 20th century West Ireland, everything takes place in a local pub, where a mysterious man has stumbled in, claiming to have just killed his father on the farm he’s fleeing from. The locals seem intent on hearing more about the story, especially one who finds the stranger particularly attractive, as the lies between the truth and a good story are blurred.

MIDWEST RAD FEST Midwestradfest.org, (269) 342-4354

MIDWEST REGIONAL ALTERNATIVE DANCE FESTIVAL 2020 March 6-8, $20 Over the course of three days, the annual event will take place at multiple venues in the area. Featuring the work of more than 50 choreographers from all over the world, the Midwest RAD Fest will include live performances that are site-specific works, short works programs, and a youth performance over the weekend. There will also be master classes, a screendance film series, discussion panels, and networking events.

MILLER AUDITORIUM 2200 Auditorium Dr., Kalamazoo millerauditorium.com, (269) 387-2300

WAITRESS March 27-29, $38+ Waitress and expert pie maker Jenna dreams of making it out of her small town life, particularly away from her awful marriage. Seriously, this dude is the worst. As she hopes to find her way to a better life, a baking contest and the town’s new doctor fall into her lap, leading her to realize that ultimately, she’s going to have to decide for herself what makes her happy.

NEW VIC THEATRE 134 E. Vine St., Kalamazoo, thenewvictheatre.org, (269) 381-3328

THE BELLE OF AMHERST Through March 14, $26

OPERA GRAND RAPIDS 1320 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids operagr.org, (616) 451-2741

SCALIA/GINSBERG March 14-15, $50

JEWISH THEATRE GRAND RAPIDS 2727 Michigan NE, Grand Rapids jtgr.org, (616) 234-3595

THE ACCOMPLICES Through March 8, $28

KALAMAZOO CIVIC THEATRE 329 S. Park St., Kalamazoo kazoocivic.com, (269) 343-1313

QUEER THEATRE KALAMAZOO 315 W. Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo qtkalamazoo.com, (269) 929-6781

MAN AND MOON March 20-29, $15

WHARTON CENTER FOR PERFORMING ARTS

1903 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo wmich.edu/theatre, (269) 387-3227

RACE Through March 14, $27.50

750 E. Shaw Ln., East Lansing whartoncenter.com, (517) 353-1982

TRIBES March 13-22, $20

FROZEN JR. March 13-22, $12

MY FAIR LADY Feb. 26-March 1, $47+

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[music]

BEETHOVEN CELEBRATION – THE FIVE PIANO CONCERTOS March 27-28

Photo (L): Kirill Gerstein / Photos (C-R): Marcelo Lehninger. PHOTOS BY TERRY JOHNSTON FOR THE GRAND RAPIDS SYMPHONY

BEETHOVEN BIRTHDAY BASH GRS celebrates the legendary composer with five piano concertos

BY AMY McNEEL This year, Ludwig van Beethoven — one of the most highly renowned composers of all time — would have turned 250 years old, if only he had the gift of immortality. In his 56-year lifespan, Beethoven wrote five piano concertos, nine symphonies and 32 piano sonatas, all while changing the landscape of classical music. Although he made his imprint many decades ago, Beethoven’s music is as compelling and timeless as ever. “Beethoven, he was a genius, and in a way one of the most impor tant composers of the end of the Classical Period and beginning of the Romantic Period,” said Grand Rapids Symphony Music Director Marcelo Lehninger. “ Pe ople a ssociate B e ethoven directly with classical music, and the fact that it’s his 250th anniversary is something that is very, very important for the world of classical music. Everyone in every corner of the world is celebrating his legacy and his music.” The Grand Rapids Symphony is celebrating Beethoven through multiple performances this March, which hap-

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pened to be the month of Beethoven’s death in 1827. The first performance, Beethoven’s Pastoral, is being held March 6 and 7. This performance is centered around nature and will include Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. “It is about nature,” Lehninger said. “You hear the birds in the symphony, you hear water, so you hear all these nature elements of someone who is basically immersing himself in nature.” Along with this piece, the per formance will include Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” and selections from Villa-Lobos’ “The Amazon Forest.” Later in the month is when the 250th birthday party really begins. On March 27 and 28, Beethoven Celebration — The Five Piano Concer tos is unl ike anything the Grand Rapids Symphony has ever put on. In two nights, all five piano concertos will be performed. “A lot of orchestras, what they do usually is the so-called ‘Beethoven cycle,’ where they use the season to perform all the symphonies he wrote; all nine of them. We, here in Grand Rapids, we decided to stay away from

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that,” Lehninger said. In breaking this tradition by opting to perform the five piano concertos, Lehninger notes more variety is provided to the audience throughout the season. Additionally, Beethoven’s style is split into three different periods, and the f ive concer tos show his full arc throughout those periods. In a rare move, each night of this we e ke n d p e r forma n ce will fe ature d if fe re nt m u s i c . O n t h e f irs t n i g ht , Piano Concer tos Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are being performed. On the second night, they’re presenting his Coriolan Overture, along with Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 5. All the music will be played with pianist Kirill Gerstein, which is no easy feat. Lehninger said this kind of performance is extremely draining physically, emotionally and intellectually. Luckily, Gerstein is ready for the challenge. “To embrace a project like this, there are not a lot of pianists that do play all the five concertos and that would actually play all of them together in two nights. Not a lot of people have the courage to do that,” Lehninger said. “I performed with (Gerstein) before,

BEETHOVEN'S PASTORAL March 6-7

CLARA'S CIRCLE OF FRIENDS March 13

UP – THE MOVIE WITH ORCHESTRA March 20-22 Grand Rapids Symphony 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids grsymphony.org

so we know each other and work well together, and he is one of the leading pianists of the young generation today, performing with all the great orchestras and doing major recordings all over the world. So (he’s) a very important artist and we are all very thankful and honored to be receiving him to do this project with us.” Individually, each night will b e a special music experience. Together, the performances will be momentous. “Of course, it would be really interesting if people attend both night s, because I think that will bring a really unique experience in their lives for the weekend of one of the major, if not the major composer of classical music,” Lehninger said. “But if for any reason p e o p le c a n o n ly at te n d o n e n i g ht , they will have equally a great musical experience.” While Beethoven’s stor y is unde niably remarkable, one of the most interesting aspects of his life is how he committed himself to music even after becoming completely deaf. “You’re a musician, you’re a composer, and what (losing your hearing) does to you emotionally, it’s so powerful,”


Lehninger said. While this performance is a cele b r a t i o n o f B e e t h ove n’s l i fe , i t ’s ultimately a celebration of humanism and love. “For me, the most beautiful message that one can take from having a Beethoven experience is humanism,” Lehninger said. “A lot of people, even though they say, ‘Oh, he was a really

hard person, a really hard personality, he was mean.’ Yes, he was, but he knew that and he suffered with that. In his mind, in his dreams, we should all be brothers, we should all be together. It’s a message of love, basically. “I think that’s what you take from the experience of attending a Beethoven concert: In the end, he’s sending a message of love.” ■

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Q&A WITH SUJARI BRITT

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Fr o m a v e r y y o u n g a g e , c e l l i s t Sujari Britt was attracted to the resonant depth of the cello because “it reminds me of my own strong voice.” At 18 years old, Britt has “set infinity as my limit with classical cello,” and she intends to indulge her dream. Billed a child prodigy and rising star, Britt makes her West Michigan debut when she performs March 13 at Frauenthal Center. Her visit includes performances for local school groups and a solo recital March 14 at The Block. Her talents have taken Britt, a native of New York City, to Finland to pursue a m a s te r’s de gre e in ce llo p e r fo rmance at Sibelius Academy. We talked with Britt about her love for the cello and music as a whole.

William Grant Still, Sujari Britt. COURTESY PHOTOS

SENSATIONS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

West Michigan Symphony showcases cello whiz and African-American composers

BY MARLA R. MILLER It’s rare for West Michigan Symphony to feature mostly American music during a masterworks concert. It’s been even rarer for a symphony to highlight African-American composers. Not only will the 13 Masterworks III concert showcase acclaimed cellist Sujari Britt, it also pairs the blues-infused William Grant Still’s 1930 Symphony No. 1 “AfroAmerican” with Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto No. 1, and Florence Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes. Music Director Scott Speck said he has heard amazing things about Britt for years, and WMS has wanted to feature the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto. He is excited to work with Britt for the first time, and they will warm up a week before her West Michigan appearance when she performs with Speck’s Mobile Symphony Orchestra. Composers Still and Price were both from Arkansas and knew each other, leading Still to create the

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orchestration for Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes, which was originally a piano piece. Meanwhile, SaintSaens’ music is tuneful, virtuosic and delightful, so the concerto felt right to place between these two American masterworks, Speck said. Historically, the music of African-American composers such as Still and Price has been ignored by symphony orchestras. In 1933, Price was the first African-American woman to have her music performed by a major symphony orchestra. Chicago Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere of her prize-winning Symphony in E minor. “Some of her music was indeed hidden away,” Speck said. “For example, several of her scores laid undiscovered in a box in an old house until the new homeowner stumbled upon it.” Still’s AfroAmerican Symphony is considered “one of the great American symphonies of all time,” rich in gospel, blues and classical symphonic influences. At one time, the 1930 work was among the most

frequently performed symphonies in the repertoire. D esp ite b e ing dubb e d “ th e D ean” by his colleagues, Still faced racial discrimination on his rise to becoming a successful arranger and composer in Hollywood. “In the case of William Grant Still, it’s a more complicated story,” Speck said. “I’m sure that institutional racism played a big role in the neglect of his music.” It’s exciting now to have a talent like Britt in a show featuring these pieces. The young cellist was featured on national news stories by age 11, has been featured in both Strings and Time magazines, and won the National Young Musicians Concerto Competition. Speck describes her as a beautiful musician, an extremely deep thinker and a delightful personality. “I think our audiences will be spellbound by her musical spirit and glorious playing,” he said. “Sujari loves to do outreach, and I’m thrilled that we’ll have the opportunity to introduce her in several venues around the community.” ■


WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT PLAYING THE CELLO AS WELL AS PERFORMING? For me, music is both magical and powerful! Studying, practicing, composing and performing is an essential part of my being. As a student and performer of classical music, it is my joy to share and promote the art. My ardor is to inspire and to broaden interest and enjoyment in classical music across the globe through my dedication to cello.   YOU’VE BEEN DESCRIBED AS A CHILD PRODIGY. WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE YOU HAD A SPECIAL TALENT FOR CELLO? My p a re nt s i nt ro d u ce d cl a s s i c a l music since before I was born. When I think back to my earliest memories, I cannot remember ever not having music as a part of my day. My parents also deliberately incorporated the study of classical instruments and musical history and theory into our homeschooling program. I took piano lessons at age 2 and received instruction on classical guitar and violin. I insisted on the cello with repeated pleas to my parents; they relented and started my lessons at age 4. My relationship with classical cello — and with music more broadly — has deepened ever since!

CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT SAINT-SAËNS’ CELLO CONCERTO NO. 1? The Saint-Saëns concerto is complex, emotional and full of energy! The piece travels quickly through a wide range of emotion. The f irst note of Concerto No. 1 is almost the most important note because it sets the tone of the piece: Fier y and strong.  Concerto No. 1 starts out fuming and then s h i f t s to t h o u g h t f u l q u i e tu d e a n d melancholy. After a series of strong emotional discourse, the piece ends in se eming energize d relea se, and ultimate p e ace. Te chni c ally, it i s a challenging piece because it involves so many dif ferent kinds of bowings and really difficult fingerings. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO SAY ABOUT YOUR WORKSHOPS WITH LOCAL SCHOOL GROUPS? I am sincerely looking for ward to engaging with students on this tour! Taking music to schools and sustaining its presence there, is a worthy endeavor — now more than ever. Classical music should be a routine part of every child’s educational experience for the important contributions to academic enrichment, among other rewards. 

HOW DO YOU THINK THESE EXPERIENCES WILL HAVE AN INFLUENCE IN YOUR FUTURE? WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF THIS? I consider myself to be a missionary of classical music. I take pleasure in sharing myself through classical cello, and I appreciate every opportunity to engage enthusiasts and new listeners, alike. It is my mission to join in widening the scope of human dialogue through my prowess on cello. Music is alive for me, especially when I share it with willing ears. Personally, I am deeply committed to classical cello. In this realm, my very self soars! IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SAY TO GET AUDIENCES TO COME OUT?   Repeated demonstrations suggest that exposure to classical music is associated with healing, higher IQ scores, increased ability to learn, enhanced feelings of selfworth, and a sense of community and commitment. No less important, music can help to foster an appreciation of multiplicity and a regard for our shared traditions and experiences, all the while importantly enriching aptitude and character. Come out, sit deep, and take in the love that Saint Saens promises in Concerto No. 1!

MASTERWORKS III: INTRODUCING SUJARI BRITT West Michigan Symphony Frauenthal Theater 425 W. Western Ave., Muskegon March 13, 7:30 p.m., $25-$62 (students $12)

SUJARI BRITT SOLO RECITAL The Block 360 W. Western Ave., Muskegon March 14, 7:30 p.m., $25-$35 westmichigansymphony.org

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[music]

PREVIEW

There’s quite a bit happening in the music scene this month! We’ve got the most influential musical artists in Spain, some stellar drums, and the guy who wrote “Walking in Memphis.” We’re not sorry if that song is stuck in your head now, because it’s just that good. BY DANA CASADEI

GRAND RAPIDS SYMPHONY

BEETHOVEN CELEBRATION - THE FIVE PIANO CONCERTOS March 27-28, $18+

300 Ottawa NW Ste. 100, Grand Rapids grsymphony.org, (616) 454-9451 ext. 4

BEATRIX POTTER’S THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT March 28, $5

BEETHOVEN’S PASTORAL March 6-7, $18+ CLARA’S CIRCLE OF FRIENDS (COFFEE) March 13, $16 CLARA’S CIRCLE OF FRIENDS March 13, $26+ CHORAL CELEBRATION March 15, $20 UP - THE MOVIE WITH ORCHESTRA March 20-22, $18+

HOPE COLLEGE GREAT PERFORMANCE SERIES Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts 221 Columbia Ave., Holland hope.edu/arts/great-performance-series, (616) 395-7222

SPANISH BRASS March 27, $23 The most influential musical artists in Spain — they actually received this title

in 2017 — are coming to Hope College. S p a ni sh B ra s s wa s form e d in 19 8 9 , and the quintet has been performing all over the world ever since, bringing their highly regarded brass ensemble to so many audiences. The five members include Carlos Benetó, trumpet; Juanjo Serna, trumpet; Manolo Pérez, horn; Indalecio Bonet, trombone; and Sergio Finca, tuba. A few quick fun facts about the group: They won First Prize in the 1996 Narbonne (France) International Brass Quintet Competition, which is SUPER — can’t quite emphasis this enough — super prestigious, and they run two major brass festivals in Spain: the SBAL Z Festival and the Spanish BrasSurround.

HOLLAND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 96 W. 15th St., Suite 201, Holland hollandsymphony.org, (616) 796-6780

FAMILY CONCERT: BEHOLD THE BOLD UMBRELLAPHANT March 22, $22 T h i s f a m ily-fri e n dly eve nt wil l fe a ture Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant, complete with narrator, poems and art displays. This music selection turns 17 poems by Children’s Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky into a carnival of the animals, and the concert showcases the winner of the 2020 Norbert Mueller Concerto Competition.

KALAMAZOO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 359 Kalamazoo Mall Ste. 100, Kalamazoo kalamazoosymphony.com, (269) 349-7759

DAS LIED VON DER ERDE (THE SONG OF THE EARTH) March 7, $24+ Austrian composer G ust av Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” — which translates to “The Song of the Earth” — will be pl ayed in it s entiret y. The piece, composed of six songs, takes audiences on a trip to China during the Tang dyn a s t y a s M a hle r s et s ix d if fe re nt ancient Chinese poems in the style of the late romantic music of turn-of-thecentury Vienna. It was written after the most difficult time in the composer’s life. hence the themes of living, parting and salvation. They’ll also be performi n g H u n d re d H e a d s by D u Yu n a n d Max Bruch’s Violin Concer to No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26, considered one of the most popular violin concertos in the repertoire. Musicians featured at this performance include mezzo-soprano Susan Platts and tenor Charles Reid, as well as violinist Daniel Rafimayeri, 2019 Stulberg Competition Gold Medalist.

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ASCENSION BORGESS NOONTIME FREE COMMUNITY CONCERT SERIES March 16, Free BRONSON MUSIC IN THE ROUND March 18, Free

MILLER AUDITORIUM 2200 Auditorium Dr., Kalamazoo millerauditorium.com, (269) 387-2300

DRUM TAO 2020 March 1, $35+ As the title suggests, audiences are in for an evening of percussion from TAO, the internationally acclaimed percussion artists, in their latest production. The musicians combine highly physical, large-scale drumming with contemporary costumes, precise choreography, and innovative visuals. More than 8 million people have seen TAO shows, so you know it must be good

ST. CECILIA MUSIC CENTER 24 Ransom Ave. NE, Grand Rapids scmc-online.org, (616) 459-2224

LUCIANA SOUZA March 5, $40+ Grammy Award-winning jazz artist and poet Luciana Souza will be onstage at this March performance, also featuring Chico Pinheiro and Scott Colley. Considered one of jazz’s leading singers and interpreters, the Brazil native has released acclaimed recordings since 2002. She was a studio veteran by age 16, beginning her recording career at three years old, when she got a radio commercial before going on to record more than 200 jingles and soundtracks before leaving her teenage years. As if she didn’t have enough accomplishments already, she was al so awarded Best Female Jazz Singer by the Jazz Journalists Association in 2005 and 2013. MARC COHN March 19, $40+ Do you remember that super popular song from 1991, “Walking in Memphis”? This is the guy who sang it. And he got a Grammy Award for it. Singer-songwriter Marc Cohn has done much more than just that though; he’s released multiple albums and even performed with the likes of James Taylor, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Patty Griffin.

WEST MICHIGAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA 360 W. Western Ave. #200, Muskegon westmichigansymphony.org, (231) 726-3231

INTRODUCING SUJARI BRITT March 13, $25+


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Laughing with

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The Comedy Project is bringing people together with laughter and learning | by Josh Veal

(Left to right) Amy Gascon, Stevie Sahutske, Ben Witke, Joe Anderson, Kristin Hirsch, Eirann Betka-Pope. PHOTOS BY KATY BATDORFF

COMEDY IS SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST STAND-UP. IMPROV, SKETCH SHOWS AND THEATER PROVIDE A NEAR INFINITE WEALTH OF LAUGHS, AND DO SO WITH COLLABORATION AND COMMUNITY.

Grand Rapids has had improv groups and classes for some time, yet there was never a dedicated space just for groups of comedians to come together and put on consistent improv and sketch shows throughout the week. That is, until The Comedy Project was born. This time last year, the project and building sprung up on Leonard Street, just in time to squeeze in some LaughFest events. But being put together by a small, resourceful team, it took about a year to really build the space into what it is now: A very special comedy club providing a wide variety of laughs with professional production, community classes and moonshine. With the help of a 2016 Kickstarter, comedians Joe Anderson and Ben Wilke went on to launch The Comedy Project, which had its off icial grand opening on Jan. 31. Of course, the off icial story is that robot overlords conquered the Earth and only allow the club to exist because robots can’t do comedy, so you can decide which tale to believe. Anderson said that even though he and Wilke started the project, there’s a team of people equally important to its success now: Amy Gascon, training center director; Eirann Betka-Pope, theater manager; Stevie Sahutske, technical director; and Kristin Hirsch, special events manager. Every week, they have three to six shows that range from an always-changing comedy variety show called Comedy Outlet Mondays to a Whose Line Is It Anyway? style improv show called Battle Bots.

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...continued from page 27.

THE COMEDY PROJECT EVENTS 540 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids thecomedyproject.com

SETTING THE STAGE W hatever show you come to, you’ll notice right away that this isn’t just any random stage. The staff used their years of experience to create a very special space. “One of our biggest things was being able to bring some theatricality to a comedy show,� Anderson said. “There are cool lights and costumes and the things you’re not used to getting in town. Our goal is to put on a show.� With a theater degree from Western Michigan University and years of experience touring as an improv comedian, Anderson was able to create an intentional space that works great for performers and audience alike. His improv troupe was used to carrying around a 24-foot-wide light truss and their own sound system, which eventually gets a bit tiresome — The Comedy Project gives him and other comedians a place to get theatrical in a space designed for it. ““It isn’t just a room where comedy happens every other Friday. That’s what we do, all the time, and if you’re at an event here, there’s a reason it’s happening here,� Anderson said. W hen you step into this hidden gem essentially tucked behind Two Scotts BBQ, you notice that attention to detail immediately. The lobby is special, with robot art everywhere, a ticket booth taken from a transit station, and a bar stocked with moonshine. W hy? Because no one else has it! The venue itself is comfortable, yet hip, with high ceilings and a wide layout that means no matter where you’re sitting, you’re always close to the stage. It feels intimate, but in no way cramped, with a capacity of about 90 — perfect for comedy. Since opening, the crowd quickly shifted from friends and family of the cast to newcomers, regulars and out-of-towners, which is a sign they’re doing something right. “The goal is, we’re putting on shows that are so good and so fun that if someone’s in town, they feel like they gotta go see that show,� Anderson said. “That’s the mindset.� That success can likely be attributed to bringing something new to town, both in terms of comedy and community. While Anderson has nothing against stand-up, he’s certainly noticed that some people feel much more comfortable at an improv or sketch show. “I did stand-up for a long time too, and I feel that it can be adversarial by nature between the comedians and the audience,� he said. “The audience has their arms crossed and it’s like, ‘All right, be funny!’ Improv and sketch are communal by nature. There’s an ensemble onstage, so already it’s like, ‘Look at these friends doing something,’ and then you’re in the audience and it’s like, ‘Oh, they need something from me to do their show too?’ “That communal feeling, that every time someone comes here, it’s that same community, has really mattered to us and has been really motivating.�

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COMEDY OUTLET MONDAYS Every Monday, 7-9 p.m.

BATTLE BOTS IMPROV SHOW Fridays, 10 p.m.

LAUGHFEST: BEST OF THE BEST March 5, 8 p.m.

LAUGHFEST: TCP’S GREATEST BITS March 6-21, Fridays & Saturdays, 8 p.m.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN IMPROV March 7, 10 p.m.

LAUGHFEST: WEIRDOS March 12, 8 p.m.

JELLY BEAN STATION March 14, 10 p.m.

THE BEST OF THE BEST (OF THE BEST) March 26, 8 p.m.

FUNNY GIRLS PRESENTS: GRAND RAPIDS, THE MUSICAL March 27 & 28 The Comedy Project. PHOTOS BY KATY BATDORFF

BEING BETTER Building that community isn’t just about putting on a good show, however. Since launching, The Comedy Project’s Training Center has exploded in size and scope, largely under the direction of Gascon. She estimates around 140 people have completed a course and roughly 70 are enrolled this “term� across three big areas of study: Improv, Comedy Writing and Comedy Performance. They teach all kinds of people across generations, whether you’re a businessperson looking to improve your communication skills, an introvert looking to get out of your comfort zone, or someone who’s dabbled in improv but now really wants to dive in. “One of the things we keep coming back to is, ‘W hat if it was better?’� Anderson said. “W hat if you were better? That thing you like doing, what if you were better at it?�  Gascon and others at the club work to help people become better, and they love doing it. The Comedy Project even has scholarships to make the programs more accessible, bring more variety to the stage, and improve more lives. “It’s very satisf ying to see people discover something new about themselves.� The classes go beyond learning: Gascon and Anderson are seeing friendships bloom and new comedy troupes come together. They’re both beyond excited to see this happen, especially if the groups bring something new to the table. “I’m interested in having a bunch of improv teams and sketch comedy, because we’re going to do it the way we know it works for our brand, but that’s not saying we’re the only type of good comedy there is,� Gascon said. “If you have a little more abstract point of view or something that might not f it with us, make your own group and we have some nights where we can showcase some of that as well. “I want everybody to do whatever speaks to them.� If you keep your eyes on The Comedy Project, you’ll see the West Michigan comedy scene grow and bloom into something varied and special — even more than it already is. And if you want to be a part of it, you can come see a show and laugh with some of the funniest people around, or even sign up for a class and become a comedian yourself. Either way, it’s rewarding to you and The Comedy Project alike. “The thing I like about teaching is that I really get to see the very best parts of people,� Gascon said. “I get to see adults discovering new friendships, new things about themselves and new ways of thinking, and that’s a very unique environment, especially as an adult. They’re choosing to be there because they want to have fun and they’re curious.� ■


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Bob Fredericks. COURTESY PHOTO

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s comedy promoter for Shakespeare’s Lower Level in Kalamazoo, local comedian Bob Fredericks has helped bring in some seriously big names to the Southwest Michigan college town. Acts like Saturday Night Live alum Chris Kattan, MTV icon Tom Green, Michael Ian Black, Nick Thune, Doug Stanhope and many others have made the 200-seat venue one of the premiere locations for standup in the area — and a hub for Kalamazoo’s own local comedy scene.

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Fredericks himself got his start working his way up the underappreciated Kalamazoo comedy scene. First jumping onstage at a coworker’s going-away party, he did 25 minutes onstage in a barn — recorded on YouTube for posterity — of what he now describes as mostly what not to do as a comedian. Fredericks stayed away from the stage for a year before trying again at a friend’s open mic held at a local bowling alley. There, he met many other Kalamazoo comedians, including Michael Burd, Jamie Perrin, Jen Dama, Andrew Vanhouten and Eric Steward, who had started the Kalamazoo open mic

scene at Louie’s Trophy House. “Louie’s was where a majority of my early sets were performed,� Fredericks said. “Being the only spot in town and only having two shows a month meant it was hard to get stage time. It’s time that became even scarcer when word was getting out to other cities with comedians that wanted to hone their craft. This is where I met some of my oldest comedy friends, and to this day, it’s considered the heart of Kalamazoo comedy, with open mics every Tuesday.� In March 2012, after about six months of actively performing, Fredericks said he received a call from Steward, who already had been working with a number of venues in Kalamazoo to produce open mic comedy nights throughout the week. One of those venues was Shakespeare’s Lower Level. Previously a comedy club called The Laughing Post, Shakespeare’s had wanted to work comedy back into its variety of entertainment for the Lower Level, and Steward asked him to host the new open mic there. That one-off opportunity has since turned into eight years, with Fredericks set to celebrate the show’s eighth anniversary this month, on March 19. “I wasn’t sure what to expect having never hosted a comedy show before, which is honestly the hardest position on the show, let alone organizing a show,� Fredericks said. “I am glad that I had ultimately agreed, being a college kid with time on my hands, I had no reason to say no. I studied up how to host and through trial and error, the show and my MC abilities have evolved into what they are today.� Now 30, Fredericks’ career has grown right alongside the Kalamazoo scene. He’s hit the road, painstakingly learning how to recover from bombing onstage, and occasionally avoided bar fights. “I have a good amount of material about fast food, my weight and being a young single guy making poor life decisions, which I still enjoy telling,� Fredericks said. “I would say that my style of comedy now is coping with becoming an adult. I recently became a first-time father and lost my father to a sudden heart attack within a short time span. I am really in a transitional period of my life

and I do find that my act is changing.� Working on changing his life, Fredericks has put more emphasis on improving his health into his act, and has even started a Podcast called You’re Welcome, Future Self! about setting lifestyle goals. Currently, he’s 40 pounds into his first goal of losing 100 pounds. While he’s been losing, the Kalamazoo scene has continued to gain, with many shows coming and going at bars and breweries across the city. “In a given week, there are three to f ive chances to catch a show or get onstage in Kalamazoo, which is quite a bit,� he said. Currently, there are regular comedy shows all around the city, at places like Louie’s, Shakespeare’s, Harvey’s on the Mall, YBar and Presidential Brewing, as well as Liquid Note and M-89 Sports Bar in Otsego. “Sammi McCrorey is doing a ton for comedy in Kalamazoo,� Fredericks said. “She is the current host of comedy at Louie’s Trophy House and has been for the past two or three years. She is working hard to bring more stage time for local and regional performers at other venues such as Old Dog Tavern, as well as working with me on shows at Shakespeare’s. “At Shakespeare’s, we do four or five open mics a year, with our focus on reasonably priced professional shows. We normally do a regional feature on the first and third Thursday, but fill in major acts on any other day throughout the month.� More information about all shows can be found on the Kalamazoo Comedy Facebook page: facebook.com/kzoocomedy. “I feel one of the most important things to building and broadening a scene is being open and inviting to new talent,� said Fredericks. “The main challenge of having an underground comedy scene in our fantastic arts community is that it seems like no one was aware that it was going on. “Once a week, I hear someone say, ‘I never knew you guys did this.’ It makes me happy to know that we reached a new person, but also makes me wonder how we could spread the word even further.� ■

Bob Fredericks Raising up Kalamazoo’s not-so-underground comedy scene | by Eric Mitts


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hen area stand-up Pat Sievert f irst started out in comedy, most of his friends, family and coworkers were completely surprised. A lways quiet and reserved, Sievert brought a different energ y to the stand-up stage than most in-your-face comics or extroverted performers. “I had someone tell me early on, ‘When you step onstage, sometimes people don’t think you’re going to be funny, and then when you are, they’re at ease and they laugh,’” Sievert said. “So if that’s what people think when I step on that stage, how do I work that to my advantage? And how do I get away from that, because I don’t want to start as a deficit.” Despite not being a comedy natural, Sievert had always been a fan of stand-up, back to his days of watching Comedy Central after school, growing up in Mason. He first tried his hand at stand-up during a college talent show, where he won first place. But he didn’t begin his comedy career until he turned 30, just over eight years ago, and went to an open mic night at Connxtions Comedy Club in Lansing on February 15, 2012. That date is doubly signif icant now, as he just released his f irst comedy album last month, to the day, in celebration of his eighth anniversary as a comedian. Recorded at Mac’s Bar in Lansing last November, I Do What I Want Now finds Sievert compiling many of his best jokes over the years, and overcoming one unexpected obstacle to earning laughs — unseasonably early snow. “I made the announcement on Labor Day, because I wanted to give enough notice for people who wanted to be there to make plans, but I also didn’t want to talk about it for six months,” Sievert said about the build up to his live album show. “So as soon as I announced it, the pressure was on, and I got all my material organized. I listened to a lot of sets going back years to f ind the best version of a joke, or maybe f ind something that I hadn’t done in a long time, and try to get that all set up. “So I thought that was going along pretty well and then the day of, we had that huge blizzard for the f irst snow of the year. I took off work that day to just get ready and get in the right headspace for the show, and I just kept watching the snow fall.” He emerged from the blizzard triumphant, with friends and fans still coming from far and wide, alongside newcomers, who all joined in on the laughs. It’s not the only time he’s emerged victorious despite the odds. Last year, he won the 2019 Funniest Person in Grand Rapids competition held at Dr. Grins Comedy Club. “There’s a lot of funny people from Grand Rapids, so I hope there’s no hard feelings from any of them,” Sievert said about being named the funniest person in Grand Rapids, despite not exactly living there. Sievert took home top honors at the an-

| by Rich Tupica

pat sievert UNASSUMINGLY HILARIOUS | by Eric Mitts

nual competition last April, beating out more than 80 other participants. It was actually his sixth time competing, and he was shocked when he won. “I just tried to have a good set and see how I did,” he said. “(Winning has) made me want to go and perform in the city more, because I live in Lansing and I guess that’s the primary place I perform. I’ll travel wherever, but once I won that, I was like, ‘Well I can’t be the guy who just shows up every six months and does comedy there.’ So I’ve tried to step up my presence and try to support everybody over there however I can.” Sievert returned as a special guest of this year’s competition last month, and will do a weekend back at Dr. Grins in May. Crediting his love of podcasts for getting him back into comedy in his 30s — and his lifelong fandom for things like sci-fi and comic books as unexpected inspiration for his unique brand of comedy — Sievert said he’s working on new material now that his album has been released. He also hopes to one day use his history degree to create a comedic history podcast of his own. “I’m hoping that maybe the album will get heard in places that I haven’t been yet,” he said. “Maybe people will want to book me because they’ve heard it, or people will be able to go, ‘Hey, you might like this guy, he’s coming here in a couple weeks, check this album out,’ and build that reputation from there.” ■

Pat Sievert. COURTESY PHOTOS

Find Sievert’s work at instagram.com/patsievert.

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COMEDY CALENDAR R E V UE’ S R OUND -UP OF L AUGHS F OR T HE MON T HS A HE A D

As LaughFest reminds us all that laughter is, in fact, the best medicine, we’ve gone and put together a roundup of comedy events happening all around West Michigan during the months of March and April. Leap up on the stage for an open mic night, take a class at The Comedy Project, see an improv show or reserve tickets to your favorite stand-up comedian — there are near endless ways to tickle your funny bone in West Michigan.

OPEN MIC NIGHTS

KAVA KASA OPEN MIC

POP SCHOLARS

LAUGHFEST

If you have always wanted to pick up that microphone and show West Michigan what you have to offer, there are plenty of open mic nights to join. Check out one or make a whole week’s worth of entertainment and schedule all of them on your calendar.

kavakasagr.com

popscholars.com

laughfestgr.org

Held on the first Tuesday of the month at 8 p.m., Kava Kasa’s Open Mic Night is free to attend and open to any aspiring poets, comedians or musicians. Performers are encouraged to arrive at 7:30 p.m. for signs ups.

Returning for its 10th season, Gilda’s Laughfest takes place March 5 to 15 and features comedy showcases and family-friendly programming, such as Kids Rock Hip Hop Dance Party and the People and Pets Expo.

THE DRUNKEN RETORT

HUMP DAY HILARITY

Featuring Andy Allen, Dave Lyzenga, Mike Ryskamp and Matt Sterenberg, Pop Scholars is a Grand Rapids-based improvisational team performing since 2009 at Wealthy Theatre. In the near future, this four-man comedy troupe has a LaughFest performance on March 6 at 8 p.m., as well as a comedy show on March 27 at 8 p.m.

facebook.com/thedrunkenretort

facebook.com/humpdayhilarity

Every Monday night starting at 8:30 p.m., the Drunken Retort hosts an open mic night for all talents — whether you’re a poet, musician, singer or comedian. Held at Stella’s Lounge, this open mic and slam night also features a variety of performing artists from around the country.

Celebrate hump day by sharing your best jokes at Fulton Street Pub and Grill. Each comic gets at least eight minutes of stage time and receives two complimentary drinks for performing. Prospective comedians can sign up in advance or arrive early and put their name down to be entered in a drawing to go up.

rockfordlanes.com shermanbowlingcenter.com/back-alley-comedy-club If you love bowling and laughter, there is nothing quite like the Back Alley Comedy Club, located in Rockford and Muskegon. Just check out some of the impressive comedians on the lineup: KEVIN FARLEY March 19 at 8 p.m. – Rockford Lanes March 21 at 8 p.m. – Sherman Bowling Center

SHAKESPEARE’S PUB facebook.com/lowerlevelcomedy With comedy shows happening every first and third Thursday of the month at 9 p.m., Kalamazoo’s Shakespeare’s Pub offers a collective performance of open mic opportunities, local showcases and professional comedic acts.

DR. GRINS COMEDY CLUB TIP TOP TUESDAY COMEDY

thebob.com/drgrinscomedy

facebook.com/tiptoptuesdaycomedy

Every Thursday night at 8 p.m., Dr. Grins Comedy Club features an open mic night at the B.O.B. Aspiring acts are encouraged to sign up before the show.

Hosted by Kian Straub, this free night of local and regional stand-ups is held at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar and Grill. For ages 21 and older, Tuesday Comedy nights are performed every Tuesday at 9 p.m. with drink specials and no cover charge.

SUNDAY NIGHT FUNNIES

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RIVER CITY IMPROV rivercityimprov.com Performing since 1993, River City Improv produces shows each month at the Wealthy Theatre and Listening Room at Studio Park. With each show starting at 7:33 p.m., upcoming showtimes include March 7, 14, and 28, and April 18.

LOCAL FUNNIES Once you get a taste of open mic nights, check out all that local comedy has to offer in West Michigan — from improv shows to comedy classes.

On Facebook In its 11-year history, the Sunday Night Funnies hosts a live stand-up comedy show every Sunday night, starting at 8:30 p.m. Featuring more than 1,000 comics from around the Midwest, Sunday Night Funnies sets its stage at the Spectrum Entertainment Complex in Wyoming.

BACK ALLEY COMEDY CLUB

BRAD WILLIAMS April 9 at 6:30 p.m. – Rockford Lanes April 10 & 11 at 9:30 p.m. – Sherman Bowling Center

PAULY SHORE April 16 at 6:30 p.m. – Rockford Lanes April 17 & 18 at 9:30 p.m. – Sherman Bowling Center

FUNNY GIRLS wearefunnygirls.com Featuring some of West Michigan’s funniest comedians, Funny Girls performs regularly at The Comedy Project with game shows and variety shows. You should also check out Grand Rapids, the Musical!, a free show at Creston Brewery on March 7.

LAUGHFEST LEGENDS This year, LaughFest is bringing in an especially impressive lineup of stand-up comedians who’ve practically become household names. For more info and to get tickets for any of these shows, head to laughfestgr.org.

THE COMEDY PROJECT thecomedyproject.com With shows Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, The Comedy Project offers not only improv and sketch performances, but also classes for the community.

JIM GAFFIGAN Marking his third appearance for LaughFest, Jim Gaffigan will be at the Van Andel Arena to perform his act, The Pale Tourist, on March 5 at 8 p.m.


| by Megan Sarnacki

MIRANDA SINGS With special gue st C olleen Ballinger (t wist: they’re the same person), Miranda Sings joins the lineup at Fountain Street Church on March 6 at 7 p.m.

ADAM CAYTON-HOLLAND Performing at the Listening Room at Studio Park, Adam Cayton-Holland stops by to perform his Happy Place Tour on March 6 at 7 p.m.

JP SEARS Coming to the Pyramid Scheme, JP Sears adds to the lineup with showtimes on March 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

JUSTIN WILLMAN Magician and comedian Justin William from Netflix’s Magic for Humans joins LaughFest to perform at Fountain Street Church on March 7 at 7 p.m.

RUSSELL PETERS The first comedian to ever get a Netflix stand-up special, Russell Peters is hitting the stage at DeVos Performance Hall on March 8 at 7 p.m.

STAND-UP STARS It’s not just LaughFest: West Michigan venues bring in amazing comedy year-round. Here are some stand-up stars to prove us right.

GABRIEL “FLUFFY” IGLESIAS wingseventcenter.com On March 12 at 8 p.m., Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias stops by the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo for his Beyond the Fluffy World tour.

LARRY THE CABLE GUY firekeeperscasino.com Hosted by the FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Larry the Cable Guy presents his Remain Seated tour on March 13 at 9 p.m.

KATHLEEN MADIGAN 20monroelive.com Performing at 20 Monroe Live, Kathleen Madigan arrives in Grand Rapids to present her 8 O’Clock Happy Hour tour at 6 p.m. on March 21.

RALPH HARRIS Performing at the Gun Lake Casino, Ralph Harris makes a stop in Wayland on March 12 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., as well as Larkin’s The Other Place in Lowell on March 13 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

MARIA BAMFORD Returning to LaughFest, Maria Bamford steps on stage at Wealthy Theatre on March 13 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

CHRIS TUCKER soaringeaglecasino.com On March 21 at 8 p.m., Chris Tucker performs his latest set at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort.

MICHAEL CARBONARO civiccenterplace.com Held at the Holland Civic Center, Michael Carbonaro takes the stage on March 28 at 7 p.m.

RON WHITE 20monroelive.com

FORTUNE FEIMSTER Performing at Fountain Street Church, Fortune Feimster joins the lineup to perform her stand-up act on March 14 at 7 p.m.

20 Monroe Live hosts Ron White — a charter member of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour — on April 2 at 6:30 p.m.

SINBAD CHONDA PIERCE

20monroelive.com

On March 14 at 7 p.m., the “Queen of Clean” comedy marks her mark at the Fair Haven Church in Hudsonville.

On April 10 at 7 p.m., Sinbad returns to Grand Rapids to perform at 20 Monroe Live.

JEFF FOXWORTHY Benefiting Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, Jef f Foxworthy hosts LaughFest’s signature event at DeVos Place on March 14 at 8 p.m.

TREY KENNEDY 20monroelive.com Hosted by 20 Monroe Live, Trey Kenney performs his Are You for Real tour on April 20 at 6 p.m.

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/// SI G HTS: COMEDY

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy performs March 14 at LaughFest. This is his first performance at the annual festival. COURTESY PHOTO

The Jeff Foxworthy Interview The Blue Collar comic talks LaughFest, Johnny Carson and his early stand-up days | by Rich Tupica

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ack in 1993, Jeff Foxworthy started a cultural phenomenon with the release of his now-classic comedy album, You Might Be a Redneck If‌. From there, he gradually carved out his spot as our generation’s Blue Collar Mark Twain. Thanks to the Southern stand-up’s working-class stories, and his endless stream of lighthearted one-liners (i.e., “You might be a redneck if the stock market crashes and it doesn’t affect you one bitâ€?), the funnyman nabbed a series of Grammy Award nominations, television shows, radio programs and book deals. That trend continues today. The 61-year old Georgia native kindly chatted with Revue. Here’s what he had to say.

FOR THE FIRST TIME, YOU’RE PERFORMING AT LAUGHFEST. WITH SHOWS LIKE THIS, HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHAT MATERIAL YOU’RE GOING TO DO? It’s funny, because I’m in a bit of a weird spot because I’ve been doing this for a long, long time. I think I’ve done three Blue Collar movies, couple of HBO specials, couple of Showtime specials, 50 Tonight Shows, so I have things people want to hear. But as a comic, I’m still going out to clubs working on new stuff, so a little bit of the challenge for me is to find that balance. To find if I can do the new stuff, that I think people are going to like and I’m intrigued with, and still do a couple of the “Greatest Hits� songs.

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PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR “SATISFACTION� WHEN THEY SEE THE ROLLING STONES. You have to play “Satisfaction.� It’s almost by law that I have to throw in a few “You Might Be a Redneck� jokes. But there are some things, Lord, I did 30 years ago and people will come up and say, “Hey, will you tell the bit about the bit where you saw your grand-

mother naked?� And I’m like, “Uh, how did that one go? That was 30 hours of material ago.�

THANKS TO THE INTERNET, PEOPLE CAN FIND TONS OF OLD GIGS, I BET. You know, not long ago, I was going through YouTube, and one of the suggestions that came up was my first set on (The Tonight Show Starring) Johnny Carson. I had never seen it. I was like, “Wow. Oh, hell. That was pretty good.�

BACK THEN, A COMIC GETTING APPROVAL FROM JOHNNY CARSON WAS LIKE BECOMING A MADE MAN, HUH? It was like being a Made Man, because the word was: If Johnny didn’t like you, he would just clap. If he liked you, he’d give you that big “OK� sign. If he loved you, he’d call you over (to talk with him). So, when I got to the end of my six minutes, I’m scarred to look over because it’s like Caesar deciding: Do I live or do I die? I remember going out and hitting the star (on the stage), and then I remember hearing him laugh while I was doing it and think-


ing, “OK. This is a good sign.” When I got to the end, I look over and he’s waving me to the chair. It was like, “Holy cow!” Literally, the next week I had casinos in Vegas wanting me to headline, for no other reason other than Johnny liked me.

IN 1984, WASN’T IT YOUR COWORKERS AT YOUR IBM JOB WHO ENCOURAGED YOU TO PURSUE STAND-UP? Yeah, my IBM pals entered me into a contest. I’d never been to a comedy club. I was like, “Shoot. I’d better write something.” It wasn’t even an amateur night — it was a contest for working comics. I’m like, “Dadgummit, I should be starting at an amateur night.” But I said, “Let me go watch one week.” So, I went and watched. Went home and wrote five minutes and then I won the contest. I remember driving home and thinking, “Oh, my God. This is what I want to do. I found it.” I knew that night I was going to quit my job at IBM.

DID YOU HIT THE ROAD AND START PERFORMING AT CLUBS ACROSS THE COUNTRY AFTER THAT? Oh, yeah. I wore out three cars. Remember those old pocket calendars? Back then, I’d write down every date I was doing. A few years ago, I was cleaning out old desk drawers and I found the calendar. My first year on the road, I did 406 shows and I made $8,300. My parents thought I had lost my mind. But I was working and I had a passion for it. I was on stage every night, sometimes at two or three different places. I remember my wife giving me $30 a week to live off of. That was my food for the week: $30.

I HEARD BIG-CITY AGENTS USED TO SUGGEST YOU DROP YOUR SOUTHERN ACCENT. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO STAY TRUE TO YOUR ROOTS? It’s weird, Rich. I remember seeing a thing when I was about 10 years old. It was an interview with Richard Petty, the racecar driver. They were asking him, “What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in life?” He said, “Don’t outgrow your raisin’.” Meaning: Don’t forget where you came from. That just stuck to my soul. Even this year, judging on NBC’s Bring the Funny, with the other comics, I was like, “For this to work, you’ve got to be true to yourself.” I know who I am. I grew up with a dirt yard. Today, if I’m not working, I’m farming. I’m on my tractor. I’m bowhunting or something. If I try to lose this accent and be something else, it’s not going to work. I was like, “Hey, Seinfeld’s not losing his accent, Leno isn’t losing his — why do I have to lose mine?” Looking back, I’m just so glad I didn’t.

OBVIOUSLY, THERE WAS A MARKET FOR YOUR BRAND OF HUMOR. YOU’VE SOLD MORE COMEDY RECORDS THAN ANYONE. I mean, that’s proof you’ve tapped into an unrepresented market in comedy. People were thinking about New York and Los Angeles, but not all the places in between. That’s why the Blue Collar Comedy Tour was so successful. The people in L.A. were going, “Well, you’re not on the cutting edge.” I said, “Well, guess what, there are about 200 million people in this world just like me.”

HOW HAS YOUR COMEDY-WRITING PROCESS CHANGED FROM YOUR EARLY DAYS TO NOW? Gosh, that’s such a great question. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that. Yeah, obviously, I am not doing 500 shows a year now — now I do between 80 and 100 shows each year. But in those days, you’d have an idea, walk onstage and then throw it out there. I used to throw a four-line idea out there, and if two of the lines worked, I keep them and then add two more. I always imagined it like clay: You’re slowly building this bit.

RECENTLY, HOW HAVE YOU BEEN CRAFTING JOKES? Well, now I’m doing something I’ve never done. I’m writing a new hour all at one time. I used to do it in increments of 10 minutes or 15 minutes. Now, I just sat there with an hour. I had ideas for about two or three different things and I wrote everything I could think about, based on those things — then I would go try them. So, that’s like dumping a load of clay on the table and then cutting away the parts that didn’t work opposed to building it up slowly. They both get you to the same place, and even other comics are going, “Are you out of your mind?! Nobody does a new hour at a time!” But it worked out that way. I wanted to see if I could do it. I’ll probably do a new special out of it.

YOU’RE A SOMEWHAT CLEAN COMIC, BUT DO YOU EVER COME UP WITH DIRTIER JOKES YOU HAVE TO LEAVE ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR? No. I usually just call (fellow Blue Collar comedian) Ron White and give them to him. I’ll go, “Look, I can’t say this, but you can.” We do that quite a bit. Or, he’ll have an idea and go, “I have an idea but it’s way too clean for me.” I go, “I’ll take it.” ■

JEFF FOX WORTHY– GILDA’S L AUGHFEST DeVos Place - Steelcase Ballrooms 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids March 14, $75 / laughfestgr.org

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/// SI G HTS: COMEDY

Colleen Ballinger as Miranda Sings (left) and herself (right). COURTESY PHOTO

miranda sings: THRIVING DESPITE THE HATERS

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f you’ve only watched Miranda Sings videos on YouTube, you might not even recognize Colleen Ballinger — the real person behind the unusual character. This month, the weirdly genius phenomenon is headed to Grand Rapids for LaughFest. The variety show, billed as Miranda Sings with Special Guest Colleen Ballinger, goes far beyond her classic YouTube vids. “My live show is full of singing, dancing, magic and comedy for all ages,� Ballinger, 33, told Revue. “Performing is my favorite aspect of my job, because I get to show everyone a side of Miranda that you can’t f ind on YouTube.� The gist: Miranda Sings is a YouTube train wreck. She sports overdrawn red lips, delivers deranged advice and spiels about life and singing. She exudes a deluded self-conf idence and responds to negative comments on YouTube with her go-to comeback, “Haters back off !� That sick burn is what also inspired the name of Haters Back Of f !, her Netf lix series. However, to truly understand this online sensation, one must start at her YouTube channel. Miranda vlogs over-the-top dialogues and her massive fanbase loves every hot-mess second of it. Since Miranda’s in-

ception in 2008, she’s amassed more than 20 million social media followers and surpassed 2 billion views on YouTube. Ballinger said she created Miranda with the intentions of parodying young, self-absorbed YouTube singers with far more conf idence than talent. Miranda’s off icial “bio� on mirandasings.com (written in-character) explains a lot:

“it was a cold winters day on december 24 when I was borned. My mom always new I would be a singer because when I was cut out of her stomach i cried. I was homeschooled my whole life and won a lot of tonys for my musicals in my backyard. In 2008 I decided the world should no how famous I am so I put my videos online. Now I tour all over the world performing for my mirfandas. I have millions of views online and have performed in Australia, London, Ireland, Canada, New York City, Hollywood, and of course Pennsilvania. I love my mirfandas!� -Miranda Sings

| by Rich Tupica Of course, this is all the brainchild of the well-educated Ballinger, who’s grown a grassroots following into mainstream notoriety. Appearances in 2014 on both Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon thrust Ballinger into the Hollywood spotlight. From there, stacks of book, film and television deals fell on her lap. And, for those who haven’t seen some of Ballinger’s regular press interviews, they might be surprised to see how different she is from her cringy Miranda persona. “Miranda’s aggressive and confident personality was inspired by a few rude girls I went to school with (at Azusa Pacific University) and her weird quirks and passions are inspired by my childhood,� said Ballinger, who was home-schooled in Santa Barbara, California. “Being home-schooled really allowed me to embrace my weird quirks and passions because there wasn’t anyone around to bully me. I wore homemade dresses and weird cat sweaters every day as a young teen and never thought it was weird — they would later inspire the signature Miranda look.� Thinking back to her teen days, Ballinger said she’s always had the soul of an entertainer, but had to f ight through some rough awkward patches.

“I always wanted to be an actress as a child, but I became so insecure once I started public high school that I thought it would be absolutely impossible,� she admits. “I was positive that I wasn’t talented enough to make it in the industry. It’s kind of ironic that I’ve made a career for myself as a character who is untalented.� Beyond YouTube, Ballinger is also the co-author of the New York Times No. 1 Bestseller Selp Helf, a self-help parody book written in the voice of Miranda. She has her own brand of lipstick, too. Recently, another milestone occurred for Ballinger: motherhood. “Being a mother is the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me. I don’t think it has affected my comedy too much. ... It just gives me more material,� she joked. In January, a new Miranda Sings video titled “BABY GENDER R EVEAL!� went live, and it indeed addresses the complexities of parenthood — through the distorted lens of Miranda, of course:

“I’m really excited to be pregnant again. ‌ Last time it really upped my views, my sales and just got really more famous-er from it. So, I really hope that I have a really good baby this time and it gets more views and money.â€? -Miranda Sings

In reality, Ballinger spends every free second with her husband and son — though free seconds are sometimes hard to f ind. “My career and my little family keep me busy 24/7 with no time to relax,â€? she said. “But this actually works out in my favor because I don’t really enjoy relaxing anyway. I adore my son and my job and I feel pretty lucky that I get to f ill every moment of my day with the things I love most.â€? â–

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MIR ANDA SINGS WITH SPECIAL GUEST COLLEEN BALLINGER LaughFest Fountain Street Church 24 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids March 6, 7 p.m., $35-$80 laughfestgr.org


COMEDY: /// SI G HTS Kathleen Madigan returns to Grand Rapids

road warrior:

Kathleen Madigan brings her latest tour to 20 Monroe Live. PHOTO BY LUZENA ADAMS

| by Rich Tupica

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ost often, you’ll find Kathleen Madigan onstage performing her well-crafted brand of standup comedy. After all, the road-warrior comic keeps buys playing 250 dates a year across the country, including a date this month at 20 Monroe Live. But when she’s not touring, Madigan enjoys the quiet life. She spends ample time relaxing at her home nestled in the Missouri Ozarks, or hits the golf course with her close friends Ron White and Lewis Black. But all the while, she’s mining for comedy bits. Sometimes, she doesn’t even realize it. “I don’t always realize it’s funny right away,” Madigan said. “Not while things are actually happening. It might take 24 hours until I go, ‘Did that really happen? Oh, my God.’” On other occasions, especially with ridiculous moments involving her close-knit family, she knows it’s instant comedy gold. “Like, I do that joke about how I took a pill out of my mom’s purse in Target,” she said. “Literally, right after I swallowed it, my Mom went, ‘Ewww!’ I thought, ‘Oh, God. What did you do? Come on Mom, get it together.’ I could literally do an entire album just on my parents.” In fact, Madigan does have a new LP in the works, and plenty of those classic family stories will be included. Greatest Bits Vol. 1, a new “best of ” compilation released last month, mines back to her earliest sets and were selected by the comic herself. “I thought, ‘Why is nobody doing that?’ I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to do it and beat all of these old guys to the punch and take away their thunder.’” Madigan said. “Also, (fans will often) quote back to me their favorite jokes of mine and I literally don’t remember them. I’ll remember the topic, but that’s it.” Today, Madigan, 54, has a lengthy IMDB list of credits and sells out shows on the regular, but when she first started making headway on the traveling-comic circuit in the early ’90s, she definitely had to pay her dues driving countless hours to various seedy joints across the country. One show in particular sticks out to her as especially shady. “Back in 1992 or so, there was a run of one-nighters throughout Kansas — cities like Garden City, Hays and Manhattan,” Madigan recalled. “It was one of those along that run, maybe Hayes. It was just a bar, which is fine. No big deal. But there was chicken wire around the stage. I said to the owner, ‘What’s up with the chicken wire?’ He was like, ‘Somebody got hit by a beer bottle and I don’t want to be insured for all that.’ I was like, ‘People could actually be

throwing things at us? Wow.’” From there, the evening in Kansas didn’t get much better for the then-f ledgling stand-up. “I think there were literally three people in the bar,” she said. And I was like, ‘Are we really doing this?’ And the owner says, ‘Yeah, you’re going to do it for me if for nothing else. I already paid.’ I was thinking, ‘Dude, it’s $75, I’ll give it back.’ But you can’t do that because he’ll call into the guy who books the string of one-nighters and say you were a jackass. You just have to play along.” In the following decades, things got better as Madigan corralled her perfectly timed jokes into tight sets. Her latest special, Bothering Jesus, is proof of that. And, as it is with most brilliant comedians, she also divulges snippets of her real life along the way. “Lewis Black, he is my BBF,” Madigan said. “We joke about how comics spend more time talking about ourselves than actually being ourselves. I said, ‘If we were the slightest bit narcissistic, we’d enjoy all of this more. But we’re not.’” Aside from lacking an ego, Madigan also prefers to stay far away from the limelight as possible. The comic stays in Los Angeles only on a need-to basis for work. “I hardly ever go to Los Angeles,” she said, “I never did like it, per say. I just really like the Midwest. If I could live fulltime at the lake in the Ozarks, I would. It’s just not close to an airport. It’s over two hours from the Kansas City or St. Louis airport, so I just try to get there when I don’t have a lot of gigs in a row.” However, these days, Madigan has found she is going back to her driving-allover-the-damn-place roots. When possible, she hops in her car and heads to the venue, just like she did back in the ’90s. “Now I want to drive. I hate to f ly,” she said. “I hate TSA, the airports are too crowded. I love it when I can drive. Love it, love it, love it. If I start in Missouri, I’m driving to Nashville, I’m driving to Memphis, because I want to. See how it comes full circle?” ■

K ATHLEEN MADIGAN: 8 O’CLOCK HAPPY HOUR TOUR 20 Monroe Live 11 Ottawa Avenue NW, Grand Rapids March 21, 6 p.m. 20monroelive.com

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Honesty in comedy: Maria Bamford brings it to LaughFest | by Rich Tupica

B

eing one of the most unique voices in comedy isn’t an easy job, especially when that distinct voice is both surreal and brutally honest. Told through unpredictable vocal inf lections, the comic genius of Maria Bamford touches on hyper-personal subjects, like dysfunctional family issues, depression and anxiety. Last year, she even debuted her new television show, What’s Your Ailment?!, another public move at removing the stigma attached to these common issues. But what was it that evoked the courage for her to publicly talk about her own story? “Getting help for my own mental health and receiving the support and acceptance of other people,� said Bamford, who recently dropped her new hour-long comedy special, Weakness is the Brand. And she’s already working on the next special. “Now, I’ll be beginning a new hour,� she said. “The picture has been painted. Bring on the new canvas.� Of course, the touring comic continues to perform across the map in front of her dedicated fan base — but even she has some periodic rough shows. “There are always new lows,� Bamford, 49, said of life on the road. “I have had a few M AGA-hat wearers yell at me and walk out, most recently. A h, well! YouTube your comedian and check their political party before you go to a club — especially if you are a M AGA-hat wearer.�

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But tough crowds are nothing new for Bamford: She’s been honing her craft since the early ’90s. After stints in improv groups, the Duluth native began her career in stand-up while wrapping up school at the University of Minnesota, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing. She cut her teeth the ol’ fashioned way, at clubs like Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret, never looking back. As of 2020, she has stacks of comedy albums, and dozens of f ilm and television credits, including Lady Dynamite, a Netf lix series loosely based on her life. Looking back on her first comedy set, Bamford said it came to her naturally. “I don’t think I prepared too long,� she recalled. “It was at most a f ive-minute set. I’m sure I rehearsed it at least four or f ive times, as that seems to be my practice. I believe it went well or felt good, or I probably wouldn’t still be doing it. “I didn’t know being a comedian was a thing until I was about 21,� she added. “But then it helped me to read The Artist’s Way and do all the exercises in that book in order to get clearer on what I enjoyed doing.� Today, while she performs at some bigger rooms, she also still enjoys the vibe of a comedy club. “I love doing local shows with friends. The comedy community itself is pretty lovely, and I love to laugh.� With so much material behind her, when asked if her comedy writing process or approach to the art has changed, Bamford of course offers up an honest answer. “I probably have a poorer attitude and a bigger fear of failure,� she said. “I need to fight past my ego that I am starting at the beginning every time, just like everybody else. That it’s OK to bomb and take risks. I definitely

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have an ‘addiction’ to doing well, so when things are new or I need to rehearse for something to improve, I get grumpy — which is embarrassing.â€? Since the local comedy scene is thriving in West Michigan, Revue asked Bamford to divulge some tips for locals considering taking the leap into stand-up. Her advice is simple, but bona f ide. “The same thing I try to tell myself everyday: Do it. That’s all there is,â€? she said. “That’s the fun part and the hard part and where any reward is. Stop talking about what it is or what’s good or who is better or worse. Do it, and you’ll be a part of it.â€? And if you’re simply looking to discover comics to watch, Bamford is quick to rattle off a bunch of suggestions for you to Google. “There are so many,â€? she said. “There is, of course, my veteran comedy pal, Jackie Kashian, who is extraordinary. There’s also Melissa Villasenor (SNL), Danielle Perez, Candy Lawrence and hundreds more. There are so many fantastic comics out there who identify as female.â€? â–

Stand-up Maria Bamford performs back-toback March 13 shows at LaughFest. PHOTO BY ROBYN VAN SWANK

MARIA BAMFORD – GILDA’S L AUGHFEST Wealthy Theatre 1130 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids March 13, 7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m., $35 mariabamford.com


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FAMILY FUN GUIDE Feasting with the Family Where to bring your clan for a meal by Elma Talundzic It can get a little tricky trying to find a place to eat where the entire family is happy with the menu options. We all have our picky eaters and have had to settle on Applebee’s more than a few times. And aside from the food, plenty of restaurants aren’t the best place to bring your little ones when they’re rowdy. So we put together a list of just a few of the family friendly eateries in town. We’ve got you covered for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert.

BREAKFAST CHERIE INN 969 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids cherieinn.com With its doors open for nearly 100 years, Cherie Inn offers up unique homemade breakfast and hospitable service. The cozy atmosphere of Cherie Inn makes you feel like you’re sitting in your own home with friends and family. Bring the whole family in for delicious breakfast plates that’ll get the day started off right.

LUNCH TWO BEARDS DELI 38 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids twobeardsgr.com Two Beards Deli boasts a sandwich menu for even the pickiest of eaters. With over 90 delicious sandwiches to choose from — all named after famous bearded fellows — you’ll want to stop by again and again. Not only is the food incredible, but the environment is inviting to all. From the warm yellow walls filled with art, to the friendly staff, you’ll keep coming back for more. KINGFISHER RESTAURANT & DELI 1001 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids kingfishergr.com Like Marie Catrib’s before it, Kingfisher is a family business, which means they go above and beyond to make families feel welcome. You can develop your kids’ palate at an early age with Mediterranean dishes or satisfy their picky taste with the a la carte menu.

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DINNER BRICK ROAD PIZZA CO. 1017 Wealthy St., Grand Rapids brickroadpizza.com A lot of love and thoughtfulness goes into the food and menu at Brick Road Pizza Co. The restaurant advocates the use of local products and aims to be as sustainable as possible. Brick Road has plenty of space for families, and the chill atmosphere should keep your kids calm. The menu offers up a wide variety of options from soup, salad, pasta, burgers, sandwiches and, of course, pizza. Order up a classic pie for the table or try one of the restaurant’s unique specialty creations. We’re partial to the Buffalo chicken pizza. ROSE’S 550 Lakeside Dr. SE, Grand Rapids thegilmorecollection.com/roses The historic Rose’s restaurant has been serving up delicious food, hospitality and lake views for decades. The menu offers up a delightful fusion of Mediterranean, Italian and American eats. Along with the exquisite dining options, the peaceful atmosphere creates an environment welcoming all.


Kingfisher Restaurant & Deli, Brick Road Pizza Co., San Chez Bistro, Underground Cookie Club. COURTESY PHOTOS

CITY BUILT BREWING CO. 820 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids citybuiltbrewing.com Kids can enjoy Beer City too! One of the first things you see when you walk into City Built’s taproom is a play area for kids. They have games, toys, a chalkboard, a whiteboard — all helpfully right by the waiting area. And the kids menu is fun, with quesadillas, tacos, carrot sticks and more. BREWERY VIVANT 925 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids breweryvivant.com Walk through the historic building and you’ll find yourself in the beer garden, filled with huge tables perfect for families, not to mention a play place tucked away in the back. It’s perfect for the kids to run around and unleash their energy while you enjoy delicious pints. The kids menu has the classics: homemade mac and cheese, chicken fingers, hamburgers, and even a Big Kids Board, which will teach them early on to appreciate a good charcuterie plate. MAX’S SOUTH SEAS HIDEAWAY 58 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids maxstiki.com When you’re enjoying a colorful, fruity cocktail, your kids just might get jealous, which you never want. That’s why Max’s offers kids cocktails, like Gilligan’s Grog, with fresh orange and lemon juice, grenadine, mint and citrus soda. The

kids’ food menu is unique too, with chicken skewers, fried rice, crab rangoons and more! SAN CHEZ BISTRO 38 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids sanchezbistro.com San Chez shrinks its tapas concept down so kids can join in on the shareable fun, with small plates like Kid’s Tortellini and Grilled Chez, as well as drinks like the Algerian Sunset, a peach vanilla cream soda topped with whipped cream.

DESSERT UNDERGROUND COOKIE CLUB 5422 Division Ave., Grand Rapids undergroundcookieclub.com Save plenty of room for dessert when you walk into the Underground Cookie Club. Describing themselves as the ultimate pop culture haven, the shop centers itself around everything you loved growing up, and everything your kids will love too. The atmosphere is inclusive to all fandoms and they strive to make everyone feel welcome and at home. On top of that, the shop’s handcrafted artisan ice cream sandwiches are anything but boring and almost too beautiful to eat. CINDY’S DONUTS AND ICE CREAM 4020 28th St. SE, Grand Rapids facebook.com/cindysdonutsandicecream When you walk through the doors here, you’re greeted with a friendly staff and a large case filled with fresh, homemade doughnuts. Cindy’s is the perfect sweet tooth destination for all ages. If a doughnut isn’t your first go-to, the shop offers up homemade pastries, Hudsonville ice cream and tasty breakfast sandwiches. Don’t forget to pair your treats with a fresh cup of coffee or creamy chocolate milk. ■

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FAMILY FUN GUIDE Events for Everyone Fun and educational things to do with the whole family by Elma Talundzic If you’re tired of sitting at home with the kids, West Michigan is full of opportunities to get out and have fun together! Mark your calendar with these fun, family friendly events that are exciting for all. This list offers up opportunities to get creative, dance, eat, get thrilled, tell some jokes and more.

DISNEY ON ICE: CELEBRATE MEMORIES Van Andel Arena 130 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids Feb. 27-Mar. 1 vanandelarena.com Disney on Ice entertains by bringing your favorite Disney stories to life with music and graceful ice skating. After more than 1,200 annual performances in North America alone, it’s time for you to enjoy the show that’s created unforgettable memories for more than 5 million guests.

CRYBABY CONCERT SERIES: WHISKEY BEFORE BREAKFAST Friendship Village Kalamazoo 1400 N. Drake Rd., Kalamazoo Mar. 7, 11 a.m., FREE fontanamusic.org Fontana hosts the Crybaby Concert Series held in various locations in Kalamazoo. These late morning mini-concerts bring the whole family together for 45 minutes of musical entertainment. These concerts allow kids under five, their parents, grandparents, siblings and anyone else in the family to enjoy a relaxed environment filled with music and dancing. There is plenty of room to get moving, space for strollers, nutritious kid-friendly snacks and complimentary coffee for the adults. Don’t worry if your little one feels like crying or making some noise, there will be no shushing or judgmental looks. THE GRAND RAPIDS REPTILE & EXOTIC PET EXPO HSB, Inc. 5625 Burlingame Ave. SW, Grand Rapids Mar. 7, 10 a.m., $5 bit.ly/reptilepetexpo This all-ages event hosts unique reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and small mammals from all over the world. Learn about these unique animals and potentially give them a forever home. This event has all the supplies and feeders to keep the various reptiles and exotic pets happy. SATURDAY ART CLASSES: VAN GOGH WITH A TWIST! Grand Rapids Children’s Museum 11 Sheldon Ave. NE, Grand Rapids Mar. 7, 3-4 p.m., FREE with museum admission grcm.org Get inspired and let your creativity run with your kids. These classes encourage young artists to play with different artistic techniques and media. They’ll learn all about Vincent Van Gogh’s art style and create their own masterpiece, and you can too!

FAMILY GAME DAY Out of the Box Games, Toys, & Puzzles 5212 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids Mar. 1, 1-3 p.m., FREE ootbgames.com

KIDS ROCK HIP HOP DANCE PARTY The B.O.B.’s HOME 20 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids Mar. 8, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., $7 laughfestgr.org

Discover some new games that the whole family will enjoy at Out of the Box Games, Toys, & Puzzles. Demos from Haba, Blue Orange, Peaceable Kingdom and other publishers will be present. These games will focus on cooperation, dexterity and family-friendly fun.

Get the wiggles out and dance the day away at the Kids Rock Hip Hop Dance Party. DJs will be playing their best beats and funky mixes, MCs will be rocking the mic and BBoys and BGirls will be dancing in the cypher.

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OPEN HOUSE AT THE MSU BUG HOUSE MSU Bug House 288 Farm Lane, Room 147 Mar. 9, 5:30-7:30, FREE canr.msu.edu/bughouse Get to know some critters up close and personal at The Bug House at MSU. This special place holds a live honeybee hive, specimen displays and a variety of live insects and arachnids including, beetles, tropical cockroaches and tarantulas. Observe or even interact with these crawlies with the whole family. GRAND RAPIDS KIDS JOKE TIME Grand Rapids Public Library, Main Branch 111 Library St., Grand Rapids Mar. 11, 6 p.m., FREE grkids.com If your kiddo loves to make people laugh, this event will encourage them to take the stage and crack their best jokes. This evening full of giggles and silliness puts a smile on everyone’s face. GRAND RAPIDS BALLET’S ALADDIN Peter Martin Wege Theatre 341 Ellsworth Ave. SW, Grand Rapids Mar. 13-22 grballet.com The Grand Rapids Ballet School Junior Company presents Aladdin. We all know the classic folktale from the book One Thousand and One Nights where boy sees girl, boy finds out she’s a princess, boy goes undercover as a prince to win her heart, and there’s also a genie involved. Whether it’s your first time seeing this tale or your 100th, the experience is always magical.


MASTERCHEF JUNIOR LIVE! DeVos Performance Hall 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids Mar. 18, 7 p.m. devosperformancehall.com

BABY AND ME TOURS Grand Rapids Art Museum 101 Monroe Center St. NW, Grand Rapids Mar. 24, 11 a.m., FREE artmuseumgr.org

All foodies and aspiring chefs are invited to experience the hit TV show MasterChef Junior, live with the whole family. The evening will feature head-to-head culinary challenges that are both fun and messy with past MasterChef Junior contestants. The show is known for being cute, surprising, and treating the young chefs with full respect. Limited VIP packages include premium seating, a meet and greet opportunity, signed show poster, photos and more.

Join the GR A M for an interactive gallery tour and discussion inspired by the latest exhibits. Parents, grandparents and guardians are all welcome and encouraged to bring their little ones without worrying if their babies let out some cries and coos. Strollers are permitted and all ages are welcome.

MONSTER JAM Van Andel Arena 130 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids Mar. 21-22, 1p.m., $15 vanandelarena.com

RHYTHM IN YOUR RUBBISH Grand Rapids Symphony Forest Hills Fine Arts Center 600 Forest Hill Ave. SE, Grand Rapids April 4, 3 p.m. grsymphony.org

Get your adrenaline pumping at this family fun event that’ll have everyone at the edge of their seat. Monster Jam stars a number of customized high-powered vehicles, including Monster Jam Speedsters, Monster Jam ATVs and the iconic Monster Jam trucks. Monster Jam drivers are trained, world-class drivers who have the physical and mental strength to control 12,000-pound trucks while doing aerial stunts and racing at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour. Come back Sunday for the Monster Jam Pit Party where you can see the monster machines up close and meet your favorite drivers.

Bringing your kids to the symphony at a young age can help them realize how fun and important the arts are, but it doesn’t just have to be Beethoven and Bach (though those are great, too). The Grand Rapids Symphony’s Family Concerts provide a unique and delightful experience, like R hythm in Your Rubbish, which follows two homeless pals making music out of items found in a junkyard. The imaginative 55-production shows how you can f ind music in anything.

THE SLEEPING BEAUTY Michigan Ballet Academy Jenison Center for the Arts 8375 20th Ave., Jenison April 18 & 19 michiganballet.org Kids love a princess, and The Sleeping Beauty puts Princess Aurora at the heart of its story about a cursed child waiting for true love. With relatively young performers and a score by Tchaikovsky, this is a magical show for the whole family. To make it extra fun, head to Princess Aurora’s Tea Party on April 19 at 1 p.m. for a special lunch with lemonade, tea, crafts, storytelling, photographs and prizes! AIR ZOO 6151 Portage Rd., Portage airzoo.org Our Air Zoo is a world-class museum with more than 100 air and space artifacts, interactive exhibits, flight simulators and indoor rides. It’s absolutely full of hands-on activities for kids to both learn and have fun. You can just visit and have a great time, or get your little scientist involved with the Sky Kids Club, which offers extra opportunities to learn in an entertaining way. ■

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FAMILY FUN GUIDE

Cannonsburg. PHOTOS BY KEVIN KAMAS

Super, Extremely, Extracurricular Fun classes for kids that go above and beyond by Josh Veal Your kids go to class all day, but are they really learning what they want to do? There are tons of opportunities in West Michigan for the young ones to start a new hobby or take their education to the next level. If you want your kids to have fun while growing their talents and skills, have them try out one of these classes.

FAMILY FUN COOKING CLASSES Sur la Table 2500 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids surlatable.com You can teach your kids to cook at home, but it’s much more memorable to have them take a class from a professional — plus, you’ll probably learn something too! Check out the Family Fun classes at Sur la Table, like April Fool, which will teach you how to cook food that looks like a different food, i.e. meatloaf cupcakes with mashed potato frosting. There are also lots of baking classes! KIDS COOK REAL FOOD kidscookrealfood.com If you’d rather take your work home, this online cooking class — based in West Michigan — is perfect for your kids. It’s not just about making food, but creating healthy habits based on nutritious eating, responsibility and conf idence.

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CANNONSBURG KIDS 6800 Cannonsburg Rd., Belmont cannonsburg.com

GRAND RAPIDS ART CLASSES FOR CHILDREN 2700 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids art-classes-kids-grand-rapids.com

If you want to learn how to ski or snowboard, starting young is the best way to go. Cannonsburg’s instructors will help out kids of any ability level, whether it’s their f irst time or they’re looking to take their time on the hill up a notch. It’s a fun group class where they’ll learn with other snow-loving kids, and you can reserve for one day only or do a three-day progression package.

With her local art classes, Dr. Michelle Frenzel Trustlove really focuses on bringing out the innate artistic ability in all of us, encouraging children to trust and express themselves through creativity. The affordable classes are about friendship and affirmation as much as they are about art itself.

KCAD YOUTH COURSES Kendall College of Art and Design 17 Fountain St. NW, Grand Rapids kcad.ferris.edu Kendall takes the foundation of the classic K-12 art education and builds on it, allowing your children and teens to take classics specif ically focusing on clay, comics, fashion illustration and even Minecraft. They’ll be dubbed Most Artistic in no time.

KIDS UNLIMITED ACTIVITY CENTER 596 Baldwin St., Jenison gokidsunlimited.com Kids Unlimited has all kinds of classes, from g ymnastics and tumble to martial arts and Ninja Warrior training. The latter may be unusual, but there’s no better way to get a kid active than making it fun, and Ninja Warrior turns exercise into an obstacle course. Cannonballs, pegboards, rock walls — they have it all! ■


Epilogue Books is a great destination for family fun with a large selection of new books and gift items for everyone in the family.

Be sure to give #tommythebookstoredog a pat on the head or rub on the tummy while you are there!

10 East Bridge Street Rockford, MI 49341 | 616-884-0933 Mon-Friday 10am-6pm | Saturday 10am-5pm facebook@epiloguebooks | epiloguebooksrockford@gmail.com

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mexican in the Midwest Our favorite full-service, south-of-the-border restaurants around

| by Josh Veal

W

hen you and your friend say you’re in the mood for “Mexican food,” the experiences you’re separately imagining could be worlds apart. Mexico itself is home to a vast variety of cuisine across its many states, and even in the U.S., we see that diversity on display. There’s “authentic” Mexican, a subjective term that tends to mean delicious tacos on corn tortillas, a variety of hot sauces, and big fluffy tortas. La Huasteca, El Granjero and Taqueria San Jose come to mind. Then there’s the eminent “Tex-Mex,” which makes ample use of Southern staples like chili con carne, corn and yellow cheese. As this pseudo-fusion cuisine made its way to us, however, it has morphed and evolved. What you tend to see across West Michigan is not true Tex-Mex, but a different style that has no specific name, beyond perhaps “Mexican Grill.” I’d say the Mexican Grill has three defining characteristics: huge wet burritos, massive margaritas and near endless options — everything us Midwesterners love. When someone specifically says, “Let’s go get Mexican,” they typically mean these full-service, sit-down experiences. You may have your favorite spot already, but we always suggest trying somewhere new. Let Revue guide you to your next big burrito.

EL RANCHO 770 E. 16th St., Holland 12659 Riley St., Holland elranchoholland.com El Rancho is a lakeshore favorite, known for especially friendly service and tons of authentic choices, not to mention unique plating. The Faijta Pina is a unique take on fajitas, with pineapple in the mix and served out of a halved pineapple. If you’re craving Mexican food after the beach, this is the place to be.

Pinata is one of those surprising little hidden gems. Head inside for a colorful atmosphere, where you’ll immediately forget the strip-mall exterior. It’s the kind of place that quickly becomes a personal favorite that you love to recommend only to those closest to you. The menu is robust, yet not overwhelming, and the drinks are especially fun — including one served in a pineapple.

EL AGAVE MEXICAN GRILL AND BAR 5401 Northland Dr. NE, Grand Rapids elagavegr.com El Agave fills the Mexican hole just north of Grand Rapids, and it does it well. The menu offers an ocean of options, with 13 burrito varieties alone. However, you should really f lip to the Especialidades el Agave for truly unique offerings like the Plato Loco, a big plate of grilled chicken breast, deep-fried bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp, and Mexican rice, all paired with steamed vegetables, sweet corn, avocado, tomato, and cucumber, THEN smothered with hot cheese sauce. There goes your weekend!

CANTINA MEXICAN GRILL 2770 East Paris Ave., Grand Rapids cantinamexicangrill.biz Two words: Bean. Pot. It’s a communal pot of refried beans, there at Cantina, just for you. It’s the perfect partner to chips and salsa, which also come with this amazing seasoning you have to try. You want it all. Not to mention the three unique, separate dining areas. They have the more traditional front room, the downstairs bar area, and the incredible back room, which feels like another world, with little caves and curved walls all around. All the sections have the full menu of amazing Mexican food, including one of my favorite wet burritos and dauntingly large margaritas.

LA PINATA BAR AND GRILL 475 N. Drake Rd., Kalamazoo lapinatabarandgrill.com Tucked between a Sally Beauty Supply and a Great Clips, La

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has the authentic options alongside the Midwestern favorites, and you can’t go wrong with either. The coladas, chips and salsa, and burritos here are all some of the best around. It’s all made better by an always-friendly staff and a bright, open atmosphere with colorful paintings by local artists.

BELTLINE BAR 16 28th St. SE, Grand Rapids beltlinebar.com

LOS AMIGOS

I feel comfortable saying that Beltline Bar is the Yesterdog of Mexican restaurants: a longstanding Grand Rapids institution that does things the way they want to, whether you like it or not. They claim to have invented the wet burrito in the ’60s — that may or may not be true, but what we do know is that if you really want to experience West Michigan culture, you have to visit Beltline Bar.

LINDO MEXICO 1742 28th St. SW, Wyoming lindomexicogr.com When I think of Lindo Mexico, I think of nothing but good experiences. Everything I’ve ever had there has been excellent, yet somehow, it’s always served quickly and without flaw. Lindo

3317 Stadium Dr., Kalamazoo 5480 Gull Road, Comstock 7375 S. Westnedge Ave., Portage losamigosmi.com In Kalamazoo, Los Amigos is holding down the fort with three locations, which just shows how loved they are. They take great pride in their Mexican culture and it comes through in the menu, which features unique options like the Molcajete, a house specialty. This volcanic lava rock bowl is filled with basically every meat they have and topped with nearly every ingredient they have. It’s emblematic of the many, many delicious options you have here. If you want to go doubly big, get the Margarita Amigo Grande, a 38-ounce drink served with two upside-down Coronitas. ■

Cantina Mexican Grill, Lindo Mexico, Los Amigos. COURTESY PHOTOS


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liquid concept albums Michigan beer series make a case for brewing as storytelling | by Jack Raymond

T

he defining qualities of a concept album aren’t always clear, but you know it when you see it. From Neutral Milk Hotel’s cryptic Anne Frank tribute, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, to Green Day’s more obvious Bush-era takedown, American Idiot, the songs on a concept album serve a broader purpose, encouraging full album plays rather than song skipping. When executed right, fans end up chewing on themes for decades. Through less conventional means, brewers are dipping their toes into conceptual storytelling with beer series that follow narrative arcs and culminate in meaningful ways. Inspired by poetry, science fiction, and even holy sequences of numbers, these Michigan beer series prove that flavor can illustrate concepts as seriously as those other mediums you studied in college.

BELL’S BREWERY: Leaves of Grass This Walt W hitman-inspired series from Bell’s might make you yawp, “O’ Captain! My Captain!” In the same way W hitman’s rapturous verse experimented with form, Bell’s has used this series to indulge a wild side, too. Their f irst release in the lineup, Song of Myself, was a delicious paradox: a German-inspired American IPA. W hitman redrew the boundary between the self and the world, “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” In the same vein, this beer shreds beer’s style guide to converge opposing beer philosophies. And while the style remains TBA, my sour sense predicts the sixth entry in the se-

ries — May’s Spontaneous Me — will wow drinkers with a mixed-culture masterpiece. W hatever it be, I imagine W hitman would smile to see folks embracing his writing and getting tanked in his honor. This isn’t the first time Bell’s has been inspired by artistic flights of fancy. Look to the Planet Series for that, Bell’s seven-beer response to Gustav Holst’s musical composition, The Planets. The brewery’s soft spot for early 20th century vanguards has snuck high art into our craft beer conversations. Should we expect a Pablo Picasso beer festival next?

BREWERY VIVANT/ BROAD LEAF LOCAL BEER: Planet Vim This craft beer space odyssey has a depth of lore so deep, one taproom couldn’t contain it. It began with a planetary seed, JUS, a hazy double IPA from Vivant, that set the stage for Vim’s f iction to grow. To hear Jonathan Ward, creative director at Broad Leaf, describe it is to enter the mind of Spaceman Spiff. “We followed JUS with Secret R ituals, then Neon Immersion. These spoke to a sort of cosmic preparation and light bathing. It was a biodynamic and preparatory phase,” Ward said. “Then, in August of 2017 we released Dawn of Vim. The actual awakening of this Planet we called Vim. A planet of energ y, but also the potential for mischief ... for adventure.” The concept exploded with tales of spores, gametes and cellular reproduction — heady stuff for beer literature — serializing releases like new comic book issues. Vivant refreshed the series at Broad Leaf to evolve beyond IPAs into unique sours, fruited beers, and other mysteries.

Bell’s Brewery, City Built Brewing Company, Speciation Artisan Ales. COURTESY PHOTOS

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“The story of Vim is still spreading, new chapters to be told,” Ward said. In a crowded sea of beer, Vivant/Broad Leaf ’s rises above the pack by taking things extrasolar.

SPECIATION ARTISAN ALES: The

Laurentian Series

Speciation Artisan A les f igured out a way to taste the lake without sticking a straw in it. By open fermenting separate batches near the f ive Great Lakes, they inoculated wort with yeast native to each area and created what I’ll call “sour impressions” of these bodies of water. Co-owner Mitch Ermatinger shared his love for the series, “A ll our malt and hops came from Michigan for these beers, and obviously all the yeast did as well,” Ermatinger said. “It’s a really special opportunity to showcase what the state has to offer ... microbially!” Each Lake beer is essentially bottled time and place, but the coup? A master blend combines liquid from all batches, inciting an age-old brewing practice: the art of the gueuze. As stewards of Earth’s largest freshwater source, these beers tell us Michiganders a story. Our childhoods, livelihoods and

futures are profoundly connected to our Great Lakes. Could there be a more romantic way of consummating with our natural resource than by consuming it — becoming one? More importantly, would you want to sip Lake Erie any other way?

CITY BUILT BREWING COMPANY: Fibonacci Sequence

A pinecone, the high and low tides, our very galaxy — the Fibonacci Sequence reveals itself in all of nature’s design. And now, in beer! When City Built conceived this experiment on how brew times affect beer, their mash periods — 3 hour, 5 hour, 13 hour and 21 hour — happened to overlay perfectly with the sequence. The serendipity was too good not to indulge with backstory and packaging that showcases the fingerprint of God. This collection of stouts promises to gift pastry stout aficionados super boozy, heavily adjuncted beers. 5 Hour Stout, with coconut and vanilla, clocks in at 13.5% ABV, and 21 Hour tips the scales at 19% ABV. I’ve also heard rumor that barrel-aged versions of these might appear down the line. Trust in the sequence. It’s never been wrong before. ■


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Revue West Michigan: March 2020  

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