DETROIT: Just Another Sunday…..

14 Apr

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My mom used to tell me stories about going to Cinerama at Music Hall in Detroit, she made it sound so exciting; the huge screen, the realistic feeling it provided, as if you were really there. Years later, Kris and I were on a theater tour of Music Hall, our guide told us all about Cinerama, how folks would dress up, opening night tickets could sell for $60, seating was reserved, the film would transport you to far-away places you could only dream of visiting; it was a big to-do in 1952. Never, did I ever imagine that I would get to experience it for myself. Today Kris and I are going to do just that! Music Hall is hosting “The Cinerama Festival”, a 5 hour marathon event that transforms the auditorium back to the days of the famed wrap-around screen. Films, panel discussions, memorabilia, even an old-fashioned concession stand; what are we waiting for? Let’s go!

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When we arrive people are seated in the center of the center section of seats, they must know something. A massive, cove-like drape hangs above the stage, a slide show recalling the history of the format is in process. The original system used 3 interlocked 35mm cameras to create the film, in theaters movies were projected from 3 projection booths arranged in the same crisscross pattern as the cameras. Screens consisted of more than 1000 strips of perforated plastic arranged like the louvers of a gigantic venetian blind. The films we are seeing today have been remastered into digital format. The event opens with “This is Cinerama”, in black and white Lowell Thomas explains the wide-screen process with technical details designed to impress audiences of the day, suddenly the image expands and is in living color, we are on a roller coaster ride, complete with mechanical sounds of climbing the hill, we nose over the edge then swoop up the next hill, I swear I can feel a rush of air. Next we are watching the Temple Dance in Aida, then to Niagara Falls, off to see the Vienna Boys Choir, we glide down the canals in Venice and witness a bullfight in Spain. It must have been an amazing thing to see in the 50’s.

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The intermission is an interactive time between the audience and the panel, questions are asked, stories are told, memories relived. We stretch our legs and wander into the bar area where old programs are available to peruse. We poke our heads into a swanky lounge area complete with a wood panel ceiling and piano, sweet! The lights are dimmed and the next film begins, Cinerama Holiday, here we follow the adventures of two couples who swap continents, an American couple travels to Europe while the Swiss couple land in St Louis MO for an adventure across the US. We vicariously experience a wild ride on a bobsled, ski down a mountain, travel via Vista-Dome across the western US, everybody is having a good time. At the break Kris and I make our exit; Art X Detroit is in full swing and we have a performance to catch.

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If you’ve never attended any of the Art X performances, don’t worry, there’s still time, the festival runs until April 26. Events include dance, literary, musical and theatrical performances, along with film screenings, visual arts, installations and workshops, tons of things to do! We’re seeing Britney Stoney in “Save Yourself” an original musical on stage at the Garden Theater on Woodward. Built in 1912, designed by that genius of theater architecture, C Howard Crane (Fox, Fillmore, to name a couple), the building sat vacant for a long time. The current owner has worked wonders and brought this entire block on Woodward back to life, it is a pleasure to take in a show in this building. House lights are down and the show is in progress, the main floor is crowded so we locate the stairs and make ourselves comfortable in the balcony. From here we look out across the large space, walls are a combination of exposed brick and plaster. They saved as much of the ornate plaster as they could, creating an interesting urban feel; the chandeliers look as if they could be original. The actors on stage sing and dance, the star of the show, Britney Stoney, was born and raised in Detroit, she’s a singer, songwriter and guitarist who got her start at local open mics, she’s wonderful. 

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At the end of the performance we leave the building in search of dinner. As we drive around midtown we notice people sitting at picnic tables, drinking beer in front of Jolly Pumpkin‘s new location on W Canfield. Only in its second day of operation we thought we’d take our chances and see if we could get in. It seems the crowd has dwindled and left several open tables, we take menus, sit at the table of our choice and begin the decision-making process. Making my way back to the counter I place our order, pick up my Furry Black India Pale Ale at the bar and set my order number on the table. We sip on our drinks and take in the large space. The open ceiling leaves the duct work exposed, floors are terrazzo, walls are covered in reclaimed pallet wood, quite attractive. Vintage glass light fixtures illuminate the room, the flat screen TV is behind the bar and unobtrusive, nice. Then there are the 32 taps………

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The Chopped Salad is delivered to our table; a mix of lettuce, salami, ceci beans, olives, peppers, mozzarella and basil dressed in a red wine vinaigrette; very good. Our Meatball pizza soon follows; charred tomato sauce, caramelized onions, olives, mozzarella, Parmesan, basil and miniature meatballs all atop a thin crust, tasty! Known for its Sour Beers, the Detroit location is Jolly Pumpkin‘s third Gastro Pub, looks like it’s already a success. 

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