Clio Cast & Crew Opens a Roaring and Jazzy “Chicago”

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Vaudeville and Prohibition form the core of Savie Productions and Clio Cast & Crew’s terrific rendition of the acclaimed 1920s musical Chicago that opened Thursday evening at Theatre 57 in Clio. If you were driving by, maybe you heard it! The music was loud, non-stop, and sported a variety of rhythms, beats, and spirited dance numbers.

This Bob Fosse piece was written with Fred Ebb and based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins. (Interesting side note: Watkins was a crime reporter during the 1920s in Chicago and based her play on two actual murderesses incarcerated in Cook County.) Ebb and John Kander wrote the music for this revue-style show with many numbers crafted in the form of famous vaudeville stars.

The time is the 1920s when jazz was “hot”, lawyers were crooked, and violence sold newspapers. First on the scene, Velma Kelly is an accused murderess and jail inmate, played with torchy sophistication by Ericka Lyons. Her opening “All That Jazz” definitely sets the tone for the evening. She is soon joined by the entire ensemble (nearly 30!) dancing and singing in perfect synchronization.

This is a good time to offer kudos to director Evie Zilinski for managing to stage this play and its large number of folks with the smooth precision displayed throughout. Entrances and exits in this minimal offstage venue could have been tricky but flowed smoothly and quickly.

Next, we are privy to a murder committed by Roxie Hart. Played with fire and naiveté by Michelle Hayes, she angrily guns down her lover for fooling around, then pins her hopes on her drab little husband Amos (Tim Ruwart) singing the torchy “Funny Honey”.

The gals in the jail seem never really worried about their hanging offenses since they have Billy Flynn, a sleazy lawyer played by Mike Odette, to argue for them and win their freedom for a price. Odette’s “All I Care About Is Love” is something to see with the Ziegfeld-style fan dancers aiding and abetting.

Also getting ahead from the corruption in the legal system is jail matron Mama Morton. Musical director Sue Mackenzie belts the “Cell Block Tango” ala Sophie Tucker, and brings style and swagger to the role as she pockets bribes right and left.

The press conference scene is excellent as Billy sits Roxie on his lap like a ventriloquist dummy for “We Both Reached for the Gun”. It’s a showstopper! And also watch for the reporter Mary Sunshine (J. Bertrand) who sings the operatic “A Little Bit of Good”. There’s definitely more here than meets the eye.

One other favorite we must mention is Ruwart’s white-gloved “Mr. Cellophane” sung with comically melancholy resignation.

Choreography is pristine, as we’ve come to expect in Savie shows. There’s just something wonderful about seeing so many dancers move in such awesome precision. Congratulations to Sandra Brewer and Kathleen Slezak.

Onstage throughout, the music team of pianist Gary King, percussionist Delaina Oberman and electric bass player Owen Ananich perform impressively. They are never too loud, a trick as none of the singers in this show use microphones.

Rick Doll’s set for Chicago is sparse but workable and highly colorful. The musicians are center stage at the back framed perfectly by the lighted paned window. There is a single broad step unit across the back allowing for maximum egress in and out and an intriguing spiral staircase down left that is also used creatively.

If we had any concern, it might’ve been the slightly low level of energy detected. We were very impressed overall, but now and then wanted to find the tempo/volume knob and turn it up a bit. Still, this troupe puts out an incredible performance with non-stop music, dance and creativity.

Chicago continues at Theatre 57, 2220 W. Vienna Road, Clio, July 18,19,24,25, and 26 at 7:30 pm and July 20 & 27 at 2:00 pm. For tickets and information contact the box office at 810-687-2588

 

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Kearsley Park Players’ “Snow White” Delights a Forest Full of Children

Reviewed by Shelly L. Hoffman

The Kearsley Park Players, under the nurturing direction of Kay Kelly, reprised Megan Donahue’s cleverly scripted Snow White Thursday to a jam-packed pavilion. On blankets (lovingly added by Kelly for the youngest of theatre-goers) at the foot of the stage were veritable droves of youngsters (including many princesses and even a pirate, presumably gearing up for the upcoming production of Pirates of Penzance) who were, for the most part, mesmerized by the story that unfolded right in front of them. The adults and older children who sat on the more comfortable chairs also seemed to thoroughly enjoy the evening’s offering (all 21 minutes of it).

Donahue’s adaptation of this age-old tale of the princess Snow White (played wistfully by Ella Thorp), cast away by an evil queen who then murders the princess with a poisoned apple all because a magic mirror told the queen Snow White is more fair than she, offers witty dialogue, a meaningful relationship between Snow White and the Prince, as well as a rational explanation of how (spoiler alert!) the prince’s kiss brings Snow White back to life.

The narrative is propelled and sustained by the Magic Mirror (Amber Dillard) who, at first, reassures the Evil Queen that she is the fairest in the land. When the mirror proclaims Snow White to be fairer still, the Queen, who is always humorously accompanied by her sassy ladies in waiting, orders her killed. Snow White, though, is left alone in a forest, asleep. While in the forest she encounters a bevy of woodland creatures. Here, Kelly utilizes small children (including, incredibly, three sets of twins) to play foxes, mice, rabbits, and other furry creatures as well as disarmingly adorable butterflies. Seven Lumberjacks then take center stage to adopt and care for the abandoned princess.

Snow White also meets the handsome prince (George Marzonie) in the forest and they build a loving friendship as she rebuffs his daily proposals of marriage. Marzonie’s interesting dance moves brought much laughter to the opening night audience.

Jessica Eldredge portrays the Queen with, at first, mild haughtiness. She then becomes downright menacing, yet comical, as she disguises herself as a peddler to cajole Snow White to take the poisoned apple with the promise that it’s not poisoned, “not even a little bit.”

When the prince sees Snow White dead on the forest floor, he yearns to give her one last kiss. We learn that “the tilting of her head dislodged the apple from her throat” and that is what brings our princess back to life. And, of course, there is a happily ever after.

Kelly uses the space to paint a very pretty picture, even if it was obscured for a bit by the sun in the patrons’ eyes. As always, the show is beautifully costumed with lavish gowns, inventive animals, and Snow White looking as if she walked straight out of the well-known animated film of the same name. (Many of the children lined up after to have their photos taken with her and for autographs.)

What is always so striking about the Kearsley Park theatre experience is the vast diversity of participants and attendees alike. It’s thrilling to see so many people come together, in the heart of Flint, for a night of entertainment. Additionally, the fairytale is, quite often, the very first play a youngster attends. With such a wonderful experience for the little ones, it likely won’t be the last.

Snow White continues Friday, July 11th at Linden’s Clover Beach; 3 pm Saturday, July 12th at For Mar Nature Preserve and 7 pm at Flushing County Park. It closes on Sunday, July 13th with a 3 pm performance in Flint’s Mott

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Clio Cast & Crew to Hire Directors for Newly Announced 2014-2015 Season

Clio Cast & Crew is excited to announce that we are seeking to HIRE directors for our upcoming season. The shows we are seeking directors for are as follows:

Our season will open with OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS, a comedy by Joe DiPietro, (synopsis: “Nick is a single, Italian-American guy from New Jersey. His parents retired and moved to Florida. That doesn’t mean his family isn’t still in Jersey, in fact, he sees both sets of grandparents every Sunday for dinner. This is routine until he has to tell them that he’s been offered a dream job which will take him away from his beloved, but annoying grandparents”). Production dates are Oct. 10-19, 2014.

CRIMES OF THE HEART a dramedy by Beth Henly Feb. 6-15, 2015, (synopsis: The scene is Hazelhurst, Mississippi, where the three Magrath sisters are awaiting word of the their grandfather’s last hours. Lenny, the oldest sister, is unmarried at thirty and facing diminishing marital prospects; Meg, the middle sister, who quickly outgrew Hazelhurst, is back after a failed singing career on the West Coast; while Babe, the youngest, is out on bail after having shot her husband in the stomach. Their troubles, grave and yet, somehow, hilarious, are highlighted by their priggish cousin Chick, and by the awkward young lawyer who tries to keep Babe out of jail while helpless not to fall in love with her.)

A yet to be determined Kids Show in March, 20-19, 2015

TWELVE ANGRY JURORS by Reginald Rose & Sherman L. Sergel, an adaptation of Twelve Angry Men to run May 8-17, 2015, (synopsis:  A 19-year old man has just stood trial for the fatal stabbing of his father. “He doesn’t stand a chance” mutters the guard as the 12 jurors are taken into the bleak jury room. It looks like an open and shut case until one of the jurors begins opening the others’ eyes to the facts.) .

A summer musical is also planned for July, 2015 and will be announced as soon as the rights are approved.

Those interested should send a letter of intent to include past director experience and references ASAP to Clio Cast and Crew, Inc. Attn: SEASON 38 P.O. Box 184, Clio, MI 48420.

We are also thrilled to announce that central air conditioning is being installed in the theatre on June 30th.

For further information, please call the box office at 810-687-2588

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Celebrating A Decade of Shakespeare in Kearsley Park

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Ten years ago Kearsley Park was slightly the worse for wear and certainly not the verdant and inviting city oasis that it is today, but that summer something magical happened. It began when the lonely, crumbling pavilion was suddenly taken in hand by a theatrical troupe destined to reclaim not just the structure but a good deal of the surrounding neighborhood as well.

Celebrating the tenth anniversary of what Flint audiences often refer to as “Shakespeare in the park”, the Kearsley Park Players once again brought the bard to the pavilion Friday night with a rollicking production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. It’s a big and comic story with lots of twists and turns, and a large cast to bring it to the stage.

Sir John Falstaff (Michael Kelly) starts the comic cauldron brewing with his plan to seduce two merry wives of wealthy townsmen in order to gain access to their husbands’ money, which it seems these ladies control. Kelly is imposing and comical as he portrays this loveable scoundrel with an air of twinkling lechery.

He sends a seductive letter to both Mistresses Page (Shelli McCormick) and Ford (Ella J. Thorp), but his plans repeatedly go hysterically astray as these merry wives he seeks to entrap are better at the game than he. In fact, they set about luring him on in order to expose his intentions, and they don’t stop easily.

On the home front, Mistress Ford hopes to prove her faithfulness to her jealous husband (Ian Thomas) and Mistress Page is at odds with her husband (Jason Garza) over who should marry their daughter Anne (Caroline Collins). Although we don’t see all that much of Anne, we do spend a good deal of time with her suitors.

First we meet citizen Page’s favored fellow, Slender (Justin Wetenhall), introduced by his cousin Shallow (Harry Mitchell).       These two are an unlikely pair but Mitchell is comically adorable and Wetenhall preens and postures uproariously.

Soon, citizen Ford’s choice, Dr. Caius (Morris Arvoy), explodes onto the scene declaring his undying love for Anne in his heavily French-accented English. Nearly stealing the show, Arvoy’s incredible energy, expression, and amazingly clear (although accented AND Shakespearean) speeches were a crowd favorite Friday.

A couple of other ladies are at the heart of the mischief. Mistress Quickly (Cathleen Arnold), although a servant to Dr. Caius, finds herself serving all the suitors although she favors only one. Arnold is jolly and impish as she misunderstands and mixes signals all around.

As the Hostess of the Garter Inn, Amber Dillard does a fine job of portraying this traditionally male role as an overbearing and in charge female. It works!

Other roles deserving of comment were Falstaff’s two servants, Nym (Marwan Prince) and Pistol (Michael Poehner). These two scallywags (with their spiky hair) had Friday night’s audience chuckling as they tried to follow their master’s wishes and imbibed a bit too much in the process.

Director Kay Kelly always includes the younger set when she can and this show treated us to a gaggle of tiny fairies employed to entrap Falstaff in the woods. Enchanting! All in all, Merry Wives of Windsor is a very, merry event!

This production continues today at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm in the pavilion at Kearsley Park and at 7 pm June 19 at For-Mar Nature Preserve, June 20 at Linden County Park, Clover Beach, and June 21 at Flushing County Park.

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FENTON VILLAGE PLAYER’S “REHEARSAL FOR MURDER” OPENS STRONG

Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler

            Fenton Village Players opened the D. D. Brooke adaptation of Rehearsal for Murder Thursday with a strong performance that kept the audience on the edge of their seats trying to determine who the real murderer was.

The play centers on the alleged suicide of a movie actress after the opening of a new play. Sadly, the playwright and this actress were about to be married. After spending a year in Maine trying to decide what to do, he then returns to New York. Suspecting that it wasn’t suicide at all, he calls the cast and crew of that ill fated performance to a play reading for a new script.. His new play is an attempt to determine who murdered the actress. I won’t say any more. If you want to know, I urge you to go see the play.

Overall, I was impressed with the way all of the set changes were managed. They were made smoothly and there were no delays. The play contained a large number of transitions and scene changes which were handled by the cast with very few difficulties. The entire cast gave a very convincing performance in building the mystery and suspense. The lighting seemed to be an issue a few times as actors were in the dark on occasion. Still, the play flowed extremely well.

As Alex Dennison the Playwright, Steve Visser gave a good performance overall. Early on he seemed a bit stiff and distracted, but he worked well with the other actors and kept the play moving. Dennison’s secretary Sally Bean was played well by Maggie Hodgkins. She gave a good performance and handled all the changes without a problem, and there were a lot of them.

As the “suicidal” actress Monica Welles, Holly Myers gave a strong performance and handled the transitions with ease.   Geno Essenmacher played the harried director, Lloyd Andrews and was very convincing.

Another strong performance was given by Mary Powers as Bella Lamb, the producer and peacemaker. Although a tad quiet in the beginning, she gave a strong performance and was also very convincing. Playing Karen Daniels, the understudy for Monica, Rachel Hermanbrought energy to the stage and contributed strongly to the play’s suspense.

Although it was sometimes difficult to understand what he was saying, Daniel Ragan gave a good performance as David Mathews, an actor with attitude. As Leo Gibbs, a slightly clueless actor, Jacob Hoffman also gave a strong performance.

Playing several different people, Jerry Flewelling, really kept the suspense going and added to the mystery as The Man in the Audience.

There were a number of minor parts played by Amy Herman, Dale Radford, and Bobby Clark whose performance added substantially to the overall performance.

The use of a minimal set was a good choice, and the cast used this set to the utmost.

If you like murder mysteries, this is a must see play. Figuring out the murderer is not as easy as it appears. Trust me when I say that none of the actors will give it away until the very end.

Rehearsal for Murder continues June 6, 7, 13, 14 at 7 pm and June 8, 15 at 2 pm. Fenton Village Players is located at 14197 Torrey Rd., Fenton MI 48430. For tickets call 810-750-7700.

 

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MEADOW BROOK THEATRE BRINGS ITS SEASON TO A CONCLUSION WITH COLE PORTER’S “YOU NEVER KNOW”

Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler

You Never Know, a Cole Porter musical comedy, is making its run at Meadow Brook Theatre. This is a funny, song and dance filled musical.

Cole Porter was born in 1891 and is considered one of the most popular song writers in America. His hits include: “Begin the Beguine”, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, “You’re the Top”, “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)”, and many more. From the late 1920s to the 1950s, his music filled Broadway and stages across America.

You Never Know is a musical comedy about a playboy baron and his butler living in France. I would almost call this a farce. The Baron has many women and is trying to get out of a relationship with Ida because he has fallen in love with another married woman. His Butler, while making a phone call, falls in love with Maria. The Baron leaves the apartment to go with another woman and when Maria shows up at the apartment, the Butler passes himself off as the Baron. The plot is slim, even slightly stale, but still it is funny. Songs include: “By Candlelight”, “You Never Know”, “I’m Back in Circulation”, and more.

I had a level of expectation about this musical, but it didn’t quite get there Sunday as the performance seemed uneven.

The first act was a little slow and the dancing needed a bit more energy. Still, Ron Williams played the playboy Baron quite convincingly. Williams and Gaston the Butler, played by Matthew Schwartz, were a good team on stage. Their efforts brought the script to life. Both Schwartz and Williams did an excellent job even when they switched roles.

It seemed like they played more music than necessary with some of the numbers lasting a long time. The dancing used the entire stage even if it appeared overly contrived at times.

Brandi Knox played Ida, the woman the Baron was trying to get rid of. She seemed a little tentative when she first came on stage, but overall gave a good performance.

As the plot thickened, Maria, played by Sarah Parnicky, arrived at the Baron’s apartment.   There are antics all through this script: Notes found by other husbands, phone calls to the wrong people, messages not delivered, people masquerading around as someone else— still, none of it was complicated. Maria believed Gaston to be the Baron, and Gaston believed her to be a high society lady. The fun began when the Baron arrived home early because he was stood up.

Parnicky did a great job of being who she was not. She was funny and her exaggerated actions nearly stole the show.

Herr Baltin, played by Anthony Guest, is a strange character. He accused the Baron (Gaston) of having an affair with his wife. He challenged everyone to a duel. Maria showed up and he proclaimed that she was not his wife. Guest was a delight to watch in this role. Although a small role, he almost stole the show, which was in some need of stealing. Convinced his wife was not there, he left. Too bad Cole Porter didn’t bring him back out.

Of course, the new love of the Baron appeared at his apartment just in time to join the game. Mme. Baltin, played by Stephanie Wahl, performed well arriving as she did in the middle of the charade. Nevertheless, the correct couples were ultimately united, including Ida and Baltin, and all was well that ended well.

They had a beautiful set to work with. The lighting was superb. The orchestra deserves strong applause because they were wonderful in their renditions of these Porter pieces.

If you are looking for good music, songs, dance, and light farcical fare, I recommend this play. You Never Know is a good production even if the script is simple and weak.

You Never Know continues through June 22 at Meadow Brook Theatre located at 207 Wilson Hall, Oakland University, Rochester MI. 48309. For tickets call 248-377-3300.

 

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FLINT YOUTH THEATRE INVITES 6th THROUGH 12th GRADE STUDENTS TO AUDITION FOR THE SUMMER PRODUCTION OF “ALICE IN WONDERLAND”


Flint Youth Theatre announces open auditions and technical interviews for Alice in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll and adapted by Sharon Holland. This play will be directed by Samuel J. Richardson and performed on the FYT stage August 8 through 17.

Follow Alice down the rabbit hole on her journey of self-discovery. “Curiouser and curiouser,” she faces obstacles and confusion on all sides, and chooses to push on to find her way home, and finds herself along the way.

Students are invited to audition and interview to be a part of this play.

Open to all students currently in grades 6 to 12
Flint Youth Theatre • 1220 E. Kearsley St. • Flint, MI • 48503

Auditions: Saturday, May 31, 2 pm – 5:30 pm (check-in after 1:30pm)

Call-backs: Sunday, June 1 2 pm – 5:30 pm (if needed)

Technical Interviews: Saturday, May 31, 2 – 3pm (check-in after 1:30pm)

• Auditions are for students interested in being in the show.
Plan to attend the entire audition.
• Tech interviews are for students interested in working back stage.
• Students may apply for both.
• Auditions will involve reading from the script, and a variety of physical and vocal exercises. You do not need to prepare anything to audition.

Rehearsals: Beginning July 7, Mondays through Fridays, 1:30pm – 5:30pm

Tech: Saturday, August 2, 12pm – 8pm and Monday, August 4 through Thursday, August 7, 6pm – 9:30pm

Performances: Friday, August 8 at 7:30pm 
Saturday, August 9 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm
Sunday, August 10 at 2:30pm
Thursday, August 14 at 2:30pm
Friday, August 15 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm
Saturday, August 16 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm
Sunday, August 17 at 2:30pm

About Flint Youth Theatre

Flint Youth Theatre is a program of the
Flint Institute of Music. In partnership with the
Flint Symphony Orchestra and the Flint School of Performing Arts, its mission is to change lives through a lifelong continuum of music, dance and theatre. Since 1957, FYT has provided inter-generational live theatre arts programs for Flint and Genesee County residents. FYT is the nationally-acclaimed, award-winning resident theatre company at the Flint Cultural Center.

For more information about Flint Youth Theatre call 810.237.1530.

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