FYT’s “Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat” Was Mischievous Fun

18011103_10155012439312481_6180447184329536686_nReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

A long time favorite purveyor of mischief came to life on the Bower Theatre stage this week! Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat has been playing to children’s groups all week and winds up its run today. If you missed it, we’re sorry – it was a wonderfully colorful, comical, musical, and wacky show that the kids in Friday night’s audience loved loudly!

Director Kay Kelly chose the Katie Mitchell adaptation of this beloved Suess story possibly to ensure the delight of both parents and their offspring. It begins with the children, Boy (Ronan Streby) and Sally (Molly Jones) facing a day home alone in a rainstorm. Unable to play outside, they must find things to do inside – not an easy task. In addition, they seem to be watched over by a large, flashy goldfish (Michaela Nogaj) that behaves more like a parent than a pet!

Suddenly a knock on the door brings a very large cat (LaTroy Childress) sporting a tall striped hat onto the scene accompanied by three partners in mischief, Kitten #1 (Evan Brewer), Kitten #2 (Zoe Proctor), and Kitten #3 (Maya Sawyer). At this point the fun begins as the entire audience is drawn into the fun. Ever larger beach balls are launched into the audience causing, as we might expect, a competitive and rousing spirit to ensue.

Once the beach balls are retrieved, a large crate appears onstage and two Things are released to run further riot! Young twins Lucas and William Eldredge are perfect as Thing #1 and Thing #2 respectively. It is this bushy blue-haired duo that manages to truly cause havoc as they run about flying their kites in the house.

Fifties music rocks and rolls throughout as all this action happens. Childress is a marvelous Cat – long and lanky with a variety of crazy gymnastic moves and funny facial expressions – his only problem seemed to be a hoarse voice Friday. His energy and enthusiasm were perfection.

Finally, the word went out that Mom was coming home! What to do? Cat and Kittens manage to put things back but at play’s end asked the audience what they would tell Mom about their crazy day. As if on cue, one youngster in the audience blurted out “I would tell her the truth!” It was a perfect ending to a wonderfully fun 45 minutes with Dr. Suess!

One more performance remains – today at 2 pm. Grab the kids and get there if you can!  Call 810.237.1530 to check for tickets.

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Clio Cast & Crew Opens Delightful “Beauty and the Beast”

b-and-b-logo-w280h205Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Historically, fairy tales were not so sweet and happily-ever-after as the Disney versions we have around today. Indeed, they may have been designed originally to be used as warnings for youngsters against certain perils; think woods, wolves, strangers offering gifts, as well as apparently dashing princes and step-mothers. Nevertheless, the story of Beauty and the Beast retains a bit more than its share of scary moments.

Clio Cast and Crew’s version, written by Linda Woolverton with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice, opened Thursday to an appreciative crowd. It sports a talented cast and a strong set of principal players. Getting right to the action, a nicely filmed account of how the Beast (Daniel Lopez) got that way precedes the curtain. By the way, Lopez is amazingly grotesque as the hulking beast complete with horns, a flowing mane and angry growl. His vocals are moving and very special.

Daughter of an eccentric inventor, the beauty is Belle (Annadelle Kimber); she is, for two reasons, considered something of an outcast in the village. First, she reads a lot (apparently not a popular pastime in this century) and second, she is NOT attracted to the brash and much pursued town bachelor, Gaston (Michael Poehner).

Poehner is a standout in this production with his bombastic style, big voice and absolute certainty that no woman can resist him. Kimber brings a sweetness tempered with a strong will to the role. Her voice is lovely, but her microphone lent a heavy bass or muffled timbre to most of her vocals Thursday making her often difficult to understand.

Most of the action takes place in the palace of the Beast. Finding her father (William Kircher) held captive there, she agrees to stay if he can go. We learn that the spell put upon the Beast extends to his household staff causing them each to be encased in object personas. Cogsworth (Shane McNicol), once major domo of the palace, is a garrulous clock; Lumiere (Harvey) the maître d is an outspoken candlestick; Mrs. Potts (Rose Adams) is an English teapot who pushes her teacart around with her son Chip (Evan Worden) serving as the teacup. Then there is Babette (Jessi Eldridge) the maid now evolving into a sneeze-inducing feather duster, and Madame Bouche (Nicole Dunckel), an opera singer with a big heart enclosed with her in a bigger chest of drawers.

All of these continue to serve the enchanted Beast and hope for the day when someone he can truly love comes along to love him in return. Only then will the spell be broken.

It will all come to a head when Gaston and his fainthearted sidekick LeFou (Jonathan Smith) decide to kill the Beast to “protect” the town. Smith brings a continued air of panic and pride to the role making him a perfect foil for the blustery Gaston.

We’ll not tell you how it all ends because it was too much fun to watch it unfold at Theatre 57 Thursday. We will say that this was an impressive performance. Co-directors Pat and Cheryl Blondin have managed to design an intriguing set and move the large cast around with fluid ease. Set changes were handled with swift precision.

Pre-recorded music is not my favorite accompaniment, but under the direction of Rafael McDaniel this cast handles their songs nicely and with very little hesitation.

In an imaginative show like this one, costumes take on an extra burden. Kudos to Dennis Swedorski and his crew for the amazingly believable garb of the “spellbound” and the Beast, as well as the rest of the townsfolk. And, finally, Jody Henderson’s choreography deserves mention especially for the wonderfully synchronized tin mug tavern dance.

All in all, this Beauty and the Beast is a wonderful recreation of the old fairy tale and even follows the Disney version as far as possible. It continues at Theatre 57, 2220 W Vienna Road, Clio, MI 48420 May 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 @ 7:30 pm and May 14 & 21 @ 2:30 pm. For tickets contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com

 

 

 

 

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Flint’s Velvelettes Featured In New McCree Production

needle_in_thehaystack360x267Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

We took a trip down memory lane Friday evening. The time was 1961 and the place was Davis Hall on the campus of Western Michigan University where one night my roommate and I heard some amazing vocals wafting from a room down the hall. Upon investigation, we found four gals singing incredible harmony! I have never forgotten that night and didn’t realize until much later that they had signed with Motown and become the Velvelettes.

That long ago experience makes the New McCree Theatre’s current production all the more special. Needle in a Haystack tells the story of the Velvelettes from those days at WMU, to their first recording and the years of touring, through the time-out years of raising families, and all the way to a recently celebrated reunion.

Written by Charles H. Winfrey and the Velvelettes (Norma Barbee-Fairhurst, Bertha Barbee-McNeal, Caldin Gill-Street, & Mildred Gill-Arbor), the show is best described as a revue strung together with music and that wonderful girl-group sound. Narrators explain the place and time as over twenty great numbers are performed mostly in chronological order of the group’s development from Hitsville to New York to London and the world.

Doina Austin portrays Cal, the group’s lead vocalist. Her steady and strong voice anchors every song these Velvelettes perform. Some of our favorites included “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”, “Needle in a Haystack”, and a fun medley of “Maybe”, “Da Do Run Run” and “Dancing in the Street”.

The remaining three gals, Bertha, Millie and Norma are played with smiles and precision by Ariel Angel Vincent, Precious Austin, & Michaela Anderson respectively. Their harmonies are wonderful and their innocent enthusiasm is great fun to watch. We could clearly imagine and empathize with their trepidation and excitement as their career was launched.

Director Billie Scott Lindo has assembled a large cast to tell this story. Other stars that crossed paths with the quartet duck in and out treating the audience to musical memories such as “People Get Ready” sung with heart by Fred Fife and backed up by Simon Barbee, Chris Young, and Antione Golfin.

Instrumental music is always a treat at McCree Theatre and this show is certainly5no exception. Phillip Young plays keyboards and leads the onstage musicians: Charles Shinn, drums; Tommie Shinn, bass; Ronald Terry, guitar; Ulysses Bailey, saxophone; and James Bryant, keyboards. They alone may be worth the price of admission!

If there was a problem Friday it may have been that more folks weren’t there to appreciate and experience this musical biography. So, for that sixties’ sound and a great story, come on over to the New McCree Theatre soon.

Needle in a Haystack continues at New McCree Theatre through May 27. The theatre is located at 2040 W. Carpenter Rd, Flint, MI 48505 (old Powers HS). For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810.787.2200 or online at www.thenewmccreetheatre.com

 

 

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“9 to 5: The Musical” Opens at FCP

18033003_10154467647261629_4957243384601261310_nReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

With gender issues and feminism so much in the news these days, anyone would think we were still back in the 1980s when the cult comedy, 9 to 5, with Dolly Parton in her very first film role, burst onto the scene. Extremely relevant at the time, this story of three office gals who set out to get even with their wildly bigoted boss still hits pretty close to home today. In 2009, 9 to 5 the movie became 9 to 5: The Musical and opened on Broadway complete with music and lyrics by Parton and script by film co-writer Patricia Resnick.

The Flint Community Players (FCP) opened this revived and much anticipated version Thursday. Unfortunately a last minute technical glitch forced the sold-out audience to be kept waiting outside for an uncomfortable 15 or 20 minutes, but the show did finally get underway about 14 minutes late.

A strong quintet of performers hold this surprisingly funny show together aided and abetted by a chorus of smaller roles and extras. The trio of office gals includes Kim Ostrander as Violet, Alison Boggs as Doralee and Kristen Carter as Judy. Each of these characters is unique; Ostrander is perky and strong as the highly competent widowed mother of a teenage son who could easily run the office by herself; Boggs is bouncy, slightly brassy but oh so clever in the Parton role of harassed secretary to the boss; and Carter brings a comical innocence and sturdy courage to Judy, the totally inexperienced new divorcee.

That bigoted autocrat that runs the company from behind his fancy penthouse desk will become a target of these gals, but first he is revealed in all his sexist glory throughout the first half of the show. Stevie Visser plays Franklin Hart, CEO with sufficient sleaze and sneaky innuendo. Sporting a very long red tie, Visser is clearly having fun with this role. His final comeuppance is humorous and well deserved.

Rounding out these five leads is Jen Harris as Roz, the office snitch. She nearly stopped the show Thursday with her torchy “Heart to Hart” revealing her total infatuation with the boss.

Aside from the title song, the music is generally less than memorable in this show. Still, Boggs captured the fancy of the audience with her “Backwoods Barbie”, a cute story about Doralee’s origin and how she’s misunderstood.

Director Paul Gregory Nelson may have gone a bit far in trying to reproduce the cinema effect. His set has multiple levels requiring frequent and burdensome scene changes. Responsibility for these shifts falls to the cast, including the secretaries in heels and skirts! Whole hefty set pieces are moved about to portray the office, the secretarial pool, various living rooms, cafes, and bedrooms.

The overall effect finds these set changes dominating the action. Not only are they loud and involved, appearing quite difficult to pull off even as the lights are flashing and the cover music is blaring, but they break the flow of the story. Everything stops for the duration of the shift.

One bright spot in this midst is Karla Froehlich who plays a number of small parts but always seems to be directing traffic and interacting with the audience thereby providing some comic relief to these tedious moments.

Once again the accompanying music is recorded which has its own set of problems forcing players to kowtow to the tempos and sometimes makes it difficult to grab the proper pitch. Nevertheless, most of the folks here give these numbers their all.

9 to 5: The Musical continues at FCP May 4, 5, 6, 12, 13 at 7:30PM
May 7 & 14 at 2:30PM. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-235-6963 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FVP Delivers Impressive “Death of a Salesman”

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize winning Death of a Salesman isn’t a project for the faint of heart, but Fenton Village Players proved themselves up to the challenge. A serious drama, it takes the audience on a journey inside the head of an aging traveling salesman as he comes face to face with his own shortcomings. This is an impressive production.1280x450-About-New-York-2-by-magdalenaroeseler-at-Flickr-CC-BY-NC-SA-2

Written and set in 1949, Willy Loman, played masterfully by Steven Shelton, is the title character. His emotional range is striking. Returning home unexpectedly, Willy tells his wife, Linda (Patti Lee) that he was just too tired to continue. Lee is wonderful as the faithful and long-suffering wife and mother. She exudes strength and understanding even as her husband begins to retract into his own world.

We find that the two grown Loman boys are also home for a visit that will turn out to be less than loving before they’re finished. Zach Bach plays Happy who has spent most of his life in the shadow of his older brother Biff. He has managed to become employed and to support his playboy lifestyle, which is more than his brother can boast.

As Biff, Chris Vitarelli oozes angst over what at first seems to be his failure to live up to his father’s expectations. We will find as Willy continually relives his past that there is definitely more to the story of Biff’s broken dreams than meets the eye.

Biff’s boyhood friend, Bernard (Grant Kenney) was something of nerd, but of course grows up to be quite successful while Biff is still struggling to find his way. His father is Charley played by Matt Osterberg. A true friend, Willy still holds him at arms length even as he proves his friendship over and over.

Willie spends a lot of time living in the past and often speaking to his dead brother, Ben who is played with cogent grace by Geno Essenmacher. Ben left home early and made his fortune in diamonds, an adventure Willy longs to emulate but, of course, cannot.

Miller clearly expects us to recognize Willy along with his issues and struggles. He takes the character on a roller coaster of emotional memories where we can literally see him relive these not so happy experiences with which we are obviously supposed to empathize. Did I mention that this is not a comedy?

Director Joseph Mishler brings his cast to ensemble quality very nicely. The range of emotion that each must deal with emerges naturally and believably. Movement around the skeleton-style set is fluid.

About the set – Essenmacher has done double duty here. He seems to have followed the playwright’s directions to a tee and the result is quite intriguing. Players move in, around and through the “walls” as the set becomes other places. It would seem this would be difficult to follow, but it isn’t.

Overall, just the idea of producing this story of Willy Loman is daunting, but FVP has powerfully managed to bring it to vibrant life. We understand him and the values by which he lived and was ultimately destroyed. If there was anything missing Thursday, it was the full house that this show so richly deserves.

Death of a Salesman continues through April 30. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-750-7700 or online at www.FentonTheatre.org

 

 

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Fenton Village Players Presenting “Death of a Salesman”

Death of a Salesman

April 20th – 23rd, 28th – 30th

1280x450-About-New-York-2-by-magdalenaroeseler-at-Flickr-CC-BY-NC-SA-2

A story about the last days of Willy Loman, a salesman, who, in is quest for the “American Dream”, cannot understand how he failed to win success and happiness. It remains one of the most profound classic dramas of the American theatre.

Production Staff

  • Directed by Joseph Mishler
  • Produced by Mary Powers

Cast

  • Willy Loman — Steven Shelton
  • Biff — Chris Vitarelli
  • Happy — Zach Bach
  • Linda — Patti Lee
  • Charley — Matt Osterberg
  • Bernard — Grant Kenny
  • Ben — Geno Essenmacher
  • Howard/Stanley — Tim Maggard
  • The Woman — Karen McClellan
  • Miss Forsythe — Rachael Rittichier
  • Jenny/Letta — Grace Lee

More Info

Tickets – call box office at 810-750-7700 or online at http://fentontheatre.org/tickets/

 

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UM-Flint’s Brings Bright Interpretation to Oscar Wilde’s “Earnest”

earnest_poster_2016_copyReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

When Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was writing in the late nineteenth century, conservatism ruled society. It was a time of upper crust pomp and general disdain for the lesser classes. The University of Michigan-Flint Department of Theatre and Dance plunged headlong into this era Friday with Wilde’s comic poke at such stuffy society, The Importance of Being Earnest.

This is an often-produced piece, but we’ll wager you’ve not seen it quite like this before. The opening finds Algernon ‘Algy’ Moncrieff (Gage Webster) at a piano playing with gusto and singing at the top of his voice. Nothing straitlaced in his behavior at all! Throughout, Webster exudes a playboy persona, quick to con and deceive all while enjoying himself immensely.

His butler, Lane, played by George M. Marzonie provides even more comedy with his stiff but often melancholy demeanor.

Algy is soon visited by his good friend John (Jack/Ernest) Worthing (Lucas Moquin), a fellow with an apparently much stiffer upper lip, but who is guarding a secret life as well. Moquin brings this ramrod personality to both of his “characters” garnering many chuckles in the attempt.

Both of these fellows are enamored and very close to falling in love. Worthing’s lady friend is Algy’s cousin Gwendolen Fairfax (Farrell Tatum), an impeccable, slightly haughty figure dressed in extravagant and beautiful style. Not quite the opposite, but of a more sweet, homespun and mischievous disposition, Algy’s love interest is Cecily (Dominique Hinde), Worthing’s ward.

Lady Augusta Bracknell (Shelby Coleman) rules the resident roost with her pristine Victorian sense of right and wrong and her high decibel voice. When it is apparent that John/Earnest Worthing was a foundling child left in a bag at Victoria Station, she declares the engagement null. After all, she cannot allow her niece to “form an alliance with a parcel”.

Director William Irwin describes this production as “lavish and fun” and that, sir, it certainly is. Lavish may be too a simple an explanation for Scenic Designer Tyler Rankin’s amazing gardens and observatory. It is a stunning setting for all the scurrying about that happens as each of the two gents proclaims himself to be Earnest. (Seems the ladies find that name too tempting to resist.)

We loved Act I in the London sitting room at teatime with Algy’s “musicality”, but Acts 2 and 3 are set in a country manor house and may be worth the price of admission alone. It’s simple to imagine Miss Prism (Taylor Boes) and the Rev. Chasuble (Andrew Eisengruber) strolling through the garden just beyond the ivy-laden archways. Also the interactions on the garden wall walkway between Cecily and the servant Merriman (Jordan Kinney) are sweet and well done.

Inside the glass-walled conservatory the effect is even more impressive as all of the confusion comes to its happy conclusion with many a cockeyed twist and turn in the effort.

There isn’t one weak link in this ensemble. This is a very well directed and talented cast backed up by an accomplished set and technical team. Even if you think you’ve seen Wilde’s Earnest before, have another go at this one. You will be glad you did.

The Importance of Being Earnest continues at The University of Michigan-Flint through April 2. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-237-6520 or online at www.umflint.edu/theatredance

 

 

 

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