Call for Auditions: Flint Youth Theatre’s Little Women

Flint Youth Theatre will be holding open auditions for the upcoming production of Little Women, based on Louisa May Alcott’s semi-autobiographical book. Students in grades 7 – 12 are invited to attend the audition. Prior theatre experience is not required, and actors of all ethnicities are encouraged to audition. Piano playing experience a plus for students interested in auditioning for the role of Beth March.

Auditions and technical interviews will be held on Tuesday, September 1, from 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. If needed, callbacks will be held the following evening, Wednesday, September 2, from 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Cast members should be prepared to attend rehearsals MondayFriday, 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., beginning the week of September 8. Show performances will take place October 10 – 25, and student cast members will need to miss four days of school for daytime shows.

Alcott’s classic tale tells the story of the March girls as they learn who they are, what is important and find their own bravery as they hold home together during the Civil War. Little Women leads the 2015-16 MainStage season for Flint Youth Theatre, which will explore the theme of “Finding Home.” Tickets for all shows are available online at www.thewhiting.com/tickets. Please call 810-237-1530 with questions or for more information.

Posted in Press releases | Leave a comment

Flint Youth Theatre’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is Simply Stunning

Reviewed by Shelly L. Hoffman

Summer in these parts is usually a quiet time for theatre, but this summer we have seen an absolute boon in not only the number of shows being staged in Genesee County, but also in the quality of the productions on offer. Flint Youth Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream adds to the now burgeoning list of great theatre experiences to be had this season.

Arguably, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Shakespeare’s most accessible and humorous play which makes it a fitting choice for a youth theatre’s foray into the canon. Director Jeremy Winchester’s staging, with its inspired adaptation, stellar performances, elaborate setting, imaginative and meticulous costumes, enchanting music, and brilliant technical aspects, amounts to one stellar production that is not to be missed.

Where to start?! We’ll take it from the top. Winchester has slightly adapted Shakespeare’s tale of a quartet of young lovers, as well as a band of rude mechanicals mounting a play for the Duke, Theseus, upon his marriage to Hippolyta, and of a fairyland ruled over by a feuding couple. Customarily, it begins with young Hermia being brought by her father to the Duke in order to force her to wed Demetrius whom she does not love. Defying her father, she pledges her love to Lysander and, as such, is sentenced to die or become a nun if she doesn’t change her mind. Hermia and Lysander flee into the forest where they are joined by Demetrius who is pursued by the spurned Helena. Meanwhile, a group of workers from the town are casting a play they hope to perform for the Duke. In Winchester’s production, he has switched the order of the presentation. Instead of beginning with the somber pleas of love and the sentencing of Hermia, we first meet the mechanicals. This is a clever change, as the audience is immediately drawn in by the comedy and it clearly pronounces “This is going to be very funny.”  We like to think if Shakespeare were given a re-write for today’s audience, he, too, would choose to present it in this order.  Winchester has also altered the impetus for the feud between the fairy king and queen, as well as eliminating a character or two, and cutting some lines. Most of this is for the better, but we do lament some of the missing pieces.

This show is filled with top-notch performances. And, what’s so stunning about that is the exceedingly capable work, performing Shakespeare, no less, of the student-actors. Winchester is to be commended for not only casting young people in these demanding roles but for guiding them in their command of the text. Leading this group is Layla Meillier as Hermia. She exhibits bewitching skill in the gamut of emotions she displays and so ably controls. Her fear as she faces Theseus is palpable. George Lieber (Lysander), David A. Guster (Demetrius), and Jennifer Lynn (Helena) are equally up to the task of conveying the Bard’s words in such a way that we never once doubt they understand every line they deliver.

It’s almost a given the mechanicals will be good for some side-splitting laughs and, indeed, they are. This band of tradesmen vying to present their “tragical tale”, Pyramus and Thisbe, at the Duke’s wedding, is directed by Mistress Quince (Brittany Reed). Reed is a calming presence as she deadpans her way through correcting pronunciation and keeping egos in check. Her compatriots include Robin Starveling (LaTroy Childress), Francis Flute (Matt Coggins), Nick Bottom (Mark Gmazel), Snug (Chazz Irwin), and Tom Snout (Marwan Prince). They each bring a unique charm to the stage as both their characters and their character’s characters. Coggins’ falsetto “Thisbe” is particularly hilarious and Gmazel delights as the weaver, as the ass he is turned into, and as “Pyramus.” He takes many risks in his portrayal and they pay off handsomely.

In the forest, where the fairies roam, more students are used to dance and sing their way around, with great effect, as they serve the fairy queen, Titania (Deirdre S. Baker, who is double-cast as Hippolyta). The highlight here, and perhaps of the whole play, is the camaraderie between the king, Oberon (Anthony Guest, also cast as Theseus) and his servant Puck (Dan Gerics, also cast as Hermia’s father, Egeus). They are absolutely comedic in their Dumb and Dumber interpretation. Guest is equal parts resplendent and amusing, and Gerics brings a lighthearted lovability to Puck. They play off one another fantastically.

Midsummer’s staging is a visual feast that requires two venues to pull off. That’s right, the audience moves from one space to another. A simple raised staging area in the center of one of the studios, which creates a “theatre-in-the-square”, serves the opening two scenes. Then, the audience is beckoned by Winchester to follow into the Elgood Theatre where they are greeted by Gene Oliver’s breathtaking scenic design of the fairies’ forest. Seats have been removed to create more playing area, colorful ribbons hang from above, and a downed tree trunk serves as a footbridge. Doug Mueller’s lighting adds to the beauty and enchantment.

Adam M. Dill’s costume design is luscious and, perhaps, one of the most accomplished we have ever seen. The Athenian garb is splendid and rich, the mechanicals are comically anachronistic, and the fairies are ethereal. The most magnificent costumes are those of Oberon and Puck. Oberon is a stag, with tree-branch horns and a leaf-covered cloak (that Guest uses well) and Puck is a satyr, complete with cloven hooves (and Gerics moves beautifully in this get-up).

And the music! Dan Gerics has composed and designed music for this production and it is glorious. Whether it is the fairies playing percussive instruments or simple, yet effective, recorded ambient noises to bring out the sounds of a forest, the sound always perfectly suits the action.

This is also a technical marvel. We have often heard people say that it’s a good thing when the technical aspects of a show aren’t mentioned in a review; it means they did nothing to draw negative attention! However, we appreciate the amount of work that goes into something of this magnitude and congratulate Nicole Broughton on expertly stage managing this production. It was flawless.

Midsummer almost always pleases, but Flint Youth Theatre’s tendering is a substantial piece that blends every element just wonderfully.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues at the Elgood Theatre, in rotation with The Cat in the Hat, as part of FYT’s “SummerStage” series, Saturday, August 15, Thursday, August 20, Friday, August 21, and Sunday, August 23 at 2:00 pm and on Saturday, August 22 at 7:00 pm. Tickets range in price from $12 – $16 in advance and $14 – $18 day-of-show, and can be purchased in-person or by visiting http://tickets.thewhiting.com/single/PSDetail.aspx?psn=6432.

 

 

Posted in Recently Reviewed Productions | Leave a comment

Kearsley Park Players Present Engaging Production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado”

Reviewed by: Carolyn Gillespie

You’ve got to hand it to Kay Kelly, director of the Kearsley Park Players’ production of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta The Mikado that opened to an enthused audience Thursday night at the historic Crossroads Village Opera House in Flint. Hardly a fool, Kelly still rushes in where angels might fear to tread in mounting such a large and complicated production on the opera house’s modest stage. For starters, she has assembled a group of thirty singers from the community who handle the array of musical styles with aplomb, thanks to musical director Nada Radakovich. The eight young players who comprise the pit are equally competent.

The production opens with a rousing version of “If You Want to Know Who We Are” by the men’s chorus that sets a confident tone for the rest of the evening. The set, which remains in place throughout, is comprised of simple lengths of Japanese silk dead-hung from an upstage baton. Kelly has spared us the bad non-PC makeup that has, in times past, been applied in an effort to achieve a “Japanese” look for non-Asian performers. Nanki-Poo, the romantic lead and fugitive son of the Mikado is played by Ethan Rodgers who leads off the solo singing with “A Wandering Minstrel I” in his clear tenor. Credit must be given to Richard Bailey for crafting a convincing stringed instrument to aid Nanki-Poo’s disguise. One by one we are introduced to the other male characters. Kevin Starnes adds gravitas with his rich baritone as the functionary Pish-Tish; Frank Pitts’ huge voice and physical presence capture the pretentious, many-titled Pooh-Bah; and slight David Lindsay garners laughter with his limp-wristed rendition of Ko-Ko, the reluctant Lord High Executioner as he performs his updated version of “I’ve Got a Little List” that includes Game of Thrones spoilers, a few Tigers, and certain Lansing officials! Michael Kelly appears at the end of the play as the alternately formidable and fatherly Mikado who comes to unravel the conundrum Ko-Ko has constructed for himself and his compatriots. Always a commanding presence, Mr. Kelly does not disappoint, and does a credible job with his vocal numbers, nailing the satire with his own list of current presidential hopefuls in “A More Humane Mikado”.

Though The Mikado favors its men, the women in this production more than hold their own. The women’s chorus, comprised of matrons and maids, including love interest Yum-Yum are beautifully costumed in a variety of kimonos unified by blue obis. In fact, the costumes, designed by Ms. Kelly and executed by a small team of stitchers (Elaine Kaye, Diane Harbin, Jeanette Kehoe, and Laura Williams) are worthy of note throughout for the rich, yet controlled color choices and attention to detail. Caroline Collins as Yum-Yum, Miranda Armfield as Pitti-Sing, and Kristen Carter as Peep-Bo win hearts with their trio “Three Little Maids from School”. And it is a delight to hear the lovely Ms. Collins’ pure soprano voice later on in a sensitively rendered “The Sun Whose Rays” as she reflects on her own beauty. Mezzo Kim Streby (sporting terrific makeup) shines as the scorned harridan Katisha and paints an almost poignant figure as she contemplates her single state in “Alone, and Yet Alive”.

Not only are the solo and choral numbers effectively rendered; some of the production’s most satisfying moments occur in the small ensembles. The “Merry Madrigal” quartet sung by Nanki-Poo, Yum-Yum, Pish-Tish, and Pitti-Sing is precisely balanced, and the quintet “The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring” is equally delightful.

Ms. Kelly has built some handsome stage pictures and utilized the entire space, including the aisles and the steps leading onto the stage. Of particular note are the finales to each of the two acts. While profitable time was obviously spent on the music, the acting seems to have gotten short shrift. The Mikado is knit from several skeins – the zaniness of burlesque, the clarity and grace of classical forms, and the necessary underpinnings of modern realism. The cast struggles to find the mode appropriate to any given scene, and hasn’t decided on whether or not to use a British dialect; a few actors can’t quite get their mouths around the words well enough for us to catch all the cleverness. Mugging is left unchecked, mistaken for “style”; excess is often rewarded with audience approval. The sensible, very approachable choreography created by Aaron McCoy and James Cech would (and hopefully will) benefit from greater precision. It is the genius of Gilbert and Sullivan that their works are elastic enough and witty enough to survive and thrive in the hands of a wide range of performers, and this production is so well sung that its flaws play second trombone to the Kearsley Park Players’ engaging and highly ambitious whole.

The Mikado continues on the following schedule: August 13-16: The Opera House at Crossroads Village – 7:30 p.m.; August 20-22: Kearsley Park Pavilion – 7:30 p.m.; August 23 – Kearsley Park Pavilion – 3:00 p.m.

For ticket reservations at the Opera House, call 810-736-7100, ext. 6. For reservations at Kearsley Park, call 810-845-4050.   Tickets are $5/person.

 

 

 

Posted in Recently Reviewed Productions | Leave a comment

Flint Youth Theatre’s “Cat in the Hat” Adds Excitement to Summer Theatre Offerings

Reviewed by Shelly L. Hoffman

What’s better than a theatre full of children thoroughly enjoying themselves? Surely, it’s a theatre full of bubbles AND children enjoying themselves. Bubbles are just one of the many treats director Samuel J. Richardson has cooked up for audiences of Flint Youth Theatre’s Cat in the Hat. This almost timeless Dr. Seuss classic, adapted by Katie Mitchell, kicks off FYT’s “SummerStage” series, part of the organization’s new end-of-summer theatre festival, which also includes Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (opening Friday night). While not quite repertory (different actors are used in each show), the two productions are staged at the same time and the young people who appear in one will serve as crew for the other.

The Cat in the Hat is, essentially, five minutes of story and forty minutes of wildly entertaining antics that include magic tricks, dancing, beach ball bouncing, and much, much more. The children in Thursday’s opening matinee audience were actually squealing with delight at all they saw and experienced. And, admittedly, the adults were pretty entertained as well.

Students Enrique Vargas and Kate Spademan are featured in this production as Boy and Sally, respectively, the youngsters who are left home alone and yearn to play outside on a cold and rainy day. Each brings to the stage the full sense of bored siblings as they adorably primp and preen and fight with each other while stuck indoors. Today’s youngsters might have difficulty understanding why Boy & Sally don’t just play video games, but it’s 1957 (the year Cat was published), and the outdoors is where it’s at.

They are left under the watchful eye of Fish. Here, Bary Lehr serves as the voice and puppet master while acting alongside the puppet fish. Lehr’s portrayal is both droll and anxiety-ridden as the Fish tries to warn Boy and Sally of the dangers of their unexpected visitor.

That visitor is, of course, the titular character, Cat. Not content to wreak havoc on his own, the Cat is accompanied by eight Kittens (all FYT students), who each exhibit very cat-like qualities, and help to destroy the parent-free home. Bret Beaudry is a whirlwind of activity as the Cat, displaying great physical prowess and thoroughly capturing the attention of the little ones. His delivery of lines, at times, though, seems slow and, when sandwiched between all the commotion, a little disjointed. Still, his Cat is a commanding presence.

There is so much to this show which, at first blush, might seem insurmountable. From Cat balancing himself on a ball while holding all manner of thing, to Fish having a dream, to the arrival of Thing 1 and Thing 2, it is all very cleverly staged.   Gene Oliver’s adaptable scenic design incorporates Dr. Seuss’ enchanting illustrations (complete with a sneezing bird) and ably reveals the damage Cat imposes on the house. The set is complemented by Adam M. Dill’s costume design, which helps to bring to life each character. The props, too, including a wonderful cleaning machine, add to the on-stage frolics.

As can be expected at Flint Youth Theatre, the lighting and sound cues are nearly flawless. One wonders, though, about the seemingly needless, inconsistent, and terribly distracting sound amplification. It is not clear why some actors are microphoned and others are not. It is clear, though, that one or more of the microphones on Thursday created severe static throughout almost the entire production, and actually served to obscure the sound rather than make it clearer.

Technical issues aside, Cat in the Hat is incredibly interactive and magically holds the attention of both young and not-so-young theatre-goers. It will delight the kids and transport many an adult back to childhood.

Cat in the Hat, recommended for ages 3 and up, is being staged at Bower Theatre. Additional performances are Saturday, August 15 and Friday, August 21 at 7:00 pm. Matinee performances will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, August 16, Wednesday, August 19, and Saturday, August 22. Tickets range in price from $12 – $16 in advance and $14 – $18 day-of-show, and can be purchased in-person or by visiting http://tickets.thewhiting.com/single/PSDetail.aspx?psn=6408.

 

 

 

Posted in Recently Reviewed Productions | Leave a comment

Flint Youth Theatre Presents SummerStage Festival: Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat” & Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will run from August 13-23

FLINT, MI—Flint Youth Theatre presents its SummerStage theatre festival August 13-23 with two classic productions: Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat and William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Both shows are suitable for family audiences, and are a great way to introduce children and families to professional theatre.

Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat is a comedy of errors featuring that infamous, mischievous feline in the middle of it all! This show is recommended for audience members ages 3 and over. William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a classic tale that reminds us that love can truly make fools of us all. This production is recommended for audience members ages 12 and over.

The casts for both productions are comprised of adult professional company members and student company members in grades 7-12. In addition to rehearsing the productions, the students have had the opportunity to work on sets, costuming, and learn lighting and sound for a fully immersive theatre education.

Tickets range in prices from $12-$18 and are available to purchase online at www.thewhiting.com/tickets or at the door. Please call Flint Youth Theatre at 810-237-1530 for more information.

FYT SummerStage Schedule:

Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat
Thursday, August 13, 2 p.m.
Saturday, August 15, 7 p.m.
Sunday, August 16, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, August 19, 2 p.m.
Friday, August 21, 7 p.m.
Saturday, August 22, 2 p.m.

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Friday, August 14, 7 p.m.
Saturday, August 15, 2 p.m.
Thursday, August 20, 2 p.m.
Friday, August 21, 2 p.m.
Saturday, August 22, 7 p.m.
Sunday, August 23, 2 p.m.

The SummerStage productions are made possible through the sponsorship of Howard and Rita Shand.

Posted in Press releases | Leave a comment

They’re Creepy and They’re Kooky and They’re at Fenton Village Players – “The Addams Family”

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Fans of the wacky, weird 1960s TV sitcom featuring Gomez and his refined yet chilling wife Morticia will find nostalgia and delight in the Fenton Village Players new Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, and Andrew Lippa musical version, The Addams Family.

The whole gang is here but the show begins with a somewhat odd version of Uncle Fester as emcee. Daniel Ragan is garbed to appear hefty and his head is covered to simulate baldness. It’s his blotchy white makeup that confuses – is he dead? Almost dead? There are a lot of dead people (Ancestors) in this show, so it was hard to tell just where he fit in. Nevertheless, Ragan does a good job of introducing the story and moving it along.

Of course the mainstays of this show are parents Gomez (Jonathan Smith) and Morticia (Amber Fullmer). Smith sets the tempo and the tone throughout. His timing is wonderful and his small asides are a hoot! Fullmer makes a memorable debut on the FVP stage with her velvety portrayal. She is sensual and slightly creepy at the same time; in other words, perfect.

It’s daughter Wednesday who is causing the struggle. She has fallen in love with and agreed to marry a normal boy, Lucas Beineke (Austin Foster). Oh, the shame! Isabelle Birt does a credible job with this up and down character – one minute sweet and the next sour. Her plea to Gomez to keep the engagement a secret until after the Beineke family comes to dinner sets everyone reeling.

Younger brother Pugsley (Griffin Grabowski) worries most that his sister will be no longer there to torture him – for real! Their scene in the electrical torture chamber is curiously comical as she sings about being “Pulled” in a new direction. Grabowski is a little tall to be the younger brother, but he has terrific facial mobility and projects this mischievous character nicely.

The night of the dinner finds the whole Beineke family (Dan Maldonado, Carla Feamster, & Foster) arriving and greeted by the zombie-like Lurch – played hysterically by Nick Carter. Grunts and a slow gait plus a total deadpan demeanor cause Carter to stand out in this crowd.

Insisting they play a “traditional” family party game where everyone must tell a secret truth, Pugsley tries to slip a potion to his sister to make her reveal her true nature to Lucas. Oops! It goes to Mrs. Beineke instead causing Feamster to unleash her character’s pent up inhibitions and frustrations in the hilarious “Full Disclosure”.

Throughout the play, the ragtag dead Ancestors move in and out but unseen by the “normal” folks. They are a unique ensemble, dressed in period costumes and with understandably unhealthy complexions. They complete the chorus in big numbers such as the opening “When You’re An Addams” and the finale, “Move Toward Darkness”.

As for songs, our favorite was the sweet ballad “Happy Sad” sung by Smith as Gomez comes to terms with his daughter’s marriage. Another favorite opened act two with Fullmer’s Morticia singing “Just Around the Corner” with help from the Ancestors.

The music for this show follows a growing trend in the area by using a recorded track rather than live musicians. It worked well Thursday even if it was now and then a bit overpowering. Congratulations to Rafeal D. McDaniel as music director for bringing this group along so nicely.

Director Stevie Visser is also to be congratulated. His staging is well handled. There were a couple of slow transitions Thursday perhaps due to the canned music but generally these are things easily remedied. We liked the scrim effect and the dead Ancestors moving about in the “firmament”.

Most of all, this is a comical and entertaining show. It may be just a bit spicy in spite of its G rating, but laughter definitely ruled the roost opening night as the large audience hooted and applauded readily.

The Addams Family continues at 7 PM Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 PM Sundays through August 23 at Fenton Village Playhouse, 14197 Torrey Rd., Fenton, MI 48430. For more info and tickets contact the box office – 810-750-7700.

Posted in Recently Reviewed Productions | Leave a comment

Kearsley Park Players Return with Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”

Flint’s Kearsley Park Players continue their 2015 Theatre in Our Parks summer theatre festival with a production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s musical comedy The Mikado.

With some of the most enjoyable songs in musical theater, The Mikado tells the story of star-crossed lovers who overcome numerous obstacles to find happiness together. Placed in ancient Japan, the story actually uses its Japanese location to poke fun at English and American society.

The Mikado remains the most popular Gilbert & Sullivan work. It has been translated into numerous languages and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history.

When The Mikado was first presented in 1885, its London production ran for 672 performances, which was one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. Before the end of 1885, it was estimated that at least 150 theatre companies in Europe and America were producing the musical at the same time.

“Last year the Kearsley Park Players did our first Gilbert & Sullivan musical with a triumphant production of Pirates of Penzance,” stated director Kay Kelly, “That production sold out every performance and many people were turned away at the door so this year we have added Thursday evening performances for both weeks of the run.”

Because of funding from the Ruth Mott Foundation, tickets for all performances are only $5. Many noted local performers are part of the production, including Michael Kelly as the Mikado, Caroline Marie Collins as Yum-Yum, David Lindsay as Ko-Ko, Frank Pitts as Pooh-Bah, Kim Streby as Katisha and Ethan Rodgers as Nanki-Poo.

The Mikado will open on Thursday, August 13 at the Opera House at Crossroads Village at 7:30 pm. Performances at Crossroads Village will continue on Friday, August 14, Saturday, August 15 and Sunday, August 16 at 7:30 pm. For ticket reservations at the Opera House, please call (810) 736-7100 (ext. 6) during regular business hours (9am to 5pm).

The second weekend, The Mikado moves to the Kearsley Park Pavilion with performances August 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 pm with the final performance (and the only matinee) on Sunday, August 23 at 3 pm. For ticket reservations at Kearsley Park call (810) 845-4050.

The play is directed by Kay Kelly with musical direction by Nada Radakovich.

The full schedule of performances follows:
August 13 – The Opera House at Crossroads Village – 7:30 PM
August 14 – The Opera House at Crossroads Village – 7:30 PM
August 15 – The Opera House at Crossroads Village – 7:30 PM

August 16 – The Opera House at Crossroads Village – 7:30 PM
August 20 – Kearsley Park Pavilion – 7:30 PM
August 21 – Kearsley Park Pavilion – 7:30 PM
August 22 – Kearsley Park Pavilion – 7:30 PM
August 23 – Kearsley Park Pavilion – 3:00 PM

 

This performance is part of “2015 Theatre in OUR Parks”, a collaboration between the City of Flint Parks and Recreation Department and Genesee County Parks and Recreation Commission, funded by a grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation.

Join your friends and neighbors all over Genesee County as we celebrate summer in our parks. More information at kearsleyparkplayers.com.

 

AAA PR photo-1

[PHOTO: (front) David Lindsay as Ko-Ko, (center) Ethan Rodgers as Nanki-Poo, Caroline Marie Collins as Yum-Yum, and (back) Michael Kelly as the Mikado.]

 

Theatre in Our Parks

(810) 845-4050

www.kearsleyparkplayers.com

 

 

 

Posted in 2014-2015, Press releases | Leave a comment