Coming Soon To Clio Cast & Crew

The Ash Girl                        June 17-26, 2016

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written by Timberlake Wertenbaker

directed by Terry Holden

This isn’t your Disney Cinderella story.

Synopsis:  In a big old house, Ashgirl lives huddled deep in the protection of an ashy hearth. With her mother dead and her father away, she lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters. When the invitation to the ball arrives from the prince, Ashgirl finds the strength to go with the help of her friends, some of whom come from expected places. When she gets home, Ashgirl realizes that in order to regain the fleeting happiness she found in the arms of the prince, she must fight the monsters who have slithered and insinuated their way into her heart and mind. She must believe in herself for others to do so.

All seats are $14 each;  for tickets call 810-687-2588 or go online at cliocastandcrew.com

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“Sanctified”- Mirth, Music and Mystery Reign at the New McCree

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

sanctified295x188            It may be the end of days for the East Piney Grove Baptist Church, but not if its new pastor can help it. So begins Javon Johnson’s Sanctified – The New McCree Theatre’s final show of the season. It’s a comical and inspiring musical journey taken by one small rural church as it seeks to increase membership through the power of its truly shaky choir.

Under the direction of McCree veteran Cathye Johnson this show mixes ages and personalities, preferences and points of view, to bring an evening of fun, insight and inspiration. Of course the music and song is the major highlight here with both familiar and original hymns that had us tapping our toes all night. Marlon Miller’s three-piece band more than delivers these soul, blues, and traditional gospel sounds.

But it’s the characters that really shine here. The setting is the choir area of the church complete with a piano, a lovely stained glass window and a haunted organ that no one touches, or so they say. The choir is gathered and ostensibly “practicing”. They are led by pianist/director Thelma (Tiana Rison) who drinks a bit. Rison is a veritable hoot in this role – she comments throughout the show and never gives up that tiny flask until – well, you’ll see.

The choir is, to put it mildly, awful. Each is a character with his/her own idea of how things should be sung. The result is not good – caterwauling may be close. To solve this problem, Pastor Jones (Lawrence “Chris” Young) has recruited his famous cousin, the esteemed, or so she says, diva Sister Pauletta Denise Jones (Shannen Hawkins) to come and shape this choir up.

With no one even agreeing on what music to choose, Pauletta has no chance with this group – but the woman can sing! Hawkins exhibits a vocal range into the stratosphere!

As for the choir, Sister Sarah is possibly the most interesting character we’ve seen in a while. Old (but don’t call her that), stooped but wary, she has been a choir member for more years than all the rest can count. Ayana Mitts, with her strong deep voice, is terrific in this role. She brings stability and common sense along with understanding and tolerance to the fore over and over. The show’s most amazing musical moment, the visceral and stirring “Sanctified” is her crowning glory. It alone is worth the price of admission.

Two fellows arrive early on in apparent answer to Pastor Jones’ prayer. Sir (John R. Vincent) and Mister (Terrell Daniel) pop in and out as deliverymen and then as musicians. Are they criminals or are they angels? Either way, they are entertaining as they argue and cajole and ultimately make a difference.

The main antagonist in this tale is the Deacon (Robert Powell) who would love to replace the pastor as head of East Piney Grove Baptist Church. Powell plays this irascible fellow nicely with scowls and a pushiness that will be familiar. Clara (Beverly Wilkerson-Woods) sides with him in resisting change. Wilkerson-Woods brings this negative and snappish character to life as she disagrees with the younger choir members who do want change.

Monique (Gia Daniels) and her brother Jamal (Myckal Powell) are the teens with leanings toward R&B and hiphop hymns to enliven the congregation. Jamal/Myckal’s attempt to sell his “rap” as a new hymn idea is fun to watch but it doesn’t go over well with the rest. On the other hand, when Monique/Gia joins with Pastor and Deacon on “Time for a Revival”, all bets are off! Even Clara is impressed.

Both of the youngsters join in defending Bobby as he seeks to split from the traditional with his “Just a Little Walk With Jesus”. We all rooted for this character as played by newcomer Christopher D. Williams.

Sanctified is an amazing evening of music, mirth and even some mystery. (Who are Sir and Mister? How is it that Sarah can play that haunted organ?) It is beautifully set, staged and sung. We’d go again just to see Sarah and “Sanctified”! So, do go see it! You’ll be very glad you did!

Sanctified continues at the Floyd J. McCree Theatre, 2040 W. Carpenter Road, Flint, MI 48505 (previously Powers High School) with performances today (5/14) at 2:00 and 7:00 pm, May 19 & 20 at 7:00 pm, and May 21 at 2:00 and 7:00 pm. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-787-2200 or online at http://www.thenewmccreetheatre.com

 

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FCP’s “big, the musical” Starts a Bit Short

biglogoReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Flint Community Players opened their final show of this season Thursday with big, the musical. Some may remember the eighties film starring Tom Hanks about the boy who wanted to be grown and will recognize this story now set to music.

As the story goes, thirteen-year-old Josh Baskin (Preston James) feels left out when his height keeps him off a carnival ride. He makes a wish on a Zoltar machine asking to become “big” and gets more than he bargained for. He wakes up the next morning in the body of a grown man! Big Josh (Justin Tomlin) will not only be forced to do “adult” things like get a job and a girlfriend, but will also discover that being an adult involves a lot more than he could have imagined.

Clearly this was not an easy show to produce. Music is not live, but the recorded accompaniment sounds good. However, working with recorded music adds another layer of rehearsal timing that wasn’t well locked in Thursday. We wonder how much of an effect it may have had on vocals as too many off-key renditions were heard.

There are 14 scene changes, not many of which are small. This takes up a lot of time in this three-hour performance. Not to labor a point, (well, maybe) but there was at least one time when, with the scene change complete and actors in place, we all waited an uncomfortable bit for the musical interlude to conclude before taking up the action.

Director Stevie Visser has gathered a large ensemble to augment this cast. A chorus of sixteen adults and children, all of whom brought spark and vitality each time they crowded onto the stage, joined the ten speaking roles.

Tomlin anchored the show with his brash enthusiasm, boyish expressions, and strong singing voice. “Coffee Black” was a highlight for him. Joining Josh was Aubrey Forsythe as Susan, the girl who falls in love with him. The ballad “Stars” was sweet and nicely done, as was her reminiscence “Dancing All the Time”.

As Josh’s mother, Rebecca Pauli did a fine job of tugging at heartstrings with “Stop, Time” even though there was static on her microphone. It’s a lovely song.

As for chorus numbers, the close of the first act was fun with “Cross the Line”. It was a nicely cohesive song and dance that was cute and well done. The four youngsters (Bethann Alexander, Alyssa Carr, Erynn A. Ford, Meredith Knight) handled themselves really well here and throughout.

Others worthy of mention include Josiah Jackson as Josh’s best friend Billy who nearly stole the show at the opening of the second act with his hip kid  “rap” about “It’s Time”. Also, as the disgruntled executive jealous of Josh, Gil Hall brought swagger and dash, and Vic Galea was both fun-loving and frustrated as Mr. MacMillan, the owner of the toy company.

Overall, this group has some work to do. Music played over action and dialogue almost constantly in this production, and may have been the reason that diction in both lyrics and lines was a problem Thursday. Sound and scene shifting needs tightening to avoid hampering performers with oddly placed pauses. They can do it. There is still time.

big, the musical continues at Flint Community Players, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy., Flint, MI, May 13, 14, 20 & 21 at 7:30 pm and May 15 & 22 at 2:30 pm. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or online at http://www.flintcommunityplayers.com

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“The Matchmaker” Brings Vintage Comedy to Clio

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Vintage farce with a modern nod to the issues of the few “haves” versus the many “have-nots” is on tap at Theatre 57 this week and next as Clio Cast and Crew presents Thornton Wilder’s comedy, The Matchmaker. This inspiration for the hit musical Hello, Dolly! will be familiar to fans of that show, but this play offers interesting, in depth and often hilarious situations that kept Friday’s opening night audience involved throughout the whole three hour running time.

Set in 1880’s New York and Yonkers, the story involves a wealthy merchant who has decided to marry and employs a matchmaker to find him an appropriate candidate. In fact the show opens with Horace Vandergelder getting a shave from Joe Scanlan (JR Nunley) in preparation for his trip to New York to meet “the lady”.

Director Jon R. Coggins does heavy double duty by also playing this irascible character to the hilt. He begins by forbidding the marriage of his niece, Ermengarde (Jennifer Lynn) to an unemployed artist, Ambrose Kemper (Alex Weiss). Instead he will send her away to her aunt in New York and demands that she be accompanied by a hired man, Malachi Stack (Wayne Tagg) and watched over by both Stack and the Cabbie (Pam Beauchamp).

As the irrepressible Mrs. Dolly Levi, Sandy Turner is wonderfully bubbly, crafty, and maternal as she sets out to improve her own situation along with a few others. Turner is cute and conniving and brings a steady hand to her comedy as she tricks her way to her goal.

Two of Mr. Vandergelder’s seriously overworked employees decide to take advantage of the boss’s absence and head to New York themselves for an adventure. Shane Wachowicz plays Cornelius Hackel, the older of the two, and Noah Beauchamp is his young helper, Barnaby Tucker. These two shoulder much of the responsibility for this story’s comic situations.

Act two opens in the millinery shop belonging to Mrs. Irene Molloy (Mattie Speed), the lady Horace is planning to make his wife. This scene trumps Act one with its wealth of slapstick mix-ups and general hysteria caused when Cornelius and Barnaby duck into the shop to escape their boss and are then forced to hide when he approaches. Of course, these two gents ultimately fall in love with Mrs. Molloy and her young assistant, Minnie Fay (Briana McDonald).

On to act three which takes place in an upscale restaurant where Nunley’s portrayal of the “French” waiter Rudolf takes some droll and comic turns. It is here that all of the couples arrive for dinner at the same time and are separated only by a screen. The confusion swirls around the loss of Horace’s wallet (he is unaware) which is then found by Cornelius (to his great delight). There are also some comical exchanges here as Dolly refuses to marry Horace, even though he hasn’t asked her.

Finally, act four takes us to the home of Ermengarde’s aunt, Miss Flora Van Huysen (Kim Norrington) where she and her cook (Samantha Beauchamp) await the niece’s arrival. Aunt Flora has already decided to promote the union with Ambrose, not discourage it, so when Cornelius and a still-disguised Barnaby show up she assumes they are the young couple. More slapstick and confusion reigns aided not a little by the hysterical over-indulged reactions of the Cabbie and Stack as they loll about in the background.

It all works out in the end, of course, and a lesson or two is taught about the impact of money on happiness.

Not at all a small undertaking, this play requires four complete and detailed scene changes. These breaks seemed a bit labor intensive Friday. The final effect each time was impressive, but the time to implement each seemed excessive.

Other technical aspects were well handled. At various times a character steps out to speak directly to the audience and lighting defines these moments nicely. One glitch did occur during the restaurant scene Friday when all of the lights in the theatre suddenly went out – clearly not a planned event. Fortunately, Levi/Turner was quick to comment that the “lights in New York seem to have gone out”. They came back on quickly, and the house roundly applauded her impromptu filler.

Okay, it’s long, but The Matchmaker is good fun and worth spending an evening in Clio to enjoy. It continues at Theatre 57, 2220 W. Vienna Road, Clio, MI today and May 6 & 7 at 7:30 pm and May 1 & 8 at 2:30 pm. For tickets and information call the box office at 810-687-2588.

 

 

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FYT Premiers “The Most (Blank) City in America”

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Flint Youth Theatre has once again teamed with University of Michigan-Flint’s Andrew Morton (now FYT Playwright-in-Residence) to produce another show with both its roots and its heart in Flint. The Most (Blank) City in America opened Saturday and invited its audience to contribute adjectives to describe this place we all call home. It was a decidedly intense and often profound exercise.

Audience members were given small cards listing the play’s title and an invitation was immediately extended to write an adjective on the blank line. Later in the performance, we were asked to write another descriptor on the flip side of the card. We suspect many of those second adjectives were more in-depth and emotionally inspired.

Tim McMath’s set design is quite impressive. An enormous and colorful reproduction of a Flint postcard takes up the entire backdrop. In front of it stands an almost life-sized version of the “Rock” emblazoned with “Flint Lives Matter” and surrounded by dirt, sand and scruffy plant life. And in front of that is a stream of flowing water representing the Flint River where the story begins.

Using life sized Indian puppets, each with two operators, a small fire is lit by striking stones together. Much of the beginning of this piece is without dialogue and makes for an interesting and personal interpretation of Flint’s early days.

Time moves forward propelled by sound effects and period music. Then a grandfather and his two grandchildren arrive to do some fishing. Alfred Bruce Bradley is wonderful in this paternal role as he sits amid his poles and tackle boxes telling his grandchildren stories of Flint. Masai Clayborne and Leah Dunlap are perfectly scrappy as Michael and Bettina slightly bored by this trip to the river with only one fishing pole amongst them.

When the two representatives of “Lily White” show up to enlist the aid of locals in redefining the city, we admit to being amused by Layla Meillier’s suit and wild blond wig, and by George Lieber’s frenetic attempts to chart “citizen” responses. While clearly a caustic look at outsider opinion, the interlude was loudly interrupted by Alazsha Donerson’s rage at the unfairness being portrayed.

Donerson’s frenzy was an emotional highlight that brought some audience members to tears as she railed against the injustice being foisted on her hometown. Her outpouring culminated in a call for fury that was roundly answered by the troupe.

Fast forwarding to the end we were once again treated to Grandfather fishing with his now grown granddaughter played this time by Alexis Harvey. She is a positive symbol through her ability to overcome adversity and hardship and emerge on top of things. But her guilt in wanting to leave Flint is something to which many can relate.

Mention must be made of the contribution music makes to this performance. Dan Gerics and Mark Gmazel infuse a rhythm and song into this ethereal story both with voice and various percussives. Enrique Vargas is also to be complimented on his final soliloquy from atop the “Rock”.

Director Jeremy Winchester’s troupe consists of folks from all over the area, but young people are prominent. The show draws inspiration from a number of local youth endeavor groups including Tapology, Raise It Up! Youth Arts and Awareness, Fly-town Puppet Theatre at Mott Middle College High School, and Alliance between FYT and UM-Flint Theatre.

We greatly enjoyed this production. It is a fitting cap on Andrew Morton’s previous FYT collaborations that also reference Flint – Bloom and 9XNourished. There is no doubt that most of Flint’s citizens experience a somewhat love/hate relationship with our town. Events here can make us very happy and then very sad, frightened, even angry. We would urge folks to go see this production. Decide what you will write on the card to describe Flint. What would you write on the “Rock” if you could? Here’s your chance.

The Most (Blank) City in America continues through May 1 for ten performances – Fridays at 7:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 and 7:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm. For more ticket information contact the box office at 810-237-1350. Tickets for all performances are also available online, http://tickets.thewhiting.com/single/PSDetail.aspx?psn=6452, or at the door.

 

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“The Matchmaker” Coming Soon to Clio Cast and Crew

What: The Matchmaker

Where: Theatre 57 – Clio Cast and Crew

When: April 29, 30 – May 6, 7 at 7:30pm and  May 1, 8 at 2:30pm

Tickets/info: 810-687-2588

Clio Cast and Crew proudly announces the next show in their 2016 season – The Matchmaker by American playwright icon Thornton Wilder.

This hilarious comedy – billed as a “farce in four acts” is directed by Jon R. Coggins and was the basis for the Musical “Hello Dolly”.

Thornton Wilder (1897-1975), born in Madison, Wisconsin, and educated at Yale and Princeton, was an accomplished novelist and playwright whose works explore the connection between the commonplace and the cosmic dimensions of human experience.

The Matchmaker is a farce in the old-fashioned sense. It uses such time-honored conventions as characters hidden under tables and in closets, men disguised as women, a complex conspiracy to bring young lovers together, and a happy ending in which three couples are united with plans to marry.

The plot includes an irascible, penny-pinching store owner, Horace Vandergelder, who refuses to let his niece marry the poor artist she loves, although he himself plans to remarry. Dolly Levi, the matchmaker of the title, pretends that she is helping Vandergelder find a suitable bride, but she actually schemes to marry him herself, and she works to help the young lovers gain his approval. Vandergelder’s beleaguered clerk, who is longing for excitement, also meets the woman of his dreams, although she happens to be the one Vandergelder intends to marry. Throughout the play we see mistaken identities, scheming females, characters put in unfamiliar situations, cranky barbers and restaurant hosts, exploding tomato cans, disappearing funds, and snuff snorting gentile ladies. It is a wild ride full of fun where in the end; everyone is happy and just a little smarter.

The cast is anchored by longtime local theatre vet Mrs. Sandra Turner. Said Director Coggins, “I knew last year when I was chosen to direct this piece that Sandy was my Dolly!”

A local favorite JR Nunley plays a couple of roles with amusing results. Stage vet Shane Wachowicz plays the recently promoted head clerk Cornelius Hackl whose desire for adventure sends him and his workmate Barnaby, played with wonderful naïveté by Noah Beauchamp, into NY and the matchmaking frenzy. Jennifer Lynn plays the pure of heart Ermengarde who is sent away to NY to keep her from marrying her love Ambrose Kemper, Alex Weiss. Additional cast members include: Mattie Speed as Irene Molloy, Brianna McDonald as Minnie Fay, Kim Norrington as Flora VanHusen and Wayne Tagg as Stack. Also featured are Samantha Beauchamp, Mary Bontumasi-Coggins and Pam Beauchamp. Jon R. Coggins rounds out the cast as the put upon Horace Vandergelder.

The Matchmaker is produced by Cindi Hubbard and Patrick Hubbard and is presented by special arrangement with the Samuel French Company. Love is in the air – IT’S SPRING!! Make plans to come to Clio and see love bloom on stage in The Matchmaker.

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“TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD” HAS IMPRESSIVE OPENING AT FENTON VILLAGE PLAYERS

 

Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler

            To Kill A Mockingbird by Christopher Sergel, based on the book by Harper Lee, opened Thursday night at the Fenton Village Players with a strong performance.

To Kill A Mockingbird deals with the issue of racism in America. I would say the South, but why should the rest of the country be let off the hook? The “n” word is used throughout the play and is tough to stomach. The word carries such historical negativity that it will always be ugly. The play, which revolves around the alleged rape of a white woman by a black man, is set in 1935 in a small Alabama town. The case affects the entire town, and while the ending is predictable there is hope for change. We see the action through the eyes of a young girl named Scout whose father defends the black man.

The play gives the viewers a lot to think about, and it is good if you are shocked or upset by this in-depth look at racism in American. It is part of our heritage; not one to be proud of, but it is ours.

While To Kill A Mockingbird has been staged many times, it is refreshing to attend a quality performance. Overall the performance was very good. There were a few lighting problems although it could just be the system. The accents were a bit inconsistent, but it didn’t really detract from the show. The set was well done and conveyed the tenor and mood of the play.

This is a large cast and as an ensemble the director put together a good crew.

In the role of Scout, Makenna Kern gave a good performance considering the number of lines and the ever-changing action of the play. She could use a few more gestures because she seemed a little stiff at times. She had good chemistry with those she interacted with. Scout and the two boys were well matched. They came across as typical curious kids who stuck their nose into everything and everyone’s business.

Daniel Mays played Jeremy “Jem” Finch and he also gave a strong performance. He started strong and stayed that way. As Charles Baker Harris better known as “Dill”, Jacob Riley also performed well. The story he tells Scout about how he escaped was very well done.

Bart Burger played Atticus Finch and gave an excellent performance. He looks the part. He didn’t use much of an accent, but it didn’t matter. We don’t learn much about his history in the play, but he is a strong, principled man—and Burger played that perfectly. He had good chemistry with everyone on stage.

As Heck Tate, Jonathan Smith was well up to the task of being the sheriff. The final scene with Burger and Smith was performed superbly. Smith was strong when he had to be, and that played well in dealing with Burger’s Atticus.

Marwan Prince gave a very good portrayal of the Tom Robinson character. He exuded the angst and fear of being black in a white dominated world. He was consistent throughout.

Jerry Flewelling’s characterization of Bob Ewell was played to perfection.   He was a scruffy mean, foul-mouthed, nasty lowlife, and he was believable. As Mayella Ewell, Grace Lee gave a fair performance. She gave the impression she wasn’t sure of the gravity of what was happening. Chris Vitarelli handled Mr. Gilmer well although his accent was inconsistent.

Playing Miss Maudie Atkinson, Kate Rundell did an excellent job as narrator and facilitator on stage. Also worthy of mention, Sheila Kern (Miss Stefanie), Christine Cook (Calpurnia), and Steve Shelton (Judge Taylor) all gave strong performances.

It takes a good cast to make a performance strong and Director Mary Powers can take credit for that.   The action never lagged. The scene changes were good, but a tad noisy. There is no need to drag set pieces across the floor. The old rule still applies: Lift and set.

The audience gave them a sustained standing ovation and it was well earned. I highly recommend you go see this play.

To Kill A Mockingbird performances are April 14-17, & April 22-24 with Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Performances at 7:00 pm and Sunday Performances are 2:00 pm. Fenton Village Playhouse is located at 14197 Torrey Rd. Fenton MI. 48430. For tickets call 810-759-7700 or go on their website at www.FentonTheatre.org, and the Email is office@fentontheatre.org.

 

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