“The Lion in Winter” Completes KPP Season in Style

0Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

It’s been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Admittedly a lot has changed in the millennium since Henry II ruled England and much of France, yet the story of this king and his patently dysfunctional family resounds with sibling rivalry and marital sparring that today’s audience may find still familiar. However, considerable humor and love lurks just beneath the surface.

James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter completes The Kearsley Park Players’ season with an impressive performance at the Crossroads Village Opera House. Only performing for this weekend, Thursday’s opening found King Henry II (Brian Haggard) gathering his family at Christmas in the winter of 1183. He has also allowed his imprisoned wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Kay Kelly), to join in the celebration – an interesting move since Henry’s mistress Alais (Annadelle Kimber) is also present.

Adding fuel to the fireworks that inevitably spark is the argument over which of their sons Henry will designate as his successor. The eldest, Richard (Ian Thomas), is Eleanor’s choice and she fights for him with every ploy at her disposal while Henry stands steadfast for the youngest, John (Justin Wetenhall). We are all left wondering how they could so totally ignore second son Geoffrey (James Cech) – middle child syndrome perhaps?

The entire clan, including Alais and the King of France (Mark Vukelich), are drawn into the fray as everyone matches their considerable wits and wiles in the mad scramble for the throne.

Goldman’s script is incredibly well served by this troupe. Haggard and Kelly combine to bring this estranged royal couple vibrantly to life. Theirs is a love-hate relationship borne of their intellectual equality perhaps, but equally fanned by an underlying attraction that neither of them will completely deny. They are excellent.

Kelly is heroic in her egoistic nonchalance as she verbally jousts with her sons and with Henry as well. “It’s 1183; we’re ALL barbarians!” she declares sardonically in response to a critical jibe. But her yin and yang where Henry is concerned instill the most powerful emotions here and are mirrored with nearly equal intensity by Haggard.

Thomas gives a many-faceted portrayal as Richard, known as Lionheart. Appearing strong, he is often sullen, brooding, and angry as well as occasionally vulnerable and confused. He is at once the lion and the lamb.

Whiney and unsure, Henry’s favorite son John is every spoiled youngster you’ve ever known in the hands of Wetenhall. Pouty, pushy, taunting, and easily led, he ranges from palace pillar to post trying to figure out his place in the family scheme.

Dry and sarcastic, the forgotten son Geoffrey uses intellectual humor to point up his exclusion from the negotiations. Cech’s carriage in this role could be described as accepting at first until his ability to control and convince emerges.

Alais’ brother Phillip, the King of France, arrives to demand the marriage of his sister to Richard as contracted many years before or the return of the lands forfeited for her dowry. Vukelich brings a kind of brashness to this role of the young monarch and outsider with a major trump card up his sleeve.

Kimber weaves pathos and pride together in the character of Alais. Though torn among loyalties to Henry, to Eleanor who raised her, to France, and to her contract to Richard, she still emerges intact.

This is a hefty script with crafty cross-hatching of anxiety and humor, but this troupe is up to the challenge. Director Shelly Hoffman has steered a steady course with this talented crew making this an undertaking not to be missed.

If there is a caveat to be mentioned it might be to sit close to the stage as the acoustics in the old opera house can confound now and then. Maybe it was just me, but some lines were lost to the wings Thursday.

The Lion in Winter continues at Crossroads Village Opera House this weekend only – Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 3:00 pm. Tickets are only $5 and seating is limited, so arrive early.







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Call for Auditions: FYT Seeks Equity and Non-Equity Actors Aged 18 and Older


Flint Youth Theatre will be holding auditions for Equity and non-Equity actors on Monday September, 26 for interested actors aged 18 and older. FYT will be casting for roles in three MainStage productions and three Off The Press staged readings.

Auditions will be held by appointment from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Appointments may be made by calling 810.237.1530. Those auditioning are asked to prepare a monologue and may also perform 16 bars of a song. Those performing a song must provide their own accompaniment. Playback sound equipment will be provided. Résumés may be presented at the time of the audition or may be emailed to info@flintyouththeatre.org .

Flint Youth Theatre has a 60 year history of providing award-winning theatre to the Flint community and surrounding areas. Productions range in audience from very young children to adults. As of fall 2015, Flint Youth Theatre is a member theatre in the Actors’ Equity Association, the most distinguished body of professional actors and stage managers in America.

MainStage Productions and Performance Dates

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, December 3-18
The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963, February 11-26
Antigone, April 22-May 7

Off the Press Staged Readings
The Flick, November 6
Hir, March 12
Justice Jasmine!, May 21

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Coming This Fall to Flint Community Players


Tickets available at the door, by phone, or online.
 (810) 441-9302
Flint Community Players
2462 S. Ballenger Hwy.
Flint, MI 48507
Sweeney Todd
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
A Musical Thriller 
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Paul Gregory Nelson
An exiled barber returns to his hometown to take revenge on the
corrupt judge who banished him by conspiring with a local baker
who is in desperate need of fresh meat for her pies. (R)
Nov. 10, 11, 12, 18, 19 at 7:30PM
Nov. 13 & 20 at 2:30PM
Adults  $17.00
Youth & Students  $10.00 (except Sundays)
Seniors 60+  $15.00 (except Sundays)
Discounted group rates available. 
SWEENEY TODD is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI. http://www.MTIShows.com
In the Next Room
by Sarah Ruhl
(Staged Reading)
October 2, 4:00 pm
In a well-to-do Victorian home, a scientist invents an extraordinary device for treating “hysteria” in women (and occasionally men). For Mature Audiences
Tickets $10.00


AUDITIONS: Topdog/Underdog
By Suzan-Lori Parks
The story of Lincoln and Booth, two brothers whose names foretell
a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment. Haunted by the past, the
brothers are forced to confront the shattering reality of their future. 
October 23 at 7:00PM 
October 24 at 4:00PM
December 9, 10, 16, 17 at 7:30PM
December 11 & 18 at 2:30PM  2016
In the Next Room and Topdog/Underdog are part of Flint Community Players’ *new* Ghost Light Series. All shows in the Ghost Light Series are intended for mature audiences and aimed at adults who enjoy exploring the human condition.  
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Reviewed by Joseph Michael Mishler

Fenton Village Players production of Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar Grille by Bruce Graham opened Thursday night. The opening night performance went fairly well.

The play takes place in a bar on supposedly the last day of the human race. Various characters come and go trying to find ways of coping with the onslaught of death. The bartender is the key character, and he has to deal with all of this craziness. What would you do if someone made you an offer that would allow you to survive? Would you believe them if they presented themselves as God or the Devil? All of the characters have dreams, some have a wish list, and all are trying to hold it together.

Early One Night at the Rainbow Bar and Grille started a bit slow; the first act needed a little more sense of urgency. Considering the subject of the play, the urgency should have been there right from the start. The set was well done, but it looked like a brand new bar. The second act was stronger, but there could have been a stronger connection between the bartender and the teacher. The sound effects helped at critical moments in the play.

The actors were well chosen by director Mary Powers. They handled the ebb and flow of emotions very well. Even Tony the Rat played his part well.

Greg Peasel played Shep the bartender. He was very convincing as someone who just blends into the background so that you don’t see them.   He worked well with the others on stage trying to be everyone’s friend, although it took him a few minutes to get into character during the first act. He needed to convince us this was no ordinary day.

Matt Osterberg played Roy the mechanic, a nervous, shy type of person who wanted to go to Florida, but was easily distracted.  He too was a bit hesitant in the opening act.

As Willy the survivalist who sees conspiracy everywhere, Steve Shelton roared into the bar menacingly pointing his rifle everywhere and threatening to shoot everyone. He was scary. He gave a strong performance throughout especially when he confronted God.

As the bar’s waitress Shirley, Carla Feamster was a hoot. She had read a book and from that created a to-do list before everything ended. Having Shep was the last thing on her list and she gave it a good effort.   She could have played the character a little wilder in Act I, but she gave a good performance overall.

Ron Barrett played Bullard, an oily aluminum siding salesman. He gave a great performance and brought a lot of energy to the stage. They grey, shiny suit really fit the character as did the wad of cash he flashed around.

As Virginia, that health and physical education teacher, Ashley Cremonte played this role convincingly. She handled Shep’s shyness and reluctance easily. The dance scenes were intentionally awkward but very touching.

Ryan Particka played Joe who was God or the Devil depending on your point of view. Particka played the character to near perfection. He worked the stage smoothly and moved the play along. We loved the jab at Trump – you’ll have to see the play to find out how that went.

This is a good production and it offers a lot to think about. You will have to see the play to find out if Joe is really God. I recommend that you go see this play and enjoy all the zany characters.

Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grille continues September 16-18, & 23-25 at the Fenton Village Playhouse, 14197 Torrey Rd., Fenton MI 48430-0531. For tickets or information call 810-750-7700. Email office@fentontheatre.org. Their website is http://www.FentonTheatre.org.


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Rock Musical “Next To Normal” Dubbed Once in a Lifetime Event

14088661_10153928148382198_4788457868809146430_nReviewed by Jon R. Coggins

Clio Cast and Crew kicked off the 2016/2017 theatre season with a special fundraiser: Next to Normal by Tom Kitt (music), with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey.

The audience was somewhat sparse, a surprise for this venue, but there are so many things to do on a fall Friday. Those in attendance were treated to a rare experience – a show so fully developed, so wonderfully performed, by an incredibly talented cast – one could call it a once in a lifetime event.

The director – Stevie Visser, in his program address, asks the audience to accompany the cast on their journey, to engage and perhaps experience this journey on some level, so I will not give too much away. Basically the play is about a family that undergoes a tragedy and how they cope emotionally and try to continue to function as individuals and a familial unit.

Here we go. The set was sparse but engaging. Two levels with many exits and entrances (some will surprise you). The rich wood trim contrasts the starkness of the set, a table, chairs and a couch that made up the Goodman family home. It was well used and functional.

The cast was from top to bottom amazing. The backbone of the troupe was Robyn Accetta who played Diana Goodman – the family matriarch that we follow, through her descent into emotional madness. Accetta’s voice, in contrast to her slight frame, was fantastic and anchored the show and cast. She was incredible as Diana struggled to maintain a “normal” home life, even while her own was spiraling out of control. Her performance was believable at every step. The audience could not help but feel her pain and distress. An extraordinary – (I’m going to run out of superlatives) – performance. As the reviewer and perhaps against orthodoxy, I felt compelled to hug her at the end of the show. This old trouper was absolutely floored by this actress and her performance.

In a parallel story line Samantha (Sam) Campbell played the daughter, Natalie Goodman. Natalie also goes through an emotionally downward spiral nearly mirroring that of her mother’s though the reasons were different. Again, Campbell has an amazing voice and captured so – spot on – the poignant rollercoaster that was Natalie’s life. Trying desperately to maintain the normal, Natalie dabbles in drugs, drug abuse and teen romantic/sexual situations, while dealing with her family and the drama surrounding them. Campbell was great – did I mention she is but a junior in High school (Fenton) – and her understanding and interpretation of Natalie belied her tender years and harkened to someone with many, many years of life/experience under her belt. Keep an eye on this young lady.

Shawn Schultz played Dan Goodman, the family patriarch. Again his voice was fantastic, sometimes quietly ballad like – sometimes loud and forceful – always appropriate. At first I thought Dan had checked out, world wearily tired of the emotional battle. But we learn he will do anything, try anything – to get his wife and his family back to “near normal”. Schultz played Dan as strong, tender, sad, happy, helpless and eventually resigned to his fate. This actor never missed a beat – never lost a moment on stage. Well done.

Visser worked a dual role – as director (a fantastic job) and as Gabriel Goodman, the family’s son. His vocals were pure, strong, tender, haunting and so entirely appropriate in a very difficult role. Well done, young man. Well done.

In many shows there are some roles that are “throw away”, the equivalent of putting the lesser player in right field due to lack of talent or even a warm body. Not this production. Donovan Leary played Henry, Natalie’s love interest, with acclaim. Once again – another strong and appealing voice – Henry flits around the edges of the show and the family as he tries to woo Natalie. Though he introduces Natalie to pot smoking, he desperately tries to keep her from abusing prescription drugs and steadfastly remains by her side as she slides downward – a fine performance from this young man.

Rounding out the cast was Rolecia Looney in a dual role of Drs. Madden and Fine charged with treating Diana’s psychosis. As with the rest of the cast Looney had a strong and compelling voice, filling the stage and auditorium.

There was a small ensemble staffed by Gabrielle Slezak and Dennis Spence Jr. Though used sparingly they added two more strong voices to an already incredible show.

Now this: I was disappointed that the production chose to mic the set and players. I may be old school, but Clio has a wonderfully intimate venue with tremendous acoustics. The music was recorded so the old bromine of “competition with the band” was irrelevant. Additionally every single performer had incredibly strong voices and did not need mics. And as I’ve seen so many times the mics hummed, buzzed, cut out and experienced feedback. It mostly didn’t affect the show but . . .

Now having said that – this production was – from start to finish – top notch!! In my nearly 50 years of performing, directing, producing and reviewing theatrical productions I’ve never been so moved, so enthralled, so emotionally wrapped up with the cast and story. There was never a missed beat, never a letdown, never a loss of focus – not a single missed detail. The audience was rapt and appreciative to the point of a standing ovation. I wonder how the cast “came down” after such an emotional trip where everyone was so thoroughly vested.

The show is not for everyone. There are adult themes. I would encourage folks to leave the youngsters at home (why did someone bring a baby???).

Next to Normal continues its brief run on Saturday September 10th with a matinee and an evening performance and a matinee on Sunday September 11th. All performances are at Theatre 57 at 2220 W Vienna Rd Clio. Call the theatre for ticket availability or additional information (810) 687-2588.

This is a great show with a tremendous cast – don’t miss Next to Normal.
















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FCP Opens Season With a Comical Salute to Election Politics

14202605_1254655244566639_5129720327854923650_nReviewed by Jon R. Coggins

With summer drawing to a close, theatre season kicks into gear. There are a great many options around area theatres this weekend and for many weekends to come. The granddaddy of local theatre, Flint Community Players, opened their 88th season Thursday with a topical treat by U of M grad Beth Kander titled Running Mates: or the Family Party.

It starts with a beautiful set designed by set designer Steven Munsell and built by Rick Doll. Multiple exits and entrances on two levels highlight this small town home. Not a bit of space is wasted, and I was intrigued by the cut-away wall/door. This contrivance was used extremely well!

The light-hearted script is easy on the brain. Without giving too much away – the plot is simple: small town mayor up for reelection misspeaks at his lodge – it goes viral – his wife is upset and, as the title hints, she joins the race. Hilarity ensues.

Appearing as the heretofore-uncontested incumbent mayor Sam Storm, Pat Blondin fits the bill – hard drinking, golf playing and comfortably ensconced in the mayor’s office. Blondin gives just enough bluster, confusion and determination to Sam. The only complaint I have is that his Southern accent got a bit heavy at times – making the dialogue somewhat hard to understand. This is a very picky point and did not diminish the performance.

As Sam’s trusty yoga-loving wife Sofia, Susanne Helfrich held her own. Displeased with Sam’s off the cuff remark about women, Sofia decides to run for mayor. Susanne has a breezy take on this role. Her portrayal was enjoyable and satisfying.

Alex Weiss appears as the yoga instructor and an ersatz campaign manager. Weiss plays Ted Wink as very centered, a bit flustered yet willing to jump into the fray. I have worked with him in the past and always enjoy his performances.

Pamela Beauchamp plays another put-upon campaign manager named Liddie Valentine. She gamely tries yoga with her friend Sofia (never quite getting it right) and agrees to help dethrone Sam. Beauchamp provides a lot of the comic relief. I have also worked with her, and she has really grown as an actress.

Rounding out the campaign corps is Sam’s right hand yes-man, J.B. Jackson played by Seth Hart. J.B. is all fumbles, excited, sweaty and afraid to make his boss angry. Hart really pulls it off and adds to the comedy!

As an unknown variable – Taylor Boes plays Savannah Storm, first daughter of the mayor. Boes appears late in the first act and proceeds to disrupt everyone’s plans. She is a new aged, animal loving, grad student that wants to rock the status quo. Boes handles this role well.

There are many comparisons to our current Presidential race: Male vs. Female, the use of social media, the threat of dirty politics, and the urge to change the status quo. The candidates vie for the “young vote” the “old vote” the female vote and the male vote. The ending, though a surprise, is not unexpected. The only thing not like our interminable POTUS race was the running time for the show – a brisk hour and a half.

Two quotes really stood out: “Never underestimate the idiocy of voters” and “when you run for public office your whole life is an open book” – both quite apropos for today.

Set changes were smooth and handled efficiently by stage manager Karla Froehlich even garnering her an ovation at one point.

A couple of odd choices showed up – Sam reading the Flint Journal and a copy of a Flint magazine on the set. But, hey, I’ve got to critique something!!

One sign of a well-directed show is, well, no signs of a well-directed show. Director William Kircher did a fine job with this piece. From character development, to stage movements to the fine light and sound tech – this show was tight and well rehearsed. Running Mates is a cheery and satisfying break from our constant and unrelenting election cycle. It continues at the Tom and Bea Nobles Performance Hall on Ballenger Hwy. in Flint – Friday September 9th through September 19. Call the box office (810-235-6963) or check the theater website – www.flintcommunityplayers.com – for times and ticket information.

The theatre is air-conditioned and comfortable for the waning days of summer. Running Mates – check it out – laugh – enjoy.




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Kearsley Park Players End Summer Season with Historical Drama “The Lion in Winter”


images-1The Kearsley Park Players’ 2016 summer season concludes with the historical drama The Lion in Winter presented in the Opera House at Crossroads Village for one weekend only, September 22- 25.

The Lion in Winter is a play by James Goldman that portrays the personal and political conflicts of King Henry II of England, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, their three sons (each struggling to be chosen as the aging king’s heir) and their guests during the Christmas gathering in the year 1183. The original production won a Tony Award and was adapted into an Academy Award winning film starring Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn.

Henry II is widely known today for his earlier conflict with Thomas Becket, martyred while Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry II married Eleanor, then ruler of the richest province in Europe. Their three sons are Richard the Lionheart, Prince John of Robin Hood fame and their unloved brother, Prince Geoffrey. King Philip of France arrives concerned with political and family interests. His sister, Princess Alais, has grown up at the English court and become both King Henry’s mistress and Prince Richard’s fiancé.

Directed by Shelly Hoffman, Lion in Winter features a strong cast of experienced local actors, including Brian Haggard as King Henry, Kay Kelly as Queen Eleanor, Mark Vukelich as King Philip, Ian Thomas as Richard, James Cech as Geoffrey, Justin Wetenhall as John and Annadelle Kimber as Alais.


Performances are for one weekend only and include:

Thursday, September 227:30 pm

Friday, September 237:30 pm

Saturday, September 247:30 pm

Sunday Matinee, September 253:00 pm

Tickets are only $5 and seating is limited.

Reservations are suggested: (810) 736-7100, ext. 6, Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm.


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