Clio Cast and Crew’s Rendition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is Pure Spectacle

Reviewed by Stephen Ross

To commemorate forty years of quality live theatre in Clio, Michigan, Clio Cast and Crew has chosen to open its anniversary season with Tim Kelly’s adaptation of the childhood classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  Producing classic tales like this can often be quite a feat because these stories have touched our own personal timelines so intimately. Most of us have been forced to grow up and #adultit (as the youngsters say); therefore, in a reality that is dominated by responsibility, we have extremely high expectations of our make-believe. If last night’s performance was any indication, it would seem that Director Kim Norrington was up for the challenge. From the beautifully painted set, to the striking costume design and the brilliant lighting design, this production was one of pure spectacle.

Let’s talk about the incredible painted mural that dominated the set and about the young artist who made it possible. Samantha Beauchamp (Set Painter) is an accomplished young artist who has not yet graduated high school. And I have been told that she spent countless hours perfecting this mural, and even showed up in her Homecoming dress to keep working on it. If that’s not dedication, I’m not sure what is. Regardless, this mural contributed to the spectacle of this show in a major way. Our only complaint about the set was the three-dimensional objects that were protruding from the mural (flowers and such). Because the flowers were so beautifully painted, we thought that these pieces seemed to muddy up a clean, precise mural.

Dennis Swedorski designed the costumes for this ambitious script, and I’m not sure I would want that job. The costumes of this story play a pivotal role in breaking Alice’s conventions of reality. Swedorski clearly made this project his theatrical baby, because his costume design is pure brilliance. Probably the most impressive costume in this production was that of the Duchess. Her elaborate gown and headdress planted us right in the middle of a nursery rhyme. We especially liked the dancing flowers with their blooming headpieces. They were very mystical, and seemed so entirely appropriate for Wonderland. Finally, we absolutely loved the skunk and his mechanical tail. The tail was operated by a string, and swiveled back and forth. This was a small detail, but left a big impression.

Adam Iaquinto designed the lights for this production and they were executed beautifully. We especially liked the lighting of the waterfall. It was a deep blue that glimmered to perfection. It can be hard to pull such a beautiful set and costumes together with lighting, but that didn’t seem to be an issue with this production. Iaquinto is to be commended for his work here.

This production has so many characters it would be nearly impossible to mention every single one, but it should be mentioned that they all worked well together to bring Wonderland alive. However, there are several characters whose performances are worth mentioning.

Playing the title role of Alice is the extremely charismatic Brooklyn Olsey. While Olsey may be a bit (we’ll say) taller than the seven-year old protagonist we have come to expect, her portrayal of Alice and her inevitable identity crisis was done with incredible precision. Olsey’s Alice had the perfect blend of graciousness and entitlement that is so central to Alice’s struggle. We were taken aback by this young lady and her incredible interpretation of this role. You’ll want to keep an eye on this young lady.

The White Rabbit was portrayed by Cassidy Couturier. This is a very important character in Alice’s story because s/he) must distinctly contrast Alice’s well-mannered demeanor. We thought Couturier captured this very well, but was sometimes limited by some awkward blocking. We’d like to have seen a little more frenzy shine through with this character. Still, in the moments when we needed to see this contrast between Alice and the White Rabbit, Couturier’s pompous attitude was executed with acute accuracy and made up for any issues with blocking.

Another important character worth mentioning was the Mock Turtle (Evan Worden). Who is this kid? We loved him. We have never seen such an animated child with such impeccable timing. Worden had the audience in stitches during his “Beautiful Soup” bit. As we were exiting the theatre, we overheard someone saying that he made up his own tune to these lyrics. His singing voice was clear and pure, and what an incredible talent.

What would Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland be without some interesting royals? The Queen of Hearts (Deanna Harcz) symbolizes unadulterated fury while the Red Queen (Dana Usealman) represents a more composed manifestation of that same fury. These two actresses captured this dynamic so appropriately. Usealman’s Red Queen was the perfect combination of coldness and composure, while Harcz’ Queen of Hearts was absolutely terrifying (Harcz is rather incredible in this role). The King of Hearts (Shane Wachowicz) stands as a contrast to the Queen of Hearts, but must also be very childish. Wachowicz fits this bill quite nicely. Between his ridiculous, effeminate lisp and child-like gestures, Wachowicz characterized the subservient King perfectly. The White Queen (Victoria Young) is the disheveled, frenzied character. Young embodied these characteristics completely. Finally, The Duchess (Sandy Turner) is, by the book, an ugly woman. Turner is much too pretty to play this role, but did capture the essence of her character’s grotesque nature quite perfectly. She took on a character voice that reeked of a perfect blend of superiority and phlegm. Turner’s Duchess had the audience rolling on Friday night.

The Mad Hatter (Samantha Beauchamp) represents a certain eccentricity that Alice is unfamiliar with prior to visiting Wonderland. Beauchamp’s portrayal of the Mad Hatter was incredible. Her characterization was completely spot on. (Johnny Depp ain’t got nothing on this young lady). Acting beside the Mad Hatter was the March Hare (Clara Usealman) and the Dormouse (Lila Marcotte). These two young ladies also had the audience rolling between Usealman’s frantic running around the stage and Marcotte’s narcolepsy.

There were several cameo roles worth mentioning. Tweedledee (Audreanna Symon) and Tweedledum (Shirley Symon) worked very well together and their reflective gestures were hilarious. Brandon Rice’s Humpty Dumpty was scornful, with just the right amount of coldness. The Cheshire Cat (Brianna McDonald) is a mischievous cat that Alice meets in Wonderland. Playing the role of this cat demands very fluid movements. Once again, here was another example of how awkward blocking diminished the impact of some dynamic characters. We wish Norrington had explored some more appropriate movements for this character. Blocking aside, McDonald’s characterization of the Cheshire cat was very well executed. Finally, The Knight (Dennis Spence Jr.) had the house roaring while he galloped around on a Stick Dragon. His timing was impeccable, and his characterization was spot on.

Norrington has assembled an incredible troupe of actors. We only wish that she had chosen to move them a little more appropriately. Throughout the production, blocking and movement seemed to be a recurring issue. Additionally, we suspected that the show was a little under-rehearsed as the director kept yelling out direction from the audience. This was distracting at times, but didn’t seem to be too frequent.

All in all, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an incredible piece of youth theatre. It continues through October 30th at Clio Cast and Crew’s Theatre 57. Tickets are available online at or by phone at 810.687.2588. Friday and Saturday Performances are at 7:30pm and Sunday performances are at 2:30pm.


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Exciting New Lineup for 2016-17 Off The Press Season

Flint Youth Theatre presents its popular Off The Press series for the 2016-2017 season, re-imagined with the latest in cutting edge theatre direct from Broadway and American Regional Theatre. Two new shows have been added to the lineup, Bright Half Life and Facing Our Truth: Ten Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race, and Privilege, replacing original selections The Flick on November 6th and An Octoroon on January 22nd, respectively.

A staged reading showcases a production without sets or full costumes, focusing on the dialogue and character interaction. Flint Youth Theatre’s Off The Press series uses this medium to bring exciting new productions to the Flint area that reach out to a more mature audience.

“The Off The Press series is a fantastic way to get a taste of what’s happening in theatre right now,” stated Samuel Richardson, Flint Youth Theatre’s Education and Administrative Director. “These staged readings, geared towards older teens and adults, allow us to provide another way for the community to enjoy the stage.”

Off The Press Show Schedule:

November 6, 2016Bright Half Life
Written by Tanya Barfield

January 22, 2017 – Facing Our Truth: Ten Minute Plays on Trayvon, Race, and Privilege
A collection of six diverse 10-minute plays by six different playwrights

March 12, 2017Hir
Written by Taylor Mac

May 21, 2017Justice Jasmine!
Written by Andrew Morton, FYT Playwright-in-Residence

All Off The Press staged readings are recommended for older teens and adults due to content. Tickets are $7 and are available to purchase online at or at the door. Please call Flint Youth Theatre at 810-237-1530 for more information. Full synopses of each play can be found online,

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New McCree Opens Season With Tribute to Motown

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby


If anything was ever “right up their alley”, The New McCree Theatre’s current offering surely defines the phrase. Written by McCree Executive Director Charles Winfrey, The Motown Story traces the amazing success of the Motown label as it explains how dreams and visions really can come true.

Music rules the evening with an amazing array of talented singers, dancers and musicians on tap. It is all strung together as the story of Berry Gordy’s vision while he worked the assembly line blossoms with stars emerging at the end of the line instead of cars.

Told by the Griot (John R. Vincent, Sr.), the story unfolds as he tutors a protégé in the art of maintaining oral history. Flamboyant and even a touch overly dramatic, Vincent nevertheless delighted Friday night’s audience with his bombast and his mischievous twinkle.

Veteran McCree talent Cathye Johnson, who has relocated to Missouri but returned specifically to guest direct this production, directs The Motown Story. She has a unique ability to marshal music, dance, song and performers to produce a most enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

Since the story moves chronologically from 1958 through Motown’s move to California in 1975, the first act may surprise with some of the music there. Songs like “Shop Around”, “Please Mr. Postman” and “Beachwood – 45789” don’t seem as if they are that vintage, but in the talented hands of Fred Fife (Smokey Robinson), Precious Austin (Marvelette) and Whitney Frierson (Marvelette) they spring to memory with a bang!

Short scenes separate the musical moments where we catch glimpses into the moments that made up the Hitsville, USA history. Berry Gordy (Chris Williams) and Robert Bateman (John R. Vincent, Jr.) are seen sizing up and coaching the considerable talent that flooded the studios in those early heydays.

Act Two will enchant everyone with well worn tunes like “Midnight Train To Georgia” sung by Ayana Mitts as Gladys Knight, “Devil In A Blue Dress” handled smoothly by James Cobbin as Shorty Long, and “The Girl’s Alright With Me” sung expertly by Fife, Terence Grundy, Terrance Patton-Hill, and Lawrence “Chris” Young as the Temptations.

Another real highlight found Ulysses Bailey stepping out of the onstage band with his saxophone to perform as Junior Walker singing and playing “Shotgun”. Kudos definitely are in order for the onstage musical group led by Marlon Miller on keyboards and including Gil Benman on bass guitar and Jequan Neal on drums.

Maybe the most fun came at the end of the show with a terrific medley beginning with “Heard It Through The Grapevine” and ending with “Dancin’ in the Streets” and featuring the whole cast!

There were a lot of seats left in the house Friday, but everyone there enjoyed the show immensely! One little tike in the front row mimicked every musical move on the stage! This is wonderful music performed by talented singers, dancers and musicians. So grab the family and head out to see The Motown Story!

The Motown Story continues at The New McCree Theatre, 2040 W. Carpenter Road, Flint, MI 48505 (inside The New Standard Academy) through October 29. For information and tickets contact the box office at (810) 787-2200 or on line at



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“Jungle Book” Swings into the Bower Stage

Reviewed by Shelly L. Hoffman

Flint Youth Theatre opened its season Saturday night with Greg Banks’ fairly new stage adaptation of The Jungle Book and audiences were treated to an enchanting rendition of this children’s classic. Despite several recent film versions of The Jungle Book, it stills seems a bold move to present this well-worn tale, given Kipling’s source material’s racist tinge. Director Janet Haley, though, through Banks’ tight script, sensitively delivers the tale of Mowgli by establishing neither time nor place in which the action occurs, thus eliminating some of the story’s more disturbing colonial elements.

The bold move manages to also boldly deliver.

We have seen countless productions over the years on the Bower stage, and we cannot recollect a more dramatic set. Ray Zupp’s scenic design, which brings a multi-leveled jungle, complete with flowing stream, to the stage, is simply exquisite. It is complemented by Doug Mueller’s lighting design, which most effectively illuminates a rising moon and sun, but also serves to emphasize the dangers lurking in the jungle. The quality of stagecraft here is not to be missed.

Upon the stage we meet Mowgli (Paige Benner) a “man cub” who has been abandoned to the jungle and adopted by Mother Wolf and Father Wolf (Brittany Reed and Carl Mizell) and raised by them with the hope he will be adopted by the pack. Mowgli then moves on to learn the ways of the jungle from Baloo (Kenyatta DeEtt), a large cuddly bear, and Bagheera (LaTroy Childress), a sleek panther. Threats come in the ever-looming presence of the jaded tiger wounded by a man, Shere Khan (Phil Darius Wallace) and a troop of monkeys (led by Bary Lehr and comprised of several student actors). The company is rounded out by Kaa (Saylor Spees), a snake, who is implored to intervene in one particularly sticky situation.

The acting is solid throughout. Benner anchors the show and provides a reliable and charming presence. Reed and Mizell work nicely together, she serious and concerned and he sincere and comical. Spees delivers a quirky snake that charms not only monkeys, but also the audience. But the presence of DeEtt, Childress, and Wallace bring the stage most to life. DeEtt sent trills of delicious laughter through the smallest members of the audience with his silly and physical bear, while Wallace, beautifully sinister, had the little ones entranced and warning others of his presence any time he was near. Childress embodies the qualities of the nurturing panther and plays well off DeEtt.

One particular challenge the actors embrace is how to convey the characteristics of each animal. Katherine Nelson’s costume design includes neither fur nor mask, nor any properties of the animals clothed. Yet each design, together with the stylized movements of each actor manages to fully and completely bring each animal to life. Whether it’s a big bear belly, or a purple and black clad panther, or the wonky eyes of a snake, every style choice ably expresses every creature.

Original music composed by Dan Gerics and played live with Annadelle Kimber perfectly punctuates the action and provides some beautifully haunting melodies.

The production does seem to move in fits and starts and works best when it gets out of its own way and allows the story to unfold. The narration of the chorus slows down the action and there are moments when energy seriously lags. Overall, though, it is an engaging and entertaining 85 minutes.

Watch out for actual slithering (and other) creatures in the lobby. A pre-show joint effort with the Genesee County Parks allows children to interact with some of the creatures they will encounter on stage.

The Jungle Book continues at Flint Youth Theatre’s Bower stage through October 23rd with 2:00 pm matinees on Saturdays and Sundays and 7:00 pm performances on Fridays and Saturdays. The Friday, October 14th staging will include ASL interpreters. It is recommended for ages 10 and up and tickets can be purchased by visiting


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“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 .

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.
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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