FYT’s “The Diary of Anne Frank” is Moving and Heartfelt

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

It happened again. No matter how many times we’ve heard the story of Anne Frank or pondered the evil that swept Europe in World War II, the simple writings of a young girl retain the power to engage, involve and move us even now, an incredible seventy years later.

It happened Friday evening as Flint Youth Theatre’s The Diary of Anne Frank opened to a packed house in the Elgood Theatre. Performing in a space that must have closely mimicked the actual hiding space, the stage was filled with six levels to depict the two story “Secret Annex” above Mr. Frank’s store. Usually this playing area is open and only suggestive of location, but this cramped and busy set perfectly projected the confinement and lack of privacy that was endured.

Director Jeremy Winchester’s troupe does a spectacular job of communicating the myriad emotions the group must have experienced during the two years they were in hiding. This tightly knit ensemble projects the constant fear, the angst, the joy, the anger, the jealousy, and the impossible desire to maintain a sense of normalcy in the face of their unthinkable situation with remarkable precision.

Not a stranger to the FYT stage, Sam Carter’s portrayal of Anne is heartfelt. She is about the same age as Anne was and clearly relates to her struggles and frustration as the character endures a range of emotion from mischievous to terrified, from exasperated to in love.

Brian Haggard anchors this production with his steadfast and sturdy characterization of Anne’s father, Otto Frank. His calm belief in the family’s ability to survive this horror is always evident even as he realizes the tremendous risks better than the others do. His rendering of this man as peacemaker, parent, husband, friend, and authority figure to the seven others for whom he is ultimately responsible is pristine.

There isn’t a weak link in this ensemble, so a cameo of each is in order, beginning with Mr. VanDaan, a business associate of Otto Frank, and his wife and son who joined them in the annex hideout. Mark Gmazel brings VanDaan’s weaknesses to the fore while allowing us to pity but understand his straits. As his wife, Kristina Lakey exudes both the fear and the independent spirit that surely warred inside her. She is insufferable, attractive, and yet we completely empathize with her.

Peter VanDaan (George Lieber) is terrific as the young son plopped into confinement with a strange family and a brassy young girl he’s watched from afar. Lieber brings this character through a palpable and confident maturation process over the two-year incarceration.

There is a rift between Anne and her mother. Lindsay Duso plays Edith Frank with an air of incredible concern and maternal anguish. She was not ready for this sudden leap into hiding and Anne’s moments of teenage exuberance distress her. She is stressed and tense throughout, and eventually she erupts.

Anne’s older sister Margot’s sudden conscription to a work camp prompted the escape. Another FYT young veteran, Layla Meillier exudes Margot’s confusion and terror at what she just escaped, plus her sibling strife where Anne is concerned. Quiet, withdrawn, then finally relaxed and hopeful, Meillier brings Margot to the brink.

Finally, Gary Jones is Mr. Dussel, a dentist who joins the group a bit later. He is a stuffy fellow, likeable but self-focused, who must share a room with Anne. His presence brings a sense of balance.

Bary Lehr and Mary Paige Rieffel play Mr. Kraler and Miep Gies, conduits to the outside world. They bring food and supplies and keep the group afloat as best they can.

We all know how the story ends, but this Wendy Kesselman adaptation of the original by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett crafts an emotional climax. With the Franks sure of liberations after the D-Day landings, and the youngsters planning their futures … well, we won’t spoil it for you.

This is a moving and often startling production. It’s been 70 years since Anne Frank died, but her legacy endures and continues to impact young and old alike. It is so very worth seeing.

The Diary of Anne Frank continues at Flint Youth Theatre through May 10. For tickets and more information please contact the box office at 810-237-1530 or online at www.FlintYouthTheatre.org

Posted in Recently Reviewed Productions | Leave a comment


Flint Youth Theatre will hold auditions for Equity and Non-Equity Actors on
Wednesday, April 29 for adult roles in the 2015-2016 SummerStage and CenterStage season.

Auditions are by appointment only and 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. Flint Youth Theatre practices multi-cultural casting and encourages actors of color to audition. Resumes may be presented at the time of the audition, may be emailed to info@flintyouththeatre.org or submitted via postal mail to:

Flint Youth Theatre
1220 E. Kearsley St.
Flint, MI 48503

Flint Youth Theatre is an award-winning theatre casting Equity and Non-Equity, paid adult roles for the following productions in the 2015-2016 Season:

The Cat in the Hat
August 13-22
Rehearsals begin July 6

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

August 14-23
Rehearsals begin July 6

Little Women
October 10-25
Rehearsals begin September 7

The Wizard of Oz
December 5-20
Rehearsals begin November 2

Huck Finn
February 20-March 6
Rehearsals begin January 25

The Most (Blank) City in America
April 16-May 1
Rehearsals begin March 14

About Flint Youth Theatre
Through public performances, school matinees and acting classes, Flint Youth Theatre’s resident professional company serves students age two through college, and audiences of children and families, teens and adults.  Imaginative, daring and insightful, the main-stage SummerStage and CenterStage series of plays for all audiences are drawn from literature, folklore, fantasy, history and social issues.

For more information about Flint Youth Theatre auditions call 810.237.1530 or visit FlintYouthTheatre.org.

Posted in Press releases | Leave a comment

Flint Youth Theatre To Present “The Diary of Anne Frank”

The Diary of Anne Frank will be brought to life at the Flint Youth Theatre (FYT) stage April 24 through May 10, 2015, under the direction Jeremy Winchester.

Anne Frank wrote, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Seventy years after these words were written by a young girl with every reason to give up, her example of willfulness continues to serve as a reminder of the incredible power of hope.

The Diary of Anne Frank takes place in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during World War II. Anne, a young Jewish girl, receives a diary for her thirteenth birthday in 1942, a blank slate for her to record her thoughts, hopes and dreams. Not long after, she and her family are forced to go into hiding to escape imprisonment in Nazi work camps. Anne captures the details of daily life for the family, and others who join them in hiding, along with the growing pains that come with being a teenager. From the constant fear of detection, to grasping at small moments of joy, to finding an unbreakable will to survive, this remarkable stage adaptation is not to be missed.

Friday, April 24 at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 25 at 7:30pm
Sunday, April 26 at 2:30pm*
Friday, May 1 at 7:30pm*
Saturday, May 2 at 7:30pm
Sunday, May 3 at 2:30pm
Friday, May 8 at 7:30pm
Saturday, May 9 at 2:30pm*
Saturday, May 9 at 7:30pm
Sunday, May 10 at 2:30pm

*A conversation with the creative team will follow this performance.

Advance tickets for The Diary of Anne Frank, which is best suited for ages 10 and up, are $12 for children, $14 for teens, senior citizens and military veterans, and $16 for adults. Tickets are available at Flint Youth Theatre by calling 810-237-1530 or online at FlintYouthTheatre.org. Day-of-performance tickets are $14 for children, $16 for teens, senior citizens and veterans, and $18 for adults. An ASL interpreter will be provided for the performance on Saturday, May 9 at 2:30pm.

The Diary of Anne Frank is a play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, based on the Dutch language diary kept by Anne Frank. The Flint Youth Theatre will be perfoming a new adaptation by Wendy Kesselman.

Sponsored by the Nartel Foundation. Flint Youth Theatre’s 2014-2015 Signature Series is sponsored by Health Alliance Plan. FYT’s Building Bridges Community Partner for The Diary of Anne Frank is the Flint Jewish Federation. The Building Bridges Community Partner Program is made possible in part by the Ruth Mott Foundation.

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

Hearty “Laughter” Can be Found in the University of Michigan-Flint’s Latest Offering

Reviewed by Shelly L. Hoffman

Neil Simon, America’s seemingly most prolific and successful playwright, introduced Laughter on the 23rd Floor in 1993 as an homage to the time he spent as a writer (along with the likes of Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, and Woody Allen) on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows forty years prior. The University of Michigan-Flint’s theatre program opened its stellar production of Laughter Friday night and walking into the theatre was like taking a step back in time, to the golden age of television, when comedy was king.

Theatre-goers are immediately treated to Scenic Designer Lisa Borton’s startling realistic rendering of a 1950s television writing room. The box set fills the vast expanse of the stage and is replete with a windowed reception area where ditzy secretary Helen (Dominique Hinde) is perched and where some great comedic bits happen. Fluorescent lights, cracked and water-stained walls, and radiators complete the scene.

Max Prince (Paul Doctor), the titular center of the weekly comedy show, The Max Prince Show, is under siege. NBC is expanding its programming to more and more homes in the Midwest and Prince’s comedy, from the minds of his writing team, is deemed too highbrow for this growing audience. The network wants Prince to dumb it down and his accountant wants him to make some cutbacks. All this is happening in the shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunt.

One by one, we meet each of the members of the writing team. We see them through the eyes of Lucas Brickman (Britton Paige), the newest writer, who serves as narrator to the play. Paige brings a pink-cheeked innocence and plausible dialect to the role as he embodies this character meant to be Simon himself.

Matt Coggins portrays the eccentric Milt Fields who sports berets, a cape, and a white suit and spends much of his time hiding behind a potted fern. Coggins is certainly energetic, if not a little overly physical, in his performance.

Lucas Moquin’s entrance as the bombastic Russian émigré, Val Slotsky, adds much energy to the opening scene. Moquin, too, brings a solid dialect. His laugh is infectious and the tension between he and Coggins is robust as their characters spar over the pronunciation of a certain colorful word.

Brian Doyle (Connor Klee) is the writing room’s token gentile who smokes too much and is certain he will sell a screenplay to Hollywood. Brian undergoes a slight transformation and Klee, with some assistance from costuming, handles this with aplomb. Kenny Franks (Joshua Cornea), the “boy genius” and Carol Wyman (Shelby L. Coleman), who brings a woman’s perspective to the writing room, round out this mostly sane grouping of writers. Coleman practically channels Rose Marie in the Dick Van Dyke Show.

Finally, the perpetually late and no-holds-barred hypochondriac, Ira Stone (Chazz Irwin), shows up to aggravate his colleagues. Irwin is a hoot, yet manages to also engender compassion for Stone.

As unique and interesting each of these characters in this strong ensemble cast is, upon the entrance of Paul Doctor as Max Prince they simply become planets orbiting Doctor’s immense gravitational pull. This is a tour d’ force for him. Doctor is at once loud and frenetic as well as somber and morose, capturing every angle of Prince with exceptional comic timing.

The young cast shows a certain level of maturity and control in their handling of not only the piece but some very slight flubs and malfunctions. Their reactions to these miscues were not the least bit gratuitous nor did they distract or detract from the great work being done and served only to heighten the comedy.

Director William Irwin notes in an online interview that “[t]he ability to make someone laugh is truly a noble skill . . . . Getting an audience to laugh means that you’ve united a group of strangers and provided a tonic for their troubles.” Professor Irwin and his student-actors fully possess this noble skill and, indeed, provide a delicious tonic.

Laughter on the 23rd Floor continues its run Saturday, March 28th, 7:30 pm and Sunday, March 29th, 2:00 pm and the following weekend, Friday, April 3rd, and Saturday, April 4th at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $10 and $8 and can be reserved online at http://boxoffice.printtixusa.com/universitymichigan/eventcalendar or by phone at 810-237-6520 or 810-237-6522. It should be noted the production contains a plethora of expletives that may not be suitable for more delicate ears.


Posted in Recently Reviewed Productions | Leave a comment

FYT Presents Staged Reading Sunday, March 29

Sunday, March 29 • 6pm

Join us for this Sunday’s Off The Press staged reading of David Ives’ “Venus In Fur” at 6pm. The Village Voice said this erotic drama, “invites both carnal and cerebral excitement.”

A beleaguered playwright/director is desperate to find the female lead for his adaptation of the classic tale “Venus in Fur.” Into his empty audition room walks a vulgar and equally desperate actress. Through the audition they blur the line between play and reality, entering into a serious game of submission and domination.

Tickets are $7. and available at flintyouththeatre.org.

Sponsored by Dr. Daniel and Donna Anbe In Memory of Almeda Hunter
The Off the Press Series is sponsored by Fandangles’

Advisory: Off the Press readings are recommended for adults and older teens. These readings often include explicit language and graphic discriptions of a sexual or violent nature and could be offensive to some viewers.

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

Youngsters Shine in Clio Cast and Crew’s “Pippi Longstocking”

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

In what appears to be a growing tradition, Clio Cast and Crew opened their Spring children’s show Friday night to a houseful of appreciative parents and at least one patron we met who seemed to just love kid’s shows. This year it’s Astrid Lindgren’s popular story about the very independent Pippi Longstocking, adapted to the stage and set to music by Thomas W. Olson and Roberta Carlson.

Set in Sweden, the stage design sends signals right off the bat. A small house looks normal, even quaint, except for the horse looking out the half door! Then when the sole resident, an outspoken little floppy braided redhead, appears on the roof it’s clear that things will take some unusual turns.

Pippi, it seems, showed up alone at this little house with neither a parent in sight. She proceeds to bamboozle most of the adults who try to harness her including two corny cops, Klang (Duane Dunckel) and Larsson (Johnny Rak), a couple of kooky crooks, Thunder (Mikayla Maier) and Bloom (Rochelle Dula), the prim Norwegian school teacher (Toni Henry), and the child welfare worker Mrs. Prysselius (Dana Usealman).

Constantly resisting the charge that she’s an orphan, Pippi reveals that her mother has gone to heaven, but her father Captain Longstocking (Mark Gerics) still sails the seas as a pirate and will return for her at any moment. Pippi has been on the move most of her short life, but may find staying in one spot with friends is not so bad after all.

Directors Lori Fournier and Cindy Hubbard had their hands full with a huge cast of 40 performers. While pretty evenly split between adults and children that still left a whole passel of kids to corral. And corral they did with a great little chorus performing as school children.

But the most outstanding performer in Friday’s show was Abbey Messing in the title role. This youngster’s energy seemed to know no bounds and her characterization of this wacky whirlwind was impeccable. Plus, she has a powerful voice that shone mightily Friday as she sang the very nice “Mama and Papa and I”.

We can honestly say that it is rare to see kids this age (probably 8 to 12ish) exude the kind of concentration and performance panache we saw Friday. Talent spills out all over the stage here. It’s pretty wild and often raw-edged and not totally polished, but the sheer numbers are impressive.

Still, the play is choppy. It runs well when the scenes are in gear, except for a couple slow musical starts that left actors standing and waiting. It’s the in between that drags things down. Leaving an audience in the dark during slow scene changes can dilute the overall exuberance.

Overall, this Pippi Longstocking is a nice little show with a load of talented kids on stage, and that is always great fun to see. It continues at Theatre 57, 2220 W. Vienna Rd, Clio 48420 through March 29. Evening shows begin at 7:30 and Sunday matinees are at 2:00. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or find them online at www.cliocastandcrew.com



Posted in Recently Reviewed Productions | Leave a comment

Kids Carry the Day as FCP Open “Cheaper by the Dozen”

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

The kids carried the show Thursday as Flint Community Players presented the now vintage, true story of the large Gilbreth family, Cheaper by the Dozen. Dramatized by Christopher Sergel from the book by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, the script doesn’t call for all 12 children to appear, however the nine who do manage to be the collective highlight of the show.

Set in the 1920s, Cheaper by the Dozen is the recounting of the authors’ young lives with their parents and 10 siblings. Dad was a time management expert who often imposed and tested his various theories and efficiency experiments on his family. Newcomer Kevin Marsee portrays Mr. Gilbreth with a good deal of energy, a bit of intensity but also clear affection for his children. We figure out early on that Dad has a serious heart condition, one that his children are not aware of, and that is driving him to make his family self-sufficient.

Carrie Gerrild plays Mrs. Gilbreth, who was also a well-known psychologist and one of the first working female engineers at the time to hold a Ph.D. Her portrayal here however exudes calm and even mousiness as she defers to her husband’s decisions about the children. She does gain some strength in Act Three when Mr. Gilbreth’s condition becomes known to some of the children.

Director Tammy Robison has double cast the children in this production, so an alternate cast will replace the youngsters we saw Thursday tonight. We wonder how this might be affecting the overall tempo and cohesion of the show. Still, the Gilbreth children Thursday were, for the most part, cute and effective.

The play is told in flashback as the two authors, Frank Jr. and Ernestine (played Thursday by Jesse Gerrild and Alexandra Marsee) reminisce about particularly memorable moments growing up. This works to help move the audience back and forth in time as the action unfolds in vignettes. One that repeats is the whistle blown by Dad to summon his children with a stopwatch ready to time their arrival.

Eldest child Anne (played Thursday by Grace Lee) becomes the spokesperson for the children. Her determination to set some modern precedents with her strict father provides some touching and humorous moments.

Anne’s first attempted date turns comical as the buffoonish cheerleader Joe Scales (Alex Weiss) arrives complete with trick bowtie and a backfiring automobile. By the way, sound effects are handled nicely by Robison. The music was a bit overpowering a few times, but other sounds were spot on.

One notable character is the pompous and stiff lipped teacher Miss Brill (Ann Oravetz). It seems there is some suspicion surrounding this family as the children are often found to be skipping grades. Oravetz is prim and properly stunned at their accomplishments.

Jesse Glenn’s set for this show is impressive with multiple entrances and extreme attention to detail. The large cast moves fluidly around the set with no illusion of being crowded.

Somewhat dated, this story still has the power to entertain and amuse. Plus, anytime there’s a passel of cute kids on stage, it’s a good time. Cheaper by the Dozen continues at the Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy. Flint 48507. For tickets and info call the box office at 810-235-6963 or access online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com



Posted in Recently Reviewed Productions | Leave a comment