FYT Brings Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory to Life

6qf_2n3tzr-rmqg-wc93uxdto98csoedjmxkze5wh3zhoukvbyu8poqdspln_m0wfhgrl9k3z4mh-xqjptpq9wwcdokhmgqisssh2z0po5jizee1cmc3m3gcvvoatzgvn-f_kr5ymyq0nis0-d-e1-ftReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

“Stories are good for you.” So goes the oft-quoted mantra of British children’s book author Roald Dahl. His wonderful tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, came to life on the Flint Youth Theatre stage Saturday, where a fairly full house enjoyed a musical retelling of this beloved story.

Directed by Andrew Morton, Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka sports a large cast of youngsters and adults who work together delightfully as they bring this modern morality play to life. There is a message, and curiously it allows us to cheer for the winner while still feeling some empathy for the losers.

Willy Wonka, played with mystery, color, comedy, and a teensy slice of malice by Dan Gerics, has decided to gift his magical candy factory. Hoping to find a proper and worthy successor, he has hidden five golden tickets among fifty million chocolate bars. The winners believe they have won a tour of the factory and a lifetime supply of chocolate.

Syd Brown plays Charlie Bucket, a poor youngster with four bedridden grandparents. These four (LaTroy Childress, Brittany Reed, Matt Coggins, Sarah Jarrett) all occupy one large bed while his parents (Jesse Glenn & Shannon Olsen) work to keep the family whole. It is Charlie’s Grampa Joe (Coggins) who assures Charlie that his future with the Wonka factory is bright even though he now cannot even afford to buy a possible winning bar.

First to win is Augustus Sloop (Evan Brewer), a chubby child from Germany, “I Eat More!” Madaline Harkema plays his doting mother, giving in to his every whim.

Veruca Salt (Kate Spademan), a spoiled and demanding girl from Brazil, is the next winner. Her instant switches from angry harridan to sweet young thing were both comical and quirky as she ordered her father (Jordan Climie) to buy up everything in sight.

Meanwhile, Charlie’s dad has lost his job. Trying to cheer him, Charlie sings “Think Positive” which ends in a charming soft shoe duet between Glenn and Brown.

Another ticket turns up in Georgia won by Violet Beauregard (Alexis Crochran), an inveterate gum chomper with an attitude and accompanied by her sycophantic mother (Aris Campbell). Television junkie Mike Teevee (Enrique Vargas) wins the fourth ticket but seems less than interested in touring a chocolate factory with no Wi-Fi! He is pushed to participate by his flamboyant mother (Brooke Caldwell).

Finally, as winter approaches a chilly, coatless Charlie meets the Candy Man (Gerics) on the street and helps him close up his kiosk. In return he is given a candy bar with – you guessed it – a golden ticket inside!

Act two finds the winners touring the amazing Wonka factory. Each room has it’s special characteristic and many come with warnings. Alas, the children begin to fall victim to their own self-centered lifestyles. Augustus is swept away in a river of chocolate while other such fractured fates await each of the rest.

We loved the Miss Blueberry blowup that claims Violet and the miniaturization of Mike TeeVee is also clever.

Live musicians Rafael McDaniel, Annadelle Kimber, William Mintline, Aaron Weeks, and Kris Kress accompany the songs sprinkled throughout. Best remembered will be Wonka’s “Pure Imagination” and the repeated marches of the Oompa Loompas as they troop in and out of each candy room with their musical explanations. Six brightly paint spattered youngsters (Julia Cassidy, Teisa Chima, Darius Collins, Myah Sanders, Alejandra Vargas, & Therese Wofford) sporting electrically lit soled shoes fill these roles marvelously.

Sets are also amazing with bright lights, bright colors, and ingeniously contrived candy “machinery” thanks to designer Tim McMath. Kudos must also go to choreographer Emma Davis and to costume designer Adam M. Dill.

The ending is the best of all as Charlie is ultimately rewarded for his honesty and his concern for others. So, this really IS a story that is good for us! It has a lot to say about the importance of tolerance, good deeds and kindness. Bring the kids – you’ll find yourself enjoying the story with them.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka continues at Flint’s Bower Theatre through December 18. For more information about times and tickets contact the box office at 810-273-1530 or online at www.theFYT.org




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Flint Youth Theatre Performing Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka”

“Golden” Tickets On Sale Now!

6qf_2n3tzr-rmqg-wc93uxdto98csoedjmxkze5wh3zhoukvbyu8poqdspln_m0wfhgrl9k3z4mh-xqjptpq9wwcdokhmgqisssh2z0po5jizee1cmc3m3gcvvoatzgvn-f_kr5ymyq0nis0-d-e1-ftJoin Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe, Veruca Salt and Augusta Gloop, Oompa-Loompas, and the mysterious Wonka, on a madcap discovery of the importance of selflessness.

Based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Music and Lyrics by Leslie Brucusse and Anthony Newley
Adapted for stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka is sponsored by THE WHITING FOUNDATION

Saturday, December 3     7pm
Sunday, December 4       2pm

Friday, December 9          7pm   ASL
Saturday, December 10   2pm & 7pm
Sunday, December 11      2pm

Friday, December 16        7pm
Saturday, December 17   2pm & 7pm
Sunday, December 11      2pm

$12 Children
$14 Teens, Seniors & Veterans
$16 Adults

Day of Performance:
$14 Children
$16 Teens, Seniors and Veterans
$18 Adults

Best suited for ages 6 and up.

810.237.1530  •  theFYT.org

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Music and Murder Rule the Stage at FCP

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Never asweeney group to shy away from a challenge, Flint Community Players threw caution to the wind Thursday with the opening of Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim’s gruesome musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Many new faces mingle with familiar folks to bring this incredible and disturbing tale to the stage.

A formidable piece of work and certainly not your usual community theatre fare, there are aspects of this show that are stunning and wonderfully done. Impeccable staging and the gloriously ghoulish set must be credited to guest director and Flint native Paul Gregory Nelson. Equally impressive, Laura Williams Kline’s costumes are uniquely detailed extensions of character.

Predominantly sung, the music dominates in this show. However, not buffered and positioned so as to share nearly half the stage, FCP’s musically strong trio comprised of Wayman Ezell (musical director), Bruce Snyder (keyboards) and Justin Velic (percussion) dominated a bit too much in the first act Thursday. Many vocals were overpowered and lyrics were lost even though body mikes were used, and in a story that relies on lyrics to tell the tale, diction is paramount.

            A story of revenge, the play opens with the wrongfully convicted Todd returning to London after many years of incarceration to find his wife gone and his daughter in the clutches of the man he believes responsible for all of his misfortune. In the role of Sweeney, Peter Lightfoot brings his wealth of operatic experience to the vocals along with a palpably brooding and mournful characterization.

His partner in crime emerges from the meat pie shop beneath his former tonsorial parlor. Danielle Rene Blanchard plays the deviously crafty pie maker, Mrs. Lovett. While she was one we had a hard time understanding, her presentation was charming and wily at once all while being vocally quite strong. Her comically gruesome “A Little Priest” ended the first act on a high note.

There is a side love story between Todd’s young friend, a sailor aptly named Anthony Hope (Donovan Leary), and Todd’s long lost daughter Johanna (Emma Erfourth). These two shared a couple of ballads but the melodies were a bit discordant as were their solos as well. We wondered if Erfourth’s placement up and out of sight of the musicians might have contributed to this.

Evil rules the day in Sweeney Todd. The embodiment of that is Judge Turpin as played by Brady Pattenaude who overcomes a certain boyish look to turn his red-haired innocence to something dark and foul.

Speaking of innocence, Shane McNicol is outstanding as Tobias Ragg, the young huckster who is taken in by Mrs. Lovett. His enthusiasm and wonderful ballad “Not While I’m Around” were a bright spot until the very end – well, almost.

Running throughout this story is the intrusion of the Beggar Woman played with equal angst and mania by Karla Froehlich. She is never far from sight and, as such, we should have seen her ending coming.

Strong vocals were delivered by David Lindsay as The Beadle and by Aaron McCoy-Jacobs as Adolfo Pirelli, while an exceptionally strong and impressively choreographed ensemble literally anchored the production.

All in all, Sweeney Todd is worth seeing. It’s not often that a group undertakes a project of this intense theatrical and technical intricacy and succeeds as well as FCP’s production does – issues, bumps and all.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street continues at The Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy, Flint, MI 48507 Nov. 11, 12, 18, 19 at 7:30 pm and Nov. 13 and 20 at 2:30 pm. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com



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A Deliciously, Deadly Musical Tale…


sweeneyThe Flint Community Players bring you a bloody good musical – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The brilliant tale of obsession and revenge, combines melodrama, murder – and “the worst pies in London” – with a delicious musical score by the unsurpassed Stephen Sondheim.

Benjamin Barker, creates an alias – Sweeney Todd – to resume work in his barber shop above Mrs. Lovett’s struggling pie shop after being wrongfully sentenced to life imprisonment by the corrupt Judge Turpin. After swearing vengeance against the judge that tore his family apart, Todd and Lovett plot a unique plan that helps them both and leads them down a dangerous, thrilling path with deadly consequences.

Join the murderous barber and his culinary accomplice for a spellbinding evening of comic turns and thrilling drama.

Performances: November 10, 11, 12, 18, 19 at 7:30PM

November 13, 20 at 2:30PM

Adults $17.00

*Youth & Students $10.00

*Seniors 60+ $15.00

*Youth/Student/Senior pricing evenings only.

No discounts for matinees.

Group rates available.

For more information call or visit us online.

(810) 441-9302


Flint Community Players, 2462 Ballenger Hwy., Flint, Michigan 48507

For mature audiences: This production includes scenes of rape, murder, cannibalism and incest – but it’s also incredibly funny. We recommend this production for patrons ages 14 and older

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Passion and Pathos Mesh in UM-Flint’s “Next to Normal”

next_to_normal_poster2016_copyReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

University of Michigan-Flint’s Department of Theatre and Dance has chosen an amazing and challenging but thoroughly riveting play to open the 2016//2017 season. Written by Brian Yorkey with music by Tom Kitt, Next To Normal is a formidable piece that has been honored with three Tony Awards and is one of only eight musicals to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Mental health is at the heart of this story, specifically bipolar disorder and its impact on the patient and the family. Helplessness and love clash with anger, guilt, fear and overall, courage in this story of a not so “typical” American family. Director Stephanie Dean guides a particularly talented cast in bringing this delicate and moving, even occasionally comical story to the stage.

Central to the issue here is Diana played with incredible strength and feeling by Shelby Coleman. Her struggle to hold herself together when everything seems to be falling apart has a devastating affect on the whole family. Coleman’s voice is stunningly clear, even crystalline throughout; an aspect that somehow seems to illuminate this character’s deepest self.

Her husband Dan (Andrew Eisengruber) is caring and supportive and clearly still in love with his wife. But life has great swings – when Diana is on her meds they affect her so negatively that she can’t drive or cope normally even to being disinterested in her husband. When she is off them things are better but her behavior is very unpredictable and often distressing.

Daughter Natalie (Farrell Tatum) finds herself alone in her home with her mom and dad other directed toward Diana’s needs. She is a talented and smart girl but lonely as she tries to cope with adolescence on her own. Interestingly she encounters Henry (Gage Webster) who is first a friend, then a boyfriend and who ultimately becomes her mainstay support as the family issues spiral out of control. Her voice is plaintive and strong singing “Perfect for You” in a duet with Henry.

As for Gabe, Britton Paige’s voice is powerful and clear especially in his signature “I’m Alive”. This is an unusual role and he brings power and pathos together in this portrayal. We loved him, resented him, and finally understood.

The mental health medical community is deeply involved here and doesn’t always come off looking good or even competent. Diana’s doctors, both played acutely by Lucas Moquin, encourage her to try more and more meds and procedures in an effort to find a “cure” when there really doesn’t appear to be one. Her experience with electric shock therapy was jarring both for her and the audience.

Basically billed as a rock musical, it does live up to that designation but there are some lovely and poignant moments that we might say bang the head softly. Live music directed by Frank E. Pitts on keyboard augments and enhances from off stage. In a show that is mostly sung and with only sparse spoken dialogue, the band is key. Musicians Rachel Powers on violin, Rachael Ehrhart on cello, Taylor Von Brockdorff on guitar, Russ Duce on percussion/synthesizer, Michael Thompson on bass and Davey Wade on drums provide stalwart support throughout.

Set design is industrial consisting of angles and geometric lines. It allows for a myriad of entrances and exits as well as locales. Dominated by grey, silver, black and white, color intrudes intermittently on this two-story set in the form of light from below and above. It can even flash suddenly outward just in case audiences get too comfy on the sidelines. Also, technically the body mikes were perfect! (Not always an easy feat).

So, what is “normal”? Is normal the exact fulfillment of expectations? Is normal based on societal standards and delivered in spite of any and all distractions? Is it rote repetition? Maybe “next to normal” really is better. You decide.

Next to Normal continues at UM-Flint October 29, November 4 and 5 at 7:30 pm and October 30 and November 6 at 2:00 pm. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-237-6520 or go online at www.umflint.edu/theatredance





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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 www.cliocastandcrew.com 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 www.thewhiting.com/tickets 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, http://thefyt.org/fyt-season/off-the-press.

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