Fling Youth Theatre Brings Dickens’ “Great Expectations” to Bower Stage

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Flint Youth Theatre’s current production of the Charles Dickens classic Great Expectations is beautifully set and exceptionally well choreographed. Costumes are marvelous and the lighting is crisp. In short, the technical aspects of this production are excellent.  Still, some stories are better left in print.

Dickens is such an intricate plotter that it takes some time to get it all across verbally. This script, an adaptation written by Barbara Field, makes a grand effort to cover the tale completely, but what results is very close to a chamber theatre production with loads of narration interrupted by a host of small performed scenes.

Many will remember this story of the orphaned boy, Pip, taken in by his sister (Shannon Olsen) and her blacksmith husband, Joe (Marwan A. Prince). Young Pip is played nicely by Connor Svrcek, and the grown up Pip is handled well by Kody D. Jones.

When Pip is summoned to visit the wealthy Miss Havisham (Karla Marie Froehlich), he finds an aging bride with her wedding table still set 20 years after she was deserted at the altar.  Angry and determined to exact revenge, she has raised an adopted daughter, Estella (Olivia Desgrange) teaching her to be cold-hearted.  Unfortunately for him, she becomes the love of Pip’s life. (Young Estella is played by Gloria Hrit)

Others lend variety: Ted Valley is gruff and scary as Abel Magwitch, the convict Young Pip helps and Rodney Creech succeeds as the ever-busy lawyer, Jaggers.  Wynne Wood is comical as the Aging Parent.  Both Stephen M. Staten and then LaTroy Childress are fun to watch in the role of Pip’s best friend, Herbert Pocket.

Director Walter Hill makes a valiant attempt to bring variety to what could be monotonous rhetoric. He succeeds by switching voices and offering a constantly moving company of over 25 players who intersperse roles and narration to propel this plot along through an ever-present London fog.

Hill also sporadically employs a side group of puppets to act along with the performers probably as further diversity.  They could be clever, but were more a distraction Friday, requiring a line of chorus members to intrude onto the stage thus drawing attention from the scene at hand.

Overall, though wordy, it is fairly simple to follow this complicated story as it unfolds.  Longer than usual FYT productions, this one runs over two hours but with an intermission and may prove slightly tiring for young children.

Great Expectations continues at F.A. Bower Theatre through August 6.  For more information call 810-237-1530 or visit the FYT website at www.flintyouththeatre.org

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