FYT Takes Audience on an Actual Fantasy Trek Through Narnia

Reviewed by Tomoko Miller

LionFlint Youth Theatre is rarely one to shy away from pushing the boundaries of theatre, and their latest production, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has the audience breaking those boundaries along with them. Based on the the well-known classic novel by C.S. Lewis, the story follows four human children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, who are fated to liberate a magical kingdom from the rule of an evil witch. Director Michael Lluberes’ ambitious concept has the audience up on their feet for the majority of the show and faithfully following in the footsteps of the children and their animal companions as they travel the vast, mythical land of Narnia. Almost every inch of Flint Youth Theatre’s facility has been transformed for the production, taking patrons through a maze of twists and turns to find the next stop on the journey.

The sets were varied, yet fit each scene perfectly. As the show started, an old radio played World War II news broadcasts to remind us of the world the children leave behind to take a more active role in the war to come. Inside this first room a cozy, warmly-lit English parlor lay in front of the wardrobe, which itself opened up to the icy and foreboding forest inside Elgood theater. In the forest the sound of howling wind and snow falling on our heads greeted us as we took our seats.

It was here where we were introduced to the majority of the characters who inhabit Narnia. Lucy (Edith Pendell) is the first of the children to explore what lies beyond the wardrobe. Lucy’s affable nature quickly pacifies the cautious faun, Tumnus (Zachery J. Wood). Their friendship puts Tumnus in danger and soon Lucy enlists the help of her siblings to save her new friend. Peter and Susan, played by the ever-talented Enrique Vargas and Destiny Dunn, join Lucy in befriending the creatures of Narnia. However, the impish Edmund, played by the seemingly ageless Britton A. Paige, has other plans.

Although the human children are the heroes of this story, the more fantastical characters stole the show. Janet Haley and Kyle Clark made for a menacing team as the White Witch and her servant Dwarf. Jordan Climie’s portrayal of Mr. Beaver offered much needed levity to the sometimes heavy subject matter.

Other rooms were decked out with practical lighting elements and platforms to delineate the actors’ play space from the audience areas. However, the thick crowd of attendees didn’t allow for much in the way of soaking in the ambiance of these spaces before they were whisked away to another location. Those seated and standing closer were likely able to enjoy these scenes more than those standing in the back.

Bower Theater was converted to allow for seating on the stage as well as in the audience, and the seating area was bisected with a runway that allowed for grand entrances and battles. Sound and lighting worked especially well together during more intense scenes in this space, implying action rather than carnage. As Aslan, Rico Bruce Wade appropriately ruled the elongated stage as the rightful king of Narnia. His imposing presence was matched by his booming voice that at once commanded respect and offered comfort. He and Janet Haley made for excellent sparring partners as they battled verbally and physically.

Individual technical elements were well executed, but the overall production suffered from blocked sight lines in overcrowded rooms and long waits between scenes as people funneled into narrow doorways and corridors.

The costumes were simple yet striking. The animals consisted of a combination of literal traits such as fur and horns, while other animals wore masks and large metal frames to indicate their imposing size. Sound was minimal but effective. A howling wind followed the audience through most of the show. When the wind finally died down, its absence was felt and added to the weight of the scenes that followed.

Most of the young (and young at heart) remained enthralled throughout the performance, seemingly in awe of being transported to a fantasy realm. However, the experience could have been more immersive by incorporating more communication from the creatures of Narnia who provided silent direction to the audience as to where to move next. Much confusion arose from the lack of information, especially when the audience was split apart to allow for two scenes to happen simultaneously.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe runs approximately two hours and is presented without intermission. Performances continue December 8 – 17. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and stay afterwards for Edmund’s favorite, Turkish Delight! For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-237-7333 or online at theFYT.org



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UMF Alums Return to FVP for Benefit Concert – “A Christmas Wish”

48180715-Christmas-music-tree-Stock-VectorA CHRISTMAS WISH

Friday, December 22, 2017 – 7:00 pm

Produced by Sam DiVita / Musical Direction by Frank Pitts

Original Musical Direction & Arrangements by William TN Hall

Featuring Michael Kirk Lane

          With Colin Hodgkin and Elsa Harchick

Fenton Village Players is thrilled to offer this amazing Christmas Concert on our stage.

Michael Kirk Lane, currently living in New York City, returns to Fenton Village Players with a benefit concert titled “A Christmas Wish” on December 22, 2017 at 7:00pm.

The show will have music ranging from classics Christmas Carols to modern musical theatre gems, and will touch on the theme of how we all can put our differences aside and join together during the joyous holiday season.

Lane will be joined on stage by two other FVP alums that have gone on to enjoy lives in professional theatre, Elsa Harchick and Colin Hodgkin. The evening is produced for FVP by Sam DiVita, and will be musically directed by Frank Pitts. Original musical direction and arrangements are credited to composer William TN Hall.

Lane was a member of the original cast of the Off-Broadway musical Hell’s Belles! He is a two-time Manhattan Association of Cabaret Award nominee, and his previous cabaret shows “Songs from The Rock, The Street, and The Hood” and “Now You Know” both enjoyed multiple runs at Don’t Tell Mama and The Laurie Beechman Theatre respectively. He is a member of the voice cast of the new hit children’s web series The Flying Tent for which he also serves as Associate Producer. For the past 9 years Lane has also been part of the team at No Strings Productions, making puppet films for children in troubled areas around the globe. Mid-Michigan audiences may remember Lane from his years as part of the resident acting company at Flint Youth Theatre, most recently returning in 2012 for Our Town.

Lane was a fixture at FVP both onstage and backstage during the late 90’s and early 2000’s performing in many shows and serving on the organizations board. In regard to this return he says, “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to return and give back to an organization that gave me a safe place to explore my craft and learn as a young adult. The importance of community based arts organizations like FVP can’t be underestimated. FVP continues to be a beacon in the community from their commitment to producing quality local theatre, and giving community members both young and old a place to create.”

Tickets: $20.00

Available at:

Fenton’s Open Book 105 W. Shiawassee Ave., Fenton, MI  48430
The UPS Store 17195 Silver Parkway, Fenton, MI 48430
On line – fentontheatre.org

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FYT Presents a Path to Narnia

Audiences will travel through the wardrobe into the magical land of Narnia in this one of a kind, on-you-feet immersive play. This thrilling adventure is sure to be the theatrical event of the season!
Based on the classic book by C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the
Wardrobe is a heroic tale of love, faith, courage, and giving; the life
and death struggle for control of Narnia and the grandeur of the triumph
of good over evil which has enthralled audiences of all ages.

December 2 – 17

Based upon the story by C.S. Lewis
Dramatized by Joseph Robinette
Directed by Michael Lluberes
Produced by special arrangement with THE DRAMATIC PUBLISHING COMPANY
of Woodstock, Illinois

theFYT.org  •  810.237.1530

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FCP’s “On Golden Pond” Offers Much to Ponder

Reviewed by Carolyn GillespieOnGoldenPond_Poster

Flint Community Players has mounted Ernest Thompson’s poignant gem On Golden Pond in its intimate Ballenger space.  The play opened on Broadway in 1979 with Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen playing the long-married Thayers who face their golden years with equal measures of fear, love, and bitterness.  A popular film version followed featuring Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn, with Jane Fonda playing the Thayer’s daughter Chelsea whose troubled relationship with her failing father lies at the heart of the family drama.  Other versions of Thompson’s work followed, including a TV version with Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and the late Glenne Headly, as well as a Broadway revival with James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams.

Though the play is set in Maine, Steve Munsell’s cozy set will transport Michiganders directly to the family cottage “up north” with its handsome fireplace and kitschy furnishings; and the intermittent sound track is high on nostalgia, complete with the eerie call of the loon. As the play begins, we meet the Thayers who are opening the house for the season – their 49th as summer residents of their small community.  Ron Fournier plays Norman, a sharp-tongued retired professor of English, who is showing early signs of dementia, much to the dismay of his wife Ethel, played by Mary Rice.  Ethel works to keep her worries about Norman at bay, but his erratic behavior, cutting remarks, and black humor cast a pall over the fond memories of other summers.  The local mail carrier, Charlie who brings news of local townies along with the post, is played with heart and an idiosyncratic laugh by J.R. Nunley.  Charlie has been slogging the same route since he was a fifteen year old in love with Chelsea. Unmarried, he still harbors a longing for her, and her unexpected arrival to visit her parents fills him with hope of another chance in spite of the fact that she arrives with a fiancé and his 13 year old son.

Chelsea’s arrival presents a challenge/opportunity for the Thayers as she asks her parents to care for young Billy Ray, Jr. for a month while she and Bill Ray travel to Europe.  Carla Feamster brings considerable energy to the role.  Christopher Dinnan as Bill Ray demonstrates initial deference to Norman, but eventually abandons his pretext of affability in the face of Norman’s caustic responses to his efforts at civility.  We begin to see what lies at the root of Chelsea’s rupture with her father – she addresses him as “Norman” and will not honor him by calling him “Dad”. Ethel is delighted to host the boy, but is concerned about Norman’s ability to cope.  She needn’t.  The boy brings Norman great joy and seems to alleviate the signs of his growing senility.  They fish daily, they laugh.  Ever the English professor, he encourages the boy to read youth classics.  In turn, the boy teaches Norman the current slang and how to laugh without bitterness.  After the month is over, Chelsea returns, and that is the rest of the story.

Opening night posed a few problems for the company.  Director William Kircher might clarify the signal event in each scene, and the cast has room to grow into the dense emotional terrain the play lays out.  Stricter attention could be paid to realizing small elements – the reality of a glass of milk, the work of opening and closing a house, clothing choices that suggest summer, the weight of a picnic. Nonetheless, there is plenty to think about in this family drama, especially for those of us in the Ethel/Norman age bracket.

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

                                                -Dylan Thomas

            On Golden Pond continues at FCP’s Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S Ballenger Hwy Flint, 48507 on Nov. 3, 4. 10 & 11 at 7:30 pm and Nov. 5 & 12 at 2:30 pm. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or www.flintcommunityplayers.com



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detail_7639Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

It has always been deemed taboo to dabble with or in any way rearrange the lines written by William Shakespeare. Troupes have changed the time and the setting but never the words. Still, even though it’s patently amazing that these tales have survived intact for over 400 years, the time may have come to spruce them up for the new millennium.

With that said, what better vehicle to give a little shake and stir than Shakespeare’s As You Like It which opened at the University of Michigan-Flint Friday. Indeed, this wonderfully fresh adaptation by Robert Kauzlaric doesn’t just update the dress code; it updates the script as well.

Opening on a barren stage, we are reminded that this is theatre; not real, but a mere story being told. This will eventually evolve into a colorful autumnal forest, yet rendered to resemble cutouts thus continuing the story told impact.

Leading and often “directing” the action is Farrell Tatum as the staff wielding Jaques. She is quite impressive as dressed in boots, long frock coat and top hat she exudes a sense of melancholy that places her in a somewhat ethereal realm of control.

The story swirls around a political conflict that has torn two families apart causing one family to flee the city and seek refuge in the nearby Forest of Arden. A third family finds itself usurped as the reigning Duke (Jason Briggs) demands allegiance from Oliver de Bois (Lucas Moquin) thus leaving his younger brother Orlando (Gage Webster) with nothing.

Briggs struts and intimidates with the best of them but has one weakness – his daughter Celia (Curr’esha Beatty) – who will eventually bring him to reason. Meanwhile, Celia’s best friend is the daughter of the exiled Duke (Andrew Eisengruber). She and Rosalind (Alyssa Banister) are the story’s driving duo as they escape to the forest to find freedom and, well, also Orlando. One problem: Rosalind has disguised herself as a boy in order to safely flee the city, but her getup is so convincing even Orlando believes her to be a man.

It’s a comedy so all comes out well in the end, but getting there is a real treat in this production. Director Janet Haley (who incidentally played this characterization of Jaques in the Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s As You Like It) has turned much of the interpretation and production development of Kauzlaric’s script over to her cast of students. What emerges here is perhaps the most refreshing and creative version of a Shakespearean play we have ever seen.

Stage choreography is hip and fun, the guitarist (Seth Hart) strums throughout and the lines Silvius (Edward Giovanni Moore III) sings to Phebe (Andrea Orpinel) are now and then close to modern rap. Constantly chasing Phebe, Moore is hysterical as he is often obstructed by her “sheep” that follow her everywhere.

Costumes are timeless and colorful, especially those of the goat herder, Audrey (Michaela Nogaj) and her wild and outspoken suitor, the court jester Touchstone (Joshua Cornea). These two are a hoot to watch as they shepherd the “goats” and themselves.

Animals do abound in this show – aside from the sheep and the lambs, watch for deer, a buck (sad story here), a lion, a snake and a bird!

Other classy portrayals worthy of mention include Le Beau, the personal assistant to the usurping duke. Enrique Vargas is prim comic perfection in this role. Marie Blacknall is Corin, grandmother to Silvius, who seems to look after the younger ones. Connor Klee plays Adam, servant to Orlando who though old and lame, insists he go with his master into the forest.

Finally, we trust the tech crew has ironed out the couple of lighting issues encountered Friday so that we can solidly encourage you, even if you have avoided plays by Shakespeare, to make an exception and scurry out to see As You Like It.

Performances continue October 28-29 and November 3-5 at the University Theatre, 303 Kearsley St, Flint MI 48502. For more info and tickets contact either the box office – 810-237-6520 or online at umflint.edu/theatredance



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New McCree’s “Voices From Heaven” is Vintage Gospel at Its Best

photo_of_caravans_categoryReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Nearly a packed house gathered Thursday to see, hear and even join in as The New McCree Theatre presented Voices From Heaven: The Story of the Caravans, an original script written by McCree’s Executive Director Charles H. Winfrey. A singular tribute to the history of gospel music, this production features a host of incredible local singers and one amazing song after another.

Director Cathye Johnson returned from Missouri especially to oversee this effort. Her stamp of perfection is all over this show from the interesting and clever choreography to the smooth interaction between musical numbers. Every movement is clearly motivated and well planned to convey the action along. (We loved the ladies simultaneously singing and striking the set to be ready for the next number.)

So who are the Caravans? As the show explains, they were the best female gospel group of the last 60 years as well as a training ground for new singers destined to become gospel greats. Albertina Walker (Tiana Rison) is one of the most constant members and often comments on the abundance of talent that joined the group, moved on and then returned periodically throughout the Caravan years.

A few others manage to stick close including Dorothy Norwood (Alina Oliver), Inez Andrews (Barbara A. Armstrong), Iris Humble (Seena Brandon), Shirley Caesar (Ayana S. Mitts) and song writer/supporter James Cleveland (Curtiss Stewart).

A large ensemble brings this show to vibrant life with at least 16 singers and dancers taking part. The story unfolds as a review with one musical number following close on the last with the band right smack in the middle of the action upstage center. Marlon Miller (keyboards) is the musical director here along with Anthony Williams (lead guitar), Carlos Gilbert (bass guitar) and Davey Wade (drums). Microphones are used liberally allowing these fine musicians to play without covering the vocals.

Probably the most energetic and engaging number occurred at the end of the first act when Mitts as young Shirley Caesar ran down the aisle asking to audition for the Caravans. This rendition of “Sweeping Through the City” was patently amazing as Mitts wound the audience right around her finger while the ensemble responded with terrifically choreographed excitement and vocal backup. One word for this number – Wow!

We also must give credit to Alphonso Foster for the beautiful and yet simple set design. Eight large flats adorn the stage with each one painted to depict a stained glass church window. They are most artfully done.

If you appreciate powerful vocals, great instrumentals and vintage gospel, you can’t miss this. Voices From Heaven has only three performances remaining – tonight at 7:00 pm and Saturday at 2:00 and 7:00 pm. The theatre is in the New Standard Academy (Old Powers High School), 2040 W. Carpenter Road, Flint, 48505. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-787-2200 or online at http://www.thenewmccreetheatre.com/tickets.html


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FYT’s “A Wrinkle in Time” is Magical

GeYv6HppJCGzzJc7QJlIOg0gVFWzsRY3peAuK2EnwdwWcq6bQ7Z3c_kbesmKsuqKZf9R9jyCZzur3y3eBAsv-FL9H98zo0Sp6CMHznDzXqhvt-kb0FqD0hiwWXlC58RHHQM5-q-NZfDe2J6uTKevfg=s0-d-e1-ftReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Flint Youth Theatre opened a magical, exciting and even a bit scary production Saturday evening of the Madeleine L’Engle classic tale as adapted by Tracy Young, A Wrinkle in Time. Staged in the cozy Elgood Theatre, the audience was brought in close to this story of cosmic travel, ominous black clouds, and bravely intelligent children to the rescue.

Briefly, A Wrinkle in Time is the story of a young girl who, along with her younger brother and her friend, is transported on an adventure through time and space to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from the evil forces that hold him prisoner on another planet.

We knew we were in for a “sky” story the minute we entered the theatre. The entire multi-level set is painted a sort of sky blue and lit by stars. It is a striking first impression. Indeed, lights and sound play a huge role in the passage of time and place effects. The rain is especially effective.

We love it when kids are cast as kids and FYT is terrific at this. Leading the action here is Paige Benner as the smart but awkward, unpopular and defensive middle-schooler, Meg Murry. She will nevertheless step up to hero status before the play is done.

Meg’s younger brother, Charles Wallace Murry is played amazingly by young Haedyn Scott. He brings this slightly odd but highly intelligent, probably autistic, child to life quite nicely. His devotion to his sister (he reads her mind) and the family will find him tested mightily as well. We did wish he would speak louder though, as much of what he had to say was swallowed up by some sound effects and a lack of vocal projection.

Rounding out the trio of time travelling kids is Calvin O’Keefe, a boy from a very large family with an overburdened mother. He is looking for someplace more joyful than his own home. Syd Brown plays this character with a nice mix of hesitancy and confidence as they set out to traverse time and space together.

They don’t do it on their own of course. Charles Wallace introduces them to three immortal characters living in a haunted house in the woods. Mrs. Whatsit (Amy Dolan-Malaney) is a sweet woman dressed in layers of multicolored fabrics. She is kind to the children and even flies them on her back in a most amazing and technically splendid scene.

Brittany Reed is Mrs. Who, a bespectacled woman fluent in dozens of languages and given to communicating in quotes. Mrs. Whatsit explains that Mrs. Who is not so comfortable using her own words.  But her glasses nearly save the day!

Rounding out this trio of spirits is Mrs. Which played by Kristina Riegle who also plays Meg’s mother. Mrs. Which is perhaps the most ethereal of the three with her witch hat and glowing orb.

These three spirits invoke the tesseract, a way of folding time and allowing them to travel quickly through space and the cosmos. This visual effect is quite amazing and the players react to it perfectly as they seek to rescue Meg’s father from imprisonment on Camazotz.

Others worthy of mention include Bret Beaudry as Meg’s imprisoned dad, Dekotah James Myers for his terrific enactment of Fortinbras, the dog, Sarah Jarrett as the loveable Aunt Beast, and those two adorable twins, Lucas and William Eldredge.

We won’t spoil the outcome for you but we will say that this production’s technical team is to be commended. Lights, sound, and visual effects literally change the set from one planet and one place to another.

Kudos must also go to director Michael Lluberes. The staging features a lot of movement as it cleverly provides a constant reminder that we are reading a book as the story unfolds before us.

A Wrinkle in Time runs just over 90 minutes and continues at Flint Youth Theatre’s Elgood Theatre through October 22. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-237-7333 or online at theFYT.org


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