UM-Flint’s Brings Bright Interpretation to Oscar Wilde’s “Earnest”

earnest_poster_2016_copyReviewed by Kathleen Kirby

When Irish playwright Oscar Wilde was writing in the late nineteenth century, conservatism ruled society. It was a time of upper crust pomp and general disdain for the lesser classes. The University of Michigan-Flint Department of Theatre and Dance plunged headlong into this era Friday with Wilde’s comic poke at such stuffy society, The Importance of Being Earnest.

This is an often-produced piece, but we’ll wager you’ve not seen it quite like this before. The opening finds Algernon ‘Algy’ Moncrieff (Gage Webster) at a piano playing with gusto and singing at the top of his voice. Nothing straitlaced in his behavior at all! Throughout, Webster exudes a playboy persona, quick to con and deceive all while enjoying himself immensely.

His butler, Lane, played by George M. Marzonie provides even more comedy with his stiff but often melancholy demeanor.

Algy is soon visited by his good friend John (Jack/Ernest) Worthing (Lucas Moquin), a fellow with an apparently much stiffer upper lip, but who is guarding a secret life as well. Moquin brings this ramrod personality to both of his “characters” garnering many chuckles in the attempt.

Both of these fellows are enamored and very close to falling in love. Worthing’s lady friend is Algy’s cousin Gwendolen Fairfax (Farrell Tatum), an impeccable, slightly haughty figure dressed in extravagant and beautiful style. Not quite the opposite, but of a more sweet, homespun and mischievous disposition, Algy’s love interest is Cecily (Dominique Hinde), Worthing’s ward.

Lady Augusta Bracknell (Shelby Coleman) rules the resident roost with her pristine Victorian sense of right and wrong and her high decibel voice. When it is apparent that John/Earnest Worthing was a foundling child left in a bag at Victoria Station, she declares the engagement null. After all, she cannot allow her niece to “form an alliance with a parcel”.

Director William Irwin describes this production as “lavish and fun” and that, sir, it certainly is. Lavish may be too a simple an explanation for Scenic Designer Tyler Rankin’s amazing gardens and observatory. It is a stunning setting for all the scurrying about that happens as each of the two gents proclaims himself to be Earnest. (Seems the ladies find that name too tempting to resist.)

We loved Act I in the London sitting room at teatime with Algy’s “musicality”, but Acts 2 and 3 are set in a country manor house and may be worth the price of admission alone. It’s simple to imagine Miss Prism (Taylor Boes) and the Rev. Chasuble (Andrew Eisengruber) strolling through the garden just beyond the ivy-laden archways. Also the interactions on the garden wall walkway between Cecily and the servant Merriman (Jordan Kinney) are sweet and well done.

Inside the glass-walled conservatory the effect is even more impressive as all of the confusion comes to its happy conclusion with many a cockeyed twist and turn in the effort.

There isn’t one weak link in this ensemble. This is a very well directed and talented cast backed up by an accomplished set and technical team. Even if you think you’ve seen Wilde’s Earnest before, have another go at this one. You will be glad you did.

The Importance of Being Earnest continues at The University of Michigan-Flint through April 2. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-237-6520 or online at www.umflint.edu/theatredance

 

 

 

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“BISCUIT!” THIS WEEKEND ONLY!

 

This Weekend Only!

Biscuit

Friday, March 24 – 7pm •  Saturday, March 252pm
All tickets only $10 each
A frolicking little puppy named Biscuit loves exploring, making new friends, and even stirring up some mischief. Along the way, Biscuit learns about the joys of having a family.
An ArtsPower Production based on the book series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Recommended for ages 3 and up
theFYT.org  •  810.237.1530
First Stage is sponsored by Wang Family Charitable Fund
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New McCree Theatre to Present “Needle in a Haystack” – A Musical Tribute to the Velvelettes

The Board of Directors and Friends of tneedle_in_thehaystack360x267he New McCree Theatre are presenting a Gala Reception and World Premiere Performance of the original musical, A Needle in a Haystack: the Story of the Velvelettes, a tribute to Motown’s longest lasting girl group that still performs with all of its original members today.  The event will take place at the New McCree Theatre, 2040 W. Carpenter Road, Flint, on Saturday, April 29, 2017.  A red carpet reception, with refreshments, will begin at 5:30 p.m. while curtain for the premiere performance of the musical is at 7:00 p.m.  Organizers are requesting a $50.00 donation from each patron.  Funds will be utilized to enable the New McCree Theatre to carry on its plethora of performing arts activities on behalf of the underserved residents of north Flint for the remainder of the program year.  Tickets can be purchased by telephone or online at www.thenewmccreetheatre.com.
The odyssey of the Velvelettes began in 1962 when two cousins from Flint—Bertha Barbee and Norma Barbee— joined with two sisters and a friend from Kalamazoo—Mildred Gill, Caldin Ann Gill, and Betty Kelley—to form the singing group.  After winning a talent contest at Western Michigan University, the girls were encouraged to go to Detroit to audition for Motown records.  The audition was successful. Two years later the group recorded its first hit record, Needle in a Haystack.  It was followed by He Was Really Saying Something, which also charted in the Top 100 pop hits in the country in 1965. 
Although the girls were on the verge of becoming mega stars at Motown like the Marvelettes, the Vandellas, and the Supremes, three of them left the group to concentrate on raising their families.  Cal, the lead singer carried on for another two years with fill-in Velvelettes, but the group eventually disbanded.  Fifteen years later, now divorced, the girls reunited and picked up where they left off, without missing a beat.
Needle in a Haystack will continue to run at the New McCree Theatre following the premiere performance, from May 4 – 27, on Thursday and Friday at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.  Call the theatre at (810) 787-2200 for ticket information, or visit the theatre’s website.
Contact Charles Winfrey at (810) 787-2200 if additional information is desired.
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FYT “Cat in the Hat” Audition Opportunity for Grades 7 – 12

Cat

AUDITION OPPORTUNITY

Students in grades 7 through 12 are invited to audition for
Dr. Suess’ The Cat In The Hat
“We looked! Then we saw him step in on the mat! We looked!
And we saw him! The Cat in the Hat!”Dr. Seuss’ classic story is brought to vibrant life in this delightful new adaptation.
 Auditions
Tuesday, March 21, 2017 – 6:00-9:30pm
Auditions will include reading from the script. Students do not need to prepare anything to audition.
Callbacks (if needed) will take place on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 – 6:00-9:30pm

Rehearsals:
Monday – Fridays, Beginning April 17, 2017 – 6:00-9:30pm


Performances

 Daytime school performance May 9-12
Public performances Friday, May 12 – 7pm & Saturday, May 13 – 2pm
Adapted by Katie Mitchell & Directed by Kay Kelly
theFYT.org  •  810.237.1530
Cat In The Hat is sponsored by Wang Family Charitable Fund
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CCC’s “The Kings of Unionville” Brings Comedy Home

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

Stories akings-of-unionville-2-2-w280h205bout Michigan are always intriguing just because they’re close to home. And, if the story is funny, slightly wacky, and also heartwarming then all the better. Actually that’s a pretty good description of Michigan playwright James R. Kuhl’s The Kings of Unionville, which opened Friday at Clio Cast & Crew.

Remember the tale about those ditsy deer hunters in Escanaba in the Moonlight that we all loved? Well, after seeing Kings, you may start to believe there’s something in the Michigan air that encourages that certain wackiness to emerge when guys get together. This is a very funny show populated by six terrific actors.

It all takes place in a slightly dated, wood paneled basement where five members of a generations-old fraternal society – the Kings – meet to drink beer, play six-handed euchre, trade corny jokes and generally just be guys. The monkey wrench in the current works is the recent death of one member. His passing leaves a hole in the card game and an opening for a new member.

The comedy begins with the opening song sung by the five to launch the meeting. Let’s just say it isn’t a typically fervent pledge of loyalty and fraternity, but led by Hoagie (Dave Turner) it is impressive. Leroy (Duane Dunckel) makes sure everyone has a beer and the hijinks begin. He and his brother Guvy (Bill Fagerstrom) are a comic duo that had Friday night’s audience laughing early and long.

The basement belongs to Ed (Pat Blondin), and it is where much of the important 150-year history of the Kings is kept in a bound scrapbook. After paying tribute to their lost brother, the issue of the missing euchre player takes center stage.

Just then, Ed’s son Will (Shane Wachowicz) walks in and is asked to play the sixth hand. Soon the idea to invite him to join the group as a bone-fide member has everyone agreeing except Ed who demands that Will be subject to a long abandoned initiation ceremony.

Not sure of what this entails since none of them ever went through one, it falls to the eldest member, Lloyd (Jim Waner), to transport the dusty trunk full of rituals and robes to the meeting room where even more hysterical interaction then ensues.

Although there is a ripe amount, the script isn’t all slapstick and silliness. There is also conflict here between father and son, and it isn’t just their difference in age and technological expertise. (Will is a computer geek and constantly on his phone). Playwright Kuhl has woven an interesting web of generational confusion as this issue reaches back all the way to Will’s great grandfather and ahead to his own newborn son. Not to worry – the outcome is heartwarming.

Finally, kudos line up for director Dawn Sabourin. She has assembled a strong ensemble that plays well with no real weak links. Even their corniest jokes sparked laughter Friday. The set is detailed and typically appointed. It will look familiar to you – it did to me.

We’d encourage anyone in need of a good laugh, or several, to head to Clio for this endearingly comical show about tradition, friendship and loyalty.

The Kings of Unionville continues at Theatre 57, 2220 W Vienna Rd, Clio, MI, March 4, 10 & 11 at 7:30 pm and March 5 & 12 at 2:30 pm. For tickets contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com

 

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FCP’s “The Curious Savage” Tickles and Warms the Heart

curious_origReviewed by Jon R. Coggins

As the weather, once again, turns chilly (Michigan eh?) the Flint Community Players continue their 2016/17 season with a show by John Patrick that will warm the cockles of your heart.

Set in The Cloisters, a home  for emotionally damaged individuals, The Curious Savage is most definitely a comedy. The set is the common room of the home and all action takes place here. The director, Chip DuFord, moves his cast around the space nicely and everyone looks comfortable on stage.

As the show opens we are introduced to the residents: Florence, played by JoAnn McClanahan, is a chipper and comforting grandmotherly type with her own secret despair. McClanahan is wonderful in this role.

Hannibal, portrayed by Alex Weiss, is a calming teddy bear with a penchant for the violin. Weiss is slightly dumpy, sometimes confused, constantly friendly and has a heart of gold. As always I enjoyed this young man’s performance.

Fairy May, played by Kristen Carter, is supposed to be plain looking and unaware of her lackluster existence. Carter plays the role exquisitely with the right amount of spunk, cheeriness, and oblivion. Carter played quite successfully against her looks, as she really is not plain or unassuming.

Jeffrey is an emotional wreck, with a disfiguring scar. Played by Philip Kautz, Jeffrey may be the intellectual voice of reason in this disparate group. His commitment to the role is amazing and he easily draws the crowd’s sympathy.

The final resident, Mrs. Paddy, refuses to answer questions since her spouse told her to shut up. Played by Rose Adams, Paddy spends her days at an easel painting seascapes. Her only comments are drawn out of her by others – and then she lists a litany of dislikes. These diatribes are delightful and provide a good comedic punch every now and then throughout the script. Adams is perfect in this skin.

Then we meet “the family” – the august and wealthy Savage Clan. Three step-children, now grown, of our heroine are led by Titus, a pompous, overreacting hot-tempered politician who leveraged his family name and money to get his plum senatorial position. Played superbly by Matthew L. Morgan, Titus leads his family on the quest to get the better of their “mother”. Another child, Lily Belle, played with gusto by Marie VanHorn, is a bit of a tart, likes to get married and is quick to follow the plan to ditch her mama. VanHorn was an excellent choice for this role. Finally we meet child number three, a Boston area judge who gained his lofty position much the same way as Titus. Randy Howell gave a good performance but was hampered by age. He is very young to be in this role, and looks like an obviously young man. (This reviewer thought the character was the son of Lily Belle at first.) But any actor worth his salt will take on a role and make it work. Please, Randy, get out from behind that chair.

Finally we meet (musical fanfare) Mrs. Savage. She is ushered into the common room, accompanied by her constant companion – a giant stuffed teddy bear. Superbly played by Patty Bracey, Savage is quiet and contemplative at first, but serious undertones of a plan are being hatched right from the start. Bracey plays confused, old, tired and forlorn but morphs into a bright, wise, manipulative go-getter who seems to be in control. Having performed this play myself, I found Bracey to be a quintessentially perfect choice for the role.

The Plot: The family commits Savage to the home to keep her from spending the family fortune on what they call frivolous activities. Savage calls them her happy list. Hilarity ensues.

DuFord, a professional actor making his directorial debut, put together an amazing cast, and The Curious Savage will go down as a success!

Additional cast members include: Lauren Kondrat as Miss Wilhelmina, the home’s manager with a secret of her own and Lorrie Soini as Dr. Emmet who really has the best interests of her patients at heart.

So I encourage you to get out of the house, ignore the dreary winter weather and gather at the Cloisters for a rollicking good time.

The Curious Savage continues at the FCP playhouse on Ballenger Hwy. through March 12, 2017. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or find them online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com

 

 

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FYT Announces Open Auditions

Audition Opportunity

Students in grades 7 through 12 are invited to audition for

THIRTEEN

This brand new production will be created by a team of FYT students who are mentored by Andrew Morton and Brittany Reed

In the US today, adolescents make up approximately 13% of the population. This original devised production examines the changing face of America’s adolescents, exploring the hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations of young people as they form their identities in an increasingly complex and diverse world.

Student Auditions:

Tuesday, March 7, 2017 – 6:00-9:30pm

Auditions will include reading from the script. Students do not need to prepare anything to audition.

Rehearsals:

Monday- Fridays, Beginning March 20 – 6:00-9:30pm

Performances:

April 28 – May 6

Directed by Andrew Morton and Brittany Reed

theFYT.org • 810.237.1530

Thirteen is sponsored by Olof Karlstrom and Olivia Maynard

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