REVIEW: Discover the wintry magic of ‘The Snow Queen’ at Bonstelle Theatre

Reviewed by Patty Nolan

Click HERE to read the review on The Examiner’s Website

If you can remember clapping your hands to save Tinker Bell’s life… if you ever wanted to visit Narnia… or looked for faeries in your grandmother’s garden… then you should get to the Bonstelle Theatre for this magical production of “The Snow Queen.” And if you can grab some kids to make it all look like a magnanimous effort on your part, so much the better.

This artistic, enthusiastic and interactive Bonstelle production is an adaptation by Tyler J. Monroe of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most popular children’sfairytales. Timed to help families get into the holiday mood, “The Snow Queen” isn’t a Christmas story, per se, and is suitable for people of all faith backgrounds.

It’s the story of a little girl named Gerda (the amazing Kristin Dawn-Dumas) who is determined to rescue her friend, a young boy named Kai (the wonderful Nicholas Yocum), from the clutches of the evil Snow Queen. Basic values of loyalty, friendship, selflessness and courage are conveyed in a story that is filled with adventure, drama and enough brilliant stage spectacle to satisfy the wiggliest children. Although the story is essentially sweet, it is never saccharine, and is rich with eccentric and even dangerous characters who help or hinder Gerda on her journey.

The Bonstelle Theatre presents Hans Christian Andersen's winter holiday fairy tale 'The Snow Queen.' This breathtaking production is directed by Allegra Libonati. She directed the play’s premier a year ago at the American Repertory Theater and worked with a gifted design team in Detroit to bring it to life on the Bonstelle stage. The use of oversized puppets (Anthony Karpinski), a set design created by sweeping, swirling fabric and ingenious props (Fred Florkowski), inventive lighting (Samuel G. Byers), imaginative costumes (Mary Copenhagen) and engaging sound design (Ryan Koprince) all combine to pull the audience (young and old) into the enchanted world of the Snow Queen.

The delightful and talented cast of Bonstelle “children” swarm the theater before the show opens, inviting audience members to swordfight, toss balloons, admire their noise-making prowess, and answer personal questions. Once the show begins, Grandpa (Michael Meike) and Grandma (Jacqueline Fenton) summon their grandchildren for story time. As the story unfolds, the grandchildren take on multiple roles, engaging with Gerda as she moves from one adventure to the next.

The show includes several audience participation moments. In fact, children are invited to arrive 45 minutes before curtain time to participate in a preshow craft activity with cast members. Paper roses and snowflakes will be made in the upstairs lobby and used by children in the audience to interact with the show.

“The Snow Queen is a show where you can bring family members of all ages and everyone can take away a part of the story,” says Libonati. “If families can be swept away in this fairytale, go on a journey together, and be inspired by the strength of a little girl alone in the North Pole, that would be a wonderful thing.”

“The Snow Queen” runs from November 30 to December 9, 2012. Shows are on Fridays and Saturdays with an 8 p.m. curtain and Sunday with a 2 p.m. curtain. Children get a special ticket price of only $6; adult tickets are $12 – $15 and are available by calling the Bonstelle Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2960, purchasing them online, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

And as one of the happy coincidences that sometimes pop up in the Detroit theater scene, an original version of “The Snow Queen” – in purely puppet form – is also opening this weekend atPuppetART. We’ll be reporting back on that show yet this weekend.

So fall in love with the magic of “The Snow Queen” – and see it twice for the first time – at the Bonstelle Theatre and the PuppetART Theatre in downtown Detroit.

Congratulations to the cast of The Snow Queen”: Zee Bricker (Detroit, MI) as Robber Queen, Mackenzie Conn (Walled Lake, MI) as Snow Queen, Zyle Christian-Cook (Marcellus, MI) as Goblin, Kristin Dawn-Dumas (Detroit, MI) as Gerda, Jacqueline Fenton (Allen Park, MI) as Grandma, Katelyn Foster (Harrison Township, MI) as Rose 1, Garett Harris (Royal Oak, MI) as Prince, Sharayah Johnson (Birch Run, MI) as Flower Witch, Gaia Klotz (Midland, MI) as Swallow 1, Alexis Mabry (Grosse Pointe, MI) as Princess, Sydney Macheskey (Shelby Township, MI) as Sun, Jackson McLaskey (Mt. Clemens, MI) as Raven, Michael Meike (Clinton Township, MI) as Grandpa, Matt Miazgowicz (Dearborn, MI) as Rose 3, Brittany Michael (St. Clair Shores, MI) as Robber Girl, Jonathon Pigott (Wyandotte, MI) as Swallow 2, Aeisha Reese (Flint, MI) as Rose 2, Luke Rose (Harrison Township) as Reindeer, and Nicholas Yocum (Royal Oak, MI) as Kai.

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REVIEW: The Bonstelle opens its fall season with a real witch story, ‘The Crucible’

Reviewed by: Patty Nolan

The Crucible - Bonstelle Theatre, Wayne State University, Detroit

Click HERE to read the review on the Examiner website!

 

Halloween is a great time for spooky stories about ghosts, haunted houses, witches and goblins.

But the Bonstelle Theatre has opened its new season with a real witch story – the Tony Award-winning play “The Crucible” by world-renowned playwright Arthur Miller.

With this important American play, Miller used the hysteria surrounding the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials to draw analogies to the McCarthy-era trials in which people accused of being communists were forced to name colleagues or risk being black balled, having their careers destroyed, and is some cases, losing their personal freedom.

Miller’s classic play explores how the pious citizens of 1692 Salem were predisposed to believe that it was Satan himself who, using agents in the community, caused their babies to die, their crops to wilt, their hearts to lust, and their children to laugh in church. And when the paranoid Reverend Parris catches his niece Abigail Williams and several other young girls dancing around a fire in the woods, he is all too willing to believe Abigail’s accusations that members of the community have put them under a spell.

This Bonstelle production is brilliantly directed by Lavinia Hart, who opens the play with an eerie look at the voodoo ritual being practiced by the young women in the village. The physical presence of evil is treated seriously, with the use of magical lighting and foreboding sound design, to orient the audience to the mindset of 17th Century Massachusetts.

Abigail quickly uses her new-found power to whip the community into a frenzy of mass-hysteria. Over time, as good people are brought to trial and executed without due process, those in charge become less willing to admit that they’ve been duped. And so, to prove that Satan walks in their midst, the courts require the accused to name fellow Satan worshipers, or face public execution. Quickly, it is the most devout people in the community who are imprisoned and executed, because they refuse to confess to the court’s lie, even to save their own necks. Ironically, at the end of the play, those who are unscathed by the witch trials are the most guilty.

Director Lavinia Hart comments, “In the face of corruption, we discover the distance some will be required to go in order to meet their responsibility to family, friends and society.”

Although it is easy for modern audiences to smugly condemn the superstitious residents of Salem, Miller clearly understood the real and present danger. As long as it is possible for mobs of frightened, paranoid people to blame someone else for their suffering, witch hunts will continue.

As we reach the final weeks of an especially ugly election year, we would all do well to treat smear campaigns with skepticism. Both political parties would have us believe that the other candidate is evil incarnate. But history shows us that the real evil is ignorance, fear, paranoia, hysteria, greed, pride, and jealousy. Miller would urge vigilance against those daemons.

WSU’s young Bonstelle Theatre ensemble brought a compelling performance to this difficult material. Mackenzie Conn was delightfully wicked as Abigail Williams; Colin Mallory struck the right balance of obsequious paranoia and self-righteousness as Rev. Parris; Jackson McLaskey was strong and empathetic as John Proctor; Nicholas Yocum, as Reverend Hale, takes us on an authentic spiritual journey as he realizes that the people he condemned on Abigail’s say-so are innocent; and Ivy Haralson brought lovely authenticity to the role of Barbados slave Tituba.

The cast also includes: Jacqueline Fenton (Allen Park, MI) as Susanna Walcott, Daniel Finn (Armada, MI) as Ezekiel Cheever, Jordan Fritz (River Rouge, MI) as Giles Corey, Amber Gale (Detroit, MI) as Girl 1, Robert J. Hammond (Troy, MI) as Willard, Shannon Hurst (Warren, MI) as Girl 4, Sharayah Johnson (Birch Run, MI) as Ann Putnam, Sara Kline (Royal Oak, MI) as Rebecca Nurse, Kelly Klopocinski (Sterling Heights, MI) as Elizabeth Proctor, Alyssa Lucas (Garden City, MI) as Mercy Lewis, Jackson McLaskey (Mt Clemens, MI) as John Proctor, Michael Meike (Clinton Twp) as Judge Danforth, Matthew Miazgowicz (Dearborn, MI) as Thomas Putnam, Yesmeen Mikhail (Wyandotte, MI) as Sarah Good, Malvina Mirowski (Sterling Heights, MI) as Betty Parris, Hope Morawa (Lincoln Park, MI) as Girl 3, Bryauna Perkins (Chesterfield, MI) as Hopkins and Girl 2, Aeisha Reese (Flint, MI) as Mary Warren, Laith Salim (Dearborn, MI) as Francis Nurse, Stuart Sturton (Dexter, MI) as Judge Hathorne, and The production team includes:

Director Lavinia Hart is supported by: Nicholas Boyd (Stage Manager), Anthony Karpinski (Scenic Designer), Fred Florkowski (Technical Director), Donna Buckley (Costume Designer), Gabriel Rice (Lighting Designer), Michael C. Thomas (Sound Designer), Cheryl Turski (Movement Coach), and Patrick Pozezinski (Publicity Manager).

The Crucible” runs at the Bonstelle Theatre for two weekends only, closing Sunday October 21. Curtain time is at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, at 2 p.m. on Sundays. There will be a special morning performance on Thursday, October 18 at 10 a.m. Tickets are $12 – $15 and are available by calling the box office at 313-577-2960, visiting the Bonstelle website, or purchasing tickets at the Hilberry Theatre box office, located at 4743 Cass Avenue, at the corner of Hancock.

A Christmas Carol opens Dec. 4 at The Bonstelle!

Jingle Bells Rock the Bonstelle Theatre this Holiday Season!

The Bonstelle Theatre decks the halls with the iconic story, A Christmas Carol adapted by Dennis Powers and Laird Williamson from the story by Charles Dickens running December 4 through December 13. Follow Ebenezer Scrooge and his ghostly visitors to Christmas past, present, and future in this timeless classic.


Originally written by Charles Dickens in 1843, A Christmas Carol is arguably one of the most recognizable theatrical productions in the world. Dickens compared the success of his other works to this show. Redemption, compassion and social injustice are the themes behind A Christmas Carol as well as most other works by Dickens. An almost immediate success upon publication, the story of A Christmas Carol continues to entertain theatergoers around the world 166 years after its creation.

Director Dennis E. North brings the audience to the present day on the streets of London. Costume designer Jessica Van Essen creates a punk rock ambience, combining leather, fringe and traditional Christmas concepts throughout her creations. Benjamin Williams (Detroit, MI), who was last seen in The Talented Tenth, takes the lead as the miserable Ebenezer Scrooge with six-year-old Joseph Frederick Plieth from Troy, MI as Tiny Tim. Scenic Designer Pegi Marshall-Amundsen’s ambitious set will mark her first production at the Bonstelle Theatre since being hired on as a Scenic Design faculty member at Wayne State University. All of these elements present a unique twist on an old tale about discovering the meaning of Christmas.

Other cast members include Alex Trice (Dickens/Detroit, MI), Dave Cowan (Bob Crachit/Grosse Ile, MI), Ted Neda (Fred/St. Clair Shores, MI), Patrick Loos (Marley/Highland, MI), Kyle Holton (Christmas Past/Detroit, MI), Kara Frizzell (Mrs. Christmas Past/Garden City, MI), Colin Mallory (Boy Scrooge/East Lansing, MI), Justin Wagner (Young Scrooge/New Baltimore, MI), Caitlin Morrison (Belle/Romeo, MI), Andrew Sheldon (Mr. Fezziwig/Redford, MI), Megan Fuller (Mrs. Fezziwig/Warren, MI), Justin Crutchfield (Christmas Present/Detroit, MI), Brittany Peele (Mary/Detroit, MI), Siena Hassett (Martha/Grosse Pointe Park, MI), Molly Waggamon (Mrs. Cratchit/Sterling Heights, MI), Alyssa Lukas (Dilber/Wayne, MN), Jacquie Michnuk (Flicher/Dearborn, MI), Joe Hamid (Old Joe/Coral Springs, FL), Kelly Klopocinski (Chorus/Sterling Heights, MI), Samantha Moltmaker (Chorus Angel/Harrison Twp, MI), Erin Hildebrandt (Chrous Angel/Walled Lake, MI), Elizabeth Bricker (Chorus Angel/Detroit, MI), Aeisha Reese (Chorus Angel/Flint, MI), Ashley Shamoon (Chorus/Northville, MI), Steve Xander Carson (Chrosu/New Baltimore, MI), George Abud (Chorus/Grosse Pointe, MI), Andre DeJuan (Chrosu/Detroit, MI) and William Turbett (Chorus/Dearborn, MI).

The production team includes Mercedes Coley (Stage Manager), Jessica Van Essen (Costume Designer), Christopher Wade (Lighting Designer), Wendy Wojciehowski (Sound Designer), Fred Florkowski (Technical Director) and Jeffrey Cotnoir (Publicist).


A Christmas Carol plays at the Bonstelle Theatre December 4, 2009 to December 13, 2009. Advance ticket sales are available at the Wayne State Theatre Box Office, located at 4743 Cass (corner of Hancock), or by phone at (313) 577-2960. Tickets may be purchased online at www.wsushows.com. The box office is open Tuesday – Saturday from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the door at the Bonstelle Theatre (3424 Woodward Ave.) one hour prior to performances. Regular tickets are available for $15, and $12 discounted tickets are available to seniors ages 62+, and Wayne State University faculty, staff, and Alumni Association members. Student rush tickets are available for $10 the night of the performance. Group discounts are also available. For more information, please visit the theatre’s website at www.bonstelle.com.