REVIEW: Bonstelle offers holiday treat for kids

Reviewed by Robert Delaney, The Detroit New Monitor

Kai (Nicholas Yocum) and The Snow Queen (Mackenzie Conn).

Kai (Nicholas Yocum) and The Snow Queen (Mackenzie Conn).

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, “The Snow Queen,” makes a delightful stage play for children in the adaptation by Tyler J. Monroe now being offered at Wayne State University’s Bonstelle Theatre in Midtown Detroit. This is not only high-quality children’s theatre, but perhaps the most technically impressive show I have ever seen on the Bonstelle stage. There are some pretty fancy special effects here, ones I wouldn’t have guessed the Bonstelle could pull off. And there is an interactive aspect to the show that begins with pre-show activities for kids 45 minutes before the opening curtain. Working with WSU undergraduate actors and technical staff, visiting director Allegra Libonati has recreated the production she did last year with the American Repertory Theatre of Cambridge, Mass., where she is the resident director. Children will delight to the story of the young girl, Gerda’s (Kristin Dawn-Dumas) efforts to rescue her friend Kai (Nicholas Yocum) from the Snow Queen, Mackenzie Conn (shown at right). And they will also be fascinated by the antics of the Goblin (Zyle Christian-Cook) and the many other characters in this splendid story by the author of “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Duckling.” Anyone who has seen Conn in any of her other WSU roles can easily imagine that she makes a strikingly beautiful Snow Queen. No praise would be too high for the work of all the behind-the-scenes contributors to the show’s success, notably scenic designer/technical director Fred Florkowski, costume designer Mary Copenhagen, lighting designer Samuel G. Byers and sound designer Ryan Koprince. Director Libonati has said, “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.” Indeed, this production of “The Snow Queen” is truly a wonderful thing. “The Snow Queen” continues this weekend, through December 9, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and at 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon (pre-show activities begin at 7:15 p.m. or 1:15 p.m., at the Bonstelle Theatre, 3424 Woodward Avenue, a block south of Mack and just a few blocks south of Orchestra Hall. For ticket information, call the WSU Theatre box office at

(313) 577-2960 or go to http://www.wsushows.com

Or join the Facebook Event!

 

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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.

A Moment with: Allegra Libonati, Guest Director of ‘The Snow Queen’

Allegra Libonati Guest Directs ‘The Snow Queen’ at the Bonstelle Theatre, opening Friday, November 30.

The 62nd Bonstelle Theatre season continues this December with an imaginative retelling of the classic fairy tale The Snow Queen, by Hans C. Andersen,adapted by Tyler Monroe. The WSU production will be directed by guest artist Allegra Libonati of the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA. We took a moment to get a closer look at this upcoming show with Allegra. Here’s what she had to say:

Q:Have you directed The Snow Queen before? If so, what has drawn you to direct it again? 
A: I directed The Snow Queen at the American Repertory Theater last winter. I adapted the show from the fairy tale with the playwright, Tyler Monroe. There are many elements of The Snow Queen that I found deeply compelling. I was drawn to the incredible landscapes where the story takes place. We travel from a tiny rose garden, all the way to the snow queen palace at the North Pole, surrounded by the Northern Lights. This captured my imagination. I was also really moved by Hans Christian Andersen’s life story. He was told by his mother, after his father died, that the Snow Queen had taken his father away. Later in his life, he created a story of two best friends who are separated by The Snow Queen. We watch as little Gerda, through her blind faith and deep devotion, is able to find Kai at the end of the earth, and save his life. I think there is a deep message in this show, embedded in a fantastical and spectacular world.

The show also provided excellent opportunities for creative production and physical theater.  Animals, natural elements, and forces of nature all need to be brought to life on stage. I found all this very exciting.

Q:What is your vision for this particular production?
A: My vision for this production was inspired by the experience of listening to a story, and allowing it to transform the world around you. The show begins in a magical attic where a group of children have gathered to hear a story. As the story unfolds, beds become snow drifts, sheets become blizzards, a wagon becomes the boat. The world around you transforms into the locations and characters of the story. The audience is integral to the show.  When you arrive, you create a paper rose and a snow flake, and are asked to help Gerda along the way using these elements.

Q:What were some of the challenges in directing this play?
A: This is an ensemble-based show, which is always both rewarding and challenging. We have an enormous Snow Queen puppet that takes multiple performers to bring to life. We are extending the Snow Queen for this production to include six further performers, creating the swirling snow around her with poles and fabric. This playful and theatrical style of storytelling makes for incredibly sensitive work. Every actor has to be entirely aware of each other, generous, engaged, and focused on the same goal. It takes tremendous energy, but also creates the shifting and transforming world of the show and the power of the characters. By the time you see the show, you won’t see any of the effort, but just be able to get caught up in the illusion and magic an ensemble of actors can create.

Q:What would you like children and families to take away from this production?
A: I would love children and families to have a wonderful theatrical experience together. It is an adventure story where you watch Gerda take on the Snow Queen, to save her loved friend. It is a show where you can bring family members of all ages and everyone can take away a part of the story. If they can all 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 Bonstelle Theatre will open The Snow Queen, just in time for the holiday season. It runs from November 30 to December 9, 2012, and children get a special ticket price of only $6. This classic children’s fairytale is a holiday treat, and the Bonstelle Theatre’s production will include a preshow craft activity with cast members for children starting 45 minutes prior to curtain time. Paper roses and snowflakes will be made in the upstairs lobby and used by children in the audience to interact with the show.

Click HERE to check out the Facebook event.

PRESS RELEASE: ‘The Snow Queen’

The Snow Queen brings adventure, magic, and interactive fun to the holiday season at the Bonstelle Theatre

 The Snow Queen - The Bonstelle Theatre. Detrit

DETROIT –The Bonstelle Theatre opens an adaptation by Tyler J. Monroe of one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most popular fairy tales, The Snow Queen, just in time for the holiday season, running from November 30 to December 9, 2012. This classic children’s fairytale is a holiday treat, and the Bonstelle Theatre’s production will include a pre-show craft activity for children starting 45 minutes prior to curtain time. Roses and snowflakes will be made in the upstairs lobby and used by children to interact with the show. Tickets are $12 – $15 and are available by calling the Bonstelle Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2960, online at www.bonstelle.com, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.

The Snow Queen is a tale about the capture of a young boy, Kai, by the evil Snow Queen and a young heroine’s journey to rescue him. The heroine of the story, a girl named Gerda, who is Kai’s best friend, must traverse through a world filled with a number of eccentric and dangerous characters to find and free Kai from the Snow Queen’s spell. Using puppets, music and supernatural magic, The Snow Queen is a show that celebrates childhood and its ideals, while  important messages like devotion, bravery, and the triumph of love are explored throughout the story.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen was adapted by Tyler J. Monroe  in 2011, during his second year in the Dramaturgy MFA program through Harvard University. The play premiered at the American Repertory Theatre in December 2011, and was directed by Allegra Libonati, who is also the guest director of the Bonstelle Theatre’s production of The Snow Queen. “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,” said 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.”

Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author who became internationally known for his fairy tales, some of which have become adapted into or inspired notable Disney films, such as The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, and The Emperor’s New Groove. “I was also really moved by Hans Christian Andersen’s life story,” said Libonati. “He was told by his mother, after his father died, that the Snow Queen had taken

his father away.  Later in his life, he created a story of two best friends who are separated by the Snow Queen.  We watch as little Gerda, through her blind faith and deep devotion is able to find Kai at the end of the earth, and save his life.   I think there is a deep message in this show, embedded in a fantastical and spectacular world.”

The cast for The Snow Queen includes (in alphabetical order):

Zee Bricker as Robber Queen, Mackenzie Conn (Walled Lake, MI) as Snow Queen, Zyle Christian-Cook as Goblin, Kristin Dawn-Dumas (Detroit, MI) as Gerda, Jacqueline Fenton (Allen Park, MI) as Grandma, Katie Foster 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 as Princess, Syndey Macheskey (Shelby Township, MI) as Sun, Jackson McLaskey (Mt. Clemens, MI) as Raven, Michael Meike (Clinton Township, MI) as Grandpa, Brittany Michael as Robber Girl, Jon 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.

The production team includes:

Allegra Libonati (Director), Cheryl Turski (Assistant Director), Michael Waldrup (Stage Manager), Meghan Lynch (Assistant Stage Manager), Fred Florkowski (Scenic Designer), Lisa Berg (Assistant Scenic Designer), Anthony Karpinski (Properties Master), Mary Copenhagen (Costume Designer), Samuel G. Byers  (Lighting Designer), Gabriel Rice (Sound Designer), and Alexandra Stewart (Publicity Manager).

About the Bonstelle Theatre

The Bonstelle Theatre is a Broadway-style House with a 1,143-seat auditorium featuring a balcony. Here, future stars of theatre, film, and television follow in the footsteps of such successful alumni as Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning S. Epatha Merkerson (NBC’s Law and Order, Lackawanna Blues), Lily Tomlin (9 to 5, ABC’s Desperate Housewives) and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, NBC’s Heroes).  For box office hours and information on performances, tickets, group discounts and corporate packages, please call the box office at (313) 577-2960 or visit the theatre’s website at www.bonstelle.com.

Season sponsored by CBS Outdoor, Between the Lines and Encore Michigan.

Calendar Information:

Thursday 10 a.m.         Dec. 6

Friday 8 p.m.                Nov. 30, Dec. 7
Saturday 8 p.m.            Dec. 1, Dec. 8
Sunday  2 p.m.             Dec. 2, Dec. 9