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

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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.

Ready for “The Comedy of Errors”?

Superhero Shakespeare; The Comedy of Errors As Seen Through A Young Man’s Eyes

After being separated for many years, two brothers set out to find their identical twin. When their journey begins, hilarious situations involving mistaken identity ensue. Will the confusion settle to reveal they have once and for all found one another? Come and find out February 19 through February 28 at the Bonstelle Theatre.

Sara Klien as Dromio of Ephesus, George Abud as Antipholus of Ephesus, Andrick Siegmund as Antipholus of Syracuse and Megan Fuller as Dromio of Syracuse

Director Jesse Merz stages this well known classic through the eyes of a disinterested young student who uses his imagination to transform each character in The Comedy of Errors into a superhero, villain or other childhood fantasy figure. Merzs’ unique concept reaches out to those who might regard Shakespeare as being “old” and “outdated”. His vision, combined with the set design by Fred Florkowski, captures the attention of the audience from the moment the curtain rises. This concept, combined with costumes by Mary Copenhagen and technical direction by Jeffrey Strange, makes this production of The Comedy of Errors a show that should not be missed.

The Comedy of Errors was once regarded as one of Shakespeare’s “lighter” plays. However, it is now understood as a complex and profound treatment of the conflict and hope inherent in human relationships. Written between 1592 and 1595, The Comedy of Errors is one of Shakespeare’s early works  and has been adapted for the stage, opera, musical theatre and film.

Andrick Siegmund as Antipholus of Syracuse and Megan Fuller as Dromio of Syracuse

Cast members include Andrick Siegmund (Antipholus of Syracuse), George Abud (Antipholus of Ephesus/Grosse Pointe, MI), Megan Fuller (Dromio of Syracuse/Warren, MI), Sara Kline (Dromio of Ephesus), Katie Lietz Flannery (Adriana), Laura Heikkinen (Luciana), Robbie Dwight (Duke), Patrick Loos (Egeon/Highland, MI), Kerianne Fergurson (Abbess), Justin Crutchfield (Angelo/Detroit, MI), Kyle Holton (2nd Merchant/Detroit, MI), Annabelle Young (A Courtesan), William Turbett (Pinch/Dearborn, MI), Samantha Moltmaker (Balthasar/Harrison Twp, MI), Alexander Trice (1st Merchant/Detroit, MI), Caitlin Morrison (Luce/Romeo, MI), Taurean Hogan (Jailer), Erin Hildebrandt (Officer/Walled Lake, MI), Jacquie Michnuk (Officer/Dearborn, MI), Ciarah Mosley (Messenger). Other production team members include Mercedes Coley (Stage Manager), Christopher Wade (Sound Designer), Bobby Tacoma (Lighting Designer) and Jeffrey Cotnoir (Publicist).

The Comedy of Errors plays at the Bonstelle Theatre February 19, 2010 to February 28, 2010. 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.

The Talented Tenth at the Bonstelle!

The Talented Tenth, written by Richard Wesley, chronicles the life of Howard University graduates as they grow into middle age and beyond. Now successful leaders in the corporate world of the 90s, this group reflects on the lives they left behind and the choices they made that have molded them into what they have become.

Image, Jeffrey Cotnoir

Image, Jeffrey Cotnoir

“These graduates, once social activists, find their personal struggles involve family life, corporate takeovers and deep questioning of the significance of the civil rights movement,” says director Aku Kadogo.   The play captures the struggle these successful African-Americans experience as they redefine themselves in this new phase of life.

Richard Wesley simplifies the essence of The Talented Tenth by saying, “…one day you cut your hair, shave your beard, put away your sandals, go from yippie to yuppie, nationalists to buppie. Everyone tells you you’ve done the right thing. And you wonder if you really have.”

The Talented Tenth

Image, Jeffrey Cotnoir

The Talented Tenth is directed by Aku Kadogo with stage manager Eva Bushong.

The cast includes WSU undergraduate students Victoria Rose Weatherspoon (Pam), Christopher Lamar Edmonds (Bernard), Justin Crutchfield (Marvin), Christopher L. Tucker (Griggs), Erica Fuller (Rowena), Ciarah Mosley (Tanya) and Chris Johnson (Young Man).

The production team includes WSU theatre professor Fred Florkowski (Technical Director), graduate students Chris Otwell (Scenic Designer), Cara Ward (Costume Designer), Jim Costello (Lighting Designer), Jeffrey Cotnoir (Publicist) and undergraduate Bobby Tacoma (Sound Designer).

When:The Talented Tenth plays at the Bonstelle Theatre October 16, 2009 to October 25, 2009.

Tickets: 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. Or online at www.wsushows.com.

Prices: Regular tickets are available for $15, and $12 discounted tickets are available.Please call the box office for more information.

For more information, please visit the theatre’s website at www.bonstelle.com.