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Wednesday, August 5,2009

Lessons learned

LCC’s ’Beanie’ a fantastic family show

by Tom Helma

If the student has clearly learned, then the teacher has, indeed, clearly taught.

Nowhere has this been more apparent this summer than on the Lansing Community College Outdoor Amphitheater stage, where LCC students and alumni have scored big with three excellent productions.

Latest in this trilogy of hits was “Beanie and the Bamboozling Book Machine,” a softball send-up primarily geared toward children and their grandparents, which was surprisingly funny — even for those of us with adult-humor sensibilities.

This is accomplished in large by the work of a quartet of behindthe-scenes professionals — director Paige Dunckel, choreographer Roberta Otten, voice instructor Connie Curran-Oesterle and costume designer Charlotte Deardorff — who equipped the actors to engage in animated stage movements and dramatic voice projection. The players showed considerable confidence and a sense of real importance, as they unfolded an implausible, pointed play about the importance of preserving fairy tale story-telling in this age of over-blown, multi-media gaming and Internet surfing.

We get three wicked witches for the price of one in this story, as writers Bob May, Roy C. Booth and Christopher Tibbets have created a book-machine that melds together “The Wizard of Oz” with “Hansel and Gretel” and “Snow White.”

At the heart of the show were Erica Williams, as the vain queen-witch of “Snow White;” Teri Brown, as the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz;” and Kilashandra Waters, as the witch from Hansel and Gretel.

This evil trio of spell-makers hypnotized the audience into a comic trance, little children not quite knowing what to think, while adults appreciated and smiled at the exaggerative mannerisms and wildly imaginative acting. These three were joined on stage by title character “Beanie” (Brook Banks), his middle school principal “Mr. Wright” (J.C. Kibbey) and seven featured characters from the three fairy tales, as Beanie brings them to life via the book machine. This cast of 10 was well coached, and each member played his or her small part exceedingly well.


This is, of course, a nonsense story, not meant to move an audience with deep, reflective emotions. Rather, it was a suggestion not to forget the stories passed down from generation to generation, but to make note. It is now, or will be someday soon, our turn to begin telling these stories to our children and grandchildren.

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