Titus Andronicus Is A Halloween Ride of Revenge and Horror

Review by Eve Speer Garcia

New World Shakespeare Company presents Titus Andronicus just in time for Halloween! The show is directed by Blayne Wiley and Elise C. Hanson. Most people are unfamiliar with this particular Shakespearean tragedy. The boys in the Shakespeare Abridged Comedy refer to it simply by staging a brief cooking show. The cooking show is the perfect horrific climax to a list of horrors that only the Romans could inflict on one another. Well, Romans and Goths. This is Shakespeare dirty, violent, and crazy with a capital K.

The show takes place in the comfortable Sorenson Unity Center Black Box Theater, located at 1383 South 900 West. The space is open with comfortable seats on risers for the audience. It is small and intimate, creating a lovely viewing experience for the audience.

The story is Revenge Gone Wild. It’s revenge on this epic scale. I kill your family member, you kill mine, back and forth. Prepare yourself for a ride.

titus 1

photo credit Beth Bruner


There are four factions. First, you have the clad in black Romans. These are the soldiers who follow the rules. They embrace the power of Rome’s might and they march forward, without mercy.





The second faction are the Goths. The Goths are wild and untame in contrast to the Romans. They are colorful and crazy. At the beginning, we see the Goths chained and in submission to the might and the rite/right of the Romans.

The third faction is Saturninus’ Rome. He is the eldest son of the emperor–but not the people’s favorite for Rome. The people prefer Titus! Titus is not a ruler though. He is a soldier. He turns down the people’s request, endorses the ambitious Saturninus (played incredibly well by Christian Maestas) and hands his daughter Lavinia (Allison Dayne) off to the new emperor, as a good soldier should.

Lavinia wants nothing to do with Saturninus and leaves him for another man. The other man is Saturninus’ brother, Bassianus (Ava Kostia). The people are not happy with Titus, and they support Lavinia and Bassianus and help her escape. Chaos ensues.

titus 4

photo credit Beth Bruner

Tamora, Queen of the Goths, played with aplomb by Elise C. Hanson, jumps on this opportunity to salvage the new emperor’s pride and seduces him into marrying her. The two seem a perfect pair and she readies herself for her revenge on Titus.

titus 2

photo credit Beth Bruner

The fourth faction is the lone Moor, Aaron. Aaron is one of the most complicated characters in all of Shakespeare. Think Iago, only instead of fooling Othello–he’s fooling the audience. He takes the audience on a trip. While Tamora is seducing Saturninus, Aaron is seducing you. While Tamora is betraying Saturninus, Aaron is betraying you. Or is he? That’s why it’s complicated! E. Cooper Jr.’s Aaron was okay. It just didn’t quite wrap itself up in the complexity of this character. Aaron is subtle. Cooper’s performance was impassioned, when I would have preferred more cerebral choices. I am excited to see his choices grow as the run progresses though. I think he was as surprised by Aaron’s choices as I was–and so he missed the calculation.

The words of the play allude to Aaron and Tamora’s affair, and the company chose to stage their lovemaking right smack in the middle of the play. It didn’t work for me. I tried to make it work, but I was thinking more about the choice, and less about the story. Maybe it was the timing. I just needed the action to continue and it seemed to stall the action.

Each bit of action seemed to rise into a long pause where music played, set pieces were moved around, and actors came back in with different costumes. The technical changes helped me to follow the story, but it kept me from falling into the rabbit hole of action. I was pulled out of the story and the action in a kind of self aware Brechtian way.

Dustin Kennedy’s set was impressively simple. Wiley’s costumes were impressively simple and told the story. David Bruner’s lighting needed some tweaks last night, but it was a preview night. I found some of the scenes were lit very low, lending a nice mystery, but it was difficult to see faces some of the time. The severed heads were absolutely genius, but some of the other props looked like toys. I wasn’t sure if that was a choice or not.

titus 3

photo credit Beth Bruner

Titus Andronicus, played by Jon Turner, was too intellectual for me. Turner played Andronicus as a statesman, rather than a soldier. It made the choices seem foolhardy instead of passionately naive. Titus is a man who is great on the battlefield and horrible at home. He is a distant legend, impressive in stories that come back to the city from the war. At home in Rome, his strategies and decisions are rash, impolitical, and they cost him his pride and his family. Turner’s performance didn’t help me to understand Titus’s dilemma. And yet, the end was incredibly satisfying. Sitting at dinner with stumpy err Lavinia, while they ate was almost hysterical. Titus embraces the madness and the audience just kind of jumps along for the horror ride. Turner’s Titus at the end was worth the wait. I just wish I had seen more of the passionate soldier at the beginning. Notes of Polonius were clinging to Titus. Marcus, played with grace by Allison Froh, is a stately foil for her brother’s recklessness.

The raping pillagers Demetrius and Chiron (played by Hannah Schweinfurth and Kaltin Kirby) were spot on. Their energy and choices were chaotic and animalistic. I was intrigued every time they came on stage. Contrast the monstrous brothers with Titus’s sweet sons. The boys were uniformly good and we were relieved to cheer for someone not deranged when Lucius (Paul Chaus) returned to Rome from the Goths.

The story is complicated and messy. Shakespeare asks us to analyze what rites and rituals are most crazy. Why is it right on the battlefield, but wrong at home? Why is it wrong to rape, but okay to murder? He questions the accepted societal and political norms of Rome. Set in modern dress, I questioned why some actresses had their shirts off in an almost sexy humiliation at their death, while other men were fully clothed, facing the same judgment. Why are some victims more pitied than others? The play forces audiences to question so much about the consequences of manipulating our values based on time, place, sex, and race. And it’s a fun Halloweeny romp!

Not recommended for kids because of blood, sex, and gore.

For tickets and more information, visit http://www.newworldshakespeare.com/.


Buried Child Should Be Unearthed

By Joel Applegate

Buried Child is a production that will be talked about and remembered by theatre folk. Hilarious and dark, it features a cast in sync with each other and the material. It was a great night to be a playgoer. Earth is a metaphor and a scent. The land that sustained the family of Dodge and Halie now hides its most damaging secret.

Andrew Maizner’s Dodge is the crumpled heart of this production. His bearing – even though he sits most of the time – is immediate. Secretly drinking from a bottle stashed in the couch cushions, his caustic character counters Halie’s string of righteous bromides. “Nothing gets me excited,” Dodge is cantankerous, but smart, thanks to Sam Shepard’s wiser-than-it-seems prose. Maize’s whiskey-shout barks and coughs, sounding perfectly real. “Don’t go outside. Everything you need is here.” Dodge’s world is the couch, safe from the secret in the cornfield.

Barb Gandy as Dodge’s wife, Halie – first heard rather than seen – is the disembodied voice of morality. “Let her babble,” says Dodge. Her spitting out of “the Catholics” places us in a region of the Bible Belt where American “exceptionalism” clings to the idea that true Christianity was born on American soil. But she, too, conspires to keep Dodge’s secret buried in the dirt.

Who sees reality? This family is not aware of the world around them anymore. Their sins have isolated them from the world and each other. Tilden, the youngest son (Justin Bruse) is a man-child digging in the garden. “My flesh and blood is in the back yard.” And after the rain, Tilden says, “it’s like the ground is breathing.” He tells Dodge “you gotta talk or you’ll die.” Silence is a poor substitute for secrets. Dodge bullies Tilden to stay out of the yard, but the damage has been done. Bruse as Tilden is achingly gentle. He has the character right, but I believe his vocal-craft needs a little boost – it was just a little hard to hear him in the first act.

The spare set by Michael Rideout evokes an empty house on an isolated homestead. The sound design by Michele Case Rideout is perfectly measured to the action as rain, wind, and thunder accompany distant traffic – or a train? It underscored the foreboding as another son, Bradley, and a long-absent grandson, Vince, arrive separately at the farmhouse, peeping through the dusty screens.

Vince and his girlfriend, Shelly (Aaron Kramer and Natalie Keezer), comprise the awkward couple; “chalk and cheese” according to Dodge. Does Dodge recognize his grandson or not? Does he want to? The couple from New York thinks they’ve encountered a madhouse, but soon the house infects them, and they are acting crazy themselves. Vince knows “this is not how it’s supposed to be,” but he can’t change it. Bradley, played by a powerfully focused Stein Erickson, bumps on with a prosthetic leg and shaves Dodge’s head while he sleeps.

Tilden thinks about the “face inside his face” while Shelly peels the carrots he compulsively takes from the ground. “I had a son once, but we buried him.” Tilden mimics Shelly’s work while getting a “sensation of myself” and demonstrating how he can hold a tiny baby in one hand. Keezer’s Natalie drops the party girl who came in with Vince and affectingly wonders about her “feeling that nobody lives here.” Dodge’s instinct for disaster keeps him trying to divert the conversation to his needs: “Get me a bottle!” “Who cares about bones in the ground?”

What’s normal here?

The third act continues the excellent pacing set by director Lane Richens and barrels ahead with all players on scene. This cast delivers a marvelous night of theater that mature audiences should not miss. Sam Shepard’s script is timeless – there is nothing in it that dates issues or cultures – nothing here has slipped into irrelevance. Buried Child maintains its power – a 1979 Pulitzer Prize winner of extraordinary metaphor and earthiness. Even though this tightly written play is over 35 years old, there is nothing temporal in the play. It is not dependent on a particular period of history for its universality. Buried Child is lodged in a psychological space and dislodged from time.

Buried Child has a short run with only nine performances! Better get tickets before it ends on October 25th.
Buried Child by Sam Shepard
Silver Summit Theatre Company at Sugar Space Arts Warehouse, 132 S. 800 W. (Jeremy St.), Salt Lake City.
Running time: 105 minutes – no intermission.
Oct 9th – 25th, Fridays at Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 4 pm.
Box Office: $18 at the door or online
Sugar Space: 888-300-7898

Bums! The Musical is a New Show Filled with Fun and…Bums

pictureBy Jessica Leigh Johnson

Aren’t we all just Bums?

This was my first experience with The Echo Theater and it was surprisingly good. The theater was homey and inviting. We found seats in the back to better see the production. The set was sparse, but the artwork (Set Design and Construction Randall McNair) made up for it. The view was gorgeous from where I sat. The cast was able to utilize the small space without it feeling cramped.

The play is set in the 1920′s before the big Stock Market crash. Edward Pibbles (Bridger Beal) is your typical paper pushing accountant who has become disillusioned with his current state of affairs. Beal showed the prowess of a professional, because when power went out temporarily, he kept singing. Edward works for Mister Engerman (Stephen Gashler (the show’s playwright)) and is facing the possibility of a promotion and a corner office. Weasel (Randall McNair) does the dirty work for Mister Engerman. Every show needs a villain and Weasel fits the bill.  A chance meeting on the street with Dirty Dan, the King of the Bums, makes Edward question everything he has done so far in his life. Dirty Dan is played by Kenneth Brown and steals the show with his nonchalant way at looking at life. Should Edward become a Bum, or follow through the expected responsible path his family and girlfriend and parents have laid out for him?

cast phot0Rhubarbara Thwackem (Caitlyn Lunceford) is the dutiful girlfriend,  who has waited six years for Edward to propose. She  finally gets her wish and they are planning their wedding. My favorite costume in the play was her pink dress (costumer Liesl Cope) she wears to dinner with her future in laws Pansy and Dirk Pibbles (Teresa Gashler and Steve Whitehead). Edward’s parents can’t wait try to impress their son’s fiance with the “fancy mustard”. Rhubarbara does not live up to her name. She is not stiff, unbendable or bitter. She wants what every girl wants: a husband, a house and babies! I could also identify with her when talking about her brothers ripping the heads off her dolls. I had many headless Barbies growing up.

The ensemble of Bums are a lovable bunch, lead by Dirty Dan. Mubble (Natalie Dilts), Chester (Drew Cannon) and Norm (Josh Whitehead) are delightful characters. They find pleasure in finding a half eaten hamburger, booze and dancing. The dance numbers by choreographer Bethany Taylor in the production were simplistic, but fit the space that they were allotted.

bumsVote for Mommy! Out to clean up the City is Beulah Brummel (Jennifer Mustoe). She wants to make homelessness a crime and has Edward arrested for loitering. She is followed by her Mini-me (Ariah Gashler) and her personal reporter (Jennifer Cannon). This is groundbreaking for the time period. Having a woman run for office and win would be unusual but not unheard of. Kudos to her for running and winning. The irony in the show, is she eventually becomes the exact thing she is fighting, a Bum. Rachel Summerhalder rounds out the cast as the policewoman and the very patient Judge. The whole cast is delightful as Bums. Kudos to Director Adam Cannon for getting his cast to be believable as “normal” people and also as bums.

we three 3pibbles weasel and engermen

The strengths of this show were the mostly believable New Yahk accents, the energy and movement and the fun story. The music, too, by Gashler, was fresh and fun. What I noticed that still needed to be tweaked was the electricity going off and the few little opening night glitches. Good voices (music director Teresa Gashler) abound in this cast. Many of the cast kept singing when the lights went out unexpectedly. The show was technically sound with a few mishaps. Something is always bound to happen on the first night of any production. The cast recovered brilliantly. You won’t be disappointed when you go see this production. Because this is a world premiere of a brand new show, I can’t stress enough my suggestion that you see this family-friendly fun show.

Bums! The Musical by Stephen Gashler

The Echo Theatre – Provo

15 N 100 E, Provo, Utah 84606

Mon, Thurs, Fri Sat til October 3rd.

7:30 PM

$12 Adults, $8 Students/Children/Seniors, $2 off/person for parties of 5 or more


Utah Rep’s Amadeus is Masterful!

amadeusBy Cindy and Perry Whitehair

Utah Repertory Theater has always been known to take chances. Never ones to do the “tried and true” Valley favorites, they tend to go big and bold with their show selections. Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus fits that style.

We walked into the Sorenson Community Center Black Box to a simple set reminiscent of the many drawing rooms of the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. Allisyn Thompson’s set design was functional and set a very good opening impression. Of course, walking in to Mozart as the background music helped in taking me back to Vienna (where Perry and I spent many lovely days when we lived in Germany.) I can only guess that Music Director Anne Puzey had a delightful time coming up with all of the selections that were used to background music through out the show. The costuming (Nancy Susan Cannon) and wig design (Cindy Johnson) were splendid and again, spot on 18th Century Vienna.

The show starts of with Venticella (Lindsay Marriott) and Venticello (Dallon Thorup) talking about the latest court rumor – that a dying Antonio Salieri (Roger Dunbar) had confessed to murdering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Geoffrey Gregor.) The scene then cuts to Salieri’s drawing room where the dying man, after dismissing his servants for the day, summons the shades (the audience) so that he can tell his tale of court intrigue.

There are simply not enough adjectives to adequately describe Roger Dunbar’s outstanding performance as Salieri. The role requires the actor to switch from a dying old man to a young court composer with nothing more than an on stage costume change. He goes from feeble to youthful (and back again) distinctly and quickly. The raw emotion that this role calls for was so well played, if felt like we were watching someone on the verge of a nervous break down for the whole show. The contrast between Salieri’s love of Mozart’s beautiful music and his absolute disdain for the man behind the music was marvelously portrayed. You felt the pain and the conflict that Salieri felt.

The perfect foil to Dunbar’s Salieri was Geoffrey Gregory’s Mozart. Where Salieri is noble and pious, Mozart is rude and profane. While there is much written into the script to draw out the differences between the two men, the differences in acting styles between Dunbar and Gregory accentuated and personalized those differences. Gregory’s wide open style captured the boy/man Mozart….the beautiful, insecure, bright eyed musical savant who had no experience with court intrigue. His portrayal of Mozart was BIG like Mozart.

With a pair of stellar, over-powering leads, it is often easy for the supporting cast to step back and “phone it it.” However, that did not happen with this cast. Merry Magee’s Costanze stood up to both men with the quiet power of a woman who was going to do whatever it took to help the love of her life. Natalie Easters’ Katherina Cavalieri always caught your eye the minute she stepped on stage. While she didn’t have many lines, her soto voce rendition of “Caro Mio Ben” was hauntingly beautiful. Jeffrey Owen’s Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg was the ultimate aristocratic insider. Greg Carver’s Emperor Joseph II was appropriately clueless and JayC Stoddard and Criss Rosenlof (Baron van Swieten and Count von Strack) gave solid performances, while the aforementioned Venticelli (Marriott and Thorup) were often coming in and stealing the scene.

The program did not credit a linguist, but this show simply must be commended on its liberal (and good) use of Italian, French and German that was sprinkled through out the show. Dunbar and Owen especially, were excellent in their scenes where the dialog was mostly in Italian (where they were plotting Mozart’s court demise.) The German was a little American flat, but I still really enjoyed it.

I have to give special kudos to director JC Carter for letting his actors be themselves and not copies of the actors in the movie, even though (as mentioned in the director’s note) his initial introduction to this story was the movie. His vision of the ebb and flow of the story complimented it well, it even at times seemed to accentuate the multiple layers of the characters and the conflict that make this show so stellar.

To say this is a “must see” show is putting it mildly. You really should see this show, even if you saw Utah Shakespeare’s Amadeus earlier this summer (as I did.) The stylistic differences are profound and give different looks at the story – different things to appreciate about the story. The heart that in this production makes it and makes it the must see that it truly is.

Utah Repertory Theater presents Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus
September 11-26
Sorenson Unity Center Black Box Theater
1383 S 900 W Salt Lake City UT

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UVU’s Major Barbara is a Major Triumph

majBy Marnie Thomas

George Bernard Shaw obviously held his own views and opinions, but his point in writing Major Barbara was not to express them. In this classic play, he asks questions. He causes his audience to think, to ponder on subjects such as morality, salvation, poverty and how the perceptions of such play out in the interactions of people and the effects on society. You will undoubtedly leave the theatre thinking about the questions this play asks.

Director Kacey Spadafora keeps the action flowing smoothly onstage. Not necessarily an easy feat in an outdoor venue such as the UVU courtyard amphitheater. Through careful blocking, he has the actors relating to one another in a natural manner. The choice to include a live musician (Paige Porter) assists with the transitions between the various locations.

The opening scenes are like a cross section of the upper echelons of society. I thoroughly enjoyed Lucas Stewart’s portrayal of Stephen, a confused and silly yes man to the machinations of his mother, Lady Undershaft. Katrina Luthi skillfully portrays a mother who makes sure that her son’s views are in line with her’s—whether he knows it or not. She understands her place as a woman in Victorian times—but it is obvious who has the upper hand. Kaitlin Lemon portrays the title character, Major Barbara ,of the Salvation Army, with earnestness, idealism and a bit of naiveté. Her family is alternately amused and confused by her participation in the unconventional religious group. To me, the standout performance came in AJ Taysom’s impressive interpretation of the character paying opposite Barbara. Adolphous Cusins is the fiancé of the Major, and an academic, specializing in Greek. He is quite the philosopher, and an ardent young lover. Taysom’s movements, voice inflections and facial expressions bring to life a witty and eccentric character. Sarah and Charles (Angela Dell, Kristopher Miles) are another engaged couple in the Undershaft family. They look their parts in Javi Ybarra’s attractive and period appropriate designs. Charles is a comical contrast to proper, young Sarah. Rounding out the aristocratic group is the long, lost father, Andrew Undershaft (Brett Griffeth).

At the Salvation Army shelter, we meet a different element of society. The group of unfortunates who take advantage of the services provided there are played by Ash Knowles, Daniel Nell, Wade Johnson and Kaylee McGhghy. They are a downtrodden and weary band who have come for assistance in different ways. Playing the system, desperation and even some sincerity have led them to the Salvation Army. Major Barbara and Jenny Hill (Zahra Alnasser) endeavor to bring salvation to the poor and needy. Alnasser plays her part with an innocent and clueless enthusiasm. Ann Thomas plays Mrs. Baines, the head of the local Salvation Army. Her bearing and expression bespeak a no nonsense woman who has come to terms with the realities of life. Her interactions with the rich Andrew Undershaft rock Barbara to her core and cause her to question her faith in the Salvation Army.

The Undershaft family meet together and consider the fate of the family business. There is much discussion and many opposing opinions. Some of the best acting is displayed in the give and take between Andrew Undershaft and Adolphous Cusins. They passionately exchange insults and ideas. This scene is particularly enjoyable and thought provoking.

This first production of the Utah Valley University theatrical season has again shown how UVU is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the arts. The makeup and hair were carefully styled by designer Melissa Howarth. The above mentioned costumes were exceptional. The spartan set (Scenic Designer Jessie Pusey, Properties Designer Aubrey Jeffries) was effective in its simplicity. All the production staff and crew are to be commended.

It is said that there are no small parts, only small actors. With that in mind, I must mention that Tanner Gillman put a lot into the two parts he played. He did not have a lot of lines, but he had a lot of presence as a household servant and in his part at the cannon factory.

Major Barbara runs from the 9th to the 15th of September, so hurry and see this show. You will laugh and you will think. it will be well worth your time and the small cost of a ticket ($3-$5).


Payson Community Theater’s Peter Pan is an Imaginative Adventure for the Whole Family

By Larisa Hicken

peter-pan-3As part of Payson Golden Onion Days, Payson Community Theater is performing the beloved musical classic Peter Pan based on J.M. Barrie’s original tale with popular music written by Morris Charlap and Jule Styne with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Most people are familiar with the Disney animated film version about a boy who can fly and refuses to grow up and Payson’s version stays pretty true to this beloved tale of pirates, Indians, and fairies.

Keeping with tradition set by the original cast of 1954, the role of Peter Pan is played by a petite woman. Tia Trimble tackles the role with tremendous enthusiasm (at times maybe a bit too much) and gives a high energy performance. She definitely commands the stage with her larger-than-life physical antics and when she flies in over the audience and straight into Wendy, John, and Michael’s window, it’s a moment of sheer theatrical beauty.

Her flying techniques and facial expressions throughout the show are an absolute delight.  Her singing is magnificent in the scene with Captain Hook where she gets to pretend to be a lady during the song “Oh, My Mysterious Lady.”

peter-pan-2Trimble’s counterpart, Captain Hook, played by Darren Poulsen, absolutely steals the show with his interactions with the audience and hilariously perfect comedic timing. I haven’t laughed that hard during a live performance in a long time and he received a standing ovation from several audience members during the curtain call. The show would be worth the price of the ticket just to see his performance.

Along with Poulsen, Smee (Evan Nielson) and the other pirates perform the best numbers of the night. They are greatly aided by fabulous choreography by Katie Wiscome and amusing costumes designed by Miranda Duke. A ridiculously funny crocodile on a scooter board (played by Ethan Nielson) gets a lot of laughs, too.

peter-pan-4The other highlights in the show are the dance numbers performed by the Indians, particularly Necia Poulsen as Tiger Lily.  Her coordination and grace are unmatched by anyone else on the stage and I hope to see her again in another show soon.

Peter Pan’s lost boys are absolutely adorable, although I would like to see more individual characters and interactions from them. Admittedly they are much younger than the rest of the cast members, but I think they are definitely capable of even more characterization.

The show is well-directed by Steve Poulsen, assisted by his wife Kara Poulsen. The only suggestion I would have would be to accelerate the pacing of the first act a little. Since audience members are so familiar with the show, we are quite anxious to get to Never Land!

Wendy is played by the beautiful Mariah Webber, a sophomore at Payson High School. She stays away from the stereotypical whiny and demanding Wendy and emphasizes the adventurous and patient side of the character which makes for a lighter interaction between her and Peter Pan. Her brothers John and Michael are played by real life brothers Talon Maurin and Carter Maurin. They are both sweet boys and I would like to have seen more tenderness between the three siblings. The children in the audience were delighted by a full-sized Nana dog played by Thane Kennedy.

peter-pan-1I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the terrific set design by Craig Zeeman, Richard Lindsey, and Steve Poulsen.  The stage rotates around for several entertaining effects and the flying throughout the entire show is downright stunning.

If you’re looking for a great way to spend your Labor Day weekend, bring the family to see Peter Pan in Payson.  With an interactive Tinkerbell Tracker for kids, incredible flying effects and stunts, and full-belly laughs, you won’t be disappointed in this top-quality show.

The show runs August 27-29 and September 1-5 at 7:30PM, and matinees September 5 and 7 at 3PM. Tickets available at paysoncommunitytheater.com and NAPA Auto Parts in Payson.

Next Stage’s Arabian Nights has Fun Times 1001!

arabian nightsBy Tracy Goertzen
“Once upon a time . . .” Four simple words with mesmerizing power.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful Arabic maiden named Scheherazade, who knew that the power of words could change a life—or save one. There was also a tormented Sultan who put his wife to death for her infidelity with a palace slave. Fearing to trust again, he would give each new bride only one night and then have her put to death in the morning. As the Sultan’s new bride, Scheherazade had one night to save her life. She used the power of words to weave a story so enthralling that when morning came, the Sultan could not bear to have her killed. Each night, for one thousand and one Arabian nights, Scheherazade told story after story to win the love and trust of the Sultan. Next Stage Productions, in collaboration with Clearfield High School, brings a new telling to Scheherazade’s tales in a charming original production, directed by Anthony Buck.

Told in a series of eight vignettes, the audience enters the world of Arabian Nights through the nightmares of the Sultan, who is haunted by the memory of his dead wife. Used as a means of exposition, the scene is meant to provide insights into the Sultan’s past and motives for his current actions. Although well executed by the ensemble, some key pieces of information were obscured and left me a bit puzzled as the story progressed.
As Scheherazade tells the Sultan her nightly tales of adventure, the stage comes alive with the stories of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Sinbad the Sailor, and Aladdin. Interwoven with these stories are the nightmares of the Sultan as he struggles to come to grips with his past, and the blossoming love story of Scheherazade and the Sultan.

The storytelling scenes are action-packed, entertaining romps. The cast employs a melodramatic tone that was hesitant and unsure in the Tale of Ali Baba, but by the Tale of Sinbad the tone was more rollicking and humorous. Ensemble standouts included Katie Stong, with a clever portrayal of Morgiana, the slave girl who saves Ali Baba’s life, and Justin Lee as a dashing and sardonic Sinbad. As Captain of Sindbad’s sailing ship, Brandon Garlick, provided some laugh-out-loud comic moments. Austin Burt was a captivating Aladdin and Phil Tuckett was outrageously evil as the sorcerer, Sakar. Elinor Smith shone onstage with her confident performance of Mahin, the genie of the ring.
Backed by a versatile and talented ensemble, Liz Christensen as Scheherazade and Eric Millward as the Sultan carried the leads admirably. They carefully developed the relationship of the characters as they transitioned from adversaries to friends to lovers. Although Millward relied too often on yelling to demonstrate anger, he was successful in creating a character that was sympathetic and believable.

Cleverly staged as a black box theatre on the Clearfield High School auditorium stage, the sets and lighting were instrumental in creating the world of the Arabian Nights. The set was minimal, which allowed the lighting and prop pieces to successfully create the worlds of Scheherazade, from the magical cave of wonders to a genie in a bottle. The costume design by Nita Smith was rich and colorful and added texture and opulence to the stories.

Dance choreography by Phil Tuckett was effective and well-integrated, and Justin Lee’s combat choreography was exciting and well executed by the ensemble. Unfortunately, the technical aspects of the production often outstripped a weaker script.

Next Stage Productions is a collaborative theatre company whose goal is to create original theatre works with quality production values. Cast members and the production team work together to build a dynamic and interactive creative process. Forming a partnership with Clearfield High School provides opportunities for alumni and current students to work together in producing entertaining and quality shows. This atmosphere is evident in the sense of fun and collaboration you feel in their productions.

Be aware that there is mild portrayal of violence that may be upsetting to small children. If you’re thinking you’ll need a sweater in an overly air-conditioned theatre, don’t worry. Dress in light clothes as the stage is not air-conditioned at all. Arabian Nights is family-friendly fun with modest ticket prices, so take the whole family.

Next Stage Productions is presenting Arabian Nights, an original play by Anthony Buck, Kellie Chapman, Liz Christensen, Justin Lee and Elinor Smith
Tickets: students and children $5, Adults $8 Tickets may be purchased in advance in the Clearfield High front office
Performances are August 27, 28, 29 and 31 at 7:30 PM with a matinee performance on August 29th at 2:00 PM
Performances at Clearfield High School Auditorium, 931 South 1000 East, Clearfield, UT, 84015
Email: info@nextstageproductions.org

Rocking out in a Hipster Haven: A Modern Midsummer Night’s Dream

-Review by Megan Graves

Sarah Butler and Dallin Halls as Hermia and Lysander

Sarah Butler and Dallin Halls as Hermia and Lysander

One of my favorite hidden places in Provo is the Castle Amphitheater, so I was excited to see a show there. It has a beautiful view and feels a bit like you’ve been transported back to earlier times, with its quaint turrets, thick rock walls, and tall stone seats. Even though I’d been to the castle before, it was a little tricky to find. But they do have signs directing the way, and since the characters in the play spend most of their time in the forest (or in this modern adaptation, in Central Park), I felt a bit like I was a part of the play while I made my way through the small groves of trees to find the castle.


Music and Magic

Sarai Davila and Archie Crisanto sing with fireworks in the background.

Sarai Davila and Archie Crisanto sing with fireworks in the background.

The play starts out with high energy at a rock concert by “The Duke” Theseus (Archibald Crisanto), in Hipster-era New York. Many of the actors, humans and fairies alike, surprised us by coming out of the audience after the concert as they joined the scene, which was very clever staging, making it more interactive with the audience.

Crisanto entertains with tunes from his guitar throughout the play, singing with his character’s fiancé Hippolyta (Sarai Davila), whose wedding both human and fairy characters come together to celebrate at the end of the play. At one point, when Crisanto and Davila started singing “Stars shining bright above you…” someone in Provo set off fireworks in the distance, and it was almost magical timing, or like a fairy’s doing.

Fairies dancing at a New York club - one of the clever modernizations of this version

Fairies dancing at a New York club while “google geeks” rehearse a play- two of the clever modernizations of this version

The creativity of music in the show and the mixture of modern songs with old lyrics was one of the major highlights of this particular theater company’s portrayal. Instead of just speaking Shakespeare’s famous ballads from this play, the cast sang the poetic words along to popular tunes instead, like when the fairy attendants (Esther Pielstick, Stacy Wilk, Mccall Iorg, and Sierra Docken – who was a great soloist, by the way) sang their Queen Titania (Peggy Matheson) to sleep with the rock song “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics.

Fairies and Fortune

Puck (Carter Peterson) giving a sword to Demetrius (Patrick Kintz).

Puck (Carter Peterson) giving a sword to Demetrius (Patrick Kintz).

One thing that might take you aback about the fairies in this particular portrayal is that they are truly mischievous and try to influence behaviors, not just by confusing the four human lovers or by changing a silly man’s head to a donkey (which led of course to many funny Shakespearean puns), but also by controlling movement at times or putting swords in their hands, etc.. I thought this was an interesting choice by the director Kathy Biesinger Curtiss and the actors, and this and other plot twists in the play prompted consideration of the question…how much of our lives is fate, how much is interference by another power, how much is choice, or how much is luck?

Midsummer Mischief: Audience Interaction

Puck (Carter Peterson) mimicking one of the audience members behind him.

Puck (Carter Peterson) mimicking one of the audience members behind him.

As the biggest fairy mischief-maker – who causes the lovers’ confusions and dilemmas in the play – Robin Goodfellow/ Puck (Carter Peterson) has great stage presence and physical comedy that commands the audience’s attention, as well as a no-holds-barred approach when he rocks out and dances to scene transition music, etc. He and other actors in the play, such as Oberon (Rick Macy) and Thisby (Bradley __) in particular, interacted in fun ways with people in the audience, whether it was mimicking the way audience members were sitting or discussing their character’s dilemma to the audience directly.

Walls to Love and Room for Laughter 

Dane Allred in a stand-out performance as "The Wall"

Dane Allred in a stand-out performance as “The Wall”

While the rest of the play was engaging and entertaining, I have to say the best and most hilarious parts for me were 1) when the characters Helena (Kat Webb), Hermia (Sarah Butler), Lysander (Dallin Halls), and Demetrius (Patrick Kintz) are in a confusing mix of two love triangles and crack the audience up with believable and varied stage combat choreography, and 2) when the silly “google geeks” and “1st time actors” over-acted their parts with hysterical voices and made the audience laugh over and over, especially with Dane Allred’s portrayal of the Wall and Thisby’s (Bradley _) acting in drag. Their “play within a play” seemed to be scripted by Shakespeare as a satire of his own tragic Romeo & Juliet, and these players stole the show with their dramatic deaths, screams, mess-ups, and sometimes minion-like voices.

A surprisingly hilarious rendition of Romeo & Juliet in the middle of the play.

A surprisingly hilarious rendition of Romeo & Juliet in the middle of the play.

Previously, when I had read the play out loud with my sister, or studied the play in class, or even seen it performed professionally, I hadn’t seen the hilariousness or significance these seemingly minor characters were capable of, so I was super impressed at how they kept the audience laughing at their antics. I was told they do some different funny thing every night of the show!

Overall, this production of a Midsummer’s Night’s Dream was so good I would see it again, even just to get more friends to see Shakespeare’s comedy portrayed so well and creatively, and to share a laugh with you.

Educational Entertainment for Adults and Children Alike


Oberon (Rick Macy) justifying his antics to the audience.

Some people are hesitant to go to Shakespeare plays because the old English can make them hard to understand, but with excellent actors – who know the intent and meaning of their lines, and portray their character’s purpose deliberately and with confidence – the plays can be a pure joy to watch, and that was the case here. If you are not familiar with the plot of a Midsummer Night’s Dream yet, it doesn’t matter! Even the children in the audience were cracking up at the on-stage antics and listening intently to the actors. After the play ended my friends and I were still laughing about some of the scenes and discussing Shakespeare’s poignant references to unrequited love, such as Helena’s line in Act II, Scene 1, line 613 when Demetrius refuses her entreaties to come back and love her again:
Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field,
You do me mischief. Fie, Demetrius!
Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex:
We cannot fight for love, as men may do;
We should be wood and were not made to woo.

In this play as well as in others, Shakespeare seems more progressive and succinct in portraying women’s plights and cultural inequalities than today’s pundits on the subject.

Character Complexities & Backstories

Helena (Kat Webb) listening to Demetrius (Patrick Kintz) try to woo her.

Helena (Kat Webb) listening to Demetrius (Patrick Kintz) try to woo her.

Helena & Hermia: In my opinion, Helena’s character is the most complex in the show, and Kat Webb did an excellent job of portraying the heartache, longing, and confusion of her character when the man who broke up with her and said he loved another woman suddenly changes his tune and wants to marry her. However she doesn’t portray Helena just as an insecure person; she seems to portray her as someone who knows her worth and therefore fights for the person that she loves and who had loved her previously. The director, Kathy Biesinger Curtiss, said: “Helena is often portrayed as really pathetic – oh woe is me, nobody likes me, etc. – and we think it’s just not a modern idea… Instead, I cast [Kat] in particular so [the character Helena] would have backbone, strength, and really represent the women of today. All that exploration of love in the middle section where [the two male leads] are fighting over [Helena] instead, I think we take that seriously…because this woman [Helena] has a lot of value. So [Kat] plays it very modern, the way she uses the modern language, and the way she steps up and plays a powerful woman.” Helena’s character (and Kat’s portrayal of her) is extremely relatable to those who have felt the pangs and desperation of unrequited love and who strive to achieve their goals despite their insecurities.

The Queen Fairy Titania wooing "Bottom" despite his Donkey head.

The Queen Fairy Titania wooing “Bottom” (Ben Hopkin) despite his Donkey head.

The part that I was disappointed by was Shakespeare’s lack of lines for Helena and Demetrius in the closing of the play to show more resolution, and his leaving us wondering whether Demetrius is actually really in love with Helena at the end or if he’s still just under the fairy’s spell. Even if the fairies help open the eyes to people you truly love, then there’s an inconsistency in the plot, because Titania falls in love with Bottom (a stranger and half-man half-donkey) because of Puck’s flower potion. If it was intentionally left unresolved, then it leaves us wondering if the character of Helena is actually following a false hope, which thought diminishes the strong feminist lines she had earlier. Anyway, the point is, though the actors did an excellent job, we left feeling like this part of the plot was unresolved or slightly disappointing, and dare I say this is mostly Shakespeare’s fault.

Helena, Demetrius, Lysander, and Hermia mixed up in intersecting love triangles while Puck and Oberon look on.

Helena, Demetrius, Lysander, and Hermia mixed up in intersecting love triangles while Puck and Oberon look on.

Hermia also experiences unrequited love for a much shorter length of time (not intended as a joke about the character’s height, by the way, like the bard would do), ;-) and Sarah Butler portrays that sudden confusion and despair of refused love extremely well, even with those scenes being mostly comedic. Speaking of which, Butler’s stage combat dives in those scenes were awesome, and her sitting on Lysander’s foot and refusing to let go was hilarious.

Oberon & Titania: Another interesting artistic choice was the portrayal of Oberon and Titania’s relationship. They start out treating each other like a separated couple barely tolerating each other’s presence when they’re together, and then gradually seem to realize throughout their interactions and the purposeful confusions of the play that they miss each other’s company. I thought this emotional distance and then ensuing gradual realization was excellently portrayed by the actors. The fault I saw was actually in Shakespeare’s too truncated resolution of the couple’s original stated conflict in the script; the original reason for their squabble is resolved somehow off stage and barely gets a mention from Oberon.

The couples reunited and Puck giving his closing monologue.

The couples reunited and Puck giving his closing monologue.

Colorful Costumes & a Star-studded Set

I loved the hipster, rocker personas that the characters chose and which were emphasized by their costumes. However, of all the costumes in the play, the fairy costumes fit their characters’ names and personalities the best. Oberon, the dark fairy king, has punk rock eyeliner on and dark feathers on his shoulders. Titania wears a colorful peacock cape, while her fairy attendants all have creative details on their costumes that help you remember their names: Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Moth, and Mustardseed. One audience member, Carrie Cox, who had directed this play previously, thought the play and the costumes were great, but mentioned that it would be nice to have something unifying in the four fairies’ costumes or makeup, etc. to signify they were all Titania’s attendants. All the fairies definitely seemed to have unique personalities, though, which made their characters more interesting than they typically could be portrayed.

Fairies guarding Queen Titania (Peggy Matheson) as she sleeps.

Fairies guarding Queen Titania (Peggy Matheson) as she sleeps.

The natural outdoor theater background of a sunset and stars, the amphitheater’s castle walls and turrets, and the huge trees helped make the perfect authentic set for a “midsummer’s night,” so there wasn’t much need to add anything else to the set. Other than the paintings of flowers (which seemed a little oddly placed at the top of wooden beams), and weren’t really necessary because of the natural scenic background, the props and set they did use were simple and appropriate, and didn’t detract from the crux of the play.


Because the performance was so enjoyable and well played, and mistakes were minimal and could probably have been fixed by now, I hesitate to present any possible semblance of “flouting [any] insufficiencies,” but there were a few small things I (and others) noticed. The donkey head is a difficult costume to make work, and they did a clever job by making it out of cloth just surrounding the actor’s face. However, after Oberon changed back Bottom’s donkey head into his human head again, the donkey head was left on the stage throughout the entire next scene or two, and it was distracting us with the question of whether it was intentional to leave it or not. Sometimes in certain scenes the fairies seemed to be wandering around without purpose, or trying to manipulate the other characters by their arm movements but with nothing happening as a result, especially in the argument scene, so that was a little confusing and distracting.

The stage combat was clever, believable, and funny, but in one or two scenes the constant movement and struggle to the side made it more difficult to either hear the actors’ lines, or to know who exactly they were talking to, because the other actors were constantly moving in that scene and they didn’t always address each other specifically. Lastly, some actors had accents, and while it lent very well to the diversity of background of the characters, the accents were also inconsistent at times, used in one line but not in another.

Thoughts Overall

The other players watch the play within the play. Excellent entertainment!

The other players watch the play within the play. Excellent entertainment! All the players were great, and Kristin Perkins shined as the “light of the moon and stars” in the hilarious parody.

Overall, the most difficult part of performing Shakespeare was achieved very well – the actors obviously had a backstory, knew the intent and meaning of everything they said, and portrayed it very well to a mixed audience of Shakespeare newbies and aficionados, to make for a pleasant and thought-provoking night of entertainment. It sparked laughter, contemplation, and lively discussions. I highly recommend you go.

Sensitivity rating: When the character Bottom is turned into a donkey, he calls himself an a** a few times. It’s a common word in Shakespeare’s plays that I think is spoken in a hilariously clever way in this play, as well as a common name for a donkey in that time period, but some of you might not want your kids to hear that word. Some of the costumes are rock/punk style with mini skirts, etc., but the actors still kept it appropriate.

Performance Details For When You Go:
Where: Historic Castle Amphitheater, 1300 E. Center St., Provo (behind the State Hospital building).
When: Saturday, Aug. 8, at 8pm, and Sept. 10 – 12, 14 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $7, $5 for seniors, $20 for family pass, $25 for group rate (up to 4 people) and can be bought on this website:  http://smithstix.com/…/venue/castle-amphitheater/venue/16729 
Info: (801) 344-4400, esc_arts@hotmail.com
Other Things to Know: The seats are literally rock hard, so bring a chair to sit in and/or blankets so you can be comfortable. They sell a great variety of concessions for a very reasonable price. Head East on Center Street till the end, then follow the signs to the parking lot just North of the State Hospital.

***Megan Graves has directed, produced, written, and performed in various community plays in Utah (http://www.singforsomething.org/), and also enjoys being a freelance arts critic. She particularly loves watching and performing in Shakespeare plays and in musicals, and is grateful for the chance she had to study and critique theatrical performances in London for 7 weeks in an undergrad theater program at BYU.

Crazy About The SCERA’S Crazy for You

cfy1By Joel Applegate

The Summer of 2015 provided the perfect night for opening a delightful musical under a blue, blue moon. SCERA Shell’s outdoor production of Crazy For You, directed by Jerry Elison, is a pastiche of Gershwin favorites specifically chosen to make a plot work. But who cares about a plot when you’ve got nineteen back-to-back Gershwin favorites to listen to and a platoon of chorus girls?

Think Gershwin, and you probably think New York – or the hoi-polloi of Eastern literati. On the SCERA’s big stage, Nat Reed’s set evokes classic New York sophistication; a stroll down Broadway and 42nd Street. We find ourselves in a story that takes place during the 1930’s, one of the most fertile eras of American Theatre – led by the glorious Gershwin’s.

But wait! We’re not in New York. We’re in – Nevada? Crazy for You is Ken Ludwig’s clever brainchild incorporating classic 1930’s Gershwin standards into the Tony Award winning Best Musical of 1992. Ludwig wrote the book, and the script is very witty with way more of a plot here than you might expect. Sure, it’s a little corny; Boy meets girl; girl hates boy; boy disguises himself; girl falls in love with disguise – oh, never mind.

Bobby just wants to dance, preferably in New York. But his fate and his bank inheritance depend upon the mortgage of the old Gaiety Theatre out West in Deadrock, Nevada (no such place; I already looked.) You see, Bobby’s mommy, who owns the bank, wants to foreclose on the theatre, and she wants Bobby to man up and be the villain.

So we’re off on a cross-country road trip of song and dance! Things turn out differently for Bobby when he gets to Deadrock. First, he falls in love with Polly at first sight, and decides if he can’t dance his heart out in New York, he’ll make do with an old run-down theatre: The Gaiety – now converted into a post office. But Polly and her Dad won’t let the old palace go without a fight. They fight back with – what else? – song and dance! In the best tradition of Hollywood cheese, Polly and the now disguised Bobby decide the best way to save the theatre is to “put on a show!” with a tip-o-the-hat to Mickey Rooney.

There’s plenty of Cowboys on hand – and Follies Girls to talk them into auditioning – and it’s all hands on deck. The denizens of the town of Deadrock are a spectacle in front of a set doing double-duty rotating from drab New York to the colorful landscape of the West – the best achievement of Reed’s design. The set changes are integrated into the action, and I’ll refrain here from giving away the visual surprises.

Director Jerry Elison and the production crew pay tribute to the spirit of Golden Age Broadway in so many ways, with the staging, the costumes, the dancing and the pacing. A taxi pulls on stage and before you know it, 19 – count’em! – 19 chorus girls burst out of it singing and high stepping. There’s hardly a dull moment in two and a half hours.


Deborah Bowman’s costumes exhibit a pleasing variety of style and interest. The chorus line is cleverly and cutely outfitted, a delightfully designed mash-up of old Burlesque, slyly accented with nods to the western plaid.

There are some HUGE numbers in Crazy For You to choreograph, and SCERA clearly made a wonderful choice with choreographer, Sam Alva. This is a highly energetic cast and crew – THIRTY tap dancers all dancing in sync is a massive accomplishment. It might not seem so on paper, but to watch it happening is like watching a giant engine of many gears working perfectly. It’s rather amazing and you won’t be able to look away. This took a LOT of good old fashioned work to accomplish, deserving of hearty applause. “Slap That Bass” was among my favorites of the night.

Meanwhile, back on the buckboards with Bobby and Polly, their romance is inevitable, no matter how much they annoy each other. As Bobby, Christopher Gallacher has obvious chops as a trained dancer. He’s a great tapper and his jete ain’t too shabby neither – for a city slicker. Gallacher’s voice is clear and good – we don’t miss a single word. T’Naiha Ellis brings our Polly to life with a confident belt when she’s showing who’s the boss. There’s a beautiful clarity to her voice in “Someone To Watch Over Me.” A pas-de-deux with some sweet moves brings Polly and Bobby together: the dance number that starts the romance.

Our two protagonists, Michael DuBois as Bella Zangler in New York and Tyler Scott Mitchell as Lank in Deadrock, are both won over by the end. (It IS a musical, folks.) Lank’s clumsy attempts to win Polly’s hand (and take over her theatre!) lack finesse, but not humor. Dubois has a truly fine voice, and he commiserates with Bobby in a number that is an act in itself, combining some tricky business in a well-blended, over-the-top, and drunken duet.

Julia Sanchez plays the jilted and clingy Irene. Once freed of her engagement, Sanchez has a chance to show her true colors; a beautiful smooth tone on “Naughty Baby.” She might have dared to insinuate even more.

The Cowboy Trio composed of Neil Ellsworth, Max Sneary and Andrew Walsh, lives up the harmonies the Gershwins crafted. It’s great music to listen to – sure wish we could have heard them more.

As A Chorus Line so famously reminds us, the core of any musical is the company. Crazy For You’s chorus filled the entire stage with well-coordinated action. You can bet a lot of hours went in to their performances. Some of the troop stood out, not least of whom was Jasmine Petrell as Tess, assistant to the impresario Mr. Zangler. She was out front on most big numbers and took the lead with confidence and a smile as big as the West.

You simply can’t lose with the Gershwins. Together, George and Ira wrote American tunes that are among the most beloved – and hummable – in the lexicon.

Crazy For You
Scera Shell Outdoor Theatre – 699 S. State St., Orem, Utah (East of the Scera Pools)
~ July 31 – Aug 15, 2015; Mon, Thur, Fri, Sat at 8:00 PM ~
General Admission: Adults: $12 Children & Seniors $10 [Children: Ages 3 – 11]
Reserved Seating, Section B: Adults: $14 Children & Seniors $12 [Seniors: 65+]
Reserved Seating, Section A: Adults: $16 Children & Seniors $14
www.scera.org Phone 801-225-ARTS (2787)

Note: Crazy For You is two and a half hours long. You may want a light jacket or blanket by the end of the night. You can rent a seat for a dollar in certain areas of the amphitheater, and there’s lots of room on the grass. On Opening Night there were plenty of empty seats up front, and it’s worth the little extra you pay to be close. There’s a lot to see here and it’s more rewarding to watch the principal roles interact with each other. You will definitely enjoy the show more.


Apline Community Theater’s Mary Poppins is Practically Perfect in Every Way

mary-poppins-01By Deven Skaggs

I had the opportunity to be treated by Alpine Community Theater as they presented Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins in the beautiful Covey Center for the Arts in Provo.

The story begins with the Banks family which lives in London on Cherry Lane, and things are not going well for them. With an angry and aloof father, a heartbroken mother, and two ill-behaved children it seems the household is falling apart. But when a mysterious woman named Mary Poppins appears at their doorstep, the family finds that she’s the answer to their prayers, but in the most peculiar way. Mary Poppins takes the children on many magical adventures involving singing and dancing statues, talking toys, and of course all the toe-tapping tunes we remember from the classic Disney film.

Sarah Ogden graced the stage majestically as the whimsical nanny who flew in from the east. From the moment she stepped on stage I knew she would not disappoint. Throughout the show she gave a lovely performance, full of the whit, sass, and cheeky personality that the audience expects and loves from this practically perfect nanny. Although Ogden played the part well, I would have loved to see the depth of some of Mary’s decisions. Ogden’s performance was a bit emotionally aloof. Also, as well as Ogden did in the role she still couldn’t discount the fact that she didn’t fly. Let me repeat myself. During the entirety of the show, Mary Poppins didn’t leave the ground. To say I was disappointed in that would be gracious.

Opposite Ogden, in the iconic role of Bert, was Jonathan Snyder. Snyder’s boyish face and happy demeanor played well as charming, but he seemed a bit young and inexperienced for Bert. However, his wonderful voice and strong acting choices were a delight to watch and Snyder and Ogden played off of each other very well. Snyder also had the additional challenge of speaking with a Cockney accent (one of the hardest to perform if you ask me.) Although this was clearly a struggle for him, his energy and enthusiasm carried the role.

mary-poppins-02In the roles of Jane and Michael Banks were Allyssa Shar Buckner and Asher Reynolds. These children stole the show! Both of them were constantly engaged in what was happening around them, full of energy and life, and really connected with the rest of the cast on stage. These kids captured the hearts of the audience and took us for a beautiful and emotional ride. These kids are stars on the rise!

Mr. Banks was wonderfully played by Andrew Lambert. Lambert is the only principle actor who is not double cast, and it’s not hard to see why. His strong character and demanding stage presence aided him well as he portrayed the stubborn father. At first glance he looked young and ill fitted for the role, but his ability to command the stage won me over. The journey Lambert took us on was one of many emotions and at the end touched the hearts of all in the audience.

Mrs. Banks was played by Neena Warburton who has a stunning singing voice and glided about the stage beautifully. She is also young and at times she seemed out of place in the motherly role. However, Warburton’s performance made it impossible for me to have ill feelings toward Mrs. Banks. Her performance was obviously heartfelt, which made “Being Mrs. Banks” a very moving song.

The show was directed by Laura Snyder and it was clear the whole way through that she had a vision for this show. I really appreciated that Snyder gave us nods to the Disney film such as costumes, props, and sets that were easily recognizable.

Another one of Snyder’s directorial decisions was to have ensemble members run through the audience in two different spots in the show. I was very confused during “Let’s go Fly a Kite” because the ensemble had no business being in the audience and they distracted from the more important action happening on the stage. In contrast, having the ensemble run amok in the audience as chimney sweeps during the “Step in Time” playoff was genius, fun, exciting, and engaging.

Throughout the show I couldn’t help feeling that the choreography lacked consistent movement choices and styles (probably due to having a total of five choreographers and three dance assistants). I was never sure what to expect with each number, but there were moments of beauty and true entertainment and the cast performed it full out and was a joy to watch.

mary-poppins-03The sets for the show, designed by Daniel James, were wonderfully crafted. I was floored with each new location we ventured into. The colors, patterns, and styles were stunning and aided very well in telling the story.

Pair these sets with the costumes and you have a spectacle for the eyes. From the statues in the park, the ensembles’ plethora of colors and patterns, to Mary’s iconic dresses, Amanda Burke’s costume design was a job well done! All of this under a lighting design by Pam Davis made for a night full of incredibly beautiful visuals.

The scene changes were long and distracting, and jarred me out of the wonderful world the actors were working so hard to create.

Overall, I would gladly recommend this show to anyone wanting to have a truly fun and magical evening at the theater. But you must act quickly! The show only runs until August 15th and tickets are selling fast. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy this beautiful story that is practically perfect in every way.

Please Note: The show is double cast, separated into the “Red” and “Blue” casts. The show I enjoyed was performed by the blue cast.

Performances will be at the Covey Center for the Arts at 425 W. Center Street, Provo, Utah.

July 24, 25, 27, 30, 31, August 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15
All shows begin at 7:30PM.

$12 Adults
$10 Students, Seniors and Children (2+)

Tickets are for reserved seating and can be purchased online, by phone or at the door.  More information can be found at alpinecommunitytheater.org.