The SCERA’S Nunsense is Heavenly!

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By Rachael Gibson

I have to be honest… I’d never seen the musical Nunsense until Saturday night at the SCERA. I don’t know that I’ve ever really even heard of it.

I had NO idea what to expect so as I sat next to my husband in the theater waiting for the show to start, I searched my program for a synopsis. I couldn’t find one, so I tried my best to recollect what I might remember from some of the social media plugs I had read. So, really, we were both in for a surprise.

First off, I have to say that Michael Carrasco did an immaculate job of choosing who would play each sister. Their personalities, looks and mannerisms were completely on point. I also sensed throughout the show that he let them develop their characters and didn’t seem to be “over” directed, but instead felt, even in its silliness, more real. The performances didn’t feel forced, but more of a natural extension of themselves.

Which leads me to how impressed I was with the women acting in this show. I was so excited to see all the talent abounding in such a small cast as it oozed off the stage. Sometimes, literally, off the stage as they would come and interact with the audience off stage. Their interaction with random audience members proved their natural wit and humor and added to the endearing qualities that vested me into each character.

Allison Books, who plays Sister Mary Regina, Mother Superior does a wonderful job of bringing the audience up to speed about the tragedy of a mass poisoning in the convent that, after burials, has left them with four sisters that they have had to put in the freezer until they have the money raised for their proper burials, hence the reason for the show they are putting on at the local school to raise funds. Not only is Books animatedly intriguing, but her accent was so fun and made listening to her explanations even better, but her slapstick, physical humor brought me back to the days of the Carol Burnett show. I was also impressed with her ability to keep her accent even through her songs, which were amazing too.

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Mariah Hatch, who plays Sister Mary Robert Anne, was my ultimate favorite of the night probably because I loved her tomboy demeanor, Jersey accent and her subtle antics poking fun at the Reverend Mother. Can I say though, that it was her voice that sold me? Wow! I could have listened to her all night. She, luckily for me, had several stand-out solo parts that cut to the core of my Broadway geekiness and made me feel like I was in New York, New York instead of the SCERA in Orem, Utah.

Chelsea Lindsey, who plays Sister Mary Amnesia was my husband’s favorite mostly because of her fantastic scene with her puppet, Sister Mary Annette (created by the talented Nat Reed). My husband didn’t laugh as hard as I did, (not many do) but he still got a good chuckle watching her switch seamlessly between the two distinct voices. Lindsey kept her character in her face and body language the entire time and truly made me feel she was made for this part.

Shaylia Johnson plays the part of Sister Mary Leo and her face fit the part of the sweet, cute, dreamy-eyed Nun-Dancer she hopes to be. Her ballet pieces were fun and light-hearted. Shelly Stewart Truax is Sister Mary Hubert. Shelley’s years of being onstage are pronounced as you watch her grace, poise and humor bring to life a serious and sensible, yet lighthearted and comical character. She is believable as the Reverend Mother’s sidekick and she shows that in the duet “Just a Coupl’a Sisters.” The standout moment for me, though, was her solo, “Holier Than thou” in which she let her voice and her spirit loose.

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You may think that with a play of four nuns dressed in black and white would make for a dull stage presence, but Costumer Kelsey Seaver added small, but fabulous touches to the costumes that brought humor, distinction, and color to the Sisters. I especially got a good laugh at one of the small touches that were added to Mother Superior’s accidental apron. Thanks for that, Kelsey.

Nat Reed, as always, brought M’liss Tolman’s scene design to life which reflected a school auditorium with a second level that added depth and interest. The depth of the stage was enhanced by the lighting design of Marianne Ohran. Christy Norton’s prop designs did not disappoint and were thought of in detail right down to the bar stools that would spin to add to the Sisters’ choreography and antics.

Brandalee B. Streeter did a great job musically directing these five women to sound their best. Jillian Ormond brought so much life to the Sisters with their choreography that it felt like a fresh version of some old musicals, but my favorite was the tap dance that was full of creativity and originality. Stage Manager Danielle Berry added her voice to the show by being the “techy” for Mother Superior, but her real talent showed in how smoothly the show went through each scene and song. It was also a treat to hear sound designer, Kendall Bowman add his voice in as the back-up announcer that night, but it’s always nice to know that he is the one running the sound and making sure we never fall short of being entertained with sound.

The SCERA has long been a community gem that not only brings us great theater and entertainment, but  adds to the aura of kindness and service in Orem that bring us all together. We parked along the street for an easy get-away from the crowds for our return home. The volunteers taking tickets were friendly as always and the theatre was clean and smelt of popcorn. We had great seats right in the middle of the floor, which not only had a good view, but also secluded Marc enough that he didn’t feel pressured to participate when the nuns came out to interact with the audience.

At the SCERA, it is one of my favorite things to see and talk with the cast after the show and the nuns were very welcoming. There was even a picture prop in the foyer if you wanted to look like the nuns to post to social media or keep as a souvenir token of the night.

This show runs at the SCERA every Monday, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 until October 8th.

Location: SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 South State Street, Orem, UT 84058

Phone: (801) 225-ARTS

Tickets are $10-$12

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Yellow Umbrellas at Bydand Theater Company Dives Beautifully into the Human Psyche

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By Teresa Gashler

A linear representation of life experiences is frequently inaccurate in portraying the processing tendencies of the human brain. Yellow Umbrellas by Morag Shepherd uses abstract techniques to explore and find meaning in the combination of past experiences. The beautiful paradox is that the abstract can be more real than linear “reality” would be, as the brain works abstractly to comb through experiences out of order. The result is relatable, meaningful, and devastatingly beautiful.

The story centers around Cassandra (Rachelle Elbert) as she maneuvers through the problems in her relationships, particularly with her sister Marie (Alexis Boss), her dad Max (Jeff Kocherhans), and Marie’s fiancée Jon (Tyler Harris). The scenes explore her memories from being 12 to adult in a nonlinear fashion. Cassandra, Marie, and Max frequently mention their mother, who is no longer with the family, as if the problems started with her. Max gives Cassandra and Marie yellow umbrellas that metaphorically prove to be insufficient in sheltering them from the storms they face. Cassandra urges Max to tell her where he secretly visits on a regular basis, though he will never disclose that to her. We discover that Cassandra has developed a romantic relationship with Jon that not only implodes on itself but puts her relationship with Marie at risk. We see many instances where Cassandra and Marie go to play chicken on train tracks, a game that requires them to tell each other when to get off the tracks safely as a train approaches. This train game serves as a metaphor for the family as they make hurtful choices but still long to trust each other. Through many trials of losing trust in each other and feeling hopeless, the play ends with forgiveness and a resolve to start over as much as possible.

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The performance venue was a comfortable space for being small. The smallness is arguably a positive factor as you could feel the presence of the actors and music. The minimalistic approach from the director (Christy Foster) and stage manager (Jake Fullmer) was well executed as each stage direction and prop had defined, meaningful purposes. The accompaniment of a single guitar from the musician (Gary Argyle) played an important thematic role, filling in gaps that would otherwise be filled in with scenery and sound effects. I would love to see more theatrical productions use a musician in the same way to cut down on the spectacle and bring more focus to the story.

The ensemble worked brilliantly together. Elbert dove deeply into Cassandra’s character, allowing the audience to feel her joy and experience the sting of her selfish choices. Boss, Harris, and Kocherhans also succeeded in portraying their characters as flaw-filled human beings that we can’t help but love and root for.

Yellow Umbrellas is a great play for those new to abstract theater and abstract connoisseurs alike. While many brilliant abstract works leave the audience with little direction other than despair for the human condition, I appreciate that Shepherd ends the piece with hope, something we desperately need in our world today.

Yellow Umbrellas has now closed, but was performed at The A-Frame – 883 N 1200 E, Provo, UT 84604

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Bydand Theater Company

Wasatch Theater Company’s A Bright New Boise Shines Brilliantly

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By Joel Applegate

I love the Rose Wagner’s black box theater. It was evident from the spare set and two walls that for this production of A Bright New Boise, the play’s the thing. Nothing fancy. What is a play? People in motion telling a story. True to their mission of choosing works that “engage, stimulate and entertain,” Wasatch Theatre Company chose well in telling this poignant, very funny, and harrowing tale of faith gone awry. This play won New York’s OBIE award for playwriting in 2011.

Director Jim Martin and his sound designer, Amy Allred, set the tone with a great playlist of tunes from start to finish, with “My Own Private Idaho” logically winding toward Joan Osborne’s “What If God Was One of Us.” At first, it seems we’re about to watch a sardonically quaint slice of life with some quirky characters in out-of-the-way Boise, Idaho. But the play takes us deeper and deeper into the life of our lead, Will, whose flight from a church scandal undoes more than just himself. Brian C. Pilling takes Will from nondescript to dangerous in a performance that increases in power and carries playwright Sam Hunter’s profound theme of faith bumping up against modern life.

Will, arriving in Boise, gets hired by Pauline in one of Hobby Lobby’s barely urban outposts (at a sinful wage of $7.25 an hour!) Sallie Cooper nails Pauline from her first speech. The interview she conducts only hints at the rough edge and determined pride Cooper so beautifully lashes at later on. Holding on to all she’s built as a store manager, Pauline literally curses her own morality into being. It’s her way of exorcising dysfunction. Pairing conflict resolution with a side of profanity is a hoot.

Will, scrubbed on the outside and the inside, finds us unprepared for the bomb he drops on Alex, a teenage cashier at the store. Is the abuse Alex talks about real or imagined?  CJ Strong as Alex has a great connection with himself, never going over the top, though the role would tempt many an actor to blow it up. He is an interesting performer. Even when he does almost nothing, we see him wrestling to repair his broken soul.

Will encounters others at the store, too: a quietly composed Haley McCormick as Anna. Like Strong, she connects to her inner self with understated skill.  Neither Will nor Anna has anywhere to go. They escape into blogs and books.

Will’s caustic co-worker, Leroy, has no need to hide from anything or anyone. At first, the play fools us into thinking Leroy is a caricature. But Gordon Dunn demands us to “take me as I am,” doing a terrific job hiding Leroy’s deliberately dark commitment to protecting the fragile Alex.

Any play about religion is fraught – especially in Utah. There’s a wonderful natural ease in the performances of most of this highly skilled cast – except Pilling as Will – uptight and tightly wound pleading for Jesus to show up “now – now!” Is it a paradox to try to rebuild a faith once broken by its very practice? After we get to know the characters, the playwright takes us on a deep dive into the meaning of being, a great feat to pull off with such earthily drawn souls. Hunter juxtaposes the irrational events of both faith and the world, exploring not only what we believe, but why we believe it.

And so, A Bright New Boise is more about identity than religion. It’s easy enough to adopt a mythology to explain life or provide purpose. Anna tells a briefly doubting Will, “You can just believe in something else.” But Will has nothing to believe in but a holy fire that will negate the earth he is standing on. It’s a devil of a choice. To him, identity is evangelism. He cannot embrace another way of thinking without the terror of losing his soul. He must believe in greater things than this mere world.  We leave him praying for all of it to be burned to ash.

Here’s a link to learn more about this interesting playwright, Samuel D. Hunter: http://2ndstorytheatre.com/prodigals-samuel-d-hunters-a-bright-new-boise-2011/

Wasatch Theatre Company presents A Bright New Boise

September 1st thru 17th, 2016: Thur, Fri, Sat at 8 pm, with Matinees on Sept 10 & 17 at 2 pm.    General Admission: $20.00

Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 West 300 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84101. Phone (801) 446-5657

www.wasatchtheatre.org      Ticketing Information: www.artix.org

Email: wasatchtheatre@hotmail.com

Contains adult language.

 

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UT Rep’s Cabaret Should Not Be Missed

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By Ashley Ramsey

Utah Rep has quickly made a home for itself in the Utah theatre scene with their rarely done and new theatre productions. When Cabaret was announced as one of their 2016 productions, it seemed a match made in heaven. It was exciting to hear the buzz it created throughout the theatre community as this rarely done, but beloved musical got under way.

Cabaret tells the story of pre-WWII Berlin and the American writer, Cliff Bradshaw who is hoping to find inspiration for his next novel in the city. Cliff quickly finds his world turned upside down when his life becomes intertwined with Sally Bowles, a performer at the seedy Kit Kat Club. The story envelopes the rest of the boarding house residents and Kit Kat Club performers as the rise of the Nazi party begins to change their future forever.

Oftentimes it can be quite daunting taking on a show that is immortalized famously on film, but the UT Rep cast does a phenomenal job making this show their own. Teresa Sanderson’s portrayal of the Emcee is spot on. Traditionally portrayed by a male actor, the use of a female actor brings a new and fresh dynamic that Sanderson fully embraces. It is always a treat to see an actor who embodies the concept and story fully and Sanderson delivers that. Other noteworthy performances are Jane Luke’s portrayal of Fraulein Schneider and Michael Neilsen’s Herr Schultz. Both actors command of the stage is enthralling and they create such a wonderful chemistry onstage.  “It Couldn’t Please Me More” is so sweetly delightful and sets you up to root for the couple the rest of the show.

Anne Louise Brings and Johnny Hebda tell the other half of the love story as Sally Bowles and Cliff Bradshaw. It is no doubt how Cliff falls for Sally as Brings creates such a vivacious,  charismatic character. Brings does a wonderful job of following the character arch of Sally and brings a steady nuance to a role that can easily be overdone.  Both Hebda and Brings were more than capable of handling the vocal requirements of the roles and their voices of blend well to each other’s in “Perfectly Marvelous”. Unfortunately, there was not much romantic chemistry between the two actors, which sometimes left you doubting what their relationship was. Hebda’s physicality seemed somewhat clunky and awkward in romantic moments with Brings.

The ensemble as a whole absolutely shines in this production. Most of them portray multiple roles and their characters were so different it was rarely noticed.  The structure of the play can make it hard to create seamless transitions and keep the action flowing, but the ensemble kept things moving smoothly. Outstanding ensemble members Karli Rose Lowry and Dawn Veree are both so incredibly committed to whenever they were onstage. They both shared an uncanny ability to connect with the audience in key moments through out the show.

Music direction by Anne Puzey was outstanding. Not only does her talent and vision show with the actors onstage, but her live band really added to the ambiance of a night club when needed but also easily faded away in moments where the underscoring gave way to the spotlight of moments on stage,

Director L.L. West sets the mood as soon as your enter the theatre. Upon arrival, do not be surprised to find a young, shirtless German boy eager to help you find a seat. The house is open seating and I recommend arriving early to get good seats. The Sorenson Unity Center Black Box theatre lends itself well to what you would imagine a small seedy night club might feel like. The intimate venue, combined with West’s in your face (and sometimes in your seats) blocking makes you pay attention to the larger questions being asked. The movement of the characters in and out of the scenes is as fluid as the sexuality of our characters and creates a world you can quickly get lost in. It was also incredibly refreshing to see a variety of body types and looks on the stage.  Nancy Cannon does an incredible job at dressing the actors in true to time ensembles that perfectly add to West’s vision. I always appreciate Cannon’s dedication to staying true to her time period and keeping her actors stunning on stage.

Highlighted as well is Ashley Gardner-Carlson’s choreography. While paying homage to the expected Bob Fosse-esque choreography, Gardner-Carlson carves out a movement story that is her own.  Her expertise really shines during the large group numbers in her ability to fill the space. “Two Ladies” was especially fun in the combination of comedy and sex appeal.  Another highlight for dance fans will be the intense moments of “Money”.

Cabaret stands as an incredibly poignant and startling relevant piece for this moment in time. While Utah Rep’s production has a few hiccups here and there, the overall message of the show is not one that should be ignored. This show will make you uncomfortable in the best way. It will challenge you to ask yourself some hard questions. As with all good theatre, it will stay with you and you won’t be able to shake it. But maybe that’s the point.

Cabaret runs 8/26 through 9/11 at the Sorenson Unity Black Box Theatre with both evening and matinee showings available.  General Admission tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for Students and Seniors. Special Cabaret seating which includes mocktails, snacks and the best view of the show are available for $35. 7:30 PM

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Utah Rep Website

Due to the mature nature of the show, it is not recommended for children.

 

 

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Payson’s Into The Woods is a Place You Want to Be

IntotheWoods75By Joel Applegate

Perhaps our virtual reality has outgrown fairy tales. Instead, I think what has been substituted are mash-ups and deconstructions. Fairy tales still do what they originally did: thrill and chill on the surface and use subliminal archetypes to make us think about ourselves and our wants. All this is behind the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Firstly, I believe Into the Woods is a story about want. First lesson: “Be sure what you wish for is what you want.” And Payson Community Theater’s well-paced production makes it fun to follow the needs and hopes of their big cast. The production is visually arresting with lavish costumes by Carisa and Perry Ewell, a detailed set by Richard Lindsey, Craig Zeeman and director, Robinne Booth. Mr Lindsey also contributes a beautiful lighting design. Rapunzel’s tower rotates, Grandma’s house is excellently illuminated, and the dark forest’s deep perspective makes full use of the stage.

Director Robinne Booth takes advantage of Payson High’s wide proscenium, staging many scenes down stage, really engaging with the audience from the opening bars. A great MC as well as a story-teller, our Narrator, Perry Ewell, draws a young girl from the audience to “help” him open the pop-up storybooks that reveal the locales of Into the Woods.  I was charmed by this way of creating a sense of anticipation and wonder.

There are big songs in Into the Woods where the scenes by their nature are presentational, but through a combination of great choreography and wise direction, these numbers are gorgeous to watch and more importantly, they work within the story.

There are many standouts in this cast, both musically and in the acting. Kristin Bauer as The Witch was superb. She brought great timing to her Yiddishness as the ugly witch. After her transformation to her young self, it is surprising how she is able to make us empathize with a witch, losing her daughter and her powers. No matter, Ms. Bauer has plenty of power of her own. Her “Children Will Listen” is sung with grace and conviction, and her “Last Midnight” should become a signature for this actor.

Author Joel with Cinderella played by Amber Lee Roberts

Author Joel with Cinderella played by Amber Lee Roberts

The pairing of voices in this production was another wonder. Amber Lee Roberts as Cinderella with her lovely, high soprano, and Richie Trimble as the well-acted Baker were beautifully matched in their duet turned quartet with Red Riding Hood and Jack. “No One is Alone” is one of the best moments – among many – in the show. Mr. Trimble also forms another great blend with Carisa Ewell, in “Take Two”.  Ms Ewell goes on to deliver a poignant demise as the Baker’s Wife.

Our Princes, Bob Bauer, as Cinderella’s beau, and Dan Bigler as Rapunzel’s, are perfect gallants – charming and shady. Both have skilled control with great voices blending very well. Their duet “Agony” is one of my favorite numbers in the show.

into the woods Kristin and Bob Bauer with Dan Bigler

Red Riding Hood’s Rachel Aylworth is – what? Petulant, comic, precocious sprightly – bringing tons of attitude to a really good voice.  She has a hilarious moment with the Wolf dancing a … ‘wolf-trot’? Jared Gaskill’s Jack (of Beanstalk fame) is effective as a boy on the cusp of manhood and sings earnestly in a clear voice.

Payson’s production was not entirely without flaws. There were some microphone problems at the top of a few songs. Some mics were not cued fast enough. And I thought it mysterious that the costumers built a great Wolf costume, but not one for Milky White, the hapless cow sold for a few beans. The puppet, used as the cow – though cleverly constructed – encumbered scenes with a silent puppet master standing by. It was an odd choice, since the Wolf was so effectively brought to life.

I like this show the more I see it, and this cast – in this production – made me like it all the more. For its dramatic and musical appeal with tunes like “Children Will Listen”, “Agony”, and “No One Is Alone”, Into the Woods is fast becoming one of my favorite musicals.

into the woods Set - Into the Woods

Though there are only six performances left, you still have plenty of time to book a seat for this very deserving production:  Sept 1- 3 at 7:30 pm and Matinees at 3 pm on Sept 3rd and 5th (Labor Day) at Payson High School auditorium, 1050 S. Main, Payson, Utah 84651.

Tickets are just $10. Purchase at the Box Office or online. Discount Codes may still be available online. Use “passalong” or “baker” for $1 off ticket price at www.paysoncommunitytheater.org website.

You may also purchase tickets at NAPA Auto Parts in Payson: 190 East 100 North, phone (801) 465-9268

Payson Community Theater is currently renovating the old Huish Theater in Payson to turn it into their permanent home. A lot of work has already been done on both the outside and inside of the venue. You can contribute to their dream by going to https://gofundme.com/27z6xzr9 . You may also go into any Central Bank location and contribute under the name of Huish PACE, or mail a check to Huish PACE, PO Box 351, Payson, Utah 84651. Huish PACE is a 501(3)(c) corporation, so all donations are tax deductible. Facebook: https:/facebook/huishpace. Website: https://huishpace.com

 

 

 

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Don’t Let CenterPoint’s “Hello, Dolly” Pass You By

By Ashley Ramsey

Some shows seem to find a comfortable place in the heart of Utah theatre goers, and Hello, Dolly is no exception. Set in New York, it follows woman of all trades and matchmaker extraordinare, Dolly Ghallagher Levi. She is currently employed by Yonkers’ most famous half-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder, in finding his second wife. Dolly, herself a widow, decides that she will be the next Mrs. Vandergelder and hatches an incredible plan to make the half-millionaire ask for her hand. With the help of shop clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, and the magic of New York City, Dolly turns Mr. Vandergelder’s world upside down so it can align with hers.

CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s latest reincarnation is carried by a solid and incredibly talented cast of performers. Aided by stunning costumes and a simply perfect set, you will find yourself gleefully swept back to the 1890’s. Delightfully paired as 33-year-old never-been-kissed shopkeeper, Cornelius Hackl (Dale Boam) and his young still having time to be kissed co-worker, Barnaby Tucker (Jordan Davis). Boam and Davis hit the stage with an energy and comedic timing that continues until the curtain drops. Romantic opposites to the energetic duo are Irene Malloy (Wendy Inkley) and Minnie Fay (Emily Wells). The two pairs shared a solid energy together that was highlighted in the number “Elegance”. It was easily one of my favorite moments of the show.

Oftentimes in musicals, a show is only as strong as its ensemble and this definitely holds true for this production. It was clear the ensemble was fully engaged and kept the show moving at a fantastic pace. The ensemble was assisted by Addison Welch’s choreography in telling the story through movement and crisp, clear diction by music director, Derek Myler.  Special acknowledgement needs to be given to the male ensemble who’s execution of the iconic musical number “Hello, Dolly” was quite fantastic.

Director, Jan Smith does a wonderful job of keeping the action moving and the stage full. The steady movement and flow to her blocking seemed to be reflective of the quick and very nuanced speech patterns of the character, Dolly. The concept of the set design by Scott Van Dyke assisted in smoothly and simply keeping the action going, without leaving the audience feeling like it was lacking.

Dolly is gloriously brought to life by Melinda Cole Welch. Ms. Welch’s performance is worth the cost of a ticket all on her own. From the moment she stepped on stage, she was Dolly. This was her world and her rules. Welch’s command of dictation in Dolly’s mile a minute lines was incredible. Her vocal performance was one the most solid I have ever heard. “Before the Parade Passes By” was as strong in acting as it was in vocal performance. Thank you, Ms. Welch.

Although Hello, Dolly is naturally filled with the strange quirks and absurd falling in love of a golden age musicals, CenterPoint’s production does its best to ground it in the all too familiar concept of change and decisions. Hello, Dolly is worth an adventure up North. I promise you’ll feel back home where you belong.

It runs until September 1st. Curtain at 7:30 PM. $17.24-$24.50

CenterPoint Legacy Theater, 525 N 400 W, Centerville, UT 84014, (801) 298-1302

Go and “Sea” SCERA’S South Pacific

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By: Oliver Holman

South Pacific is one of the classic musicals that define American Musical Theatre History.  Here we learn the story of the not so simple lives and interactions of American soldiers, Tonkin Island Natives, and French Plantation owners on an island in the South Pacific, based on the novel of the same name by James Michener.  It explores the relationships that people have with others of their own race and those of other races as well.

The SCERA’S South Pacific begins on a high note as we see the young brother and sister combo played by Anna Kocherhans and Nolan Larsen enter the stage and sing impressively in French.    They are soon joined on stage by our leading romantic couple Ensign Nellie Forbush played by Shannon Eden and Emile De Becque played by Rex Kocherhans.  The vocal ability of these four was pleasantly a lot better than I was expecting to get.  Eden’s voice soared effortlessly and was surpassed only by Rex Kocherans’ vocal flawlessness.  Larsen and Anna Kockerhans’ songs seemed as though they were taken straight from a professional recording.  As the show progressed, I was happy to learn that nearly everyone in the cast had a voice that was as good as you would want in a professional production.  Especially poignant was the impressive male ensemble, with music direction by Kathryn Laycock Little, when they came together to sing There is Nothing Like a Dame.

Though the vocal prowess was soaring, the acting was not as strong, though there were many fun moments in the show.  The father-daughter duo of Rex and Anna Kocherhans as well as young Nolan Larsen were able to show some honesty in their performances.

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Costume design, by Kelsey Seaver and Deborah Bowman, was interesting, but there isn’t must to work with in the script, and I did love Nellie’s costumes a great deal.  The choreography by Kristen Bradley wisely used simple steps for a large cast that can have many levels of dance training and ability.  The set, designed by Terri Griffin, was able to be productive through the many scene changes and helped set the mood and location well.  The strongest design element of the show was the sound created by Kendall Bowman.  Rarely do you see a community theatre production where the music and microphones and sound effects are blended without any hiccups for an entire performance.

The highlight of the night most definitely came at the conclusion of the show when the four actors mentioned above come together in a very beautifully directed moment by Jerry Ellison.  Suddenly I forgot everything else about the show and my heart strings were tugged as I watched a new family forming before my eyes and pure joy come over the face of the young Jerome played by Nolan Larsen.

Rodgers and Hammerstein will live forever in the history of Musical Theatre and the history of America as the first musical collaborators to bring meaning, purpose, and important lessons to their work.  Subsequently, the most difficult task for a theatre company performing one of these iconic pieces is to make sure these important themes and messages are made clear and don’t get lost in the engaging, toe-tapping, history-making music.  Is the domestic abuse in Carousel handled in a way that the viewer can see their own relationships?   In the case of South Pacific, are the irrational fears and discomfort around people of a different race shown in a manner that makes us consider ourselves and the unintentional lessons that we are teaching our children that can have dire societal effects in the future?  As you see this show, these are some of the questions you may want to ask yourself.

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In the end, I found the show delightful and definitely worth the $10-$16 ticket price it has.  If you are looking for a fun night to listen to some eternally loved show tunes with family, then this is the show for you!  Lay back on your blanket (this is BYOB: bring your own blanket), put on a little bug repellent just in case and listen to the vocally impressive cast of South Pacific.

Shows run nightly except for Sunday and Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. through August 13th.  Tickets may be purchased at www.scera.org

South Pacific

SCERA Shell Outdoor Theater, SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 South State Street, Orem, UT 84058 801-227-ARTS

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The Covey’s The Fantasticks is a Marvelous Love Story You Don’t Want to Miss

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By Jennifer Mustoe and Kendra Hill

One of the things I dislike about rom-coms is it’s all about the finding the sweetheart and getting the sweetheart. Just as they kiss to seal the deal, the movie or play ends with a big ol’ happily ever after. And it’s like–wait. That isn’t real life. Finding and getting the sweetheart is nothing compared to the keeping the relationship alive and well.

In The Fantasticks, there is a love story all right, filled with song and moonlight and sweet young lovers. It is resolved in Act One. In Act Two, though I don’t want to give too much away, that’s when real life happens. It is gritty, it is real, and it is ultimately satisfying–because it has a REAL ending. It isn’t a sad ending–don’t get me wrong. But it’s far more authentic. This is one of the many things I love about this show.

The lovers are Coulson Bingham as Matt. Luisa is played by Kelsi Jeffery. Both of these young actors make not one misstep. Their movement, characterization, voices and chemistry are perfect. I say this rarely. But they are completely believable. I wanted them to be in love. I mean, why not? They’re a great match. And as an aside, because I know Coulson, he stepped into the role the night before opening night. Yes, you read that correctly. He got everything memorized in one day. Bravo to Coulson and the whole cast for getting this great show off the ground. It takes a dedicated group of people to make this happen.

Kudos to director Agnes Broberg for getting this show to its sparkly perfection. She has plenty of movement on the small black box’s stage and has encouraged her performers to work in sync with one another in a most delightful way.

The story is that young lovers’ fathers build a wall (played by The Mute Nate Broberg, who not only plays The Wall but other mimed pieces and brings a lot of laughs) so that their kids won’t fall in love. But the fathers want their kids to fall in love. One of the cutest songs in the show is when the two fathers (Hucklebee (Paul Larson) and Bellomy (Marcx Haddock)) tell the audience (and there is a very thin fourth wall in this show) how they have planned for their children to fall in love by merely telling them they can’t. Fun song.These two gentlemen do a fine job in their roles. Their voices blended well and it was clear they were having fun with their parts. I wish I could have seen a little bit more relationship between the fathers and their respective children. But it wasn’t necessary to the plot and took nothing away from the production. When they get angry at one another in Act Two, it is hilarious.

The dads plan for An Abduction to take place so Matt can look like a hero and seal Luisa’s love for Matt. It will also help to convince the young lovers that the “feud” between the families is over. The Abduction is orchestrated by El Gallo, played by Will Hurwitz. He hires two actors, The Old Actor, played by Dane Allred, and Mortimer, played by Andrew Walsh, who is dressed as a Native American but has a Cockney accent are hired for the Abduction. Hurwitz has an amazing voice and stays distant as the Narrator. Allred and Walsh are fabulous–the parts require the actors to ham it up and boy–these fellas do this very well!

Everything worked well in this show–costumes for the ‘normal’ characters are just plain clothing and The Old Actor and Mortimer are great in their get ups. (I won’t spoil it for you.) What I found as I was watching the show and after was the flip-flop that happens between Act One and Act Two. Act One takes place under the moonlight. Act Two is under the blistering sun. Because we have been having such an amazingly (horrible) hot summer, the difference between these two acts really affected me. In the moonlight, things look lovely. But when it’s bright and hot and uncomfortable and crabby–this is when things get difficult. It is a believable metaphor and one that is important to think about. Should life always be accompanied with moonlight and kisses? Or is life more hot, under the sun and filled with discord? Or is it both?

I am waxing profound. Do not think that this show is brooding. It is not. But is it poignant? Is it memorable? Is it fun? Yes, it is all of these.

For a nice, cool evening, go to The Covey and see The Fantasticks. It is well worth your time.

The Fantasticks July 15 – August 6 7:30 PM $14-$16

Main Office: (801) 852-7007
Box Office: (801) 852-7007
Covey Center for the Arts
425 W Center St
Provo, UT 84601

 

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Romeo and Juliet is a Touching–and Sometimes Funny–Representation of Shakespeare’s Classic Tragedy

romeo and juliet

By Craig and Jennifer Mustoe

Spoiler Alert: This play, which you are no doubt familiar with, ends tragically. But the journey getting there in Ben Hopkin’s rendition of Romeo and Juliet will surprise and delight you.

The set is sparse but what is there is very effective. I don’t want to give too much away, but the current political arena plays into the set and costuming. It is fun but really, also helped me in identifying who was who among the Capulets and the Montegues. Sometimes, you  just can’t tell. In this show, it is very clear and I appreciated that.

Some of my favorite parts of the show were these:

Romeo, played by Jordan Nicholes, was flawless. His character was consistent, passionate, and completely believable. I loved it. Underline loved. Kat Webb’s Juliet was fun. She had a different take on Juliet, playing her far snappier (think: bratty teenager) than I’ve seen done and it worked well. The chemistry of the two leads was not as steamy as I’ve seen in other shows, but it still was authentic.

Lynne D. Bronson’s Nurse was amazing. She didn’t make a false move, bawdy when needed but tender and sweet, as well. Her connection with Webb’s Juliet was wonderful. Lord Capulet, played by Joel Applegate, was marvelous. I was not as familiar with this part and when Applegate basically tells his daughter off, I felt that sick feeling in your stomach when your mom got mad at you for doing something wrong. He was that convincing. A character you love to hate.

Paris, played by Tyler Fox, was brilliant. His sword fighting was wonderful, and as he said after the show, “Laying there dead while mosquitoes were biting me was tough.” The mark of a true actor–discomfort for the sake of the show! I also loved Kocherhans’ Tybalt. He expressed Tybalt’s bitterness very well. Another character I wanted to punch in the nose, and I mean that in a good way. Friar Lawrence, played by Alisa Anglesey, was also a very believable character. I won’t give away her interpretation, but it was pretty interesting and worked quite well.

Archeluas Chrisanto’s Benvolio had many snappy ad libbed comments, which brought laughs. His scenes with the female Mercutio, played with style and sass by Noelle Houston, were a delight. Their chemistry is great and the timing perfect.

Music from a  playlist is played for some of the scenes. I’m not sure it was needed, though during the EXCELLENT sword fighting scenes, it heightened the anxiety and fierceness. Giant kudos to fight choreographer to Matthew R. Carlin. Honestly, I knew who was going to die before the scenes began, but I found myself thinking, just how are they going to do this? The sword fighting scenes went on just long enough, but as an actress myself who has been coached in stage combat, I can tell you the fighters did a lot of rehearsing to make these scenes this exciting. The music during the love scenes and the death scene make me tear up, so I’d say those songs added to the sweetness and eventual sadness of this tragedy.

The biggest downside to this show has nothing to do with the production itself, but as I’ve discussed before, it had a ton of bugs. I heard that last night’s performance was the first time bugs were a problem, but they were a Big Problem. All of us were slapping our faces and arms once the sun went down. So, bring bug spray. Spray it before the sun goes down. Also, if you’ve ever been to the Castle Amphitheater, it is made of stone. You have several options to make sure you sit comfortably. One, BYOC, meaning, bring your own chair. Two, bring a blanket to sit on. The rock is hard and also warm, so bringing your own seating options is essential.

I would recommend Romeo and Juliet for those of you who love the play, love Shakespeare or are wanting a sweet, romantic, funny, and poignant evening of theater.

Renaissance Now Theatre & Film presents, Romeo & Juliet at The Castle Amphitheatre. 1300 East Center St., Provo, UT 84606 (behind the hospital and up the hill.)

Thursday, Friday, Saturday; July 21-24, July 28-30, August 4-6. Mondays are FAMILY NIGHTS: July 26th and Aug 1st.

Ticket prices are $8 general, $5 students and seniors, $20 group of 4, and $25 per family. Thursday performances are pay-what-you-will, and donations will be taken at the entrance. Cash and major credit cards accepted.

Please go to www.RenaissanceNow.com for more information. Tickets, cash or credit, at the door or through http://smithstix.com/profiles/profile/17008/castletheatrefestival

Marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Utah Humanities will sponsor a selection of FREE pre-show events entitled, “SHAKESPEARE: OUR CONTEMPORARY.”

July 29: Dr. KATHY CURTISS, “Shakespeare and Identity;” a community art project/sonnet share.

July 30: Dr. KATHY CURTISS, FTC, “Gender roles & Generation in Shakespeare.”

August 4: SARAH RE, HOFSTRA, “Shakespeare: the measure of the man, by the garments he hath on.”

August 5: Dr. TIM SLOVER, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, “Shakespeare’s Invention of Word & Language.”

Hamilton’s Earliest Ancestor, The Music Man, a Visual Delight at Sundance

By: Oliver Holman
“He’s a what, he’s a what, he’s a music man!”  Aside from some of the most famous show tunes ever written, The Music Man has made its mark on society as the first “rap” musical paving the way for shows like Lin Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights, Bring It On and most famously, Hamilton.  If you can’t afford the plane ticket and $800 seat to see Hamilton in New York, you may consider checking out The Music Man at Sundance Summer Theatre.

The Music Man is a classic musical that tells the story of a traveling salesman, Harold Hill, at the turn of the century and how the local librarian turns him from a conning, unsympathetic pick-pocket to a man in love and one who cares about others.
Director Stephanie Breinholt does a wonderful job at bringing together all of the design elements into one beautiful production.  Of greatest note is the set design by Stephen Purdy.  The die-cut style set mixed so beautifully with the backdrop of the pine trees and the costumes designed Amanda Shaffer.  The many different and spectacular hats used throughout the show were a special treat.  The lighting designed by Jill Loveridge provided ample visibility and kept from being distracting most of the time.  Although the sound designed by Jason Jensen was satisfactory, I do feel that for a $36 ticket in a large theater with ample space, a live orchestra would have added a good deal to the performance quality.

The choreography put together by Nathan Balser was mostly fitting and appropriate throughout the show.  He managed to turn what I usually find the most awkward part in the show, “Shapoopi,” into the highlight of the evening with unending spectacular dance and acrobatics.  His collaboration with Ms. Breinholt on the transitions between scenes was just right and kept the show moving without any awkward pauses or scene changes.

The vocal ability of actors across the board was stunning as one would expect.  Rachel Woodward Hansen as Marian Paroo and Joseph Swain, Stephen Breinholt, Mike Ramsey and Paul McGrew as the singing school board quartet were the obvious standouts vocally.  The strength of acting however was somewhat spotty.  The most honest and believable performances came from Brett Griffiths as Marcellus Washburn, Laurie Harrop-Purser as Mrs. Paroo, Elizabeth Hansen as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn and Madison Dennis as Ethel Toffelmier.  Though Greg Hansen struggled with some of the difficult rhythm and words of the part of Harold Hill, his honest and true relationships highlighted by the natural chemistry with his wife, Rachel Woodward Hansen as Marian Paroo, and the true love you could feel for young Winthrop played by Gabriel Stone was a breath of fresh air and brought meaning and purpose to a script that is often criticized for rewarding the liar.

I was slightly disappointed to not see more children on the stage throughout the show.  The lack of younger children caused a few awkward moments including partner dancing between young kids and adults and a River City Boys Band mostly consisting of older men and women/girls dressed up like little boys.  The one young girl in the ensemble, Bell Warren, did a fantastic job of keeping herself a relevant character in the show which is difficult for a 10-year-old girl, but she pulled it off.

My favorite moment of the show came toward the end of the first act when Stephanie Breinholt ingeniously uses a down part of the song “My White Night” to set up the sad life of little Winthrop as we see him teased by another kid and pushed over.  Amaryllis (Lauren Randall) then helps him up and gives him a kiss on the cheek.  The emotions in this moment were raw and beautiful and very well performed by the pair of young actors as well as the young bully Emerson Earnshaw.

Breinholt chose to employ the use of the aisles and seating area quite consistently throughout the performance.

To me, the most important thing about theatre is to make sure the message you want to share gets across and the direction by Stephanie Breinholt does exactly that.  In a show that is often considered out of date and misogynistic, Breinholt was able to strip that down and show us a strong, independent Marian Paroo that makes her own decisions and a flawed Harold Hill that eventually realizes that what he was doing was wrong bringing us to a beautiful conclusion.

At $36 a ticket you would expect the show to be near the quality of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, twice the quality of Hale Center Theatre in Orem and 3-5 times the quality of a community theatre show in the area. However, it was certainly a good production and one worth seeing and bringing your family to.  Performances run Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through August 13th at 8:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.sundanceresort.com