Blue Stockings at the Babcock Theater is Colored with Intensity and Entertainment

blue1By Lorrinda Christensen

Cambridge, 1896, and Girton College, home to the country’s first female students, is an object of annoyance and derision to the rest of the university. The year’s intake of new women face economic difficulty, the distractions of men, radical politics, and the jaw-dropping prejudice that blights their being in Cambridge—that fine old establishment FOR MEN ONLY. At a time when women pursuing an education was thought of as unacceptable, “Bluestockings” became a pejorative term used to describe these women and the educational movement. The story follows a group of young women trying to gain the right to graduate from college.

Playwright Jessica Swale said, “I began researching the play just before Pakastani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot for standing up for her right to an education. When I started researching the history of women’s education for my play, I quickly found myself knee-deep in records of incidents which I had to read twice to believe. If women were allowed into lectures (they had to buy tickets and were sometimes refused entry at the door), the men often took pleasure in kicking their chairs and pelting them with paper bullets. Ladies had to carry chamber pots, as universities refused to build toilet facilities for them. They even found themselves relegated to eat lunch surrounded by cadavers in the biology lab, banned from the dining room for fear that they might distract the men.

Though the girls studied the same degree courses as the men and matched them grade for grade, when the gents donned their gowns for degree day, the women were left with nothing but a tarnished reputation to show for their troubles. They were simply denied the right to graduate. In 1897, the girls of Girton rallied together to ask the university for the right to be formally recognized for their achievements. They made it their mission to convince the Senate to instigate a vote. Little did they know, though, just how far the opposition would go to stop them.” (Swale, 2013)

The young women, Tess (Kate Miksell), Maeve (Heather Grogan), Celia (September McKinnon) and Carolyn (Taylor Kirch) are studying science and all excel in academics to the point that they surpass most of the men. The girls fight for their education with the support of Mr. Banks (Taylor Smith), and Mrs. Welsh (Catherine Ostler Bearden) who play their roles with heart and passion.

blue2The young men, Edwards (Cody Thompson), Lloyd (Michael Johnson), Holmes (Christian Maestas), and Will (Mike Brown) torment the girls in class and put down their decision to pursue an education, telling them that no man will ever want them.
Tess meets a young man, Ralph (Steven Jones), at the library who is not intimidated by her intelligence, and with the help of the other girls she manages to sneak out and meet him in an orchard a few times, much to the dismay of Will, who has told Tess’s father that he will keep an eye on her.

Many of the cast members play multiple roles in the show. Cody Thompson does an amazing job transitioning between Dr. Maudsley, a British psychiatrist, and Edwards, a thumb-sucking college student who seemed intimidated by women. One of the most touching moments of the play was a scene with Maeve and her brother Billy (Michael Johnson) as he pleads for her to return home following the death of their mother. I was nearly in tears as he begged his sister to come home to help take care of their younger siblings.

The play left me feeling an array of emotions. It was funny, had many touching moments, and was very thought provoking. I’d like to give particular mention to Taylor Kirch, who kept me laughing with her crazy antics and wit. Though director James Bonas had to leave while still in rehearsal, he clearly did his job. The show is luminous.

The production team did a top notch job. The costume design by Brenda Van Der Weil was fabulous. She definitely did her research to make sure that everything fit into that time period and remained consistent between characters. All of the women’s costumes were stunning.

The set, lighting and projection designs were incredible. Jessica Dudley (set), Jesse Portillo (lights) and Joseph Wallace (projection) did an amazing job of working together to create the setting for the show. I loved the use of curtains and screens along with the projections to create the scenery and transitions between each scene during scene changes. I was delighted with how the scene could change from a classroom to a library to a starry night to a city skyline just with the use of a projector. Great job to all involved in bringing such an inspiring story to the U of U stage.

I highly recommend that anyone who has the chance to see this show, do yourself a favor and go. But get your tickets early as opening night was nearly sold out–the rest of the run is sure to be as well. For those who are unfamiliar with the University of Utah and don’t know where the Babcock Theatre is located, it is downstairs in the Pioneer Theatre building.

The cast will have two talkback sessions following their performances Friday, September 26, and Saturday, September 27. These talkbacks should be particularly informative and entertaining.
The show runs through Sunday, September 28 with the following performance schedule:
September 20-21, 25, 26 7:30 PM
September 27-28 2:00 PM & 7:30 PM

Tickets are available at Kingsbury Hall or at the door.
http://www.theatre.utah.edu/productions/babcock-theatre/

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Babcock-Theatre-at-the-U-of-U/170769536267889

Facebook Event: http://on.fb.me/1wT97V7

Works Cited
Swale, J. (2013, August). College girls go wild: Jessica Swale on her new Globe play Blue Stockings. Retrieved from London Evening Examiner: http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/theatre/college-girls-go-wild-jessica-swale-on-her-new-globe-play-blue-stockings-8747701.html

 

CenterPoint’s Complete Works is Completely Wonderful

complete works1By Erin Orr

Three guys, one playwright, and 37 plays, all in under two hours. That’s what’s happening at the CenterPoint LegacyTheater in Centerville. These three actors manage to compress the complete works of Shakespeare into about an hour and 40 minutes of high-speed over-the-top hilarity. Knowledge about Shakespeare’s works when seeing this play comedy is helpful, but not at all necessary. All that is needed is time enough to watch and someone to dial 911 in case you pass out from laughing so much. The show begins with Romeo and Juliet, followed by Titus Andronicus, then Othello. Next a hilarious summarizing of the histories, then the comedies. And that’s only Act 1. Act 2 focuses on Hamlet, with some audience participation and a sped up version of the play.

Michael Gardner, Douglas Caldwell and Rusty Bringhurst perform in this fast-paced, never a dull moment, breaking the fourth wall production as themselves educating to us (the audience) about the Bard’s written works in a way that both adults and children will enjoy. They all give their one-hundred percent to their performances and never showed signs of slowing. And when the time came, they all have a knack of making the hall roar with laughter. Collectively, their comedic timing is flawless.

Caldwell sets the tone of the show by connecting with the audience and making a few “announcements.” He seems to find himself alone on stage, stalling, quite a few times. One of his stalling tactics was a comedic magic show. Another, he receives a phone call from fellow actor Gardner about Bringhurst, who ran out of the theater at the end of Act 1, and proceeds to tell the audience about Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

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Gardner is amusing as he takes on 13 of the Bard’s characters, including the honor of playing Hamlet in the second act. His high-strung persona has a bit of a breakdown in the second act, but it’s understandable, the audience is told, because, “He’s been through a lot.”

Bringhurst does not shy away from the physical comedy. Nor is he shy abut showing his feminine side, as he is stuck with all the female roles, garbed in a dress. He delivers his off-the-wall comedy and constant upchuck pantomime with grace, and quickly becomes an audience favorite.

You can tell that director Josh Richardson had a lot of fun putting together this show and its cast of crazies. “It is my humble hope that you have at least half as much fun as we’ve had putting this together,” he states in his Director’s Notes. Whether or not you have seen a single play of William Shakespeare’s, you will leave the theater with a smile on your face and maybe appreciate the playwright even more. This is a must see!

Editor’s Note: Every production of this is different as it states in the directions to be creative. (Thus, the magic show at the beginning, for instance.) So, even if you’ve seen this show before, be sure that this one will have many fun, fresh bits and you’ll enjoy it–a lot!

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Centerpoint Legacy Theatre, Leishman Performance Hall

525 North 400 West, Centerville, UT 84014

Phone: 801-298-1302

Show Runs: 9/19 – 10/11 @ 7 pm

Ticket pricing: $15

http://www.centerpointtheatre.org/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CenterPointLegacyTheatre

Steel Magnolias is Southern Hospitality in West Jordan

steel_magnolias_now_playing_utah_categoryBy Lorrinda Christensen

When someone mentions Steel Magnolias, my mind instantly travels back to the 1989 movie with Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and the red velvet armadillo cake. What most people don’t know is that before it was a movie, it was a play. Premiering in 1987, Steel Magnolias is about a group of Southern women in northwest Louisiana. The play, written by Robert Harling, is based on his experience with his sister’s death. Harling, wanting the audience to experience the ups and downs of his family’s experience, included humor and light-heartedness along with more serious moments.

The cast of Sugarhouse Factory Playhouse & West Jordan Theater Arts production of Steel Magnolias did an amazing job bringing this story to life. The play, set in the 80’s, takes place in a hair salon in Louisiana. Due to the size of Pioneer Hall, the building where the play was performed, I felt like I was sitting in the hair salon right along with the members of the cast. The set design included salon chairs, a hair washing sink and a manicure table, and had so much attention to detail – right down to the magazines with issues that were printed in the 80’s.

The performance of the cast made me feel like I was just another one of the girls sitting in the salon participating in their conversations. They had me laughing much of the time, though I found myself close to tears, as well, in the more poignant scenes. The transition between the funny moments and the serious ones was done very well.

JoAnn Galloway, who played Ouiser, had the audience laughing hysterically every time she walked onto the stage. Her comedic timing, along with that of other cast members, made the show fun to watch while dealing with the more serious topics of diabetes, kidney failure and death. Agnes Broberg, who played Clairee, was also hilarious and had me laughing the entire show. The cast seemed like they all got along really well and worked together as one unit, versus a group of six individuals. If I didn’t know any better, I would have believed that I was back in the South sitting in that salon with the rest of them. There was never a moment that I wasn’t fully engaged in the show.

Denise Gull, in her director’s notes, mentioned that this show inspired her to donate one of her kidneys. She says, “When directing, I always look for a show that has heart and soul. This one has more than its fair share, along with a healthy dose of humor and inspiration.” She goes on to tell the story of how she became a donor, and was able to donate one of her kidneys to a wonderful stranger. In fact, the topic of kidney donation is so dear to her, that while at the show there is an opportunity to donate to the National Kidney Foundation, and get information about other organ donation organizations.

Steel Magnolias has one more performance left: Sept 20 7:30 pm at Pioneer Hall, 1137 W 7800 S, in West Jordan. Tickets are $8 at the door.

Presented by Sugar Factory Playhouse and West Jordan Arts Council at West Jordan Pioneer Hall

The Grand’s Forever Plaid is Forever Grand

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By Dallon Thorup

Forever Plaid takes us on a time travel journey back to this sweeter, simpler life. These four guys are true believers: in music, in dreams, and in being a “Plaid.” Their world is filled with iconic images: Perry Como, after school jobs, Ed Sullivan, Latin rhythms, high school dances, and sing-alongs. They always strive to do their best because they think that’s how the rest of the world functions, too. And they also see the glass half full…of chocolate milk.”

Director Jim Christian says in his Director’s notes:
The thing I love about theatre is that it is a gamble. Whether you are seeing a show on a Broadway stage, Community stage, Semi-professional stage, or at a High School you never know what you are in for. Is this going to be good? Is this going to drag? Will I love it? Will I hate it? These thoughts always go through my head before I see a show.
Forever Plaid is a simple show to explain. THE PLAIDS have been given a shot to perform their show that they died heading to many years ago. You, as the audience member, are lucky enough to be the crowd they finally have the privilege of seeing their show they never go to perform.

The Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City at the Salt Lake Community College off of State Street and 1700 South was home to this amazing concert that I saw last night. Backstage at The Grand is what they called it. You, the audience, get to walk backstage as you enter the theatre and you sit in bleacher style seating (however they were extremely comfortable movie theatre style chairs) on the stage. You see everything onstage and offstage and it is truly a fun experience. The backdrop on the stage was beautiful and before the show even had begun, my roommate and I were feeling the energy of what was about to happen.

Let me introduce you to “The Plaids”
Sparky, portrayed by Jonathan Baker, was what I would call the lovable Plaid. He had a presence about him that was charming to watch and fun for the group to feed off of. His ability to show his joy singing the songs really drew me in as an audience member and made me believe that I was watching Sparky from The Plaids and not an actor on stage.
Jinx, portrayed by Nick Morris, had comedic timing that I found to be refreshingly genius and a voice that made me melt like butter. Particularly during “Cry” (one of the best numbers in the show) I was absolutely blown away by Jinx’s voice. Once again, I didn’t feel as if I was watching an actor.

Smudge, portrayed by B.J. Whimpley, had that bass voice that women swoon over. “Sixeen Tons/Chain Gang” not only gave me goosebumps like I’ve never had before, but those harmonies were to die for. Smudge finished that particular number with a booming amount of force, both in volume and precision and for that I could not have been happier.

Last but not least Frankie, portrayed by Mark Daniels, stole the show for me in one instant that actually brought a couple tears to my eye. In a show that is more of an amazing concert put on by this wonderful group of men, I did not expect to be blown away by a speech. I first must mention that Frankie is what I would call the poster child for The Plaids. If I would have been around in the 60′s and they were big, I’d expect to see Frankie’s face everywhere. He had something golden about him onstage throughout the entire performance that did not falter once in the show. His voice was spot on. His ability to bring camaraderie was astounding, and it really benefited everyone.

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The production team, everyone on it, needs a huge round of applause because I personally have not ever been so thoroughly entertained for a solid 90 minutes. Not once did I lose focus, not once did I wonder what time it was, not once did I wish that something was done differently, and quite frankly, I believe the audience may have felt the same way. My roommate and I couldn’t stop dancing in our seats and feeling the fun of the performance. Being able to feed off of the energy of the people on the stage was such a refreshing feeling, and I know it’s one that I truly love. So thank you Plaids for providing that energy.

All in all, I was truly sad when this show ended and we exited the theatre. I heard a few people say, “We need to see this again,” also “I wish it kept going.” My roommate even said, “I need to bring my girlfriend to see this. Luckily I have two more weeks.” I even said, “I need to take my family to this.” There is a buzz with this show, and it is all positive from what I’ve heard so far. Let this review be my second standing ovation for you, gentleman. You haven taken one of my all-time favorite shows and let me see it in a way I’ve never seen before. I didn’t see a show, I saw a concert put on by The Plaids and I’m honored they were brought back for one more night with us.

If you have the opportunity to see this show, don’t hesitate. It can not be missed.

The Grand Theatre
1575 South State St. Salt Lake City, UT 84115

Show runs September 11-27th @ 7:30 PM
Matinee shows on Sept. 13, 20, and 27 @ 2:00 PM

Tickets $14-$20
Purchase tickets online at http://the-grand.org/events/current/forever-plaid, at the door, or call the box office at 801-957-3322

Love, Forgiveness and Strength Reign in Wasatch Theatre’s The Color Purple

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By Michael Nielsen

Paraphrasing a line delivered by the main character, Celie, “If God listened to a poor, black woman, the world would be a different place”. And watching this intriguing and touching show about a poor, black woman WILL change you. This production has so many shining and poignant moments, but is definitely driven by the tremendous characterization of Celie, portrayed by Latoya Rhodes. From her beginnings as a 14-year-old pregnant and abused girl, through forced marriage and many, many hard times, Rhodes’ body language and exquisite turn of phrase keep the audience completely involved and wanting to know what happens to her next (over a 40-year period.) We hope that she finds the strength to love and be loved.

The cast is full of talented and hardworking actors, most portraying more than one character and doing justice to them all. Never did I see anyone on stage drop character or not be completely involved in the scene. There is so much that happens, I am hesitant to try and explain the plot or the many twists and turns. Just know that this cast and production team have put together a show that will keep you watching and waiting for the next emotional interaction, whether between fellow church goers, father and daughters, husbands and wives or the patrons of the Honkey Tonk. Special note should be given to Terry Lee Hicks, playing Harpo, who transforms from arrogant young man to loving husband and friend. Erika Richardson as Sophia brings humor and strength to a story where the women are treated as second-rate humans and as property, eliciting great response from the audience. Shug, played enticingly by Malinda Money, shows how a woman can be sexy and strong but still with her own vulnerabilities. My only regret with Ms. Money was that her voice wasn’t quite strong enough in the lower ranges to soar over the crows in the Honkey Tonk scene (the ONE time I felt a microphone could be utilized). The scenes between Shug and Celie helped both characters grow while endearing them to us without being cloying or superficial. In all, the casting was excellent, with no truly weak performances. If time allowed I could praise them all, since each had at least one brilliant moment and never a bad one.

Technically, the show was very well produced and executed. Director/choreographer William Cooper Howell (along with assistant director/choreographer Stewart Fullerton) did an amazing job of taking a difficult performance space and a potentially intimidating large production, making it personal and intimate with just the right amount of “big” musical numbers. With a three-quarter audience and no backstage or even stage entrances, the action flowed smoothly and seamlessly, which is no small feat for a show that spans some forty years and many fluid relationships. One of my favorite directing moments comes near the end. Not wanting to spoil the show, I will only tell you that Howell allowed honest and real timing when lost relatives reunite. Avoiding the directorial instinct to “keep the action moving,” the embraces were almost uncomfortably long, yet that made them all the more real and emotional. Many moments were given the time needed, but never did I feel time or action was wasted or important lines thrown away. The movement, staging and African dancing were always fun to watch, enticing and perfectly appropriate for the story and the space.

Kit Anderson (set design) and Ann Davis (props) kept the feel very minimal, but functional and relevant. The simple set of one wall with wooden chairs hanging haphazardly (which were taken down and replaced as needed by the actors) gave color and texture without having to “set” any scenes. Lighting Design (Danny Dunn) helped a relatively bare set serve many locations and periods without announcing where they were (also complemented by the staging.) And, though they are a rarely seen aspect of a production, it was obvious that the Stage Manager (Kris Bushman) and Assistant Stage Manager (Nikki Brown) kept the flow running through the rehearsals and the run of the show–NOT an easy task when dealing with theatre personalities! Linda Eyring’s Costume Design was also simple but effective. Ms. Eyring resisted the temptation to constantly change entire outfits as the years passed, and the clothes had the patina of wear and tear that was so crucial to the characters’ lives. One could easily forgive the occasional wrong length of skirt or style of lapel for a certain time period, knowing that it was preferable to waiting for costume changes and sacrificing the action.

Overall, the musical performances were spot on, and filled with the emotion and feeling needed in the often Gospel style music. There were times when parts of the many a capella solos and numbers drifted a bit from pitch and key, but the messages still shone through. Being close to the action, I think I was able to hear most each member singing at some point, and each had strong, resonant vocals which were obviously well coached. I do wish that I could have understood a few more of the lyrics, but I wonder if that was more the style of the music than the actual enunciation of the words. It certainly wasn’t enough to distract of negate the performances! Again, I won’t go in to the details of the story–most probably know it from the movie. Suffice it to say that you WILL laugh, cry, hurt, yearn and love as you watch this poor black woman make her way through life.

The Color Purple

Wasatch Theatre Company

Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (138 West 300 South), SLC

Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through September 27th at 8:00 PM. There are also 2:00 PM Saturday matinees on September 20th and 27th. Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased at www.arttix.org or by calling

C’est Moi! Camelot at the Empress

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By: Dallon Thorup
“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.” And there are more than one bright shining moment at The Empress Theatre in Magna, Utah.

One of the most exciting things for me when going to The Empress is walking into the house and seeing how they’ve transformed the stage. As my roommate Todd and I peeked through the curtain, it was clear we were in for two hours of pure Medieval fun.
King Arthur, played by Matt Green, gave a splendid performance. His interpretation of the character seemed very real and it really came through in scenes with the other characters on stage. Bravo Matt, very impressive and well done performance.

Guenevere, played by Emalee Easton, commanded the stage from the moment she stepped on the floor until the bows at the end. Her voice was golden. She was the first character to have me seeing some of the lighter moments at the beginning of the musical. Lancelot, played by Zac Freeman, absolutely stole the show for me. His character choices were spot on, and each scene between him and Arthur, and especially him and Guenevere were the most fun to watch.
Merlyn and Mordred were both played by Geoffrey Gregory and he did a marvelous job playing separate characters with precision. If it weren’t for the program telling me, I’d have had no clue he was playing both. I must also add that “The Seven Deadly Virtues” was by far the best musical number in Act 2.

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Tanya Rasmussen (Nimue and Lady Margaret) can be summed up in two words from her performance af the Act 1 show stealer “Follow Me” …she was Breathtakingly Beautiful! The costume, the lighting, her voice, it is just all too magical to put down in writing.

King Pellinore, played by Derek Green, gave an excellent interpretation of the character. You can always tell when an actor truly invests a lot of time into a role, and he did just that.
The rest of the cast: Ryan Bullock, Josh Astle, Jake Anderson, Sasha Nugter, Rebecca Waite, Devin Johnson, and Deborah Searcy all gave such great performances. I was slightly worried that with a cast of only thirteen it was going to be hard to enjoy, but it was marvelous. You all kept me, my roommate, and the audience thoroughly entertained.

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Nathan and Rachael Rasmussen have directed an absolutely fun, magical, and fantastic show here.They also did set design, Rachael did costumes (gorgeous!) Curtis Bailey did a fine job for light and sound design. The Empress’ Camelot was pretty close to perfect in my opinion, except for a couple things that would have taken it from excellent to outstanding. King Arthur’s sketchy microphone in the beginning had some issues and I lost half the song. Also unfortunate because his voice is so beautiful. Not too sure why Merlyn had a brown beard instead of a white one…just a personal thing there that threw me off.

Curtis Bailey for light and sound design

The two biggest things that lost my interest in the show was the age of King Pellinore. It was hard for me, and a few others in the audience I noticed, to see a twenty-something playing an elderly man. He gave an amazing performance with it, however, it was almost too distracting for me personally and my suspension of disbelief was damaged and I didn’t believe the scenes.

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My roommate (who loved the show) turned to me during “Guenevere” at the end of Act 2 and said, “That was anti-climactic.” Which, sadly, I do agree with that. So much intensity builds up in the show that the finale did feel a little misguided. It could have been nerves, or loss of energy, but even though that part wasn’t what I’d hoped for, in general, Camelot should not be missed.

The Empress Theatre presents: Camelot
Directed by: Nathan and Rachael Rasmussen
Performances Sept. 12, 13, 15, 19, 20, 22, 25, 26, 27 Oct. 3, 4 at 7:30p.m.
Matinee Sept. 20 at 2:00p.m.

Tickets $10.00
Purchase online at www.empresstheatre.com or call the box office at 801-347-7373
9104 West 2700 South Magna, UT 84044

The SCERA’s Addams Family is Fun for your whole Family

af2By MH Thomas

The Addams Family: A NEW MUSICAL COMEDY  (a Utah Valley premiere) is a creepy, kooky way to usher in the Halloween season. Director Shawn M. Mortensen had fun with his spooky subject. It is evident throughout the production that he paid attention to detail in every way so those of us who grew up watching The Addams Family on television would be pleased. For me, this show is kind of a walk down memory lane. They are all there: from Morticia and Gomez and the children to Lurch, Fester and Grandmama. Cousin It and Thing even make brief appearances. The plot of this new musical comedy introduces us to some new characters that make the fun times really begin.

Yes, there is the expected finger snapping as the curtain goes up. Lurch (played by David Henry) presents a very imposing figure with fog swirling around him in the moonlight. He is standing in the graveyard with the members of the Addams Family.

It seems that there is something going on in the family and daughter Wednesday (Morgan Flandro) speaks to her father about her romance with a young man who is not like them, Lucas played by Brandon Haden. Gomez (Jack Stokes) does not know what to do. He is pulled between keeping his daughter’s confidence and wanting to confide the secret to his wife. Pugsley (Mitch Bandley) does not like the thought of losing his sister to this stranger. Their father Gomez is not the only who is confused. Wednesday is discovering things and feelings that are foreign to the way that she grew up. As Wednesday sings about her feelings, you can’t help but admire her strong voice and impressive facial expressions. Lucas and his parents are invited to spend the evening in the Addams’ Mansion. Alice (Delaybe Bluth Dayton) and Mal (Spencer Powell) Beineke are not altogether certain they want to go through with dinner with the Addams Family. Mal blusters and Alice recites silly little off the cuff poems. Dayton‘s Alice is convincingly ditzy. Fester (Patrick Brannelly) is a character who is all about love. He enlists the help of the ancestors to assist the young couple as they come to terms with each other and try to win over the support of their respective families. Fester is played with a light-hearted innocence and a sense of fun.

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Shelly Stewart Truax does a fine job of portraying Morticia. We found her performance to be the creepiest of the evening. She also displays a sense of her own awareness of her place as the undeniably desirable (at least in the minds of she and her husband) queen of the family. All kinds of hilarity ensues as the dinner party progresses. We learn of secret loves and secrets kept. The young couple struggles to understand each other. The families have a hard time accepting all that is going on around them. The ancestors do their best to keep the lovers on track. Will the families accept this unorthodox union?

Grandma (Brandi Washburn) is a delightful and funny part of the musical. Her sense of timing and her movement are quirky and charming—in a spooky way. We enjoyed her interactions Pugsley. Through the show, Lurch (David Henry) mutters and grunts incoherently. As the show is coming to an end, we discover that he actually has a lovely voice and that he can sing real, understandable words.

The ensemble is made up of Addams ancestors from various times in the past. They are an integral part of this performance. Their singing is spot on and truly impressive. Their costumes and makeup are excellent and their singing and dancing very enjoyable.

Congratulations to music director, Kellsey Mariner Thacker for an excellent job. The costumes (Deborah Bowman) and hair and makeup (Danielle Berry) are exceptional. We cannot forget the choreographer, Shawn M. Mortensen, who brought creepily fun movement to the production. The technical director, Nat Reed, also does a great job with all the special effects. The set by M’Liss Tollman is stunning.

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One thing we found confusing was the use of Gomez’s Spanish accent. Sometimes it was there and sometimes it was not. We wondered if this was a deliberate choice, but we did not see a clear pattern.

Our assessment of this production can be expressed in two words: Girl Power! Although we enjoyed all the performances, we felt that the women were stronger in their acting and singing. Way to go, ladies. You are very talented.

There were many children in attendance and for the most part, this is a family show, with a few suggestive comments. If you like fun, creepy Halloween plays, go the the SCERA. You won’t be disappointed.

September 12 – October 4
Times: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays. Show starts @ 7:30 PM Doors open @ 7:00 PM

AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETATION: The show will be interpreted in American Sign Language on Thursday, September 18th. If you know someone who might need this service, please help us spread the word. Seating for this show is reserved, so please let us know you will be attending and how many are in your group at least 24 hours in advance by sending an email to april@scera.org.

Prices: ALL SEATS RESERVED To purchase tickets, call (801) 225-ARTS or click the BUY TICKETS button at the bottom of this page. If seating is available, you may also purchase tickets at the door 30 minutes prior to each show. $12 Adult $10 Child (age 3-11) $10 Senior (age 65+) Location: SCERA Center: Showhouse II 745 South State Street, Orem, UT 84058

Pioneer Theater Company’s Spelling Bee is a Winner!

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By Jennifer Mustoe and Caden Mustoe

For many years, Caden and I have heard the song, “My Friend, The Dictionary” on various Broadway show tunes stations, and laughed and wished we could see The 25th Annual Putnam County SPELLING BEE. Friday night, our wish came true. And how.

For those who’ve never seen the show, it is indeed about a spelling bee. All the actors portray much younger people, and are supposed to be in grade school. But each character explains their issues in a way that a child might, but also with the heart-rending clarity of an adult struggling to overcome these issues.

The characters, one by one, explain who they are and several of them proclaim why it’s important they win the bee. There are three “adults” in the show and they, too, share their reasons for being at the bee and what their struggles are. Artistic director Karen Azenburg uses her talent brilliantly. Though this show is slightly unbelievable, I wanted it to be real and it’s because its director made it so.

Rona Lisa Peretti, the bee officiator, is played winningly (slight pun!) by Mary Fanning Driggs. She has that little quirk that all people in charge have, the little smug smile, the little twinkle in her eye that lets you know she is Running This Spelling Bee. Ms. Driggs was perfect for the part (and get used to the word perfect, as I will say it a lot in this review) because though she was authoritative, she was warm and sweet and slightly vulnerable, too.

Jeff Talbot plays the co-officiator Douglas Paunch. Lucky Talbot gets a lot of the funniest lines when they spellers ask for definitions of the words and then sentences to explain the words. Of course, one of my favorites is the word “cow.” See the show. You’ll get what I mean. Talbot is very good with his dry humor and quick wit. He was perfectly cast.

The third adult is Mitch Mahoney, played by Erick Pinnick, who is the Counselor for the kids who mess up in the bee and have to leave. (And “The Goodbye Song” for the losers is really funny, with great choreography by Daniel Pelzig.) Pinnick has a great voice and is really entertaining. And he did seem to comfort those who had to leave the bee. I thought he might be a throw away character, but he becomes much more important as the bee continues. To our delight.

The kids are all wonderful. As we drove home, we talked about each one and realized we couldn’t really choose a favorite–they’re all so cute and funny and real.

Chip Tolentino, the previous year’s bee winner, is played Jacob Hoffman. After Chip disgraces himself slightly and loses his spot in the competition, he is “forced” to come into the audience to sell candy and that was really cute. Even though I know Hoffman is an adult, he was a really cute kid and believable, too.

Elise Groves plays lisping Logainne (pronounced Logan) Schwartzandgrubenierre (and I just figured out why she has that unusually long last name but won’t tell you because you need to see the show.) Logainne has many reasons why she needs to win the bee and her problems and even heartbreak regarding winning (and other things) is very obvious and clear to the audience. Ms. Groves is fantastic (how can you sing with that pronounced lisp?) and a delight on stage.

Leaf Coneybear is darlingly played by Austin Archer. We loved his portrayal. Really loved it. How can you not fall in love with a kid who shows up to the bee in a cape and a tie dye shirt and has that cute little boy wonder Archer brings to Leaf? One word describes Archer’s Leaf: adorable.

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Kendal Sparks’ William Barfee (pronounced bar-FAY) is so fun. His Magic Foot song is one of the best in the show, with my favorite choreographed dance. I was drawn to Sparks’ portrayal of the science-spelling geek. I am no scientist, but have my own geek personality quirks that made me relate to his finely-drawn character.

Over-achieving Marcy Park, played by Shannon Tyo was great. Her song and dance “I Speak Six Languages” was exhaustingly darling. Tyo has great pipes and her physicality makes her portrayal unbelievably believable. Wow.

We have a special love for Olive Ostrovsky, who sings the Dictionary song. Emily Walton brings a sweet tenderness and vulnerability to Olive, from the way she stands, her strident voice as she sings, and her very real hurts. I admit, I wanted her to win. Did she? I’m not telling. See the show.

Part of Spelling Bee is four audience members were chosen to be in the show as spellers. And this bit was awesome, and the audience member spellers were all really great, getting into the dances and singing along. (We weren’t picked, though we wanted to be. <slight pout>)

The set, designed by Daniel Meeker combined with the lighting by Michael Gilliam was amazing. It looked like a real gym (without the smell.)

Props to musical director Helen Gregory. All her singers were amazing. Everyone had great voices and I could understand each word clearly, even those sung by Logainne.

There are a few non-PG moments and a few swears. But I would really recommend this show to any kid, maybe 8 or older, who loves musicals. It’s two hours long, but it’s a quick two hours and zips by. It does start at 8:00, so if you have kids who turn into pumpkins at 9 o’clock sharp, they may need to miss this one. However, do go see this show. You will laugh and also be touched by the fun and sweetness that is wrapped up in this show.

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The 25th Annual Putman County SPELLING BEE

Pioneer Theatre Company, University of Utah
300 S. 1400 E. SLC, UT 84112
801-581-6961

Evening show times, Monday through Thursday is 7:30pm. Friday and Saturday evenings are at 8:00 pm and Saturday Matinee is at 2pm.

Prices from $38-$64

Pre-Opening “Review” Of The Color Purple

By Austin Archer

NOTE: This doesn’t often happen that one of our reviewers gets to see a show before its opening. We do have a reviewer (Michael Nielsen) scheduled to do a review this weekend. However, reviewer Austin Archer was so impressed with The Color Purple‘s chops one full week before it opened, we want to give you a little something now and you can read Michael’s review this weekend.

First things first: THIS IS NOT A REVIEW. Ok, it sort of is. But not really because I’ll be talking about a show I saw a full week before its opening, so let’s call it a pre-review. So, let me tell you what show I’m not reviewing. Last week I was treated to a special run through of Wasatch Theatre Company’s production of The Color Purple, which opens this weekend. If you’re in the theatre world you know how many glitches can happen during the rehearsal/full run/tech-hell week phase, so I’ll completely omit any and all hiccups.

Now for the good stuff:
First (and most importantly), do I think you should buy a ticket to see this show? Abso-flippin-lutely! I saw the show with no lighting design to aid in communicating the passage of time, no costumes to help immerse me in the time period, an un-finished set, and some sound issues. Even with all those cards seemingly stacked against it, I was laughing, cheering, and sob-crying (like audibly, and more than once–I was embarrassed.) I won’t bore you with a re-cap of the plot, I’ll let you see for yourself what it’s all about when you get to the Rose Wagner Studio Theatre in downtown SLC. Suffice it to say, I had never read the book or seen the movie, and I followed the plot from start to finish without a problem, so you should be fine.

The young, up and coming director Cooper Howell has a real knack for instilling a lot of heart and passion into the ensembles he puts together. I got to watch him work with them as a director, as this was still a rehearsal, and I found his approach fresh, energetic, and very collaborative. I’m sure this makes the actors feel like they are the sculptors, too, not simply the materials being sculpted. It gives everyone a stake in the project, and raises the game of all involved. Stewart Fullerton’s choreography is amazing! It’s sharp, clean, culturally on point, and well-researched movement. Music Director Jaron Barney had his cast belting to the rafters, and singing tight church choir harmonies with all the right dynamics. I can not overstate how impressive the vocals are in this show.

I’d go into more detail here, but as I stated earlier, this is not a review, and if you want that information you’ll just have to check out Michael Nielsen’s actual review of the show coming soon. In the mean time, you have two and a half weeks to get yourself to the Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center to catch this stellar show that runs September 11-27!

 

The Echo’s Streetcar Deserves your Desire

SC7By Jennifer Mustoe

The Echo Theater in Provo has consistently presented quality theater in its wonderful space. On Saturday, my husband, son and I went to their smaller space, The Echo Microbox Theater Project, across the street to see their excellent production of A Streetcar Named Desire. None of us had ever seen it, but who hasn’t seen the Marlon Brando scene where he is screaming, “Stella”? No one in the free world, I’d bet.

In this small space (Microbox is well-named), it is intimate and very in-your-face. And since Streetcar isn’t a comedy, be prepared for this show to pull you through some strong emotions and leave you feeling unsettled. It isn’t a happy show. Tennessee Williams isn’t known for his fun plot lines. But in true Williams’ fashion, this play causes us to look at ourselves, ponder, question and hopefully resolve some of those questions–about our relationships, our lives, how we look at others and other deep subjects that should be pondered from time to time.

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There wasn’t a weak actor in the bunch. Stanley, played by Trevor Christensen, took this complicated, violent, fiercely loving man and did him proud. In some scenes, his intensity made it difficult to watch, but who could look away? His layers were palpable, distressing and very real. Ali Kinkade was perfect as Blanche Dubois, Stella’s older (by how many years?) sister. Without revealing any spoilers, her last scene is frighteningly touching. Kinkade showed Blanche so fragile, so needy, so ashamed, she made my family and I hurt. A lot. Stella, Stanley’s equally passionate wife, and sister to Blanche, played by Heidi Anderson–who also did the marvelous costuming–was amazing. Again, her last scene as she sobbed was her best, but that only means that her whole performance was very, VERY good. (After the show, it was obvious the toll this performance took on her. She was fragile and unsteady–as this kind of play forces you to be as an actor, if you do it right. She did it right.) The long-suffering Mitch was endearingly played by Michael Hanks. Hanks has a tough role to get a hold 0f. Not as violent by half as Stanley, he goes from sweet, loving and hopeful to ragingly menacing in the last act of the play. Hanks does this well and seeing his shame at this behavior made him lovable and pitiful. An excellent performance.

The other cast members were just as fabulous and I only wished that all could be principles. I will look for them in local theater and hope they are able to land leading roles in their next shows. They were all spot on perfect. They were: Eunice (McKenzie Steele Foster), Steve/Young Man (Nick Estrada), Neighbor/Flower Vendor/Matron (Rachael Noxon), Pablo/Tamale Vendor/Doctor (Francisco Acosta.)

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Director David Liddell Thorpe handled this play with a deft and compassionate hand. There is much movement in this small space (don’t lounge in the front row with your feet out–you’ll get kicked) without it looking messy or mooshy. It was at times chaotic, but it’s supposed to be.

The Echo and its sister space are on 100 East in Provo. I have to smile at what patrons of local restaurants think of Thorpe’s choice to use the front window and the OUTSIDE OF THE THEATER as part of his stage. Yes, Stanley is OUTSIDE when he’s screaming. “Stella!” My family and I loved this device. An innovative and unexpected use of this area.

I am not going to give you a synopsis of the storyline. You can find that on Wikepedia and I would imagine most patrons are familiar with what happens in Streetcar anyway.

I HIGHLY recommend this production. It is inexpensive and well worth the price. The audience was small and this is a shame. This show deserves a packed house every performance. Because of its very deep, adult themes and in-your-face domestic violence, I would say this show is for mature teens and up.

A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams

September 4th thru 20th – Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30 PM

THE ECHO’S MICROBOX THEATRE PROJECT, 15 N 100 East, Provo 84606

$8.00, discounts for seniors, students and military.