Utah Rep’s Rabbit Hole Takes You Down to the Darkness of Grief–Beautifully

Review by Dallon Thorup

Why do we go to the theatre? It’s a question that has many answers. For me, I go to the theatre to feel things I don’t normally allow myself to feel in normal day to day dealings. I went to Rabbit Hole knowing nothing of the show, only that I’d need tissues handy, which I failed to bring with me. I had prepared myself, as best as I could, to deal with some heavy-hitting material.

Director JayC Stoddard has beautifully taken what was written on the page and constructed a very raw, riveting, emotionally charged, high octane plunge into the grieving process of each and every character brought to life in this show. JayC pieced every character so appropriately I felt like this was not a play, but a real life event I had intruded on.

Rusty Bringhurst and Ali Lente play a grieving couple, Howie and Becca, both at different places in the grieving process. Jillian Joy plays Izzy, Becca’s sister. Vicki Pugmire is Nat, the mother to Becca and Izzy. They are all in different stages of grief following the tragedy. Then we have Jared John Tuckett playing Jason. The only one connected to the tragedy outside of the family unit.

Jared John Tuckett as Jason brought an intense amount of sincerity to his performance. The choices he made were very clear as to why he made them, and my heart broke for his character. Although he seemed a bit timid and shy in places, it felt more like a character choice over nerves, and I thought it absolutely worked.

Vicki Pugmire as Nat was perfectly cast. Her interpretation of the character was so spot on it felt real. Nothing Vicki did was forced. The few times she was on stage she commanded it at all the appropriate times and always kept you enthralled. Her mix of humor and sadness was well balanced; not one emotion ever over powered the other.

Jillian Joy as Izzy was such a delight. Every second she was on stage she was Izzy. It’s rare to see someone own their character as well as Jillian did. So much honesty was portrayed in this role that I forgot that she was only a character.

Rusty Bringhurst as Howie was beyond brilliant. There is not one word that can sum up the amount of talent that came from this mans performance. Rusty gave, in my opinion, the most honest, tear-jerking, heart-wrenching, absolutely wonderful performance of the entire night. His performance alone is reason enough to go see this show. The intensity, the emotion, the passion and dedication behind every character choice made was brilliant. Rusty was convincing in all he did every second he was on that stage.

Costume Designer Nancy Susan Cannon, Lighting Designer Blake Delwisch, Sound Designer James Hansen, Set Designer Justin Jenkins, and Scenic Arts Designer Amanda Ruth Wilson created an environment that made me feel like I was watching real life. The set is just an interior of a living room, no mics, simple lighting. It was all simplistically done as to not draw focus from the actors. It’s where the reality of it all came into play. Even the costumes. It was all modern, simple, and just real. That’s the best word to describe everything about this show. Gut wrenchingly honest and real.

Ali Lente as Becca played, in my opinion, one of the greatest interpretations of any character I’ve had the privilege of witnessing. From beginning to end, from every line and every action, from every tear and every giggle her character expressed, I wasn’t watching a show. I was watching something real. Ali was spot on in all she did. I felt so much pain and heart ache for her. I also felt happy for her. Every emotion she had, I felt I shared it with her. Ali could not have been any better.

Everyone together in this show was magical. I was taken on an emotional journey, and in the end I felt so happy to be a part of it. I recommend this show to everyone! If I missed this show, knowing how absolutely outstanding it is, I’d be crushed.

This is truly a great production and if you get the chance to see it, don’t pass it up.

Utah Repertory Theatre Presents Rabbit Hole at Midvale Main Street Theatre

7711 South Main Street
Midvale, UT 84047

May 8-24 7:30 PM

Purchase tickets online at:
www.UtahRep.org

At “Times Like This”… “It’s Good to be Alive!” A Review of Echo Theatre’s Production of Lucky Stiff

lsLucky stiff cast

The Whole Cast at Curtain Call

By Megan Graves

I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of Lucky Stiff at the Echo Theatre. The musical comedy starts with a shoe salesman (played exceptionally well by Travis Wright) leaving his lackluster workaday world to fulfill the dying wishes of his eccentric uncle. During his fumbling attempts to answer the requirements of the will, he experiences hilarious mishaps and some near-death escapes from eccentric ‘villains’ that leave the audience roaring with laughter. We were constantly reminded in both funny and poignant ways throughout the play that it is “good to be alive.”

At the beginning of the play, I was impressed by the variety of costumes, but then was even more impressed by the diversity in the cast’s character depictions and accents. A broad range of unique actors lit up the stage with colorful costumes and varied, well-performed dialects throughout the play. One costume choice was particularly clever and doubled as a prop—a skirt that was decorated like a roulette table and spun with the actress when the cast was gambling in Monte Carlo.

With its dramatic caricatures, zany plot, expressive acting, fun and silly dance moves, people in disguise, unusual connections between characters, and a surprise plot twist at the end, the entire play was enjoyable and reminded me of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. To give just one example of a similarity Lucky Stiff has to the historical comic duo’s infamous satirical comedies, the audience was cracking up at the solo by Annabel Glick (Randilee Warner). In the song, she starts out wishing for someone to be excited to see her when she comes home, and then sings, “At times like this, a girl could use…a dog.”

Even though it is a comedy, Lucky Stiff does have some underlying poignant themes as well, such as these: live life to the fullest, take risks, don’t be embarrassed about wearing glasses because they could prevent you from shooting someone accidentally, and make sure not to lose a corpse that you take with you on vacation—important life lessons.

Sarah Bingham, one of the audience members at opening night, said, “The music was fun and catchy, and got stuck in my head easily. I also liked how the storyline had different twists and turns – it kept it interesting!” She also said, “The ensemble put it over the top – they really made it enjoyable. Luigi Gaudi (Lucas Proctor) was very outgoing and into the character he played, doing jazz hands, etc. Even though it was cheesy and corny at times, it worked!”

When asked what he enjoyed most about helping to direct the play, Archie Crisanto, the assistant director, said he loved working with the ensemble on character development. “It takes a really good actor to really own a character – make it more than what it is. I told [the ensemble actors] we wanted the audience to fight over which character was their favorite.”*

However, choosing a favorite ensemble character was almost impossible. They did an excellent job in all of their incredibly different roles, even with multiple quick costume and character changes. One minute an actor was an arrogant bellhop hinting persuasively for a generous tip, and the next minute was a hunchback in a nightmare; one minute an actress was a light-hearted dancing French girl, and the next minute a greedy nun. Yes, you read that right, a greedy nun.

Even the “lucky stiff” (Wayne Bohman – who played dead spectacularly well the whole show) got to reveal a bit of his character and danced ballet in the nightmare scene, leaving the audience in side-splitting laughter as a result. A lot of mid-20th century musicals have a dream scene that is meant to visually represent a quandary a main character is in. I usually skip over dream scenes in old recorded musicals, but this scene in Lucky Stiff was quite possibly one of the wackiest and most interesting scenes in the play. Crisanto said his favorite part was that nightmare scene, because he thought that number came together the best, and also because “[every person has] anxiety about something or other.”

My favorite on stage duo was the New Jerseyian brother–sister team played by Briana Shipley and Jordan Kramer. Their accents were spot on and they were hilarious! Briana’s voice was equal parts strong and zany, just like her character. The leads had great chemistry as well when they were singing, and Randilee Warner’s voice was amazing. In my opinion, this was a stellar cast, including the ensemble. My only suggestion is that some actors needed to feel a bit more comfortable in their characters’ shoes and then exude that confidence on stage. Granted, it was their first official night, so the opening night jitters could have contributed to a little character shakiness during dialogue and singing voices that were sometimes too soft to hear. When the actors sang loudly, however, their confidence and characterization lit up the stage.

The accompanist, John Taylor Sargeant, was another highlight of the show. It was obvious he was thoroughly enjoying himself. Amazingly he played with sunglasses on the entire time, imitating the lucky stiff on stage. He also played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue during intermission, which not only fit with the near chaos and delicate balance of the plot, but was also a difficult piece he played extremely well!

All in all it was a very fun, enjoyable experience and an energetic show. I highly recommend you go see it and support this up and coming new local theatre.

Just so you are aware, the play does contain some PG-13 moments, such as one or two swear words, alcoholic drinks, gambling, and cross-dressing (reminiscent of Shakespearean plays… except for the fact that this disguise is unnecessary to the plot and just intended to make us laugh, which it did), and at one point – spoiler alert – the two leads wake up together. Though their romance would have been much cuter and appealing without this part of the plot, the actors are so incredibly and hilariously awkward and shocked after they wake up and realize what happened, with her insisting “I’m not the type of person that goes out and has ‘fun!’”— that in a way it fits with the zany situations and awkward circumstances that characterize the plot.

The Echo Theatre is located at 15 North 100 East in Provo, Utah, in the quaint old Carnegie/Provo Library building, 2nd floor. Parking in downtown Provo can be tricky to find, but we were able to find free parking in the Wells Fargo parking structure a little North of the theatre and in the same city block.

Lucky Stiff runs through May 8 – May 30, M,Th,F,& S, 7:30pm, with a matinee May 23 at 2:30pm. Prices range from $8-12, including special discounts available for Seniors, Students, and even Teachers on certain nights. See this website for more details and to buy tickets: http://www.theechotheatre.com/luckystifftix.html

*quotes paraphased

John Taylor Sargeant was an excellent accompanist.

John Taylor Sargeant was an excellent accompanist.

Archie Crisanto Megan Graves Andrea Mullen

Ensemble Cast Member Andrea Mullen, Assistant Director Archie Crisanto, and I after the show

lucky stiff leads 2

Randilee Warner and Travis Wright

Lucky stiff leads

Travis Wright and Randilee Warner

SDT’s Young Sherlock is Worth Investigating!

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By Rachel Summerhalder

Tonight I had to opportunity to see Salty Dinner Theater’s production of Young Sherlock at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Orem, and I loved every minute of it! This was my first time experiencing dinner theater of any type, and I’m very glad I got to be with this group for that. As we entered the back room at the restaurant, we chose one of three entrees for our meal (there are different procedures for dinner depending on the restaurant where you see the show and dinner is NOT included in the ticket price) and were greeted and sat by members of the cast. At the table we were given a piece of paper to select “who-done-it” and what their punishment should be, as well as a list and description of the main characters of the show. As the wait staff came around and took our orders, the cast spent the time mingling with the audience. It was highly entertaining (my mother had a very fun, if somewhat confusing conversation with Watson that was a joy to watch) and it really lent itself to the more casual atmosphere of dinner theater and set the tone for what we were about to see.

The show began with an introduction and song by the character Officer Bumbledarling. It was quickly followed by a murder, one cop closing the case, another who thinks it shouldn’t be closed, and a pretty girl who needs help to solve the murder. Which brings our main character, Sherlock Holmes, who embarks on a quest to determine who the murder is and to make them face punishment for their crimes. I don’t want to give too much away as it is a mystery, and one that we as audience are asked to solve at the end, but there is romance, fighting, humor, and a lot of really amazing accents! There also audience competitions, where the winner receives 2 free tickets to their next production (ours was a dance off, and I won! Woot, woot!)

The costumes were all gorgeously done and fit the time period of the piece extremely well. The actors were always in character when they were in the room, even when they were conversing with the audience or being goofy for the sake of a laugh. I was impressed with every actor in the show and well they took the character and made it their own. You could see the work that each cast member put into their character, and added to the professionalism of the show. There were great jokes for adults to laugh but it was also appropriate for the children in the room.

I loved this production, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children. They have 4 more performances of this delightful show, and you should definitely go see one of them.

Salty Dinner Theater

Young Sherlock

Various Restaurants Throughout Utah

Visit Their Website for More Information on Locations

May 11th, 12th, 13th, and 15th at 7:00 PM

$15 for adults $8 for children

801-262-5083

info@saltydinnertheater.com

 saltydinnertheater.com

 

Nunsense is Black and White and Awesome All Over!

nunsense

By Joel Applegate

The great thing about Nunsense at the Covey Center through May 23rd is the energy that all five women ably and convincingly deliver to delighted audiences. I and my playgoer friend walked out at the end of the performance on heavenly clouds of satisfaction. The direction by Robinne Boothe was concise and kept the action moving with nary a stodgy moment to be seen. And Joni Newman‘s choreography was really great; always interesting to watch with more than a few calculatedly goofy sight gags.
Our troop of Sisters has stars in their eyes and decidedly secular sensibilities. All take on multiple responsibilities, combining into five dynamic women. Nunsense is filled with eclectic fun tunes that know their way around a ragtime beat, a big band harmony, or a Broadway belt with a soupcon of soul and blues. I caught myself impulsively tapping my foot before I knew it.

Plain spoken, our Mother Superior Sister Regina, helmed by Robinne Boothe again, emcees the nun’s talent show telling the evening’s patrons that Mount Saint Helen’s Catholic school for girls is in need of some cash. It would spoil things to say why, but believe me when I say it’s hilarious. (Think frozen penguins.)

Boothe’s Mother Superior foreshadows sly, deliberate puns with her sardonic delivery – no forgiveness requested or needed. There’s wonderful rapport and chemistry between Booth and Rachel Orme as Sister Mary Hubert, her second in command and mistress of the novices.

Our novice is Sister “gotta dance” Leo, played by Joni Newman with sweet abandon fully embracing her silliness. In “The Way I Pray” Newman is a cute and energetic Sister who really has some classical ballet moves.

Michelle McManus as Sister Mary Amnesia was affecting and oddly vulnerable. She used her voice well, though her lovely soprano struggled a bit at the top as she appeared to be experiencing a slight throat ailment. We wish her all the best.

I have to say I was most truly impressed by the chops of Skye Cummins as Sister Robert Anne, the street-wise former New Yorker. (Full disclosure: some bias may creep in here as my front row seat was perfectly placed to offer my lap – for a moment all too brief – to the dear Sister.) In her sparkly shoes, she showed her range as a soloist, in the ensemble and in the show’s one moving ballad. Wasted as an understudy, Sister Robert prevails upon Mother Superior to let her have the spotlight, and it was well earned.

The Covey’s set, designed by Dan James is the school gymnasium cleverly outfitted with set pieces and a basketball hoop, a Marilyn Monroe poster (with parts strategically covered) and a poster of Grease, the school musical. Tonight however, it’s a fundraiser for the school, introduced by Father Myopia – the archery instructor(!) – a nervous, nerdy monsignor played briefly by musical director Greg Duffin.

The show is a real treat, including some pretty impressive tap dancing, a dash of Vaudeville and lots of genuinely funny jokes sprinkled into the obvious, but perfectly forgivable, theatrical convention of five nuns who sing. On the whole, the production is golden; you might even earn some points in Heaven for going to see this holy romp.

Nunsense-1

Nunsense
Covey Center for the Arts – 425 W Center St, Provo, UT 84601 – Students, Seniors, Military: $12.00; Reserved: $14.00.
April 30 – May 23, Thurs, Fri and Sat at 7:30 pm – 801-852-7007 ~ www.coveycenter.org

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The OBT’s Revengers is a Super Heroic Piece of Fun

obt1By Lana Horrocks

Opening night for The Revengers brought out all the Off Broadway Theater fans. The seasoned comedians played to a packed house.  Being the few newcomers to the theater, we were acknowledged and welcomed into the family. The MC, Eric Jensen, warmed up the audience with his light-hearted manner and quick wit, and I could tell we were in for a treat. These comedians were ready for audience participation, slightly directed and enjoyed spontaneous remarks as well. The viewers were quickly brought into the action and the characters spoke to us as if we were involved in the production. The outlandish situations and characters were true to the comic book, but brought in the movie roles as well.  From the heavens a booming voice came the words “As in the comic book” every time some outrageous situational comment was made.  The diehard comic fans will relish in the attention to detail.

The standout performances were first and foremost Kyle Larsen, who played Loki, as his facial expression and interpretation was larger than life, we loved to hate him, more love than hate. His comedic timing was impeccable.  An unforgettable personality was Scott Butler playing Captain Utah. He used his entire body to express his emotion, and he did a fantastic job satirizing the local culture referring to the high population of Mormon missionaries that are in the state of Utah.  Surprisingly, Chase Maughan, the bulked up Thor, gave the Elizabethan language a skillful respectful representation, along with his toothy grin, won over the female persuasion on and off stage.  The Black Widow, played by Amelia Joan Bowles, gave a powerful rendition of a sexy black tight leather covered woman who could not only take care of herself, but who brought evil men to their knees.   A short but memorable character is Wolfsterine, played by Chris Harvey, he was so cool and smooth in his presence that gave him a likability factor that ranked him as a favorite.

Chance Le Prey’s portrayal of the Tin Man was as close to Tony Stark as you could imagine. Frankly, I felt that he would make an excellent replacement for Robert Downey Jr. in the movies.

Eric Jensen’s version of Commander McFury was strong, and had a quirky wit that I felt was fun to watch, and must have been fun for him to play.

The colorful detailed costumes by Eric Jensen, Sonrisa Smith, and Janice Jensen added to the fun illusion of the super heroes. Hats off to Sunny Bringhurst for the fun musical numbers added a whimsical light-hearted spirit to the entire production.  These characters not only can dance, but have so much fun you cannot help but have a great time along with them.  I would not change a thing. The special effects did not baffle the eye, but brought a wide grin. The spaceships and flying episodes on a tight budget gave the feeling of a viral Youtube, while the characters laughed and made spontaneous commentary cracked up the entire audience.

Every character gave a high energy fun spoof of each super hero in the production. If you like Saturday Night Live mixed with a little old fashion melodrama this is your ticket for a laugh a minute.  Come sit up close and enjoy seeing every detail of the hilarious rendition of the Revengers.

There were minimal opening night glitches, and overall, I would say that if you enjoy the Avengers movies and Saturday Night Live, you will enjoy this show. Go see it.

The Revengers
5/1/15-6/6/15 M, Fri, Sat 7:30 PM
The Off Broadway Theater
272 S Main St.
Salt Lake City
Tickets on the website $10-$16

UVU’s You Can’t Take it with You is Charmingly Amazing!

you can'tBy Cleve and Lana Horrocks

We walked into UVU’s Noorda theater right as You Can’t Take It With You was starting. Up on the balcony of the set was a reproduction of an old style radio broadcasting studio. Before the show, between acts, and at the end of the show, they had a well-done whimsical look back at the radio shows of the 1930′s. Kudos to Taylor Drummer–set designer. With a couple of trios, duets, and soloists all singing numbers as well as doing period commercial ditties, it was a fun-filled look at yesteryear. I especially enjoyed the women’s trio and Wade Johnson’s solo piece. The sound was a perfect rendition of what you would have heard in your living room on an old Victrola radio—that slightly tinny sound with muted bass and treble notes.

The play itself was a fun look at family life that is suitable for all ages, with several standout performers. The relationship between Alice Sycamore (Rachel Bigler) and Tony Kirby (Alexander Woods) was believable and with just the right touch of nerves that you would expect from a young couple getting engaged and worrying about merging their families. The mother (Penny Sycamore) was perfectly played by Katrina Luthi, who showed whimsy, care and nurturing as if it really were her own family she was looking over. The maid Rheba was given life by Emma Christopherson, and her secret love and Essie’s dance teacher Kolenkhov played by Wade Johnson, as well as Donald played by Alex Rettie, not to forget Essie herself (Chantel Ficklin) and her husband Ed Carmichael (AJ Taysom), all gave life to the love story of Alice and Tony. I thought that Mr. DePinna (Javier Ybarra) upstaged Paul Sycamore (Kacey Spadafora) a bit, but overall the two played off each other well as a couple of absent-minded professor types.

But the real standout performance was that of Grandpa played by Jason Evans. He was truly believable in this role, with even what might have been a mistake or two played right into the lines in such a way that I really could not tell if they were accidental or deliberate. This was as good a performance as many that I have seen that in productions that cost substantially more.

With a set that was period perfect, lighting by Lawson Bendall that illuminated, but did not upstage the performers, sound by Keving Crimen that was clear and yet typical of the period, and costumes that were very well done overall, this is a play that you really should not miss. Hats off to the costume designer, Estee Parker, who made costumes with whimsy and glamour that matched perfectly this romantic period. The bling was not spared on the Grand Duchess for her dress matched perfectly her dynamic personality. When Tora Truax came onto the stage she was a show stopper as she lit up the entire room with her vivacious personality and thick accent.

Bravo to everyone involved. I enjoyed myself so much that I’m thinking of coming back later in the run to see it again.

You Can’t Take it with You

Utah Valley University Noorda Theater

800 West University Parkway, Orem, UT 84058 (801) 863-INFO (4636)

April 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 7:30 PM Sat April 25 2:30 PM matinee

Tickets $12.00

Website

 

SCERA’s Guys & Dolls is a Sure Bet

By Larisa Hicken

Guys and Dolls 11x17 Poster_OLAs the final show of their indoor season in Orem, Utah, SCERA’s production of Guys & Dolls was sensational.

With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, Guys  & Dolls is a classic lighthearted musical about girls who fall for the wrong guys and gamblers who can’t seem to find their lucky break – except when it comes to love. The original production was an instant hit and many of the songs from the show will be familiar favorites for anyone who loves classical Broadway.

All of the design elements of the show worked together flawlessly to present a caricature of the stereotypical gangsters, gamblers, and missionaries from New York City in the 1950s. The brightly colored costumes by Kelsey Seaver and flashy set design by Shaun M. Mortensen added a lot of visual appeal and helped create a comic strip feel to the show that was downright awesome.

It was obviously opening night and there were a few blunders with actors dropping or missing props or getting slightly tangled in their costumes, but other technical aspects of the show were absolutely perfect.  I didn’t notice a single mistake with the sound and the lights (designed by Elizabeth Ottley Griffiths) were “spot on.”  Scene changes were quick and efficient and kept the rhythm of the show moving right along.

guys-n-dolls-05It was a lot of fun to see actor Bryan Thacker in a comedic role as Nathan Detroit since his last few roles have included much darker characters.  Thacker is a dynamic performer with amazing singing talent.  I lost a few of his words in the beginning due to the fast pacing of the show, but his accent was great, too.

His fiancé Adelaide was played by Alyssa Orme who seemed a little nervous in the beginning of the show, especially during “Adelaide’s Lament,” but she got better and better as the night went on.  Her vocals were very nice for someone so young and her physicality and comedic timing is fabulous. I would like to have seen a few more moments of affection and chemistry between Nathan and Adelaide, but they seemed natural and comfortable together.

guys-n-dolls-03Corey Morris made a sincere and charming Sky Masterson and I appreciated the rich quality of his voice. Cheyenne Lee, as Masterson’s love interest Sarah Brown, was hilarious with her physical gestures and facial expressions.  It was almost disturbing how well she played both an uptight missionary and a drunk person.

Together Morris and Lee made a visually interesting pair and there were some really nice tender moments between the two actors.  However, the stage blocking in their love song “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” felt a little off and prevented me from really seeing their connection in that particular moment.

One of the best scene’s of the night was “Marry the Man Today” between Adelaide and Sarah.  Their energy, timing, and interactions made the scene laugh-out-loud hilarious.

As Director and Music Director, David Smith and Choreographer Brittini Bills Smith should be particularly proud of their work with the chorus.  Their vocals were spectacular and their pantomimes and dancing were fabulous.  I especially enjoyed the tight harmonies of the gamblers during the first scene and the uniquely creative choreography in “Luck be a Lady” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

The ensemble deserves a lot of the credit for the high-energy performance and some of the best character interactions took place in the hustle and bustle of the background.  Stand outs were the amazing vocals of Michael Young as “Nicely Nicely Johnson” and the exceptional dancing of Jayson Shipley as “Rusty Charlie.”  The Hot Box Dancers absolutely stole the show with their “Bushel and a Peck” number.  That scene alone was worth the price of a ticket.

If you’re looking for an upbeat and fun show, you can bet you’ll enjoy Guys & Dolls at the SCERA Center for the Arts.

SCERA Center for the Arts
745 South State Street, Orem Utah
Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays @ 7:30pm
Adult – $12, Child (ages 3-11) – $10, Senior (ages 65+) – $10

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The Echo’s And Then There Were None is Whodunit at its Finest!

attwn2By Jennifer Mustoe

I love Agatha Christie and The Echo’s production of Christie’s And Then There Were None is about as good as it gets. It has interesting characters, thrills, chills, murder, some laughs and in this production, some amazing talent. What more could you ask for?

Director Hillary Straga keeps her performers moving around the beautifully designed stage (Jeffrey Blake.) Because the entire production takes place in the one room, nothing needs to be moved around. In the Echo’s cozy space, this is a good thing. Straga has encouraged all of her actors to round out their characters and it was fun to see the quirks and mannerisms particular to each “suspect.” I was pleased that all actors did veddy veddy well with their English accents, in their varying types. I’m something of an accent snob, so I was happy that each actor used tight, authentic accents. A+, cast!

It’s very hard to write a review about a whodunit because the last thing I want to do is write any spoilers. So I am simply going to give a rundown of each character and let you come see the play to see who lives and who dies and who did the dirty deeds. One small spoiler—people do die in this play. There, I said it. And here’s the plot in a nutshell. Ten people are brought to a creepy mansion on an island and one by one, they start to die. Each death follows the poem of The Ten Little Indians, a rather grisly poem with a variation used for this play.

Matthew Carlin’s Judge Wargrave is deliciously creepy. Everything about him cries icky, oily, superior creeper. Amy Carlin, Matthew’s real life wife (but not in the play) plays spinster, tightly wrapped religious zealot Emily Brent. I loved what these two did with their characters—totally believable and completely delightful—the two most hateful, disagreeable characters in the play, in my opinion. I loved what they did.

Lombard, played by smooth-voiced Ben Hess was one of my favorites. When Mr. Hess has a one-man show, I’ll be the first to see it. His mannerisms, his facial expressions and that silken voice made me root for him to not be The Bad Guy. (But whether he is or not is for you to find out.)

attwn1Mariah Bowles plays the secretary Vera. Bowles was darling in this show—sexy, flirty, vulnerable but strong. I loved watching her and she seemed very comfortable in her role.

Christian Lambert’s Blore was amazing! Blore is a blowhard and you know he’s up to something. Lambert’s chuckly characterization was completely believable and charming. Did he do it? I’m not saying.

Dr. Armstrong, played by Timothy Keaton Otto, was creepy in its own way. I wasn’t sure if the good doctor was the bad guy or not (and I’ve seen the movie and listened to this book on CD but I couldn’t remember) but Otto certainly played his character with enough mystery to make me think that Armstrong was a likely suspect.

attwn3General Mackenzie, played by Matt Dobson, was absolutely spot on brilliant. Dobson completely milks every scene he’s in. His doddering old man, the rage he displays in one particular scene and the unexpected comedy he has is awesome. One of my favorites in the show.

Rogers, played by Will McAllister is another one that I kept thinking, did he do it? MacAllister has this innocent face and I thought, with that sweet expression and that excellent accent, surely Rogers was the murderer. Was he? Sarah Butler plays Mrs. Rogers with a sassy, spitfire attitude that I loved. Spencer Grierson plays the boatman Narracott, with little time onstage, but looked and acted the part. And no, he wasn’t the murderer or a victim. One eensy spoiler.

Costumes by Sadie Nagle-Perkins were great. Everyone looked period, and very in character. You have to get a load of what the religious zealot Emily Brent wears. It’s a hoot. Makeup and hair by Megan Brisbee was amazing. Really.

Lighting (Joshua Fawcett) and Sound (Franco Acosta) was great.

The action moved quickly, and though the play was 2 ½ hours long, it flew by. This was one of The Echo’s best productions yet—a tight, enjoyable whodunit. There is nothing too scary for kids maybe eight years old or older to see, but because it’s long, unless you have a child who is really able to sit still, you may want to bring tweens and teens to this one.

Don’t miss this fun, exciting, surprise-ending show. And no, I’m not going to do any spoilers, but seriously, the last scene is really dramatic, with so much physical movement, I got worried—it looked really really real! Yikes!

And Then There Were None

The Echo Theater, 15 N 100 E St, Provo, UT 84606 (801) 358-6623

Performances: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30pm from April 3 – 18.
Matinee: 2:30pm on Saturday, April 18.

Tickets $8-$12

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Draper’s Mary Poppins is Chim Chimeny Chereelicious!

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By Cindy Whitehair

When you talk about live action Disney with magical characters that transform lives, the conversation needs to start with Mary Poppins. The Draper Historic Theatre has brought this show’s transformation to the stage with energy and inspiration.

Mary Poppins the musical is NOT Mary Poppins the movie. There are nods to parts of the movie (not going to give any hints), but there is more plot and character development in the musical than there is in the movie – something that director Jake Anderson ably navigated. Jake managed to take some of the darker aspects of the story and tone them down so that they wouldn’t scare the younger members of the audience.

Costuming (Amy Martinez) was one of the highlights for us. The costumes were “Practically Perfect in every way.”

Choreography (Jake Anderson, Emily Preston and Sasha Nutger) was another highlight. It was fast, often frenetic and a lot of fun. You could tell that the dancers had put a lot of work into perfecting their steps and that work paid off.

I was disappointed in the scenic design (Lily Ito). The underlying story in Mary Poppins is teaching Jane and Michael about the fact that there is a world outside of their upper middle class home and their first world problems in the seedier world of the sweeps and the scullery maids. You simply did not get that differentiation between the Banks’ drawing room and the rooftops. The majority of the drawing room were black curtains at the back of the stage and a seemingly out of place brick wall. There seemed to be more thought put into the rooftop world of the sweeps than there was into the upper middle class Banks’ drawing room – where the majority of the action takes place.

Speaking of the action, having seen Jeff Erickson was absolute perfection as Bert. His quirky, carefree portrayal was at once similar and completely different to character in the movie. Every time he was on the stage, your eyes were drawn to him because you knew that something was going to happen.

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The Banks family – George (Brian Douros), Winifred (Chandler McArthur), Jane (AnnDee Belliston) and Michael (Gabriel Thomas) were spectular. The kids were especially amazing – this is a story that revolves around them and they carried it off, which is especially stunning when you consider that this is Gabriel’s very first show. Winifred’s “Being Mrs. Banks” was fantastic and for as little as he had to sing, the power that Mr. Duros brought to George Banks made him the lynch-pin of the show. If we do not see George Banks transform, the play falls flat.

Andrea Byron had the difficult job of portraying Mary Poppins. The easy route to this role would be to try to be a Julie Andrews knock off, but instead she was her own Mart. You got more of feel that she honestly cared about what happened to the family in her care and how determined she was to make a positive change in these peoples lives.

A couple of standouts in the ensemble were Robbie O’Kelly (who played the “holy terror” nanny Miss Andrew), Lisa Clayton (Katie Nana and Frau von Hussler) and Chareese Carter (Mrs. Cory). Ms. O’Kelly and Ms. Clayton have fun playing the two “villians” in this show and Ms. Carter just lit up the stage in the lead up to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

We experienced some of the usual opening night issues – a couple of quirky mics, uneven sound, music sometimes drowned out their actors, inconsistent British accents, the kind of things always seem to be worked out over opening weekend, but overall this is a wonderful show for the whole family. There is a lot of heart for the family in this show and there is a lot of heart IN the show from the production staff on down to the stage and you felt it in the far back of the theater.

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Mary Poppins at the Draper Historic Theater is a must see for familys of all ages.

A side note for parents of small children – this is a three hour long show. Younger children may not be able to last through the second act. We saw a few sleepy heads resting on parental shoulders leaving the theater last night.

Draper Historic Theatre Presents
Mary Poppins
Apr 10-17 (no performances Sunday the 12th or Thursday the 16th) 7:30 PM
Two performances April 18 – 2:00 and 7:30
Monday, Friday and Saturday Apr 20, 24 and 25 at 7:30PM
Tickets can be purchased online at tickets and are $12.00 for reserved seats and $9.00 for general admission

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Draper Historic Theatre
12366 S 900 E, Draper, Utah 84020
(801) 572-4144

I LOVE I Hate Hamlet–You Will, Too

hamlet 2By Joel Applegate

The jazzy opening music may have evoked a “New York State of Mind” but what is evoked by I Hate Hamlet – in hilarious detail – is the entire history of acting as we knew it to be in the 20th Century. The acclaimed satirist Paul Rudnick’s 2007 farce is both his homage and a gleefully wicked offering.

The homage comes in a recitation of Hamlet’s famous advice to actors – [“speak the speech, I pray you…”] – as calmly and stirringly, delivered by J. Paul Boehmer as Lionel Barrymore, who, according to some, was his generation’s greatest Hamlet.

But I’m getting ahead of the story …

Andy, a modern TV actor, played by Ben Rosenbaum, feels he’s through being a hack. He auditions for Hamlet – not just any Hamlet, but Joseph Papp’s Hamlet, for New York’s storied and enviable Shakespeare in the Park – yes, THAT Central Park. To his knee-knocking horror, he wins the role.

Coincidentally – or is it his destiny? – Andy’s move from Hollywood to take on the role pairs him with a slightly over-dressed for day-wear real estate agent who lands him in Barrymore’s old digs. And what digs they are. Pioneer Theatre’s set designer, Tom Buderwitz, has spectacularly recreated the legendary 1920’s 2-story Brownstone penthouse in soaring detail: wood beams and paneling, a turning staircase preening for grand entrances and a realistic marble fireplace. I was in the 4th row center. The main curtain towered above us, and upon the set reveal, complete with a back wall of rain-spattered windows, I was flat-out floored. Lighting designer Paul Miller created moods that were perfectly supportive. [Funny story: Rudnick was inspired to write this play when he moved in to the actual penthouse in the late 80’s.]

This opulent apartment is now reputed to be inhabited by the great Barrymore’s ghost, the instigator of all that ensues. Just as the set is bigger than life, so it is with Boehmer’s Barrymore. And how could it be any other way? It is his task to turn a TV pitchman into none other than Hamlet, the ultimate challenge. Rosenbaum as Andy arrives on scene somewhat defeated; he thinks he may be burning out as an actor, and yet he has been offered a terrifying challenge. He worries his casting as Hamlet is a gimmick because he is a TV star. It takes Barrymore/Boehmer to reawaken Andy/Rosenbaum’s inner actor, and they do so in a dazzling bit of excellent swashbuckling.

But haters gonna hate, and Gary, Andy’s manager, can’t fathom why Andy is taking his career into a dive doing Shakespeare, whom he unselfconsciously describes as “algebra on stage.” As Gary, Todd Cerveris browbeats Andy with a TV Pilot and a moral choice: art or money? With Shakespeare, Gary complains, “Andy, you’ll probably be great, but how can you tell?” Cerveris is the perfect Philistine.

We could not have asked for a Barrymore surer and more resoundingly clear than J. Paul Boehmer gives us. Boehmer’s presence is large – more real than a ghost. It is through his lens that Rudnick takes down modern acting. We watch as Andy “prepares” for rehearsal by executing odd exhalations and mood massage. Barrymore sits bemused. Here we get the bit of send-up I was expecting from a work called I Hate Hamlet. The whole “sense-memory” exercise of the modern actor indulging his angst is justly skewered. “Be quiet, I’m going to Act” says Barrymore as he ribs Andy. Barrymore’s chortle scorns the new “truth” in theater. The real Barrymore died just as the “method” began sweeping New York acting schools, and taking over their training.

Whatever the “method”, however, Pioneer Theatre’s cast is all pro no matter how they got there. Nell Gwynn is well known to Salt Lake audiences. As Felicia the “psychic” real estate agent, she works her famous comic timing perfectly. She’s sincerely phony. We don’t see much of Alyssa Gargarin as the deliberately virginal Deidre, but as Andy’s spritely girlfriend caught between two Hamlets, there’s a thaw.

hamlet 1As Lillian, Andy’s New York agent, Sybil Lines brings in class and that wonderful sensibility known during the Mid-Century Moderne era as “madcap.” Line’s program bio reads like a dream and she dazzles in David Kay Mickelsen’s elegant costuming. She deftly goes two directions at once telling us that old people making love is “distasteful and creates jealousy.”

I Hate Hamlet is richly textured for drama-phones in love with the capital “T” Theatre. Here we get both satire and swordplay. It’s goofy intellectual fun which director Art Manke makes the most of, including the great fight sequence on the architectural set. It’s theatrical to the last – specialty theater for theater lovers. I was surprised at how fast the first act’s hour went. With Manke’s pacing, we didn’t even think about time going by, though I think he could have afforded more time to the moment when Barrymore poignantly admits he became a sold-out alcoholic in his last years.

Thank you to the Pioneer Theatre and Front Row Reviewers Utah for letting me cover this production. It is a wonder watching a full Equity cast representing immense experience and thousands of roles convincing us that seeing is believing.

Lillian: “Should I be afraid of Death?’

Barrymore: “No – only of Life.”

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Pioneer Memorial Theatre – March 20 – April 4, 2015

7:30 pm Mon – Thurs; 8:00 pm Fri & Sat; 2:00 pm Saturday matinees

FREE parking north of the Rice-Eccles Stadium, one block south of the theatre.

Tickets: $38 – $44. Rush tickets available; call the box office for details: 801.581.6961

University of Utah Campus – 300 South 1400 East, SLC, UT 84114

www.pioneertheatre.org

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