Pickleville Playhouse’s Bandito Brings Adventure, Romance, and Uncontrollable Laughter to Garden City, Utah

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by Megan and Shelly Wallentine

The latest installment in the Juanito Bandito series, Love and Death vs. El Bandito, is currently playing at Pickleville Playhouse in Garden City, Utah. Writer T.J. Davis created the character over 11 years ago, and has been writing a new show every year since. Bandito continues the exploits of wily Juanito Bandito (T.J. Davis) as he attempts to claim the treasure of the very recently deceased pirate El Diablo. Along the way, he has plenty of run-ins with Sheriff Griff (Nathan Sheppard/Slater Astenhurst) and falls in love with the beautiful Luna (Sara Sanderson/Julia Davis.) The Bandito series has become extremely popular within Garden City and the rest of the Bear Lake Valley.

Lights? Check. Sound? Check. Random, powerful hallucinations of giant pink bunnies dancing the Harlem Shake? Check.

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Pickleville Playhouse is a cozy theater that uses its small size to its advantage.  Sometimes when attending a smaller theatre, patrons leave with the feeling of a less-than-premium experience. This is not the case at Pickleville. Rather than fight against it, the cast and crew embrace the size of their theatre and use it to engage the audience to create a more authentic experience. Pickleville is a very “audience friendly” theatre. During the performance of Bandito, they choose an audience member to briefly interact with onstage. Not only are the cast members your ushers as you arrive, they sell concessions at intermission too. Additionally, they are available outside after the show to meet the audience and take pictures, and are wonderful with the younger guests.

Davis is also the director of Love and Death vs. El Bandito. Along with Bandito, Griff, and Luna, the show’s characters include Gratilda (Kenzie Davis), Grim (Nathan Kremin), Jessie (Emma Larsen/Sydney Howell), Stubbs (Quinn Osborne/Jeremy Egan), and the piano player (Luke Shepherd/Camille Decker).

Bandito isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you are looking for a production with a new, exciting plot and round, dynamic characters, this isn’t the show for you. With Bandito, the plot is a predictable Western melodrama, except that the protagonist is the “bad guy”. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bandito’s focus isn’t the plot. The plot is just a loose structure into which they have crammed as many jokes and pop culture references as possible. For this production, I would recommend going into it expecting something more akin to sketch comedy, a la Studio C. It all depends on your style of humor. Personally, we loved it. I was doubled over for most of the performance, as the talented cast referenced the Harlem Shake, Dora the Explorer, dabbing, hashtags, Donald Trump, Kanye West, Star Wars, and much, much more. The vocal talent for this production is wonderful, as is the choreography. Several different styles were shown during the show, including rap, hip hop, traditional Broadway, and much more. The costumes (Erin Davis) fit the show and each character well.

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While the set is minimal, to accommodate the small stage, it is by no means inferior. Pickleville makes use of a digital backdrop during most of the production, which allows for greater variety of visual scenes. What physical scenery they have is very professional and appropriate. With ticket prices ranging from $15-$26, this production is more than worth attending.  An additional offering at this theater is the option to enjoy a full meal with your performance ticket.  The Pickleville Grill is on the premises of the playhouse and patrons are encouraged to join them for an outstanding family dining experience.  Grill pricing is $15 for adults and $9 for kids.

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Pickleville Playhouse presents Love and Death vs. El Bandito by T.J. Davis

Pickleville Playhouse, 2049 S Bear Lake Blvd, Garden City, UT, 84028

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through September 1, 2017, Showtimes vary

Tickets:  $15-26

(435) 946-2918

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Play’s the Thing at Renaissance Now’s “Taming of the Shrew” in Provo

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By Susannah Whitman

Renaissance Now brings us William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew at the Castle Amphitheater in Provo. Shrew is one of those plays that’s got a handful of challenges. Here’s a plot summary: Every man in Padua (and several outside of Padua) has a thing for Bianca (Sariah Hopkin), the beautiful daughter of Baptista (Ben Hyde.) The problem? Baptista won’t let anyone marry her until his oldest daughter Katerina (Rosie Ward) is married off first. And finding a suitor for the “shrewish” Katerina is a tough job. Until Petruchio (David Liddell Thorpe) shows up and “tames” her. Her shift in personality is finally proven in a final speech she gives to the other women, chiding them for being disobedient wives.

In 2017, the idea of “taming” a woman so that she’s obedient is likely to elicit a few raised eyebrows, if not outright cringing.

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But Archelaus B Crisanto’s production at Reniassance Now manages to find humor and heart in a story that, on paper, seems like it wouldn’t be relevant for modern audiences. The cast and crew embraced the sense of fun that Shakespeare must have intended—breaking the fourth wall, adlibbing with modern phrases, and finding wonderful “bits” to make the whole script accessible to a 2017 audience. Shakespeare is truly funny, and the battle of wits extends beyond the sexes.

Crisanto has set Taming of the Shrew in the 1960s, in a nightclub called Baptista’s. The Castle Amphitheatre in Provo is the perfect venue. Built in 1934, the outdoor space doesn’t need much dressing up—string lights, tables and chairs, a bar. A live band plays jazz and rock tunes from a platform stage left, and a bartender cleans glasses onstage as you enter. Actors—in character—introduce themselves and tell you to enjoy your night at Baptista’s. The sun slowly sets behind the actors as the play progresses. It’s a view that can’t be beat.

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Because it’s an outdoor venue, I would recommend bringing bug spray, and either a lawn chair or a cushion. You can simply sit on the steep steps of the Castle Amphitheatre, but you may be more comfortable in a chair. Here’s the other thing I’d recommend—get there early to participate in the lecture/discussion before the show. Saturday night, local professor/director/actor Ben Hopkin led a discussion on gender roles in Shakespeare’s day vs. today. It was insightful and engaging, and the perfect preparation for the show. (A schedule of additional guest lecturers can be found on the Facebook Event page.)

But the stunning sunset isn’t the only great thing going on at this venue—the work onstage shines just as brightly. Every cast member brought life and humor to their characters, and there was not a weak link among them. Notably, Janiel Miller was hilarious as the Widow/Penny, and also wowed the audience with her musical numbers as the live band’s singer.

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As Bianca, Sariah Hopkin brings humor and depth to a role that might be boring in the hands of a less capable actress. She’s funny and 3-dimensional, and I love me a 3-dimensional ingénue. Noah Kershisnik has the perfect “leading man” look for the amorous Lucentio. But Kershisnik is not just handsome, he’s extremely talented. He brings an honesty and a naturalism to his work that is truly wonderful to watch. You can tell that he’s listening and fully present in every moment. (I also commend Hopkin and Kershisnik’s positively Olympic stage kissing as Bianca and Lucentio.)

Ward plays a wonderful Kate. In this challenging role, Ward balances her razor sharp wit with a moving vulnerability. There are lovely moments when her fierceness melts away to reveal a woman who feels what we all feel—longing, fear, sorrow. We watch as her tough exterior slowly shifts and settles into a woman who can hold her own, but no longer needs the vicious words she used to be known for. Thorpe positively shines as Petruchio. Petruchio is a complex character—his behavior in the show is at times ridiculous, and at times cruel. But Thorpe is so undeniably likable as Petruchio that even when he’s being cruel, we trust that his intentions are good. The famous scene when Petruchio and Kate first meet absolutely sizzled. Between the scene’s phenomenal “choreography” and the Bard’s witty dialogue, Ward and Thorpe’s battle of wits was filled with the delicious sort of intellectual, romantic, and sexual tension you want from your romantic leads.

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Some of the scene changes during the show were a little clunky (they were a little long, and a little awkward without underscoring.) But all other elements of the production—costumes, props, set design, etc.—were spot on.

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There are three questions I always have when going into a production of Taming of the Shrew:

  1. How will they interpret Petruchio’s outrageous wedding outfit? (Answer: BRILLIANTLY. And Petruchio’s entrance in his outrageous wedding outfit is one of the best entrances I’ve ever seen in all of theatre. That reveals was one of my favorite moments of the show.)
  1. Will Petruchio and Kate have both the romantic/sexual tension and the intellectual tension that I want them to? (Answer: DEFINITELY.)
  1. How will they handle that cringe-y speech of Kate’s at the end of the show? (Answer: See notes below.)

There is simply no way around the problematic nature of some of Kate’s lines in this final speech. She tells the women in the room that they owe their husbands obedience. She calls women weak, and says that she is ashamed that they “are so simple.” She says that wives ought to place their hands beneath their husbands’ feet.

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And in 2017, this advice really doesn’t sit very comfortably. I have no “solution” for how this speech should be handled in modern productions, nor do I have deep insight into what it meant in Shakespeare’s day. But here’s what I realized. Maybe we need this show to remind us to keep thinking about these things. To keep talking about them. Have we come as far as we think we have? Do we, as a society, truly recognize the strength of women? Or do we dismiss them as weak, or subtly imply that they should obey their husbands? If Kate’s final speech makes us cringe, that’s probably a good thing. Maybe we can take the reaction we have to her words and apply it to the real world. Amongst all the laughter in Taming of the Shrew, there’s plenty of food for thought as well.

Finally, I have a request. I would like the entire cast of Renaissance Now’s Taming of the Shrew to form an improv team and do shows together. Because I want to watch them play long after this show closes.

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Renaissance Now presents William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew

Castle Amphitheatre, 1300 E Center Street, Provo, UT

July 24, July 27, 28, 29, 31, August 3-5

Pre-show lecture 7:15 PM, Performance 8:00 PM

$10 general admission, $25 family, $20 for a group of 4, 2 for 1 nights available for Monday and Thursday performances

Tickets available online or at the door.

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Spanish Fork’s “The Little Mermaid” is a Magical Place Under the Sea

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By Jennifer Mustoe

Spanish Fork Community Theater has their annual summer musical in conjunction with the city’s Fiesta Days celebration. This year’s show, Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a wonderful addition to the festivities. In a theater that seats over 1000 and half of tonight’s patrons were wide-eyed children, I’d say SFCT has created a hit.

If you are only familiar with the animated version of The Little Mermaid, you’ll notice the live musical has some changes. There are more musical numbers, there is a reason why Ariel is motherless (and I love this storyline addition), and for the most part, the young leads Ariel and Eric aren’t as one-dimensional as they are in the cartoon. I’d never seen the musical until tonight and I love these updates. If you’re unfamiliar with The Little Mermaid, first a story by Hans Christen Andersen and then made into an animated film by Disney in 1989, it’s the story of Ariel (Aubri Devashrayee-Woodward), a mermaid who yearns to be human and be with Prince Eric (Duncan Johnson), whom she has fallen in love with. Her father, King Triton (David Henry), will not allow this. (In the musical, we understand more about why Triton is so angry about Ariel wanting to be around humans and Henry’s poignant sadness about his wife’s disappearance was a good moment for him; sweet and touching.) Ariel allows herself to sign away her voice to the evil Sea Witch Ursula (Krystal Bigler) in exchange for becoming human. She has three days to get Eric to kiss her before she becomes a slave to Ursula forever. Ariel’s friends Flounder (Caden Huish), Scuttle (Seth Hansen), and Sebastian (Dan Bigler) help her in this journey. Eric is accompanied by Grimsby (BJ Wright), who supports him as his guardian and friend.

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Directors Cami Jensen and Ken Jensen have done an amazing job with their very large cast. It seemed like the stage was always full in the ensemble numbers. Of course, ensemble actors are in several scenes and several roles, including palace servants, seagulls, and guests at the palace. And fish, fish, fish! Everywhere fish. And young and old all moved their arms gracefully, reminding us that they are under the sea and need to move through or tread water. From the moment we see a touch of Ariel’s red hair or the flip of her fin in the opening scene, we are transported under the sea. I brought my two granddaughters and daughter-in-law with me, and my three-year-old granddaughter Emily was transfixed by just seeing that little pop of red hair. “There is Ariel,” she whispered. She also was remarkably troubled when Ariel gets feet and kept telling Ariel to say no to the Sea Witch. I mention this because Jensen and her huge crew and cast have created such a believable spectacle that a three-year-old girl felt Ariel’s turmoil when she had to decide to become human or not. This is something, friends—something magical.

All of the sea sets are fabulous, many-layered, and simply magical. Kudos to Jensen and Henry—the sets are luscious. I’m from the beach area in California and I admit, and I know it sounds super hokey, but I felt like I should smell the salt water while sitting in our awesome front row seats when the sea sets were onstage. Lighting by Zac Lambson and sound design by Brock Larson are fabulous and that is saying something. This is a tech heavy show. There are some fun surprises technically, too, and I will say no more. I won’t reveal the fun—you need to see the show. Make up in this show is remarkable, dazzling, sparkly (the mersisters) and scary (Ursula and her two electric eel goons.) Bravo to make up designers Fawn Christopher and David Christopher. Hair by Chelsea Kennedy (who also plays Flotsam) is lovely and fun.

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Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a costume heavy show. You have your mermaids, you have your fish, you have your sailors, your seagulls, your palace servants. And then, you have your jellyfish. Costume Designer Kristal Thompson and her tireless, hardworking staff made these cool jellyfish costumes created from translucent umbrellas with lights in the top and tendrils trailing down. Actors holding the umbrellas waft them up and down and darned if they don’t look like jellyfish floating in the water. And again, I remembered my childhood in Newport Beach, CA and thought: stay away from the jellyfish! They sting like crazy if you step on them! We also loved that the merpeople used wheelie tennis shoes onstage so they glided along and didn’t have to use feet that they’re not even supposed to have. And Trident buzzed regally on a Segway. Pretty cool, I’ll admit.

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In this production of The Little Mermaid, one of the best ensemble pieces were Positoovity, a darling tap dance number, sung and tapped by Scuttle and his flock of gulls. (And a big thank you to Scuttle/Seth Hansen for teaching my granddaughters how to pose like a seagull for a photo after the show.) We also really loved “She’s in Love;” lots of fun girl energy there. Choreographer Ginger Leishman really has her performers shining in these and several other ensemble pieces. The dance between Eric and Ariel “One Step Closer” was magical and made me cry. Music Director Kristi Frei has her singers harmonizing well, but some of the ensemble numbers needed a little more oomph. The group didn’t seem to have enough power and I was on the first row. However, all through the show, there are these bursts of truly remarkable singing and Frei has her cast sounding awesome.

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The show has much to say in its favor, but really, the stars of the show made it over the top amazing. Devashrayee-Woodward’s Ariel is everything you want in a redheaded teenage singing mermaid. This actress can sing, boy can she sing, and can dance, too, which is pretty great considering the entire first act her legs were stuck together so she had a mermaid fin on her bottom half. Devashrayee-Woodward is graceful and her enthusiasm once she gets to be with Eric is completely adorable. I bought her Ariel 100%. Duncan Johnson’s Eric is one part hunk, one part gorgeous voice, one part sweet romantic hero and he nails this completely. In the animated version, Eric seems so flat. In the musical version, Eric’s singing “One Step Closer” as he dances with Ariel, when she has already given away her voice and can’t communicate with words—this piece just defines this prince. He is all that a handsome charming prince should be. Will you swoon when you see Prince Eric? I’m saying yes. Finally, Bigler’s Ursula pretty much blows everyone else out of the water (see what I did there?) whenever she is onstage. She has as much power in her character as Ariel has sweetness and naivety, and yet—these two women have a lot in common. They want what they want and are willing to go to great (and foolish) lengths to get it. They both have a sense of self and even selfishness in them. I love how these two characters and these two actresses play this comparison and contrast in the story. Very nice. It is very palpable in Spanish Fork’s Little Mermaid.

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As I said in my Facebook Live Feed, there were A LOT of kids in this theater tonight. I could hear whispers and giggles and claps from little persons through the whole show. It wasn’t distracting, however, because there was this feeling of awe and anticipation all night. Many of these young audience members had seen the cartoon of this show, so they knew what was coming. But even so, they were delighted. My eight-year-old granddaughter Keira was open-mouthed with surprise or smiling with glee the entire show. And what happens after the show is just as magical as what you see onstage. I took Keira to see the actors after the show (they are all in the sea-themed decorated lobby of Spanish Fork High School around the corner from the theater) and each one of those actors let Keira hug them, take gobs of photos, and it was completely heart-warming. Every show’s cast and crew develops into a family—I’ve been in enough shows to see this for myself. But the cast of Little Mermaid is there for their audience and their love and graciousness after the show makes seeing the show worth it—and the show is worth seeing because it’s great! One of the mermaids asked Keira to move her arms like a mermaid before I snapped a photo of Keira and the mermaid. (Adorbs!) As I said, Scuttle showed my granddaughters how to pose like a seagull. (Cuteness times ten!) Granddaughter Keira pretty much threw herself into the arms of everyone in a costume and these actors warmly received her fan love with actor love of their own. I can’t thank the cast enough. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this.

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Note: If you are bringing your children to a live show for the first time, a few instructions before you go may be helpful. My little three-year-older Emily was quite dismayed every time there was a black out between scenes. She’s been to movies, but they don’t go dark and light again and the back and forth of light kinda threw her. Also, the show got long for Emily, and luckily her savvy mother brought something quiet for Emily to do so she could stay at the show. I know she had a hard time staying still in Act Two because it was quite late for a little one, but if we had tried to take her out, I think she would have had a fit. She knew enough to know there was a happily ever after coming and she didn’t want to miss it.

A nod to the few palace servants who performed a save in one scene. A piece of the set came off and fell to the floor. Two of the maid servants picked it up, waited until all the other dancers weren’t in the way, then popped the piece back on the set, and with servantly nods and curtsies, went on their way. They stayed in character the whole time and it seemed like it had been scripted like that. Good job!

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My family from CO has never been to a Spanish Fork Community Theater show, or any show in Utah for that matter, and all three who came with me, daughter-in-law Brandy and the two granddaughters, were aglow and filled with praises. Honestly, they gushed about it the rest of the night and the next day.

I admit, I am nostalgic when I go to SFCT’s shows—I was in Hairspray years ago, the show that got me back into theater. The Little Mermaid brought back fun memories, seeing lots of old friends, and the fun of watching this magic through the eyes of my granddaughters.

Spanish Fork’s Disney’s The Little Mermaid plays on Pioneer Day and then the next weekend. If you have never seen a SFCT production before, if you’ve never taken your kids to see a show before, or if you never miss a show here and your kids wouldn’t miss a Fiesta Days production no matter what, do not delay. Come make The Little Mermaid part of your world this July in Spanish Fork.

Spanish Fork Community Theater presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Book by Glenn Slater and Doug Wright

Spanish Fork High School, 99 N 300 West, Spanish Fork, UT 84660

July 20-22, 27-29, 31 7:00 PM, July 14 matinee only 4:00 PM

Tickets: $10.00 adults, $8.00 students/seniors, $6.00 children under 12, $40.00 family pass—up to 6 immediate family members

Contact: sfctonline@gmail.com

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Little Mermaid Promotional Video

 

 

Pickleville Playhouse’s “Shrek the Musical” in Garden City, Utah, Delights Audiences of All Ages

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by Megan and Shelly Wallentine

Good things come in small packages. Pickleville Playhouse, on the shores of beautiful Bear Lake, may be one of Utah’s smaller theatres, but knows how to put on a great show. One of the shows currently running in this summer theatre is Shrek the Musical, based on the 2001 DreamWorks film Shrek. Shrek the Musical has music written by Jeanine Tesori  and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. It tells the tale of antisocial ogre Shrek (Derek Davis), who embarks on a quest with his “noble steed” Donkey (Quinn Osborne) to save the beautiful Princess Fiona (Whitley Osborn Davis) from a tower guarded by a dragon and surrounded by lava and brimstone. He doesn’t want to marry the princess, however—he’s just trying to get his swamp back from the scheming Lord Farquaad (Nathan Kremin). This musical brings several familiar fairytale characters to the stage, including Pinocchio (Nathan Sheppard), Peter Pan (Sara Sanderson), the Big Bad Wolf (Slater Ashenhurst), and more. Shrek the Musical debuted on Broadway in December 2008 and has been popular with audiences across the country ever since.

shrek1 shrek5Pickleville Playhouse is a cozy theater that uses its small size to its advantage.  Sometimes when attending a smaller theatre, patrons leave with the feeling of a less-than-premium experience. This is not the case at Pickleville. Rather than fight against it, the cast and crew embrace the size of their theatre and use it to engage the audience to create a more authentic experience. Pickleville is a very “audience friendly” theatre. At our performance of Shrek the Musical, they gave away a huge snow cone before the show and a T-shirt during intermission. Not only are the cast members your ushers as you arrive, they sell concessions at intermission too. Additionally, they are available outside after the show to meet the audience and take pictures, and are wonderful with the younger guests.shrek7

Shrek the Musical is directed by Derek Davis, who also plays the title role with vigor and receiving big laughs. His wife Whitley Osborn Davis  as the feisty Princess Fiona was wonderful. The characters, including Julia Davis (Gingy/Fairy God Mother), Sydney Howell (Wicked Witch), Kenzie Davis (Wicked Witch), Emma Larsen (Elf), Jayden Blanch (Three Little Pigs), Kayli Checketts (Young Fiona), and Jentry Aguirre (Young Fiona) are all top notch. Although Shrek the Musical is generally performed with a cast of 25+, Pickleville does each performance with just 12 actors. That means a lot of costume changes, as each member of the ensemble performs several different roles.

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Davis’s Shrek is a lovable, bumbling character with a great accent. Where he truly shines, however, are in those sweet moments where Shrek slowly and unknowingly falls in love with Fiona. Davis’s awkwardness and hesitations are very believable. (We wanted to ask Whitney, we’re curious—is that how it went when you guys were dating? He was way too good at that.) Osborn Davis’s Fiona is equally believable as she sheds the dainty, soft-spoken princess stereotype to truly command Fiona’s character. Each role is perfectly cast. I’ve always said that it’s the ensemble that makes or breaks a production. It’s not hard to get talented people to fill your lead roles, but it’s difficult to find ensemble members that truly commit 100% to their roles as well. This ensemble is outstanding, down to the body language and facial expressions every second they were onstage. No one steps out of character, not even the talented young Checketts.

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The vocal talent for this production is wonderful, as is the choreography. Shrek the Musical has several unique numbers that can be difficult to produce. One that stands out is “Freak Flag”, in which the banished fairytale creatures recognize that being different isn’t a bad thing, and they should let their freak flags fly. This powerhouse number is elevated by Davis’s fantastic voice as the Fairy God Mother. Unfortunately, at times the volume level was too high and became overwhelming. This made it very difficult to hear actors at times, detracting from an otherwise splendid performance.

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Shrek the Musical is known for its incredible costumes, and Pickleville does not disappoint. From Donkey’s hooves and mane to Lord Farquaad’s little legs, each and every costume is perfect down to the last detail. While the set is minimal to accommodate the small stage, it is by no means inferior. Pickleville makes use of a digital backdrop during most of the production, which allows for greater variety of visual scenes. What physical scenery they have is very professional and appropriate. With ticket prices ranging from $15-$26, this production is more than worth attending.  An additional offering at this theater is the option to enjoy a full meal with your performance ticket.  The Pickleville Grill is on the premises of the playhouse and patrons are encouraged to join them for an outstanding family dining experience.  Grill pricing is $15 for adults and $9 for kids.

We had an absolutely amazing time at Pickleville and recommend this show wholeheartedly. The oldest member of our party was 79 years old, but she was giggling with delight just as much as the young kids next to us. Bring your kids, bring your grandma to Pickleville’s Shrek the Musical. Fun for all at a great price.

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A word of advice—to parents who are taking young children to the show, there are two moments with curse words. Shrek refers to Donkey as an—well, another word for donkey.

 

 

Pickleville Playhouse presents Shrek the Musical by David Lindsay-Abaire

Pickleville Playhouse, 2049 S Bear Lake Blvd, Garden City, UT, 84028

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through September 1, 2017. Showtimes vary.

Ticket Price $15-26

(435) 946-2918

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Feel Lucky at Utah Shakes’ “Guys and Dolls”

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By Craig Mustoe

My wife and I recently saw Guys and Dolls at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City. It blew my socks off. I don’t believe I have ever seen a better production in Utah. Tight, very tight.

The quality of the acting is superb. Director Peter Rothstein has his dancers and actors and set pieces perfect in every scene, every moment of Guys and Dolls. Not a dead spot anywhere. And the clarity. I’m sorry to say that I have gone to vast numbers of plays where I could not understand many of the lines or lyrics. These actors really know how to deliver. This is a class act all the way. Many of the cast and crew are equity (professional) which adds to the depth and breadth of the production.

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Before the play, a mini-seminar was presented outside the theater (in the shade) in Seminar Grove. This was a lively and intimate discussion with much audience participation. A highlight for me was when a little girl who was there with her grandma asked, “Isn’t gambling bad?” when she understood that gamblers were the protagonists. Answer: The play isn’t really about that, it’s about conversion. That gave me a focus throughout the play that added to my enjoyment. Whether you know the play or not, this pre-show is time well spent. Another point made by the education specialist is that this is considered the perfect musical, the one against which all others are measured. He pointed out that the songs are integral and advance the story, not just added on. Knowing this also increased my appreciation of Guys and Dolls.

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The play is set around Times Square in the 1930s. Nathan Detroit, brilliantly played by Quinn Mattfeld, is trying to find a place to hold his nightly floating crap game. His assistants, Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Redge Palmer), Benny Southstreet (Josh Durfey) and Rusty Charlie (Brandon Burk) are on the job but aren’t having much luck. The coppers, led by Lt. Brannigan (Richie Call) are bringing the heat as they are no longer on the take. A garage is the only place they can find but the owner wants a $1000 deposit up front. The only way Detroit can come up with that kind of cash is by winning a bet. Turns out that the uber-gambler Sky Masterson (Brian Vaughn) has just blown into town. He will bet on anything, and Detroit quickly concocts a scam that will skin Masterson of the thousand clams. This is where Sister Sarah (Alexandra Zorn) comes in.

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Sister Sarah heads up the local mission (think Salvation Army.) She is deeply dedicated to saving the souls of the many habitues of the area. But though she marches daily with her red-garbed band, she has no luck bringing the sinners in. As a result she is about to be shut down by General Cartwright (Leslie Brott), a tough old church broad. Detroit bets Masterson $1000 that he can’t get Sister Sarah to have dinner with him—in Cuba. Masterson seeks out the devout Sister Sarah and charms her into going out with him. The clincher is that he gives her an I.O.U. (his “marker”) that he will bring twelve sinners to her next meeting. The duets between Zorn and Vaughn are magnificent. Both of these performers are able to show their classically-trained voices to their best advantage. My wife got a little teary in “I’ll Know.” Maybe I did, too.

The other main plot involves the dashing gambler Nat’an and his ever-patient fiancée, Miss Adelaide, (Melinda Parrett.) They have only been engaged for fourteen years, and Nathan doesn’t want to rush into anything. No end of hilarity ensues as she pushes for a wedding and he resists.

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Miss Adelaide leads a troupe of burlesque dancers at the Hot Box, a local club. (Don’t worry, these are the most innocent such dancers you will ever see.) The dolls are all young, shapely, and pretty, but Adelaide is tall, obviously in her thirties (she’s been engaged for some time) and thin. Whereas Adelaide is often portrayed as a curvy blonde bimbo in other productions, here she is a skinny redhead, and it completely works. She is perfect for the character and the time.

The songs are staples of the genre. As I sit here writing this I am whistling “Can Do,” from “Fugue for Tinhorns,” one of the opening numbers. Other favorites are “Luck Be a Lady” sung by Masterson, and “A Bushel and a Peck” as performed by Adelaide and the Hot Box Girls, including period-perfect squeals and high, squeaky voices.

The sets were simple and effective. With a few deft strokes, scenic designer Jason Lajka transported us magically to a Cuban nightclub or down into the sewers beneath Times Square.

Guys and Dolls is famous for first featuring dance numbers performed solely by males; the number in the sewers stands out. All the dancing here is a delight due to the efforts of choreographer Christine Rowan. Of course dancing per se isn’t all that is included in choreography. Other movement on stage, such as in fight scenes, is coordinated cleanly. Robert Westly gets the kudos here.

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Costumes by K.L. Alberts are perfect. From Sister Sarah’s pert little bonnet to the Guys’ colorful suits and hats, to the Hot Box dancers and the Cubans, everything dazzles.

Music (Gregg Coffin), sound (Barry G. Funderburg) and lighting (Kirk Bookman) are flawless, unintrusive, seamless. I didn’t even notice them, which is intended as a huge compliment. Oh, that every production could be this smooth.

Unless you have been involved in producing drama, you may not realize how important all the behind-the-scenes players are. A dramaturg, among other things, helps the cast and crew to understand the milieu within which the play is set. This particular information adds authentic depth to a production; Lezlie C. Cross is to be congratulated for her work here. A stage manager can make or break a show. This production must have been managed deftly by Tanya J. Searle in order for us to have enjoyed it so thoroughly. Voice and text coach Gayle Childs Daly gave us spot-on New Yahk accents and brought out the verbal talents of the actors at all levels.

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Bonus fun bit: At the wind-up scene, Nathan Detroit’s set piece fell apart. Without missing a beat, he incorporated a comment into his next line, which brought the house down.

One final note about the cast: they look authentic. The Dolls are just little dolls and the gangsters look like bad guys from ‘30s B-movies. The leading man is handsome, the leading lady looks like everybody’s sweetheart. Every part, from the smallest on up, is cast divinely.

Okay, so how much did we really like Guys and Dolls? Well, we are going again with our son. At $50 a pop it’s cheaper than one discount ticket on Broadway, and the quality is right there. I hope we run into you. We’ll be the people with the big goofy smiles on our faces.

Utah Shakespeare Festival presents Guys and Dolls based on characters by Damon Runyan. Music and lyrics by Fran Loesser. Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

Randall L. Jones Theatre, 300 W Center Street, Cedar City, UT 84720

Now – September 1, intermittently at 8:00 PM and 2 PM.

Tickets: to $79.00, depending on the date and time.

Please visit www.bard.org for ticket availability, show dates, and times.

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Lyric Rep Brings Mark Twain Classic to Logan on a “Big River”

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By Lori Geisler

Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, known more commonly as simply Big River, is playing in repertoire with three other productions at the Caine Lyric Theatre in Logan until August 5, 2017. Listed on the Utah State Historical Register, the theatre was restored and expanded in 2000. Gorgeous and ornate moldings, chandeliers, and red velvet seats give an elegant feeling to the interior. Even with its bluegrass music and country twang, Big River seems at home amongst the sophisticated surroundings.

Based on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Big River tells the story of  Huck (Cameron Blankenship)  and his friend, a runaway slave named Jim (Paul-Jordan Jansen), who have “considerable trouble and considerable joy” as they float on a raft down the Mississippi River. They meet a variety of characters, including slave hunters, con men, and three sweet sisters. Along the way they discover a lot about friendship, each other, and themselves.

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During a time period when musicals from Great Britain were seeing great success, Big River was one of the few American musicals to receive acclaim. Opening on Broadway on April 25, 1985, the show ran for more than 1,000 performances and closed on September 20, 1987. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won seven, including Best Musical, Best Book by William Hauptman, and Best Original Score by Roger Miller. This is the only Broadway Score that Miller wrote. Known as a country singer with chart-topping country and pop hits in the mid-60s such as “King of the Road” and “Dang Me”, Miller is also remembered as the voice of Alan-a-Dale, the rooster minstrel in Walt Disney’s 1973 animated film, Robin Hood. His memorable toe-tapping and soul-stirring songs compliment Mark Twain’s poignant classic impeccably.

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With youthful exuberance and a charming Southern twang, Blankenship is delightful as the rambunctious vagabond, Huck. Narrating his own story, he often speaks directly to the audience, giving each member a sense of being personally invested in the story. With a sly smile and a wink, he also sends the message that he is letting you in on a special secret. Stirring and profound, Jansen’s performance as the runaway slave is inspiring. With such exciting duets as, “Muddy Water,” “River in the Rain,” and “Worlds Apart,” the duo show their growing friendship and bond. Unfortunately, Jansen’s volume seemed muted; perhaps his mic needed to be turned up or was working improperly. His smooth musical skill came through, but the power was missing. Despite this, his performance of “Free At Last” brought tears to my eyes. The Duke (Michael W.D. Francis) and The King (Chris Klinger) are the con men that had me laughing one minute and made me furious the next. Their performance of “When the Sun Goes Down in the South” had me tapping my toe and grinning from ear to ear. Mary Jane Wilkes (Katie Francis) touched my heart with her beautiful voice in “You Oughta Be Here with Me” and “Leavin’s Not the Only Way to Go.” She also shows the broad range of her musical ability, playing fiddle in the live band. Other cast members double as band members as well, including Susan Wilkes (Clarissa Boston), who plays fiddle and Tom Sawyer (Justin Turpin), who plays guitar.

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Although I have seen many productions of Big River, I have never seen it completely performed with a live band. Some of the songs in this show have a very quick tempo, and there are many times when the band seems to have a difficult time keeping up. The versatility of the musicians is impressive, however, as many of them play multiple instruments.

Shawn Fisher designed a brilliant open-ended set that changes very little throughout the production, and yet feels different as it adapts to the various scenes and settings. Natural and rustic, the backdrop matches the tone of the show perfectly, inspiring imagination in the minds of the audience. Lighting designed by Bruce Duerden works together with the simple set, creating illusions and transforming the pieces into lush scenery. Acting as Director, Musical Director, and Choreographer, Jim Christian brings all of these elements together to create a cohesive performance with splendid continuity. His creative use of pantomime to suggest props that are non-existent adds to the imaginative feeling this production invokes again and again.

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You MUST see Big River at least once in your lifetime. You will fall in love with the music, and the story will change you. The Lyric Repertory Company will present their production at the Caine Lyric Theatre for a few more weeks, and as the show begins you will receive this warning by Mark Twain (W. Vosco Hall): “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. By order of the Author, Mark Twain.”

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Lyric Repertory Company presents Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Music and Lyrics by Roger Miller, Book by William Hauptman, adapted from the novel by Mark Twain

The Caine Lyric Theatre, 28 West Center Street, Logan, UT 84321

July 17, 25, August 3, 5, 7:30 PM, July 29, 1:00 PM

Tickets $20-35

435-797-8022

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The Simon Fest’s “Under Construction” is Building a Good Show

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By Jennifer Mustoe

The last show at the Neil Simon Fest was a world premiere of Under Construction: A Blue Collar Musical, by Peter Sham. This was the fourth preview I saw in Cedar City in as many days. Sham wrote the acclaimed Lend Me a Tenor, and is premiering his most recent work, casting people from Cedar City’s repertory company, and directed by himself and Douglas Hill.

The set (Randy Lawrence Seely) is very simple with a raised stage covered with plastic, that soon reveals, voila, musical instruments (keyboard: Norm, (Brandon Scott Grayson), percussion: Fred (Lydia Feild), keyboard ll: Gus (Jacob Lee), and bass: Chet (Sean Militscher) that a band can play. There’s a hole on stage left that has caution tape around it and the show starts when smoke and confetti (fire) comes billowing out.

Because Betsy (Olivia Sham) was distracted with feeling her passed on mother’s scent of lilacs, Betsy wasn’t paying attention and accidentally sold tickets online to a non-existent show and a bunch of people have shown up, expecting a performance. So the blue collar workers who are fixing the problems (the explosion in the basement of the theater that caused the fire and smoke) and a few other folks at the theater gather together and start a musical to appease the audience.

The beginning of the story is a little unclear, but there are a lot of laughs as the people onstage realize there is an audience watching everything they do. As in every musical, the band plays well as if by magic and the singers sing like beautiful birds as if by magic but because we like musicals and are willing to suspend our disbelief, we’re okay with this. The live band, by the way, is amazing. LOVE live music for musicals!

The company of singer/actors is Don (Christopher Whiteside), Janine (Jordyn Aspyn), Steve (Henry Ballesteros), Terry (Nate Marble) and Betsy. All performers are fine actors and have good to very good singing voices.

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The strongest part of this show is its songs. Many are very snappy, and I looked at the audience after each number and many were smiling and laughing as they applauded. The funniest song is “The 9 Commandments for Success,” which has some fun aspects to it and actually has some good advice, too. Many of the numbers have two or more actors harmonizing, and in these songs, the harmonies are just lovely. I wish there had been more of these. There are a variety of song types–some ballads, one Country Western type song, “It’s Only a Moment,” sung very well by Sham. I especially liked this number because Sham’s mic box came off and she handled it like a true professional. I was worried because she is young, she’d panic, but she did great. (Crisis averted!) The rap doesn’t work as well.

The storyline isn’t as smooth as a well-established play, but that is to be expected. All new work has wrinkles to smooth out and Under Construction does, too. Costumes by Aimee Starr Pearson are cute, and the fancy second act costumes are pretty sparkly and fun. Lighting by Rebekah Bugg is great–this stage has a lot of lighting aspects to it and it is fun and vibrant. Sound by Frank Stearns is good, though the band is a little too loud for a few numbers and there were moments when I had a hard time hearing the singers.

The best singers in the group are the ladies. Both women sing with clear, strong, lovely voices. Because there are still some bugs in the show, it would have helped if there had been more movement onstage. Choreographer Kirsten Sham has her actors moving around reasonably well in the dances, but many times, the actors just stand or stroll as they sing. If there was more movement, especially in solos and duets (looking at one another, arm movements, etc), the show would have more energy. I also wanted to see more of a tie between construction as in blue collar work, but also the delicate construction of how relationships work, break, and get repaired. I think that is coming. Sham is a great writer, but this kind of project is big–very big, and developing a story takes time. I look forward to future productions as the show continues to progress.

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I have been in independent, up and coming shows and they are a lot of work, from writing, to rehearsal, to performance and the ever-evolving rewrites after the show closes (for the first time, and…?) I would encourage everyone to go see Under Construction:  The Blue Collar Musical because it is in its infancy and Sham and the troupe need to know what is working and what isn’t. This is one of the best ways we can support theater–go to new shows! There is very much to be enjoyed in Construction, especially in the second act. Please go enjoy this show and give this hard-working bunch the support they deserve.

Neil Simon Festival presents Under Construction: The Blue Collar Musical, by Peter Sham

The Heritage Center Theater, 105 North 100 East, Cedar City, UT 84720

$25 or $80 for all four shows.

info@simonfest.org, 435-267-0194

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“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” at the Caine Lyric Repertory Theater in Logan is Filled with Laughs

 

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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), put on at Logan’s Lyric Repertory Theater, is the comedic compilation of many of Shakespeare’s plays.  It surrounds a trio of young actors that undertake the huge task of performing snippets of many of Shakespeare’s plays, sort of. The theater was filled with laughter, as this show makes jokes about the comedies and the tragedies. You didn’t know that Titus Adronicus, purported to be Shakespeare’s goriest play, can be funny? In Complete Works, it’s a cooking show. Gross, but hilarious.

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As always, the audience is kindly ushered to comfortable chairs with a program in hand. The majority of audience members are teenagers or older. Given some of the adult humor, I would not recommend this play to anyone younger than 18. Even then, this show may not be for adults who are uncomfortable with innuendo and sexual remarks, which are laced generously throughout this play.

The cast, made up of only three individuals, does an impressive job given the fact that they are onstage nonstop with only a few short breaks. The actors, Camden Blankenship, Lance Rasmussen, and Mitch Shira play themselves: young men acting out Shakespeare’s classics. The actors have great talent and do well with improvisation, which in encouraged in Complete Works. Each show and production is different as the playwrights, Adam LongDaniel Singer, and Jess Winfield suggest in instructions at the beginning of the script. Basically—have fun! Play to your audience. Blankenship, Rasmussen and Shira have a genuinely good time performing. They are not afraid to get silly by dancing, singing, and even beat boxing.  They love what they do and it shows. All three actors work well together and seem to enjoy their time together.

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I loved their costumes, which are simple Shakespearean era white shirts, tights, and skirt-tunics. The tights are the recipient of a lot of laughter from the audience. These wonderful costumes are designed by Nancy Hills. The set, designed by Shawn Fisher, is a very simple and versatile backdrop of old English cottages and buildings. The lighting (Bruce Duerden) is splendidly executed. My favorite lighting scene is when Romeo and Juliet drink the potion and become high. The lights turn the psychedelic colors of purple, green, pink, and yellow. It really added to the comedy of the scene. Bryan Z. Richards is in charge of the sound and does a great job with sound effects, especially during the fighting scenes. Fight choreographers Chris O’Connor and Wyn Moreno bring realistic stage fighting to this piece, and make it cool and funny—which is what Complete Works is made for. Typically, it is for a younger crowd and sword fights and punching are “legit.”

 The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is for audiences who love ribald humor plus Shakespeare in a fast-moving, improv type piece.

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The Lyric Repertory Company presents The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield

Caine Lyric Repertory Theater, 28 West Center Street Logan, Utah

July 20, 27, August 4 7:30 PM

$15-30

435-797-3046

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Learning to Fly from Broken Wings at Utah Rep’s “Blackbird”

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by Susannah Whitman

Utah Repertory Theater has created an interesting setting for their current production of Blackbird in Salt Lake City. Food wrappers and trash litter the floor of the breakroom onstage. The walls are half-finished–patches of paint and exposed outlets under a dim fluorescent light. In the corner, sheets of drywall are propped near a ladder. This is a room halfway between destruction and renewal.

Really, this is a room of unfinished business, as director Larry West points out in the program notes. A perfect setting for the reunion between Una and Ray in Utah Repertory Theatre’s production of Blackbird.

Written in 2005 by Scottish playwright David Harrower, the script tells the story of a meeting between 27-year-old Una (Anne Louise Brings) and Ray (Mark Fossen), the middle-aged man who sexually abused her when she was 12. Through Mamet-esque halting dialogue, Ray and Una slowly fight to untangle what happened between them fifteen years ago. The play received critical acclaim in the United Kingdom and the U.S., and both Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels received Tony nominations for their performances of the play on Broadway in 2016.

The play is short—only 75 minutes—but a lot is packed into those intermission-free minutes. There is a beautiful and, at times uncomfortable, peeling away of layer after layer of “what happened” between these two characters all those years ago. And the closer we get to the truth, the more we realize it’s not nearly as black and white as we’d like it to be. There are wrong things in this story, and right things, and wrong things that feel right, and right things that feel wrong. There is shame and confusion and longing and hope and heartbreak.

They say that half of the work of directing is casting the right people, and Fossen and Brings are the right people. With such capable actors, director Larry West could collaborate to create some truly effective storytelling.

Fossen portrayed Ray with brilliant honesty, allowing us to see both the shame and the hope within him. It would be easy for this character to be a clear villain, and it would be just as easy for him to be a victim. But Fossen doesn’t portray him as either. Under West’s direction, Fossen found the complexity of this character–a man who is both villain and victim, who is both honorable and guilty.

Brings plays Una with both vulnerability and strength. The character of Una was far too young to process what took place between her and Ray, and we sense that “incompleteness” in her life; the way she’s had to try and move forward, despite losing part of her childhood. Brings shows both the longing and hope she felt as a child and still sometimes feels now, along with the bitter, heartbreaking anger she can’t stop.

Finally, 13-year-old Kayla Seibeneck does wonderfully in her short moments onstage. She listens well and portrays young Carla with honesty.

There were a few moments when the actors had their backs to the audience for longer than I liked. In a proscenium theatre set up, I felt I was missing some great moments, only because I couldn’t always see an actor’s face. Still, in those moments, the actors communicated and the story moved beautifully along.

Utah Repertory Theatre is still fairly new in the area, but it’s already won significant praise in its five years. It’s known for producing lesser-known shows, and “edgier” shows that might not get produced in Utah otherwise. They’re filling a need for deeper stories, for stories of conflict and humor and heartbreak. There is great value in Disney musicals, but it’s wonderful to see companies like Utah Rep producing innovative and moving theatre that explores the human experience in other ways.

Blackbird is performed in the small theatre space at the Sorensen Unity Center in Salt Lake City. It’s not an ideal space—there’s limited lighting capabilities, and there’s no space for a tech booth—but Utah Rep does a great job with what they have. One element I felt was missing was sound design. The pre-show music was a loop of simple Bossa Nova tunes—think “elevator music.” It wasn’t unpleasant, but it didn’t seem to be related to the script. There was no need for sound design during the performance itself, and effects or background music would have probably been distracting. But one of the great things about theatre is that you have so many elements at your disposal to create a story: lighting, sound, words, costumes, set, etc. It would have been nice to have a stronger pre-show soundtrack to add to that storytelling.

But despite the lack of a strong pre-show soundtrack, I left the theatre feeling deeply moved. Sexuality and love and innocence and childhood and shame are all heavy topics. They’re difficult to talk about, but they should be talked about. The pain that the characters experience in this play comes both from things that were wrong, and also from both of them wanting things that were wrong. These stories are rarely “simple.” They are often complex and confusing. But it is in those complex and confusing spaces that we can make room for healing and forgiveness. Through their experience, you may find change happening inside of you as you watch Utah Rep’s Blackbird.

Utah Repertory Theatre presents Blackbird by David Harrower

Sorensen Unity Center, 1383 South 900 West, Salt Lake City

July 21-22, 7:30 PM, July 28-30 7:30 PM

Tickets $20 for adults, $17 for students. May be purchased at the door or online. General seating.

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Content: Some language, frank discussion of sexuality and abuse.

The Simon Fest’s “Noises Off” in Cedar City Brings Uproarious Laughs

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By Jennifer Mustoe

This is Night #3 at the Neil Simon Festival in Cedar City—Noises Off by Michael Frayn. These performances have been preview nights—their real season begins on Sunday, July 16th and runs through mid-August. Previews can often be train wrecks. None of the Simon Fest’s shows have been anything but great. Tonight’s Noises Off, though it needs tightening, is still very, very good, and very, very funny.

Very simply, Noises Off is a play within a play and shows the problems actors have onstage, backstage, and off stage (with romances within the cast—never a good idea.) In Act One, we see the ridiculous and nonsensical Nothing On, the play within the play, and see what the lines are supposed to be. Act Two, the entire set is turned around (on wheels—kudos to Scenic Designer/Technical Director Randy Lawrence Seely) and we see what happens backstage, where you have to be silent (I know this from personal experience) and what you do to try to communicate anyway.  In Act Three, the set is again turned around and we see how the show is supposed to go, but by then, it’s devolved into something so hard to understand that it is chaotically hilarious.

Director TJ Penrod gets his talented cast moving in a frantic, frenetic way up and down stairs and through the many (5?) doors on the set. Doors open and shut, actors click and clack up and down the stairs, the lines from Nothing On make absolutely no sense (like, they keep talking about sardines!) but Penrod keeps the chaos moving well. I keep mentioning chaos—don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s part of what makes Noises Off so funny. Though this show can easily be appreciated by actors who have been there and done that, tonight’s audience proves you don’t have to be an actor to see why Noises Off’s onstage/backstage flips don’t flop. We all get how horrible and horribly funny things can be when, no matter how hard you try, things just go completely to heck.

Holly Barrick plays Dotty Ottley—an older actress who’s plunged her own money into the production of Nothing On. Ottley’s character plays a Cockney maid who is obsessed with platters of sardines. Dotty is having an affair with Garry Lejeune (Kade Cox) and as can be imagined, when the romance sours, the play, already awful, suffers. Barrick and Cox play their characters well, especially once they are no longer lovers but are enemies. Barrick’s character by Act Three goes completely bananas, and watch what Barrick does across the stage toward the end of the play. I don’t know if this was her choice or a directorial choice by Penrod, but it’s subtle and really funny. Cox’s character has many, many of his sentences end with “you know” because Lejeune is rather thick and can’t think past what’s written in the script. Cox has to be very physical in this part (pretty much everyone does, really) and his physical comedy is really great. He throws himself up and down those stairs, falls down the stairs, mimics all kinds of horrible actions toward Dotty during the backstage scene, and keeps the scenes pretty tight. He is a strong actor.

Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On is played with lots of great timing and precision by Nate Marble. Marble is the only actor with a mic and we hear him best. He also has a very strong English accent. I’ve seen Noises Off several times, and I love what Marble does with his lothario character as his affairs with two women involved in the play is found out. Marble becomes very dopey dog lovey toward the sexy Brooke Ashton (Tammi Colombo) and I liked this choice. Colombo kept her energy high and played the bimbo type with more caring than I’ve seen in other performances. Her little heels she wore clicking up and down the stairs were a little distracting, but she is a hoot as she flips her long ponytail all over and her “pose” got lots of laughs.

Frederick Fellowes (Trevor Messenger) (who brilliantly played Eugene in last night’s Broadway Bound), is one of the funniest parts in the show. He has frequent nosebleeds and becomes faint when there is any violence. Up and down Messenger went as his character struggles with all the mess that goes on in the show. I was happiest when Messenger was onstage. He is filled with a quiet energy that is great to watch.

Belinda Blair (Selena Price) plays her character with warmth and charm. I think the Belinda character often gets overlooked because she doesn’t do anything completely nutty. But Price kept Belinda kind yet fun, and this grounds the piece. Jordyn Aspyn’s Poppy Norton-Taylor has her big moments later in the show and Aspyn carries these moments off with real style. Tim Allgood (Robert F. Wilson) is the ultimate techie, until he has to help the show not completely die. Wilson is very funny—his timing is great and he seems very comfortable with his role. I believed him as Tim. Henry Ballesteros’ Selsdon Mowbray has a depth I haven’t seen before. He plays Selsdon with a real respect, not just some drunken, blithering dope. Selsdon, by the mere fact that he is often AWOL, is often a throw away character, but Ballesteros gives him a slightly off-kilter charm.  

Costumes by Jen Bach were appropriate. This isn’t a costume heavy show. I especially liked Frederick’s beige suit and violet shirt.

Noises Off is a funny show. There is a lot going on and it gets a little harried, but it’s supposed to. However, there are lots of big laughs in this show and, except for one F word, it’s very tame and you could bring tweens to it. Noises Off is a show that is produced regularly locally and every time I see it, I remember how much I laugh in it. The Simon Fest’s production is no exception. Come and laugh (your guts out) at Simon Fest’s silly, crazy, energy-filled Noises Off.

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Neil Simon Festival presents Noises Off, by Neil Simon

The Heritage Center Theater, 105 North 100 East, Cedar City, UT 84720

$25 or $80 for all four shows.

info@simonfest.org, 435-267-0194

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