Ogden’s Ziefield Theater’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a Fun Season Opener

drs3By Michael T. McKinlay

It was opening night for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Book by Jeremy Lane, Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek), that began the season of comedy for Ogden’s Ziegfeld Theater. That is what the show accomplished–a great fun night of good laughs that helps put one’s worries aside for a few hours. A show not to miss this year! You have the opportunity til closing night March 5th.

The Ziegfeld Theater, once a movie theater, now a live theater has that old time movie theatre feel from the outside through the doors into your comfortable new seats with cup holders. I felt like I was ready to watch a classic movie where the credits are displayed over the curtain as the overture played. But at the Ziegfeld they for sure live up to their motto of “Professional Standard, Community Spirit” in all aspects.

Based on the popular 1988 MGM film,  Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a comedy about who’s getting conned. Watch closely–you never know who’s conning who!

Lawrence Jameson is posh. Freddy Benson is more mundane. But both know how to swindle and start to battle over a small French town’s pawns. The crack a deal that they will battle for the town by swindling a lovely young heiress–winner takes all.

Contains mild language and some irreverent humor. Appropriate for most audiences.

drs1Great Big Stuff is a wonderful showcase of the show’s brilliance. Where Freddy (Ed Madson) sings about how he wants what Lawrence (Kevin Ireland) has. This number really showed the two men’s showmanship and talent. An outstanding performance by Kelliann Johnson in the role of Jolene Oaks in the number Oklahoma?. I was delighted at her deft performance. Kelliann Johnson had Jolene’s sweet Southern charm shine through but with a wild cowgirl attitude that makes her perfomance pop. All About Ruprecht was hilarious. Watch out for Christine Colgate played by Heidi Potter Hunt–she was funny and a real asset to the show.

The great thing about live theater is you’ll never see the same show twice. This being opening night, there were a little fits and starts and one big pillar falling and a great actor save. But that’s usually to be expected on opening night.

Other honorable mentions Rebecca Marcotte as Muriel Eubanks and Daniel Akin as Andre Thibault during Like Zis/Like Zat.

drs2Wonderful choreography by Joshua Samuel Robinson, beautiful musical direction from Jamie Balaich, and direction by Rick Rea where you made dirty rotten very classy and well done to make sure all have a good laugh.
It is worth the drive (my drive was 50 min) to Ogden to see this show. Because truly you will get a professional standard experience with the warm welcoming of community spirit from the Ziegfeld Theater.

$17-$20 Fridays and Saturdays @ 7:30 PM, Saturday matinees @ 2 PM

Feb 5- March 5th,

 

 

 

Here Comes…The Wedding Singer in Cedar City

Wedding Singer Posterby Zac Trotter

The Wedding Singer? That’s a new one for Cedar City audiences. Cedar Valley Community Theatre’s latest production is a fresh and exciting opportunity to see a show that is uncommon for the area. Based on the hit motion picture of the same name, The Wedding Singer allows its audience to take a trip to another time and to leave its own worries and cares at the door for a couple of hours. The curtain rose at the top of the show to reveal the characters already dancing to the rock-themed music being conducted by Carylee Zwang. That high energy remained onstage for the duration of the performance.

The show stars Cedar City favorite Reece Brown as Robbie, who is trying to find true love for himself while serenading those who have already found it at their own weddings. After he is left at the altar and with a bleak outlook on life, dating and happiness, he enlists the help of his band (played by Indy Jones and Trevor Walker) and two caterers (Emilee Gull and Kelsea Burton) to get himself out of the dumpster and on the track to success.

Kelsea Burton as Holly played her part with so much energy and charisma that it wasn’t a surprise when she is doused with water at the end of the first act. Austin Strine as Glen Guglia portrays the antagonist with such finesse that I wanted to get up and slap him myself. Everyone in the cast is completely committed to their characters and it is clear they understand that ensemble cohesiveness is the key to making a show like this successful. The show is directed by Stephen Wagner and choreographed by Torri Adams, who create a fast and exciting show that puts its audience on the edge of their seats wanting more right up to curtain call.

Cedar City is home to lots of theatres, most of whom have chosen to do dramatic works during this part of the season. The Wedding Singer is comedic, lively and brilliantly acted. It really is a bright spot in the community during this cold winter. I would recommend sitting close to the stage; the mics have a tendency to come on late at the top of scenes. There is some mild language and sexual content and may not be appropriate for small children. It’s basically the same as seeing an Adam Sandler movie. If you’re okay with that, you’ll enjoy this. The show continues February 1, 5, 6, and 8 at the Heritage Theatre and starts at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $12.00.

http://www.cedartheatre.org/
Heritage Center Theater
105 North 100 East
Cedar City, UT 84720
https://www.facebook.com/events/1120594057965672/

UVU’s Mother Hicks is Good, Old-fashioned American Magic

mother hicksReviewed by Stephen Gashler
A play for young audiences set in the Great Depression in a small town in Illinois, Mother Hicks (by Suzan Zeder) is the story of an abandoned girl – appropriately named Girl – in search of a home and an identity. This female answer to Huckleberry Finn wanders from place to place, from the rough crowds on the wrong side of the train tracks to the well-off and well-mannered, though she never seems to fit in. She crosses paths with Tuc, a deaf and dumb man who, like Girl, is overlooked and belittled by society. Tuc as something of a guardian ange, looks out for Girl when no one else will. Tuc is also a sign language poet.

Speaking of misfits, there’s no shortage of local gossip about the old hermit, Mother Hicks. Rumor has it that she’s a witch, responsible for virtually every mishap in town from milks cows gone dry to the deaths of young children. Girl is inspired by the way Mother Hicks commands the fear of the town, and wishing to take such power upon herself, rebelliously delves into the dark arts. But when a dangerous ritual goes awry, a wounded Girl is in trouble and Tuc, ever looking out for her, carries her to the home of none other than the elusive Mother Hicks.

Girl finds herself in an eclectic cottage full of wild animals and face-to-face with the town “witch.” Through some hard lessons, she’s forced to learn for herself about real power, real healing, and real identity.

The cast of Mother Hicks is full of rich characters. Girl (Emma Eugenia Belnap) is full of passion and a driving force for the play. It was a delight to discover the personality of Mother Hicks (McKell Petersen), who is at first shrouded in mystery but then commands the show with her matriarchal presence. McKell had me convinced that she was quite a few decades older than she is. Tuc (Matt McGill) has a sweet innocence and honesty that provide a great balance to the more domineering characters. There are many other fun and well-played characters (from the gossiping housewife to the general store clerk to the town drunk) who collectively succeed at painting an iconic Mayberry. I found myself lost in an America long-gone yet nostalgically familiar, a more innocent time when barefoot boys and girls knew that adventure was just around the corner, and witches frequented graveyards.

Suzan Zeder’s play is packed with thoughtful themes in a charming setting. I loved the exploration of an all-American brand of witchcraft that was still alive and well in the twentieth century. I loved the coming of age themes that young audiences will identify with and the tasteful treatment of harder themes like overcoming prejudice and broken relationships. Director John Newman did a great job at bringing out these ideas, giving my two young daughters and I a lot to talk about as we exited the theater.

Visually, the show isn’t lacking in eye candy. The costumes (designed by Scott Edward Twichell) all felt natural, and the set (designed by Stephen Purdy), with a sandy base, gorgeous backdrops, and eclectic yet minimalistic set pieces such as rustic wheels, barrels, and crates, added a lot to the tone of the play and never got in the way. I was especially impressed by the lighting effects (designed by Jaron Kent Hermansen and Laicey M. Giddy-Brown), clouds, and stars. The coolest scene is when Girl is practicing her witchcraft, and it looks as if she’s surrounded by rippling water on a sandy beach. I felt as I was right there with her.

UVU’s Mother Hicks is a quality student production and a great play for young audiences. It takes a little imagination to properly envision some of the actors as their characters’ ages, but such are the natural limitations of student theatre. Thankfully, kids have much better imaginations than adults, and if they’re like my kids, they’ll have a good time watching Mother Hicks. Without being too scary, it’s just heavy enough to get young (and old) minds turning. I look forward to seeing the other plays in this series (known as the Ware Trilogy) by Suzan Zeder.

Performed at the UVU Noorda Theatre

800 West University Pkwy MS 234, Orem, UT 84058

Runs January 14th – 30th
MThFS 7:30 PM
Saturdays at 2:00 PM

NOTE: ASL Interpreters are scheduled be at the following performances!!
Saturday January 16 @ 2p
Thursday January 21 @ 7:30p
Friday January 29 @ 7:30p

Tickets are $8 for students and $12 for general admission
uvu.edu/arts

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Utah Rep’s A Little Night Music is a Big Hit!

littleBy Cindy Whitehair

Send in the Clowns has been a very special song to me, for a long time so I jumped at the opportunity to see Utah Rep’s A Little Night Music to see the song in context. We were not disappointed.

A Little Night Music (music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler) was inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles on a Summer Night. It was written about a time when affairs were liaisons and people drove cars AND horse and buggies and royalty and title were en vogue—when actors and actresses trod the grand stages and grand salons of Europe with much fanfare. It is the story of three couples of star-crossed lovers and the machinations that they go through to get to where they need to be.

Utah Rep’s staging of the show is as lush as the lifestyle portrayed in the show. They installed a FULL proscenium arch stage into Sorenson Unity Center’s black box theater—a risky move given how small the space is to begin with. However, by making the space so intimate, the audience gets to see every little detail of the brilliant costumes (Nancy Susan Cannon), set design (Daniel Whiting), props and set dressing (Tim Mugridge and Madeline Ashton), lighting design (Geoffrey Gregory) and hair and wig design (Cindy Johnson) that made this show. The period touches through out every little detail (gaslights on the sides of the proscenium) showed the thought that the production team put into this show.

It is a rare thing in this valley to have live (as opposed to an orchestrated recorded track) music and Utah Rep is one of the few theatres that does live music regularly. With a music director like Anne Puzey (who was also the pianist for this show) it’s hard not to take advantage of that talent. Keyboardist Jeanne McGuire filled in the rest of the orchestra beautifully.

Director Christopher Clark did an amazing job balancing the unbelievable talent that he had to work with. You could always see the actors—even when the whole ensemble was on stage at the same time. There was no ensemble hanging in the background—every member of this cast had their moment in the spotlight. This show was cast with a great attention to detail and how the each cast member would fit into the show. The director pulled you into his vision of what this show should be.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this stellar cast. The Quintet (a quasi-Greek Chorus made up of Jim Dale, Raina Larkin Thorne, Natalie Easter, David K. Martin and Tamara Sleight) are used like the Muses of old—to tie a show together, while moving it along. A summer breeze sweeps you up into the story while moving it along. Their voices blended well together and they were cast to show off their individual vocal strengths.

The three generations of Armfeldt women – Madame (Elizabeth Hansen), Desiree (Susan Facer) and Fredrika (Bailee Johnson) are a major focus of the story. Desiree was the toast of Europe as an actress, but as she has aged, she has been relegated to playing the smaller stages of Europe. She is still clinging to “The Glamorous Life” while realizing all she has missed (her daughter Fredrika growing up.) Meanwhile, Madame (who is raising Fredrika) realizes she is not long for this mortal coil. All three actresses did phenomenal jobs letting you know everything about their character, even if they had minimal lines (Ms. Johnson.) The relationships—strained at times, doting at others felt real. Ms. Facer commanded the stage as a diva should—she was the sun that the planets (the rest of the cast) revolved around.

To say that the Egerman’s – Patriarch Fredrik (Doug Irey), son Henrik (Jon Rose) and stepmother Anne (Marissa Smith)—are a dysfunctional family is a wild understatement. Fredrik is written as almost a Shakespearian fool—married to a much younger Anne who knows nothing of marriage. Henrik was Goth, long before Goth was even a thing. They are three individuals occupying the same home but interacting with one another on the fringes. The song triad Now, Later, and Soon sums up the relationships in true Sondheim fashion.

Rounding out the cast are the Count Carl-Magnus (Matt Dobson) and Countess Charlotte (Dianna Graham) Malcolm and servants Frid (Greg Carver) in the Armfeldt household and Petra (Casey Matern) in the Egerman household. Each brings such verve to the show. The Countess and her conniving to get her husband back from the diva, the Count who realizes that he does love his wife, the lusty maidservant and the faithful manservant who steps out of his rigid shell all bring a depth to the show that is necessary.

In a show with so much talent, it is hard to pick a stand out number. Send in the Clowns is the signature song for this show with good reason (more on that shortly) but there were three other songs that (for us) were just as good, but for different reasons. Liaisons (sung by Madame Armfeldt) and The Miller’s Son (sung by Petra) were two of the most technically challenging songs in a musical full of technically challenging music (we are talking Sondheim, after all.) The third, Weekend in the Country had the whole cast singing at least six (that I could count) different parts and with different syncopations, and there was not a dropped lyric or not in the bunch. That is a hard thing to accomplish.

As I said, the signature song for this show is Send in the Clowns. This song is one my mother and I used to play together frequently when I was in high school—it is a very happy memory for me. However, the song is about regrets and loss and mourning. While the piano line had me missing my mom (who died five years ago), Ms. Facer’s emotional connection to the song is what had me in tears at the end (and now as I am writing about it.) For a song that Sondheim admitted was an afterthought, it packs an emotional punch that this seasoned actress wielded deftly.

All in all, A Little Night Music is a well-polished, entertaining, tour de force. It is everything musical theater is supposed to be and was a true joy to watch.

Utah Rep Presents A Little Night Music
Jan 15-30
Sorenson Unity Center
1383 S 900 W, Salt Lake City, Utah 84104
Tickets can be purchased online

Centerpoint Legacy Theater’s The Foreigner Should be Your New Best Friend

foreigner1By Craig and Jennifer Mustoe

Do. Not. Miss. This. Play.
The Foreigner, a hilarious comedy by Larry Shue, focuses on Brit Charlie Baker, played by Rusty Brinkhurst (on some dates—this is double cast), erstwhile science fiction proofreader, boring man and cuckold. He accompanies his friend Froggy LeSueur (played by David F. Marsden), British military explosives expert, to rural Georgia. Froggy leaves Charlie alone at a backwoods fishing lodge owned and operated by his old friend Betty Meeks (Holly Reid) while he goes off for three days on his annual bomb training of U.S. soldiers. Before he leaves, Charlie begs Froggy to find a way so that he won’t have to talk to anyone at the lodge; Charlie believes that he is terminally boring and can never hold an intelligent conversation with anyone. Froggy tells Betty that Charlie is a foreigner, and doesn’t speak a word of English. Betty takes an instant shine to him, as she has always envied the exciting life Froggy leads, traveling around the world and meeting exciting “foreigners.” Now she has one of her own.

Charlie soon encounters a series of characters at the lodge. Catherine (Kari Plott) is young and beautiful and engaged to the Rev. David Marshall Lee (BJ Whimpey.) She has a younger brother, Ellard (Richie Uminsky), who is, well, um … special. He will not receive his half of the inheritance until Catherine certifies that he is intelligent enough to handle it. David has a friend, Owen (Josh Curtis), who is as redneck as they come. He is the new (corrupt) countytax assessor with aspirations to be sheriff. These various characters hold rather private conversations right in front of Charlie, believing that he can’t understand them, and thus, won’t tell their dirty secrets and most personal thoughts and feelings. He is soon known as a great listener.

foreigner

Soon, Charlie learns of a dastardly plot to steal the lodge and get Catherine’s inheritance. He also learns that she is pregnant by the minister (didn’t we see something like this in The Scarlet Letter?). Ellard goes about teaching Charlie English and he makes re-mark-able progress. Soon Charlie can read Shakespeare like an Oxford master. In the final act the Klan shows up, and we read in another review that she had no idea that the Klan was in the show so we have stated it right here. They are not the good guys by any means, but we wanted you to know.

The set by scenic designer Scott Vandyke was brilliantly designed and quite authentic. It had the hunting-fishing lodge feel to it—complete with mounted fish, poles, nets and other fishing equipment and one set of antlers. There were antique signs all over, too, and a player piano (wait to you see what they do with THIS—was that in the script? I don’t this s–but we loved it.) Jackie Smith as property designer rounds out the set beautifully.

Sound and lighting by Jay M. Clark was spot on (did you see what I did there?). Not one mic failure. Lighting cues perfect. This production had an amazing feature that was used to its best ability—a live band, whose playing helped scene changes fly by. Music director Gary Sorenson’s players: Debbie Cannon on keyboard; Christine Warren and Katie Frandsen on violins, Spencer Hohl—brilliant guitar and banjo; Dan Smith on percussion; Emily Merrill on percussion—was ingenious with his music choices and this alone lent something to this play we’ve never seen before. Authentic downhome Bluegrass at its best.

Costumes by show director Jennie Richardson were simple and believable. Though he doesn’t have much stage time, Froggy’s military outfit was authentic. A nod to Betty’s apron-covered dress, too.

Now, for the actors—we were impressed with how completely solid this performance was. One eensy blip with one line only. Performances were sparkling and startling and smooth. But smooth isn’t what this play is about. Why? Because each actor, led by Jennie Richardson’s deft direction, were exquisitely crafted and brilliantly presented. We love Betty. We hate Owen. We adore Ellard. We feel sorry for Catherine. We giggle with Froggy. We despise the reverend. And we laugh our heads off with the amazing physical acting ability and comic timing of Rusty Bringhurst. His delivery was so perfect, it made our heads spin. We saw audience members guffaw, clap like crazy, practically begging for more.

One last comment—the staff at the Centerpoint Legacy Theater is one of the nicest group of folks we’ve ever interacted with. Kind, helpful, upbeat—total professionalism but so warm—we were very impressed.

This theater is a little out of the way for us in Spanish Fork, though it is right off the freeway. However, we recommend and if we could INSIST you get in your car and get to this show.

The Foreigner

January 11- February 6–dark Sundays 7:30 PM

$14.00-$24.50

The Centerpoint Legacy Theater

Address: 525 N 400 W, Centerville, UT 84014

The Covey’s Joyful Noise is Lovely!

joyful noise

By Jennifer and Craig Mustoe

This is Jen’s third time seeing Joyful Noise, Craig’s first. This review is especially rewarding because it is by a seasoned viewer and a brand new one.

To start this review–these reviewers need to encourage you heartily to go see this show. It is the Covey’s final time producing it and it is well worth it to add this to your Christmas festivities. Yes, you are busy. But this is a lovely production of the process and the characters that play a part in the creation of the beautiful Messiah, written by George Frederic Handel. The lilting music is strewn through the show. If you like this piece, you’ll love Joyful Noise.

J. Scott Bronson plays Handel and for his performance alone, you need to see the show. He rages, he is kind, he is brilliant, he is a lunatic. He is completely believable and I bet if the real GFH could see this show, he’d love Bronson’s portrayal. This character and actor was Craig’s favorite.

Travis Hyer returns as King George II. He, too, has the accent, the mannerisms, the haughty royal-ness about him that make him a delight to watch year after year. Craig, too, praised his deftness and humor.

Other actors in the show are returns: Adam Argyle as Charles Jennens. Argyle has a quirky humor that makes his portrayl fun to watch. Jeffrey Hanson’s Bishop Henry Eggerton is a character that is rather unlikable and stuck up–and Hanson nails it. The sad and talented Susannah Cibber is played by Julianna Boulter and her fight with Kat Webb’s Kitty Clive is one of the funnier scenes in the play, though in years past, it was more vicious–and I loved that. Both women have lovely voices and play off one another well. Lynne D. Bronson returns as the loyal Mary Pendarves–her rhyming to fight Handel’s detractors is very cute and funny. Eric Geels is the only newcomer to the show and his portrayal of John Christopher Smith–Handel’s right hand man/butler/person to be shouted at is awesome.

The set by Dan James is very basic, with set pieces brought in and out easily and naturally. The costumes by Madeline Plato were a little uneven–Handel, Jennens, Smith and King George II’s costumes are great. The other costumes weren’t as nice and made some of the play look a little ‘off.’

Director David Hanson made some changes to the shows I’ve seen in years past, but not so many that it looked highly noticeable. All actors move well on a rather small, three-sided stage of the Brinton Black Box (upstairs in the northwest corner.)

Sound, in this show, is critical to sound flawless and the Covey technical staff, headed up by Dan James, does a fine job.

There was only a few problems we could see with the show and they aren’t the fault of the actors or the production staff. One has nothing to do with anything but the crowd was pathetically small and for a show of this caliber, this is criminal. Also, there were two little girls sitting to our right who were hopelessly bored. Friends, this show isn’t for kids–not because there is anything bad in it. It’s just not a ‘car chase’ play as Craig says. It deals with a beautiful spiritual experience and really has nothing that kids would want to see. Finally, the small theater is ‘attached’ to the larger stage and a raucous concert was on next door. The fans were cheering like mad and this was remarkably distracting to the quiet beauty going onstage for Joyful Noise.

So, do yourself a favor and see Joyful Noise. You won’t regret it. And while you’re at the Covey’s beautiful facility, go through the building and look at all the artwork. There are some astounding pieces there.

Joyful Noise, by Tim Slover

Covey Center for the Arts — 425 W Center, Provo

7:30 PM December 3-21, Mon, Thurs, Fri and Saturday

$12 Student/Senior/Military     $14  Public Tickets

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You’ll Have a Wonderful Time at SCERA’s “It’s a Wonderful Life!”

The Bailey family sings around the piano. They were an adorable onstage family. PC: Mark Philbrick

The Bailey family sings around the piano. They were an adorable onstage family. Picture by: Mark Philbrick

Reviewed By Megan Graves*

Before I went to see this musical adaptation of Frank Capra’s timeless classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I was curious yet skeptical about how this stage version would compare to the movie, but the SCERA cast and crew were able to adapt this iconic moralistic story into a stage musical with style and humor. While nothing can replace the classic character portrayals of the movie we know and love, I appreciated the creativity and richness that the new song and dance numbers add to the characters’ story. Most of the popular lines and scenes from the movie are still in the script, cleverly interspersed with songs that bring out even more emotion and depth to the characters. Not only that, they involve the audience in the story at times and make use of the theater space in creative ways. For example, when George Bailey and and Mary Hatch (played excellently by Matthew Nelson and Natalie Merrill) throw rocks at the Old Granville House and make their wishes – one of my all-time favorite scenes, they threw over the audience. It made me feel more like I was a part of the play. Don’t worry… it’s pretend so you don’t have to duck. ;-)

I loved some of the changes to the story that the playwright made, such as adding the new silly character Aunt Tilly (Lucy Bradford), who is married to Uncle Billy (Christopher Bradford) on stage and in real life! These two played off each other extremely well, made us laugh more than once, and had a lovely dancing duet. Other pleasant additions to the script were Ma Bailey’s song, Clarence the “second-class angel’s” song, and Violet’s tap dance number, one because you don’t expect those characters to have solos, and also because it brought more depth and feeling to their characters’ stories. Respectively, Deborah Bowman and Star Hall both had excellent voices and stage presence while they sang, and Alyssa Orme impressively sang and tap danced at the same time.

Honestly, my favorite part of the show was watching the supporting cast. They had incredible energy and talent. Most of the cast was actively engaged and interested in what was happening on stage, and Ernie (David Layton) and Mr. Gower (Steve Whitehead) were extremely fun to watch in this regard. MariLee Boekweg made us laugh more than once as the stoic bank examiner, amazingly actually because of her lack of emotion during emotionally-charged scenes. In the pivotal scene between young George (Kimball Bradford) and Mr. Gower, when George cries with him about his son dying in the war – well, I cried with them. That scene makes me cry every time in the movie, but it was even more poignant seeing it on stage.

Mr. Potter is one of the most well-known villains in movie history. The adaptation of his character, portrayed excellently by Eric Glissmeyer, was one of the biggest surprises of the musical. Even though he was in a wheelchair, he moved commandingly across the stage as he sang, weaving a powerful performance as a conniving spider of a man, and convincing the audience of his villainous tendencies with a voice that rang like thunder at times.

One of my favorite aspects of this production was how the cast cleverly interacted with the piano player (Andrew Walsh) on stage. Throughout the play, they wheeled him back and forth, sat on the piano bench with him, or spun the piano around the stage while he was playing, and yet he played along seamlessly and charismatically the entire time. It was seriously impressive. Way to go, Andrew!

I find it incredible how many children are involved in the SCERA’s productions, especially this one. The huge children’s chorus was a joy to see and hear (kudos to directors Martha Glissmeyer and Michael Carrasco for this as well), and the tremendous involvement by entire families on and off stage in this musical in particular is almost as equally heartwarming as the story itself.

One joy of live theater that is particularly rewarding is to see the artistic choices made by the set, costume, and lighting designers. One risk of live theater is for something to go wrong with any of those technical aspects as well as the sound. I’m pleased to report that I didn’t even think about the sound and backstage crew until writing this review, which means, in other words, that Danielle Berry the Stage Manager and Kendall Bowman the Audio Engineer did a stellar job. There was a roof that didn’t connect to the Bailey’s house on stage, which I wasn’t sure was intentional or not, and they didn’t have a sign indicating the Bailey house had been changed to a boarding house in one of the more significant scenes, so that was a little confusing, but those were minor details. What I did love was the deliberate choice of costuming colors – matching George Bailey’s and Clarence’s suit colors, for example, and their gray tones matching the gray of the regal arched stone facade in the background (great job Deborah Bowman on costumes and Nat Reed on set). The lighting design by Elizabeth Griffiths – with the changes from sunset to night, etc., were a beautiful contrast to the stone pillars and stark stairs on the set.

With this kind of play – an adaptation from an iconic classic movie –  it’s hard to leave everyone in the audience happy, because people are so familiar with the show that if something is changed or left out, people could be disappointed. It’s the job of both the playwright and director to keep the essential points of the story and not gloss over them. This is even trickier with a musical because there are songs that add to the length of the show, so some parts from the movie have to be cut. Knowing this, I was very impressed with how the play was written and performed by this cast.

However, just as a warning for you “It’s a Wonderful Life” aficionados, regarding changes to the script that you might not enjoy, I was particularly disappointed in the almost non-existence of the dancing pool scene, one of my favorites, so don’t expect much from that scene, and I was surprised at some inconsistencies, omissions, and changes to the original story which didn’t seem to make sense (and are the fault of the playwright’s choice), such as George not finding Zuzu’s petals in his pocket to show that he was alive again after he had a change of heart, or him praying to God after he gets punched in the face instead of beforehand, which is one of the more ironic, poignant parts of his decline to almost suicide. Basically, don’t expect it to be the exact story with the exact favorite songs or parts that you are accustomed to seeing or maybe have even memorized, like myself. However, despite the script being different than the hollywood production, you’ll find yourself delighted with the SCERA’s clever musical rendition of this classic story.

One thing you might like about the indoor SCERA theater that makes it unique is how family-friendly and date-friendly the theater is. If you’re bringing that someone special, you can buy tickets to the love seats they have in the theater and make it a more memorable night. Also if you need to take a restless or crying child out of the hall but still want to watch, they have a crying room where you can still see and hear the show. They also have booster seats that kids can sit on in order to see the stage better. What I didn’t like was that I felt like I needed a booster seat to see the stage adequately without someone’s head in the way, and I’m not that short. I even did try a booster seat, but unfortunately, they are not made for adults. ;-)

Performance Details For When You Go:

It’s a Wonderful Life plays every night except Sundays and Tuesdays at 7:30 PM at the SCERA Center for the Arts (745 S. State Street, Orem). Tickets are $10-12. More information about the musical can be found at: https://www.scera.org/events/its-a-wonderful-life-the-musical/

*Megan Graves has directed, produced, written, and performed in various community plays in Utah (http://www.singforsomething.org/), and also enjoys being a freelance arts critic. She majored in both English and Music Teaching because she couldn’t pick just one, and has a Master’s in Public Administration. She particularly loves watching and performing in Shakespeare plays and in musicals, and is grateful for the chance she had to study and critique theatrical performances in London for 7 weeks in an undergrad theater program at BYU as part of her English major.

Titus Andronicus Is A Halloween Ride of Revenge and Horror

Review by Eve Speer Garcia

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

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

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

titus 1

photo credit Beth Bruner

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

titus 4

photo credit Beth Bruner

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

titus 2

photo credit Beth Bruner

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

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

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

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

titus 3

photo credit Beth Bruner

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

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

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

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

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

 

Buried Child Should Be Unearthed

By Joel Applegate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s normal here?

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

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

pictureBy Jessica Leigh Johnson

Aren’t we all just Bums?

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

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

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

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

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

we three 3pibbles weasel and engermen

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

Bums! The Musical by Stephen Gashler

The Echo Theatre – Provo

15 N 100 E, Provo, Utah 84606

Mon, Thurs, Fri Sat til October 3rd.

7:30 PM

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