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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spanish Fork’s Joseph is New, Fresh and Worth Seeing

joseph2By Mary Garlitz

So you think, okay someone is doing Joseph again in Utah Valley.  Not a big surprise as this is a favorite among this area. However, I went into Spanish Fork Community Theater’s version with an open mind and excitement to hear all of my favorite songs again.  I was not disappointed.  I was delighted and enchanted by their take on what can sometimes be a pedantic retelling.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tells the Biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Joseph is his father’s favorite son and a boy blessed with prophetic dreams. After being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and taken to Egypt, Joseph is purchased by Potiphar and eventually thrown into jail. When news of Joseph’s gift to interpret dreams reaches the Pharaoh, Joseph ends up as his second in command. Eventually his brothers, who are starving from the famine Joseph predicted, come to beg for mercy and food from Joseph, whom they no longer recognize. After testing them, Joseph reveals himself and is reunited with his family.

Daniel Fifield in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat 2016Director Rock White and his production staff took this familiar story and really took it up a notch.  Mr. White did his homework and went along with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original vision for the show; not to spoil anything but it is a great trip through time.  I could tell the cast enjoyed this fresh take on a classic.

There are many that stand out in this production but two that I especially liked were the costumes (over 300 of them!) and the dancing.   I can’t imagine putting together that many costumes, let alone the logistics of having all of those people change so quickly, but Larisa Hicken and her crew did a tremendous job getting everyone outfitted and back onstage for their cues.

Costumes in SFCT's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat 2016

SFCT Joseph 2016 ChoreographyBethany Taylor has been choreographing on and off for Spanish Fork for many years and I think she may have outdone herself this year.  The variety, style and complexity of the dancing literally had me on the edge of my seat just waiting to see what would be next.

All of the vocals in the show were good as well. And the live band that accompanies the show is good enough to get your toes tapping. They rock! At first I was not sure about their take on the narrator, but by the end I loved what they chose to do and felt it complimented the show well.  I would give a shout out to them for this device, but won’t say any more as I don’t want to ruin the surprise. I will say the blending and harmonies were fantastic.

Daniel Fifield seemed a little unsure at first in his role as Joseph, but by the stirring, “Close Every Door” I felt like he really stepped into Joseph’s shoes and made it his own. Jordan Toney as Pharaoh also was a standout in his role, and really owned the stage. All of the brothers and their “wives” were great as well.  Each brought something different to the role and really danced their little hearts out. An especial standout would be Producer Ken Jensen in the role of Simeon performing the Canaan days number with equal humor and tragedy.

Ken Jensen in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Children's Chorus SFCT Joseph 2016The entire cast was fantastic from the adorable Children’s chorus with their spot on vocals to the ensemble that filled in admirably and brought just the right fill to round out the scenes.

Go see this show.  Yes it’s community theater, but they do fantastic job, and some of the best shows I’ve seen have come from the humble casts and crews of local theater.

Performances run tonight through Saturday July 23rd at 7:00 pm at Spanish Fork High School with a Matinee Monday July 25th at 4:00pm. The address is 99 North 300 West in Spanish Fork. Tickets are $10 for adult. $8 for students and seniors. $6 for children. Purchase tickets online.

Seek Out the Scarlet Pimpernel at the Springville Playhouse!

By Megan Graves

In a modern media world that repeatedly portrays dramatic rescues, rebellion, spies, and government intrigues, the story of the Scarlet Pimpernel has all that and more, presented in a unique way on the stage that brings you closer to the sword fights, suspense and drama then you could get just on any dimmed, elusive screen. Though I had practically memorized the soundtrack to the Scarlet Pimpernel musical a few years ago, I had still postponed seeing the show because I thought I knew the story so well after having read the book and watched the movie a few times. However, I was pleasantly surprised by unique, new, characters, a stellar presentation done by cast and crew, as well as a different ending than either the book or the movie. It is worth it to see the musical even if you already know the story, and Springville Playhouse does a stellar job at their depiction of war-torn France and the unlikely heroes who saved innocent people from Madam Guillotine and the mob mentality of the French Revolution.

The cast had excellent costumes.

The cast had great depth of vocal and acting talent, and excellent costumes to boot.

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Man of La Mancha is a Lovely Message in a Lovely Musical

By Michael Todd

Man of La Mancha, a play with in a play, is about a man Cervantes who tells a story about a “mad” knight Don Quixote who set out to find adventures with his squire, Sancho Panza. Man of La Mancha is written by Dale Wasserman lyrics by Joe Darien and music by Mitch Leigh, based off the book Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

The set designed by Terry McGovern was breathtaking, though a little too clean. I wanted it scruffier and more like a dungeon. But there wasn’t a part of the set that didn’t match. The drawbridge stairs to get into and out of the dungeon was pure genius.

The director, Carol LaForge and assistant director Terry McGovern, did an amazing job—though there  were moments of different actors upstaging one another. But overall, each scene was blocked well and I stayed focused on the important parts of the play and keep the distractions at bay.

Choreographers Pamela Giles and Sarah Wilson chose playful simple dances and this worked well, but I would have liked to see a little more movement.

Costumes, hair and make-up by JoAnn Gebs, Katie Fowler, were very true to the time period.  Vocal Direction by Cassidy Ellenberger was clear and excellent—her singers sounded marvelous. All the actors not only sounded great, they remained in character. The orchestra was played beautifully directed by Marilyn Syra. However, I wish they’d been a little louder but that could be the acoustics of the auditorium and where I was sitting.

Don Quixote Cervantes played by Rand Johnson gave a breathtaking performance. Just as the song says, “To Reach the unreachable, the unreachable, the unreachable star and I’ll always dream the impossible, the impossible dream yes, and I’ll reach the unreachable star.” Johnson truly had star quality in this production.

Sancho Panza played by Randy Turnbull, had a great character and lightened up the stage when he was onstage. Aldonza/Dulcinea played by Kathryn Hawley was a powerhouse on stage, I enjoyed seeing her character evolve from the kitchen serving girl born in the dirt and cater to scum to the Lady Dulcinea, helping a madman see the effect he had on the world and your character. You beautifully expressed each emotion from anger and hatred to curiosity and then to love and desire.  Other notable players were Nick Ellsworth who played the Governor/Innkeeper. I enjoyed how contrasting his two characters were. Anselmo played by Eli Unruh has the beautiful solo in Little Bird. Tony Ellenberger as Pedro—he plays a mean and nasty character very well. An honorable mention to Padre played by Colton Fowler—he had me fooled into thinking he was an actual clergy man. Truly, if it wasn’t for everyone cast in this show, it would have fallen flat, for each actor and actress on the stage made the production shine.

I was very touched by Man of La Mancha and highly recommend this show.

The production runs nightly June 15th to June 25th, except Sunday, at Tooele High School Auditorium. The show starts at 7:00 pm. Tickets are  $10 for adults (12+), $7 for senior (65+). Make sure you grab your snacks and bathroom breaks before the show for there is no intermission, the show is about 2 hours running time

The Ziegfeld’s Rock of Ages is 80’s-Filled Fun

rock of ages

By Cindy Whitehair

We took a journey back in time, to Ogden Utah circa 1985 to see the Utah premier of Rock of Ages at the Ziegfield Theater.  If you think you know the plot for this show based on the movie starring Catherine Zeta Jones, Tom Cruise and Russel Brand, think again.

The first thing you encounter as you enter the theater is a gritty looking, multi-level (multi-function set) that is designed to be your backdrop for the seedy Bourbon Club on the Sunset Strip of the mid ’80s.  Designed by Erica Choffel, it really worked well for the Zieg space and helped facilitate the nonstop action that took place throughout the show.  It was also great camouflage for the speakers that were needed for the live rock band that was playing throughout the preshow, show and most of the intermission.

The band, aka The Arsenal, consisted of Rick Rea (keyboard), Jacob Lambros (guitar), Matt Conlin (bass), Cameron Kapetanov (drums) and Lindsay Kapetanov (cowbell) was superb.  When you can go effortlessly through Ozzy (Crazy Train), Blue Oyster Cult (Don’t Fear the Reaper) and Guns & Roses (Paradise City)–well, you got this ’80s gal hooked.

rock4

If you lived during the ’80s, then you know without a doubt that Costumer Alina Gatrell nailed the costumes.  There was lots of mesh, funky, clunky heels, bright colors and concert t’s that were the staple of any ’80’s child’s wardrobe.  The hair was *B*I*G* thanks to Wig and Makeup designer Dee Tur’one and oh my, that blue eyeshadow!

The cast did a great job conveying the fun of this show.  A couple of shout-outs though to JJ Bateman (Lonny), Natalie Nichols (Sherri), Jake T. Holt (Drew), Brent Jorgensen (Hertz) and Derek Gregorson (Stacee Jaxx/Father).  Each had their stand out moments during the show but it was Bateman’s Lonny that was the chronic scene stealer as the show’s narrator. His duet (I Can’t Stop This Feeling Anymore) with Daniel Akin (Dennis) was very sweetly, lightly, and humorously played.

rock3

But the biggest shout-out simply has to go to the ensemble.  They were sharp, they were synchronized–there was no hiding.  They were leaping off of platforms, hanging from the pole dancing poles, running up and down stairs, and just making choreographer Heidi Potter Hunt’s bold choreography look amazing.  We had more fun just watching them dance!

The only real problem that we had with last night’s show was the sound.  There were times when the actors were drowned out by the band, either due to bad mixing or mics not working.  It was usually caught and corrected, but it did make for uneven sound quality in a show that demands outstanding sound quality.

rock2All in all, director Trent Cox did an outstanding job keeping this herd of cats going in the same direction.  This show is frantic and frenetic and it takes a director with vision and finesse to keep it contained but still right on the edge.

rock1

If you love ’80s music, then Rock of Ages is the show for you.  One word of caution though, while significantly toned down from the movie, this play does carry a mild “R” rating.  There was implied drinking and drug use, a lot of bumping and grinding in the dancing, and implied sexual situations and more than a little swearing.  If any of that offends you, you are probably better off skipping this one.

However for us, it was well worth our time to make the 45-minute drive to Ogden for this show.  If you get the chance to see it before it heads up to the Egyptian in Park City, go.  You won’t regret it.

Rock of Ages presented by the Ziegfield Theatre Company.  Tickets are $20.00 and are available at the door or at their website www.zigarts.com http://www.theziegfeldtheater.com/

Ziegfield Theatre Company, 3934 Washington Blvd (Hwy 89), Ogden Ut 84403

Remaining Performances: June 17, 18, 24th 7:30 PM, June 25th 7:30pm with a 2 PM matinee on June 25th

Pinnacle’s Titus Adronicus is a Wonderful, Intense Take on this Shakespeare Tragedy

titus

By Perry S. Whitehair

On Thursday, I had the pleasure to see my first show at Pinnacle Acting Company. Pinnacle Acting Company chooses to produce classic and contemporary classic works of theatre. So upon hearing that they chose to re-envision William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Titus Andronicus, I knew that I must take advantage of this.

The show was set in an all-women’s penitentiary in an intimate style black box with only a platform on house right and chalkboard just upstage of center. Fun fact, if you are seated in the front row there is a crowd scene where the actors encourage you to interact with them, breaking the fourth wall. The adaptation and the setting really worked out well for the director L.L West as they made great use of all of the set pieces, which helped the audience understand what happened and when we changed locations in the play.

The story follows Titus who comes home from war with prisoners in tow. Tamora, Queen of the Goths pleads to Titus to spare her son from sacrificing him for the bloodshed that occurred in the wars away from Rome. Titus refuses and thus kills Tamora’s son and leads Tamora to plot her revenge on Titus and his family for the pain that he caused her. We see the systematic and thorough plotting of Tamora nearly bring Titus to insanity. Romans are nervous of getting in between these forces and what they want. Don’t miss the twists and turns that occur that nearly bring Titus to his knees in agony.

To compliment one single actress in the cast would be foolish as the ensemble of Goths, Romans, and even the security guards really contributed to the action that took place on stage. No one ever pulled focus from where the attention needed to be in the moment of the play. That being said, I was especially impressed with the amazing work and acting choices of April Fossen (playing Titus), Anne Louise (Lavinia), and Melanie Nelson (Tamora. Each of these ladies had me connect with their characters stories and either empathize with them (Fossen and Louise) or often makes you love their anti-hero character schemes in the case of (Nelson). To bring all of these characters into the same believable world was pure joy, to which I give the utmost credit to the director for doing what often can be forgotten when creating a show. They highlighted the comedic moments in an otherwise very dark Shakespearean tragedy.

Sets and lighting were nothing to gawk at as they are located in an educational black box space but both served the purpose of the actors and the play effortlessly. This show is not meant for faint hearts as many deaths and other horrendous subject matter occurs on and off-stage but if you have the means and time to see this show, don’t walk but run to it. Find time to see a different take on a classic piece of theatre history from Shakespeare and his time.

Titus Andronicus

Pinnacle Acting Company,  1250 E 1700 S, Salt Lake City, UT

Ticket inquiries: 801-810-5793

www.pinnacleactingcompany.org

Ticket prices: $18 adults, $15 seniors and students (with valid ID), $15 matinee, Groups of 10 or more $13. (Call ahead to reserve).

Cedar Valley Community Theater’s Once Upon a Mattress is Something You’ll Want to See at Least Once!

By Wendy Sorensen (Guest Reviewer)

My fourteen-year-old companion and I thoroughly enjoyed Heritage Center Theater’s production of Once Upon A Mattress.

In all famous fairy tales, good triumphs over evil. This rings true in Cedar Valley Community Theater’s (in Cedar City) Once Upon A Mattress–this fun-filled musical does not disappoint.  The misguided Queen Aggravain has decreed that any potential bride for her son must pass a test (designed by the Queen) in order to marry him. Not only can her son not find a bride worthy of him because no one has been able to pass her test, but NO ONE else in the kingdom may marry until the Prince marries his princess.  Enter Sir Harry and Lady Larken, who must be married quickly because Larken is pregnant.  If they cannot be married quickly, Larken will have to leave the kingdom.  With haste, Sir Harry embarks on a quest to find a bride for Prince Dauntless. He returns with Princess Winifred.  The queen does not approve of her and is determined to keep Princess Winifred from passing her “test” in order to marry her son.  Dauntless and Winifred fall in love.  The queen is determined to make her test unpassable.  She places one tiny pea amongst 20 mattresses to see if the princess is delicate enough to feel the pea.  If Princess Winifred sleeps peacefully without finding the pea in the mattresses, she fails the test.  Will King Sextimus be able to speak once the curse is lifted? Will “the mouse devour the hawk”? Will Princess Winifred pass the test and marry the Prince?  Will they all live happily ever after?

Queen Aggravain (Tamara Reber) did a great job as the “evil” queen who does everything she can to keep her son single. Reber’s accent was consistent through the entire performance. I think my favorite song that she and the wizard sang, was Sensitivity. She has a great voice and stage presence. King Sextimus (Danny Hansen) did such a good job as the “mute” king.  I’m sure it was really difficult to play charades for most of his performance.  He didn’t miss a step, even when one of the jewels fell off his crown.  Making the queen hop, skip and jump at the end stole the scene.  He did a great job teaching his son, Prince Dauntless about the birds and bees.

Prince Dauntless was a very likable character.  He played the mommy’s boy prince perfectly.  His Man to Man talk number was my favorite. Princess Winifred (Kelsea Burton) was delightful in her role as the chosen fiancee. Her voice was spot on the entire performance and her physical comedy matched her acting ability.  The favorite song she did tonight was Happily Ever After.  Great stage presence.  All eyes were on her when she was on stage.

Sir Harry (Devin Anderson) has a wonderful voice–he didn’t miss a note. He and Lady Larken had great chemistry.  Way to go on his kissing scenes! Lady Larken (Katie Tremelling) has a beautiful voice and great chemistry with Sir Harry.  She did a great job in all of her scenes and played off the other characters in the story with a fearless loveliness.

Minstrel (Indiana Jones) was really cute with the kids in his Prologue. Jester (Meghann Eide) can really dance and sing and was great in scenes with the King and Minstrel and is a very likable character. Wizard (Dee Rich) was fun to watch and played off the queen very well. The two actors made you think something else might be going on there in their relationship with each other.

The choreography by Heather Shurtleff had all her players moving well together. As with most community theater productions, the dancing was basic and very effective. Hair and make up by Jessie Bailey and costuming by Janice Ruesch and Debbie Grimm made for a very pretty and royal-looking production. Scenic Design by director/producer Noel Perry was wonderful. We especially loved the huge mattress construction. Music director Trevor Walker has given his performers excellent instruction, as the principles all had clear, lovely voices and we enjoyed it a great deal.

Perry has created a lovely production for this community and I would recommend all who can attend make it a priority. He uses his actors well and keeps them moving from scene to scene with energy and fun.

A small note about the lack of theater etiquette: My only “negative” comment is that for an opening night there wasn’t very much family or community support.  We counted about 50 people. There was also a little girl who was literally rolling down the aisle during the performance.  It was VERY distracting.  Until another audience member said: “This child’s mother better take care of their friggin kid or I’m going to” loud enough for the mother to hear, thankfully. She finally required her child to stay seated, but the show was almost over. The Heritage Center Theatre is a very nice venue.  If the place would have been full, I would hope that the mother of that small child would have done something sooner.

That being said, I hope that the community will come enjoy this show. It is really fun!

The Heritage Center Theatre May 27th, 28th, 30th & June 3rd, 4th, 6th  2016

General Admission – $12, Seniors, Students, Children 12 and under – $8

The Heritage Center is located to the North of the parking garage

http://www.heritagectr.org/

Facebook Page for Venue

Pioneer Theater’s The Count of Monte Cristo is an American Debut Smash!

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count3By Joel Applegate

Design and vision triumph in The Count of Monte Cristo. Salt Lake’s glitterati turned out in force for Pioneer Theatre’s opening night. Turns out they were not overdressed (I certainly wasn’t!). As the American premiere of this new musical – already seen in Europe and Asia – it deserves everyone turning out in their finest because the company of Monte Cristo certainly gave theirs. The creators of the piece were on hand and stated they were thrilled to finally hear their creation sung in English, having assisted directly with Pioneer’s production team.

And what a night it was. The sheer stagecraft of Pioneer Theatre’s artisans has amazed me before, but this production surpasses everything I’d seen. Fascinating stage pictures on rotating stairs are not only a masterful achievement for the designer, Michael Schweikardt, but a distinguished credit to the craftspeople as well. Together with the director/choreographer, Marcia Milgrom Dodge, they pulled off an awesome creative vision.

count2The towering stairs create many environments with occasional assists from a ship mast, a hot air balloon and columns flying in from all directions. The live orchestra led by Michael Sebastian stirred us up with an excitingly executed overture and supported a beautiful score throughout, modulated perfectly to enhance the operatic numbers.

One would not think that one of the world’s best known revenge stories would lend itself to musical theatre, but really, Murphy and Wildhorn’s creation is more lyric opera. There are a total of 28 numbers in the two-hour show. Among the first to delight the opening night crowd was “A Story Told”, a jaunty tune sung by the villains of the piece, Mondego, Danglers, and Villefort, played, respectively, by Darren Ritchie, Brandon Contreras, and John Schiappa. The three plot our hero’s downfall with a gleeful toast. As one of the best prominent supporting characters, Schiappa’s work was clearly menacing, supported by his powerful, yet tonally pleasing vocals. Ritchie and Contreras each had their own moments with increasingly challenging material, their tenors delighting our ears.

count1Vocals were, of course, critical to telling this story and no one disappoints. As the lead, Matt Farcher as Edmund Dantes, the Count, seemed to soar ever higher and more powerfully with each successive song. His erstwhile love, Mercedes, was played by Brenda Carlson-Goodman with a strong, wide range at her disposal. But perhaps one of the greatest voices on that stage truly belonged to Dathan B. Williams as the Abbe Faria, the old prisoner who befriends and becomes a teacher to the hapless Edmund. Williams’ honeyed baritone is controlled and purposeful in everything it does, from the rhythmic “Lessons Learned” to the redemptive “When We Are Kings.”

The music by Frank Wildhorn (Composer of Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlett Pimpernel) is suited to a story that features daring escapes, swordplay, and our challenged lovers within its visual feast. I couldn’t help but think that this show can stand proudly alongside Les Miserable and Phantom of the Opera for its epic scope. The Count of Monte Cristo will be long remembered by patrons of the Pioneer Theatre who negotiated for years to bring this show to America and are justifiably proud of being the first.  The box office has told us that this show is selling out at a record pace, so be sure to get tickets before it ends May 21st.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Pioneer Theatre Company

May 6 – 21, 2016

Prices vary upon day and section–ticket prices range $40-$62, plus $5 if day of show. Call or go on line for times and prices. 801-581-6961

https://tickets.pioneertheatre.org/TheatreManager/1/online

On the University of Utah campus, 300 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City. Free parking off 4th South near the theatre.

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

Rush tickets available; call the box office for details.

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Wasatch Theater Company’s Stage Kiss is Delicious

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stage kissBy Joel Applegate

Theater goers have become too sophisticated for escapism. The mirror has become transparent to the audiences of this new century. While we accept the given conceit of a piece, we then fall silent as a pin when the actors reveal who they really are: Humans telling a story. The sets may be fake, the story even absurd, but in Wasatch Theatre Company’s production of Stage Kiss, the actors could not have been more real.

On the bare set of a stage audition, the nervous energy of our lead actress, the fragile confidence of April Fossen’s “She” aka Ada, reveals an actress facing her maturity; questioning what is left of her future.  All the marks of a disaster present themselves: late to the audition, asking too many questions, admitting to not knowing the piece – in short, the actor’s nightmare revisited. Ms. Fossen strikes such a true chord with the “minor humiliations of life” that we wince with her. Still, first audition jitters give way to an energy inside the Rose Wagner Studio that is so right for this play. Director Mark Fossen bridges both the unnatural nature of 4th wall theater and the reality of actors’ lives with the seams barely showing.

The accidental meeting with Ada’s old lover at the first read-through of a new play unsettles a life she had settled for. Reality blurs as the former lovers must play lovers. Neither “He”, aka Johnny, played by Daniel Beecher, nor Ada is too happy about the casting. Mr. Beecher is so clear in his focus and intentions, and together with Ms. Fossen, they are attentive and awkward as they rehearse a terrible play called The Last Kiss. Inevitably, the former lovers become entangled again.The script is bad; the acting is tortured. As Johnny notes, “It’s a bad sign when a play is written by three people.” Nevertheless, how deliciously earnest are these actors’ attempts at the play within the play.

stage kiss 1 Sarah Ruhl’s script is indicative of a playwright who knows the tropes of theater only too well.

Packed with humor throughout, in Stage Kiss, Ruhl winks at the synthetic absurdity of plays and playacting. As if to emphasize the point, most of the actors in this uniformly excellent cast play dual roles.  Ann Cullimore Decker as the director feigns indulgence; she’s a little unctuous and even sly; “I’ll play the pimp.” Testifying to Utah audience’s admiration of her storied career in theater, Ms. Decker was cast despite the fact that the role was written for a man.

Throughout the performance the sense of faux reality is still so clear, that when the actors as themselves come to grips with their lives, and the inherent pretension of their profession, the shift between worlds is fascinating. I was captivated by a sense of both reality and irony as Ms. Fossen relates a Buddhist parable about, of all things, a ghost.

Our theater has become so Brechtian – modern theater is always reminding you that you’re watching something. But at the same time it touches reality in so many different places, despite the artificiality that is no longer hidden from audiences. In that sense, the art of WTC’s Stage Kiss thoughtfully succeeds in reflecting our lives.

This play contains Adult Themes and Language. Recommended for more mature teens and older.

April 30th – May 14th Thur, Fri & Sat at 8 pm, Matinees at 2 pm on May 7th, 8th and 14th

38 W Broadway, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101

Adults $20 General Admission Seating ~ Box Office: 801-355-2787 On Line: http://arttix.org/

Tags: Mark Fossen, Sarah Ruhl, April Fossen, Daniel Beecher, Anne Cullimore Decker, Tristan Johnson, David Hanson, Ali Kinkaid, Brenda Hattingh

The SCERA’s Saturday’s Warrior is a Nostalgically Modern Prodution

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SaturdaysWarrior_11x17 Poster_OLBy MH Thomas

Opening night. Saturday’s Warrior. As we sat waiting for the show to begin, the SCERA theatre began to fill with families and older couples. Clearly, this was an event. A revival of Saturday’s Warrior in the middle of the Utah Valley. Classic.

Music from the 90s (fast forward twenty years from the original) plays in the theatre and the sounds of young children surround us. We were a bit wary of all the young ones in the seats, but, as my companion noticed, the children were generally more attentive than the adults. The show is fast moving and full of music that holds the attention of young and old alike.

As the show begins, a darling little girl (Annalie Johnson) with a sweet voice intones the iconic lyrics, “Who are these children coming down?”. It is a lovely way to start the show. The scenery and lighting (Elizabeth Griffiths) make this moment one of great expectation for what is to proceed on the stage.

Director, Jeremy Showgren, did a fine job of casting talented singers. The ensemble, consisting of singers of all ages, is strong enough to keep up with the main characters. They harmonize well together and add to the overall musical strength of the show.

The set is effective, thanks to the design of M’Liss Tolman, but large and heavy to move around. Kudos to all (including children) who quickly make the changes. Not an easy task to create a number of different locations on one small stage.

When my children were young, they used to watch the video production of the show and act it out at home. The girls all wanted to be Pam. Pam (McKenna Hixson) in this production does not disappoint. Her voice is beautiful and her presence emotionally gripping. Her relationship with her twin brother, Jimmy (Tanner Perkins), feels very real and natural. Perkins portrays the personality of a moody teenager with skill. His voice, both solo and in his duets, is impressive.

sw2It is great fun to see all of the Flinders family live on stage. So many have seen the production on VHS over the years. Alex Chester and Ashley Ramsey head up the Flinders family as parents to eight lively children. They portray the joys and frustrations that come with such a task. The children are real children and not models of perfection. The middle children (David Johnson, Isabella and Cole Hixson, Bo Chester) add the humor that only middle children can. As Julie, Kelsea Kocherhans sings well and shows a good balance between humor, earnestness and ditziness. Her solos and her duets with Tod (Alex Pierson) are very well done. Emily is the youngest and is the one who opens the show.

Saying that Elder Kestler (Chris Rollins) is high energy would be an understatement. He is definitely a contrast to his subdued companion, Elder Greene (Eric Taylor). Cheesiness is an integral part of this show. The scenes performed by these elders are the ultimate in cheese. They are comic relief personified.

sw3This musical is a charming stroll down memory lane for so many of us. It is serious, funny, cheesy and emotional. The cast and crew handle this show in a way that shows respect to our nostalgia. Well done to all. I’m thinking I need to see it again.
When: Friday through May 7 on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Where: SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S. State St., Orem
Tickets: $12 for adults and $10 for children ages 3-11 and seniors
Info: scera.org, (801) 225-ARTS

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