Springville’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is Filled with Artful Delight

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By Colton Redmund

As part of Springville’s Art City Days, Springville Playhouse is performing A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and this show stands by its opening song’s lyrics, it’s “A Comedy Tonight.”

The play written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim is about a slave who tries to earn his freedom by getting a beautiful woman to fall in love with his master. Things don’t work out quite that way, otherwise it wouldn’t make for a very good show.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is being performed at Merit College Preparatory Academy in Springville, a smaller theater and smaller stage but what it lacks in stage space it makes up for in its tone. The minute you walk in, the pre-show music and set help set the mood for the show–a light-hearted story about Ancient Rome and big characters.

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Some of the highlights in the show are Pseudolus, Hysterium and Miles Gloriosus. Everyone in the cast did amazing, but these three stood out the most to me. Pseudolus (Karl Young) is the play’s lead, a schemer who always had some trick, and if the trick didn’t work out, he had a trick to try and fix that. Hysterium (David Chapa) was one of my personal favorites. Loveable and funny, he is a little high-strung, but can you blame him with Pseudolus always messing things up? Hysterium tries to do the right thing and that’s never easy and he’s just hilarious. (Not to mention his hair is fantastic.) Miles Gloriosus (Isaac Davidson) steals the show. His booming voice, his towering presence, and his intensity all make his character pop.

The costumes were colorful and though this wasn’t authentic, it went well with the comic nature of the musical. The hat used in one scene, a 70s “Shack” hat, was hilarious. The set was wonderful for the space they had. It was open—and since this took place in Greece, it worked very well.

Thanks to Music Director Rachel Aylworth, the musical numbers were all very catchy and fun, with songs like “A Comedy Tonight”, “Free”, and “Lovely.” You’ll get the lyrics and tunes stuck in your head, and the performance of these songs are done so well and everybody helps add to that. The ensemble numbers were great. And many of the actors were veterans and they really had a great sound. It was fun to see these veterans help the newer actors—this is what community theater is all about.

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Kathy Young’s directions made the show sparkle by choosing some experienced actors and some newer performers. The energy was high and you could tell the cast had that real family relationship. She did a great job in the chase scene—it didn’t go on too long, and there were no pauses that took forever. She handled the physical comedy brilliantly.

Overall, I had a very enjoyable and fun evening with only one real problem, the small audience size. This show deserves a larger audience so I urge you all to go see this great and funny show!

The show runs June 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, 19, 23, and 24, at Merit College Preparatory Academy, 1440 West Center Street, Springville UT. Doors open at 7:00 PM and the show begins at 7:30 PM. $10 for adults, $8 for students/senior citizens. You can find them online at www.springvilleplayhouse.com.

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Big Hair and Big Vocals Lead Midvale’s “Rock of Ages”

By Ashley Rader Ramsey

Rock of Ages is a show that falls into the category of the Jukebox musical. The 2000s saw a dramatic rise in this musical darling and everyone from Abba to Queen gave their fans a new view of their music with cleverly crafted storylines linked together with everyone’s favorite hits. While some musicals have made their way into household names (think Mamma Mia!) and some most of us forgot even happened (Sorry, Hot Feet), Rock of Ages finds itself somewhere comfortably in the middle.

Rock of Ages tells the story of Sunset Strip rock bar The Bourbon Room. Home to wannabe rockstars and wannabe groupies alike. The bar is owned by actual rocker and musician Dennis Dupree and serves as the setting for our love story. She’s just a small town girl and he’s a city boy (sing it now) born and raised in South Detroit. Sherry and Drew have both found themselves in LA chasing the fame dream, but for now he’s cleaning toilets and she’s serving beers. Enter father/son real estate developers Hertz and Franz Klinermann whose new plan for the Sunset Strip threatens the Bourbon Room’s home on the Strip. In attempt to save the bar, they bring in the now famous band Arsenal who got their start in the Bourbon Room. Arsenal’s band is led by the glamorously sexy Stacee Jaxx, who proves a threat to Sherry and Drew’s budding relationship.

Rock of Ages uses a narrator to weave and guide the story along. It’s not a complicated story and for the most part leaves all of the characters undeveloped and emotional shells of your rock glam stereotypes. It’s not gonna be a Pulitzer Prize winner and that’s okay. A show using a narrator can be risky but it was a risk that has definitely paid off in Midvale’s production of Rock of Ages.

Actor Danny Egger’s gives a stand out performance as Lonny. Egger’s Lonny walks a great line of can’t take him to Mama but you wanna take him home to tick off Daddy. Egger brings a fantastic stage presence to the role and impeccable comedic timing, as well. His character sets the tone and energy for the show the moment he sets foot on stage.

While the rest of the cast took a couple numbers to catch up to the energy that Eggers set on stage (opening night jitters?) they quickly found their pacing to keep the show moving at a good pace. Eric Williams’ portrayal of Dennis Dupree is one of the strongest of the show. Williams, clearly a talented musician (he plays both electric guitar and saxophone in the show) gives Dupree a grounded presence on stage. Dupree with his bell bottom pants and long hair is a reflection of the rock movement of the 70s and he has seen it all before. He offers a guiding hand to young musicians and a paycheck to others chasing their dreams. William’s portrayal is so effortless and natural in this role he just seems to weave in and out of the story seamlessly. Taylor Lawrence’s Regina is ridiculously funny and a joy in whenever she sets foot on stage. Her moments of physical comedy and her pure bleeding heart bring together a well-rounded and lovable character you will be rooting for to the very end.

Cassidy Ross and Jake Holt take on the roles of the love birds Sherry Christian and Drew. Ross and Holt do a nice job of building a romantic chemistry on stage especially in the medley “More Than Words/To Be With You/Heaven”. Holt vocally does a wonderful job of manuevering the higher range of the hits of glam rock and shows a nice vulnerability as Drew. Ross, while not the strongest performer vocally, shines in Sherry’s moments of heartache. Ross gives a nice naivety and girl next door to the role. She also finds strong moments alongside Ben Brinton as Stacee Jaxx. Ross and Brinton play well of each other in their moments of bathroom passion. On his own, Brinton brings one of the strongest male voices to Rock of Ages and nails the oozing sex appeal of your favorite eyeliner wearing and big hair sporting glam rocker of the 80s.

A musical is only has good as its ensemble and the ensemble of this production is clearly very talented. Many of the ensemble members also take on smaller bit roles that feature their talents nicely. Standouts in the ensemble are Darsity Robles who oozes sexy and cool, and Samantha Morford who shines with her dance skills and tumbling.

Jan Harris does a wonderful job of costuming as she stays true to what the 80s actually looked like and not the neon-colored parody that most millennials are familiar with. Sean McLaughlin’s set is deceptively simple but the longer you stare at it, the more realize how great it actually is. From the period stickers covering The Bourbon Room and pretty seamless transition of video sets, McLaughlin brings anice touch of realism to the genre and decade. Choreopraphy by Alexandira Zinov and assistant Siobhan Roche is fun and high energy. They do a nice job of physically telling the story through movement. Though at times the choreography did feel inorganic and a little complex for the cast to execute properly, it was still a source of strength for the production.

Director and theater owner Tammy Jackson Ross has done such a wonderful job of building a theatre for Utah to see so much more than the usually produced popular pieces. Unafraid to be edgy and honest about tough subjects, she can be counted on for quality and high standards for her shows. Rock of Ages is no exception and her work of art shows clearly through in the direction of her show. Her talent as a director is highlighted in the strong performances of her actors. One of the strongest moments of the show is the number “Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” an unexpected love ballad between Lonny and Dennis. It is the duet between Eric Clapton and Billie Joe Armstrong that you didn’t know your heart was missing. While a strange and very sudden change of events, Ross’ direction of the rise and fall, and light peppering of comedy make it a highlight of the show.

Rock of Ages is rude and crude in all the right ways but probably isn’t appropriate for young teenagers and small children. Language and thematic events make it not great option for a family night out but the perfect escape for date night and girls and guys nights out.

Rock of Ages is playing now at Midvale Main Street Theatre now through June 24th with shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 with one Sunday night show on June 11. Tickets range from $15-22. Food is also available for purchase at the theatre.

7711 South Main Street (700 West) Midvale, Utah 84047, imidvaletheatre@gmail.com Tel (801) 566-0596

The SCERA’s “Hairspray” Shows Comedy’s Power to Enrich an Audience

hairspray sceraBy Jason Evans

 SCERA’s current production of Hairspray proves once again that comedy has great power to enrich an audience when approached from a serious position, leaving us feeling like our lives are made better by experiencing it. But the rich comedy can still entertain and we find us leaving the theater filled with sheer joy.

As director Jan Shelton Hunsaker states in her director’s notes: back in 1962, when Hairspray takes place, America was in the midst of a great civil rights struggle. Today, we are fighting an even greater one.

Our country is often on opposite sides on how to deal with important issues: Muslims, immigration, the LGBTQ community, modern society’s views of beauty, obesity, and the list goes on and on. It seems that in every way, this country is polarizing and people are becoming more distant from one another. Hairspray celebrates love, life, family, community, and through the heroic and optimistic eyes of the shows heroine, Tracy Turnblad (Chelsea Lindsay), we see that we are all alike, and that diversity, acceptance, tolerance are traits that should be admired and encouraged, not ridiculed and discouraged.

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Thank goodness for excellent productions like the SCERA gives our community. An audience is much more receptive to soul-searching and looking at itself when presented through the rose-colored glasses of musical comedy. All great musical comedies throughout the history of theater have done this, and Hairspray is no exception.

Jan Shelton Hunsaker and her brother Brad’s scenic design captured the heart of the 60s with great musical theater style but simple in its presentation. Deborah Bowman’s wonderful costumes were bright, colorful, and a feast for the eyes as well as a great way to distinguish between characters. This is especially helpful because the Shell’s stage is large. Bowman is a master at this and her designs never disappoint. Elizabeth Griffith’s lighting was the most elaborate I’ve ever seen on the Shell stage; it helped to convey the energy and excitement of this show.

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First and foremost, the ensemble work in this show was great. The energy was there and I know will continue to expand and increase in energy each night of the run. The energy of the ensemble was infectious.

Lindsay’s Tracy Turnblad was unique and was the first time I had seen an actress play this role with equal optimism but also realistic expectations.. From the opening number, “Good Morning, Baltimore,” I was hooked and rooting for her the entire evening. Her infectious laugh was endearing and I just wanted to be up on stage with her taking the journey with her.

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Michael Thomas as Seaweed Stubbs and Tearza Leigh Foyston as Penny Pingleton in the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre’s production of “Hairspray.”

Tearza Foyston’s Penny Pingleton was the surprise of the evening. Unlike other performances I’ve seen, Foyston was bright, funny, endearing. She and Tracy were a force to be reckoned with. Her journey from innocence to allowing herself to have fun and take more risks was believable and a joy to watch.

What can I say about Andrew Lloyd Hunsaker and his incredible, hilarious, moving portrayal of Tracy’s mother, Edna? Hunsaker is an actor I’ve admired and loved for a very long time. He embodies each of his roles with professionalism and a love for each character he portrays, and Edna is no exception. He took command of the stage every time he was on and I fell in love with the relationship between Edna and Tracy from the start. Hunsaker played this role as it should be, a complex and beautiful wife and mother who would do anything for her family. There were many times throughout the evening I forgot Hunsaker was playing the role, I only saw Edna.

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Andrew Hunsaker as Edna Turnblad and Chelsea Lindsay as Tracy Turnblad in the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre’s production of “Hairspray.”

The male leads, Dennis Wright (Wilbur Turnblad), Jaxon Dayton (Link Larkin), Kristian Huff (Corny Collins), and Michael Thomas (Seaweed J. Stubbs) were all fun to watch and each portrayed their characters with integrity and honesty. Our villains, Leslie Preator-Keckley (Velma Von Tussle) and Sasha Sloan (Amber Von Tussle) were hilarious and fun and I loved the fact they didn’t portray them as cardboard villains. In this production of Hairspray, they are human, a product of their time, and in the end, join the community, so there is some hope for them.

Last but not least, the incredible Luseane Pasa as Motormouth Maybelle is a shining star. This is my favorite character in the show and Pasa brought such integrity and compassion to the role. She is the one that brings the message of the show to the audience, the great 11 o’clock number, “I Know Where I’ve Been.” A final compliment to Daisy Allred as Little Inez; what a wonderful character and her energy was infectious the entire evening.

Finally, Tiffany Winkel Nutter did such a wonderful job with the music and her choreography was unique and added so much to the production. There was dance in portions of the show that I have never seen dance in before, and it added so much to those scenes and to the portrayal of the story. It’s a big job to handle such a large ensemble, and she did it with professionalism and great style. Welcome back to Utah, Ms. Nutter. Utah Theater has missed you.

The SCERA has produced a great piece of musical theater and this is a show not to be missed. If you’ve never seen it before, get yourself down to Orem and experience what is Hairspray. If you’ve seen the movie, or have seen another live production, still attend this one. There is enough that’s fresh and new that you will love this show even more.

Note: If you’ve never been to the SCERA shell theater—it’s outdoors. Take a blanket or camp chair to sit on, a jacket (it gets chilly once the sun goes down), and maybe some bug spray.

The show plays Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 PM at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre in SCERA Park in Orem, Utah. 699 S State St. Gates open at 7:00PM with the box office opening at 6:30PM on the north side of the Shell. You can also purchase tickets online at www.scera.org, in person at the SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S State St in Orem, Utah; Monday-Friday (10:00  AM-8:00PM), Saturday (Noon-8:00 PM) or call 801-225-ARTS.

The Zig’s “Cabaret” is Dazzlingly Beautiful

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By Brandon Stauffer

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!

The Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden Utah touts a motto of “Professional Standard, Community Spirit,” and their production of Cabaret is everything they stand for.  As you walk into the theatre, you are welcomed by friendly faces and a welcoming staff. I immediately felt as if I was part of their family.

Cabaret is set in Berlin, early 1930s in the Kit Kat Klub, where the party is led by a Master of Ceremonies, who opens the show by saying, “Leave your troubles outside! So – life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here! Here, life is beautiful.” Truer words could not describe this moment in history as the Nazi Party begins to grow stronger and take power in Germany.  The show continues in counterpoint between the Kit Kat Klub, which serves as a metaphor for the political climate of the time, and the life of an American writer, Clifford Bradshaw who comes to Berlin to write his novel but is soon swept away into a love affair with the Klub’s leading lady, Sally Bowles.

From the moment I walked into the theatre, I was completely immersed in Cabaret.  Trent Cox’s set design was perfection; there was no question what kind of “Klub” I had entered. Center stage has such an amazingly authentic and ingenious plan, it’s hard to explain. Come see the show and you’ll see what I mean.

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For the pre-show, the bar came to life with the Kit Kat Girls and Boys as they meandered around the set. I totally believed I was looking in the window of this 1930s Klub, waiting for their “show” to begin.

The lights dimmed. I must admit this is the moment in any show I get the most nervous, hoping that I am about to see something great. Enter the MC, played by Joshua Samuel Robinson, and I was completely engulfed.  His portrayal of this character seemed so effortless, yet he never stopped working.  I never wanted him to leave the stage, and for the most part he didn’t.  I believed everything he did was a true moment for his character.  Like a true MC. he sang beautifully, his comedy was perfect, his dancing was on point, and his presence on the stage was brilliant.

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From that moment on, I wasn’t watching a show in a theatre in Ogden, Utah. I was in Berlin, Germany in the 1930s watching the Kit Kat Girls and Boys live their lives and exist in and out of the Klub.  The ensemble was brilliant as they traveled between numbers and scenes with ease, they existed not only in the Klub but also became the frame for all the scenes outside the Klub. They stayed in character, they were invested, and they were excellent in their roles.

On a train, we meet Clifford Bradshaw (Nathan Allen Vaughn) and Ernst Ludwig (Sterling Allen.) Both men bring a certain power to their roles that continued throughout the show.  Ernst becomes to the audience the leading growth in the Nazi party and he brought the perfect amount of power and empathy to the role. I wanted to like him but knew I shouldn’t.  Clifford, on the other hand, was so easy to like. Vaughn made Clifford accessible and so easy to love and root for that I wanted more of him and his story.

The story quickly shifts back to the Kit Kat Klub where Sally Bowles enters and sings the seductive song “Don’t Tell Mama.” Sally, played by Kelly Tansey, is the perfect addition to the show. Kelly brings the party to life–she is the party.  She is a beam of pure fun every time she enters the stage. She is able to walk the line of living in the and out of the Klub with perfection.  She is without a doubt the perfect leading lady to this show.

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Director Trent Cox brilliantly gives the show a meaning, a place, and the perfect cast–one of the best I have seen in a long time.  Under his direction, the Kit Kat Klub and its attendees stay onstage for almost the entirety of the show, and in character, they frame and watch the counter story that is set outside of the Klub. Choreography by Talese Hunt was nothing less than astounding; it was perfectly placed in and out of the Klub. Kelsey Nichols’ costumes added to each scene with dazzling detail and were perfection in authenticity. The music direction by Rick Rea, sound by Eliza Hayne, and lights by Daniel Pack all completed the production in a way that added to the story. I never lost my suspension of disbelief.

Cabaret at the Ziegfeld Theater is a glorious piece of theatre, but not recommended for children.  The work of art that has been created the Ziegfeld Stage should be celebrated and should not be missed.  Go, spend the night with the brilliant MC and the rest of the cast and enjoy theatre with a professional standard, and a community spirit.

Tickets are available at www.zigarts.com or by calling 855.ZIG.ARTS. Cabaret plays in Ogden through June 2 – 24th, FridaySaturday 7:30 PM. Saturday 6/17 2 PM

Tickets range from $20 – $17
The Ziegfeld Theater, 3934 S. Washington Blvd. Ogden, UT

 

Midvale Arts Says Good Morning, Midvale in “Hairspray”

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By Chloe’ Cox and Tyra Hammond

For us, a mother-daughter team who love theater, this was our first time attending a performance by the Midvale Arts Council. We had been told that they always put on a great show and, as Hairspray is always full of fun, we were excited to see what the cast had in store for us last night. They truly didn’t disappoint!

Hairspray is a musical comedy with a lot of lift and a ton of heart. Tracy Turnblad is a girl growing up in 1962 Baltimore whose greatest dream is to be one of the dancers on “The Corny Collins Show,” a popular local TV studio’s American Bandstand-type teen dance program. Without being a classic Barbie doll shape, she bravely enters the audition and tolerates the catty cruelty of the producer, Velma von Tussle and her daughter and reigning queen of the show, Amber. Tracy wins a featured spot and becomes an overnight sensation winning the affections of Link, Amber’s boyfriend, and setting new style trends in fashion and hair. With her giant heart and the loving support of her eccentric parents and best friend Penny, Tracy’s right to dance is not the only fight she feels passionate about. With some new friends and a newfound popularity, Tracy breaks the barriers of segregation and models a greater acceptance of diversity, paving the way for inclusion of all shapes backgrounds, colors–and hairstyles.

We arrived a little early Friday evening and easily found the Midvale Performing Arts Center with easy access to parking in the back. The parking isn’t abundant but certainly adequate for this quaint little theater with its retro exterior and remodeled interior. There are a few small windows covered with dark curtains in the theater that let in little streams of light when the house lights went down. Once the performance started and the stage lights came on, we no longer noticed them and we’re confident that’s a situation they will soon resolve. Its roomy, comfortable theater seating and relaxed atmosphere gave it a pleasant hometown feel. Without a bad seat in the house, we sat in the back row and still felt that up close and personal connection with the cast.

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The cast and crew brought this timeless story to life with their wonderful talent. Under the direction of Kristie Post Wallace, with Janzell Tutor as music director and April Kimball Thomas as choreographer, as well as the designers, this production of Hairspray took the audience to the world of Baltimore in the Swingin’ Sixties with its upbeat choreography, one of our favorites being I Can Hear the Bells. The fantastic vintage costume designs were also taken on by Casey Matern, who played Tracy. The supporting cast and ensemble strongly complemented the principal actors and were each talented in their own right with their voices and dance stylings.

Casey Matern, who played the ever eager Tracy Turnblad, lit up the stage brighter than any lighting designer could dream of. From the first note she sang, it was very evident we were in for a treat with her. Her mic appeared to be off throughout “Good Morning Baltimore” but, it was only apparent at the times that her back was turned as her strong voice easily compensated for the lack of mic assistance. She embodied Tracy’s hope and ambition while still maintaining her youthful naivety. Matern’s rendition of Tracy was spot on from her radical hair-do and joyful facial expressions to her Oxford-clad pigeon-toed stance.

Tracy’s mom, Edna (whose role is typically played by a male who can own the stage as a big, beautiful woman) was performed by the remarkably exuberant Glen Reber. His performance was full of comedy and joy as he created the loveable mama bear character that will do anything for her daughter and husband. His smile was broad and his face shone brightly and, well, he was just beautiful as was his classic Edna voice. Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy’s father and Edna’s husband, was played by Curtis Turley. He and Reber had a sweet and entertaining chemistry. One of the many highlights of the show was Edna and Wilbur’s duet, “You’re Timeless to Me,” as Reber was a much larger Edna to Turley’s Wilbur and the choreography was very theatrical, entertaining, and hilarious.

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Corny Collins, the host of “The Corny Collins Show”, was played by Skyler Bluemel, and he was a jazzy, snazzy character we enjoyed a great deal. Motormouth Maybelle, the host for The Corny Collins Show on the once a month “Negro Day” were both good counters to play against Wilcox’s (evil) Velma. Velma’s daughter Amber, heiress for the Miss Baltimore crown, was portrayed by Sydney Peebler wonderfully. Peebler’s depiction of Amber’s entitlement was in full force every moment she was gracing the stage, with dramatic facials and comical sidelong glances at her boyishly handsome costar, Link Larkin. Link was played by Brandan Ngo, who had a lovely voice to go with his cute looks and smooth moves. Ngo portrayed Link’s vanity while remaining a likable choice for Tracy to fall in love with.

The scene changes were performed quickly and seamlessly, owing to Samuel Burt’s set design The audience was able to experience the world of Baltimore without bogging down the stage with excess material.

Before curtain, we were able to talk with producer Stephanie Johnson, who told us that pneumonia was plaguing a couple of the cast members, namely, Oliva Netzler (Seaweed) and Emily Wilcox (Velma von Tussle.) Despite this fact, Netzler didn’t seem at all out of breath as he busted out some wicked dance moves to impress Penny, played by the adorable and beautifully-voiced Alanna Cottam. Despite Wilcox’s illness, she executed Velma’s nasty yet classy character very well.

It was a great pleasure to have a few minutes to chat with CaseyMatern (Tracy) after the show. With just a few short answers, we got a fantastic feel for Ms. Matern’s love of Tracy and for the production and cast that has held so much of her time and heart the past few months:

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FRRU: What was the hardest part about becoming Tracy?

Matern: Oh gosh, building up the stamina, honestly. Because this show for Tracy is go, go, go, go, go. The only time I have a break is literally during “It Takes Two.” So, running on the treadmill while singing to get ready. Stamina. That’s been the hardest part.

FRRU: There aren’t bios in the playbill. What is a little bit of your theater background?

Matern: I’ve been doing theater since high school. I am a stay-at-home mom and this is my outlet. I’ve performed a ton a Hale Center theater. I’ve done a few things here. I’ve directed here before. I’ve been Roz in 9 to 5 The Musical; Gertrude McFuzz in Suessical; I’ve played both the Witch and Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, and that will forever and always be my favorite show.

FRRU: What would you never change about this experience?

Matern: Here’s the thing. Racism is still such a sad, prominent issue in today’s society. It’s been incredible to watch this process. We started as two separate casts. Not on purpose, but you have the “Nice Kids” and the “Other Kids.” Or the “Other Nice Kids”. For a long time, it felt like two different casts and to watch it grow and the way everyone has come together. It’s been incredible and it’s a conversation that we, as a cast, have often and we’re very open about it and its similarities [to the show.] It’s been really great to watch everyone meld and become one.

With the inspiring words of Motormouth Maybelle, “If something is worth having, it’s worth fighting for.”   This was an inspiring, fun-filled production that will draw you in from the very beginning and hold you fast till the very last bow.

This is a family-friendly show with a few mild innuendos that are very easily missed if not understood. Each show runs 2½ hrs with a 15-minute intermission. There is elevator access to the 2nd floor theater with restrooms on the 1st floor and inexpensive snack concessions at the entrance.

The Midvale Arts Council presents Hairspray based on the book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman.

Midvale Performing Arts Center, 695 W Center Street (7720 South), Midvale, Utah

June 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 PM with a matinee each Saturday at 2 PM.

Tickets: General Admission $7, Senior $5, Child (3-12) $5, Midvale Resident General Admission $6, Midvale Resident Senior/Child Admission $4, Family Pass (one household) $25

Tickets available at www.MidvaleArts.com or can be purchased at the door.

Phone number 385-313-0278

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Draper’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a Lovely Evening for Everyone

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By Rachel Bevan Hoffman

Draper Arts Council has ushered in the production of Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, the Academy Award winning animated film that comes to life in this romantic and beloved take on the classic fairytale.  Disney’s Beauty And The Beast has played to over 35 million people worldwide in 13 countries.  The stage version includes all of the wonderful songs written by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman along with new songs by Mr. Menken and Tim Rice.  More than 100 cast members and staff from Draper area have put together a spectacular performance to bring the entire community together for family theater at its best.

I had the privilege of attending opening night.  As my husband and I headed to the Draper Amphitheater, we had no idea this beautiful outdoor theater existed.  Tucked away against the foothills of Draper, it really felt like summer as we enjoyed watching this performance under the stars.  Keep in mind, although the weather was sunny and warm as the production began, the sun eventually fell and the weather became a bit cooler, so bring a blanket or a jacket just in case.  The way the seating was marked was a little confusing but with help from the staff we soon were able to find our seats. Be sure to bring a blanket or fold out chair to sit on.  The amphitheater is set up so there are no bad seats.  They did a great job with the backdrop of the town on the stage and were able to seamlessly switch sets from the town to the castle and other scenes.  They also had it set up so that a real horse drawn carriage entered a few of the scenes, which was very fun and unexpected.

Belle was played by Annie English.  I am pretty picky when it comes to the main character and can I just say Belle did not disappoint!  She was absolutely perfect.  I was so happy to see this right from the start.  She not only embodied Belle’s character but had a voice that was clear and beautiful.

Some of the other stand outs in the play were Gaston, played by Seth Tippets.  I loved that he did not have to fake a deep voice.  He had a voice that could not have been better cast and was a fantastic actor who brought many laughs to the audience along with his tagalong, Le Fou played by Bounta Nomichith.  Babette (Sarah Mae Ogden) was fantastic and Lumiere (Mike Weaver) also did a great job and played out their relationship in such a fun way.  I also want to mention Madam de la Grande Bouche (the wardrobe) played by Serena Mackerell.  She is a talented actress who sang a small section of one of Beethoven’s arias several times, and although she made the audience laugh, her voice was so beautiful and at intermission I heard several children imitating her.  It was delightful to see and hear. The Beast, Trent English, complemented Belle and played the part of someone who goes from an intimidating beast to caring and loving companion very well. I would have liked to see his makeup lightened a bit as it was hard at times to see facial expressions.

Some of my favorite scenes with Belle and the Beast were when he calls her to dinner and she refuses, the eventual dinner scene, and of course one of the final scenes where he is dying and she tells him that she loves him.  It was such a powerful moment and really brought out my emotions.  It was so fun as all the characters in the castle, like Chip who was played by Savannah Shepherd and Glory Weaver, began to become human.  And for the prince, Chris Kennedy, to appear.  It put such a big smile on my face.  I was teary-eyed and happy all at the same time.

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Stephen Whitechurch, who played Maurice (Belle’s father) brought out some of the important themes of the play.  Maurice:  “How did you escape the beast?”  Belle:  “I didn’t escape he let me go, somehow he changed.”  Maurice:  “But how?”  Belle:  “I don’t know, Papa, but somehow he changed.”

The supporting cast complemented and enhanced every part of the production perfectly.  It was a real delight to see one of my neighbors cast in one of these roles, Kaitlyn Schriener.  This is the best part of community theater.  You get to see individuals in your community share their incredible talents.

I met with one of the directors afterwards, Susan S. DeMill and shared with her how much I had enjoyed the play and was told by several cast members how wonderful she has been to work with and about her high level of creativity that shows up in many aspects of the production.

One of those aspects of this production was the choreography, which was lively and fun.  I loved the choreography done for the wolves.  I would have liked to have seen Mrs. Potts placed to the side of the stage as she beautifully sang the “Song As Old As Time”, instead of the front as it did block part of the dinner scene for me.  Other than that, the choreography and blocking was impressive throughout the entire production.  The scene at the tavern and “Be Our Guest” were real show stoppers.

The costumes and makeup was professionally done and even my husband mentioned how much he enjoyed Cogsworth (Joey West), Lumiere (Joey West), and Mrs. Pott’s (Cathy Carroll) costumes.  One fun aspect was the added lights that came on in Lumier’s candlestick costume and on some of the dresses of supporting cast as the night sky got darker.

This production ended with a bang and left me feeling satisfied and uplifted.  If you are looking for the perfect theater experience to take the whole family to this is it.

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Draper Arts Council Presents Disney’s Beauty And The Beast

Draper Amphitheater, 944 E Vestry Rd, Draper, Ut, 84020

June 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, and 12th, Show starts at 8:00 PM with gates opening at 7:30 PM

Adults $10; children 3-12 $7; age 2 and under free. (But since the show starts so late, I’d suggest no children under 5 or 6 come–it’s a late night for the littles!)

Call 385-351-9468

Purchase tickets at www.draperartscouncil.org

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Grassroots Shakespeare Co’s “The Fantasticks” is Fabulous!

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By Jennifer Mustoe and Craig Mustoe

For nine years, Grassroots Shakespeare Company has been bringing us amazing productions penned by the bard and his contemporaries. So when I read on their calendar that they were producing The Fantasticks, I was surprised. And very pleased.

The Fantasticks is the longest-running musical ever and there is a very good reason why. It has it all: humor, beauty, love, feuds, intrigue, music, Shakespeare (yes, true), and a wall. It has a small cast and a hilarious story line. Two fathers want their children to grow up and marry, so they contrive a feud and build a wall between their houses. So naturally, the kids fall in love. The fathers further throw their children together by enlisting the help of El Gallo who hires a strange Shakespearean actor and an “Indian” to abduct the daughter, Luisa, and Matt, her sweetheart, will save her. Things go awry and all of it falls apart. And you have to see the show to know the ending. And it’s not what you hope it will be. It’s better.

My husband, Craig, had never seen The Fantasticks and I kept telling him how much he would love the show. He is a big GSC fan, so he was eager to see the musical. I will tell you now, he enjoyed the heck out of tonight’s production.

The show begins as all GSC productions do, with an introduction, with music being played as you walk to the site (the location changes with each show! They carry a removeable/buildable stage with them and construct and take it down every show.) They encourage the audience to boo, to shout out during the performance, and there is a fair amount of ad libbing that goes on. In tonight’s production, not as much of the fourth wall was broken, but I think that may be in part that it’s hard to do this in a musical, it was opening night, and the crowd, I think, was entranced by the beauty and talent on the stage and just kept quiet except when they were clapping madly.

The show is introduced by El Gallo (lots of jokes about this name) played by Ben Henderson. El Gallo is a bad guy–or is he? Henderson has an amazing voice, great stage presence, and completely embraced his role. After his great performance, he shared with the audience that being able to be in GSC’s first musical was beyond anything he ever imagined doing–it was pretty touching.

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The two fathers were played by Ardon Smith (Hucklebee) and Jason Sullivan (Bellemy.) These two men were so in sync–we loved watching their physical comedy, their harmonizing. Their timing was perfect. Often onstage with them was The Mute, played by Carter Walker. Walker plays the wall (a person, playing a wall? Walker totally makes this work.) He also has amazing physicality onstage, as a mute would need to have. I loved watching him.

The lovers, Luisa, played by Amber Dodge Tinney, and Matt, played by Caleb Tinney, were darling and as you might expect, had great chemistry and ease with one another. Caleb plays Matt with a fun geekiness that is charming, and Amber’s Luisa is wide-eyed and naive, but also rather grown up in some ways, too. These two were a delight onstage. When Amber dances with El Gallo, we feel her confusion and the seduction. A very powerful scene.

Lastly, Henry (the Shakespearean actor–who flubs his lines constantly) is played by longtime GSC player Addison Radle. I’m a huge Radle fan and he made this role his own. His sidekick, Mortimer, played by Paris Abigail Moore, was hilarious. It is her role to die onstage and she really makes dying funny. (Isn’t that horrible?) But she has great comedic timing and a pleasure to watch.

The only instrument is a keyboard, but the sound was really amazing for it being an outdoor venue. As with GSC productions, there is no director. The actors learn their parts, have little rehearsal, then perform these amazing productions. This season’s The Fantasticks is of this same caliber.

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For those of you who have never been to a GSC production: Bring a chair or blanket (or both); bring snacks and something to drink, if you want; bring bug spray. AND BRING EVERYONE YOU CAN! (Except very young children. Though this show has nothing that is inappropriate for kids, there was one rather small child in the audience who got very bored, so my advice, let the kiddies stay home with a sitter.) Most productions in the summer are free, but they are asking a $5.00 donation for The Fantasticks, as they had to pay for the rights to use this work. Five dollars is TOTALLY worth it. As my husband remarked to Amber Dodge Tinney after the show, “It makes me sad.” She looked quizzically at him and he said, “There should be 500 people here.” Grassroots Shakespeare Company is only one of three troupes like this in the world, and we in Utah are lucky enough to see them every summer for free. Do yourself a favor and get to a GSC show–both of them!–this summer.

For times and dates, check their website. There are productions in Salt Lake, Provo, Orem, Spanish Fork. Find a venue and a time, and give yourself a treat.

 

 

 

 

Park City’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a Beautiful Way to Start the Holiday Weekend

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The Ogden-based theatre group, the Ziegfeld Theatre, performed a delightful stage adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. It was refreshing to attend a wholesome, family-oriented play at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Park City.

The story begins in a small French town where most of the young girls can only dream of marrying the dashing, arrogant and handsome Gaston. Belle, a charming, well-read, and beautiful-but humble-daughter of a single father is Gaston’s obsession. Her father is mocked for his inventive pursuits. Belle is independent, head strong and shuns Gaston’s self-serving advances. Belle hopes for a life that extends beyond the boundaries of their little village.

Nearby lived a similarly arrogant, self-centered Prince in a beautiful castle. Legend had it that he denied shelter to a poor beggar woman who was actually a beautiful enchantress. As punishment for his cold-hearted refusal, the enchantress cast a spell upon him that turned him into a monstrous Beast. All his servants were relegated to live as semi-inanimate objects. The spell could only be broken if the Beast learned to love and be loved in return.

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Belle’s father accidently stumbled upon the Castle, encountering the Beast-who had only become more monstrous and angry with the passage of time. After the Beast took her father captive in his dungeon, Belle rescues her father by exchanging herself in his place as the Beast’s prisoner. In time, and with the encouragement and support of his servants in the shape of housewares (dishes, clock, etc.), the Beast transitions into a gentleman and Belle (“Beauty”) gradually begins feeling something admirable and desirable within him, looking beyond his ugly appearance. This magical story reminds us not to look on outward appearances in determining the value of an individual. In the process, Beauty is likewise transformed into deeper, more accepting, and understanding woman.

Beauty and the Beast was the 10th longest performance on Broadway and hugely popular. Disney’s popular 1991 animated version  was recently remade and co-produced by Disney into a non-animated adaptation starring Emma Watson.

The Ziegfeld cast is very compelling-drawing from local talent. The unity of the cast came through in their acting. They were able to draw the audience in.

Belle, surprisingly played by 16-year-old Aria Critchley is graceful, showing off her dancing ability and admirable vocal talent. The Beast, Bryant Clair Larsen, plays the part very well. His “beastly” mannerisms, stance, and transition into a polite gentleman are highly convincing.  Gaston is characterized by Daniel Pack- the perfect specimen to represent Gaston’s buff, masculine features. Lefou (Samuel Holdaway), Gaston’s personal sidekick who exists only to serve Gaston’s every need fits the part quite well, and was very humorous and entertaining. The Castle’s servants are excellent and deserve particular praise for their musical, dance, and acting abilities. Of special note is Lumiere (Aaron Gordon), who is the life of the show. He plays the character better than any actor I’ve ever seen, including the screen actors. Cogsworth (Austin Payne) is also superb. Mrs. Potts (Ashley Mordwinow) has a superb voice, along with her son, Chip (played by Isaac Allred and Nicolas Horrocks.) Madame de la Grande Bouche (Jennifer Chadwick) has an amazing operatic tone with very impressive vocal dynamics.

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The choreography was well-adapted for the size of the Cast and stage. Particularly excellent was the “Tavern” scene with Gaston, “Be Our Guest”, “Something There”, and “Beauty and the Beast.” The Magic Carpets were excellent! The acrobatics they performed were a surprising treat! Magic Carpets/ Enchanted Objects were Angel Martinez (Fork), Mejai Perry (Knife), and Devin Turner (Spoon). They also tripled as Townspeople and were fantastic dancers and actors.

Who can resist the charm of Disney’s lyrics and tunes? Music Director Jamie Lynn Balaich had excellent performers to work with in Gaston, Madame de la Grande Bouche, Mrs. Potts, and Lumiere had outstanding voices. For a 16-year-old, Aria Critchley was also very impressive but at times inconsistent in her volume. The Beast, Bryant Clair Larsen, did not sing as often and it must have been difficult with his mask/heavy head of hair, but when he did hit it spot on! Gaston presented a very humorous “Me”.

Costumes by Dee Tua’ One were excellent and well-designed. The “Napkins” and Belle’s dresses were notably gorgeous. Lumiere’s candlestick hands were a superior extension of his personality!

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The Egyptian Theatre is a well-known historical Park City fixture and quite beautiful, though  the stage and size of the theatre was a bit too small for the actors, though Director Morgan Parry made very good use of the space. The seats and temperature were comfortable. It was easy to find. The staff were friendly and accommodating. It has a nice small town atmosphere.

 

My 21-year-old daughter and I attended Park City’s Beauty and the Beast together. We laughed through much of it. She is a former music major and had a far more critical ear than I do. She noted the loudness of the music in relation to the relative smallness of the 300+ seat theatre. I think to the untrained ear such as mine, I was more drawn in by the magic of the story or personality of the acting that I overlooked such things.

Overall, we both felt this was worth attending. The only drawback might be the Park City prices. We noticed tickets were less when Ziegfeld presented it on their Ogden Stage. However, it was refreshing to see wholesome, family entertainment presented on the Park City stage. The audience consisted of many families with small children. The wolves coming up and down the aisles may have been a bit too intense for the youngest child, but I noticed many children in the audience who were probably thrilled to see the animated and non-animated version live onstage. It was a very enjoyable evening and we would recommend and encourage more family entertainment to come to Park City.

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Ziegfeld Theatre group is presenting Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the Egyptian Theatre  328 Main Street in Park City UT 84060.

Started Thursday, May 25th and runs through Sunday, June 4th. Showtimes  vary at 6:00 PM or 7:30 PM, with ticket prices from $15 for youth up to $40 for adults in premium seating. (NOTE: $5.00 more 30 minutes prior to show)

Call: 435-649-9371, For information, visit http://www.park#435-cityshows.com.

Easy to find on historic old Main Street, Park City. Free 6-hour covered parking @ China Bridge Parking Garage (behind theatre.) Paid parking on Main St.

 

The Desert Star’s “Captain American Fork” is Heroically Funny

capt american forkBy Scott Phillips

Last Saturday, my family and I went to the Desert Star Playhouse located in Murray to see their original production Captain American Fork: the Worst Avenger. The Desert Star Playhouse has a long history of providing entertainment to Murray and the Salt Lake Valley dating back to the 1930’s.

If you don’t know about this theatrical jewel, you are missing out. Their parodies and spoofs blend the production’s story with local humor performed by great talent. In old-fashioned style, each show is followed by an “olio,” doing fun musical numbers to end the evening of entertainment.

Captain American Fork, the Worst Avenger opens at Salt Lake’s ‘Hero-Con’ where “Zion Man” and “The Homemaker” are looking to recruit their newest member to the Guardians of Utah Valley. Captain American Fork, along with his ward Bingham Copper Man, is selected from among the ranks of hopeful heroes and together they face off against the nefarious Cougar to protect the good citizens of Utah Valley.

Rick Miller plays an excellent albeit bumbling Captain American Fork accompanied with his ever quirky sidekick Bingham Copper Man played by Jacob Barnes. Together with Zion Man, played by Matt Mullaney and The Homemaker, played by Ashley Haslam they join in comedic escapades against Zion Man’s arch enemy the Cougar played by Hillary Carey. Their hilarious hijinks are covered by an intrepid social media reporter, Tennille (get it? Captain and Tennille?), played by Brittany Shamy.

This is acting in its truest form. The cast interact with the occasional comment from the audience and ad lib with often hilarious results. The script is sprinkled with humorous references to current events and pop culture with a leavening of good-natured poking of fun at life in Utah; for example Zion Man uses his cape (the Zion Curtain) to protect people from seeing evil doings. Tennille, who is playing off of her Spanish heritage, ad libbed a joke about American Fork wanting to build a wall and making Spanish Fork pay for it, which wasn’t in the script, This threw Captain American Fork for a loop because he wasn’t sure how to react to it other than laughing and then turning to the audience and saying “that wasn’t in the script!”

Costumes by Lynn Funk and Lee Daily were colorful and fun. Choreographer Allison Cox got her cast moving, and this is important, because there is so much music in Desert Star’s shows–it has to be accompanied by artistic and fun movement.  Artistic Director Scott Holman took playwright Edward Farnsworth’s script and made the show an absolute blast.

Seating is at tables in a tiered floor arrangement, which allows every seat a good view of the stage performance. Each table receives a complimentary basket of popcorn and audience members have the option to order dinner items including pizza, burgers, wraps and finger foods like nachos with an assortment of cake, ice cream, floats and streusel for dessert.

As mentioned above, each show ends with a musical olio, where the play’s cast members perform several musical skits. The olio performance is excellent and provides an entertaining encore to the main performance.

My family thoroughly enjoyed their experience at the Desert Star Playhouse. My 6-year-old was entertained and there were enough subtle jokes and playful pokes at life in Utah to keep my wife and I focused on the dialogue which can be overshadowed at times with the entertaining and varied props and background which offers its own visual subtext to the performance. The best thing about the actors at the Desert Star is that they add Lib based on how the audience is reacting to them. Each showing for every play can be a unique experience; that’s what makes it so entertaining.

Captain American Fork: the Worst Avenger runs through June 3 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays at 6 and 8:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2:30, 6 and 8:30 p.m.

The Desert Star Playhouse is located at 4861 S. State St., Murray with tickets ($15-$25) available for purchase by calling the box-office at (801) 266-2600 or online at desertstar.biz. (Note: Get your tickets quickly. These shows sell out fast!)

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The Grand Theater’s “Hairspray” is a Grand 60’s Party

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By Andrea Johnson

My husband and I have attended various events at The Grand Theater, and it was fun to return to see The Grand Theater’s production of Hairspray.  Full Disclosure:  I was an assistant director for Hairspray, and I have seen the production additionally in a couple of different venues, including the film versions.  I love this show, and I love to see it done well.

Hairspray is a coming-of-age musical set in the early 1960s in Baltimore, Maryland, and revolves around the life and dreams of Tracy Turnblad, a teenager with a hair bump almost as big as her dreams of singing and dancing on a local TV studios teen dance show.  The pursuit of her dreams is not a smooth one, and along the way she encounters the fears of her mother, the ridicule of the reigning teen dance queen, and lots and lots of prejudice and bigotry.  Tracy faces down all of them with the support of her parents, her best friend, and all of the people who are drawn to Tracy because of her passion for equality and her desire to just be recognized for the talents she possesses, despite her presumed physical constraints.  She makes many friends and gains many allies on her journey, giving that same support in return to them.

Hairspray began as a non-musical film produced in 1988 with Ricky Lake as Tracy Turnblad, but was then reworked in a musical form in 2002, produced on Broadway, and garnered 8 Tony Awards along the way.  It was then redone in the musical form as a film with John Travolta starring in the traditionally male role of Tracy’s ample mother, Edna Turnblad, and Christopher Walken as Tracy’s fun-loving father, Wilbur Turnblad.

 

As my husband and I arrived for the show Friday evening, we found plenty of close and free parking on the east side of the theater.  The east entrance of the theater is very clean, light and modern, and signs direct you around to the west side of the Salt Lake Community College building to the theater box office and lobby of the theater, which is definitely of an earlier era.  Our seats were near the front and, by the familiarity and conversations of the patrons around us, right in the middle of the season ticket holders.  There really isn’t a bad seat in the house.  The theater itself is large and open, complete with a balcony and a breathtaking proscenium.  The seats are comfortable and appropriately spaced.  The contrast of the old and the new was definitely felt as the show started.  The non-profit semi-professional theater group is funded by generous donations, and has used these donations to create a technologically advanced theater experience housed in a beautiful old setting.

The show opens with “Good Morning, Baltimore,” with Tracy waking up and starting a new day.  Tracy, played effortlessly by Emily Woods, sings through the town on her way to school.  Ms. Woods has a lovely vocal quality, clear, pure, and easy on the ears.  Her characterization was on point from the start and never wavered.  It was a delight watching her journey.

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Next, we meet Tracy’s mom, played exquisitely by David Hanson (this role is typically played by a male with a large stage presence), and discover quickly Edna’s sharp wit as well as her crippling fears and self-deprecating issues.  Mr. Hanson chose to keep his natural voice for Edna, avoiding affectation, which I enjoyed greatly.  Later scene, we meet Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy’s dad and proprietor of his own gag gift and whoopee cushion emporium, played by Stephen Sherman.  Wilbur and Edna have a particularly loving and tender relationship, but I missed it early on.  We are asked to suspend reality in accepting that Edna is actually a woman, and I would have liked to see more interplay between Wilbur and Edna early on, and that needed to be initiated by Wilbur.  Later, we were able to see the full manifestation of their relationship in a charming performance of “You’re Timeless to Me,” but it just made me wish that the repartee had been there sooner.  I would have really enjoyed that expression of affection and gentle teasing earlier.

Tracy’s best friend, Penny Pingleton, was played by Elise Groves Pearce.  As is the nature of the beast of playing younger than your years, I felt that Ms. Pearce’s character read a little too mature.  I would have really liked to see more immaturity and naivety early on, so that I could enjoy her journey as well.  In the later scenes, especially as she interacts with Seaweed (the boy that makes her heart skip a beat) the move from naivety to knowing would have been more pronounced.  I felt like I didn’t get to see her evolve.  Conversely, Seaweed, played by Tristan Johnson, was almost too shy and uncomfortable in the early parts of the show, where I would have liked to see more confidence, but he managed to find his groove by later scenes.  I am not sure if this was a character choice, or just a nerves issue, but either way, “Without Love” in the second act was a particularly stellar performance from Ms. Pearce and Mr. Johnson, and I cannot express how enchanting it was to watch.

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Early in the first act, we also meet the Teen Council, including their stars, Link Larkin (played by Sky Kawai) and Amber Von Tussle (played by Madi Cooper), and Amber’s overbearing mother, Velma Von Tussle (played by Mandi Barrus).  Mr. Kawai was also a joy to watch.  His journey from privilege and status through questioning and fear then into the final action of supporting his true love, Tracy Turnblad, and finding his bravery was sometimes painful, often touching, but very real.  I enjoyed taking that journey with him, and I admit, he sucked me right into his world.

Ms. Cooper and Ms. Barrus both exuded the arrogance that comes from their position, and I was particularly impressed with Ms. Barrus’s portrayal.  Playing an antagonist is sometimes difficult when it goes against your personal nature, but Mr. Barrus created a malevolent foil to push Tracy in her journey.  Kudos to her for being brave in being horrid.  Ms. Cooper did a fantastic job of dancing horribly, well.  Again, the trouble of playing younger felt like an obstacle she could have pushed past more, especially after she is dumped by Link and she starts to feel like her world is collapsing.  I would have loved to see more immaturity for “Cooties,” considering the amount of grade-school insults that song contains, and it would have been completely appropriate in the context of her world being up-ended by someone who she has always been told would never be better than her.

The host of The Corny Collins Show, played expertly by Aaron Ford, was a stand-out for his complete immersion in the part.  Solid talent, solid character, and never missed a beat.  Mr. Ford was smooth and flawless.  Bravo.

A quick note on the ensemble: PERFECTION.  I adore shows where the ensemble is a moving, adaptable, complementary backdrop for the action.  In scenes with the Teen Council, Detention, PE, the Platter Party at Motormouth Maybelle’s, all of the show actually, the singing was on-point, dancing on-point, characters on-point.  Delightful and de-lovely.

Speaking of Motormouth Maybelle, the “Negro Day” host of The Corny Collins Show, she was my standing ovation.  McKenna Jensen gave me a taste at the Platter Party in “Run and Tell That,” and blew me away with her soulful rendition of “I Know Where I’ve Been.”  She commanded the stage whenever she was on it, and her mouth opened wide and strong as she built confidence for Edna in “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful.”  Stellar performance.

Under the direction of Jim Christian, with Jessica Merrill as choreographer, and Derek Myler as musical director, the show was a delight to watch and a pleasure to attend.  The totality of the show, from the tight blocking/scene changes/choreography, all the way to the excellent sound and light quality, and amazing costumes, sets and props, was a masterpiece in the immediate acceptance of this suspended belief and the age-old adage that the mark of an excellent tech crew is the lack of notice.  My husband remarked on the way home that he wasn’t even aware of any scene changes in the first act, and the ones he noticed later were not uncomfortable to sit through.  I mentioned to him that I was well into the first act before I remembered that I was reviewing the show and needed to make some notes.  I was quite literally sucked in.  I still didn’t take many notes, because I didn’t want to break the spell.  This is a well-done show, from beginning to end, and any notes I have made are somewhat nit-picky.

This show is a great family show, date night, or just a wonderful evening at the theater.  There is some innuendo, but nothing blatant that would need explaining, and if kids don’t get the joke, they wouldn’t miss anything for content.  As a further note about the jokes, there are several references to cultural and historical items of the times, and enhancing the theater experience for teens, tweens, millennials, and maybe even Gen X could include a quick Google/Wikipedia search of: Khrushchev, Richard (Dick) Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Gleason, Sammy Davis, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Wilt “The Stilt,” the Gabor sisters, Green Stamps, and Gina Lollobrigida.  If you don’t want to do that much research, just an awareness of “separate but equal” may spark a great conversation about the struggles of the early 60s against current themes of bullying, prejudice, fear as a motivator, and inclusion/exclusion.  Like Maybelle warns, “There’s a whole lot of ugly coming at you from a never-ending parade of stupid.”

Hairspray runs 2-1/2 hours with intermission, and there are bathroom facilities and a snack bar near the theater lobby.  Do not miss out on this show!  It runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday evenings, with matinee performances on Saturdays through June 3rd.  If you are interested in maybe finding a deal on admission, check out the theater’s modern addition of “The Grand Theater” app, which is a free download for iOS or Android.

THE PARTICULARS:

The Grand Theater Company presents

Hairspray

Book by Thomas Meehan and Marc Shaiman

Music by Mark O’Donnell

Lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman

Salt Lake Community College Grand Theater, 1575 South State, Salt Lake City, Utah

Performances Thursday through Saturday through June 3, 2017.

Evening performances at 7:30 PM.  Matinees Saturdays at 2 PM.

Tickets range from $8 to $22, depending on show times and seating.

Contact information – Call 801-957-3322, or online at grandtheatercompany.com.