“Noises Off!” Takes Center Stage at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem

By Angela Dell

I made a last minute dash to the SCERA to see their latest production, Noises Off!. I admit, I was unprepared for this show in every way. You see, maybe I was late to the party. Maybe I’m just “not with it” when it comes to theater stuff (even though I love participating in shows.) But, I admit, I had never seen the play. I knew it was a comedy. I knew it was about a play within a play. That’s it. Even tonight, when I confessed I had never seen the show before to the folks sitting around me, a few of them said, “Really?” So here I was, a naïve, unwitting participant, asked to cover for a reviewer  and see this show that was happening just up the street from me.

Here’s what I have to say: Noises Off!, produced by the SCERA Indoor Theater in Orem, was the show that made me ugly laugh in public amongst nobody but strangers for the first time in all of my adult years. I couldn’t help it–this show is hilarious. There was a point where I was taking a drink of my Coke and realized it was a mistake because I was pretty sure I was either going to inhale it or it was going to come out my nose, I was laughing that LOL hard. My throat hurts from laughing as I write this review. You know how people say their sides are sore from laughing. The struggle is real, friends.

Noises Off! follows a small company of actors who are putting on a touring production called Nothing On!. You watch the director struggle to get through their first technical rehearsal before they have a full-dress rehearsal and then go on tour. You watch the actors complicate their lives with relationships with each other. You watch the stage manager and her assistant stage manager struggle to keep the show together. You watch the show crumble because the actors and director have just about completely given up and are barely hanging by a thread.

The real director of the show, Chase Ramsey (who is soon to move to CA full-time and will be sorely missed in Utah theater) clearly worked incredibly hard to get the timing absolutely perfect for his actors. The pace never feels slow or dragging, and the blocking is spot on to create the different type of levels needed to make the show visually interesting and engaging. I was never bored and never wondered once how much longer the show had. The director in the show, Lloyd Dallas (Rex Kocherhans) does a marvelous job channeling the directors we all know, love, and loathe. He is both validating and condescending. The audience can’t help but roll their eyes as well as feel a little sorry for him that his production is falling apart. Dotty Otley (Delayne Bluth Dayton) is the first one onstage and it’s not until we hear the difference in her dialect that we realize she’s onstage as part of the play within the play. Bluth Dayton’s charm comes through in her character, which makes her completely relatable. We see her struggle with stage directions in ways all actors have when putting a play together. Her dialect is absolutely on par and the times she chooses to use it and not use it are completely appropriate and help tell the story of this wacky production. David Paul Smith completely commits to his character, Garry Lejeune. His physical choices add a very dramatic comedy to the situations he gets himself into that keeps the audience’s eyes on him whenever he’s on-stage. Brittni Bills Smith plays Brooke Ashton, the tart the director is “secretly” involved with. Watching her power through her lines as Vicki while her scene partner is worrying about other things is charming and hilarious. We all know that actor that is more concerned with getting their lines out that they just power through even though their scene partner isn’t quite caught up to where they are. She plays it so sincerely and endearingly that we all love her just a little more for it. Janessa Ramsey plays the stage manager, Poppy, and does a fantastic job playing the patient, sensitive stage manager we all pray for when putting together a production. Clearly, she’s been in a few productions before and knows the pain some of these stage managers go through. Shawn M. Mortensen plays actor Frederick Fellowes, the actor that always seems to make rehearsal last an eternity by nitpicking the play to pieces. Mortensen delivers his lines sincerely and commits to his character choices to create a sweet and sensitive character that is easy to love. Shannon Follette plays Belinda Blair, the cast member that seems to know everyone’s business and just wants everyone to feel loved and important.  Her devotion to the play comes through with her ability to stay in character, even when things get hard. Because of that, her comedic timing is spot on. Zack Elzy plays Tim Allgood, the frantic assistant stage manager who seems to visually struggle the most with the cast. His vocal and physical comedy are perfection. I’m impressed that with the rather spectacular amount of shouting he does, he has a voice at all at the end of the night. Last, but not least, Robert Holcombe plays the older, drunk actor that is not quite mentally there with the rest of the cast members. In the show, he has a spry energy that keeps the audience engaged whenever he’s on. He’s a very warm, charismatic actor that plays a very dilapidated, uninspiring actor, which takes real talent.

I mention each of these actors separately with their individual talents, but they work so well as an ensemble that it was truly hard to find individual things to say about them. They all played off each other quickly and comfortably. All of their physical choices were made so meaningfully and in time with each other, it was like watching a hilarious and well-coordinated dance. Their characters interacted with each other so sincerely, it felt natural watching them transition from their character in Noises Off! to their character in Nothing On!. They were all a pleasure to watch.

Cole McClure’s set is so simple and well-organized that we all knew exactly where everything was. It makes it all about the actors and what they are doing. If there were more color on set or on the walls or in the furniture, it would have made the show feel too busy and stressful, instead of focusing on the comedy of the situations. His design is flawless and clean. Deborah Bowman’s costume design is fitting for each of the characters and adds a comfortable variety to the stage that also allows for the words and actions of the play to speak for themselves instead of making a bold statement to distract us from what is happening on-stage.

The SCERA Indoor Theater is a conveniently located playhouse. It is right off of State Street in Orem, which makes it familiar and visible, and the parking is conveniently placed behind the theater and to the north of 750 S right next to the swimming pool. They also have a drop off area for those who need it and have ramps for those with wheelchairs or struggle with stairs. Their concessions are reasonably priced and available throughout the play and during both intermissions. They are a clean and accommodating playhouse.

I was told that the SCERA doesn’t often produce straight plays and that Noises Off! was a sort of test run to see how well-received plays would be at the SCERA. If this is the caliber of play they produce when it comes to a non-musical, I hope they continue to explore and introduce more plays to this part of Utah Valley. It was a pleasure I wish I could have shared with more of my friends and family. Go see Noises Off! at the SCERA Indoor Theater in Orem before it’s too late!

SCERA presents Noises Off! by Michael Frayn                                                         SCERA Indoor Theater 745 S State St, Orem, Utah 84058                                       September 15–October 7 Mondays, Thursdays-Saturdays 7:30 PM                                 Tickets $14 Adults; $12 Children/Seniors                                                                   Contact: 801-225-ARTS                                                                                           SCERA Facebook Page                                                                                       SCERA’s Noises Off! Facebook Event

“Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody” at ImprovBroadway in Provo is Super Effective!

By Caden Mustoe

Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody at the ImprovBroadway in Provo is a fun, cute musical about the Pokémon video game, cartoon, and trading card sensation. IT was one part nostalgia as a part of my childhood, while making fun of the logical inconsistences of Pokémon. But, in essence, Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody is a big love letter to this international phenomenon.

For those of you unfamiliar with the world of Pokémon, here’s a little background information. Pokémon (short for pocket monsters, and thus the name of the musical) are creatures that are prevalent in the region of Kanto, where the first installment of the franchise as well as our story is set. These creatures resemble those we would find in real life, though often amalgamated with something else. For instance, the recognizably yellow Pokémon species Pikachu are large mice with electrical powers. Children, when they become old enough, go out into the world to capture and train these Pokémon in order to battle with other trainers, leading to fun and exciting adventures. I will say, however, that even if you know little to nothing about this fantastic universe, the story, humor, and energy of Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody will still keep you captivated.

Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody is the brainchild of Sam Wright, who also starred in the show as one of the local gang members, O.J. The story, like most Pokémon tales, starts with a boy (whose name is chosen by the audience, which pleased my friends and me) and some other children in his town embarking on a journey to see what it means to become the very best. Unlike other Pokémon sagas, however, this journey is accompanied by outbreaks of song, unconventional Pokémon battles, and philosophical commentaries about the world of Pokémon, which is often little more than some good-natured razzing.

Along the way, we will meet some old and familiar characters. Red (Brad Witbeck) is a boy filled with dreams of becoming the very best, like no one ever was. Brad Witbeck was charming and fun to watch. At the beginning of the show, he is encouraged by the local Prof. Oak (Lucas Proctor) to begin his journey. At the same time, Prof. Oak’s grandson Blue, played convincingly by Thad Gillespie and new-girl-in-town Green (Rylee Witbeck), who is a talented and energetic actress, are also given starter Pokémon and head out for adventure. Soon after departing, our hero finds and captures Pikachu (Tanner Urmston).

One of the things I find very impressive about Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody is how many members of the cast also were a part of the crew. For instance, Teresa Jack and Wright both played members of the gang Team Rocket and also were in charge of costumes. They found a good balance between staying true to the look of the characters they were parodying and being visually amusing. Also from the cast was Cameron Wright who did choreography and, along with ensemble member Jason Hansen, sound design. While the space in the theater is limited, those in charge of props (Nick Welsh) and tech (Allen Bentley and Chris Schmutz) did an excellent job of using the stage to its fullest capacity. This obviously was a production that was a labor of love for all involved and this passion showed throughout Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody.

It is the theater’s first musical (normally only having improv acts) and they couldn’t have had a better start. One of the aspects I really liked is there was a lot of improv and everyone was very tight and quick with their timing.

Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody is definitely funny and definitely for Pokémon aficionados. But perhaps this could be the introduction people need to become familiar with something that is so ingrained in our culture.

It does run more than two hours, so though your tween or teen may love Pokémon, make sure they can sit still for a significant amount of time. But let me be clear,  Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody is family friendly and would be a great activity for those who love video games or improv. Come see the world premiere of this fun, original production. I know I will be following the group that created Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody and see what they are bringing to Utah theater for us to enjoy.

ImprovBroadway presents Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody by Sam Wright             ImprovBroadway, 496 900 E, Provo, UT 84606                                                       September 15, 22, 29 at 7:00 PM, 16, 23 at 2:00 PM, and 16, 23, 30 at 9:45 PM           Ticket Price: $5 online, $8 at door                                                                                     ImprovBroadway Facebook Page                                                                           Pocket Monsters: A Musical Parody Facebook Event

 

 

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” are Staying Put at An Other Theater Company in Provo

By Angela Dell

An Other Theater Company’s production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike in Provo is a sincere pleasure to experience. The theater company is brand new and it’s clear they worked very hard to make their flagship production an absolutely stellar performance. Their attention to detail and their devotion to theater with Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike shines through in this charming black box theater.

For those unfamiliar with Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, it is a recently written play (2012) that takes Chekov’s plays and puts them in a blender with the present day. It follows Vanya (Brett Merritt) and Sonia (Cathy Ostler), a middle-aged brother and sister duo who are stuck living in the home they grew up in while their sister Masha (Brooke Wilkins), a famous actress, pays for the house so they don’t have to work. Masha brings her much younger boyfriend, Spike (Tyler Fox), to show off to her siblings. Spike hilariously ends up shaking things up for the siblings. They challenge each other in ways that force them to see past regrets, accept certain truths, grow up a little more, and grow closer to each other.

If I were forced to write only one word to describe this production, I would use: Committed. I don’t think there is one actor on that stage that doesn’t sincerely devote themselves to their character. Director Kacey Spadafora has once again gathered a cast of honest and generous people and worked with them to compile the final product that exists. The ensemble is honest and open with each other during each of their performances, which is such a treat to behold when, often in theater, we can see an actor is being selfish and not listening to their scene partner. Spadafora clearly worked hard with his actors to make sure they gave each other the gifts they needed to make a sincere and hilarious performance. His blocking and pacing is flawless and adds interesting levels and layers to the characters and dialogue. He gives his actors room to be the characters they need to be in order to give us this production. Merrit is Vanya. The delivery of his lines is so sincere and realistic, you really do believe he is struggling with the same things Vanya struggles with. He is quick and funny and has impeccable comedic timing. Fox mentioned that each night Merritt delivers a line slightly different and every time it’s still hilarious. Merritt delivers a five-page (eight-minute(!)) monologue but it feels like it flies by. His delivery is flawless and complex and varied enough that the audience wants to know more of how he feels about the way this earth is going. Ostler’s brave, bold choices keep her scene partners’ attention while making the audience feel enthralled with what she’s going to say next. The emotion she feels is relatable and endearing, we’ve all felt as sad and forgotten as Sonia. Wilkins makes Masha easy to hate, and then absolutely easy to love in the end. She reminds us how complex we all are and how loved we are even when we don’t feel lovable. Fox is a great sport playing the brainless Spike. He throws himself into the role of being such a selfish and vain creature, it’s almost hard to watch. We see a bit of ourselves in his vanity and pride and it looks ugly and real. Nina (Kaitlin Lemon) is a direct foil to Spike. Lemon embodies the honesty and sincerity that is Nina. Nina is generous and kind. She builds instead of destroys. Vanya and Sonia are better for knowing her and we are better for watching her. Lemon obviously puts a bit of herself in the role and it’s beautiful and enchanting to watch. Cassandra (Kiersten Zundel) is Vanya and Sonia’s maid who manages to completely dominate the stage whenever she’s on it. She is hilarious. She puts so much physical movement into her character, you can’t help but watch her whenever she’s on stage. Zundel manages to devote herself to her character so much that she miraculously doesn’t break character at all while doing the hilariously eccentric things her character does. She owns the stage and the audience’s attention.

The set design by Madeline Ashton creates the perfect amount of simple chaos to the mood of the play. She gives the characters the feel of kitschy but charming people with enough hanging art and knickknacks to make the house feel like a home. Paige Porter’s lighting design is well-crafted to encompass both simplicity and quality. The lights are well-distributed to bring a comfortable glow and create a very homey atmosphere. Mel Howarth’s costume design perfectly balances out the characters on the stage in a small space. Nina is obviously in light, innocent-looking colors while Vanya and Sonia are often in comfortable neutral colors. That, mixed with Masha’s stark blacks and whites provide a fun balance of wild and comfortable to each of the characters.

The theater itself is located inside the Provo Towne Centre Mall on the second floor near Dillards. It’s an unconventional theater space, but they organized it well. There is often lots of parking in the parking lot if you park in front of the main entrance between Dillards and JC Penny. Inside the theater, the friendly staff will greet you and allow you to choose your own seat. The seating is a set of padded yellow pews they managed to snag from a gentleman up in Idaho. They are arguably more comfortable than some of the seats I’ve had to sit in during shows, and those seats made it hard to enjoy the shows. Isn’t it easy to enjoy a show when you’re not shifting around in your seat, trying to get comfortable? The space is neat and organized and they clearly worked hard to transform that space from a Radio Shack into the sweet black box theater they have now.

A final note: This show is not for younger audiences. There is language and some adult themes that would not be suitable for younger audiences. It is a wildly entertaining and hilarious show, but for adults that can understand the themes and conversation that is being introduced.

Please come and see Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and keep an eye out for the new and fascinating things that An Other Theater Company is bringing to our humble little Utah Valley. I know I’ll be back for more shows.

An Other Theater Company presents Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang                                                                                                     Provo Towne Center Mall 1200 Towne Centre Blvd, Suite 2008, Provo, Utah 84601       September 15-October 14, 2017 Fridays and Saturdays in September, and Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in October 7:30 PM                                                                   Ticket Price: $15                                                                                                              An Other Theater Facebook Page                                                                                Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Facebook Event

Springville Playhouse’s “Noises Off!” is Jolly Funny

By Mary Garlitz

Friday night my husband and I had the chance to go see Noises Off! in Springville.  The long running Springville Playhouse, now approaching 70 years of productions, always does a fantastic job and Noises Off was no exception.

Noises Off, written by Michael Frayn, is the story of a group of actors getting ready to produce a play, a farce known as Nothing On!.  I don’t want to spoil anything if you are unfamiliar with the show, but the plot centers around producing this play and the hilarious and oftentimes chaotic things that happen in and around making a play come to life for a live audience. Noises Off!, first produced in 1982, has long been a fan favorite for its fast pace and laugh out loud moments. This being a British based farce, there are some things inappropriate for younger audiences.  Having grown up on British comedy, I adored it.

Springville Playhouse currently uses Merit Academy, a local charter high school as their performance venue, and it works well for them for now. Plenty of parking and a short walk inside make this its best attribute.   It’s unfortunate that in place known as “Art City” that they do not have a permanent performance venue.  But that’s another story, not for today.  I mention it only as a review of the venue itself.  Although a nice building, it’s still in a cafetorium and it’s hard to get away from the feeling that you are walking into a junior high production.  However, don’t let that stop you from attending. It was not uncomfortable and everyone had a pleasant view of the stage. The playhouse crew has done a fantastic job with seating and lighting, and the venue did not distract from the wonderful acting I was able to witness.  I would love to see this team with a venue they deserve.

Noises Off! was co-directed by Robinne Booth and Connie Warensky and I think they worked well together to let their actors really dig into the characters.  As I mentioned, this is a familiar work and one I imagine would be hard to have actors make their own, but they managed to bring their vision to life well in that each character was believable and I think this was a direct reflection on the directing they were given.

The ensemble had great chemistry together and the work they put into creating the “play within a play” I think that synergy comes through.

Booth’s first entrance as Dotty set the tone for the rest of the show.  Her comedic timing really plays right into her character’s batty nature. Lon Keith plays Lloyd the Director and having worked in theater many years myself, I felt that he really channels the exasperated director we’ve all worked with. I think one of my favorite parts near the beginning was Starr Williamson’s portrayal of Brooke and how she was “acting.” It’s difficult to be a good actor pretending to be a bad actor and she pulls it off well. Poppy, (Michelle McManus) turned out be one of my favorite characters for her long suffering and slow breakdown.  McManus does a respectable job keeping it real without become overly frantic. Nate Warensky and Joni Newman have great chemistry together as the not a couple/couple.  When they are “in the play” they connected well and their backstage friendship is spot on. Along with Poppy, the long-suffering Tim Allgood, played by a very versatile Gregory Duffin is one of the most empathetic characters for me. He portrays well the frantic and demanding pace every theater technical person goes through to bring a production to life. And I can’t forget to mention Eric Johnson as Selsdon Mowbray.  Just go see the show.  Eric is the icing on the cake.

Overall, this production is well done and very well cast.  Springville Playhouse pulls in some notable talent both on and off stage and it is well worth the time to see any production they do. We really enjoyed the comedy and pacing of Noises Off!. It did get a little hysterical in the middle as it is written, but I think as they settle into the run, this will smooth out without losing the frantic pace that is supposed to be part of the backstage hilarity. It does run just about 2 ½ hours with two intermissions so plan accordingly. Also, if you go, I would leave younger children at home as there is quite a bit of double entendre, although this group has done well to not make it overtly cheap or tawdry just for laughs.

We really enjoyed Springville Playhouse’s Noises Off! and it is well worth the $10 ticket price.  This would be a great date night or friends outing for anyone.  Who doesn’t love to laugh out loud?

Springville Playhouse presents Noises Off by Michael Frayn                                           Merit College Preparatory Academy, 1440 W Center St, Springville, UT 84663               Tickets: $10 general admission, $8 for students/seniors                                               Sept 15-October 7 Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays 7:30 PM.  Doors open at 7:00 PM   Springville Playhouse Facebook Page

Spanish Fork Community Theater’s “See How They Run” in Spanish Fork is a Comedic Riot

By Jo Schaffer

Good luck catching your breath with this one. Spanish Fork Community Theater surprises and delights with their production of See How They Run at Spanish Fork High School in Spanish Fork. My companion was  my niece who is a theater major, and we laughed all the way through this fast-paced comedy of mistaken identity and hijinks. See how they run, indeed.

See How They Run is set in the 1940s in an English vicarage. The stuffy vicar, Reverend Lionel Toop (Craig Applegate) is married to spirited American actress, Penelope (Elizabeth Phipps). They are an unlikely pair who meet the disapproval of one particularly nosy parishioner, Miss Skillon (LoriAnne Poulsen).

See How They Run in Spanish Fork

The hilarity begins when Penelope’s old friend, Corporal Clive Winton (Brigham Bennett) takes a brief military leave and comes to visit her. He ditches his uniform for the vicar’s clothes to dodge Army regulations and they spend an innocent night out. Upon returning to the vicarage, the two friends reenact a scene from the play “Private Lives” they once performed together. Unfortunately, Miss Skillon walks in on it and reads all of the wrong things into what she sees. Full of self-righteous outrage, Skillon wants to expose Penelope for the wanton she is believes her to be.

Meanwhile, Reverend Toop is attacked by an escaped Russian spy (Damien Parente), who steals the vicar’s clothes and is hiding at the vicarage. Mix in the visiting Bishop of Lax (Daniel Mesta), anxious Reverend Humphrey (Chantry Knox), cute cockney maid (Sydney Christensen), and frustrated policeman Sergeant Towers (Ben Gleason), who is chasing the convict and everyone else dressed like a cleric. Even with no set changes this play really moves. I was entertained and riveted to the action onstage the whole time.

See How They Run in Spanish Fork

See How They Run, written by Phillip King, was first staged as entertainment for the troops before its British stage premier in 1944. The title is a line taken from the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice”. Originally, King wrote the first act in 1942 under the title Moon Madness. The Spanish Fork High School Theater is comfortable and intimate. The parking is free and accessible. Because it is a smaller venue, all of the seats are good seats.

With a cast of only nine, each character really has a chance to shine in this witty and fast-paced comedy. As the vivacious American among Brits, Phipps gives a sparkling performance, making an engaging comedy team with the only other American character, played by the rakishly handsome, Bennet. Poulsen slays as the nosy prudish neighbor who becomes unexpectedly brazen when intoxicated. I quite enjoyed Knox’s quiet humor as the timid, befuddled Humphrey amidst the other blustering and frantic characters. The whole cast does an excellent job, keeping up the high energy and comedic timing that makes a play like this work.

See How They Run in Spanish Fork

Director Polly K. Dunn with the assistance of Jill Broadhead orchestrated this well-cast and fun production. The set (Dayna Hughes)—a typical English country living room, costumes (Larisa Hicken) and lighting design and sound (Brock Larson) do not draw undue attention to themselves, but provide a good, setting for the chaos of the onstage action.

As part of Spanish Fork City’s Harvest Moon Hurrah, See How They Run is fun for the whole family, with only some mild innuendo and language, and one comedic intoxication. Catch this hilarious classic farce if you can. It will make you want to jump up on stage and run around too. Don’t glance away—you’ll miss something. And just to let you know, my theater major niece is going back to see See How They Run. It’s that good.

See How They Run in Spanish Fork

Spanish Fork Community Theater presents See How They Run
Spanish Fork High School Little Theater– 99 North 300 West, Spanish Fork, UT 84660
September 15, 16, 18, 22 and 25 at 7:00 PM.
Tickets: $8. Seats are general admission. Ask about discounts for groups of 15 people or more. Purchase tickets at the door or online at SFCityTix.
SFCT Facebook Page
See How They Run Facebook Event

“The Addams Family” is Freakishly Fantastic With Payson Community Theater

The Addams Family in Payson

By Larisa Hicken

There’s something in the moat down in Payson this summer. As a part of the Onion Days Celebration, Payson Community Theater is performing The Addams Family, a new musical with a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and lyrics by Andrew Lipps. The show is based on the deliciously dark characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams and made famous in the popular 60s television show, The Addams Family. In the 90s, two movies came out that brought this kooky family out of the shadows once again.

In a continuation of The Addams Family storyline, Wednesday Addams (daughter of Gomez and Morticia Addams) (Madelyn Shearer) has grown up and fallen in love with a “normal” boy and wants to get married – every parent’s nightmare. In order to see if the two families can possibly come together, Wednesday and fiancé Lucas Beineke (Charlie Flint) invite his family to dinner at the Addams’ home. Before dinner, Wednesday confides in her father about her wedding plans and asks him to keep a secret from her mother – something Gomez has never done in his life. On this one fateful night, we wonder if there really is such a thing as “normal” and what it really means to be a family.

Addams in PaysonThe narrator of the story is Uncle Fester, the bald dark-eyed brother of Gomez. Played by Evan Kaiser, Fester is determined to enlist the dead Addams’ Family ancestors to help him bring together two people in love. Kaiser has great comedic timing and totally owns the stage with his ukelele. Having seen four different productions of this show, I have historically dreaded the scene where Fester sings “Moon and Me” to his true love – the moon. The song is long and repetitive and usually feels superfluous, however I have to take my wig off to Kaiser and director, Steve Poulsen, for turning this song into a fantastically delightful scene. I was giggling like a maniac through the whole thing. It’s worth the price of the ticket just to see this one number in the show. Props to Music Director Shannon Eden for this and many other beautiful melodies in Payson’s The Addams Family.

Part of what makes this scene (and really the whole show) so interesting to watch is the wonderful lighting design by Richard Lindsey. Not only does the contrasting warm and cool lighting show the audience where to focus their attention, but it also supports the character development and storyline. The use of black light in the graveyard scenes is fantastic with the all-white costumes of the ancestors. This show demonstrates how terrific a production can be with the perfect marriage of lighting and costumes.

The costumes, by designer Carisa Ewell, are a lot of fun. You know that when a show includes lots of yellow tear-away pants, and a transforming dress, it’s going to be spectacular. Many of the dead ancestors created their own unique characters and costumes, with coordination from assistant costumer, Miranda Duke, and they do a really nice job of bringing The Addams Family to life. The jaw-dropping set, designed by JD Madsen, creates the perfect background for the show’s chaos and catastrophe with delightful levels and textures.

The space is used well by the cast and choreographers Emma Black and Chantelle Wells can be proud of their dancers. The movements are ideally suited to support the story and perfectly aligned with the capabilities of the cast.

Wednesday AddamsMadelyn Shearer portrays a tormented and obsessive but also endearing Wednesday Addams who feels “Pulled in a New Direction” by her love for her fiancé Lucas Beineke. Flint does a nice job as the “ordinary” boyfriend who wants to break free from what his parents and society expect of him. His gentle earnestness is a nice contrast to Shearer’s more intense characterization. Their chemistry is great and their voices blend beautifully.

Shearer also has great interactions with her father Gomez, played by Richie Trimble. Trimble manages to play Gomez well in both of his personalities as the tender father and husband and as the feisty and protective Spaniard. His voice has a rich timbre that is well-suited to the part.

Trimble is well-matched by Amanda Angerbauer as Morticia. Angerbauer has a spectacular voice and nearly flawless vocal technique. I would like to see even more fire and tension between Gomez and Morticia, especially during their tango, but they work well together and the blend of their voices is to die for.

Gomez and Morticia Addams

The Addams Family is rounded out by the masochistic son Pugsley, played by Ethan Hancock, and the senile but spunky Grandma, played by Julie Hancock. Ethan holds his own as one of the youngest cast members, and he could take his character even further if he continues to tap into his darker side. He has nice intonation and facial expressions and I expect great things from this young actor. Julie Hancock delivers her lines with just the right inflection and a dose of crazy. I would like to see even more tenderness between the grandma and Pugsley in their scenes together.

Alice Beineke

Mal Beineke, played by Stanley D. Johnson, has the perfect look for a traditional business man from Ohio. Johnson’s gorgeous voice is a pleasant surprise near the end of the show and is complemented well by his stage wife Alice Beineke, played by Tia Trimble. Trimble steals the show as Alice with a well-developed and interesting characterization. Her physical antics, facial expressions, and vocal modulations are fantastic and I continue to be impressed by the versatility of this beautiful actress.

After the show, I asked audience members what they thought of the production and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Guest Hannah Cary of Spanish Fork said, “It was a fun and interactive play. 10 out of 10!” and Tia Lee, also of Spanish Fork, said, “I loved all the humor and the dance numbers. I would definitely go again!”

Payson Community Theater’s production of The Addams Family is freakishly fantastic so make sure to buy your tickets in advance and don’t miss out on the opportunity to see this hilarious musical performed by a talented cast and supported by a spectacular crew.

Payson Community Theater presents The Addams Family, by Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, and Andrew Lipps.
Payson High School, 1050 S Main St, Payson, UT 84651
August 31-September 2 7:30 PM. Sept 2, Sept 4 2:00 PM Matinee
Tickets: $10.00
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Zion Theatre Company’s “The Drown’ed Book” is Immersed in Love

By Andrea Johnson

Last night, I was privileged to attend the final dress rehearsal of Zion Theatre Company’s world premiere production of The Drown’ed Book: or the History of William Shakespeare, Part Last at The Castle Theatre in Provo, Utah.

This work is an original piece, written and directed by Mahonri Stewart, which details the life of William Shakespeare in his later years.  Stewart is not new to the playwriting scene, having over 20 productions under his belt. He is the recipient of awards from the Kennedy Center, the Hale Center Theatre, and LDS Film Festival.  I asked Stewart what he wanted people to know about the piece, and he said, “Well, it’s in iambic pentameter.”  We both laughed, but I was genuinely impressed.  Having written a few sonnets in my writing history, I know the struggle of a mere 14 lines of that meter, and truly, the writing of this piece is remarkable.  Stewart has taken great pains to stay true to Elizabethan language and verbiage, even down to the beauty of the soliloquy.  Devotees of Shakespeare will enjoy the high language, the verbal sparring, and the witty repartee.  Casual theater goers will love the puns, the putdowns, and the situational humor.  We groaned, chuckled, and laughed long and loud.  It was a delightful evening for any lover of words.

William Shakespeare, played exquisitely by Bradley Moss, is at once brooding, silly, passionate, sullen, offended, and defensive.  Moss plays Will Shakespeare as an emotionally charged artist, with all of the variations and nuances you would expect from a brilliant genius.  Moss dances easily from witty banter to aggressive defensiveness, from inspired lover to forlorn father, from passionate artist to wounded soul.  He commits fully to the wide spectrum of his bipolar nature, and I loved him and hated him in the same minute.  One of my favorite fun moments was his manipulation of his oldest daughter into accepting a proposal of marriage through his rant against “the Puritan” suitor.  Moss presents a deliciously flawed human being in Will, and we were sucked into his life madness fully.  I also loved his interactions with his family members, but especially the on and off nature of his relationship with his wife.

Shawnda Moss, as Will’s wife, Anne, is delightful and powerful.  She commands attention and draws her family around her.  The conflict between her love for her husband versus the aching and emptiness when Will is away with his theater family is palpable, and is a conflict anyone in the theater world understands.  Ms. Moss is a powerhouse of an actress, and her relationship with Will is touching and painful, as all good love stories are.  Their playful banter of the early scenes is contrasted well with the painful and emotional reality of the second act.  She wounds Will early in regards to her faithfulness: “It is not my heart I question, but thy feet.”

Will’s two daughters, Judith and Susannah, played respectively by Zel Bromley and Belinda Purdum, bring disparate emotions and relationships to the Shakespeare family dynamic.  Unlike her compliant and dutiful older sister, Bromley’s Judith is wild, willful, and defiant.  Bromley is fully invested in the physical and vocal defiance of Shakespeare’s youngest daughter.  Bromley plays Judith to the fullest, but especially in her interactions with her bellicose suitor, Thomas Quiney (Sam Schofield.)  She chides him, “If thou would suffer, court me to thy doom.”

Schofield spits out the character of Quiney like a foul spoonful of food.  Charmingly and playfully antagonistic around Judith, Quiney has no love lost for Will, and accosts him physically and verbally early in the show, decrying both his writing as well as his theater.  Schofield’s Quiney is decadent.  Physically present on the stage and vocally present in his delivery, Schofield is the perfect foil for both Will and Judith.  In response to Will’s question of his intentions toward the women of his house, he replies, “ignored fields are eaten by cows.”  I had actually grown to like his puckish character before I was stabbed in the heart in the second act, but I will leave the details of that discovery to you.

In stark contrast to her younger sister, Purdum’s treatment of the older and calmer Susannah is as a gentle peacemaker.  Purdum is soft in her delivery, but holds her own space, and her respect for her mother and father is genuine and tender.  Her suitor, John Hall, played by Peter F. Christensen, continues the theme of peacekeeping and tenderness, although he does defend the family against the brashness of Quiney.  Christensen has stepped into this role admirably and plays it well.  I am excited to see the show again and see how he has grown into the role. (Yes, I am going to see this show again during this run.)

Hamnet’s ghost also makes an appearance.  Hamnet (played by Hyrum Stewart) was Shakespeare’s only son, who lost his life at an early age, and whose illness and the circumstances surrounding his subsequent death weigh heavily on the Shakespeare family, and indeed color their relationships, interactions, and engagements.  Young Stewart is a powerful presence, and his portrayal is delightful and poignant.  The ghost of Hamnet appears at pivotal moments in the show, and truly affects the other players.

The costumes are lush and beautiful, and the set is simple yet elegant.  The Castle venue is gorgeous, and we were impressed not only with the view of the setting sun, but the literal immersion of the show into the surroundings.  There are a few references to the moon that caused my friend and me to gasp in astonishment, and some eerily-timed flights of birds that were delightful.  I understand that that director could not have accounted for these directly, but the totality of the venue space against the play content was impressive.

As my companion and I arrived at the venue, we were a little confused as to parking and location, so here are my insider tips.  First, mapping apps will get you to the end of Center Street, but may not navigate you to the venue.  When you can no longer go east, turn to the north.  There is plenty of parking to the north of the hospital, and limited parking on the next two levels of the park surrounding The Castle.  The driveway to the park area below the amphitheater as well as further up to the top side of the amphitheater is paved, but a single lane, so continue up at your own risk, as you may or may not be able to navigate back down.  Second, the entrance to the theater is downhill from the amphitheater castle structure, so you will be coming in at stage level and then walking up to the seating.  Third, the seating is stone steps that have been warmed by the summer sun.  I recommend bringing good cushions (we used stadium seats and a yoga mat) and shoes designed to go up and down stone steps.  We brought blankets, assuming that it would cool down when the sun went down, and while they were fine for the shoulders, we actually were still quite warm from the heated stone and really did not need anything extra.  The venue provides a small concessions stand with water and treats, so bring some dollars for that.

The Drown’ed Book is a play for lovers.  Lovers of words will find themselves immersed in language that exceeds the tweet, elevates the senses, and enlarges the mind.  Lovers of relationships will enjoy the banter, the interplay, and the realism presented.  There are more than a few delicious digs against marriage, set brilliantly against all that is good of marriage and falling in love.  Lovers of love, come see this show.  Come witness all the brands of love: passionate, stale, parental, new, old, and even abysmal and horrid love.  Come and see, lovers of life.  Come and be immersed in this story, in the language of Shakespeare, and in the beauty of this place we call home.

Zion Theatre Company presents of The Drown’ed Book; or the History of William Shakespeare, Part Last, by Mahonri Stewart                                                                     The Castle Theatre, 1300 East Center Street, Provo, Utah                                       August 25-26, 28, September 1-2  7:30 PM                                                             Tickets: $10-12                                                                                                       Contact: 801-822-6504                                                                                             Facebook Page                                  Facebook Event

 

Mahonri Stewart, Bradley Moss, Shawnda Moss, Zel Bromley, Sam Schofield, Belinda Purdum, Peter F. Christensen, Hyrum Stewart, Andrea Johnson

You’re Only a Day Away From “Annie” in American Fork

Annie in American Fork UtahBy Larisa Hicken and Jen Mustoe

Performing in the beautiful American Fork Amphitheater, Annie, directed by Adam Cannon, is presented by the American Fork Community Theater in association with the Timpanogos Arts Foundation.

Winner of 7 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Annie is a beloved favorite based on the popular 1930s comic strip by Harold Gray. Abandoned on the steps of a New York City orphanage in the 1920s, Annie and her fellow orphans are left to the cruelty of Miss Hannigan, an attention-starved alcoholic. Possessing equal measures of grit and optimism, little orphan Annie is determined to find her real parents. With her bright red hair and spunky personality, Annie charms her way into everyone’s hearts and she eventually finds a new home and family with billionaire, Oliver Warbucks, and his personal secretary, Grace Farrell.

The opening scene, with all the orphans sprawled on bunks and mattresses on the floor is darling, and as the littles start to sing and interact, their darling orphan costumes really set the tone for the show. The big stars in this show are the kids, and there seemed to be about 50 of them (not really but there are a lot) and they do pretty well. Director Cannon had his hands full with this pack, but they shine. After the show, all the young actors are hugging family and friends and there is a charm and a delight seeing so many new actors getting a chance to perform on a real stage with a real audience.

Nikki Merrell definitely steals the show with an enthusiastic and sweet portrayal of the orphan Annie. Her voice is lovely enough to rival the best of the adults in the cast and her intonation was great for one so young. Her smile is contagious and her rendition of “Tomorrow” is adorable.

The best interactions in the show are between Merrell and Mindy Eckroth playing Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ assistant. Eckroth has a powerhouse voice and a terrific vocal range. She is also a talented dancer (who doubles as choreographer) and has a stage presence that is impossible to ignore.

I would like to see a little more chemistry between Eckroth and Andrew Whittaker as Oliver Warbucks, but the romance takes a backseat in this production. Whittaker does a good job of owning the larger-than-life Warbucks and his affection for Annie is endearing.

Everyone’s favorite villain, Miss Hannigan, is played by a gorgeous and lithe Anne Perkins. Her over-the-top costumes, designed by Emma Otteson and her hair by Ashley Ramsey are fantastic.

Other standout performers include the tiniest cast members Theo Barratt and Nibley Duffin. Their sweet voices and adorable acting immediately capture your heart. Savannah Carrasco as the orphan Duffy was exceptional and Cambry Wangsgard as orphan Tessie has a promising young voice that I hope to hear again in future shows.

The production suffers from complications that come from working in an outdoor theater with sound problems, limited lighting options and scene changes without the benefit of curtains, but the cast and crew give it their all and their enthusiasm is contagious. This production of Annie is a bit rough around the edges, but manages to steal your heart just the same.

At three hours, this show may be a bit long for younger children. There are also several mild swear words that may offend some audience members and no one stops people from smoking during the show. Bring your bug spray and a flashlight for safety because the theater steps are unlit. The show is double cast, so make sure you check to see if your favorite actor is performing on the night you plan to attend!

American Fork Community Theater presents Annie by Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin, and Thomas Meehan.
August 3-5, 8-12 8:00 PM Doors open at 7:30 PM Open seating                                       American Fork Amphitheater, 851 E 700 N, American Fork, UT 84003
Tickets are $10, except for family nights on Tuesday August 8 and Wednesday August 9 when all tickets are only $5.
Handicap parking is at the bottom of the amphitheater, but the main entrance is at the top. Lawn chairs may be used along the top row. Bring a blanket or stadium chair to sit on. Concessions are available.