Kaysville’s Hopebox Theatre’s “Joseph” Will Bring Color Into Your Life for a Good Cause

By Mary Brassard

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville will delight and surprise you. You may think there is nothing new to see in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but you would be wrong. This production at the Hopebox is full of new imaginative turns and interpretations.

Joseph is a bright, family-friendly musical based on the story of Joseph from the Bible.  With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, many of the songs are written in very different styles from each other, doo-op, reggae, Western to name a few. It’s a popular show that is often staged in Utah.

The Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville offers a beautiful social mission as well as fun musicals. At the Hopebox, a recipient is selected for each production; those recipients are members of the community battling cancer. The funds raised are donated to this person. When you enter the theatre in Kaysville, you will notice their “wall of hope”, featuring past recipients, and information about the current individual. What a wonderful way to give– great theatre for a great cause . All of the actors and staff are volunteering their time and talents, and as an audience member, I felt wonderful being a part of it all.

There is a very intimate feeling in the Hopebox—the theatre is small and very charming. The seating is very comfortable with enough leg room.. The stage set up for Joseph is well done. A desert motif adorns the stage, and there are several levels and shapes that resemble pyramids, which makes for easy visuals throughout the night.

This production started off with a bang. The actors didn’t arrive due to an actor’s strike. Here we are at a live taping of Joseph, and only the filming crew is left to handle the show. Disaster! Ok, don’t panic, it’s all part of the show. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a very different and fun framing to this production of Joseph. I felt like I was seeing a musical I’d never seen before. It provides many hilarious moments throughout the night. Particularly, one of the security guards is stuck stepping in to play the part of a brother, and his face as he takes the stage made me laugh out loud. A stunned look, straight into the audience that really brought this whole concept full circle.

Director Alisha Hall filled the evening with new, funny twists like this. The humor really shines. The pacing is brisk, and you are never left waiting or bored. The comic timing is excellent. For example, a bucket of KFC chicken makes an appearance in Egypt, and it had us rolling in the aisles. Hall is also the choreographer. The dancing and staging is very enjoyable. It was easy to follow, and very unique. I also never felt like the choreography was above the skill level of the actors. I loved this, because it kept it smooth, and in sync rather than fancy moves that a community cast couldn’t keep up with.

This show has a lot of talent to boast about. The narrator, played by Mollee Steele, impressed me very much. The narrator is the lead singer in several songs throughout Joseph. Steele’s voice is clear, powerful, and beautiful. She sings with great animation, and really tells the story though her performance. Joseph, portrayed by Daylen Bills was excellent. He has a very soft, soothing stage presence. There is a sweet way he interpreted his part, which made me feel very empathetic toward him when things went poorly for his character. I really wanted him to win in the end.  His rendition of “Close Every Door” has an ominous and desperate feel.  I think it was the first time that I’ve really grasped the full meaning to those lyrics. He also shines in the final scenes. His arc comes full circle with a reunion in the end, and he commits so fully, he brings a lot of emotion to the scene.

Major standouts in this production are the brothers: Paul Nielson, Jason Steed, Cody Eisenbarth, Philip Etter, Justin Stanford, Brent Johnson, Jake Sims, Stefan Kurzius, Parker Thompson, Nate Spackman, and Nathan Eliason are a brilliant, ensemble. They complement each other so brilliantly. The relationship as brothers is very well developed, and they dance and sing together wonderfully. I especially loved young Eliason as Benjamin. He is so full of personality from his first appearance. He had a great bit throughout the show that is a hit. He bursts into tears each time Joseph’s name is mentioned. It is perfectly timed, and never feels over played. I also loved the relationship specifically between Benjamin and the brothers. Eliason plays him so young and likeable, and I felt a protective element from all of the brothers toward him. It really punctuates the final moments when they all come together in his defense.

Justin Stanford as Pharaoh was a favorite of mine. He has such a natural confidence, that it was so easy to believe that in Egypt, he really is an Elvis level celebrity since birth. His version of “Pharaoh’s Story” is so fun.  I wanted to run on stage and join the fan club.  His singing voice is thick and smooth. Each note is like a velvet bath for our ears. He is also hilarious while keeping his jokes subtle, to maintain a slick persona.

The children’s choir is wonderful. They are on pitch, and well-dressed. They add a poignant innocence to the whole atmosphere.

This production features a very large cast, but it is well-executed. The stage never feels too crowded, and everyone is appropriately featured. For such a large cast, I was impressed that there seemed to be no weak links. Everyone is committed and well-rehearsed. I was never distracted by half-done dance moves or blank, bored faces. Everyone on stage seems to be having fun, and that definitely made the audience feel at ease.

Music director Sally Paskins does an excellent job with the music. The harmonies are all well done. The voices are all used appropriately. It made for music that is enjoyable and easy to listen to. They make it seems easy, which is great. I never felt nervous that someone would crack a note or bottom out.

I applaud Anthony Porter and the Hopebox theatre for their excellent sound. Too often in community theatre, I am bothered by poor sound quality, and volumes that are too low or too loud. At Hopebox Theatre, volume is always on point. I could hear everything I was meant to hear. The voices are well-balanced with the music, and everything is clear.

The costumes by Shelly Pace are simple, and fitting of the show. The Egypt costumes are the most impressive, very sparkly and looked like what you would expect from a cartoon about Egypt. (I mean this as a compliment.) There is also a theme throughout the show featured in the costumes. The color teal, the color of Ovarian Cancer Awareness, which is the form of cancer afflicting the Hopebox theatre’s current beneficiary. This is a lovely tribute.

Over all, this is one of the most creative productions I have ever seen. So many new twists to a well-known show with a cast that is well-rehearsed and passionate about what they are involved in. A director who brilliantly weaves a large cast into a funny, yet touching story. Wonderful music, and to boot, all of this, to bring some hope and joy to the life of someone battling cancer. Go support Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville. You won’t be bored, you will hum the music for days, and you will be a part of something bigger, a community of people bringing hope through the arts.

Hopebox Theatre presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat               Hopebox Theatre, 1700 S. Frontage Rd., Kaysville, UT                                                      August 4-26  7:30 PM Matinee 2:00 PM                                                                             Tickets: $15, $20                                                                                                               Contact: 801-451-5259                                                                                                    Facebook Page          Facebook Event

“The Wizard of Oz” at On Pitch Performing Arts in Layton Brings Us All Home

By Kari Work

On Pitch Performance Arts’ (OPPA!) production of The Wizard of Oz is a reminder of all the things we hold most dear:  friends, family, and home.  Pitched Perfectly Studios, in Layton, is the ideal venue for such a message.  The cozy studio fosters one-on-one interaction with cast members and down-home goodness.

We accompany Dorothy (Lindsey Pagano) from Kansas to the bright and glittery world of Oz where she is befriended by the Good Witch Glinda (Candra Young) and a host of Munchkins.  They put her on that famous yellow brick road to see the Wizard (Kelsie Reynolds), who Dorothy hopes can help her return to her beloved home and family.  She is joined on her journey by Hunk/Scarecrow (Jake Adams), Hickory/Tinman (Indy Washburn), and Zeke/Lion (Brandon Stauffer), who also desire an audience with the Wizard.  Their adventure includes a series of encounters with the Wicked Witch (Sue Alvey) and her minions.

The vast distances covered in Wizard of Oz’s story seem challenging when compared to the size of the theater.  The director, Charlene Adams, handles this challenge well by using all available spaces for her players, including aisles, walls, platforms, and screens.  Her choices produce an interactive experience where the audience is in the land of Oz. The interactive fun continues for all ages when bubbles fall each time the Good Witch appears or snow materializes over the poppy fields.

The production team does a great job showing contrast between the two-dimensional Kansas (via screens and staging on the apron) versus the more three-dimensional Munchinkinland as the full stage (Stauffer), vivid colors and vibrant costumes (Amanda Larsen) are introduced. The high energy Munchinkinland sequence of songs including, “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and “We Welcome you to Munchkinland,” may make you want to sing along. These elements announce to the world that “we aren’t in Kansas anymore.”

The show’s large cast ranges in age and experience but each of the leads shows their individuality and strengths.  Musical Director Catherine Washburn brings her actors’ voices to lovely harmonies and all the familiar songs we love are over the top great. Choreographers Seante Nelson and Bailey Adams get their cast, including 25+ children starting from age 6 and up, dancing with gusto. Pagano makes for a compassionate and confident Dorothy; Washburn’s Tinman is gallant and caring; Adams’ infectious smile and gangly movement creates a charming Scarecrow.  The young travelers are anchored by Stauffer, whose experience illuminates his comedic timing, physicality, and resonant vocals.  Stauffer’s rendition of, “If I were the King of the Forest” displays his rich timbre and endears Lion to us with his hopeful vulnerability.  Young plays Glinda with sweet sincerity.  The talented Alvey makes wicked fun and Brian Washburn rounds out the cast well as steady Uncle Henry and the clueless gatekeeper.  Most of all, the camaraderie among the cast shines through the performance.

If you are looking for fun, family-oriented entertainment, look no further.  The Wizard of Oz at Pitched Perfectly Studios takes you on a lively, music-filled adventure that leaves you wanting more. It’s community theater at its best.

On Pitch Performing Arts (OPPA!) presents The Wizard of Oz                                         Pitched Perfectly Studios, 1558 W 700 N #8 Layton UT 84041

Telephone:  385-209-1557, Email:  onpitchperformingarts@gmail.com                                                                                    

Aug 11, 14, 18,   7:30 PM;  Aug 12, 19 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM                                           Tickets $12

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Farmington’s “Seussical” was a Suessierific Family Production

By Becky Evans

I took my daughters to see Farmington City’s summer production of Seussical the Musical at the Farmington Arts Center and we all left singing and shaking our tail-feathers as wanna-be bird-girls.  As we learned more about the actors and actresses in this hometown production, we realized it was a show put on by families for families. Seussical follows a little boy named JoJo’s adventures in a town inhabited by Dr. Seuss characters including Horton the Elephant, Whos from Whoville, a General who is going to war with butter-side downers, Maysie the bird, a sour kangaroo, and many more.

Breanne Hendricks has worked tirelessly this summer as director and choreographer and it shows.  Derek Hendrick touches heartstrings with his on-pitch and sweet portrayal of Horton the Elephant caring for the Whos. Hendrick is also credited for designing and building the sets, which were lively and “Seussy.”  Rose Jenson costumed the show in a manner that defined who was who while allowing our imaginations to fill in the extra. Jenson is expressive and entertaining in her featured role as JoJo’s mother. She became involved in this production to spend extra time with her son this summer.

Hollie Lowell did a great job pulling big sound from a relatively small cast and her husband took turns alternating between the Cat in The Hat and the General along with the talented and extremely energetic Jason StowellAngie Burton rocks her part of the Sour Kangaroo with great facial expressions and dance moves although the sound cut out for some of her riffs and her vocal embellishments were hard to hear. Lowell’s daughter plays the bouncy young kangaroo and even looks related to Burton.

The actresses that stole the show in the hearts of my girls were the two bird girls: Lena Conatser as Maysie and Jamila Lowe as Gertrude.  Conaster’s energy was electric as she strutted and sang with confidence about her fabulous tail. Gertrude looks up to Maysie both literally and figuratively as she sets about trying to earn a tail like Maysie’s.  Although I would have liked to have heard her words more clearly during “All for You,” she sings with heart along with Horton in the “Finale” as they decide to care for Maysie’s egg together. It was a show-stopping moment when the egg hatches and an unusual creature is born. Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged and emerge triumphant.

Seussical the Musical was a fun, uplifting show to bring the whole family to. Farmington’s production ran only one week, Aug 1-7 but if you would like to be involved in the next hometown production, they are having auditions for their fall dinner theatre Play On this Saturday, Aug 12 from 9:00 AM-12:00 PM at the Farmington Arts CenterKatie Evans is directing and is looking for 13 comedic adults to join in the fun.

Farmington City presented Seussical the Musical                                                       Farmington Arts Center, 120 South Main Street, Farmington, Utah 84025                   Aug 1-7, 2017  6:30 PM                                                                                                 Tickets: $7