Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s Richard III and Hamlet are Bloody Brilliant!

A Utah Theater Review by Jennifer Mustoe

If you haven’t been to a Grassroots Shakespeare Company production, though I’ve been banging their drum for over a year now, do yourself a favor and go see their current double feature of Richard III and a return of Hamlet. They both are bloody brilliant.

These productions are playing at the Castle Amphitheater in Provo, past Utah State Hospital. It is a marvelous space, made of stone, it’s spooky and dark. Perfect for a very dark show. It’s a little tricky to find, however. Stay on Provo’s Center St. past the Utah State Hospital’s sign, turn left at the roundabout (there are signs) then head up the hill.

A little about GSC first. They use the same actors throughout the shows and use the same company for both the shows currently playing. Some actors play only one character, if it’s a big lead, but most play two or more parts. Though it’s obvious it’s the same person, with costume changes and superb acting prowess that all GSC’s actors possess, it works. Okay, E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G works at Grassroots Shakespeare Company. This review forthwith is a love fest for GSC. Smile, and read on. Continue reading

Warboy Theater Project’s Tell-Tale Heart is Intensely, Chillingly Great

A Utah Theater Review by Jennifer Mustoe

October is the month for chilling shows – not just because it’s Halloween time, but because in Utah, once the sun goes down, it’s cold. So when I decided to see Warboy Theater Project‘s Tell-Tale Heart, playing at the (outdoor) Castle Amphitheater in Provo, I thought, that sounds cool! As in, cold!

Also, I knew the amphitheater proper was being used by Grassroots Shakespeare Company, so wondered where WTP’s show would be. It turns out it was produced in this cool stone room, with a fire in the grate and lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling (Lighting by Paige Porter), looking all period piece/creepy. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Getting to the Castle Amphitheater is a little tricky. If you stay on Center Street past the Utah State Hospital’s sign, drive up the roundabout and turn left there, there are signs that take you the rest of the way. But the first time I drove there, I thought, am I going the right way? Keep driving and you’ll find it.

As I got to the entrance (which, again, is a little tricky and it might be a good idea to put some kind of signage there) I was greeted by an orderly, played by Peter Leppard. He gave a little travelogue-type speech as he showed us how to get to the play space. It was of added interest that we were, in fact, right next to a mental hospital and TheTell-Tale Heart takes place in one, too. The information the Orderly gave us was a mixture of real info and fiction, and very delightful. Be forewarned – the climb is rather steep steps for a stretch.

Continue reading

Trap Lehi City Arts Council’s The Mousetrap on your Calendar–Don’t Miss this Show!

A Utah Theater Review by Joel Applegate

You’ve probably heard of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. But I’ll bet few of you reading this have ever seen it. In fact, I’ll admit I had never seen The Mousetrap either! Now, thanks to the Lehi City Arts Council, you have no reason to wait. We have a don’t-miss production right here in our own backyard, expertly guided by co-directors Paige Albrecht and Kurt Elison.

Now celebrating its 60th continuous year of live performances in London, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap gets the respect it deserves from Lehi Art Center’s excellent company. We’re very lucky to have this production in our community since the rights are strictly controlled.

This great classic murder-mystery has a plot that keeps the audience on their toes right up to the satisfying conclusion. In fact, this play is the template from which so much of the genre springs, though few can match Christie’s skill.

I was impressed as soon as I walked into the performance space. The old manor-turned-boarding-house was intimately evoked in a space that is perfect for eavesdropping on our colorful suspects. The three-quarter seating area surrounds a beautiful period set appropriately furnished and decorated, setting an elegant tone from the start. Continue reading

Empress Theater’s Hello Dolly is a Darling of a Show

A Utah Theater Review by Joel Applegate

There’s a couple of venerable old ladies I’d like you to meet. The Empress Theatre in Magna, Utah has seen many lives. And now with Hello, Dolly!, Jerry Herman’s Broadway classic, the Empress is enlivening many more with this inspired pairing.

The Empress Theatre’s Hello, Dolly! is mounted with two alternating casts. The show I saw on the evening of Oct 19th featured “Cast B”, so my comments will refer only to that performance.

Director Jake Andersen is also the Artistic Director of the Empress Theatre. His enthusiasm for his work must have been transfused directly into his cast, because this is a fun, energetic production to watch. Though not flawless, the outstanding feature of the show is that he paced his cast well throughout the evening. Scenes popped along and there was never any lag between them.

While attention is focused on the leads in most musicals, it’s an unstated truism that the chorus is the musical element that really holds it all together. The small playing space of the stage was well-used and the large chorus dances their moves accordingly, always staying on their toes for entrances and cues. Sometimes audiences are not aware of how important the chorus is to giving a show cohesion and forward momentum. Mr. Andersen obviously is, and paced the opening number with great enthusiasm. Continue reading

The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley is Flat Out Entertainment for the Whole Family!

A Utah Theater Review by Shannon Eden

The Scera Theater for the Arts, located just off of State St. in Orem, is home to many venues – the latest being their production of The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, put on by their Theater for Young Audiences and directed by Julie Nevin. In the heart of the city, the theater is easily accessible and easy to find. The seats are assigned, which makes finding an ideal spot convenient and simple, but make sure you’re on time so you don’t have to climb over too many legs! There are the regular house seats, as well as a balcony option and there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. I brought my family along, and – thought we were meant to sit front and center – we opted for a side row with easy access to the aisle, just in case my 18-month-old made it necessary to take advantage of their cry room (a quiet room, set in the back corner with glass walls so that moms can take care of those other-than-quiet children and still enjoy the show – genius! I always appreciate when accomodations are made for families). We could see and hear everything quite clearly. Not only were my six- and three-year-olds on the edge of their seats, listening intently through the entire production, but little britches was completely captivated as well! So, I didn’t get a chance to use the cry room after all. Continue reading

Pleasant Grove’s Spitfire Grill Proves Musicals can be Good Plays, too!

A Utah Theater Review by Hailey Nebeker

Let me preface this review by saying that I’m not particularly fond of musicals. I find the music part of musicals to be decent…generally. However the lyrics are, more often than not, inconsequential and are usually accompanied by less than stellar choreography. I can always make it through the first half, eat my way through intermission, but five minutes in to the second half I am transformed into a 5-year-old on a road trip, fidgeting in my seat while asking repeatedly “Are we there yet? How about now? Can we be done now?” After several of these experiences I decided that all musicals were the same and why would I ever intentionally put myself through that again? Well, The PG Players production of The Spitfire Grill has forced me to reevaluate me prejudices.

The plot: Percy Talbott (Tanika Little) has just been released from prison. Looking for a fresh start, she finds her way to the small town of Gilead, Wisconsin. The local sheriff, Joe Stutter (Alex Lund), who is also Percy’s parole officer, finds her a job at Hannah Ferguson’s (Luone Ingram) Spitfire Grill. Percy brings a new outlook to the struggling town, finds strength, and invokes the same in her newfound friends: Hannah, whose son went missing in action while serving in the Vietnam War; Shelby Thorpe (Kristen Leigh Metzger) who is struggling with her marriage to Hannah’s nephew Caleb Thorpe (Jeff Thompson); Sheriff Stutter who sees Gilead as a black hole that one should escape as soon as possible; Effy Krayneck (Devon Marie Trop), the local postmistress and town gossip; and the nameless, silent Visitor (Will Ingram). Continue reading

Grand Theater Takes You Into the Woods to Learn Life’s Lessons

A Utah Theater Review by B.J. Wright

On October 14th my friend and I had the pleasure of attending Into the Woods, which is now playing in the Grand Theater at Salt Lake Community College. Be sure to check out their website for parking information.  If you are unfamiliar with the area, like I was, the parking lot may be a little tricky to find.

Into the Woods has been around since the mid 1980’s. The story combines several of Grimms’ Fairly Tales together to create an original story about the Baker and his wife, and a curse they need to break in order to have children. During the play the audience is introduced to Jack (who climbs a beanstalk), Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and many others. Each character discovers that when you get your wish, sometimes it isn’t all you thought it would be.

From the beginning I was impressed by the interactions between the characters. I especially enjoyed Jack (Jacob Tonks) and his mother (Camille G. Van Wagoner). Both had great expression in their voices, used gestures well, and delivered their lines with great comedic timing. During the opening scene three different stories unfold on stage.  While one group of actors tell their story, the other two groups remain frozen on stage. One of my favorite memories of the night comes from watching the different facial expressions Van Wagoner would freeze in. Little touches like this were scattered throughout the play by many different actors. It was fun to see the amount of thought each actor had put into their character. Continue reading

Salty Dinner Theater Provides a Night of Fun with Dracula, This Show May Bite

A Utah Theater Review by Chelsea Kennedy

If you like having fun, and you like good food, you’ll love Salty Dinner Theater!  Be prepared to be up close and personal with the cast, and possibly pulled up out of your seat!  Salty Dinner Theater has several different venues in which they perform on different nights of the week.  The venue my husband and I attended was The Old Spaghetti Factory (Orem). You can refer to their website for a venue near you.  If you plan to go reserve your tickets soon!  Many of the nights have already sold out!

When we entered The Old Spaghetti Factory we were directed to the back room where we were met by a hostess who quickly directed us to our seat.  Seated near our table was a strange man in a strait jacket, sort of mumbling to himself.  He soon joined us at our table asking me and the others at our table questions about ourselves.  We were then greeted by other members of the cast.  I really liked this part of the show.  It allowed me to get a feel for the characters before the show actually began. Continue reading

The Cross and the Switchblade at Calvary Chapel Inspires Hope

A Utah Theater Review by Joel Applegate

The Cross and the Switchblade

At its heart, The Cross and the Switchblade is a story about belonging. The choices we make about where we want to belong are the hinges upon which the plot turns. Since its publication in 1963, this story has been a staple among inspirational modern Christian parables. The story is based on the experiences of a Christian preacher, David Wilkerson, and his encounters with the gangs of New York in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Nicky Cruz, played by Alexis Larett, began life in Puerto Rico under parents who rejected him as a devilish child. David Wilkerson, played by Jesse Hayes, is a small-town Pennsylvania preacher searching with his wife, Gwen, for a congregation and a home. The eventual meeting of these two lives forms the narrative of the play.

Director Annie Fields’ adaptation from different sources begins the story by contrasting in alternate scenes the lives of Preacher Dave with the youthful Nicky. It is a very effective way to introduce us to the story, and in fact, her adaptation has rendered a really great script. She has skillfully updated Cruz’s and Wilkerson’s stories to the 21st century. The production opens with a catchy rap based on the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Philippians and uses multimedia very effectively, with graphics screens on either side of the very wide stage. The rap opener was apt for this company’s particular audience, and did a great job of setting the tone for the production. For the venue, it’s very well mounted with good use of the space. The lighting, costumes and the set (all designed by Ms. Fields) and some great music choices during transition sequences are all very good. They did a great job selecting scenes and then projecting them on the back wall of the set. It was quite effective at putting the audience in the space. As good as Fields’s script is, I might suggest editing may be in order for some of the longer expositions, for instance with Preacher Dave, where I think the story would have flowed better if told using more dramatic scenes. Continue reading

Y-Light at Off Broadway is a Hilarious Production

A Utah Theater Review by Rebecca Gunyan

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a huge Twilight fan. I own all the books and have attended the midnight showing of all the movies. I even have an Edward Barbie doll (cheesy I know, but a really huge inside joke). I am also a BYU graduate (GO COUGS!) with a healthy rivalry between friends who are Utes fans. In short, I couldn’t wait to watch Y-Light at the Off Broadway Theatre in Salt Lake.

The premise is simple. Ella Swoon (Alisa Rodgers) attends BYU where she meets the incredibly stunning Sullen family, including the brooding Edmund (Zach Reynolds). Her best friend Jacob Brown (Apollo Stephenson) is a Beer Wolf at the U. The story is narrated / read by Dracula (Eric R. Jensen), who wants to understand why his three vampire brides are all crazy for Edmund. What ensues is chaos and hilarity as the mockery begins.

If you are going to watch a perfectly tight performance, this is definitely not the show for you.  There were sound issues, actors missing cues, and long scene changes. However, if you are going to watch a play that will make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts, this is by far the best one to see. I cannot say enough how much I loved this play! Continue reading