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Spanish Fork High School’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is Dastardly Delightful

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By Jarom Loch

            “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those with loaded guns, and those who dig,” quoth The Man With No Name from Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. As Dirty Rotten Scoundrels would have it, however, there are three: Those with loaded guns, those who dig, and those with carrots.

             My experience with Spanish Fork High School’s Theatre Company has been, well, zero. As a matter of fact, I spent about twenty minutes wandering around the campus searching for the venue before I discovered it, much to my relief, in the main building. After a moment of confusion at the door, I found myself dead front and center, one of the best seats in the house, familiarizing myself with the intimate setting like an Amish lost in Best Buy. The set was great, the lighting exceptional, a LIVE band was setting the vibe from the orchestra pit below stage right, and in no time at all our energetic usher(ette), played by Marty Sperry, was inviting us to sit back, relax, and enjoy ourselves.

 

            The stage lit up with smooth jazz as we were introduced to the silky ladykiller, Lawrence Jameson (Steven Russell). A heartbreaker perfected, Jameson makes his living off of seducing women that stay at the hotel out of their money with his charm and looks.

            Not two numbers later, however, Freddy Benson (Bridger Palfryman) bumbles into the lobby with a story about his sick grandmother that gets him twenty dollars and a nasty look from a lady’s husband. After some banter, Jameson shows off his luxurious apartments to Freddy, who becomes envious of the obvious success, and asks for Jameson’s help in the art of swindling. Jameson initially refuses, but when a woman he’d seduced in the past informs him at gunpoint that she is going to marry him and drag him off to Oklahoma, he employs Freddy’s help in scaring her off. Freddy takes the role of Ruprecht, Lawrence’s disgusting brother, and together they frighten her into calling off the wedding.

            It isn’t long before Jameson decides the hotel is too small for both him and as a result they make a bet: the first to get $50,000 out of a woman stays. At that moment, of course, the richest woman in America, the ‘Soap Queen’ Chirstine Coalgate (Brooklyn Young) saunters into the lobby.

            After a second act of scrambling to get the money from Christine in hilarious endeavors that left the me and the audience in various states of laughing our heads off, the play came to a close with a drastic reveal that would be impolite to spoil.

            As a whole, I completely enjoyed myself. The cast was responsive and interactive with the audience members, which I thought was great, and they all demonstrated a caliber of acting that I found impressive. This is the lineup:

            Steven Russell (Lawrence Jameson): Russell gave his character all the chic, charm, and overall cunning that it needed. His Jameson was hugely enjoyable, and played well off of the quirky Palfryman. The duo had great chemistry that kept the production moving forward. The English accent faltered every once in a while, which is an altogether easy mistake, but not so much that it kept the character from coming out.

            Bridger Palfryman (Freddy Benson): It’s a rare occurrence for me to find a high school actor with the unbridled commitment to character that Palfryamn threw into the role of Benson. His zany facials and magnetic stage presence (“I’ll be able to afford to see ‘Les Mis’ in theaters!’ priceless moment…) were fabulous, but not so much that it stole from his companion, Russell. Very well done, however, I would have liked to see some more levels in the character– once again, a minor thing.

            Brooklyn Young (Christine Coalgate, AKA ‘The Jackal’): As high as Palfryman and Russell set the standard, Coalgate did not let her character be overshadowed. Christine was the perfect airhead at her introduction to the musical, and although the trickster is there, you don’t see it coming until the twist. Impressive work.

            Kodei Spresser (Andre): Great French accent, I loved the ‘Chimp’ number. Aloof, yet relatable, and a wonderful voice, too. I applaud Spresser for his portrayal of the European vs. American kind of thinking.

             Kudos to the ensemble – they worked well together and highlighted the goings-on very well. Everyone made the number Oklahoma hilarious, by the way. I have relatives out there and I thought that number was downright hilarious.

            To Meg Grierson and Haley Hoover, directors: I tip my hat to you. Marvelous job.

            To everyone else: Get out here and see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for a theatre experience you’ll never forget!

Spanish Fork High School

99 N 300 West, Spanish Fork, UT 84660

Four shows: May 9th, 10th, 11th and 13th. Curtain at 7:00, house opens at 6:30. $7.00

Buy tickets online at www.showtix4u.com

Sandbox Theater Company’s Spamalot is Right Funny

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By Jennifer Mustoe and Tyrone Svedin

The Sandbox Theater Company, located in Midvale, has switched up its usual fare and is presenting Monty Python’s Spamalot, at the Midvale Performing Arts Center. In the past, STC has brought us Joseph, Annie, Scarlet Pimpernel, and Beauty and the Beast, so producing a show that is definitely rated PG-13 is something a little different. But because I like different, I’m glad they did.

Here’s what I loved about this show:

I love the space, and the set for Spamalot is rather elaborate and very effective. Kudos to Set Construction and Designer Curt Stowell.

They use a live band, which is WONDERFUL, and a super big nod to trumpet player Samantha Goodman for getting the show to a rollicking great start with her solo at the beginning. Awesome!

The costumes were amazing, and this is a heavily costumed show. There were knight costumes, Monk costumes, ballgowns and wedding gowns galore, Roaring Twenties costumes, and much more. All were glittering, sparkling, and great. Cathy Carroll, Costumer and Ensemble member had her work cut out for her and did a great job. (Where DID she get all those gowns?)

Karyn Tucker, the director, had 34 people to cast, block, and work with. This is a lot of people, and she has done a lot right. Primarily, the cast looked like they were having a blast. Doing a community theater musical takes a lot of time, a lot of effort and can either be a joy or a huge drag. It’s clear Tucker got her cast motivated to have fun and bring fun to the audience. I watched carefully and during all the ensemble numbers, the cast either had the big smiles necessary for that piece, or were in character as was needed.

The dance numbers, choreographed by Tiffany Boyle, were very basic, which is wise unless you have lots of serious dancers. The pieces that had all the knights were hilariously campy and clunky, which worked for the show, and were my favorite.

The music, directed by Lynn Chatterton, had some bumps, but the ensemble numbers were clear, raucous, and lots of fun. Several of the leads didn’t have mics, and I think it would have been better if there had been more electronics for this show. Getting the sound right above a live band is tough, and when you add the huge amounts of laughter from the audience, some lines and musical solos get lost.

King Arthur, played by Wade Walker, was fantastic. He has a clear tenor voice, a perfect Arthur type face, and played the part with just enough comedy but enough regality (that isn’t a word but I’m making it up) to be The King of the Britons in a Monty Python-ish sort of way.

Madman Madriaga plays Patsy and I’m a big Madman fan, having seen him in numerous Salty Dinner Theater productions. He is so big in his comedy, he was perfectly cast for this role. His nuanced movements, his facial expressions all combine to make him a very enjoyable performer to watch.

McKenna Walker’s Lady of the Lake had the panache and swagger of the Diva she must be. Her vocals were a little weaker than Arthur’s, so during those duets, she got out-sung a bit. She is lovely, graceful, and fun, and brought a lot of style to the show. Probably the only style, as that’s the kind of show it is!

All the other knights were really funny, but my favorite was Sir Galahad, played by Jeff Davis. I challenge him to actually grow his hair as long as the wig he wore. He seemed to really enjoy having those long locks. Dallin Lews, who played several parts, also really shone for his varied performances.

In closing, I will mention a few things about this show. It is not for little kids. It is long and a little slow in parts. But there are a few hells, one SH word, and a whole number about homosexuality. Though “it’s all in fun,” the discussion on the drive home may not be one you want to have with your six-year-old.

Because I went on opening night, as I said, the show was a little slow, but I’m sure it will tighten up as the run progresses. However, the show has been cleaned up a little, and if you have ever wanted to see Spamalot without so much risque-ness (another word I’m making up), this would be a good time to go see it. And the audience laughed the entire show, so it’s lots of fun and worth seeing, if Monty Python is your kind of thing.

Play dates are:

May 6-25, Mon, Thurs, Fri, Saturday at 7:30 PM, Saturday matinee on May 18th at 2:00 PM.

$10.00-$12.00

385-202-5027

http://www.sandboxtheatrecompany.org/

 

Gushing about Urinetown

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By Jennifer Mustoe and Caden Mustoe

I haven’t been to the Hale Center Theater Orem since we started Front Row Reviewers Utah a little over a year ago. Other reviewers vied for the precious tickets and/or I was in other projects. But when I saw HCTO was doing Urinetown, I grabbed the gig. And boy oh boy, am I ever glad I did!

The Hale folks gave us excellent seats, but there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. If you’re unfamiliar with the Hale, it is a theater in the round and it may be that the back far corners aren’t the best spots, but it’s a small, intimate venue. There are no nosebleed seats.

The show begins with Bobby Strong, the star of the show, mopping the stage. At the end of what seems like a long mopping scene, he turns the bucket over, revealing it has no and never had any water. I didn’t realize this, but this is a Metaphor. And discussing Metaphors, Themes, and certain Characters in the Show are a device in the play that is hilarious. That may not make sense. When you see the show, it will.

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Officer Lockstock, played to perfection by Taylor Eliason, introduces the show and tells us later that he will never die (oops, did I just reveal too much?) because as the Narrator, without him the show can’t end. Eliason has real panache onstage, especially in his nuanced movements as he accentuates certain words, like “Urinetown:” (hands fan out) “The Musical.”

I will say now, the show is about: urinating and how you have to pay for the privilege; corporate greed; falling in love at first sight for two star-crossed lovers; a vicious bad guy and his two highly individualized minions; plus a group of extremely grubby, very talented ensemble.

The show’s urinating theme sounds creepier than it is, however, there is a whole number titled ,”It’s a Privilege to Pee.” So yes, the discussion of peeing does come up. But don’t let this keep you from attending the show. Here’s why.

Each musical number in Urinetown, somehow, miraculously, gets better and better. They start out great, more than great really, and progress to brilliant. Each song has a device or gimmick — a prop used, a movement employed that makes each number distinctive. In one of our favorites, “Cop Song,” the two cops, whose names are, yes, Lockstock and Barrel, are joined by the ensemble dressed as cops with Groucho Marx glasses on that partially cover their filthy faces. All the cops have flashlights. It becomes an amazing dance where lights are flashing everywhere, invigorating the entire audience. In “Follow Your Heart,” a brilliant Chase Ramsey as the hero Bobby Strong meets the high-pitched voice heroine Hope, played delightfully by Kelly Coombes Johnson, daughter of the villain. Within the course of the song, the two young people fall in love and have the funniest ‘make out’ scene I’ve ever seen. The number “Run, Freedom, Run” features Bobby leading the ensemble in a Southern Baptist type chorus, with hand movements that are funny to all, but particularly delighted my son Caden, who is next year’s Drum Major at Maple Mountain High School. Caden has determined that at some point he needs to try to find a way to implement Ramsey’s particular hand movements. They’re too good not to copy.

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Finally, the song “Don’t Be the Bunny” has to be seen to be believed. How a group of people can make such use out of hand signals where two fingers are stuck out like bunny ears is remarkable and hilarious.

Every cast member is amazing, and by amazing I mean they can sing, they can dance, they can project, they can enunciate. They can put on one heck of a show! But I must highlight a few of the performers I haven’t already mentioned. Chris H. Brower plays the fiendish Caldwell B. Cladwell, who makes being stuck in a wheelchair seem a privilege and not a burden. I LOVED Brower. He made his character one to deliciously hate. His crony, the gum-cracking Mr. McQueen, played winningly last night by Chadwick Little (many of the roles are double cast), flips Cladwell back and forth – really fast! – as Cladwell makes little twiddly finger motions about where he wants to be pointed. Daniel Fenton Anderson as Senator Fipp was very funny. I hated him, too. (I was supposed to.) Marcie Jacobsen’s Penelope Pennywhistle is strangely sexy, devious, and likeable. (I say strange only because the whole show is strange!) She is a force to be reckoned with and electrifies the scenes she’s in.

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Finally, my son’s favorite character is Little Sally, played by Amber Dodge. Little Sally is a co-narrator with Officer Lockstock and her scenes with Eliason are amazing. She is cute, funny, talented, a great dancer and singer, and entirely delightful. She alone is worth going to the show to see.
But everyone is awesome.

Often in a show, there seems to be a lag or a lack of continuity between the dance numbers and what you think might be the director’s vision of the show. This was not a problem in Urinetown because the brilliant Dave Tinney is director and choreographer. What this did was provide a seamless, tight, homogeneous performance. It looked “right.”

Costumes by Maryann Hill and hair and make-up by Janna Larsen were fabulous. I only hope they were as fun to design as it was for us to see.  The set by Bobby Swenson was sparse (it’s not a big space) but detailed in its simplicity and worked for the show.
Finally, in any musical, no matter what else you have, if the music isn’t great, the show tanks. Music director Rob Moffatt showcases some amazing musical performances.

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When I review shows, I look around the audience to see how it’s reacting. People at Urinetown were laughing and clapping and smiling the whole time. Little kids and adults alike all enjoyed the show.

If there was anything that could be considered imperfect, it’s just that with theater in the round, no matter where you sit you will miss something. In a few times in the show, people were laughing and I had that stupid, something-is-happening-but-I-don’t-know-what-it-is look on my face because something funny was being performed on other other side of the stage out of my view. It can’t be helped with a space like that.

My son said the only flaw he found was during the “Snuff That Girl,” the entire ensemble jumped rope and a few couldn’t keep up. This is so minor that I mention it because it’s, well, minor with a lower-case “m.”
Finally, I’d like to discuss the aspect of the show I find almost as compelling as the performance itself. It is the topic of using satire to teach life lessons. My son, a very bright 17-year-old, asked as we drove home, “Since the show doesn’t have a happy ending, what are we supposed to actually take from this? And how does laughing about the deaths in the show and the obvious corruption work? Is this really funny?” My answer was something like this. Satire is helpful in putting a rather serious subject in a format that makes it easier to handle. But because it’s satire, it’s clear that the topic is one that is unpleasant and can potentially make people so uncomfortable that they can’t or won’t discuss it. The messages in Urinetown are intense and unsettling. There are a few haves and many have nots, and those have nots have so little and are being so oppressed that they can’t even pee without paying. And there is a horrible fate for anyone who can’t afford to pay and breaks the law and pees on a tree or wall. Yes, in spite of all the laughter, there are some very heavy messages in this show and ones that I feel are worthy of exploration and discussion. For this reason, I think Urinetown is worthy of attending, not just because it is fun, entertaining and glorious (I keep saying that word, I know) but because it has a message that is pertinent to our time.
A few notes: parking is abundant and free. And the theater is on the cold side, so take a sweater. I would recommend this show for anyone, children included. It is a delightful, riotous spectacle, but can provide an important discussion for the ride home.
And though I rarely do this–I am going to do all I can to go see it again. It’s that good.

Hale Center Theater Orem

Phone – 801.226.8600
225 West 400 North, Orem UT, 84057

 Evening Performances at 7:30 P.M. 

Saturday Matinees at 3:00 P.M.

Weeknights – $18 “A seats”         $16 “B seats”

Weekends –   $20 “A seats”         $18 “B seats”

*Children $4 less

http://www.haletheater.org/theater/