SPA’s “Little Shop” is Big, Creepy Fun!

By Cindy Whitehair and Perry Whitehairshop 5

Did you know that Salt Lake City has its own performing arts high school?  Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts (SPA), located in Sugarhouse, is an elementary school that has been converted into an arts academy.  Their current production is Little Shop of Horrors, this week only.  Given that my husband and son have both acted with a couple of the artists in this show, we knew it was a must see on the family list.  Little Shop of Horrors, written by Howard Ashman and composed by Alan Menken, is probably a perfect example of a Greek tragedy – complete with Greek Chorus.  The story centers around Seymour, a floral shop worker and his love for Audrey who is dating Orin, the motorcycle riding dentist….oh and a carnivorous plant named Audrey 2. It is based on the 1960 Roger Corman film classic of the same name.

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SPA’s theater is a black box theater and it really allows the kids to shine – both on stage and off. You got a real feel for the mean streets of Skid Row, with the torn advertising posters and traffic noises in the background as you entered the theater.  SPA has always done a masterful job of making maximum use of a small space – and set designer Seth Hampton’s triangular set pieces could be turned in multiple directions to set the mood desired. The lighting design by Lindsay Cockerton was utilitarian. There were no poorly lit areas, but there could have maybe been some better use of mood lighting. The costumes, by Jan Hunsaker were a nice blend of late ‘50s/early ‘60s that helped keep the authentic feel of the piece. The only technical complaint that we had was the introduction to the show was muffled and very difficult to hear.

The show is double cast to allow the talent of this school ample opportunity to shine.  We saw the Green Cast last night.

Seymour, played by Zach Myrich, played a delightfully awkward and goofy outcast.  He has a very strong voice but it was his “Suddenly, Seymour” that really struck Perry. He found things about the character that a professional, Rick Moranis in the 1986 film, missed.  You could tell he really connected with the role and his Audrey – Devin Johnson.

Devin Johnson was everything you want Audrey to be – sweet, vulnerable, sassy, and at times confused by the mix of emotions she is going through. Her rendition of “Somewhere That’s Green” showed the physical and emotional pain that her character is feeling as she senses her dreams crashing down around her.

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Joseph Price (Mr. Mushnik) had probably the hardest job in the cast.  Here you have a freshman playing an 80-year-old man, with only two weeks practice with the leads (rehearsals were held mostly in class and as a freshman he was in Acting 1 where his co-leads were in Acting 2) and he absolutely nailed it.  He had the 80-year-old man shuffle and stoop down cold!  This young man will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.

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Austinn Jensen did a wonderful job as Orin, the motorcycle riding dentist who likes to cause pain.  The character has “Fonzie” like characteristics, but he avoided playing to that stereotype and made the character his own.

Audrey 2 was voiced by Isabelle Peterson.  This is a difficult role because you have no interaction with the audience but she did it quite well. She let a lot of personality through that made her performance fun.

The Doo Wops (the Greek Chorus) were a lot of fun.  Brielle Johnson, Micki Martinez and Alex Burgess opened the show strong with “Little Shop Of Horrors”.  Their strong vocals and tight choreography – a calling card of the music of that era, set the standard for the show. They came out of the gate strong and set the bar high for the rest of the cast.    Their interactions with Audrey 2 was hysterical and the final scene had such delightfully creepiness about it – especially Ms. Burgess’ eye and facial expressions.

A special shout out needs to go to Director Andrew Hunsaker for the emsemble work.  The ensemble vocals were very distinct. In speaking to a couple of his ensemble members after the show, we found out that he had the ensemble spend time developing their own character and it showed. We did not see signers standing on stage waiting for their cue – we saw individuals going about their business on that one block of the street. It was that kind of attention to detail that really made this show sparkle.

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Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a “high school” production.  These kids may be in high school, but SPA’s Little Shop of Horrors is as polished a production as you will see in this valley.  Treat yourself to this slice of 1950’s fun – but hurry.  It only runs through Saturday night.

Salt Lake Performing Arts Academy presents Little Shop of Horrors by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken.  Remaining performances are Friday, Saturday and Monday night at 7pm at the school 2291 S. 2000 E. Salt Lake City, UT 84106.  Tickets can be purchased in advance for $10.00 or $12.00 (General Admission) at the door.  VIP seating can be purchased in advance for $15.00 or $18.00 at the door and Student Admission is $10.00

http://www.saltlakespa.org/

Tickets: https://www.showtix4u.com/boxoffice.php?submit=Search+for+Events&begin=1542968&current_client=0400006912311585

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HCTO’S “Big River” Flows with Beautiful Music and Fantastic Acting

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By Ashley Ramsey

 As a child, my father read us bedtimes stories. Never simple little tales, but chapters from the classics. Treasure Island, The Wind in the Willows, and of course my favorite, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In a time where classic characters of literature are lost to contemporary superheroes, the Hale Center Theater Orem’s latest production reintroduces some o fliterary history’s greatest adventurers.

Big River is the musical adaptation of Mark Twain’s famous book. The play begins with Huck Finn (Andrew Robertson) lamenting about being  “civilized” by his caretaker Widow Douglas (Cecily Ellis-Bills) and her sister Miss Watson (Hannah Gassaway.) When his drunk Father (Daniel Fenton Anderson) comes back to claim him, Huck is thrilled to be back living in the back woods. Then one night in a drunken stupor, his Father comes after Huck, causing Huck to run away to a nearby uninhabited island where he surprisingly ends up meeting Miss Watson’s runaway slave, Jim (Conlon Bonner.)

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Director Christopher Clark’s vision for the show utilizes every workable space in the theater. The show requires a trip aboard a raft to several locations in which the story plays out, and the blocking gives us clarity to what is happening. This is supported and enhanced by the beautiful set designed by Bobby Swenson and lighting by Cody Swenson.

Oftentimes, Big River is is produced as larger cast musical, but this production includes a smaller cast tackling several roles (Bryan Matthew Hague and Spencer Thomas Carter tackle six roles!) as well as the live music. Clark’s guidance is evident in making sure that these characters remained grounded as they move the story along.

 Andrew Robertson’s Huck Finn and Conlon Bonner’s Jim are highlights of the show. While the two of them have strong and developed characters individually, it is when the two of them are onstage together that the energy and talent blows through the roof. The musical number “Muddy Water” was a favorite as the adventure really took off and the raft ride began. As well as “River in the Rain,” which showcased beautifully the blending of the two actors’ voices. The scene itself contained a rawness to it that almost made the audience feel as voyeurs peering in on very private moment.

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 Another favorite of the evening was the character of Tom Sawyer, skillfully executed by Jason Sullivan. His boyish charm and charismatic excitement pull you in every time he comes on stage. Daniel Fenton Anderson’s “Pap” rendition of “Guv’ment” is one of the best of the evening, dripping with characterization from entrance to exit. Also, keep your eyes out for a very funny pregnant tart courtesy of baby Wyatt Bills making his stage debut with his mom, Cecily Ellis Bills. There is something positive and outstanding to say about every member of this cast. Bravo.

One of the unique aspects of this production–and it is the first time I have seen it at HCTO–is live music! Oh, what a treat! Under the guidance and leadership of Justin Bills, the live music added so much to the overall production. The energy that comes from a live band (and a band made up by cast members no less) is thrilling. I really hope this is trend that will continue for the Hale.

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Big River is a treat and a must see. It is a perfect blend of fun and asking you the right questions. As Huck learns about and questions the world around him, it will challenge you to think, too. In a world where we are so quick to dismiss the value of another person because they are different than us, Big River challenges us to think how different the world would be if we replaced that dismissal with love and understanding. A message truly needed in our world where too often, lines are being drawn. Mark Twain’s adventurous tale on the Mississippi is a reminder that though we may be different, trying to see the world through one another’s eyes will bring two worlds closer in finding a place to stand together.

Big River

Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 West 400 North, Orem

Feb. 20 – April 12 7:30 PM, Sat matinee 3 PM

Weeknights – $19 “A seats”         $16 “B seats”

Weekends –   $21 “A seats”         $18 “B seats”

Children (ages 4-11) – $5 less for “A seats” and $4 less for “B seats”

*Price includes processing fee

Purchase tickets 3 ways:

1) Online by clicking the button below

2) By phone by calling 801.226.8600

3) In person by stopping by the theater at 225 West 400 North in Orem

 

“The Rock and Worship Roadshow #5” is an Amazingly Fun Show!

By Cindy Whitehair and Perry Whitehair

This is a bit of a departure for Front Row Reviewers Utah, but when a concert is actually billed as a “show” and you have reviewers attending the concert, a concert review you get. ~Enjoy~

Sunday Night, the Maverick Center was invaded by The Rock and Worship Roadshow #5, known by its followers as simply The RoadshowThe Roadshow is sponsored by Grand Canyon University (note – my son is a freshman at GCU), Compassion International, Logos Bible Software and New Release Tuesday.  For those that don’t know what The Roadshow is, think a Christian version of the Monsters of Rock tours.

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This year’s lineup was a change up from past years.  Previously, the show had been headlined by Roadshow founders Mercy Me, but with a new album coming out in April, the band decided it was time to let other bands have a shot at the tour while they stayed in the studio finishing the album.  However, that did not stop Mercy Me lead singer Bart Millard from putting in a couple of video appearances during the course of the show.

We As Human kicked off the show with a bang with “Strike Back” off of their self-titled first album. They brought the crowd to their feet when John Cooper from Skillet joined them for “Zombie” also from the first album.

The Neverclaim followed in what ended up being a very bittersweet performance for the band. Their drummer, Jared Key, is leaving the band to go on a long term mission to India with his wife. While they didn’t quite have the energy that We As Human started off with, they still kept the energy fairly high. Their rendition of “Mighty Jesus” with Jamie Grace had the crowd on their feet.

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The first half of the show ended with Royal Tailor. I was only familiar with one of their songs, “Remain”, but the other songs in the set were so energetic and catchy and enjoyable that I could not help but joining the younger crowd in jumping to the beat during “Ready Set Go”.

Where We As Human started out the show on a high, Andy Minoe outdid them tenfold.  The show’s lone rapper, Minoe won me over  even I am not a huge fan of rap music with an energetic performance that made it impossible to sit still.  His “Uno Uno Seis” was especially enjoyable. The title refers to Mineo’s love of Romans 1:16.

Soulfire Revolution from Bogotá, Columbia slowed things down with a couple of traditional worship songs and then they ramped things back up with their song “Revival”.

Third Day’s set was very polished – which given their 21 years together is to be expected.  Lead singer Mac Powell had the crowd singing along with classics like “Revelation,” “Tunnel,” “Kicking And Screaming,”  and “I Need A Miracle.”  The crowd roared in appreciation when Andy Mineo joined them onstage for “I Got A Feeling.”

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Jamie Grace charmed the audience with her acoustic set which included her hit “Hold Me” and her latest “Beautiful Day” as well as a shout out to the “Jesus Freak” who discovered her through her YouTube channel, TobyMac.

But it was Skillet who had the Maverick Center crowd most engaged and energized.  If you have never seen Skillet perform before, you have missed out. This band knows how to put on a show and while they have added a lot of pyrotechnics and lights to the show since the last time we saw them at SaltAir for the Awake and Alive tour in 2009, the raw energy of the band is the same. This was a solid hour of frenzied energy from lead singer/bassist John Cooper, his guitarist wife Korey, lead guitarist Seth Morrison and drummer Jen Ledger, who was Drum Magazine’s “Rising Star” of 2012.  They roared through their hour-long set that included three songs from the new album “Rise” (“Not Gonna Die, “Sick of It” and “Fire and Fury”) as well as old favorites “Awake, “Comatose,” “Hero” and “Monster.”  The only time Cooper slowed down at all was to explain the real story behind their song “Last Night” which was written for a friend who was contemplating suicide so that Cooper could show how much HE valued her – even if she felt no one else did.  They closed the night and the tour with “Rebirthing”.

This is my second Roadshow experience and it will not be my last.  The Roadshow is one of those concert events that you go to repeatedly because it is just so much fun – and affordable(thanks to their commercial sponsors.  Tickets are $10.00 at the door or if purchased in advance from the venue, which makes it a perfect outing for church youth groups. We were there with the youth from our church. Or bring the family. It’s a great time for the whole family.  If you purchase tickets online, they are $20.00.

You won’t have to worry about your younger children hearing or seeing anything inappropriate, although it is a rock concert so it is loud. Yet they can still enjoy the arena concert experience. There was one couple sitting near us whose two daughters, aged  approximately three and five. Those little ones danced with the rest of the crowd through the entire Third Day and Skillet sets.

All in all, The Roadshow is a great family friendly evening and well worth going to when they come back to Utah next winter.

The Roadshow http://theroadshowtour.com/

Sponsors: Grand Canyon University http://www.gcu.edu/

Compassion International  http://www.compassion.com/

Logos Bible Software https://www.logos.com/

New Release Tuesday http://www.newreleasetuesday.com/

CenterPoint’s “Man for all Seasons” Should Be Seen by Many People

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By Cindy Whitehair and Perry Whitehair

I am a history buff.  All things historic send my imagination into overdrive, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to go see A Man For All Seasons at The Leishman Performance Hall at CenterPoint Legacy Theater.  The play by Robert Bolt is based on the true life story of Sir Thomas More, the 16th Century Lord Chancellor and adviser to King Henry VIII.  When Henry wanted to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas refused to be part of it.  When he refused Henry’s demand that Thomas as head of the Roman Catholic Church in England accept his appeal to set Catherine aside, Henry had him tried for treason and beheaded.

The Leishman Performance Hall is Centerpoint’s quaint black box theater.  We were immediately greeted by a spartan, but as soon we found out as we watched the show, very utilitarian set. The various height platforms and stair units expanded the performance space nicely.  The use of the white backdrop allowed them to change locations and mood with various artistic projections.

Director Jan Davis, also the Executive Director for CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, did an exceptional job capturing the tone and the spirit of the play.  This is a difficult subject and it was handled beautifully.

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Perry and I loved the performance of Todd Wente – who played “The Common Man”– everything from Sir Thomas’ manservant Matthew, a boat for hire oarsman, a pub owner, a juror and all around man about town.  Each different character had his own persona so that you did not see him as the same person in different jobs–a daunting challenge that he met with flair.

John Adams had the challenge of playing Sir Thomas More. Sir Thomas has the lion’s share of the dialogue in this show.  I don’t know if it was opening night jitters, but there were a couple of missed lines that he went back and corrected that were a bit distracting from his overall performance. However, Adams was stellar in this challenging role.

We both loved Carol Thomas who played Lady Alice More.  I found myself tearing up at her interactions with John Adams in the jail scene.

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Jeff Davis played a perfectly creepy Thomas Cromwell.  Cromwell is one of those classic villains who everyone loves to hate. Perry and I had a great chuckle after the show reading Davis’ bio where he said he “welcomes the opportunity to play a truly nasty guy again.”  He did it without falling prey to the usual stereotypes and still had us feeling every slimy, evil moment.  It was also fun watching his machinations that ended up bringing an earnest Master Richard Rich (played wonderfully by Dann Howard) into his nefarious plot against Sir Thomas.

The depth of this cast was the true strength of this production.  The supporting cast gave such solid, even performances that it is difficult not to rave about each one of them.  Some of our favorite moments were the garden scene with Henry VIII (played to maniacal perfection by Rusty Bringhurst) and the jail scene where Todd Perkins (who played More’s son-in-law William Roper) showed the culmination in his character’s growth as he took charge of the family from his father-in-law.

The play gives a nice feel of the palace intrigue that ran rampant especially in Henry VIII’s reign – the interchanges between Cromwell, Rich, Cardinal Wolsey (Richard Judd), the Duke of Norfolk (Dave Madsen) and Signor Chapuys (Dave Hill) weaved the tapestry on which the play is based.

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The costuming by Liz Richardson was amazing.  The detail on the court costumes was impeccable.  As I stated earlier, I loved the set design by Brian Hahn and Jan Davis.  My only complaint about the show was the lighting by Josh Roberts.  There were several times where main characters (Cromwell in the pub scene, Henry VIII in the garden scene and Lord Norfolk on the docks) were in half shadow and half light.  I found that to be a bit distracting.

What makes this play timeless is the subject matter – the tug of war between conscience and the court of public opinion, between law and religion, and between standing up for what is right versus what is expedient or comfortable.  While each of us probably does not have to make decisions quite as difficult of those Sir Thomas faced, there are days when we may feel like we all have to make similar decisions.

In other words, A Man for All Seasons was a slice of life – there were well-played laughs and there were plenty of tears as well.

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This show is appropriate for all ages, but honestly, kids under 12 may have a hard time following some of the plot just because of the court intrigue. The implied beheading at the end of the show may also disturb some younger children. That said, if you love history, if you love a good story or you love the crispness of Elizabethan English, you really MUST see A Man For All Seasons.

CenterPoint Legacy Theater presents A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt.   Performances are every Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 PM, February 14- March 8 in the Leishman Performance Hall at CenterPoint Legacy Theater, 525 N 400 W Centerville UT, 84014.  The Leishman Performance Hall is located on the main floor behind the concession stand.

Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased by phone 801-298-1302 or online at http://www.centerpointtheatre.org/project/a-man-for-all-seasons/

Photos by Kara Jensen Photography

The Covey’s Latest is ‘Ernest’-ly Enjoyable!

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By Shannon Eden

             The Covey Centers Black Box Theater opens their production of The Importance of Being Ernest this weekend. Located in the heart of Provo, the Black Box is tucked into a small corner of the upper floor of the Covey Center – intimate and comfortable. Up close and in your face theater at its best.

             Running through March 8, The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde is a satirical journey through the lives and relationships of Victorian England. Ernest in the City, and Jack in the Country wants to marry Gwendolyn. Algernon, gone to visit Bunbury (a fictitious friend designed to keep Algie free from responsibility), becomes Ernest to woo Little Cecily. Who is who, and who is really Ernest, and why could that possibly matter? This is the genius of Wilde, and I dare you not to laugh.

             The play opens with Jack Worthing (Adam Argyle) and Algernon Moncrief (Jordan Nicholes), two friends conversing over tea, cucumber sandwiches, and bread and butter. With a stagnant set, and no one but the Butler, Lane (Scott Bronson), to offer a bit of well placed sarcasm here and there, Argyle and Nicholes had the task of holding the audience on their own – with great success. The two had great chemistry and comedic timing, improvising when the bread and butter didnt quite make it on stage without a crack in character, and managing the wordy and complicated jumble of their lines with ease. They moved around a little excessively to my taste at first – up and down for tea, the mirror multiple times, changing seats However, at the end of Act I, the two find themselves alone on stage again and I enjoyed the honesty of their interaction as they simply sat and bantered.

             Lady Bracknell (Tayva Patch) and Gwendolen Fairfax (Jessica Lake) were the perfect combination of a mother-daughter dynamic. Patch was arguably my favorite of the night. With her smugly bored facial expressions and impeccable accent, she emanated the ridiculously prudish nature of her character with every gesture she made. Lake characterized Gwendolen with subtleness – a proper, well-bred lady who you know reads romance novels when no one is looking. She could flit from fluttering eye lashes and coquettish looks to wounded effrontery in an instant, giving great depth to the nature of her character.

             Miss Prism (Felesha Cairo) and Cecily Cardew (Cassie Walker) had slightly weaker performances compared to the other leads. Walker wasnt able to convincingly convey the eighteen-year-old innocence of Cecily. Her appearance and voice were too mature, and her transition into the sheltered ward of Mr. Worthing just seemed too far a hurdle to manage. Because she had to fight so hard for that youthfulness, pushing the facial expressions and gestures to exaggeration, I felt that many of Cecilys comedy suffered – it just didnt compare to the natural delivery of her cast-mates. On the opposite spectrum, Cairo could have done more to bring out the maturity and properness of Miss Prism. I felt that her lines were a bit lax and needing more energy.

             Dr. Chasuble (Joel Applegate) was a delight. Awkwardly pious, Applegates portrayal made me smile every time he spoke. Likewise, Bronson as both Lane and Merriman (dont let the cast bios fool you! although the two were so different from one another, I suppose its only fair to give them their own blurb) contributed much to the story with the simple, subtle touches he added with his characters.

             Director Lynne Bronson was able to accomplish a great production on such a small, restricted stage. She utilized her actors and the space to accommodate the members of the audience, no matter where they sit. The costuming was beautiful – Lady Bracknell being a standout.

             This show was truly a delight to watch. The cast works well together and the script is one that will have the audience laughing out loud throughout the entire production. Wilde is a master of comedy – dont miss this opportunity to see his work done so well. Gwendolen says, In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing. These performers have both.

 Opening night February 13th, continues until March 8th. General seating prices vary from $12-$14 a ticket. Call 801-852-7007 or go online to purchase tickets now!

Covey Center for the Arts, 425 W. Center St., Provo

www.coveycenter.org