Fly to Orem Hale’s Peter Pan!

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A Utah Theater Review Kendra Hill

This weekend I had the privilege of (even though I am a full grown adult) being whisked away to Neverland by the jovial Peter Pan, care of Hale Center Theater Orem’s newest production Peter Pan! Peter Pan has enough fun to keep the kids entertained through the whole show so the whole family can enjoy it.

Peter Pan is a show is about a boy, Peter, who loves to be a kid and having fun. He lives in Neverland with his fairy Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys. There are also others on the island with them, including Indians and Pirates. Peter meets Wendy, John, and Michael Darling and teaches them to fly with him to Neverland where they go on an entertaining adventure, and learn about what it means to grow up. Continue reading

Ut Rep’s Grace is a Thought-Provoking, Introspective Piece

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By Eve Speer

Theatre is a collaborative art. It requires artists of varying backgrounds, dogmas, and experience to come together to tell a story. It’s fitting that Utah Rep joined forces with Around the Globe Theatre to present Craig Wright’s play Grace.
The play takes place in two different apartments at the same time in Florida. Steve and Sara just moved from Minnesota to open a chain of Jesus-loving motels. Next door, their neighbor Sam is recovering from an accident that killed his fiancée. Two sets of lives unfold in front of us, occupying the same space. Through an elderly exterminator Karl, Steve and Sara learn about their neighbor Sam’s misfortune and soon their stories start to interweave. Steve and Sara, played by Johnny Hebda and Emilie Eileen Starr, are devout Christians who genuinely enjoy living their beliefs. In the first scene, they giddily thank God in a prayer that reveals both their faith and their dynamic as a couple. Karl, played by Jeffrey Owen, chooses a cynical life of disbelief because his father believed in God before and during the terrors of Nazi Germany, and now Karl sees his father’s beliefs as foolish. Sam, played by JayC Stoddard is a scientist at NASA who grew up Unitarian.
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Broadway Across America’s War Horse is Victorious!

 

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By Eve Speer

Broadway Across America brings the good people of Salt Lake City, the National Theatre of Great Britain’s production of War Horse, in association with Handspring Puppet Company. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, adapted by Nick Stafford, and directed by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr. That’s a mouthful of people to credit! Just wanted to make sure I covered my bases before I launched into this review.

I’m not prepared to write a review on this show. I must apologize for this. I found out Monday at midnight that I was going to see it, and last night at midnight that I was to write a review of it. Perhaps that’s for the best. Even if I had the time, I wouldn’t be able to give this play its due. From the first paragraph of my meager review, you can get a sense of the ensemble of talents and sponsors required to bring together this work of art. And it is a work of art. After opening at The National in London in 2007, the play has seen 97% full houses since then. Even Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip saw the show. Continue reading

CenterPoint’s Man of LaMancha is Magnifico!

cp1By Perry and Cindy Whitehair

Perry and I braved Tuesday nights dust/wind storm to go to CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s production of Dale Wasserman’s Man of LaMancha , a trek that every theater lover should make.  The musical (music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion) was made popular in 1972 when Peter O’Toole starred in a movie version of this delightful musical.

Miguel de Cervantes, an aging playwright, tax collector and poet, is jailed during the Spanish Inquisition for daring to tax the church as the citizens are taxed.  His fellow prisoners “try” him first in a kangaroo court for the crime of being an idealist and an honest man – to which he pleads guilty.  For his defense he, with the help of his manservant and the other prisoners, puts on a diversion – a play about Alanso Quijana (played by Gary Sorenson) who believes he is actually Don Quixote – a knight errant.  A man of chivalry, Don Quixote is a believer in all that is true and good and just in a very cruel and ugly and unjust world.  Accompanied by his squire Sancho Panza (played by Josh Curtis), his journey brings him to a “castle” – really a rough inn – where he meets Aldonza/Dulcinea  (played by Sunny Bringhurst)– his ideal woman.  The play centers around Quijana and his madness and how it impacts his family, the denizens of the inn and especially Aldonza.

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Sorenson’s Cervantes/Quijana/Quixote was a delight.  Each character had its own distinct flavor. His Cervantes was at once apprehensive and brave – doing all that was necessary to save his precious manuscript.  Whereas Quijana was the frail old man who had seen too much bad in his life and he preferred to keep alive the memory of better days in the stronger, more confident Quixote.  An innocent in a rough world, the often confused and weak Quixote still managed to bring an air of gentility to the inn that appealed to those around him.  His strong vocals soared through the openings “I, Don Quixote” and the showcase “The Impossible Dream.”

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Josh Curtis played the buffoonery of Sancho Panza brilliantly, although I was a little disappointed with his vocals in “I’m Sancho” and “The Impossible Dream.”  The beautiful harmonies between Quixote and Panza in those two songs were unbalanced.  I would have loved to hear his notes more to contrast with Quixote’s melody.

I have to admit, Sunny Bringhurst’s Aldonza grew on me.  In the first act, I was not connecting emotionally with her character, but by the end of the second act, she had me in tears as she was mourning the loss of a man who brought beauty and decency into her life.

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I was very impressed with the talent of the actors that brought the supporting characters to life.  They all put a lot of heart into their character.  I especially loved Chuck Gilmore (Governor/InnKeeper), Brad Schroeder (Duke/Dr. Carrasco), Brian Hahn (Padre), Jessica Benson (Antonia) and Tamara Sleight (The Housekeeper).  The trio “I’m Only Thinking of Him” with Hahn, Benson and Sleight was wickedly funny and beautifully harmonically balanced. I have seen Man of LaMancha in the past and in the other productions, this was essentially a “throw away” song, but it was my favorite of the show last night.  It truly stood out.

One of the big challenges of having an ensemble the size of this one on stage at all times is keeping focused on the main action.  There were a couple of times in the show where a few members of the ensemble looked like their mind was elsewhere.

We simply cannot rave enough about the set (Scott Van Dyke and Jay Clark Jr.)  When the curtain came up on the Spanish dungeon for the opening it was breathtakingingly dank and depressing.  The drawbridge/ramp up to the dungeon entrance–complete with water–was absolute genius.  Perry was impressed with the adaptability of the set pieces, especially the two inn benches that converted into dual “confessionals” for “I’m Only Thinking of Him”.  The lighting design by Mark Rencher helped add to the feel that we really were looking in on a dungeon.  The costuming (Jen Richardson) was outstanding as well.  All in all, the pro team for this show deserves major kudos.  They had a chance to shine in this show and they did!

Our experience at CenterPoint was again a fantastic one.  Their front house staff is marvelously professional and courteous and the venue is beautiful.  It is a venue that all theater lovers should try to hit at least once a year – and this show is well worth the drive from anywhere in the valley .

CenterPoint Legacy Theatre presents Man of LaMancha by Dale Wasserman.  Performances are Monday through Saturday evenings at 7:30pm with a matinee on Saturday at 2:30pm.  Tickets are $22.00 for Main Level Seats, $21.00 Balcony on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings or $20.00 Main Level , $19.00 Balcony for Tuesday, Thursday evenings and Saturday matinee performances.  Tickets can be purchased online, in person or over the phone.  The box office is open 10AM- 6PM Monday through Saturday.

CenterPoint Legacy Theatre

525 N 400 W, Centerville, UT 84014

801-298-1302

http://www.centerpointtheatre.org/project/box-office/

Foreigner Fun with the Pleasant Grove Players

By Larisa Hicken

TheForeigner2The Foreigner, written by Larry Shue, is one of those shows that everyone seemed to be talking about lately, but somehow I kept missing opportunities to see it.  When I heard it was being directed by Howard and Kathryn Little and performed by the Pleasant Grove Players, I seized the opportunity – and now I understand what all the hype is about!

The Foreigner tells the story of Charlie, a shy, proper, and boring Englishman who has a fear of speaking to strangers. When Charlie is brought by his friend Froggy to a lodge in rural Georgia, Charlie panics at the idea of interacting with strangers because he thinks he doesn’t have a real personality.  Froggy decides to tell everyone that Charlie is a foreigner who doesn’t speak English so that they won’t talk to him.

Unfortunately, everyone is excited about this “foreigner” and they enthusiastically begin confiding in him since they think he can’t understand what they’re saying. Charlie finds himself in the middle of a dangerous adventure and realizes that he must find a way to save the day – without revealing his true identity!

The part of Charlie Baker is played by Jason Purdie.  I was exhausted just watching him throughout the night as he pantomimed and paraded around the stage.  His gestures and movements were hilarious and I was in awe of his creativity.  Purdie is a true master of the stage and I would go see any show just because it has him in it.

The chemistry between Purdie and actress Kara Henry who played Catherine was terrific and I really enjoyed their interactions.  Henry is a beautiful actress who makes it hard to look anywhere else when she is on the stage.  I found her facial expressions very entertaining and her character was well-developed.

Kara Henry’s real-life husband, David Henry, plays her fiancé in the show, Reverend David Marshall Lee.  He is the perfect villian because he has such an innocent look about him.  He did a terrific job of portraying a believable con man.  His accent was flawless and his timing was perfect.

the-foreigner3Charlie’s buddy Froggy is played by Marty Cooper.  We didn’t see a lot of Cooper, but he was a delightful character.  I wondered about his accent which seemed to come and go at times, but I appreciated his energy and strong physical presence.

The quirky Betty Meeks is played by Donna Bingham and she was quite amusing with her intensity and passion for the foreigner.  I felt like she might have been reaching for lines a few times due to some small pauses, but she covered it well and kept the momentum up anyway. Her interactions with Froggy were a lot of fun.

Kyle Vorkink plays Ellard Simms, Catherine’s young brother.  He was quite talented for such a young actor.  He seemed a little nervous at first, but as the show progressed he really found his character and impressed me with his polished performance.

the-foreigner4I was truly frightened by Dennis Purdie who played the ignorant and evil Owen Musser.  He nailed the backwater hillbilly so well that I made sure to speak with him after the show to see whether he was actually playing a part.  I’m relieved to say that he really is that good of an actor!  At times, he reminded me of comedy great Norman Fell with his zany facial expressions and crazy antics.

The set was well-designed by Wendy and Kelly Rosenlof as it presented just enough obstacles that it provided for fun blocking.  Costumes were fun, particularly those worn by Kara Henry.  Costume designer, Luone Ingram, did a good job of setting the time period in a natural way.

Overall this was a memorable and entertaining show that I wouldn’t mind seeing again before it’s through.  I’m so glad that I finally got to know The Foreigner.  If you haven’t met The Foreigner before, you don’t want to miss this one!

LOCATION:
Keith Christenson Little Theater, PG Library, 30 East Center, Pleasant Grove, Utah
DATES:
April 18 – May 12 on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday evenings at 7:30 p.m.
PRICE:
$9.00 – $10.00
Please no babes-in-arms or children under 5.

Forever Plaid, Forever Fun at The Covey

By Larisa Hicken

Forever PlaidWhat a fun evening full of laughter and amazing music at the Covey Center for the Arts in Provo, Utah!  I was excited to see this show because Forever Plaid has long been one of my favorites.  I love the bee-bop sounds of the 50s!  Forever Plaid, an off-Broadway musical revue written by Stuart Ross, is the story of a quartet of young men on their way to harmonic stardom when they are struck by a bus of Catholic school girls and their dreams are brought to an untimely end.

The show they are presenting to the audience is their last chance to perform before they make their way to whatever lies beyond.  While still technically dead, the boys have their voices, bodies, and white dinner jackets – they were on their way to pick up their plaid ones when they were killed.

I have to give a round of applause to directors Sky Cummins and Ben Cummins.  They obviously know how to cast a show and they did a terrific job of using the small space provided.  I could tell that a lot of work was done to develop the history and personalities of the characters.  The music was great – although the harmonies weren’t as tight as they could be at times – but it was the relationships of the actors and the physical movements and humor that really made the show special.  The show also had great pacing and kept me involved the entire time.

My favorite voice of the night was Logan Bradford playing Frankie.  He has a rich, smooth vocal quality that I could listen to for hours.  He also has a great look and I could believe that he had stepped right out of the audio visual club in 1956.

Daniel Fifield, playing Sparky, was by far the most entertaining actor with his various facial expressions and physical humor sending the audience into fits of laughter.  I also felt like his character was the most well-developed.

Smudge, played by Daniel’s brother Jonathan Fifield, was the bass in the quartet and I thoroughly enjoyed his low voice in “Chain Gang.”  I also really enjoyed his confusion of left and right throughout the show.  He rightly stole the spotlight during “Scotland the Brave.”

The character of Jinx was played by Scott Sackett who has an astonishing vocal range.  His high notes were absolutely effortless and I couldn’t believe how long he could sustain it!  It nearly gave me a nose bleed, so I could understand why his character frequently got them.  He is a seriously talented young man and I hope to see a lot more of him in future shows.

forever-plaid2During the show I was grateful that I had chosen to sit on the side near the pianist, Adam Fifield, and bass player, Peter Burnett.  Both musicians were very talented and one of the songs is sung completely around the piano, so make sure you choose a seat on that side if you can.  However, young women sitting on the front row can plan on some serious personal crooning and maybe even a few moments in the spotlight.

The older people in the audience seemed to have the most fun due to the many references to the Ed Sullivan Show and other iconic elements from the 50s.  But the actors had a great connection and excellent comedic timing that kept everyone snickering, chuckling, and even roaring with laughter whether they were 15 like my daughter who came with me or old enough to remember when….  It was truly a splendid night!

LOCATION: Covey Center, 425 W Center St, Provo, UT 84601
DATES: April 17 –  26 @ 7:30 PM and MAY 8 – MAY 17 @ 7:30 PM
PRICES: $12 – $14
Ages 8 and upPlease no babies or babes in arms.

The SCERA’S Drowsy Chaperone is Alive with Talent and Fun

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By Jennifer Mustoe and Chelsea Benjamin

The SCERA’s The Drowsy Chaperone is one of those shows you don’t want to miss. I wanted to get that out right away, so if you only have time to read a few sentences, you know the deal.

I’d never seen the show, but Chelsea had and was eager to see what I thought. I’d read a little about it, but really was unprepared for how awesome it was. Okay, I’ll explain more.

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It’s the story of Man in Chair, played winningly, perfectly by Brett Merritt, who shares his love for the musical The Drowsy Chaperone by playing its record. (And some funny bits in the show when the record skips and the dancers stop, stop, stop and another when the second act starts playing and it’s the wrong record and a completely different show’s song is acted out. Clever and hilarious.) About Man in Chair. He is awkward, funny, sweet and you feel a little sorry for him. Though the show is a comedy, Man in Chair brings us down to earth with his rather poignant story of his divorce–though when he told it was funny and I felt a little guilty about laughing but then you know it’s supposed to be funny so you laugh and then sort of sigh and think, gosh, what a sad man. Merritt had perfect timing and his eating the breakfast bar was classic. He can make chewing look funny.

The Drowsy Chaperone that he is telling us about is a screwball comedy set in the 1920s. Janet DeGraaff, played by Erin Lee Brown, wants to marry Robert Martin, played by Michael Shepherd. Janet is a famous theater star and her producer Feldzieg, played by Kyle Baugh, is angry that she is leaving. Feldzieg is being threatened by two hilarious gangsters posing as chefs, played by Jared Arnell and Nate Brogan.  All three of these actors were in sync and I loved their scenes.

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Erin Lee Brown was wonderful as the slightly diva-esque Janet, who claims she wants to leave the stage and then does a huge, glitzy number “Show Off.” Ms. Shaw’s voice is clear, her movement and dancing smooth and graceful and she embodied the diva fantastically. Her love interest Robert Martin had his own charm and self-appreciation, especially in “Cold Feets” where Shepherd mugs and preens delightfully with his best man George, played with style by Nathaniel Brown.

Here’s what was awesome about the show. First, the acting. Each actor did a fine job and was very believable. I think the SCERA consistently pulls in fine talent and this show proves it. The dancing, choreographed by director David Smith, was spot on. Nothing too fancy but all very tight. I love shows where the director is also the choreographer because there is such a connection with all the movement onstage. Bravo to Smith, who is also a brilliant actor in his own right. I know this because I’ve seen him perform and he is amazing. The costumes were wonderful, very 20s and simple for the Ensemble (who were all GREAT–wonderful dancers, actors, and the perfect rounding out of the cast) and fancier for the stars. The set, by M’Liss Tolman, was spectacular.

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As I said, the Ensemble was great and so were the co-stars of the show. Dane Allred as Underling (aka the butler) had some funny bits, which were executed with great timing. And though the show is called The Drowsy Chaperone, Delayne Dalton’s Chaperone wasn’t in as many scenes as I had expected. Dalton had great timing and I especially liked her physical comedy acting. I admit, I wanted her drunker, as that’s what “drowsy” really means. I had expected her to stumble and sway a bit more. McKell Shaw as Kitty was also a scream–with her typical ditzy blonde character complete with squeaky voice. Ellie Gallagher as the loopy Mrs. Tottendale was cute and funny and there is a surprise with her at the end. But I’m no spoiler teller so go see the show to see what it is. One of the best performances of the night was by Wes Tolman as Adolpho. Whoa. That guy is hilarious. One more mention: Rebecca Roberts’ Trix has some serious pipes. What a gorgeous voice.

Since I’ve never seen the show, I didn’t know if the big, huge spaces where there is silence and breaks in the show, especially during songs that had the audience laughing out loud are scripted or not. But what Smith does with this is really what makes the show over the top. And the cast responds and plays these all so well. It’s hard to explain these so again, just go see the show and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

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This show is completely appropriate for all ages. There’s enough going on for kids to stay entertained, nothing too out there for parents to fret about when they take their kids, and enough laughs for everyone.

 

SCERA Center for the Arts

745 S. State St, Orem

Mon, Thurs, Fri, Sat 7:30 PM

April 18-May 10

$12 Adults, $10 Children, Students and Seniors

UVU’s Short Attention Span is Worth Paying Attention To!

Front Row Reviewers Utah apologizes for not getting this review up on time! This hardly ever happens!

BY MH Thomas

Short Attention Span Theatre 2014
Ah, Spring. With it comes UVU’s annual student written, directed and performed ten minute play festival. This is the twelfth year that UVU has put on SAST. The venue for SAST is small and intimate. The Exbox Theatre holds just over sixty audience members and everyone has a good seat. The set is just a few tables and chairs and the actors are costumed in black and white. It is simple, but effective. The motto for the show is: “If you don’t like this one, wait ten minutes”. There are eight short shows in the production. Many actors play multiple parts. It is a challenge to go from one play to another with little to no time to adjust to a new character, but these UVU performers are up to the task. From comedy to drama and back again, the versatility of the actors is impressive.
God is Great is the first show and is written by Jared Bridegan. The student director is Amber M. Cummings. Javi Ybarra plays a nervous, Middle Eastern terrorist. The other passengers on the train are played by Jessie Lynn Pusey, Erika Ovuoba, Kacey Spadafora and Angela Nibley. As a result of the acting and directing, I was surprised at where my sympathies lay. “Through the Lens” is a show about a family that is coming apart. It is written by Romona Brown and directed by Emily Griffith. Jason Evans shows great emotion as a father who is struggling to know what his role in the family has been. Kayley Azure Green is the angry, adult daughter who cannot accept what is happening in her family. “Tax Dollars”, written by Daniel Paredes and directed by David Beach, is a political piece, complete with a corrupt, Southern politician and scandalous liaisons. Don’t let that fool you, it is hilarious. Javi Ybarra jumps from a dramatic role to a comedic one in this show. He and Collin Thomas play self serving, irreverent congressmen. Ann Thomas’ performance as the intern is spot on. She is a young woman in control. Scott Twitchel and Wade Johnson are the tough guys in the show. Tim Peay is the yes man. This is just a very funny cast who work together and make the script come alive. “Rank” brings us back into drama again. It is written by Daniel Paredes and directed by Jordan Cummings. This time Collin Thomas is coming directly from a comedy role into a very serious role. He and Paige Porter are parents who are manipulated by their ecclesiastical leader (Lucas Stewart). To save their family and themselves, they do things that are inconsistent with their beliefs and morals. It is powerful show that is powerfully acted. Written by Chantel Ficklin and directed by Lisa Edwards, “Between the Pages” is a story about a young man (Tim Peay) who has run into trouble and lands in jail. His friend (Alex Rettie) and his little sister (Kayley Azure Green, in her second role) visit him there. While there are many things the guard (Collin Thomas) does not notice, there are some that he does. “Mobsters” is a show directed by Jacob Squire and written by Trevor Newsome. While other shows have a message—this one is just absurd and funny. Javi Ybarra gets another chance to use his skill with accents, as a Mexican detective. His daughter (Rachel Bigler) has unknowingly gotten in with mobsters (Tony Soriano and Kacey Spadafora). Tim Peay plays. . . well, you’ll just have to go see the show to find out his third role. Written by Teresa Thomas and directed by Ben Henderson, “Guidance Program” is about young women who feel they are miles apart but come to understand each other better through the course of the show. Maddy Forsyth and Emma Robinson play two popular girls. I was particularly appreciative of Hannah Scharman’s thoughtful performance as the girl who is sent for guidance. The young women discover that they have more to offer one another than they first believed.
Another funny show, “Mad, Mad Love”, is written by David Pate and directed by Cameron Garcia. Two young friends (Erika Ovouba and Wade Johnson, in their second roles) call their friends together to explain “the elephant in the room”. The two are not on the same page about what the elephant is, though. The two main characters worked very well together. In his third role, Kacey Spadafora is quite creepy as the creepy friend. Clarissa Knotts and Lucas Stewart (second role) are amusing as the other two friends. This play is unique in that it has a bit of audience participation. Utah Valley University is really coming up in the theatre world. They are earning more and more awards and well deserved accolades. To get a taste of the kind of theatre UVU puts on, try Short Attention Span Theatre. There are four more performances in UVU’s Exbox Theatre (in the Gunther Trades Building). You can see it Friday the 28th and Saturday the 29th of March. Two shows each night at 7 pm and 9 pm.

Echo’s Bielzy and Gottfried Poses Questions of Morality Without Moralizing

A Utah Theater Review by Ben Christensen

I admit I was a little hesitant going into Echo Theatre’s production of J. Omar Hansen’s original play, Bielzy and Gottfried. It’s described as “a modern morality musical” and directors’ notes in the program refer to Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ, sermons, Job, and the War in Heaven. I find the psychology of religious belief fascinating, but I do not go to plays (or read books or watch movies) to be preached at. If I wanted that, I could go to Sunday School. I had been assured by a cast member ahead of time that this show does not preach, though, and I was not disappointed by my choice to trust his recommendation. Bielzy and Gottfried is a fascinating show that asks difficult questions without spoon-feeding the answers–in short, the type of show that Echo Theatre is becoming known for here in Utah Valley.

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