UVU’s You Can’t Take it with You is Charmingly Amazing!

you can'tBy Cleve and Lana Horrocks

We walked into UVU’s Noorda theater right as You Can’t Take It With You was starting. Up on the balcony of the set was a reproduction of an old style radio broadcasting studio. Before the show, between acts, and at the end of the show, they had a well-done whimsical look back at the radio shows of the 1930’s. Kudos to Taylor Drummer–set designer. With a couple of trios, duets, and soloists all singing numbers as well as doing period commercial ditties, it was a fun-filled look at yesteryear. I especially enjoyed the women’s trio and Wade Johnson’s solo piece. The sound was a perfect rendition of what you would have heard in your living room on an old Victrola radio—that slightly tinny sound with muted bass and treble notes.

The play itself was a fun look at family life that is suitable for all ages, with several standout performers. The relationship between Alice Sycamore (Rachel Bigler) and Tony Kirby (Alexander Woods) was believable and with just the right touch of nerves that you would expect from a young couple getting engaged and worrying about merging their families. The mother (Penny Sycamore) was perfectly played by Katrina Luthi, who showed whimsy, care and nurturing as if it really were her own family she was looking over. The maid Rheba was given life by Emma Christopherson, and her secret love and Essie’s dance teacher Kolenkhov played by Wade Johnson, as well as Donald played by Alex Rettie, not to forget Essie herself (Chantel Ficklin) and her husband Ed Carmichael (AJ Taysom), all gave life to the love story of Alice and Tony. I thought that Mr. DePinna (Javier Ybarra) upstaged Paul Sycamore (Kacey Spadafora) a bit, but overall the two played off each other well as a couple of absent-minded professor types.

But the real standout performance was that of Grandpa played by Jason Evans. He was truly believable in this role, with even what might have been a mistake or two played right into the lines in such a way that I really could not tell if they were accidental or deliberate. This was as good a performance as many that I have seen that in productions that cost substantially more.

With a set that was period perfect, lighting by Lawson Bendall that illuminated, but did not upstage the performers, sound by Keving Crimen that was clear and yet typical of the period, and costumes that were very well done overall, this is a play that you really should not miss. Hats off to the costume designer, Estee Parker, who made costumes with whimsy and glamour that matched perfectly this romantic period. The bling was not spared on the Grand Duchess for her dress matched perfectly her dynamic personality. When Tora Truax came onto the stage she was a show stopper as she lit up the entire room with her vivacious personality and thick accent.

Bravo to everyone involved. I enjoyed myself so much that I’m thinking of coming back later in the run to see it again.

You Can’t Take it with You

Utah Valley University Noorda Theater

800 West University Parkway, Orem, UT 84058 (801) 863-INFO (4636)

April 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 7:30 PM Sat April 25 2:30 PM matinee

Tickets $12.00

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SCERA’s Guys & Dolls is a Sure Bet

By Larisa Hicken

Guys and Dolls 11x17 Poster_OLAs the final show of their indoor season in Orem, Utah, SCERA’s production of Guys & Dolls was sensational.

With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, Guys  & Dolls is a classic lighthearted musical about girls who fall for the wrong guys and gamblers who can’t seem to find their lucky break – except when it comes to love. The original production was an instant hit and many of the songs from the show will be familiar favorites for anyone who loves classical Broadway.

All of the design elements of the show worked together flawlessly to present a caricature of the stereotypical gangsters, gamblers, and missionaries from New York City in the 1950s. The brightly colored costumes by Kelsey Seaver and flashy set design by Shaun M. Mortensen added a lot of visual appeal and helped create a comic strip feel to the show that was downright awesome.

It was obviously opening night and there were a few blunders with actors dropping or missing props or getting slightly tangled in their costumes, but other technical aspects of the show were absolutely perfect.  I didn’t notice a single mistake with the sound and the lights (designed by Elizabeth Ottley Griffiths) were “spot on.”  Scene changes were quick and efficient and kept the rhythm of the show moving right along.

guys-n-dolls-05It was a lot of fun to see actor Bryan Thacker in a comedic role as Nathan Detroit since his last few roles have included much darker characters.  Thacker is a dynamic performer with amazing singing talent.  I lost a few of his words in the beginning due to the fast pacing of the show, but his accent was great, too.

His fiancé Adelaide was played by Alyssa Orme who seemed a little nervous in the beginning of the show, especially during “Adelaide’s Lament,” but she got better and better as the night went on.  Her vocals were very nice for someone so young and her physicality and comedic timing is fabulous. I would like to have seen a few more moments of affection and chemistry between Nathan and Adelaide, but they seemed natural and comfortable together.

guys-n-dolls-03Corey Morris made a sincere and charming Sky Masterson and I appreciated the rich quality of his voice. Cheyenne Lee, as Masterson’s love interest Sarah Brown, was hilarious with her physical gestures and facial expressions.  It was almost disturbing how well she played both an uptight missionary and a drunk person.

Together Morris and Lee made a visually interesting pair and there were some really nice tender moments between the two actors.  However, the stage blocking in their love song “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” felt a little off and prevented me from really seeing their connection in that particular moment.

One of the best scene’s of the night was “Marry the Man Today” between Adelaide and Sarah.  Their energy, timing, and interactions made the scene laugh-out-loud hilarious.

As Director and Music Director, David Smith and Choreographer Brittini Bills Smith should be particularly proud of their work with the chorus.  Their vocals were spectacular and their pantomimes and dancing were fabulous.  I especially enjoyed the tight harmonies of the gamblers during the first scene and the uniquely creative choreography in “Luck be a Lady” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

The ensemble deserves a lot of the credit for the high-energy performance and some of the best character interactions took place in the hustle and bustle of the background.  Stand outs were the amazing vocals of Michael Young as “Nicely Nicely Johnson” and the exceptional dancing of Jayson Shipley as “Rusty Charlie.”  The Hot Box Dancers absolutely stole the show with their “Bushel and a Peck” number.  That scene alone was worth the price of a ticket.

If you’re looking for an upbeat and fun show, you can bet you’ll enjoy Guys & Dolls at the SCERA Center for the Arts.

SCERA Center for the Arts
745 South State Street, Orem Utah
Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays @ 7:30pm
Adult – $12, Child (ages 3-11) – $10, Senior (ages 65+) – $10

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The Echo’s And Then There Were None is Whodunit at its Finest!

attwn2By Jennifer Mustoe

I love Agatha Christie and The Echo’s production of Christie’s And Then There Were None is about as good as it gets. It has interesting characters, thrills, chills, murder, some laughs and in this production, some amazing talent. What more could you ask for?

Director Hillary Straga keeps her performers moving around the beautifully designed stage (Jeffrey Blake.) Because the entire production takes place in the one room, nothing needs to be moved around. In the Echo’s cozy space, this is a good thing. Straga has encouraged all of her actors to round out their characters and it was fun to see the quirks and mannerisms particular to each “suspect.” I was pleased that all actors did veddy veddy well with their English accents, in their varying types. I’m something of an accent snob, so I was happy that each actor used tight, authentic accents. A+, cast!

It’s very hard to write a review about a whodunit because the last thing I want to do is write any spoilers. So I am simply going to give a rundown of each character and let you come see the play to see who lives and who dies and who did the dirty deeds. One small spoiler—people do die in this play. There, I said it. And here’s the plot in a nutshell. Ten people are brought to a creepy mansion on an island and one by one, they start to die. Each death follows the poem of The Ten Little Indians, a rather grisly poem with a variation used for this play.

Matthew Carlin’s Judge Wargrave is deliciously creepy. Everything about him cries icky, oily, superior creeper. Amy Carlin, Matthew’s real life wife (but not in the play) plays spinster, tightly wrapped religious zealot Emily Brent. I loved what these two did with their characters—totally believable and completely delightful—the two most hateful, disagreeable characters in the play, in my opinion. I loved what they did.

Lombard, played by smooth-voiced Ben Hess was one of my favorites. When Mr. Hess has a one-man show, I’ll be the first to see it. His mannerisms, his facial expressions and that silken voice made me root for him to not be The Bad Guy. (But whether he is or not is for you to find out.)

attwn1Mariah Bowles plays the secretary Vera. Bowles was darling in this show—sexy, flirty, vulnerable but strong. I loved watching her and she seemed very comfortable in her role.

Christian Lambert’s Blore was amazing! Blore is a blowhard and you know he’s up to something. Lambert’s chuckly characterization was completely believable and charming. Did he do it? I’m not saying.

Dr. Armstrong, played by Timothy Keaton Otto, was creepy in its own way. I wasn’t sure if the good doctor was the bad guy or not (and I’ve seen the movie and listened to this book on CD but I couldn’t remember) but Otto certainly played his character with enough mystery to make me think that Armstrong was a likely suspect.

attwn3General Mackenzie, played by Matt Dobson, was absolutely spot on brilliant. Dobson completely milks every scene he’s in. His doddering old man, the rage he displays in one particular scene and the unexpected comedy he has is awesome. One of my favorites in the show.

Rogers, played by Will McAllister is another one that I kept thinking, did he do it? MacAllister has this innocent face and I thought, with that sweet expression and that excellent accent, surely Rogers was the murderer. Was he? Sarah Butler plays Mrs. Rogers with a sassy, spitfire attitude that I loved. Spencer Grierson plays the boatman Narracott, with little time onstage, but looked and acted the part. And no, he wasn’t the murderer or a victim. One eensy spoiler.

Costumes by Sadie Nagle-Perkins were great. Everyone looked period, and very in character. You have to get a load of what the religious zealot Emily Brent wears. It’s a hoot. Makeup and hair by Megan Brisbee was amazing. Really.

Lighting (Joshua Fawcett) and Sound (Franco Acosta) was great.

The action moved quickly, and though the play was 2 ½ hours long, it flew by. This was one of The Echo’s best productions yet—a tight, enjoyable whodunit. There is nothing too scary for kids maybe eight years old or older to see, but because it’s long, unless you have a child who is really able to sit still, you may want to bring tweens and teens to this one.

Don’t miss this fun, exciting, surprise-ending show. And no, I’m not going to do any spoilers, but seriously, the last scene is really dramatic, with so much physical movement, I got worried—it looked really really real! Yikes!

And Then There Were None

The Echo Theater, 15 N 100 E St, Provo, UT 84606 (801) 358-6623

Performances: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30pm from April 3 – 18.
Matinee: 2:30pm on Saturday, April 18.

Tickets $8-$12

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Draper’s Mary Poppins is Chim Chimeny Chereelicious!

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By Cindy Whitehair

When you talk about live action Disney with magical characters that transform lives, the conversation needs to start with Mary Poppins. The Draper Historic Theatre has brought this show’s transformation to the stage with energy and inspiration.

Mary Poppins the musical is NOT Mary Poppins the movie. There are nods to parts of the movie (not going to give any hints), but there is more plot and character development in the musical than there is in the movie – something that director Jake Anderson ably navigated. Jake managed to take some of the darker aspects of the story and tone them down so that they wouldn’t scare the younger members of the audience.

Costuming (Amy Martinez) was one of the highlights for us. The costumes were “Practically Perfect in every way.”

Choreography (Jake Anderson, Emily Preston and Sasha Nutger) was another highlight. It was fast, often frenetic and a lot of fun. You could tell that the dancers had put a lot of work into perfecting their steps and that work paid off.

I was disappointed in the scenic design (Lily Ito). The underlying story in Mary Poppins is teaching Jane and Michael about the fact that there is a world outside of their upper middle class home and their first world problems in the seedier world of the sweeps and the scullery maids. You simply did not get that differentiation between the Banks’ drawing room and the rooftops. The majority of the drawing room were black curtains at the back of the stage and a seemingly out of place brick wall. There seemed to be more thought put into the rooftop world of the sweeps than there was into the upper middle class Banks’ drawing room – where the majority of the action takes place.

Speaking of the action, having seen Jeff Erickson was absolute perfection as Bert. His quirky, carefree portrayal was at once similar and completely different to character in the movie. Every time he was on the stage, your eyes were drawn to him because you knew that something was going to happen.

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The Banks family – George (Brian Douros), Winifred (Chandler McArthur), Jane (AnnDee Belliston) and Michael (Gabriel Thomas) were spectular. The kids were especially amazing – this is a story that revolves around them and they carried it off, which is especially stunning when you consider that this is Gabriel’s very first show. Winifred’s “Being Mrs. Banks” was fantastic and for as little as he had to sing, the power that Mr. Duros brought to George Banks made him the lynch-pin of the show. If we do not see George Banks transform, the play falls flat.

Andrea Byron had the difficult job of portraying Mary Poppins. The easy route to this role would be to try to be a Julie Andrews knock off, but instead she was her own Mart. You got more of feel that she honestly cared about what happened to the family in her care and how determined she was to make a positive change in these peoples lives.

A couple of standouts in the ensemble were Robbie O’Kelly (who played the “holy terror” nanny Miss Andrew), Lisa Clayton (Katie Nana and Frau von Hussler) and Chareese Carter (Mrs. Cory). Ms. O’Kelly and Ms. Clayton have fun playing the two “villians” in this show and Ms. Carter just lit up the stage in the lead up to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

We experienced some of the usual opening night issues – a couple of quirky mics, uneven sound, music sometimes drowned out their actors, inconsistent British accents, the kind of things always seem to be worked out over opening weekend, but overall this is a wonderful show for the whole family. There is a lot of heart for the family in this show and there is a lot of heart IN the show from the production staff on down to the stage and you felt it in the far back of the theater.

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Mary Poppins at the Draper Historic Theater is a must see for familys of all ages.

A side note for parents of small children – this is a three hour long show. Younger children may not be able to last through the second act. We saw a few sleepy heads resting on parental shoulders leaving the theater last night.

Draper Historic Theatre Presents
Mary Poppins
Apr 10-17 (no performances Sunday the 12th or Thursday the 16th) 7:30 PM
Two performances April 18 – 2:00 and 7:30
Monday, Friday and Saturday Apr 20, 24 and 25 at 7:30PM
Tickets can be purchased online at tickets and are $12.00 for reserved seats and $9.00 for general admission

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Draper Historic Theatre
12366 S 900 E, Draper, Utah 84020
(801) 572-4144