Utah Rep’s Rabbit Hole Takes You Down to the Darkness of Grief–Beautifully

Review by Dallon Thorup

Why do we go to the theatre? It’s a question that has many answers. For me, I go to the theatre to feel things I don’t normally allow myself to feel in normal day to day dealings. I went to Rabbit Hole knowing nothing of the show, only that I’d need tissues handy, which I failed to bring with me. I had prepared myself, as best as I could, to deal with some heavy-hitting material.

Director JayC Stoddard has beautifully taken what was written on the page and constructed a very raw, riveting, emotionally charged, high octane plunge into the grieving process of each and every character brought to life in this show. JayC pieced every character so appropriately I felt like this was not a play, but a real life event I had intruded on.

Rusty Bringhurst and Ali Lente play a grieving couple, Howie and Becca, both at different places in the grieving process. Jillian Joy plays Izzy, Becca’s sister. Vicki Pugmire is Nat, the mother to Becca and Izzy. They are all in different stages of grief following the tragedy. Then we have Jared John Tuckett playing Jason. The only one connected to the tragedy outside of the family unit.

Jared John Tuckett as Jason brought an intense amount of sincerity to his performance. The choices he made were very clear as to why he made them, and my heart broke for his character. Although he seemed a bit timid and shy in places, it felt more like a character choice over nerves, and I thought it absolutely worked.

Vicki Pugmire as Nat was perfectly cast. Her interpretation of the character was so spot on it felt real. Nothing Vicki did was forced. The few times she was on stage she commanded it at all the appropriate times and always kept you enthralled. Her mix of humor and sadness was well balanced; not one emotion ever over powered the other.

Jillian Joy as Izzy was such a delight. Every second she was on stage she was Izzy. It’s rare to see someone own their character as well as Jillian did. So much honesty was portrayed in this role that I forgot that she was only a character.

Rusty Bringhurst as Howie was beyond brilliant. There is not one word that can sum up the amount of talent that came from this mans performance. Rusty gave, in my opinion, the most honest, tear-jerking, heart-wrenching, absolutely wonderful performance of the entire night. His performance alone is reason enough to go see this show. The intensity, the emotion, the passion and dedication behind every character choice made was brilliant. Rusty was convincing in all he did every second he was on that stage.

Costume Designer Nancy Susan Cannon, Lighting Designer Blake Delwisch, Sound Designer James Hansen, Set Designer Justin Jenkins, and Scenic Arts Designer Amanda Ruth Wilson created an environment that made me feel like I was watching real life. The set is just an interior of a living room, no mics, simple lighting. It was all simplistically done as to not draw focus from the actors. It’s where the reality of it all came into play. Even the costumes. It was all modern, simple, and just real. That’s the best word to describe everything about this show. Gut wrenchingly honest and real.

Ali Lente as Becca played, in my opinion, one of the greatest interpretations of any character I’ve had the privilege of witnessing. From beginning to end, from every line and every action, from every tear and every giggle her character expressed, I wasn’t watching a show. I was watching something real. Ali was spot on in all she did. I felt so much pain and heart ache for her. I also felt happy for her. Every emotion she had, I felt I shared it with her. Ali could not have been any better.

Everyone together in this show was magical. I was taken on an emotional journey, and in the end I felt so happy to be a part of it. I recommend this show to everyone! If I missed this show, knowing how absolutely outstanding it is, I’d be crushed.

This is truly a great production and if you get the chance to see it, don’t pass it up.

Utah Repertory Theatre Presents Rabbit Hole at Midvale Main Street Theatre

7711 South Main Street
Midvale, UT 84047

May 8-24 7:30 PM

Purchase tickets online at:
www.UtahRep.org

At “Times Like This”… “It’s Good to be Alive!” A Review of Echo Theatre’s Production of Lucky Stiff

lsLucky stiff cast

The Whole Cast at Curtain Call

By Megan Graves

I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of Lucky Stiff at the Echo Theatre. The musical comedy starts with a shoe salesman (played exceptionally well by Travis Wright) leaving his lackluster workaday world to fulfill the dying wishes of his eccentric uncle. During his fumbling attempts to answer the requirements of the will, he experiences hilarious mishaps and some near-death escapes from eccentric ‘villains’ that leave the audience roaring with laughter. We were constantly reminded in both funny and poignant ways throughout the play that it is “good to be alive.”

At the beginning of the play, I was impressed by the variety of costumes, but then was even more impressed by the diversity in the cast’s character depictions and accents. A broad range of unique actors lit up the stage with colorful costumes and varied, well-performed dialects throughout the play. One costume choice was particularly clever and doubled as a prop—a skirt that was decorated like a roulette table and spun with the actress when the cast was gambling in Monte Carlo.

With its dramatic caricatures, zany plot, expressive acting, fun and silly dance moves, people in disguise, unusual connections between characters, and a surprise plot twist at the end, the entire play was enjoyable and reminded me of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. To give just one example of a similarity Lucky Stiff has to the historical comic duo’s infamous satirical comedies, the audience was cracking up at the solo by Annabel Glick (Randilee Warner). In the song, she starts out wishing for someone to be excited to see her when she comes home, and then sings, “At times like this, a girl could use…a dog.”

Even though it is a comedy, Lucky Stiff does have some underlying poignant themes as well, such as these: live life to the fullest, take risks, don’t be embarrassed about wearing glasses because they could prevent you from shooting someone accidentally, and make sure not to lose a corpse that you take with you on vacation—important life lessons.

Sarah Bingham, one of the audience members at opening night, said, “The music was fun and catchy, and got stuck in my head easily. I also liked how the storyline had different twists and turns – it kept it interesting!” She also said, “The ensemble put it over the top – they really made it enjoyable. Luigi Gaudi (Lucas Proctor) was very outgoing and into the character he played, doing jazz hands, etc. Even though it was cheesy and corny at times, it worked!”

When asked what he enjoyed most about helping to direct the play, Archie Crisanto, the assistant director, said he loved working with the ensemble on character development. “It takes a really good actor to really own a character – make it more than what it is. I told [the ensemble actors] we wanted the audience to fight over which character was their favorite.”*

However, choosing a favorite ensemble character was almost impossible. They did an excellent job in all of their incredibly different roles, even with multiple quick costume and character changes. One minute an actor was an arrogant bellhop hinting persuasively for a generous tip, and the next minute was a hunchback in a nightmare; one minute an actress was a light-hearted dancing French girl, and the next minute a greedy nun. Yes, you read that right, a greedy nun.

Even the “lucky stiff” (Wayne Bohman – who played dead spectacularly well the whole show) got to reveal a bit of his character and danced ballet in the nightmare scene, leaving the audience in side-splitting laughter as a result. A lot of mid-20th century musicals have a dream scene that is meant to visually represent a quandary a main character is in. I usually skip over dream scenes in old recorded musicals, but this scene in Lucky Stiff was quite possibly one of the wackiest and most interesting scenes in the play. Crisanto said his favorite part was that nightmare scene, because he thought that number came together the best, and also because “[every person has] anxiety about something or other.”

My favorite on stage duo was the New Jerseyian brother–sister team played by Briana Shipley and Jordan Kramer. Their accents were spot on and they were hilarious! Briana’s voice was equal parts strong and zany, just like her character. The leads had great chemistry as well when they were singing, and Randilee Warner’s voice was amazing. In my opinion, this was a stellar cast, including the ensemble. My only suggestion is that some actors needed to feel a bit more comfortable in their characters’ shoes and then exude that confidence on stage. Granted, it was their first official night, so the opening night jitters could have contributed to a little character shakiness during dialogue and singing voices that were sometimes too soft to hear. When the actors sang loudly, however, their confidence and characterization lit up the stage.

The accompanist, John Taylor Sargeant, was another highlight of the show. It was obvious he was thoroughly enjoying himself. Amazingly he played with sunglasses on the entire time, imitating the lucky stiff on stage. He also played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue during intermission, which not only fit with the near chaos and delicate balance of the plot, but was also a difficult piece he played extremely well!

All in all it was a very fun, enjoyable experience and an energetic show. I highly recommend you go see it and support this up and coming new local theatre.

Just so you are aware, the play does contain some PG-13 moments, such as one or two swear words, alcoholic drinks, gambling, and cross-dressing (reminiscent of Shakespearean plays… except for the fact that this disguise is unnecessary to the plot and just intended to make us laugh, which it did), and at one point – spoiler alert – the two leads wake up together. Though their romance would have been much cuter and appealing without this part of the plot, the actors are so incredibly and hilariously awkward and shocked after they wake up and realize what happened, with her insisting “I’m not the type of person that goes out and has ‘fun!’”— that in a way it fits with the zany situations and awkward circumstances that characterize the plot.

The Echo Theatre is located at 15 North 100 East in Provo, Utah, in the quaint old Carnegie/Provo Library building, 2nd floor. Parking in downtown Provo can be tricky to find, but we were able to find free parking in the Wells Fargo parking structure a little North of the theatre and in the same city block.

Lucky Stiff runs through May 8 – May 30, M,Th,F,& S, 7:30pm, with a matinee May 23 at 2:30pm. Prices range from $8-12, including special discounts available for Seniors, Students, and even Teachers on certain nights. See this website for more details and to buy tickets: http://www.theechotheatre.com/luckystifftix.html

*quotes paraphased

John Taylor Sargeant was an excellent accompanist.

John Taylor Sargeant was an excellent accompanist.

Archie Crisanto Megan Graves Andrea Mullen

Ensemble Cast Member Andrea Mullen, Assistant Director Archie Crisanto, and I after the show

lucky stiff leads 2

Randilee Warner and Travis Wright

Lucky stiff leads

Travis Wright and Randilee Warner

SDT’s Young Sherlock is Worth Investigating!

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By Rachel Summerhalder

Tonight I had to opportunity to see Salty Dinner Theater’s production of Young Sherlock at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Orem, and I loved every minute of it! This was my first time experiencing dinner theater of any type, and I’m very glad I got to be with this group for that. As we entered the back room at the restaurant, we chose one of three entrees for our meal (there are different procedures for dinner depending on the restaurant where you see the show and dinner is NOT included in the ticket price) and were greeted and sat by members of the cast. At the table we were given a piece of paper to select “who-done-it” and what their punishment should be, as well as a list and description of the main characters of the show. As the wait staff came around and took our orders, the cast spent the time mingling with the audience. It was highly entertaining (my mother had a very fun, if somewhat confusing conversation with Watson that was a joy to watch) and it really lent itself to the more casual atmosphere of dinner theater and set the tone for what we were about to see.

The show began with an introduction and song by the character Officer Bumbledarling. It was quickly followed by a murder, one cop closing the case, another who thinks it shouldn’t be closed, and a pretty girl who needs help to solve the murder. Which brings our main character, Sherlock Holmes, who embarks on a quest to determine who the murder is and to make them face punishment for their crimes. I don’t want to give too much away as it is a mystery, and one that we as audience are asked to solve at the end, but there is romance, fighting, humor, and a lot of really amazing accents! There also audience competitions, where the winner receives 2 free tickets to their next production (ours was a dance off, and I won! Woot, woot!)

The costumes were all gorgeously done and fit the time period of the piece extremely well. The actors were always in character when they were in the room, even when they were conversing with the audience or being goofy for the sake of a laugh. I was impressed with every actor in the show and well they took the character and made it their own. You could see the work that each cast member put into their character, and added to the professionalism of the show. There were great jokes for adults to laugh but it was also appropriate for the children in the room.

I loved this production, and I highly recommend it to everyone. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for children. They have 4 more performances of this delightful show, and you should definitely go see one of them.

Salty Dinner Theater

Young Sherlock

Various Restaurants Throughout Utah

Visit Their Website for More Information on Locations

May 11th, 12th, 13th, and 15th at 7:00 PM

$15 for adults $8 for children

801-262-5083

info@saltydinnertheater.com

 saltydinnertheater.com

 

Nunsense is Black and White and Awesome All Over!

nunsense

By Joel Applegate

The great thing about Nunsense at the Covey Center through May 23rd is the energy that all five women ably and convincingly deliver to delighted audiences. I and my playgoer friend walked out at the end of the performance on heavenly clouds of satisfaction. The direction by Robinne Boothe was concise and kept the action moving with nary a stodgy moment to be seen. And Joni Newman‘s choreography was really great; always interesting to watch with more than a few calculatedly goofy sight gags.
Our troop of Sisters has stars in their eyes and decidedly secular sensibilities. All take on multiple responsibilities, combining into five dynamic women. Nunsense is filled with eclectic fun tunes that know their way around a ragtime beat, a big band harmony, or a Broadway belt with a soupcon of soul and blues. I caught myself impulsively tapping my foot before I knew it.

Plain spoken, our Mother Superior Sister Regina, helmed by Robinne Boothe again, emcees the nun’s talent show telling the evening’s patrons that Mount Saint Helen’s Catholic school for girls is in need of some cash. It would spoil things to say why, but believe me when I say it’s hilarious. (Think frozen penguins.)

Boothe’s Mother Superior foreshadows sly, deliberate puns with her sardonic delivery – no forgiveness requested or needed. There’s wonderful rapport and chemistry between Booth and Rachel Orme as Sister Mary Hubert, her second in command and mistress of the novices.

Our novice is Sister “gotta dance” Leo, played by Joni Newman with sweet abandon fully embracing her silliness. In “The Way I Pray” Newman is a cute and energetic Sister who really has some classical ballet moves.

Michelle McManus as Sister Mary Amnesia was affecting and oddly vulnerable. She used her voice well, though her lovely soprano struggled a bit at the top as she appeared to be experiencing a slight throat ailment. We wish her all the best.

I have to say I was most truly impressed by the chops of Skye Cummins as Sister Robert Anne, the street-wise former New Yorker. (Full disclosure: some bias may creep in here as my front row seat was perfectly placed to offer my lap – for a moment all too brief – to the dear Sister.) In her sparkly shoes, she showed her range as a soloist, in the ensemble and in the show’s one moving ballad. Wasted as an understudy, Sister Robert prevails upon Mother Superior to let her have the spotlight, and it was well earned.

The Covey’s set, designed by Dan James is the school gymnasium cleverly outfitted with set pieces and a basketball hoop, a Marilyn Monroe poster (with parts strategically covered) and a poster of Grease, the school musical. Tonight however, it’s a fundraiser for the school, introduced by Father Myopia – the archery instructor(!) – a nervous, nerdy monsignor played briefly by musical director Greg Duffin.

The show is a real treat, including some pretty impressive tap dancing, a dash of Vaudeville and lots of genuinely funny jokes sprinkled into the obvious, but perfectly forgivable, theatrical convention of five nuns who sing. On the whole, the production is golden; you might even earn some points in Heaven for going to see this holy romp.

Nunsense-1

Nunsense
Covey Center for the Arts – 425 W Center St, Provo, UT 84601 – Students, Seniors, Military: $12.00; Reserved: $14.00.
April 30 – May 23, Thurs, Fri and Sat at 7:30 pm – 801-852-7007 ~ www.coveycenter.org

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The OBT’s Revengers is a Super Heroic Piece of Fun

obt1By Lana Horrocks

Opening night for The Revengers brought out all the Off Broadway Theater fans. The seasoned comedians played to a packed house.  Being the few newcomers to the theater, we were acknowledged and welcomed into the family. The MC, Eric Jensen, warmed up the audience with his light-hearted manner and quick wit, and I could tell we were in for a treat. These comedians were ready for audience participation, slightly directed and enjoyed spontaneous remarks as well. The viewers were quickly brought into the action and the characters spoke to us as if we were involved in the production. The outlandish situations and characters were true to the comic book, but brought in the movie roles as well.  From the heavens a booming voice came the words “As in the comic book” every time some outrageous situational comment was made.  The diehard comic fans will relish in the attention to detail.

The standout performances were first and foremost Kyle Larsen, who played Loki, as his facial expression and interpretation was larger than life, we loved to hate him, more love than hate. His comedic timing was impeccable.  An unforgettable personality was Scott Butler playing Captain Utah. He used his entire body to express his emotion, and he did a fantastic job satirizing the local culture referring to the high population of Mormon missionaries that are in the state of Utah.  Surprisingly, Chase Maughan, the bulked up Thor, gave the Elizabethan language a skillful respectful representation, along with his toothy grin, won over the female persuasion on and off stage.  The Black Widow, played by Amelia Joan Bowles, gave a powerful rendition of a sexy black tight leather covered woman who could not only take care of herself, but who brought evil men to their knees.   A short but memorable character is Wolfsterine, played by Chris Harvey, he was so cool and smooth in his presence that gave him a likability factor that ranked him as a favorite.

Chance Le Prey’s portrayal of the Tin Man was as close to Tony Stark as you could imagine. Frankly, I felt that he would make an excellent replacement for Robert Downey Jr. in the movies.

Eric Jensen’s version of Commander McFury was strong, and had a quirky wit that I felt was fun to watch, and must have been fun for him to play.

The colorful detailed costumes by Eric Jensen, Sonrisa Smith, and Janice Jensen added to the fun illusion of the super heroes. Hats off to Sunny Bringhurst for the fun musical numbers added a whimsical light-hearted spirit to the entire production.  These characters not only can dance, but have so much fun you cannot help but have a great time along with them.  I would not change a thing. The special effects did not baffle the eye, but brought a wide grin. The spaceships and flying episodes on a tight budget gave the feeling of a viral Youtube, while the characters laughed and made spontaneous commentary cracked up the entire audience.

Every character gave a high energy fun spoof of each super hero in the production. If you like Saturday Night Live mixed with a little old fashion melodrama this is your ticket for a laugh a minute.  Come sit up close and enjoy seeing every detail of the hilarious rendition of the Revengers.

There were minimal opening night glitches, and overall, I would say that if you enjoy the Avengers movies and Saturday Night Live, you will enjoy this show. Go see it.

The Revengers
5/1/15-6/6/15 M, Fri, Sat 7:30 PM
The Off Broadway Theater
272 S Main St.
Salt Lake City
Tickets on the website $10-$16