Bums! The Musical is a New Show Filled with Fun and…Bums

pictureBy Jessica Leigh Johnson

Aren’t we all just Bums?

This was my first experience with The Echo Theater and it was surprisingly good. The theater was homey and inviting. We found seats in the back to better see the production. The set was sparse, but the artwork (Set Design and Construction Randall McNair) made up for it. The view was gorgeous from where I sat. The cast was able to utilize the small space without it feeling cramped.

The play is set in the 1920’s before the big Stock Market crash. Edward Pibbles (Bridger Beal) is your typical paper pushing accountant who has become disillusioned with his current state of affairs. Beal showed the prowess of a professional, because when power went out temporarily, he kept singing. Edward works for Mister Engerman (Stephen Gashler (the show’s playwright)) and is facing the possibility of a promotion and a corner office. Weasel (Randall McNair) does the dirty work for Mister Engerman. Every show needs a villain and Weasel fits the bill.  A chance meeting on the street with Dirty Dan, the King of the Bums, makes Edward question everything he has done so far in his life. Dirty Dan is played by Kenneth Brown and steals the show with his nonchalant way at looking at life. Should Edward become a Bum, or follow through the expected responsible path his family and girlfriend and parents have laid out for him?

cast phot0Rhubarbara Thwackem (Caitlyn Lunceford) is the dutiful girlfriend,  who has waited six years for Edward to propose. She  finally gets her wish and they are planning their wedding. My favorite costume in the play was her pink dress (costumer Liesl Cope) she wears to dinner with her future in laws Pansy and Dirk Pibbles (Teresa Gashler and Steve Whitehead). Edward’s parents can’t wait try to impress their son’s fiance with the “fancy mustard”. Rhubarbara does not live up to her name. She is not stiff, unbendable or bitter. She wants what every girl wants: a husband, a house and babies! I could also identify with her when talking about her brothers ripping the heads off her dolls. I had many headless Barbies growing up.

The ensemble of Bums are a lovable bunch, lead by Dirty Dan. Mubble (Natalie Dilts), Chester (Drew Cannon) and Norm (Josh Whitehead) are delightful characters. They find pleasure in finding a half eaten hamburger, booze and dancing. The dance numbers by choreographer Bethany Taylor in the production were simplistic, but fit the space that they were allotted.

bumsVote for Mommy! Out to clean up the City is Beulah Brummel (Jennifer Mustoe). She wants to make homelessness a crime and has Edward arrested for loitering. She is followed by her Mini-me (Ariah Gashler) and her personal reporter (Jennifer Cannon). This is groundbreaking for the time period. Having a woman run for office and win would be unusual but not unheard of. Kudos to her for running and winning. The irony in the show, is she eventually becomes the exact thing she is fighting, a Bum. Rachel Summerhalder rounds out the cast as the policewoman and the very patient Judge. The whole cast is delightful as Bums. Kudos to Director Adam Cannon for getting his cast to be believable as “normal” people and also as bums.

we three 3pibbles weasel and engermen

The strengths of this show were the mostly believable New Yahk accents, the energy and movement and the fun story. The music, too, by Gashler, was fresh and fun. What I noticed that still needed to be tweaked was the electricity going off and the few little opening night glitches. Good voices (music director Teresa Gashler) abound in this cast. Many of the cast kept singing when the lights went out unexpectedly. The show was technically sound with a few mishaps. Something is always bound to happen on the first night of any production. The cast recovered brilliantly. You won’t be disappointed when you go see this production. Because this is a world premiere of a brand new show, I can’t stress enough my suggestion that you see this family-friendly fun show.

Bums! The Musical by Stephen Gashler

The Echo Theatre – Provo

15 N 100 E, Provo, Utah 84606

Mon, Thurs, Fri Sat til October 3rd.

7:30 PM

$12 Adults, $8 Students/Children/Seniors, $2 off/person for parties of 5 or more

 

Utah Rep’s Amadeus is Masterful!

amadeusBy Cindy and Perry Whitehair

Utah Repertory Theater has always been known to take chances. Never ones to do the “tried and true” Valley favorites, they tend to go big and bold with their show selections. Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus fits that style.

We walked into the Sorenson Community Center Black Box to a simple set reminiscent of the many drawing rooms of the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. Allisyn Thompson’s set design was functional and set a very good opening impression. Of course, walking in to Mozart as the background music helped in taking me back to Vienna (where Perry and I spent many lovely days when we lived in Germany.) I can only guess that Music Director Anne Puzey had a delightful time coming up with all of the selections that were used to background music through out the show. The costuming (Nancy Susan Cannon) and wig design (Cindy Johnson) were splendid and again, spot on 18th Century Vienna.

The show starts of with Venticella (Lindsay Marriott) and Venticello (Dallon Thorup) talking about the latest court rumor – that a dying Antonio Salieri (Roger Dunbar) had confessed to murdering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Geoffrey Gregor.) The scene then cuts to Salieri’s drawing room where the dying man, after dismissing his servants for the day, summons the shades (the audience) so that he can tell his tale of court intrigue.

There are simply not enough adjectives to adequately describe Roger Dunbar’s outstanding performance as Salieri. The role requires the actor to switch from a dying old man to a young court composer with nothing more than an on stage costume change. He goes from feeble to youthful (and back again) distinctly and quickly. The raw emotion that this role calls for was so well played, if felt like we were watching someone on the verge of a nervous break down for the whole show. The contrast between Salieri’s love of Mozart’s beautiful music and his absolute disdain for the man behind the music was marvelously portrayed. You felt the pain and the conflict that Salieri felt.

The perfect foil to Dunbar’s Salieri was Geoffrey Gregory’s Mozart. Where Salieri is noble and pious, Mozart is rude and profane. While there is much written into the script to draw out the differences between the two men, the differences in acting styles between Dunbar and Gregory accentuated and personalized those differences. Gregory’s wide open style captured the boy/man Mozart….the beautiful, insecure, bright eyed musical savant who had no experience with court intrigue. His portrayal of Mozart was BIG like Mozart.

With a pair of stellar, over-powering leads, it is often easy for the supporting cast to step back and “phone it it.” However, that did not happen with this cast. Merry Magee’s Costanze stood up to both men with the quiet power of a woman who was going to do whatever it took to help the love of her life. Natalie Easters’ Katherina Cavalieri always caught your eye the minute she stepped on stage. While she didn’t have many lines, her soto voce rendition of “Caro Mio Ben” was hauntingly beautiful. Jeffrey Owen’s Count Franz Orsini-Rosenberg was the ultimate aristocratic insider. Greg Carver’s Emperor Joseph II was appropriately clueless and JayC Stoddard and Criss Rosenlof (Baron van Swieten and Count von Strack) gave solid performances, while the aforementioned Venticelli (Marriott and Thorup) were often coming in and stealing the scene.

The program did not credit a linguist, but this show simply must be commended on its liberal (and good) use of Italian, French and German that was sprinkled through out the show. Dunbar and Owen especially, were excellent in their scenes where the dialog was mostly in Italian (where they were plotting Mozart’s court demise.) The German was a little American flat, but I still really enjoyed it.

I have to give special kudos to director JC Carter for letting his actors be themselves and not copies of the actors in the movie, even though (as mentioned in the director’s note) his initial introduction to this story was the movie. His vision of the ebb and flow of the story complimented it well, it even at times seemed to accentuate the multiple layers of the characters and the conflict that make this show so stellar.

To say this is a “must see” show is putting it mildly. You really should see this show, even if you saw Utah Shakespeare’s Amadeus earlier this summer (as I did.) The stylistic differences are profound and give different looks at the story – different things to appreciate about the story. The heart that in this production makes it and makes it the must see that it truly is.

Utah Repertory Theater presents Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus
September 11-26
Sorenson Unity Center Black Box Theater
1383 S 900 W Salt Lake City UT
http://utahrep.org/tickets/

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UVU’s Major Barbara is a Major Triumph

majBy Marnie Thomas

George Bernard Shaw obviously held his own views and opinions, but his point in writing Major Barbara was not to express them. In this classic play, he asks questions. He causes his audience to think, to ponder on subjects such as morality, salvation, poverty and how the perceptions of such play out in the interactions of people and the effects on society. You will undoubtedly leave the theatre thinking about the questions this play asks.

Director Kacey Spadafora keeps the action flowing smoothly onstage. Not necessarily an easy feat in an outdoor venue such as the UVU courtyard amphitheater. Through careful blocking, he has the actors relating to one another in a natural manner. The choice to include a live musician (Paige Porter) assists with the transitions between the various locations.

The opening scenes are like a cross section of the upper echelons of society. I thoroughly enjoyed Lucas Stewart’s portrayal of Stephen, a confused and silly yes man to the machinations of his mother, Lady Undershaft. Katrina Luthi skillfully portrays a mother who makes sure that her son’s views are in line with her’s—whether he knows it or not. She understands her place as a woman in Victorian times—but it is obvious who has the upper hand. Kaitlin Lemon portrays the title character, Major Barbara ,of the Salvation Army, with earnestness, idealism and a bit of naiveté. Her family is alternately amused and confused by her participation in the unconventional religious group. To me, the standout performance came in AJ Taysom’s impressive interpretation of the character paying opposite Barbara. Adolphous Cusins is the fiancé of the Major, and an academic, specializing in Greek. He is quite the philosopher, and an ardent young lover. Taysom’s movements, voice inflections and facial expressions bring to life a witty and eccentric character. Sarah and Charles (Angela Dell, Kristopher Miles) are another engaged couple in the Undershaft family. They look their parts in Javi Ybarra’s attractive and period appropriate designs. Charles is a comical contrast to proper, young Sarah. Rounding out the aristocratic group is the long, lost father, Andrew Undershaft (Brett Griffeth).

At the Salvation Army shelter, we meet a different element of society. The group of unfortunates who take advantage of the services provided there are played by Ash Knowles, Daniel Nell, Wade Johnson and Kaylee McGhghy. They are a downtrodden and weary band who have come for assistance in different ways. Playing the system, desperation and even some sincerity have led them to the Salvation Army. Major Barbara and Jenny Hill (Zahra Alnasser) endeavor to bring salvation to the poor and needy. Alnasser plays her part with an innocent and clueless enthusiasm. Ann Thomas plays Mrs. Baines, the head of the local Salvation Army. Her bearing and expression bespeak a no nonsense woman who has come to terms with the realities of life. Her interactions with the rich Andrew Undershaft rock Barbara to her core and cause her to question her faith in the Salvation Army.

The Undershaft family meet together and consider the fate of the family business. There is much discussion and many opposing opinions. Some of the best acting is displayed in the give and take between Andrew Undershaft and Adolphous Cusins. They passionately exchange insults and ideas. This scene is particularly enjoyable and thought provoking.

This first production of the Utah Valley University theatrical season has again shown how UVU is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the arts. The makeup and hair were carefully styled by designer Melissa Howarth. The above mentioned costumes were exceptional. The spartan set (Scenic Designer Jessie Pusey, Properties Designer Aubrey Jeffries) was effective in its simplicity. All the production staff and crew are to be commended.

It is said that there are no small parts, only small actors. With that in mind, I must mention that Tanner Gillman put a lot into the two parts he played. He did not have a lot of lines, but he had a lot of presence as a household servant and in his part at the cannon factory.

Major Barbara runs from the 9th to the 15th of September, so hurry and see this show. You will laugh and you will think. it will be well worth your time and the small cost of a ticket ($3-$5).

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Payson Community Theater’s Peter Pan is an Imaginative Adventure for the Whole Family

By Larisa Hicken

peter-pan-3As part of Payson Golden Onion Days, Payson Community Theater is performing the beloved musical classic Peter Pan based on J.M. Barrie’s original tale with popular music written by Morris Charlap and Jule Styne with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh and Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Most people are familiar with the Disney animated film version about a boy who can fly and refuses to grow up and Payson’s version stays pretty true to this beloved tale of pirates, Indians, and fairies.

Keeping with tradition set by the original cast of 1954, the role of Peter Pan is played by a petite woman. Tia Trimble tackles the role with tremendous enthusiasm (at times maybe a bit too much) and gives a high energy performance. She definitely commands the stage with her larger-than-life physical antics and when she flies in over the audience and straight into Wendy, John, and Michael’s window, it’s a moment of sheer theatrical beauty.

Her flying techniques and facial expressions throughout the show are an absolute delight.  Her singing is magnificent in the scene with Captain Hook where she gets to pretend to be a lady during the song “Oh, My Mysterious Lady.”

peter-pan-2Trimble’s counterpart, Captain Hook, played by Darren Poulsen, absolutely steals the show with his interactions with the audience and hilariously perfect comedic timing. I haven’t laughed that hard during a live performance in a long time and he received a standing ovation from several audience members during the curtain call. The show would be worth the price of the ticket just to see his performance.

Along with Poulsen, Smee (Evan Nielson) and the other pirates perform the best numbers of the night. They are greatly aided by fabulous choreography by Katie Wiscome and amusing costumes designed by Miranda Duke. A ridiculously funny crocodile on a scooter board (played by Ethan Nielson) gets a lot of laughs, too.

peter-pan-4The other highlights in the show are the dance numbers performed by the Indians, particularly Necia Poulsen as Tiger Lily.  Her coordination and grace are unmatched by anyone else on the stage and I hope to see her again in another show soon.

Peter Pan’s lost boys are absolutely adorable, although I would like to see more individual characters and interactions from them. Admittedly they are much younger than the rest of the cast members, but I think they are definitely capable of even more characterization.

The show is well-directed by Steve Poulsen, assisted by his wife Kara Poulsen. The only suggestion I would have would be to accelerate the pacing of the first act a little. Since audience members are so familiar with the show, we are quite anxious to get to Never Land!

Wendy is played by the beautiful Mariah Webber, a sophomore at Payson High School. She stays away from the stereotypical whiny and demanding Wendy and emphasizes the adventurous and patient side of the character which makes for a lighter interaction between her and Peter Pan. Her brothers John and Michael are played by real life brothers Talon Maurin and Carter Maurin. They are both sweet boys and I would like to have seen more tenderness between the three siblings. The children in the audience were delighted by a full-sized Nana dog played by Thane Kennedy.

peter-pan-1I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the terrific set design by Craig Zeeman, Richard Lindsey, and Steve Poulsen.  The stage rotates around for several entertaining effects and the flying throughout the entire show is downright stunning.

If you’re looking for a great way to spend your Labor Day weekend, bring the family to see Peter Pan in Payson.  With an interactive Tinkerbell Tracker for kids, incredible flying effects and stunts, and full-belly laughs, you won’t be disappointed in this top-quality show.

The show runs August 27-29 and September 1-5 at 7:30PM, and matinees September 5 and 7 at 3PM. Tickets available at paysoncommunitytheater.com and NAPA Auto Parts in Payson.