Highland’s The Curious Savage is a Funny, Sweet Family-Friendly Delight

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By Jessica Johnson

The Highland City Council presents a hilarious ensemble cast for The Curious Savage,directed by Gabriel Spencer and produced by Jordan Long. Watch out! The lights just might go out when you least expect it. The play is set in The Cloisters, a sanitarium for people who are detached from reality. The cast is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a notorious new client Mrs. Ethel Savage. Mrs. Savage is the wife of a wealthy businessman who had recently passed away. She has three conniving stepchildren who would love to get their hands on the family fortune that is rumored to be $10 million dollars.

Florence Williams is played by Shelly Traux. Her constant companion is John Thomas, a doll.  She is the mother figure of The Cloisters and often keeps everyone in line. She reminded me of a classic Mormon mother with her children.  Truax plays her role with delightful fierceness. Though Florence is strident, Truax handles this role deftly, showing the soft, slightly afraid Florence in a beautiful light.

Fairy May played by Leah Bryan is a breath of fresh air! Her high-jinks kept me laughing from the moment she came onstage.  You never knew when she would scream and jump on the furniture.  Her “dress” in the second act was priceless and still full of pins. Very childlike and funny. You love to love her. Bryan is filled with energy and is truly darling in this role. Fairy’s screams were timed perfectly to wake anyone who had fallen asleep (though I don’t think anyone really would fall asleep in this quick, quirky show.) “It’s alive!”

Jeffrey, played by Jordan Long, is a former fighter pilot who was the lone survivor of a plane crash. A talented pianist who believes that his scarred face prevents him from performing for the masses. He reminded me of Phantom of the Opera without the mask.  Long has some really funny bits, especially when he is fooling the stepkids about where the bonds are.

Miss “Willie” Wilhelmina, a nurse, is played by Nicole Allen and is the voice of reason for The Cloisters.  She has a special reason for working there, but I won’t spoil it. Allen has great timing and is a sympathetic character. I won’t give her final scene away, but it is very touching.

Dr. Emmett played by Jake Allen is a kind-hearted doctor trying to rein in the chaos at The Cloisters.  Jake Allen has one of the sweetest scenes when he is questioning Mrs. Paddy and plays his character with warmth and professionalism.

Hannibal played by Alex Diaz, was once a statistician and lost it when he was replaced by an electronic calculator.  He has taken to playing the violin with horrible results. I give him an A for effort. His intelligence is baffling.  You really have to listen to what he says to understand where he is going. My favorite scene with him is the new exercise routine. I love how the cards go flying across the set. Diaz’s scene about staying awake is great–he has great timing and brings a lot of life to Hannibal.

Mrs. Paddy played by Stephanie Tenney gets a lot of laughs with her list of things she hates: everything from rhubarb to politicians. I love her alliterated outbursts! Tenney doesn’t have many lines (you’ll see) but when she does speak it leaves you laughing. Her grin is infectious. You can see that she wants to open up. Many times pursing her lips to try to hold in her words.   Ethel Savage played by Jennifer Mustoe, enters holding her constant companion, her one-eyed teddy bear. Her bright blue hair and fascinator hat are the focal point of her costume. Mustoe shows Mrs. Savage’s dejection at being forced to live at The Cloisters, but also the joy of finding new friends. Mustoe’s quirky timing made the show roll along and she is really fun to watch. The final scene is remarkably touching and I noticed several people in the audience crying. However, Mustoe has some of the funniest lines in the play, too. She got a lot of laughs. (Note: Keep your eye on the bear…)

Titus played by Stephen Miner is the oldest stepson of Mrs. Savage, an unpopular Senator who is disposed to fits of anger, mostly at his stepmother. Miner is a commanding actor, with lots of power behind his words. He looks as sweet as can be, but when he starts yelling, you can see Miner’s acting ability. What a jerk! (I mean that in a good way.) Lilly Belle, played by Jeanelle Long is the spoiled heiress who leaves husbands in her wake. She has had six of them, and has a million dollars each to show for it. Jeanelle Long is a fine actress with her nuanced facial expressions. Her freak out scene about the dartboard is hilarious. Samuel played by Tanner Spear has few lines, so has to rely on facial expressions, physical comedy and attitude to make his presence stand out and Spear does this well. His pouty, sorry for himself looks are awesome.

The set was a little sparse with mixed era pieces.  It was hard to discern the time period being portrayed. Curtains were also needed for the window. The flashing of changing street light was distracting. The costumes were bright and colorful. But again, it was hard to discern the time period. Sometimes it was hard to hear the actors over the radio broadcasts.

One thing that touched me was how careful and safe it was at The Cloisters. The patients there never wanted to leave. It was funny, yes, but there was an undertone of a sad reality–some people aren’t ever willing to face life’s challenges. Such are the patients in The Curious Savage.

One overall theme of the play is Love!  The love that Florence has for her child. Fairy’s love of everything. Tthe love Mrs. Savage has for her husband in fighting to keep her memorial fund. The love shared between Mrs. Savages and the Residents who become more of a family than she ever had with her stepchildren.

Director Gabriel Spencer has a lot of action and physical comedy in this show that keeps the pacing quick, fun and interesting. He has gotten the most out of this talented bunch and the cast work together as a cohesive unit.

The Curious Savage is an excellent piece and family-friendly. The theater is small, so buy your tickets online. This performance will make you laugh and reevaluate what is the most important thing in life. You will learn to love all of the cast!

You can see The Curious Savage at the Highland Community Center at 5378 West 10400 North, Highland on Fri-Sat 2/26-27 and Mon 2/29. Show starts at 8 PM. For more information see the Facebook event below. $10 adults, $8 students.

Live a Little and Join Peter Pan on a Great Adventure!

-by Megan Graves**

“To live is the greatest adventure!”- Peter Pan

Some of the cast of Peter Pan's Great Adventure.

Some of the cast of Peter Pan’s Great Adventure.

For skeptics like I was, who might wonder why the writers Chase Ramsey and David Paul Smith created another Peter Pan musical, you will be pleasantly surprised by the play “Peter Pan’s Great Adventure!” at the SCERA. The play is different than the familiar musical in significant, positive ways. There was more interaction with children in the audience, and that was the key part of the children’s enjoyment who attended the play. Don’t just take my word for it! According to children who came, “it was really fun,” they “liked how [the actors] interacted with the crowd,” and how “[the actors] were good at acting like children.” In the words of one child, “Everything!” about the play was his favorite.* Considering that this is a play written for young audiences, the fact children enjoyed it is a very good thing, but don’t worry, adults – you’ll enjoy it as well.

I’m happy to see the SCERA engaging in a renaissance of the unique essence of live theater  – audience interaction – that has gotten a little lost over the years since Shakespeare’s time, but fortunately is making a popular comeback in some local theaters. In this play, Peter Pan (Dallin Major) gets rid of the ‘fourth wall’ right away and starts interacting with the audience, asking the children, “Can you help me let my friends know the show is starting?” In other parts of the play, the children get to try scaring Captain Hook (Shawn Mortensen) by acting like a crocodile, or bymaking a bird’s call as a signal to the pirates when the Lost Boys were near.  It is also a much shorter play, which along with the constant interaction with the cast, makes it a lot more amenable to bringing young children, though it is even enjoyable for teens and adults who are young at heart.

I like this version a lot better than the original musical, for a variety of other reasons, namely, because it has no racist undertones against Native Americans and it doesn’t have strange melodies in the  songs like the original has. On the contrary it has more than one catchy song, and not only that, all of the songs have an inspirational message of one sort or the other. It doesn’t have as many characters, and at times some of my favorite parts of the Peter Pan story seemed rushed because of time, such as the scene where we all clap in the audience to help Tinkerbell live, and Peter Pan doesn’t really fly across the stage, but overall it was better in general in terms of plot, music, and audience interaction.

Almost every song or part of the story teaches children a simple positive lesson, such as this one, for example: “We can find love in all sorts of places, we just need to know where to look for it.”  So, if you want some wholesome values and life lessons reinforced through music to your children, this is a good play for that!

The first song, Mother’s Lullaby, is an example of lessons within a song, while also containing foreshadowing for the adventures the children will have that night, where they “wake upon the shores” of a strange land. Speaking of which, there is an unintentional lesson in this Peter Pan story in general for parents, and that is this: Don’t leave the dog to babysit children when you leave. 😉 One song sung by Peter Pan teaches kids that “the happier the thought, the deeper the love, the lighter you feel!” and that they “can be up in the sky (and achieve what they want), all they have to do is try!” In that song, the set design and direction was also clever, because the children “flew” by being pulled in tiny carts made to look like the tops of English buildings.

Speaking of design, one of the first things I noticed was the great use of lighting design by Elizabeth Griffiths. Tinkerbell is a hard character to portray on stage, and she was cleverly portrayed by both a green laser and handheld green lights, which the actors did a great job concealing the rest of the time. When Peter Pan is chasing his shadow, the lights change right as he finds it and his shadow appears – it was very clever and good timing for the lighting – kudos also to Stage Manager Danielle Berry for a relatively seamless first night of a world premiere of a new musical.

The set design by Shawn M. Mortensen for the Darling’s house was beautiful, with bay windows and old paintings, and was easily converted to the Lost Boy’s hideout by just hiding the bunk bed under a fabric set piece, or transformed into a pirate ship quickly by taking off a picture to reveal a porthole, for example. It was a little distracting to have some of the same set pieces in all the scenes, but it also connected all of the scenes together in a way that you could say the adventures were a dream that the children had.

I could go on for a long time about everything I loved about the play, from the clever slapstick acting by the three pirates, Smee (Keegan Briggs), Smaug (Delayne Dayton), and Bucky (Ardon Smith) that made the children laugh a lot, or the fairy-like voice of Wendy Darling (McKayla Hansen), or the energy and optimism that Peter Pan instills in the audience, or the way they incorporated my favorite classic lines from the original story along with new ones such as “Forever sounds like an awfully great adventure!” but I’ll just encourage you to go and see the world premiere of this play for yourself. You might even want to go twice.

The book was written by Chase Ramsey, with Music and Lyrics by David Paul Smith, both locals and both co-directors of this show for SCERA’s Theatre for Young Audiences Program.

You can see the play every Monday and Friday through Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. each night. It lasts about an hour and a half at most, so it is an optimal length of a play for kids. Just remember that, like Peter Pan says, “Cell phones make Tinkerbell mad.”

***Advisory: There are a lot of flashing lights on stage during a few scene changes. There is also one instance of crude bathroom humor reference that adults would get and not children, but that is all.

Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for children and seniors, available at (801) 225-ARTS or at this link:  https://www.scera.org/events/peter-pans-great-adventure-2/

The SCERA is located at 745 S. State St. in Orem.

*Nephi Barlow, Grace Barlow, Sam Barlow, and Owen Whiteley were the children quoted, in order respectively.

**Megan Graves has directed, produced, written, and performed in various community plays in Utah (http://www.singforsomething.org/), and also enjoys being a freelance arts critic. She majored in both English and Music Teaching, and has a Master’s in Public Administration. She particularly loves watching and performing in Shakespeare plays and in musicals, and is grateful for the chance she had to study and critique theatrical performances in London for 7 weeks in an undergrad theater program at BYU as part of her English major.

Ogden’s Ziefield Theater’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a Fun Season Opener

drs3By Michael T. McKinlay

It was opening night for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Book by Jeremy Lane, Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek), that began the season of comedy for Ogden’s Ziegfeld Theater. That is what the show accomplished–a great fun night of good laughs that helps put one’s worries aside for a few hours. A show not to miss this year! You have the opportunity til closing night March 5th.

The Ziegfeld Theater, once a movie theater, now a live theater has that old time movie theatre feel from the outside through the doors into your comfortable new seats with cup holders. I felt like I was ready to watch a classic movie where the credits are displayed over the curtain as the overture played. But at the Ziegfeld they for sure live up to their motto of “Professional Standard, Community Spirit” in all aspects.

Based on the popular 1988 MGM film,  Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a comedy about who’s getting conned. Watch closely–you never know who’s conning who!

Lawrence Jameson is posh. Freddy Benson is more mundane. But both know how to swindle and start to battle over a small French town’s pawns. The crack a deal that they will battle for the town by swindling a lovely young heiress–winner takes all.

Contains mild language and some irreverent humor. Appropriate for most audiences.

drs1Great Big Stuff is a wonderful showcase of the show’s brilliance. Where Freddy (Ed Madson) sings about how he wants what Lawrence (Kevin Ireland) has. This number really showed the two men’s showmanship and talent. An outstanding performance by Kelliann Johnson in the role of Jolene Oaks in the number Oklahoma?. I was delighted at her deft performance. Kelliann Johnson had Jolene’s sweet Southern charm shine through but with a wild cowgirl attitude that makes her perfomance pop. All About Ruprecht was hilarious. Watch out for Christine Colgate played by Heidi Potter Hunt–she was funny and a real asset to the show.

The great thing about live theater is you’ll never see the same show twice. This being opening night, there were a little fits and starts and one big pillar falling and a great actor save. But that’s usually to be expected on opening night.

Other honorable mentions Rebecca Marcotte as Muriel Eubanks and Daniel Akin as Andre Thibault during Like Zis/Like Zat.

drs2Wonderful choreography by Joshua Samuel Robinson, beautiful musical direction from Jamie Balaich, and direction by Rick Rea where you made dirty rotten very classy and well done to make sure all have a good laugh.
It is worth the drive (my drive was 50 min) to Ogden to see this show. Because truly you will get a professional standard experience with the warm welcoming of community spirit from the Ziegfeld Theater.

$17-$20 Fridays and Saturdays @ 7:30 PM, Saturday matinees @ 2 PM

Feb 5- March 5th,




Here Comes…The Wedding Singer in Cedar City

Wedding Singer Posterby Zac Trotter

The Wedding Singer? That’s a new one for Cedar City audiences. Cedar Valley Community Theatre’s latest production is a fresh and exciting opportunity to see a show that is uncommon for the area. Based on the hit motion picture of the same name, The Wedding Singer allows its audience to take a trip to another time and to leave its own worries and cares at the door for a couple of hours. The curtain rose at the top of the show to reveal the characters already dancing to the rock-themed music being conducted by Carylee Zwang. That high energy remained onstage for the duration of the performance.

The show stars Cedar City favorite Reece Brown as Robbie, who is trying to find true love for himself while serenading those who have already found it at their own weddings. After he is left at the altar and with a bleak outlook on life, dating and happiness, he enlists the help of his band (played by Indy Jones and Trevor Walker) and two caterers (Emilee Gull and Kelsea Burton) to get himself out of the dumpster and on the track to success.

Kelsea Burton as Holly played her part with so much energy and charisma that it wasn’t a surprise when she is doused with water at the end of the first act. Austin Strine as Glen Guglia portrays the antagonist with such finesse that I wanted to get up and slap him myself. Everyone in the cast is completely committed to their characters and it is clear they understand that ensemble cohesiveness is the key to making a show like this successful. The show is directed by Stephen Wagner and choreographed by Torri Adams, who create a fast and exciting show that puts its audience on the edge of their seats wanting more right up to curtain call.

Cedar City is home to lots of theatres, most of whom have chosen to do dramatic works during this part of the season. The Wedding Singer is comedic, lively and brilliantly acted. It really is a bright spot in the community during this cold winter. I would recommend sitting close to the stage; the mics have a tendency to come on late at the top of scenes. There is some mild language and sexual content and may not be appropriate for small children. It’s basically the same as seeing an Adam Sandler movie. If you’re okay with that, you’ll enjoy this. The show continues February 1, 5, 6, and 8 at the Heritage Theatre and starts at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $12.00.

Heritage Center Theater
105 North 100 East
Cedar City, UT 84720