Romeo and Juliet is a Touching–and Sometimes Funny–Representation of Shakespeare’s Classic Tragedy

romeo and juliet

By Craig and Jennifer Mustoe

Spoiler Alert: This play, which you are no doubt familiar with, ends tragically. But the journey getting there in Ben Hopkin’s rendition of Romeo and Juliet will surprise and delight you.

The set is sparse but what is there is very effective. I don’t want to give too much away, but the current political arena plays into the set and costuming. It is fun but really, also helped me in identifying who was who among the Capulets and the Montegues. Sometimes, you  just can’t tell. In this show, it is very clear and I appreciated that.

Some of my favorite parts of the show were these:

Romeo, played by Jordan Nicholes, was flawless. His character was consistent, passionate, and completely believable. I loved it. Underline loved. Kat Webb’s Juliet was fun. She had a different take on Juliet, playing her far snappier (think: bratty teenager) than I’ve seen done and it worked well. The chemistry of the two leads was not as steamy as I’ve seen in other shows, but it still was authentic.

Lynne D. Bronson’s Nurse was amazing. She didn’t make a false move, bawdy when needed but tender and sweet, as well. Her connection with Webb’s Juliet was wonderful. Lord Capulet, played by Joel Applegate, was marvelous. I was not as familiar with this part and when Applegate basically tells his daughter off, I felt that sick feeling in your stomach when your mom got mad at you for doing something wrong. He was that convincing. A character you love to hate.

Paris, played by Tyler Fox, was brilliant. His sword fighting was wonderful, and as he said after the show, “Laying there dead while mosquitoes were biting me was tough.” The mark of a true actor–discomfort for the sake of the show! I also loved Kocherhans’ Tybalt. He expressed Tybalt’s bitterness very well. Another character I wanted to punch in the nose, and I mean that in a good way. Friar Lawrence, played by Alisa Anglesey, was also a very believable character. I won’t give away her interpretation, but it was pretty interesting and worked quite well.

Archeluas Chrisanto’s Benvolio had many snappy ad libbed comments, which brought laughs. His scenes with the female Mercutio, played with style and sass by Noelle Houston, were a delight. Their chemistry is great and the timing perfect.

Music from a  playlist is played for some of the scenes. I’m not sure it was needed, though during the EXCELLENT sword fighting scenes, it heightened the anxiety and fierceness. Giant kudos to fight choreographer to Matthew R. Carlin. Honestly, I knew who was going to die before the scenes began, but I found myself thinking, just how are they going to do this? The sword fighting scenes went on just long enough, but as an actress myself who has been coached in stage combat, I can tell you the fighters did a lot of rehearsing to make these scenes this exciting. The music during the love scenes and the death scene make me tear up, so I’d say those songs added to the sweetness and eventual sadness of this tragedy.

The biggest downside to this show has nothing to do with the production itself, but as I’ve discussed before, it had a ton of bugs. I heard that last night’s performance was the first time bugs were a problem, but they were a Big Problem. All of us were slapping our faces and arms once the sun went down. So, bring bug spray. Spray it before the sun goes down. Also, if you’ve ever been to the Castle Amphitheater, it is made of stone. You have several options to make sure you sit comfortably. One, BYOC, meaning, bring your own chair. Two, bring a blanket to sit on. The rock is hard and also warm, so bringing your own seating options is essential.

I would recommend Romeo and Juliet for those of you who love the play, love Shakespeare or are wanting a sweet, romantic, funny, and poignant evening of theater.

Renaissance Now Theatre & Film presents, Romeo & Juliet at The Castle Amphitheatre. 1300 East Center St., Provo, UT 84606 (behind the hospital and up the hill.)

Thursday, Friday, Saturday; July 21-24, July 28-30, August 4-6. Mondays are FAMILY NIGHTS: July 26th and Aug 1st.

Ticket prices are $8 general, $5 students and seniors, $20 group of 4, and $25 per family. Thursday performances are pay-what-you-will, and donations will be taken at the entrance. Cash and major credit cards accepted.

Please go to www.RenaissanceNow.com for more information. Tickets, cash or credit, at the door or through http://smithstix.com/profiles/profile/17008/castletheatrefestival

Marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Utah Humanities will sponsor a selection of FREE pre-show events entitled, “SHAKESPEARE: OUR CONTEMPORARY.”

July 29: Dr. KATHY CURTISS, “Shakespeare and Identity;” a community art project/sonnet share.

July 30: Dr. KATHY CURTISS, FTC, “Gender roles & Generation in Shakespeare.”

August 4: SARAH RE, HOFSTRA, “Shakespeare: the measure of the man, by the garments he hath on.”

August 5: Dr. TIM SLOVER, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, “Shakespeare’s Invention of Word & Language.”

Hamilton’s Earliest Ancestor, The Music Man, a Visual Delight at Sundance

By: Oliver Holman
“He’s a what, he’s a what, he’s a music man!”  Aside from some of the most famous show tunes ever written, The Music Man has made its mark on society as the first “rap” musical paving the way for shows like Lin Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights, Bring It On and most famously, Hamilton.  If you can’t afford the plane ticket and $800 seat to see Hamilton in New York, you may consider checking out The Music Man at Sundance Summer Theatre.

The Music Man is a classic musical that tells the story of a traveling salesman, Harold Hill, at the turn of the century and how the local librarian turns him from a conning, unsympathetic pick-pocket to a man in love and one who cares about others.
Director Stephanie Breinholt does a wonderful job at bringing together all of the design elements into one beautiful production.  Of greatest note is the set design by Stephen Purdy.  The die-cut style set mixed so beautifully with the backdrop of the pine trees and the costumes designed Amanda Shaffer.  The many different and spectacular hats used throughout the show were a special treat.  The lighting designed by Jill Loveridge provided ample visibility and kept from being distracting most of the time.  Although the sound designed by Jason Jensen was satisfactory, I do feel that for a $36 ticket in a large theater with ample space, a live orchestra would have added a good deal to the performance quality.

The choreography put together by Nathan Balser was mostly fitting and appropriate throughout the show.  He managed to turn what I usually find the most awkward part in the show, “Shapoopi,” into the highlight of the evening with unending spectacular dance and acrobatics.  His collaboration with Ms. Breinholt on the transitions between scenes was just right and kept the show moving without any awkward pauses or scene changes.

The vocal ability of actors across the board was stunning as one would expect.  Rachel Woodward Hansen as Marian Paroo and Joseph Swain, Stephen Breinholt, Mike Ramsey and Paul McGrew as the singing school board quartet were the obvious standouts vocally.  The strength of acting however was somewhat spotty.  The most honest and believable performances came from Brett Griffiths as Marcellus Washburn, Laurie Harrop-Purser as Mrs. Paroo, Elizabeth Hansen as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn and Madison Dennis as Ethel Toffelmier.  Though Greg Hansen struggled with some of the difficult rhythm and words of the part of Harold Hill, his honest and true relationships highlighted by the natural chemistry with his wife, Rachel Woodward Hansen as Marian Paroo, and the true love you could feel for young Winthrop played by Gabriel Stone was a breath of fresh air and brought meaning and purpose to a script that is often criticized for rewarding the liar.

I was slightly disappointed to not see more children on the stage throughout the show.  The lack of younger children caused a few awkward moments including partner dancing between young kids and adults and a River City Boys Band mostly consisting of older men and women/girls dressed up like little boys.  The one young girl in the ensemble, Bell Warren, did a fantastic job of keeping herself a relevant character in the show which is difficult for a 10-year-old girl, but she pulled it off.

My favorite moment of the show came toward the end of the first act when Stephanie Breinholt ingeniously uses a down part of the song “My White Night” to set up the sad life of little Winthrop as we see him teased by another kid and pushed over.  Amaryllis (Lauren Randall) then helps him up and gives him a kiss on the cheek.  The emotions in this moment were raw and beautiful and very well performed by the pair of young actors as well as the young bully Emerson Earnshaw.

Breinholt chose to employ the use of the aisles and seating area quite consistently throughout the performance.

To me, the most important thing about theatre is to make sure the message you want to share gets across and the direction by Stephanie Breinholt does exactly that.  In a show that is often considered out of date and misogynistic, Breinholt was able to strip that down and show us a strong, independent Marian Paroo that makes her own decisions and a flawed Harold Hill that eventually realizes that what he was doing was wrong bringing us to a beautiful conclusion.

At $36 a ticket you would expect the show to be near the quality of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, twice the quality of Hale Center Theatre in Orem and 3-5 times the quality of a community theatre show in the area. However, it was certainly a good production and one worth seeing and bringing your family to.  Performances run Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through August 13th at 8:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.sundanceresort.com

Spanish Fork’s Joseph is New, Fresh and Worth Seeing

joseph2By Mary Garlitz

So you think, okay someone is doing Joseph again in Utah Valley.  Not a big surprise as this is a favorite among this area. However, I went into Spanish Fork Community Theater’s version with an open mind and excitement to hear all of my favorite songs again.  I was not disappointed.  I was delighted and enchanted by their take on what can sometimes be a pedantic retelling.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tells the Biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. Joseph is his father’s favorite son and a boy blessed with prophetic dreams. After being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and taken to Egypt, Joseph is purchased by Potiphar and eventually thrown into jail. When news of Joseph’s gift to interpret dreams reaches the Pharaoh, Joseph ends up as his second in command. Eventually his brothers, who are starving from the famine Joseph predicted, come to beg for mercy and food from Joseph, whom they no longer recognize. After testing them, Joseph reveals himself and is reunited with his family.

Daniel Fifield in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat 2016Director Rock White and his production staff took this familiar story and really took it up a notch.  Mr. White did his homework and went along with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original vision for the show; not to spoil anything but it is a great trip through time.  I could tell the cast enjoyed this fresh take on a classic.

There are many that stand out in this production but two that I especially liked were the costumes (over 300 of them!) and the dancing.   I can’t imagine putting together that many costumes, let alone the logistics of having all of those people change so quickly, but Larisa Hicken and her crew did a tremendous job getting everyone outfitted and back onstage for their cues.

Costumes in SFCT's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat 2016

SFCT Joseph 2016 ChoreographyBethany Taylor has been choreographing on and off for Spanish Fork for many years and I think she may have outdone herself this year.  The variety, style and complexity of the dancing literally had me on the edge of my seat just waiting to see what would be next.

All of the vocals in the show were good as well. And the live band that accompanies the show is good enough to get your toes tapping. They rock! At first I was not sure about their take on the narrator, but by the end I loved what they chose to do and felt it complimented the show well.  I would give a shout out to them for this device, but won’t say any more as I don’t want to ruin the surprise. I will say the blending and harmonies were fantastic.

Daniel Fifield seemed a little unsure at first in his role as Joseph, but by the stirring, “Close Every Door” I felt like he really stepped into Joseph’s shoes and made it his own. Jordan Toney as Pharaoh also was a standout in his role, and really owned the stage. All of the brothers and their “wives” were great as well.  Each brought something different to the role and really danced their little hearts out. An especial standout would be Producer Ken Jensen in the role of Simeon performing the Canaan days number with equal humor and tragedy.

Ken Jensen in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Children's Chorus SFCT Joseph 2016The entire cast was fantastic from the adorable Children’s chorus with their spot on vocals to the ensemble that filled in admirably and brought just the right fill to round out the scenes.

Go see this show.  Yes it’s community theater, but they do fantastic job, and some of the best shows I’ve seen have come from the humble casts and crews of local theater.

Performances run tonight through Saturday July 23rd at 7:00 pm at Spanish Fork High School with a Matinee Monday July 25th at 4:00pm. The address is 99 North 300 West in Spanish Fork. Tickets are $10 for adult. $8 for students and seniors. $6 for children. Purchase tickets online.