UT Rep’s Cabaret Should Not Be Missed

cabaret

By Ashley Ramsey

Utah Rep has quickly made a home for itself in the Utah theatre scene with their rarely done and new theatre productions. When Cabaret was announced as one of their 2016 productions, it seemed a match made in heaven. It was exciting to hear the buzz it created throughout the theatre community as this rarely done, but beloved musical got under way.

Cabaret tells the story of pre-WWII Berlin and the American writer, Cliff Bradshaw who is hoping to find inspiration for his next novel in the city. Cliff quickly finds his world turned upside down when his life becomes intertwined with Sally Bowles, a performer at the seedy Kit Kat Club. The story envelopes the rest of the boarding house residents and Kit Kat Club performers as the rise of the Nazi party begins to change their future forever.

Oftentimes it can be quite daunting taking on a show that is immortalized famously on film, but the UT Rep cast does a phenomenal job making this show their own. Teresa Sanderson’s portrayal of the Emcee is spot on. Traditionally portrayed by a male actor, the use of a female actor brings a new and fresh dynamic that Sanderson fully embraces. It is always a treat to see an actor who embodies the concept and story fully and Sanderson delivers that. Other noteworthy performances are Jane Luke’s portrayal of Fraulein Schneider and Michael Neilsen’s Herr Schultz. Both actors command of the stage is enthralling and they create such a wonderful chemistry onstage.  “It Couldn’t Please Me More” is so sweetly delightful and sets you up to root for the couple the rest of the show.

Anne Louise Brings and Johnny Hebda tell the other half of the love story as Sally Bowles and Cliff Bradshaw. It is no doubt how Cliff falls for Sally as Brings creates such a vivacious,  charismatic character. Brings does a wonderful job of following the character arch of Sally and brings a steady nuance to a role that can easily be overdone.  Both Hebda and Brings were more than capable of handling the vocal requirements of the roles and their voices of blend well to each other’s in “Perfectly Marvelous”. Unfortunately, there was not much romantic chemistry between the two actors, which sometimes left you doubting what their relationship was. Hebda’s physicality seemed somewhat clunky and awkward in romantic moments with Brings.

The ensemble as a whole absolutely shines in this production. Most of them portray multiple roles and their characters were so different it was rarely noticed.  The structure of the play can make it hard to create seamless transitions and keep the action flowing, but the ensemble kept things moving smoothly. Outstanding ensemble members Karli Rose Lowry and Dawn Veree are both so incredibly committed to whenever they were onstage. They both shared an uncanny ability to connect with the audience in key moments through out the show.

Music direction by Anne Puzey was outstanding. Not only does her talent and vision show with the actors onstage, but her live band really added to the ambiance of a night club when needed but also easily faded away in moments where the underscoring gave way to the spotlight of moments on stage,

Director L.L. West sets the mood as soon as your enter the theatre. Upon arrival, do not be surprised to find a young, shirtless German boy eager to help you find a seat. The house is open seating and I recommend arriving early to get good seats. The Sorenson Unity Center Black Box theatre lends itself well to what you would imagine a small seedy night club might feel like. The intimate venue, combined with West’s in your face (and sometimes in your seats) blocking makes you pay attention to the larger questions being asked. The movement of the characters in and out of the scenes is as fluid as the sexuality of our characters and creates a world you can quickly get lost in. It was also incredibly refreshing to see a variety of body types and looks on the stage.  Nancy Cannon does an incredible job at dressing the actors in true to time ensembles that perfectly add to West’s vision. I always appreciate Cannon’s dedication to staying true to her time period and keeping her actors stunning on stage.

Highlighted as well is Ashley Gardner-Carlson’s choreography. While paying homage to the expected Bob Fosse-esque choreography, Gardner-Carlson carves out a movement story that is her own.  Her expertise really shines during the large group numbers in her ability to fill the space. “Two Ladies” was especially fun in the combination of comedy and sex appeal.  Another highlight for dance fans will be the intense moments of “Money”.

Cabaret stands as an incredibly poignant and startling relevant piece for this moment in time. While Utah Rep’s production has a few hiccups here and there, the overall message of the show is not one that should be ignored. This show will make you uncomfortable in the best way. It will challenge you to ask yourself some hard questions. As with all good theatre, it will stay with you and you won’t be able to shake it. But maybe that’s the point.

Cabaret runs 8/26 through 9/11 at the Sorenson Unity Black Box Theatre with both evening and matinee showings available.  General Admission tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for Students and Seniors. Special Cabaret seating which includes mocktails, snacks and the best view of the show are available for $35. 7:30 PM

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Utah Rep Website

Due to the mature nature of the show, it is not recommended for children.

 

 

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Payson’s Into The Woods is a Place You Want to Be

IntotheWoods75By Joel Applegate

Perhaps our virtual reality has outgrown fairy tales. Instead, I think what has been substituted are mash-ups and deconstructions. Fairy tales still do what they originally did: thrill and chill on the surface and use subliminal archetypes to make us think about ourselves and our wants. All this is behind the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.

Firstly, I believe Into the Woods is a story about want. First lesson: “Be sure what you wish for is what you want.” And Payson Community Theater’s well-paced production makes it fun to follow the needs and hopes of their big cast. The production is visually arresting with lavish costumes by Carisa and Perry Ewell, a detailed set by Richard Lindsey, Craig Zeeman and director, Robinne Booth. Mr Lindsey also contributes a beautiful lighting design. Rapunzel’s tower rotates, Grandma’s house is excellently illuminated, and the dark forest’s deep perspective makes full use of the stage.

Director Robinne Booth takes advantage of Payson High’s wide proscenium, staging many scenes down stage, really engaging with the audience from the opening bars. A great MC as well as a story-teller, our Narrator, Perry Ewell, draws a young girl from the audience to “help” him open the pop-up storybooks that reveal the locales of Into the Woods.  I was charmed by this way of creating a sense of anticipation and wonder.

There are big songs in Into the Woods where the scenes by their nature are presentational, but through a combination of great choreography and wise direction, these numbers are gorgeous to watch and more importantly, they work within the story.

There are many standouts in this cast, both musically and in the acting. Kristin Bauer as The Witch was superb. She brought great timing to her Yiddishness as the ugly witch. After her transformation to her young self, it is surprising how she is able to make us empathize with a witch, losing her daughter and her powers. No matter, Ms. Bauer has plenty of power of her own. Her “Children Will Listen” is sung with grace and conviction, and her “Last Midnight” should become a signature for this actor.

Author Joel with Cinderella played by Amber Lee Roberts

Author Joel with Cinderella played by Amber Lee Roberts

The pairing of voices in this production was another wonder. Amber Lee Roberts as Cinderella with her lovely, high soprano, and Richie Trimble as the well-acted Baker were beautifully matched in their duet turned quartet with Red Riding Hood and Jack. “No One is Alone” is one of the best moments – among many – in the show. Mr. Trimble also forms another great blend with Carisa Ewell, in “Take Two”.  Ms Ewell goes on to deliver a poignant demise as the Baker’s Wife.

Our Princes, Bob Bauer, as Cinderella’s beau, and Dan Bigler as Rapunzel’s, are perfect gallants – charming and shady. Both have skilled control with great voices blending very well. Their duet “Agony” is one of my favorite numbers in the show.

into the woods Kristin and Bob Bauer with Dan Bigler

Red Riding Hood’s Rachel Aylworth is – what? Petulant, comic, precocious sprightly – bringing tons of attitude to a really good voice.  She has a hilarious moment with the Wolf dancing a … ‘wolf-trot’? Jared Gaskill’s Jack (of Beanstalk fame) is effective as a boy on the cusp of manhood and sings earnestly in a clear voice.

Payson’s production was not entirely without flaws. There were some microphone problems at the top of a few songs. Some mics were not cued fast enough. And I thought it mysterious that the costumers built a great Wolf costume, but not one for Milky White, the hapless cow sold for a few beans. The puppet, used as the cow – though cleverly constructed – encumbered scenes with a silent puppet master standing by. It was an odd choice, since the Wolf was so effectively brought to life.

I like this show the more I see it, and this cast – in this production – made me like it all the more. For its dramatic and musical appeal with tunes like “Children Will Listen”, “Agony”, and “No One Is Alone”, Into the Woods is fast becoming one of my favorite musicals.

into the woods Set - Into the Woods

Though there are only six performances left, you still have plenty of time to book a seat for this very deserving production:  Sept 1- 3 at 7:30 pm and Matinees at 3 pm on Sept 3rd and 5th (Labor Day) at Payson High School auditorium, 1050 S. Main, Payson, Utah 84651.

Tickets are just $10. Purchase at the Box Office or online. Discount Codes may still be available online. Use “passalong” or “baker” for $1 off ticket price at www.paysoncommunitytheater.org website.

You may also purchase tickets at NAPA Auto Parts in Payson: 190 East 100 North, phone (801) 465-9268

Payson Community Theater is currently renovating the old Huish Theater in Payson to turn it into their permanent home. A lot of work has already been done on both the outside and inside of the venue. You can contribute to their dream by going to https://gofundme.com/27z6xzr9 . You may also go into any Central Bank location and contribute under the name of Huish PACE, or mail a check to Huish PACE, PO Box 351, Payson, Utah 84651. Huish PACE is a 501(3)(c) corporation, so all donations are tax deductible. Facebook: https:/facebook/huishpace. Website: https://huishpace.com

 

 

 

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Don’t Let CenterPoint’s “Hello, Dolly” Pass You By

By Ashley Ramsey

Some shows seem to find a comfortable place in the heart of Utah theatre goers, and Hello, Dolly is no exception. Set in New York, it follows woman of all trades and matchmaker extraordinare, Dolly Ghallagher Levi. She is currently employed by Yonkers’ most famous half-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder, in finding his second wife. Dolly, herself a widow, decides that she will be the next Mrs. Vandergelder and hatches an incredible plan to make the half-millionaire ask for her hand. With the help of shop clerks, Cornelius and Barnaby, and the magic of New York City, Dolly turns Mr. Vandergelder’s world upside down so it can align with hers.

CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s latest reincarnation is carried by a solid and incredibly talented cast of performers. Aided by stunning costumes and a simply perfect set, you will find yourself gleefully swept back to the 1890’s. Delightfully paired as 33-year-old never-been-kissed shopkeeper, Cornelius Hackl (Dale Boam) and his young still having time to be kissed co-worker, Barnaby Tucker (Jordan Davis). Boam and Davis hit the stage with an energy and comedic timing that continues until the curtain drops. Romantic opposites to the energetic duo are Irene Malloy (Wendy Inkley) and Minnie Fay (Emily Wells). The two pairs shared a solid energy together that was highlighted in the number “Elegance”. It was easily one of my favorite moments of the show.

Oftentimes in musicals, a show is only as strong as its ensemble and this definitely holds true for this production. It was clear the ensemble was fully engaged and kept the show moving at a fantastic pace. The ensemble was assisted by Addison Welch’s choreography in telling the story through movement and crisp, clear diction by music director, Derek Myler.  Special acknowledgement needs to be given to the male ensemble who’s execution of the iconic musical number “Hello, Dolly” was quite fantastic.

Director, Jan Smith does a wonderful job of keeping the action moving and the stage full. The steady movement and flow to her blocking seemed to be reflective of the quick and very nuanced speech patterns of the character, Dolly. The concept of the set design by Scott Van Dyke assisted in smoothly and simply keeping the action going, without leaving the audience feeling like it was lacking.

Dolly is gloriously brought to life by Melinda Cole Welch. Ms. Welch’s performance is worth the cost of a ticket all on her own. From the moment she stepped on stage, she was Dolly. This was her world and her rules. Welch’s command of dictation in Dolly’s mile a minute lines was incredible. Her vocal performance was one the most solid I have ever heard. “Before the Parade Passes By” was as strong in acting as it was in vocal performance. Thank you, Ms. Welch.

Although Hello, Dolly is naturally filled with the strange quirks and absurd falling in love of a golden age musicals, CenterPoint’s production does its best to ground it in the all too familiar concept of change and decisions. Hello, Dolly is worth an adventure up North. I promise you’ll feel back home where you belong.

It runs until September 1st. Curtain at 7:30 PM. $17.24-$24.50

CenterPoint Legacy Theater, 525 N 400 W, Centerville, UT 84014, (801) 298-1302

Go and “Sea” SCERA’S South Pacific

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By: Oliver Holman

South Pacific is one of the classic musicals that define American Musical Theatre History.  Here we learn the story of the not so simple lives and interactions of American soldiers, Tonkin Island Natives, and French Plantation owners on an island in the South Pacific, based on the novel of the same name by James Michener.  It explores the relationships that people have with others of their own race and those of other races as well.

The SCERA’S South Pacific begins on a high note as we see the young brother and sister combo played by Anna Kocherhans and Nolan Larsen enter the stage and sing impressively in French.    They are soon joined on stage by our leading romantic couple Ensign Nellie Forbush played by Shannon Eden and Emile De Becque played by Rex Kocherhans.  The vocal ability of these four was pleasantly a lot better than I was expecting to get.  Eden’s voice soared effortlessly and was surpassed only by Rex Kocherans’ vocal flawlessness.  Larsen and Anna Kockerhans’ songs seemed as though they were taken straight from a professional recording.  As the show progressed, I was happy to learn that nearly everyone in the cast had a voice that was as good as you would want in a professional production.  Especially poignant was the impressive male ensemble, with music direction by Kathryn Laycock Little, when they came together to sing There is Nothing Like a Dame.

Though the vocal prowess was soaring, the acting was not as strong, though there were many fun moments in the show.  The father-daughter duo of Rex and Anna Kocherhans as well as young Nolan Larsen were able to show some honesty in their performances.

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Costume design, by Kelsey Seaver and Deborah Bowman, was interesting, but there isn’t must to work with in the script, and I did love Nellie’s costumes a great deal.  The choreography by Kristen Bradley wisely used simple steps for a large cast that can have many levels of dance training and ability.  The set, designed by Terri Griffin, was able to be productive through the many scene changes and helped set the mood and location well.  The strongest design element of the show was the sound created by Kendall Bowman.  Rarely do you see a community theatre production where the music and microphones and sound effects are blended without any hiccups for an entire performance.

The highlight of the night most definitely came at the conclusion of the show when the four actors mentioned above come together in a very beautifully directed moment by Jerry Ellison.  Suddenly I forgot everything else about the show and my heart strings were tugged as I watched a new family forming before my eyes and pure joy come over the face of the young Jerome played by Nolan Larsen.

Rodgers and Hammerstein will live forever in the history of Musical Theatre and the history of America as the first musical collaborators to bring meaning, purpose, and important lessons to their work.  Subsequently, the most difficult task for a theatre company performing one of these iconic pieces is to make sure these important themes and messages are made clear and don’t get lost in the engaging, toe-tapping, history-making music.  Is the domestic abuse in Carousel handled in a way that the viewer can see their own relationships?   In the case of South Pacific, are the irrational fears and discomfort around people of a different race shown in a manner that makes us consider ourselves and the unintentional lessons that we are teaching our children that can have dire societal effects in the future?  As you see this show, these are some of the questions you may want to ask yourself.

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In the end, I found the show delightful and definitely worth the $10-$16 ticket price it has.  If you are looking for a fun night to listen to some eternally loved show tunes with family, then this is the show for you!  Lay back on your blanket (this is BYOB: bring your own blanket), put on a little bug repellent just in case and listen to the vocally impressive cast of South Pacific.

Shows run nightly except for Sunday and Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. through August 13th.  Tickets may be purchased at www.scera.org

South Pacific

SCERA Shell Outdoor Theater, SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 South State Street, Orem, UT 84058 801-227-ARTS

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The Covey’s The Fantasticks is a Marvelous Love Story You Don’t Want to Miss

fantasticks 1

By Jennifer Mustoe and Kendra Hill

One of the things I dislike about rom-coms is it’s all about the finding the sweetheart and getting the sweetheart. Just as they kiss to seal the deal, the movie or play ends with a big ol’ happily ever after. And it’s like–wait. That isn’t real life. Finding and getting the sweetheart is nothing compared to the keeping the relationship alive and well.

In The Fantasticks, there is a love story all right, filled with song and moonlight and sweet young lovers. It is resolved in Act One. In Act Two, though I don’t want to give too much away, that’s when real life happens. It is gritty, it is real, and it is ultimately satisfying–because it has a REAL ending. It isn’t a sad ending–don’t get me wrong. But it’s far more authentic. This is one of the many things I love about this show.

The lovers are Coulson Bingham as Matt. Luisa is played by Kelsi Jeffery. Both of these young actors make not one misstep. Their movement, characterization, voices and chemistry are perfect. I say this rarely. But they are completely believable. I wanted them to be in love. I mean, why not? They’re a great match. And as an aside, because I know Coulson, he stepped into the role the night before opening night. Yes, you read that correctly. He got everything memorized in one day. Bravo to Coulson and the whole cast for getting this great show off the ground. It takes a dedicated group of people to make this happen.

Kudos to director Agnes Broberg for getting this show to its sparkly perfection. She has plenty of movement on the small black box’s stage and has encouraged her performers to work in sync with one another in a most delightful way.

The story is that young lovers’ fathers build a wall (played by The Mute Nate Broberg, who not only plays The Wall but other mimed pieces and brings a lot of laughs) so that their kids won’t fall in love. But the fathers want their kids to fall in love. One of the cutest songs in the show is when the two fathers (Hucklebee (Paul Larson) and Bellomy (Marcx Haddock)) tell the audience (and there is a very thin fourth wall in this show) how they have planned for their children to fall in love by merely telling them they can’t. Fun song.These two gentlemen do a fine job in their roles. Their voices blended well and it was clear they were having fun with their parts. I wish I could have seen a little bit more relationship between the fathers and their respective children. But it wasn’t necessary to the plot and took nothing away from the production. When they get angry at one another in Act Two, it is hilarious.

The dads plan for An Abduction to take place so Matt can look like a hero and seal Luisa’s love for Matt. It will also help to convince the young lovers that the “feud” between the families is over. The Abduction is orchestrated by El Gallo, played by Will Hurwitz. He hires two actors, The Old Actor, played by Dane Allred, and Mortimer, played by Andrew Walsh, who is dressed as a Native American but has a Cockney accent are hired for the Abduction. Hurwitz has an amazing voice and stays distant as the Narrator. Allred and Walsh are fabulous–the parts require the actors to ham it up and boy–these fellas do this very well!

Everything worked well in this show–costumes for the ‘normal’ characters are just plain clothing and The Old Actor and Mortimer are great in their get ups. (I won’t spoil it for you.) What I found as I was watching the show and after was the flip-flop that happens between Act One and Act Two. Act One takes place under the moonlight. Act Two is under the blistering sun. Because we have been having such an amazingly (horrible) hot summer, the difference between these two acts really affected me. In the moonlight, things look lovely. But when it’s bright and hot and uncomfortable and crabby–this is when things get difficult. It is a believable metaphor and one that is important to think about. Should life always be accompanied with moonlight and kisses? Or is life more hot, under the sun and filled with discord? Or is it both?

I am waxing profound. Do not think that this show is brooding. It is not. But is it poignant? Is it memorable? Is it fun? Yes, it is all of these.

For a nice, cool evening, go to The Covey and see The Fantasticks. It is well worth your time.

The Fantasticks July 15 – August 6 7:30 PM $14-$16

Main Office: (801) 852-7007
Box Office: (801) 852-7007
Covey Center for the Arts
425 W Center St
Provo, UT 84601

 

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