Don’t Get Lost on Your Way to “Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged)” at Utah Shakes

 

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By Craig Mustoe

Zany. Silly. Manic . Madcap. Multiple Personality Disorder. All words describing succinctly what William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged) is like. We attended the premiere on Saturday at The Utah Shakespeare Festival and were stunned by its rapid-fire presentation of Shakespeare’s characters. Long Lost First Play written by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, and directed by Christopher Edwards is a wild ride and I’m very glad I was able to be there for opening night.

The premise: Three young men, played by Riley Shanahan, Marco Antonio Vega, and Luke Striffler, unearth (quite literally) Shakespeare’s first play, all 1000-plus pages of it. It includes all the plots, settings, and characters of his 39 plays. Or 40. Or 41. Anyway, Shakespeare found that this magnum opus was too big; after all it would take over 100 hours to present it. So, he broke it up into all the different plays as we know them today. However, these young men proceed to try to present everything (their minimum opus) in one sitting, often mixing and matching along the way. The resultant play is ridiculously hilarious.

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One of the things that makes this production so fun is that they place many Disney movies in counterpoint to Shakespeare’s plays. They proceed to tell us which Disney movie stole which Shakespeare play. The Little Mermaid was foremost as an example. They mix up Ariel the little mermaid with Ariel in The Tempest.  This is a running gag, Ariel coming out in a little mermaid outfit replete with a fishtail, a seashell bathing-suit top, and a long, unnaturally-red wig. Then, at appropriately wrong times he breaks into songs—some from TLM, some just from Disney.

While we’re on that subject, they do an unbelievable (see what I did there?) job portraying the female characters, from Lady Macbeth and the Weird Sisters to Beatrice and Goneril (take a wild guess what they call her.) And while we’re on that subject, they are not afraid to feature some of the Bard’s naughty jokes and a few of their own. Haven’t we all giggled about Lady Macbeth telling her husband to screw his courage to the sticking point? Wait till you see what these young artists do with that. You may not want to bring some of your younger family members if this is likely to offend you. But since even serious Shakespeare aficionados sometimes have the sly innuendos go over their heads, more innocent viewers may also miss them. But the humor is pretty broad in places. We found ourselves guffawing, roaring, and tittering throughout the play. Half the fun was hearing other audience members’ reactions.

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Expect to see such strange pairings as Ariel vs. Puck, King Lear and the Weird Sisters, and Dromio and Juliet. In all, the play includes some 45 characters of the 1,223 the master created, including the Dolphin, I mean, Dauphin. While some characters are among the best-known, best-loved, and best-hated of the plays’ characters, many are rather unknown and/or minor. This can sometimes elicit a Huh? reaction. Really, the best way to prepare for this play is to read all of Shakespeare’s plays and watch every Disney movie ever made between now and when you see it. Seriously though, the better your understanding of Shakespeare’s plays, the better your enjoyment here. Having said that, though, anyone can enjoy the madcap frenetics (if Shakespeare can transform an adjective to a noun, so can I), crazy costumes, and physical comedy of this production without getting all the quips. In one instance, they joke about having to be a Shakespearian scholar to get some arcane point, then say that there are only two such in the audience anyway.

They execute rapid-fire costume changes in record time; sometimes their exit as one character and reentrance as another within seconds seems nearly impossible. And they make practically instantaneous entrances from different spots. The black-box theater lay-out allows them to run behind the seats to make this happen.

True to Shakespeare’s pattern, one bare set (Jo Winiarski) is used throughout the play. This consists of a wooden façade with a double set of stairs seen within the building, and a loft. This balcony is handy for scenes such as Juliet’s famous, “Wherefore art thou, Dromio?” scene, etc. The rest of the action is presented on the floor in front of the set.

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Motifs include twins, ships and shipwrecks, storms, Italy, islands, magic woods, cross-dressing, and so forth, all jumbled together. My wife sat next to director Edwards (who laughed uproariously the whole time—a good sign) and she asked him what it was like to work with this script and these actors. He said he was very pleased with the opening night performance, and why shouldn’t he be? He got this show to its high-energy, tight pace, and great entertainment value with grand success. Costume Designer Alex Jaeger must have had a great time gathering the numerous, odd assortment of costume pieces for this show. They all work and add to the hilarity. Kudos to Lighting Designer William Kirkham and Sound Designer Barry G. Funderburg for their efforts. You wouldn’t think so, but this show employs quite a bit of lighting and sound effects and it adds to the chaotic fun.

It is hard to describe how zany the show is. There may or may not have been a few flubs, it being opening night. Maybe they were scripted. Or maybe, because it is the nature of this show, they were adlibs and meant to happen. Who knows and who cares?

Utah Shakespeare Festival brings a delightful assortment of shows this season, from Shakespeare comedies and tragedies, to Guys and Dolls, to a more gritty offering (How to Fight Loneliness, which opens 8/25) and fun family fare (The Tavern, opening 9/19.) There is something for everyone here at Utah Shakes. Fun, fast, clever William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged) isn’t a show you want to miss.

Utah Shakespeare Festival presents William Shakespeare’s Long Lost First Play (Abridged) by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor

Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, 101-199 W University Blvd, Cedar City, UT 84720

July 28 – October 21, 2017, matinees at 2:00 PM and evening performances at 8:00 PM, varying days

Please visit www.bard.org for ticket availability, show dates, and times.

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Tuacahn’s “Mamma Mia!” is Fabulous ABBA Music Fun!

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By Craig and Jennifer Mustoe

Having never been to the Tuacahn before, I was unprepared for how much fun we were going to have seeing Mamma Mia! at this unusual and delightful venue in St. George.

Mamma Mia! tells the story of Sophie (Shae Robins), a 20-year-old bride-to-be who wants her father to come to her wedding (to hunky Sky (Matthew Helfer))on the small Greek island she calls home. The problem is, she isn’t sure who her father is–it is one of three men her mother had affairs with–affairs being called “dot dot dot” when Sophie reads her mother’s diary and finds out about her dubious parentage. Big laughs with the dot dot dot, but a tasteful way to say it, too. The men: Aussie Bill Wright (Steve Judkins), Harry “Headbanger” Bright (Matthew Tyler), and Sam Carmichael (Donna’s true love who dumped her, which led to the other two flings) (Todd Dubail) show up and Sophie hopes to keep them hidden from her fiercely independent mother, Donna (Sasha Judkins), but on such a small island, that isn’t going to happen. In the meantime, Donna’s friends from the old days, Earth mother Tanya (Joann Coleman) and rich thrice married and divorced Rosie (Shari Jordan) come to the island to see Sophie’s nuptials. The bubbly, remarkably sing along-able music is provided by ABBA, a Swedish band popular in the 70s and early 80s. Sound fun? It is!

The genre of Mamma Mia! is called jukebox musicals, which means music already popularized as singles on the radio are compiled and a book (this by Catherine Johnson) is written to create a vehicle for the music. Thus, Mamma Mia! has many recognizable tunes and the original ABBA members (Benny AndersonBjorn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson) wrote more songs to flesh out the story.

ShaeThe Tuacahn is a big stage and it really is a Big Deal. The staff are amazing, the parking is abundant and attractive. Yes, even their parking lot is filled with plants and the walkway up to the ticket booth is fancy with water features, statues, a fun stick your face into the backdrop thingie. It feels like a party with a huge bunch of your best friends when you walk into the Tuacahn complex. One downside is the typical female lament–not enough bathroom stalls to accommodate all the women who are slurping up water to try to stay cool. Yes, it is very hot at Tuacahn. The only other downside. However, I am saying this in the review: take a bottle of water to mist on yourself. Really, it’ll cool you down and you won’t notice it’s hot.

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I never owned an album by ABBA, but their songs are obviously pretty popular because the pop hits they had in the 80’s seemed to be right there in my gray matter–I sang all the songs throughout Mamma Mia!. Who knew?

There are so many things I can gush about this production of Mamma Mia! but I’ll start with the principals. The affianced couple are darling and their harmonies and dancing are wonderful. I didn’t feel the love and passion I wanted between them and wondered if it was just because I was more interested in the other stories going on in the musical. I loved Robins’ Sophie and her scenes with her friends and her mom and her maybe-fathers are all great. Robins is bright, funny, talented, and sparkles onstage. I loved her Sophie. Sasha Judkins’ Donna is remarkable. Her clear, strong voice and her feisty maternal body language sold me. I believed her Donna completely. Donna’s friends are hysterically cute and so real, I feel like I know these women. Well, I don’t know these exact ones, but they are so stereotypical in such a funny way that they are familiar and delightful. Jordan’s spunky Rosie is everything a granola ex(?)-hippie should be. Her practical clothing, sensible shoes, short, sporty hair, plus a great voice, great movement, great warmth make her adorable. I loved Jordan in Mamma Mia! and will fan girl for other productions. Coleman’s Tanya is a wonderful foil for both Donna and Rosie and the three women are cohesive and believable as a girl singing group whose members may or may not have ever grown up. Their “Dancing Queen” number is darling. Actually, ALL the all-female numbers were amazing, but I especially loved the ones performed by the “Donna and the Dynamos” trio and company: “Money, Money, Money”, “Mamma Mia”, and “Super Trouper” to name a few.

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All musical numbers were great, as would be expected from a professional venue and most of the players are Equity. Per-fec-tion. Director/Choreographer Derryl Yeager made each number flawless. Musical Director Michael Hopewell takes a talented group of singers and orchestra performers and makes the entire valley ring with melodies and harmonies and instrumental layers. The live orchestra brings this production a beautiful addition that many professional theaters don’t have. Live is best and Tuacahn delivers. I can’t say it any clearer. The big ensemble numbers were tight, filled with fun, and dazzling. Our favorite songs/dances was the last three after the show was over–the “concert.” By then, we were on our feet, dancing and singing. You can’t help yourself.

Matthew

Costume design by Doug Baker is fantastic. It must have been so much fun to design the Donna and the Dynamos’ late 70s costumes. The fashion! The neon! The gaudiness! The swim fins! We loved them all. Scenic Designer Brad Shelton‘s sets were fabulous. The moving pieces were large but not bulky and multi-functional. The background set was very reminiscent of a Greek island and the red rocks in the background looked wonderful as the backdrop. Hair and makeup by Annie Hardt made everyone look beautiful and bubbly.

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The Tuacahn Amphitheatre is a little out of the way for some. Do not let this deter you from coming down to see their shows. Their schedule is such that you can see all three of the summer offerings back to back. Three nights at Tuacahn will get you Shrek, Newsies, and Mamma Mia! These are repertory productions, so all these talented performers are in all three shows. Sublime. All of the shows are family friendly and though they start a little late for the real small kiddos (8:45 PM–we got out close to 11 PM), if your kids can stay awake easily, they will definitely stay awake and engaged in these shows. This was our first experience at Tuacahn, but I can guarantee, it won’t be our last. The staff is fantastic, the vibe is positively electric, the crowd is excited and diverse–from littles to grandparents. Nobody should miss going to the Tuacahn. It’s that good.

Todd

The Tuacahn Amphitheatre presents Mamma Mia! Music by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Stig Anderson, and book by Catherine Johnson.

The Tuacahn Amphitheatre, 1100 Tuacahn Drive Ivins, Utah 84738

July 14-October 21, varying nights and times

$29-$89

Box Office (800) 746-9882 or (435) 652-3300

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Sackerson’s “Do You Want to See Me Naked?” is a Unique, Poignant, Beautiful Experience at the Great Salt Lake Fringe

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By Ashley Ramsey

Do You Want to See me Naked is a one-woman show premiering at the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival and is the collaboration of actor Golden and writer/director, Morag Shepherd. It begins with: “I am a fat Woman,” proclaims Elizabeth Golden (Self) as she stands amid a half circle of chairs filled by the fifteen members of this intimate audience. Her naturally curly hair falls around her face as she pleads with the audience: “Do you want to see me naked? Because I want to show you.”

The fourth wall is immediately broken as Golden invites you into her world to tell you her story. From growing up in the LDS church, her marriages, and what it is like to live in a body that our current world has deemed “not beautiful enough”, Golden is offering the audience the rare opportunity to step inside someone else’s story and try them on for a little bit. Carefully and simply underscored by the cry of Ysa Pitman’s violin, and the simple set of fabric, a bench, and a mask, Golden’s world comes to life.

Golden is no stranger to the stage in Utah and has built a reputation as a strong, solid, and giving actor. Her performance in this piece is no different. From the moment Golden steps on stage, there is no doubt how much this piece means to her. Her presence is commanding and stern, yet warm and inviting. She easily manages the ebb and flow in the moments of comedy and the moments of heartache in Shepherd’s script. Shepherd’s script is full of beautiful and poetic language and Golden’s performance breathes life into every syllable. The physicality of her performance is carefully woven throughout and she has an incredible grasp on the power of stillness alongside the power of movements like gyrations and thrusting. She uses her body to organically create the emphasis, the emotion in her story. Even in her moments of just standing on stage, she is full of purpose. She is unapologetically unafraid of sharing her story. She has incredible moments of vulnerability and grace. But above all she is real. She is telling you her story, but you will find moments where you sit uncomfortable. Not for her, but for yourself, because it’s your story too. And she is asking you to look at it. Stare at it. To take a breath, and start again.

Salt Lake Fringe is the perfect opportunity to get to know new works and this show is everything that a fringe production should be. It is hard to put into words to justify the experience I had at this show. At one point in the production, Golden tells the audience that she thinks it would be funny if we all left and said her show was terrible. And to be honest there is part of me that wants to. Not because the show is anywhere near terrible, but because I want to buy up every ticket and sit in the production over and over again. Absorbing what Golden is so freely and lovingly giving away. Theatre like this doesn’t happen often. To experience emotion so deeply was freeing. To feel hot tears on my cheeks and I wasn’t even aware that I was crying. I hope you will find yourself here because I promise, you do want to see her naked.

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival  presents Do You Want to See Me Naked by Elizabeth Golden and Morag Shepherd

The Fringe Factory 2234 Highland Dr, Salt Lake City, UT 84106

July 28-August 6 various afternoon and evening times

Tickets: $5 festival entrance fee with tickets ranging from $7-15.

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Advisory: Please note that this show does include adult language, the possibility of nudity, and the acknowledgment that sex exists.

 

 

 

 

Adventure and Romance Abound in Titus Production Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers”

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By Bridges Sayers

Midvale has long been a hub for the performing arts, and that certainly continues to hold true with Titus Production Theatre Co.’s spectacular performance of The Three Musketeers. This original musical, written by Jake Anderson, is based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas. It follows the tale of the eager young D’Artagnan (Christian Shepherd) , who longs to join the King’s Musketeers. However, the drama and intrigue of the time does not allow for his task to be so simple. Rife with thrills, affairs, treachery, and more, the story is far from predictable. Along his journey, D’artagnan discovers the perils of betrayal, the passion of love, and the everlasting bond of friendship. This story, full of heartbreak and joy, adventure and discovery, is one that holds meaning far beyond its years. Anderson, both the playwright and the director of the show, truly captures the essence of the novel. This is the musical’s debut performance, not an easy feat on its own, but the cast and crew performed the show with poise, talent, and honesty far beyond its humble beginnings.

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Easily the star of the show is D’artagnan himself. Clearly a seasoned performer, Shepherd launched himself into the role with enthusiasm, talent, and obvious dedication. Aaron and I both remarked about the authenticity of Shepherd—the portrayal never felt forced or unnatural. Rather, Shepherd is D’artagnan. His vocals are flawless, his comedic timing is brilliant, and his energy moves the show along wonderfully. He also pairs beautifully with Constance (Jennica Henderson), another powerhouse on stage. Her rendition of “When the Boy Becomes a Man” is stunningly beautiful. The love between the two is honest and raw, something incredibly difficult to convey through the show.

Other clear standouts are the Musketeers themselves. Athos (Quinn Nielsen) is a delightfully complex character. His voice is smooth and melodic and he holds himself with poise and dignity on stage. Nielsen captures the troubled past of his character with such poignant ease that it takes your breath away. Similarly, Aramis (Anthony Hernandez), is not to be forgotten. His own turmoil is relatable and remarkable, and his vocals are stunning. My personal favorite of the three, though, is Porthos (Josh Astle). Perhaps seemingly less introspective than the others, Astle creates a bold and complex character. His comedic timing sets him apart as an incredible performer, and I couldn’t help but love his character. Though all brilliant on their own, the Musketeers bring magic to the stage when paired together—a brilliant casting choice by Anderson.

Not to be forgotten are several other notable performances among the “good guys.” Planchet (Tanya Rasmussen) is, personally, my favorite woman on stage. Her comedic timing is brilliant and makes the language used very easy to understand. Her vocals are lovely. Rasmussen is incredibly relatable and enjoyable. Similarly, King Louis (Carl Smith) steals your attention when on stage. There is something so honest and interesting about his performance. His relationship with Queen Anne of Austria (Nikki North) is sweet and heartfelt. The two understand how it is to grow to love another and they progress to that point beautifully.

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Also brilliant are the villains of the show. Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Chucay) is heinously evil. There are few characters that are so authentically bad that you shiver when they enter the stage, and Chucay portrays one of them. His performance of “One For All” is so spectacularly terrifying. His smooth voice only adds to the eeriness of the role. Complimented by Milady De Winter (Rossy Thrall) and Rochefort (Michael Thrall), the level of evil in this show is simply stunning. As Rossy Thrall sings, it’s “Good to be Bad,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Finally, the ensemble truly compliments the show. Several standout performances are found with surprisingly brilliant characterizations. Bazin (Kimberly Johnson) and Marie (Brycie Piper) had me in stitches. Their timing and commitment to the role is truly wonderful. The Duchess of Brooksby (Sasha Nugter) is another unforgettable role. Her total humor with the role made it an absolute standout. Also brilliant is the Reverend Mother (Chelsea Tramell) whose performance is so dedicated and lovely. It is rare to see a show where my eyes flock to the ensemble members, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of these lovely performers any time they stepped on the stage.

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Fantastic job to director, Jake Anderson. His work with Aaron Webb and Lorrinda Christensen made for some truly beautiful music, and I definitely haven’t gotten it out of my head—which is bad, because I don’t have a way to listen to it now. The costume team did a fantastic job (Amy Martinez, Emily Landeen, Nyssa DeGrazio, Rachel Rasmussen, Alta High School, Taylorsville High School, Kim Russell). I loved the diversity of the costumes, and all of the bright and bold costuming decisions. The fight choreography (Michael Thrall, cast) is wonderful and engaging, and will leave you on the end of your seat.

If you are looking for a night of adventure, laughter, and brilliant performances, be sure to see Titus Production Theatre Company’s performance of The Three Musketeers. It will be unlike anything you have ever seen before, and I mean that in the best of ways.

Be sure to arrive early, as parking and seating are both limited. Also, bring cash or checks, as they do not accept credit cards. The show runs for about three and a half  hours with two short intermissions, similar to shows at the Shakespeare Festival, so plan in advance for a later night. Also, be cautious when bringing little ones. There is some slight language, though nothing egregious. However, the many deaths and the length of the show could be hard for some young ones. Ultimately, though, there is plenty for them to enjoy and to keep them engaged. We brought Aaron’s younger sister, and she loved the show just as much as we did.

Titus Production Theatre Co. presents The Three Musketeers, an original musical by Jake Anderson.

Performed at the Midvale Performing Arts Center (695 West Center St (7720 South), Midvale, Utah 84047)

The show runs through August 4th at 7:00 PM.

Tickets are $10, and may be purchased at the door. (Be aware, they only accept cash or check for your purchase, but there is an ATM located across the street.)

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Keep on Guessing in Covey Center for the Arts’ “Murder by the Book”

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By Andrea Johnson

Now, I love a murder mystery as much as the next girl.  In fact, my husband believes that my obsession with crime shows is merely research for his untimely demise. However, even I was delightfully flummoxed by the twists and turns of Murder by the Book, an intricate who-done-it-and-done-it-again directed by Reese Purser and produced by the Covey Center for the Arts in Provo, Utah.

Just when you think you have it all figured out, they switch glasses.

The Covey Center complex is a beautiful theater in downtown Provo, and I always enjoy attending events in this space.  As we arrived, we were easily able to park close to the theater and walk right up to the doors.  There are two theaters in the building, and this performance is in the Brinton Black Box on the upper level.  I was excited to bring my husband and my mom to this show, as they are both avid readers of mystery novels. Given that none of us had seen or read this play before, we were all excited to see if we could solve the mystery.  As is typical of black box theater, some of the seating is in the corners, and that is where our seats were. The show moves and changes quickly, actively, and excitingly, so it is a little frustrating to have to peer around so much, but the fast pace is quite enjoyable.

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As reviewers, we are asked to give a little bit of a plot summary for the reading audience, especially for new or unfamiliar plays.  However, I am in a bit of a quandary in that this play is best watched with little or no background information going in.  I loved the not-knowing that came from actually reading the wrong play synopsis prior to the performance.  It was just a lot of fun, and I had no idea where the plot was going to take me.  But, for the sake of a starting point, Murder by the Book is a glimpse into the witty murder plot gone awry in the English flat of a famous mystery writer and critic, Selwyn Piper.  What happens after that is all a spoiler alert.

Joel Applegate is perfectly cast in the role of Selwyn, and plays the self-important and self-assured writer with an air of superiority you secretly wish will lead to his demise.  His desire to be the smartest person in the room plays well, and except for some confusing pauses, is loaded with quick quips and dagger-smooth jabs.  I am not sure if the lags in dialogue are an acting choice or an actor fog moment, but they are few and far between.  I enjoyed his performance a great deal, but especially the interchange between Selwyn and his estranged wife, Imogen Piper, played by Chandra Lloyd.  Honestly, the interplay when they are finally alone was delightful, and I love how that worked throughout the rest of the show.  Chandra’s performance of Imogen is smooth and powerful, especially when interacting with Selwyn, and is a highlight of the show.

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Imogen’s relationship with her lover, John Douglas, played by Ryan Pfister, does not play as well, however.  My mother remarked that she wasn’t really sure they were lovers at all.  There is some misperception of intention that resides within the plot, but I feel like the choices of the moment are also muddled. The relationship just doesn’t play as strong as the others.  Enhanced choices by John could be played as deception, adding to the already complicated interplay and improving Imogen’s choices as well.  That being said, Ryan delivers some delightful punchlines, and you almost feel sorry for John in the end.  Almost.

Selwyn’s relationship with his secretary, Christine Scott, played by Sierra June Christensen, is a fun beginning to the show. Although, I must admit it is a little confusing.  Be patient with it as you view the show, as it turned out to be an accurate portrayal, although appearing not well-defined in the beginning.  Sierra really captured the honesty of all of her relationships within the show, and without giving away the plot, is particularly good at not hiding it either.

And now, the Neighbor, Peter Fletcher, played deftly by Braden Nelsen.  This was my favorite performance of the night.  It is clean, crisp, and delightful.  The actor carries a smirk worth a thousand words.  I just want to add that I suspected him from the beginning.  You will just have to watch the show to see if I was right.

Sierra’s portrayal of the drunk Christine was the best alcohol performance of the night.  There is a lot of alcohol in this show.  It is integral to the plot, so if it offends, there is no way to culturally smooth it over.  However, the amount consumed by some of the other actors didn’t seem to affect them, not in quantity, or in the drinking of it.  I would have liked to see a little bit more of the effect of alcohol play into the confusion and unraveling at the end of the show.

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We left the theater thoroughly satisfied.  Director Reese Purser wove a tapestry of intrigue and movement and characterization worthy of the best mystery writer.  The music selection is on point.  Eighties fans, you will love that this is set in your favorite decade.  Just don’t miss the specificity of the music choice.  Purser didn’t just grab random songs from the era of amazing music, he made them speak to the plot.

You need to see this show.  Given the almost-capacity attendance of the Saturday evening performance, you need to get your tickets soon.  Murder by the Book is a delicious and decadent serving of plot twists, surprises, and intrigue.  Enjoy thinking you have it all figured out.

Covey Center for the Arts presents Murder by the Book by Duncan Greenwood & Robert King

Covey Center for the Arts, 425 West Center, Provo, Utah

Show plays Thursday, Friday, Saturday through August 19, 2017, curtain at 7:30 PM (the theater requests that you are in your seats by 7:20 due to the nature of the black box)

Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students/senior/military.

Box Office 801-852-7007

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Utah Repertory Theater’s “Exposure” Dares to Bare All with Heartfelt Vulnerability

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By Jamie Haderlie

When you go to see a show at the annual Fringe Festival in Salt Lake City, you can definitely expect bare bones, low-budget storytelling at its finest. However, in the case of Exposure, performed at the Courage Theater at Westminster College, I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a very professional black box theater setting.

The set, staged with a charming minimalism of two chairs, a mattress, a table,two laptops and a cell phone, gives the audience a brilliant foreshadowing of what’s about to happen. Soft Alternative rock music plays in the background, enveloping the audience in the familiar scenario of being single. With a meticulously-crafted set and environment, I knew I was in for a treat. This set me up in a delightful way for the unexpected: a beautifully intense experience of lies, truth, and the tango they dance.

Exposure tells the story of a man, Miles (played with heart-touching cynicism by JayC Stoddard), who is addicted to internet dating. He meets a fellow addict, Faye (played with beautiful optimism by Natalia Noble), and they engage in some playful cyber-relations. This is definitely not a play to show the kids. Although there is no nudity, Exposure explores every facet of dating website fantasies, including cyber sex. Needless to say, if an episode of Sex and the City can make you blush, this play is not for you. However, if you are looking to get struck to the core with heartfelt honesty and witness the brilliantly-crafted journey of two people putting up walls, tearing them down, exploiting and exposing, go see this play now.

One of the most creative elements of this story is the introduction to the other characters. The play begins, not with Stoddard and Noble, but with two others–a flirtatious, charismatic and sensual woman named Lilly (played with unbridled enthusiasm by Andrea Peterson), and a confident, slightly smug, detached man named Ethan (played with remarkable realism by Derek Gregerson.) As the play continues and these two interact, we soon realize they are the personifications of the ultimate, ideal online profile. Lilly and Ethan are fictional projections representing what Faye and Miles wish they could really be. Faye eloquently describes Lilly as a defense mechanism when she says, “She takes the ugly for me. There’s nothing anyone can say that will ever hurt her. She’s the me I can’t be.”

Noble sets the tone of the play immediately, nestled safely in her barricade of lies. She asks Stoddard to “lie to me with a kiss.” In so doing, she sends Peterson out dancing in the ether, reveling in fantasy. She performs an intense tango with Gregerson, ultimately ending in an powerdul climax. (See? Keep the kids at home.)

Stoddard, Noble, Peterson, and Gregerson perform their roles of intermingled fantasy and reality with remarkable skill and honesty. Each actor portrays their character perfectly and dances a fascinating tango as the mood shifts from fun flirtation to deep introspection. The blocking is impeccably crafted, with each character interacting physically and swapping partners depending on the transition in emotion, from guarded to exposed. The music accompanies the movement with clever planning, shifting from Tango to Jazz to Alternative rock. I felt as if the audience was watching a modern dance performance, a music concert, and an incredible play all in one.

As the characters take us down a guided tour of the truth and lies of internet dating, they remind us of who we are at our core and begin to strip away at our facades, revealing honest insecurities bit by bit, until we too are exposed. Director Josh Patterson keeps the show tight and–perfect.

Written by Stoddard and Noble, I was worried that a play written by young actors would come across as many plays written by younger actors do– forced and clichéd. I was so wrong. Exposure is not only a well-executed play, but a very important work of literature for our time. It both mocks and expertly exposes the intricacies of how we present ourselves online, how greatly we depend upon our addictions to the attention, and how easily the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. In my opinion, Exposure deserves national exposure as one of the most well-written, ingeniously-crafted works of our generation.

I love that the Salt Lake City Fringe Festival provides opportunities for playwrights, actors, and directors to present their remarkable creations to the masses. I was truly touched by this play and left with a deep sense of wonder at the resilience, optimism, cynicism, and the cold, guarded nature of the human spirit. If you make it out to the festival to see any production, this is the must-see experience of a lifetime.

Utah Repertory Theater presents Exposure by Natalia Noble and Jay C. Stoddard

The Courage Theater at the Jewett Center for Performing Arts at Westminster College (1840 South 1300 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84105)

Tickets: $10, with a $5 festival admission fee at http://greatsaltlakefringe.org

July 29 9:00-10:00 PM, August 3 9:00-10:00 PM, July 30 5:30 PM-6:30 PM, August 4 10:30-11:30 PM, August 6 6:00-7:00 PM

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Cottonwood Height’s “Annie” is Fun for All

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By Jenny Simmons

Cottonwood Heights Arts Council is really making its presence known. They have been around since 2009, and their shows just keep getting better. Summer of 2017’s production is Annie, and it’s a winner.

We all know and love Annie (Madeline Best) as the little orphan girl who captures the heart of the richest man in America in 1933. It is the middle of the Great Depression when we meet the insufferable Miss Hannigan( Marcela Fedderson) to her orphan charges. The girls live in deplorable conditions, until one day Miss Hannigan finds out Oliver Warbucks (Rohit Raghavan) wants an orphan to spend the holidays with him. Havoc, fun, and sweetness ensue.

Watch out world, Best’s portrayal of Annie is  shows she is a very talented young   actress whose impressive singing voice and great acting style gives deep emotion to Annie’s character.. It is evident she has trained for many years.

Fedderson’s Miss Hannigan is evil and silly all rolled into one.  Fedderson has so many fun nuances, I couldn’t stop laughing when she was onstage. She brings something extra to Hannagin you don’t want to miss.

Natalie Nielson’s Grace was just that–full of grace. She absolutely floated across the stage. Her beautiful soprano voice accentuated her lovely performance. She and Warbucks have a palpable “Boss/I-kinda-dig-you” chemistry. Raghavan’s Warbucks was fun to watch as he went from stark businessman to a human puddle around Annie. I have seen Annie several times and I have never seen a Warbucks with as powerful a voice as Raghavan. The song in which he expresses his love for this little girl, Something was Missing,” is one I haven’t noticed before until tonight. Raghavan makes it poignant and memorable.

Josiah Rupp and Jen Spongberg are spot on as everyone’s favorite bird-brained villains. I don’t know how he does it, but Rupp made Rooster slimy and lovable all at the same time. Spongberg’s Lily St. Regis, named ”aftah” the hotel, is such a delight. She’s always doing something squirrely in the background, without upstaging anyone. You can look forward to her antics throughout the show. This couple may not be onstage much, but we get to soak up every ounce of their awesomeness when it does happen.

Cameron Vikilian is another actor with not much stage time. He impeccably plays Radio Announcer Bert Healy and Drake, Warbuck’s Chief of Staff. Talk about making the most of your part, Vikilian had me in stitches the whole time. He is an ingenious actor and comedian. Don’t tell the others, but he steals the show. I love how he announces the sponsors of the radio show as CHAC’s sponsors. What a fun way to give a nod of thanks to the folks who help productions like this come to fruition.

I love watching  performance  when you know the production team expects perfection. Marilyn Whipple’s directing made this evident. When you have 24 little girls ages 4-11, it can go either way. These orphans are impeccable and dazzling. They are adorable and sassy when they need to be and even the littlest girls know their dance steps and sing out loud and proud. Thankfully, Drew Angelovic and her assistant, Duncan Angelovic, didn’t back off with their choreography. This brother/sister duo came up with dances that are intricate, fun, and interesting. The whole cast is well-rehearsed and confident. Even with the normal dress rehearsal fumbles, I can see they are giving it their all. Jannalee Hunsaker not only taught them the music, she taught them that holding out notes adds more emotion.

We all know community theater productions sometimes suffer with ensemble numbers, but not this cast. You can tell just how hard they have worked.

Dave Bates creates magical projections that really make the show unique and special. He takes us back to 1933 with just a picture projected on a wall. I was very impressed. Brad Lake’s set is beautiful and well-constructed. I wasn’t even a little bit nervous watching those sweet little girls jumping around on that bed. Warbucks’ mansion is posh and regal, while the orphanage is dilapidated. Natalie Daniel has done an amazing job with the costumes. Everyone looked perfect. My favorite costumes included Annie’s teal dress to meet President Roosevelt at the White House, the Boylin Sisters’ adorable “current and yet period dresses,” and, of course, the iconic Annie red dress everyone knows and loves.

Bring all your friends and family to this great production of Annie—fun for everyone at a great price.

Cottonwood Heights Arts Council presents Annie, with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and book by Thomas Meehan.

Butler Middle School, 7530 S. 2700 E., Cottonwood Heights, UT 84121 (Butler Middle School is located next to Cottonwood Heights Rec Center, but the theater entrance is at the far south side of the building.)

July 28, 29, 31, August 5-6 7:30 PM, July 29 12:30 PM

Tickets: $10 for adults, $8 for children ages 3-12, and seniors ages 65 and up. Monday, July 31, has a Family Pass for $45 for 2 adults and up to 5 children.
You can purchase online tickets here with a $1 service fee. Or you can buy them at the door.

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Death and Mystery Delight at CenterPoint Theatre’s Production of “An Inspector Calls”

By Brittney Marie Nielson

20287156_1350145061707596_2026624969527866729_oEven though the Mainstage at the beautiful Centerpoint theater often gets a lot of the attention with its large cast musicals, the smaller Blackbox theater is proving that they are a force to be reckoned with in the small seven person cast of An Inspector Calls written by J.B. Priestley. This compelling work of drama was first performed in 1945 to great acclaim, and has since gone on to enjoy several revivals, including a run during Pioneer Theaters Company’s 2016 season.

The story surrounds a small well-to-do family set in 1912. Like many other works of this kind, the entire play takes place within the confines of one night, which as the show opens, we are to understand is one of celebration as the family toasts the engagement of their only daughter Sheila Birling (Katie Plott) to a handsome young aristocrat named Gerald Croft (Jackson Reo Stewart). Also present at the celebration are Sheila’s father Arthur Birling (Nathan Riddle), mother Sybil Birling (Cathy Ostler), and the brother Eric Birling (Jordan Davis.) It doesn’t take long before the night turns into something that no one in this affluent family could have imagined; brought on by the sudden appearance of Inspector Goole (Ed Farnsworth). What follows is a roller coaster ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and leaves you wondering who was this mysterious inspector, and what exactly are we all meant to learn from his visit.

Because the show has so many twists and turns, I hesitate to say much more about the plot, lest I ruin some of the best moments of revelation. This play is just as much a journey for the audience as it is for the characters. The actors in this production do an outstanding job of discovering each new layer in real time with the rest of us.

Riddle shines in his role as the man who is every bit the proper master of the manor. Even though this was just the preview night, Riddle seemed like he had been through weeks of performances already. He is polished and clean in his delivery, and his character is solid and defined. Not only that, but he is just really enjoyable to watch.

This goes for every actor across the board, which is not an easy feat to accomplish when there is so much dialogue. There truly is not a weak link among them, and even in the moments when it seemed as though one of the actors might have stumbled a line, they did it in such a way that made me wonder if perhaps they had been directed to do so – it was that natural. There are never any deer-in-the-headlight moments, no breaks in character, and no lack of confidence. I was truly impressed to see such a solid group of performers top to bottom. Even the maid Edna (Marinda Maxfield), who only had an appearance or two throughout the entirety of the production, is totally believable as her character. She comes on, she does what her character is supposed to do, and she is off. You really got the sense that each actor was an essential cog in the machine of this project, and each one of them held their weight.

As I mentioned before, I was thoroughly impressed by the caliber of each of the performers, and I was particularly impressed with Plott in her portrayal of the daughter. When we first meet her character, you get the sense that she is just another naïve young thing engaged to a man who is going to help her climb the social ladder – But what you quickly come to realize is that she is anything but naïve. Not only do we discover that the daughter seems to be the voice of reason throughout much of the chaos, but she also appears to be the pleading conscience of the family. Plott does an amazing job bringing depth and reality to her character. She is strong, she is vulnerable, and she is entirely believable. I also enjoyed how she was able to find moments of intensity without resorting to yelling or high pitched inflections.

The other standout performance for me was Farnsworth as the Inspector. Even though Farnsworth comes from a background of mostly comedy, you would think that he had spent the majority of his career in the film noir business based off of his compelling portrayal. Farnsworth is a master of creating suspense, and puts thought into every word, every gesture, and even every facial expression of his character. When he moves he moves with purpose, and when he speaks, even his softly delivered lines carry an intensity that fills the entire room. It’s not hard to imagine how it is this family feels compelled to divulge their deepest darkest secrets to this stranger.

The moment you think you have this show “figured out” it will turn on you. I consider myself fairly adept at seeing plot twists coming from a mile away – but I have to admit that even I didn’t see where this tale would eventually lead. By the time intermission arrived I was literally leaned forward in my chair just waiting for the next revelation. Usually by intermission I find myself looking at my phone and wondering how much longer the show is going to go. Not during this show. I was so enthralled in the drama that by the time it was over, it felt as though no time had passed at all. That is a testament not only to the actors and their pacing, but also the director Richie Uminski, and his vision of the piece. As an actor, I have so much respect for directors that can produce such quick paced and compelling work – especially when faced with as much heavy subject matter as this show has.

On that subject, I feel like I should warn you that even though the show isn’t necessarily full of adult language, (swear words and the like) it deals with adult topics that might be too intense for children and more sensitive individuals. If you find yourself offended by the discussion of alcohol, suicide, and adult relations, then you might have a hard time with some of the dialogue of this show. That being said, I was never uncomfortable, nor did I ever feel personally offended by anything that was said. These might be heavy subjects, but the cast treats them with the gravity and soberness that they deserve. You can tell that they are aware of the weight of the message that they are trying to convey.

Davis does an excellent job of embodying the weight and scope of his role. I’ll be honest; during the first act his character came across as slightly rigid, and I found myself wondering if perhaps he was nervous or overthinking his performance. I thought that until the end of the first act when he makes a stunning transformation from stoic and rigid to disheveled and utterly undone. I also very much appreciated the juxtaposition of the mother character, who stays true to herself throughout the show, specifically in her refusal to see any perspective that isn’t her own. It is all too easy to see ourselves in her character, and she did an excellent job at making me hate myself, while being increasingly frustrated with her character’s blindness and arrogance.

There is truly not a lull in this entire performance, and by the time they reach the final climax it becomes just as entertaining to watch the reactions of the surrounding audience members. The gasps, the hands on faces when they finally put it all together – it was really fun to see how into it everyone was getting. After the inspector leaves you might think that the show is over, but really, it is about to take yet another twist. Guided by Stewart, the family begins to question what really happen to them that night. Stewart takes on the role of inspector as he dissects the events of the evening in an attempt to make sense of it all. Stewart also does an excellent job of bringing a real sense of humanity and tenderness to his role. There are times when you feel like you should hate him on principle, but instead you find yourself identifying with him and rooting for him.

Overall, every character is cast appropriately and execute their roles with thoughtfulness and heart. There is a cohesiveness between the characters that is refreshing to see from a show that is about to see an audience for the first time. You can tell that each of the actors took the time to discover motivations, and history for each of their character, and each one has a story to tell, and a lesson to teach.

I had an opportunity to interview Farnsworth about his feelings on the overarching message of the piece, and he shared with me that even though the world of these characters takes place over 100 years ago, the message that it contains remains as relevant today (if not more so) as when it was written. When I asked Farnsworth what he wanted people to take away from the performance, he told me that he hoped that people would “Come to let the show in.” The biggest takeaway for me was the idea that none of us live in a vacuum, or, as the Inspector aptly observes, “We don’t live alone.” It is so easy to get caught up in our own lives that we often forget how our actions can have a profound effect on the lives of those we come in contact with, and when those worlds do collide, it is how we respond that ultimately determine the kind of people we are.

Visually speaking, the set and costumes are both minimal and elegant. Brian Hahn (set design), and Jennie Richardson (costume design), both did an incredible job of conveying the idea of each character and their world without distracting from the show. The Blackbox is a smaller space, and I really appreciate the way that both the set and the costumes fit within its confines. The lighting (Jay M. Clark) was gentle and lent itself to the overall intrigue of the show, and even though none of the actors wore microphones, I never had a problem hearing or understanding anything they said. From a technical aspect, the show is solid.

I would absolutely recommend this incredible show, and congratulate the entire production staff, cast, and crew of An Inspector Calls on a stellar product.

Centerpoint Legacy Theater proudly presents An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

Centerpoint Legacy Theater, Leishman Hall, 525 N 400 W, Centerville, UT

July 28-August 19, Monday, Thursday – Saturday 7:00 PM

Tickets – $15, Free Parking

801.298.1302

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Alpine Community Theater’s “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” Charms Their Audience in American Fork

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By Angela Dell 

Alpine Community Theater’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the Valentine Theater in American Fork is a guarantee good time for all ages. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is Broadway’s tenth longest-running production in history and has been enchanting audiences for over two decades with its lively music written by the incomparable Alan Menken and lyrics by the estimable Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Based off the Academy Award-winning 1991 animated film, additional scores have been added to dive into an already beloved story and beloved characters.

Anyone unfamiliar with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast can be brought up to speed with this simple, sweet, slightly formulaic plotline. Bookish Belle (the Beauty) played truly beautifully by Amber Lee Roberts and her father Maurice (Dave Peterson) are oddballs in their town. Hunky, selfish Gaston (Bob Bauer) wants Belle but she tells him no, so Gaston tries to put Maurice in an insane asylum to manipulate Bell. The Beast (Michael Hatch) lives in a doomed, dark castle. Once a prince, he and his whole household have been cursed—he into a Beast, his staff into household items. In an interesting and fantastic turn of events, Belle comes to live with the Beast, and even more surprising, she learns to love the Beast and thus can break the spell and turn him back into a prince and the dishes, etc. can become human again. Sound unusual? It is. But it completely works—especially when set to wonderful music.

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The cast and crew have clearly put their hearts and souls into the production. Roberts’ Belle  is so charming and playful, you can’t help but watch her to see what she’ll do when she thinks no one is looking. Roberts is Belle. It’s clear this character means a lot to her and that she has worked hard to give the audience a character to love and adore. Her voice is absolutely lovely and combined with her ability to put the correct emotions into each of the pieces she sings, she shines brightly. Her solo “Belle’s Reprise” is so stunning it gave me goosebumps. Her clear tones and light vibrato is an obvious indicator of her dedication to learn the music well. Peterson’s Maurice is so sincere and does a wonderful job establishing a tender father/daughter relationship in the duet “No Matter What.”

Hatch as The Beast is so charmingly awkward in his attentions to Belle, you can’t help but cheer for him. Hatch works so hard to put so much physicality into his role as Beast, you can see he cares for his character’s feelings and asks the audience to care as much as he does. Bauer as Gaston shows his character’s selfish vanity and constant need for attention—and we love to hate him for this. Bauer puts confidence and humor into his character that though he’s a big jerk, we love it when he’s onstage. His ability to create conflict while onstage is masterful. Lefou (Greg Belnap), Gaston’s yes man sidekick, is such a physically comedic character, the audience is always pleased when he’s onstage. Belnap uses both his voice and his actions to create a truly amusing, honest Lefou. His ability to stay in the moment with his scene partner is impressive when it is easy to always want to break the fourth wall. Because of this, when he does break the fourth wall, it means more to the audience and we feel like we’re a part of the joke, rather than the deciders of whether he is entertaining enough or not.

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Lumiere (Alex Cox) (who plays a candlestick) and Cogsworth (Brenton Ferrell) (a clock) have an absolutely charming and entertaining relationship. Cox brings light and charm to Lumiere that makes the audience feel welcome and comfortable. Ferrell’s English dialect when speaking is correct and consistent, which can be difficult. There are a handful of people I have heard in person that have mastered an English dialect onstage and he is one of them. (Jolly good!) Mrs. Potts (Courtney Byrom) (a teapot) has a warm, cheerful voice that makes you feel as comfortable as a tea cozy. Byrom’s warmth and cheer is spread throughout the stage in every scene she’s in. Her interactions with Chip (Parker Burnham) (her son, who is a teacup) are sincere and honest, which is really special when you get the privilege to work with a younger actor. Burnham does a delightful job being the charming Chip with his well-timed lines and sincere execution of them. Babette (Ally Johnson) (a feather duster) swept the audience away with her sass and contrariness. Johnson’s devotion to the roll shows in her physicality and her ability to use a dialect while also speaking clearly enough to understand what she’s saying. The Wardrobe (Virginia Perkins) is a diverting and charming addition to the stage. Perkins is a bold actress who brings charm and comedy to her role as a rather clunky piece of furniture. She looked like she was having as much fun as the audience when she was on stage. The three Silly Girls (Brittanie Cooper, Carly Fontaine, and Melissa VanDam) that follow Gaston around are a force to be reckoned with. Their commitment to their roles allows for their scene partners to be more present and keep up with their ever-changing emotions. The rest of the cast are just as remarkable as the top billed characters. They are all filled with a wealth of talent and I was completely impressed after finding out that this was the first time being onstage for some of these cast members.

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Laura Snyder does a masterful job not only directing, but producing and choreographing her cast into a true ensemble. The energy is high and the blocking is organized and meaningful. There were plenty of people to give her a real challenge to keep it organized. She pulls it off, though, and the result is the final product I saw last night. Although last night there seemed to be some troubles with the microphones, the cast handled them extremely well and stayed in character at all times. The set (Denae Devey) is organized and clean looking without too many extra baubles, which is good when you have the space and the cast size they have. The lighting (Tyler Harris) was exciting and the special effects inventive. I’ve never been to a community theater version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast so I wasn’t sure how they would manage some of the more elaborate costumes (Julie Merrell), but they are lovely. The colors coordinate with the moods of the scenes appropriately. When they are in the woods, the wolves’ costumes look dark and mysterious. During the scenes with the villagers there’s a veritable rainbow on stage to help convey the busyness of a village. Music Directors Martha Hodges and Carie Vaughn have created a heavenly chorus of this cast and the harmonies are gorgeous. The principals are simply fantastic.

When I went last night, I viewed the Red Cast’s performance; their Gold Cast will be performing Friday, the Saturday matinee, and Monday, the Red cast making a reappearance Saturday evening. If the Gold Cast worked as hard as the Red Cast, I’m sure they’ll be just as much of a treat to see. I will certainly be recommending that my friends attend and enjoy the show.

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It was easy to get to the theater and they had plenty of signs out to help patrons find the parking lot. There seemed to be enough parking and I believe there was a full house. Their house manager informed me there isn’t a bad seat in the house and I was inclined to agree, the seats are organized in a way that allow everyone a clear view of the stage. I would recommend bringing a seat cushion if you have a hard time sitting for long periods of time, the seats are a little hard. Bring your camera to take pictures with the cast afterward. They’re all very friendly and certainly want you to “be their guest.”

With the live action movie of Beauty and the Beast being shown recently, some people may be reluctant to see the live musical. Don’t be. Alpine Community Theater’s production of Beauty and the Beast is well worth seeing. And now that they’ve added an extra performance, you have no excuse. Bring your children and your parents and grandparents and see the show that helps you believe that love can conquer all.

Alpine Community Theater presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice

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Valentine Theater, 839 E 9th N, American Fork, UT 84003

July 28th, 29th, 31st at 7:00 PM with a matinee on the 29th at 2:00 PM

Tickets: Adults 12+: $12; Children/Students/Senior Citizens: $10

801-404-0736

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Pickleville Playhouse’s Bandito Brings Adventure, Romance, and Uncontrollable Laughter to Garden City, Utah

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by Megan and Shelly Wallentine

The latest installment in the Juanito Bandito series, Love and Death vs. El Bandito, is currently playing at Pickleville Playhouse in Garden City, Utah. Writer T.J. Davis created the character over 11 years ago, and has been writing a new show every year since. Bandito continues the exploits of wily Juanito Bandito (T.J. Davis) as he attempts to claim the treasure of the very recently deceased pirate El Diablo. Along the way, he has plenty of run-ins with Sheriff Griff (Nathan Sheppard/Slater Astenhurst) and falls in love with the beautiful Luna (Sara Sanderson/Julia Davis.) The Bandito series has become extremely popular within Garden City and the rest of the Bear Lake Valley.

Lights? Check. Sound? Check. Random, powerful hallucinations of giant pink bunnies dancing the Harlem Shake? Check.

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Pickleville Playhouse is a cozy theater that uses its small size to its advantage.  Sometimes when attending a smaller theatre, patrons leave with the feeling of a less-than-premium experience. This is not the case at Pickleville. Rather than fight against it, the cast and crew embrace the size of their theatre and use it to engage the audience to create a more authentic experience. Pickleville is a very “audience friendly” theatre. During the performance of Bandito, they choose an audience member to briefly interact with onstage. Not only are the cast members your ushers as you arrive, they sell concessions at intermission too. Additionally, they are available outside after the show to meet the audience and take pictures, and are wonderful with the younger guests.

Davis is also the director of Love and Death vs. El Bandito. Along with Bandito, Griff, and Luna, the show’s characters include Gratilda (Kenzie Davis), Grim (Nathan Kremin), Jessie (Emma Larsen/Sydney Howell), Stubbs (Quinn Osborne/Jeremy Egan), and the piano player (Luke Shepherd/Camille Decker).

Bandito isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you are looking for a production with a new, exciting plot and round, dynamic characters, this isn’t the show for you. With Bandito, the plot is a predictable Western melodrama, except that the protagonist is the “bad guy”. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bandito’s focus isn’t the plot. The plot is just a loose structure into which they have crammed as many jokes and pop culture references as possible. For this production, I would recommend going into it expecting something more akin to sketch comedy, a la Studio C. It all depends on your style of humor. Personally, we loved it. I was doubled over for most of the performance, as the talented cast referenced the Harlem Shake, Dora the Explorer, dabbing, hashtags, Donald Trump, Kanye West, Star Wars, and much, much more. The vocal talent for this production is wonderful, as is the choreography. Several different styles were shown during the show, including rap, hip hop, traditional Broadway, and much more. The costumes (Erin Davis) fit the show and each character well.

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A digital backdrop creates multiple visual scene changes to minimalize the need for set props on this small stage.  Very affordable ticket prices ($15-$26) make this a production worth seeing.  An added bonus to this playhouse is the option to enjoy a full meat with your performance ticket.  The Pickleville Grill  offers an outstanding outdoor family dining experience at only $15 for adults and $9 for kids.

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Pickleville Playhouse presents Love and Death vs. El Bandito by T.J. Davis

Pickleville Playhouse, 2049 S Bear Lake Blvd, Garden City, UT, 84028

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through September 1, 2017, Showtimes vary

Tickets:  $15-26

(435) 946-2918

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