The “2017 Big Band Tribute–Songs from the Silver Screen” at the Draper City Amphitheater Will Make You “In The Mood” to Dance the Night Away

By Amanda Berg Whittle

Going to Songs from the Silver Screen in Draper was the most fun my husband and I have had in quite a while. The amphitheater stage is large, the acoustics are wonderful, and the large grass terrace levels are comfortable and roomy, especially toward the back, where we sat. The best part, of course, is the music.

This performance is a combination of legendary swing solo, duet, trio, and ensemble songs and dances with back-up music provided by the extraordinary Riverton Jazz Band (directed by Preston Lloyd and Grant Hurst). The director, Valaura Arnold, and video producer, Adam Day, choose to have scenes from the movies these songs are most famously from in the background playing, often introducing the piece with a short clip that introduces the piece in the movie itself. This helps give context to the singing, costume (no costumer listed) and choreography choices (Stephanie Dana). I especially appreciate the costumer’s decision to dress the singers and dancers so they match the costumes in their accompanying movies almost perfectly. Arnold and Dana do a great job creating dances and overall movement that match the era of music, and the large group choreography, especially during the song “In the Mood”, is impressive and fun.

All 21 songs had soloists, so it would be impossible to name them all, but I would love to talk about some especially impressive singers and dancers. I have always enjoyed the Andrews Sisters, so I appreciate that Cory Ellen Nelson, Grace Hamner, and Luana Parkes work to achieve a tone quality and overall sound nearly matching the Andrews Sisters. It feels like I am watching them perform live. One male solo singer, Mike Handy (“Come Fly With Me” and “You Make Me Feel So Young”), and one female solo singer, director, Arnold (“As Time Goes By”), stick out to me when I think about the most authentic jazz voices and styles. I also appreciate Parkes’ (“Love Is Here To Stay”) ability to skat (jazz vocal improvise), and Jac Madsen‘s (“Night and Day”) Fred Astaire-esque dancing. Sarah Jane Hale opens up the show with a lovely and lively rendition of “Blue Skies,” which helps set the stage for a night of fabulous music!

The most impressive part of this show, however, is the band. The Riverton Jazz Band is so talented, they could easily travel to New York and be featured at the Blue Note. Their tenor saxophone player has a beautiful yet jazzy timbre to his playing, and does absolutely wonderful solos in over half the songs. The first (highest) trumpet player doesn’t sound screechy or bright on even the highest notes, and the fact that he can play in that range for almost two hours is incredibly awe-inspiring to me as a high brass and jazz trumpet player. I also enjoyed highly the trombone soloist, as his solos are exciting and humorous. Overall, the band was my favorite part of this performance because their overall musicality is far above what I would ever expect from a local jazz band.

If you have the time tonight, and tonight only, make sure you get down to the Draper Amphitheater and see the Big Band Tribute presented by the Draper Arts Council! Remember to bring your dancing shoes, as the dance floor is big enough to fit everyone! It’s outdoors, so remember also to have bug spray and a light jacket, as it gets cold after dark. If you prefer not to sit on the grass, blankets and lawn chairs are permitted. So be sure to get to the Draper City Amphitheater tonight, for this show will surely fly you to the moon!

Draper Arts Council presents 2017 Big Band Tribute–Songs from the Silver ScreenDraper City Amphitheater 944 Vestry Rd, Draper, UT 84020                                 August 18th and 19th 7:30 PM                                                                                     Tickets: Adults $10; Children 2-12 $7; Children under 2 are Free                                Big Band Tribute  Facebook Page

Laugh and Cry Your Way Through “Broadway Bound” at the Egyptian in Park City

By Susannah Whitman

You don’t have to head to New York to see Broadway Bound—you just need to make the short drive to the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, where the Neil Simon Festival is putting on a brilliant production. The Neil Simon Festival happens annually in Cedar City, but luckily for us here in northern Utah, they’re doing a short run of one of their productions at the Egyptian.

Broadway Bound is the third and final chapter in the “Eugene Trilogy,” Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical series of plays. But you don’t need to have seen Brighton Beach Memoirs or Biloxi Blues to appreciate Broadway Bound. It stands on its own two feet. Adult brothers Eugene (Trevor Messenger) and Stan (Christopher Whiteside) live at home with their no-nonsense mother Kate (Kirsten Sham), their mostly absent father Jack (Peter Sham), and their curmudgeonly grandfather Ben (Richard Bugg.) Kate’s sister Blanche (Alyson King), now married to a rich garment district tycoon, makes an occasional visit out to the old family home. Eugene and Stan hate their day jobs and have dreams of being a comedy writing team, so when they get a chance to “audition” their work at a CBS radio show, they throw themselves into the task. But while Eugene and Stan’s comedy careers are taking off, their family is falling apart around them. It’s a self-aware little play—Eugene often turns and addresses the audience directly, commenting on what’s happening onstage. The script has all of the zippy dialogue you’d expect from a Neil Simon play, which helps to soften some of the heartbreak of the story, creating a poignant and moving show.

Bugg is a delightful, elderly grump as Grandpa Ben, and his timing is impeccable in both humorous and serious moments. Neil Simon’s work demands a sort of rhythmic dance through the dialogue, and Bugg hit all the right notes. King is an elegant Blanche, who has learned to hide her blue collar ways under white collar (or mink collar, as the case may be) clothes. Her refinement slowly crumbles away in her scenes with Bugg, as she becomes more vulnerable and angry. Peter Sham is a deeply sympathetic Jack, who has spent his entire life making sacrifices for a family and a life that have not fulfilled him. Peter Sham’s performance is moving and honest, especially in his moments of hurt and anger. Whiteside is wonderful as the slightly neurotic Stan, and his quirks and worries endeared him to us as the audience.

Truly stand out performances come from Messenger and Kirsten Sham. Messenger is charismatic, funny, and confident as the narrator Eugene. He truly connects with both his fellow actors and the audience. He makes strong and effective choices, and while he’s a strong comedic actor, his work is deeply moving in his more serious scenes. Kirsten Sham’s rough, matter-of-fact manner as the matriarch of the Jerome household is a formidable force. As the play goes on, we slowly see her become more and more vulnerable, which makes her tough exterior all the more dimensional. The scene in the second act, in which she tells the story of dancing at the Primrose is the equivalent of a musical theatre showstopper. Kirsten Sham truly shone in those moments.

The technical elements of the show are simple. The set designed by Randy Lawrence Seely had nice levels, and its warm colors create the sense of a working class home. It’s not too shabby, but it’s clear that everything in the rooms had to be worked for. Lighting design by Rebekah Bugg created effective shifts for when Eugene broke the 4th wall. Costumes by Jen Bach were perfect for the time period, and Kate’s elegant dress in Act II is so good that it should have its own bio.

When you arrive at the Egyptian, plan to spend a few minutes (and a few dollars) on parking. There’s a lot to see and do in Park City, and historic downtown is usually pretty busy, so plan ahead. This show only has a very short run in this neck of the woods, so hurry and catch this stunning production before it closes. I’m notoriously stingy about giving standing ovations, but I leapt to my feet at the end of this show.

The Neil Simon Festival presents Broadway Bound by Neil Simon                               Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main Street, Park City UT 84060                                                 August 18 – 20    8:00 PM                                                               TICKETS: Wednesday & Thursday $15 House / $19 Front-of-House / $25 Cabaret
Friday – Sunday: $19 House /  $23 Front-of-House / $29 Cabaret                               Contact: 435.649.9371   boxoffice@parkcityshows.com

 

 

The Four Seasons Theatre Company’s “A Rodgers & Hammerstein Concert” in Smithfield is a Glorious Nod to Great Music

By Leah Checketts

For two nights only, August 15-16, the Four Seasons Theatre Company are creating a musical journey on the Sky View High School stage through their production A Rodgers & Hammerstein Concert. 

With a very simple stage, the music, the musicians, and the stories are all the audience needs to be carried away through six of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s greatest works. Center stage is taken by Rock Strings Quartet, a six-member orchestra featuring top notch musicians. Twenty other vocalists round out the evening with their solo and ensemble pieces.

Director/Producer Jonathon Rash explained after the show that he had done a great deal of research in preparing for this production. Intertwined with the music are quotes and recordings from the composers and some of their original cast members. Narrations by Rash, the show’s Music Director, Melissa Hamilton, as well as some of the performers bring the pieces into focus.

The formal black outfits blend perfectly, letting the music and lyrics be the standout versus the usual scenery and color of the sets these pieces are usually performed on. The joy of hearing and feeling the music while learning more about these incredible men brought moments of great joy and moments of sorrow. When talking about how hard Oscar Hammerstein had worked on the words for “Hello, Young Lovers” (from The King and I) and how hurt he had been by Richard Rodgers lackadaisical response to it, the audience reaction was audible in its sorrow.

“Everyone has their favorites,” is something Rash points out as he addresses the songs to be performed throughout the evening. Even though some of my favorites may not have been on tonight’s menu, the evening was delightful and worth every minute. The only negative I had with the evening was something my husband and I agreed on. The piano was sometimes a little too loud and distracting. It detracted from the sounds of the strings and the voices a time or two, but other than that it was stunning!

Sadly, with such a large auditorium, it was not even a half-filled audience. There’s plenty of room for larger groups to go and sit together at the half-price ticket rate.

There’s more than enough to celebrate as the talented performers navigate through 19 numbers from six shows, starting with Oklahoma! and ending with the touching music of The Sound of Music. This production is a great introduction to many of the classical musical pieces of Rodgers & Hammerstein and is great for family members ages 3 and up.

Four Seasons Theatre Company presents A Rodgers & Hammerstein Concert             Sky View High School Auditorium, 520 South 250 East, Smithfield, Utah 84335             August 15 & 16, 2017 at 7:30 PM                                                                           Tickets: $11.00 online, $13.00 at the door (Groups of 10 or more get a 50% discount)     Contact: 435-535-1432                                                                                               Facebook Page                               Facebook Event

 

 

“Hello, Dolly!” in Smithfield by the Four Seasons Theater is Fun, Humorous, and Meaningful

By Jennifer Mustoe interviewing Dawn Yorgason

Having never seen Hello, Dolly!, I was surprised at how funny Four Seasons Theater’s production in Smithfield is. I laughed so much. I love all of Four Seasons’ shows—I don’t miss them. Their costumes, acting, music, set—all are great. I didn’t know the show Hello, Dolly!, but knew the quality would be wonderful. Even still, I was blown away. I went with my daughter, age 14, a seasoned Four Seasons actress, and both of us loved loved loved this. We were thrilled with the quality. The story is of Dolly Levi, a widow, who is the go-to matchmaker with a few secrets up her sleeve about her own romantic wishes. Hello, Dolly! takes place in the 1890s, filled with fun and dazzle, beautiful songs and a remarkably strong, lively, adorable leading lady.

All the six principals are truly remarkable—funny, talented, cute, completely convincing.

Teresa Jones as Dolly kept me involved the entire show. Her voice is great—beautiful, powerful, funny, very touching. She has to sing really low in one number and it got a fun snicker from the crowd. At times, I wasn’t sure if she was adlibbing the lines, she was so confident and natural.

Horace, played by Scott Hunsaker, plays off Jones well–they are so funny and comfortable with one another. I’ve seen him as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and he sure plays a gruff old guy well. With a beautiful voice. But he there was no Scrooge in this performance. He was Horace 100%.

Celeste Baillio as Irene is fun-loving and adventurous and I was completely convinced of her portrayal as the owner of the hat shop. She flirts with Cornelius (Jon Rash (who is also the Director)), who is also the leader of the two males and does his inventive character so well. He is a wonderful match for Baillio—they are a convincing couple. Minnie (Melinda Richards) is a little shy and so darling—she has a great voice and is a wonderful actress. Her beau, Barnaby (Jeremy Gross) is sweet to Minnie in his shy, unassuming way. They are just a couple of kids and very charming. I’ve never seen Gross in a show—he is so good in his physical acting—very animated and lively.

Director Rash has a great eye and has the cast moving, singing, interacting well. Everything just flows. He chooses his cast well and then uses them to their best ability.  Musical Director Jennifer Bohman has a wonderful group of singers to work with, and the harmonies are stellar. The iconic “Hello, Dolly!” is great—even though it’s a well-known song. Technical Director Danny Rash’s vision for this show is outstanding. Everything fits perfectly. The stage is full but not overdone. The set has such wonderful attention to detail. We are transported to a different time in Hello, Dolly!. A huge backdrop was very nice—not too much and not too little. The movable pieces, a doorway, a stairway, Horace’s store, the hat store—all were perfect and very smooth.

Costume Designers Kody and Kim Rash have outdone themselves. This is a costume heavy show and the garments and costume pieces are really out of this world. The dazzle is there, for sure. Dolly’s red dress sparkles with sequins—standing out in the ensemble. I saw it and thought, Wow.

I know Smithfield is a drive for some, but Four Seasons’ production of Hello, Dolly! really shouldn’t be missed. I would go see it again in an instant.

The Four Seasons Theater Company presents Hello, Dolly! Lyrics and music by Jerry
Herman, book by Michael Stewart
Sky View High School Auditorium, 520 South 250 East, Smithfield, Utah, UT 84341
Tickets: $10.00
Contact: 435-535-1432                                                                                                 Facebook Page          Facebook Event

 

 

Kaysville’s Hopebox Theatre’s “Joseph” Will Bring Color Into Your Life for a Good Cause

By Mary Brassard

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville will delight and surprise you. You may think there is nothing new to see in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but you would be wrong. This production at the Hopebox is full of new imaginative turns and interpretations.

Joseph is a bright, family-friendly musical based on the story of Joseph from the Bible.  With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, many of the songs are written in very different styles from each other, doo-op, reggae, Western to name a few. It’s a popular show that is often staged in Utah.

The Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville offers a beautiful social mission as well as fun musicals. At the Hopebox, a recipient is selected for each production; those recipients are members of the community battling cancer. The funds raised are donated to this person. When you enter the theatre in Kaysville, you will notice their “wall of hope”, featuring past recipients, and information about the current individual. What a wonderful way to give– great theatre for a great cause . All of the actors and staff are volunteering their time and talents, and as an audience member, I felt wonderful being a part of it all.

There is a very intimate feeling in the Hopebox—the theatre is small and very charming. The seating is very comfortable with enough leg room.. The stage set up for Joseph is well done. A desert motif adorns the stage, and there are several levels and shapes that resemble pyramids, which makes for easy visuals throughout the night.

This production started off with a bang. The actors didn’t arrive due to an actor’s strike. Here we are at a live taping of Joseph, and only the filming crew is left to handle the show. Disaster! Ok, don’t panic, it’s all part of the show. I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a very different and fun framing to this production of Joseph. I felt like I was seeing a musical I’d never seen before. It provides many hilarious moments throughout the night. Particularly, one of the security guards is stuck stepping in to play the part of a brother, and his face as he takes the stage made me laugh out loud. A stunned look, straight into the audience that really brought this whole concept full circle.

Director Alisha Hall filled the evening with new, funny twists like this. The humor really shines. The pacing is brisk, and you are never left waiting or bored. The comic timing is excellent. For example, a bucket of KFC chicken makes an appearance in Egypt, and it had us rolling in the aisles. Hall is also the choreographer. The dancing and staging is very enjoyable. It was easy to follow, and very unique. I also never felt like the choreography was above the skill level of the actors. I loved this, because it kept it smooth, and in sync rather than fancy moves that a community cast couldn’t keep up with.

This show has a lot of talent to boast about. The narrator, played by Mollee Steele, impressed me very much. The narrator is the lead singer in several songs throughout Joseph. Steele’s voice is clear, powerful, and beautiful. She sings with great animation, and really tells the story though her performance. Joseph, portrayed by Daylen Bills was excellent. He has a very soft, soothing stage presence. There is a sweet way he interpreted his part, which made me feel very empathetic toward him when things went poorly for his character. I really wanted him to win in the end.  His rendition of “Close Every Door” has an ominous and desperate feel.  I think it was the first time that I’ve really grasped the full meaning to those lyrics. He also shines in the final scenes. His arc comes full circle with a reunion in the end, and he commits so fully, he brings a lot of emotion to the scene.

Major standouts in this production are the brothers: Paul Nielson, Jason Steed, Cody Eisenbarth, Philip Etter, Justin Stanford, Brent Johnson, Jake Sims, Stefan Kurzius, Parker Thompson, Nate Spackman, and Nathan Eliason are a brilliant, ensemble. They complement each other so brilliantly. The relationship as brothers is very well developed, and they dance and sing together wonderfully. I especially loved young Eliason as Benjamin. He is so full of personality from his first appearance. He had a great bit throughout the show that is a hit. He bursts into tears each time Joseph’s name is mentioned. It is perfectly timed, and never feels over played. I also loved the relationship specifically between Benjamin and the brothers. Eliason plays him so young and likeable, and I felt a protective element from all of the brothers toward him. It really punctuates the final moments when they all come together in his defense.

Justin Stanford as Pharaoh was a favorite of mine. He has such a natural confidence, that it was so easy to believe that in Egypt, he really is an Elvis level celebrity since birth. His version of “Pharaoh’s Story” is so fun.  I wanted to run on stage and join the fan club.  His singing voice is thick and smooth. Each note is like a velvet bath for our ears. He is also hilarious while keeping his jokes subtle, to maintain a slick persona.

The children’s choir is wonderful. They are on pitch, and well-dressed. They add a poignant innocence to the whole atmosphere.

This production features a very large cast, but it is well-executed. The stage never feels too crowded, and everyone is appropriately featured. For such a large cast, I was impressed that there seemed to be no weak links. Everyone is committed and well-rehearsed. I was never distracted by half-done dance moves or blank, bored faces. Everyone on stage seems to be having fun, and that definitely made the audience feel at ease.

Music director Sally Paskins does an excellent job with the music. The harmonies are all well done. The voices are all used appropriately. It made for music that is enjoyable and easy to listen to. They make it seems easy, which is great. I never felt nervous that someone would crack a note or bottom out.

I applaud Anthony Porter and the Hopebox theatre for their excellent sound. Too often in community theatre, I am bothered by poor sound quality, and volumes that are too low or too loud. At Hopebox Theatre, volume is always on point. I could hear everything I was meant to hear. The voices are well-balanced with the music, and everything is clear.

The costumes by Shelly Pace are simple, and fitting of the show. The Egypt costumes are the most impressive, very sparkly and looked like what you would expect from a cartoon about Egypt. (I mean this as a compliment.) There is also a theme throughout the show featured in the costumes. The color teal, the color of Ovarian Cancer Awareness, which is the form of cancer afflicting the Hopebox theatre’s current beneficiary. This is a lovely tribute.

Over all, this is one of the most creative productions I have ever seen. So many new twists to a well-known show with a cast that is well-rehearsed and passionate about what they are involved in. A director who brilliantly weaves a large cast into a funny, yet touching story. Wonderful music, and to boot, all of this, to bring some hope and joy to the life of someone battling cancer. Go support Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Hopebox Theatre in Kaysville. You won’t be bored, you will hum the music for days, and you will be a part of something bigger, a community of people bringing hope through the arts.

Hopebox Theatre presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat               Hopebox Theatre, 1700 S. Frontage Rd., Kaysville, UT                                                      August 4-26  7:30 PM Matinee 2:00 PM                                                                             Tickets: $15, $20                                                                                                               Contact: 801-451-5259                                                                                                    Facebook Page          Facebook Event

Good Company Theater’s “In the Heights” at the Ogden Amphitheater is Delicioso y Fantastico

By Jennifer Mustoe

Having never been to the Ogden Amphitheater and never seen In the Heights by the now wildly popular Lin-Manual Miranda—who wrote the music and lyrics, book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, I was pretty excited. I know Director Austin Archer’s work and admit to being a huge fan of his.  The Amphitheater is lovely—spacious with seats in the front and a lovely grassy berm for patrons to spread a blanket on and settle down for a night of theater.

But can one “settle down” for In the Heights? I answer with an emphatic No! As we walked in, spicy Salsa music played. After listening to the opening remarks in Spanish (which I understood but my non-Spanish-speaking family did not), the high-energy show began.

First, this show is Important. It tells the story of a barrio in New York and shows the strife, the poverty, the depression of the place. It also shows the love, the camaraderie, the friendship, the loyalty, the fun. It is a total, pure, untainted picture. This is the story of a certain community—most of them Latinos, though other ethnicities are represented as well.

The music is incredible! The rapping by remarkable Jacob Barnes as Usnavi De La Vega is out of this world. The family closeness (too close?) of the Rosario family: mother Camila (Katie Evans), father Kevin (Stephen Sherman-Mills), and Stanford student daughter Nina (Becca Burdick.)—I was completely convinced of this family’s strong ties. We loved Evans’ fierce motherhood, Sherman-Mills’ “I am the father and what I say goes” attitude (and how the women basically say, whatever.) But Burdick’s pipes, acting—the whole package—blew us away. She is fantastic. Her duets with Benny (Gray McKenzie) are pure gold.

Each principal has an amazing voice. The harmonies of the hairdresser ladies, Daniela (Tamara Howell) and Carla (Erica Walters) are wonderful, and their fun bickering was completely believable.  Abuela Claudia (Tamara Howell) and Piragua Guy (Dee Tuo’one) are also wonderful singers. Gosh—did Archer cast the best or what? Music Director Ginger Bess Simons pulls everything possible out of a truly remarkable set of voices.

And the dancing—the dancing! Archer choreographed all but one number (“96,000” by McKenzie, whose moves are sexy and smooth and sensational.) Dance Captain Emily Bokinski rocked the stage, followed by talent that went from good to perfect.

This show may be considered almost an operetta as much of the dialogue is sung, and there is so much movement on the stage, the show never stops.

I was under the impression that In the Heights may be inappropriate for younger audiences, but really, if your child likes singing and dancing—they will love this show. There are a few swears and some violence, but it’s remarkably tame. They see way more in any of those popular superhero movies. And the messages in this show, often told in awesome rapping, are as I said, important. It is a little late, though, but I saw happy littles at the show.

I knew I was in for a treat with In the Heights, but it exceeded my expectations. I drove from Spanish Fork to see it. It’s worth the drive.

Good Company Theater presents In the Heights, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegria Hudes                                                                       Ogden Amphitheater, 343 E 25th Street, Ogden, UT 84401                                               August 11-21, Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday    8:00 PM                                   Tickets: $20, $15                                                                                                           Contact: 801-917-4969        goodcotheatre@gmail.com                                                     Facebook Page

 

Ogden Musical Theatre’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Peery’s Egyptian Theatre in Ogden Utah is a Dream That Will Do

By Steve Odenthal

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, now playing at The Peery Egyptian Theatre in Ogden, Utah is no stranger to me.  I encountered the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics of Tim Rice early in my college years and quickly discovered the profound effect live theatre can have on those who are in tune with it.  I was very glad that to find that the magic to transform and immerse is still there, or should I say is still available today at the Egyptian Theatre.  You will want to see this one.

It’s all there for you and yours to experience and enjoy as a fully family-friendly performance so real that when you are on your feet after the show, your first instinct is to knock the desert dust from your sandals—even if you are like me and wear loafers.  So, how do they perform this magic? Hey, the play is set in Egypt and we are watching in the Egyptian Theatre, so grab a pith helmet and let’s explore.

The chief spellbinder in this production is the Director (Maurie Tarbox).  It was obvious quite early in the performance that each actor was in love with the show.  That is always what you want from a cast, but sitting in the audience there was something more and it was contagious.  We truly were in Egypt.  The physical facilities we all—cast and audience alike— occupied is an historic restoration of the Egyptian theatre built in 1924; a time the world was entranced by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.  The stage itself is built to be a plaza between two great Egyptian temples stage-right and stage-left.  Tarbox had to walk a very tight rope to not overwhelm, but rather immerse her actors and audience in this shared reality.  With the simplistic choices in set design (Ricky Parkinson) and rich selection in costuming (Joanne Hatch), Tarbox’s production team placed each of us in a comfortable environment from the very start of the show.

The audience needs a great story.  That means a story with some historic truth and strong emotion everyone can relate to—like the biblical story of Jacob (Brett Garlick) and his 12 sons. There is a just bit of sibling rivalry within this family.  The rivalry plays out onstage in this production as the favored Joseph (Jared Morgan) is sold by his brothers into slavery (they had considered worse) and then we track the life changes this little dust-up produces in poor, poor Joseph’s life, as well as the lives of his fine brothers.

And what a rag-tag mob of brothers Joseph has—they manage to keep the undercurrent of disgruntlement and sentiment bubbling right to the surface and it is truly fun to watch them express their heartfelt feelings for Joseph, slyly displaying them from a safe location away from his field of vision.  This feat is accomplished in a very subtle use of triangles and modular groupings of flat levels which give the proper separation and distance to make these asides believable.  This effect played so very well when brother Simeon (Joe Johnson) is trusted with breaking some sad news about Joseph to his father as Johnson emotes through the classic song, “One More Angel” and the brothers & wives intertwine with the festive “HoeDown”, every bit of the stage and every angle or level is incorporated into a masterpiece of choreography (Liz Smith.)   There is definitely no lack of thought or depth to this set and the design only gets better as the show goes on.

For his part, Joseph is well cast with Morgan’s boyish look and pleasant voice but I found that I had to warm to him a bit.  Most Joseph’s I see perform the role are from the start large and in charge, easily believable as a leader.  In this production, Joseph seemed to share an almost too trusting relationship with his brothers, right up until he is sold.  He believes, you can tell, that this is just good fun with the brothers (although it is getting a bit out of hand.)  Then in my mind, I realized that this young man was the second to youngest of the brothers and so his innocent vision of his heroes might just cause him to want to play along, for a while at least.  This might just be the perfect way to play the role.  We see Joseph grow in the show, not just the brothers’ change.

I enjoyed the staging of Potiphar (Brett Garlick) and Mrs. Potiphar (Karllen Johnson) in their mansion with the choice to keep the large separation of husband from wife as he counts money and she attempts to stray.  It was very effective to see their opulence versus the purity and simplicity of Joseph’s attire as a contrast to help us focus on the clash of good and evil.  There were lots of opportunities taken to show the audience emotional contrasts.  For example, the Baker (Austin Toney) sits dejectedly stage-right as his dream as interpreted by Joseph is not going to work out in his favor while the rest of the cast gives their all in a rambunctious “Go, Go, Go, Joseph” number that delights in our hero’s power to decipher hidden meanings.  Never breaking out of his funk entirely, our condemned Baker draws enormous solace from a beautiful cupcake accepting both his fate and a well-frosted beard while entertaining those of us who caught his struggle.

The brothers and their wives in this production really work as a team.  These wives are not your run-of-the-mill appendages to the brothers—they hold their own and seem to have a real relationship with their assigned brother.  At times, the brothers are even brought up short by their wives in a good-natured way, but I will let you find out about that when you attend.  I will say that you must be paying attention to their maneuvers especially in the “Those Canaan Days” number.  You will be delighted by the pay-off to the wives in that number for sure.  My hat (or pith helmet) is off to  Smith for the way she has choregraphed the entire show but especially as she brought these two very talented teams of dancers together.

The Pharaoh (Justin Brown) is beyond good.  In most Josephs, we know well on whom the character is based.  This time, I was not so sure.  I’m thinking that the megastar we knew so well might have styled his persona on Brown.  He seemed so secure in his own skin without letting the impersonation suffer at all.  Good job, there—You will enjoy his portrayal.

The Narrator (Meghan Parrish) is seamless and doesn’t miss a beat.  Being familiar with the show, there were times that I found myself anticipating her arrival a bit, but she always hit her mark and note.  Under her guidance, we were swept into the story completely from the very start.  She took our hands like we were the children on the stage with Joseph.

Speaking of the children in the cast (Childrens Dream Chorus), you could tell that they knew the show and were very aware of the preciseness of the presentation.  They smiled believably at the proper times and every time they were on stage I believed that they were in awe of Joseph.  A good cast, for sure.

The only issue that I experienced during the performance that was at all negative was a few instances where mics and speakers were experiencing sound issues.  The three mishaps were of short (seconds) duration and not during dialog or music.  I am sure the remedy has been attended to as we thoroughly enjoyed the production without further incident.

You should take your family to this show.  I think that there is something for everyone at the Peery’s Egyptian Theatre in the production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  There are laughs, quiet moments (not many), and great joy in store for you.  This show only has four more performances left at this exceptional theatre.  You will be amazed at what you find beyond the lobby and on the stage.  This beautiful restoration of Peery’s Egyptian Theatre holds over 800 patrons and is right downtown in Ogden next to great restaurants and shopping.  Parking is available and mostly free in the area.  Pricing of tickets are $15 and $20 dependent upon your proximity to the stage.

Don’t miss Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Peery’s Egyptian Theatre 2415 Washington Blvd.  Ogden, Utah. This dream will definitely do.

Ogden Musical Theatre presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.                                                                               Peery’s Egyptian Theatre, 2415 Washington Blvd, Downtown Ogden, Utah 84401           August 17-19 7:30 PM                                                                                            Tickets:  $15, $20                                                                                                        Call: 801-689-8700                                                                                                        Facebook Page

 

 

“Utahoma” at Off Broadway Theatre in Salt Lake City Should Draw Audiences from Pioneer and Pio-far

By Adam J. Woodhouse-Keele

Make sure to bring your friends and family to Utahoma at the Off Broadway Theatre in Salt Lake City. It is a pun filled, raucous good time for all ages.  This intimate theatre makes sure that everyone gets involved in this rip-roaring production.

Utahoma is an original parody, the lyrics and script both written by one of the co-founders of the Off Broadway Theatre, Eric R. Jensen. This Oklahoma parody has recognizable tunes with new and zany lyrics. The show takes its audience on a journey to show how Utah was settled by the Mormon pioneers lead by Brother Brigham (Jason Wadsworth.) Utahoma also follows the love story of two couples, Lil’ Ellie (Denali Mckinney) and Del Lyman (Austinn Jensen) and Lenora Wright (Mary Neville) and Laverle Norman (Fred Sherman Lee.) The men, Del and Laverle, must prove themselves to their gals against two new suitors, Jed Bridger (Chris Harvey) and Giuseppe Ramin (Eli Unruh.) Mishaps, mayhem, misfortune and a myriad of puns ensue in this ‘fun for all’ production.

The puns alone deserve their own recognition so I give credit to Jensen for writing such incredibly witty puns. What made the show, for me, however, were the moments that are unscripted. The sheer improv talent onstage is fantastic. The actors read the audience perfectly and add things in or extend jokes based on audience reaction. During the production, there was a cute child heckler who kept telling the actors how funny they were in the middle of the show. Once during the show he said, “This show is awesome!” and without missing a beat, the Prospector (Rusty Bringhurst) joked with the kid and had the audience rolling.

I also really enjoyed the ensemble actors not just blending in with the scenery but creating small character choices that added to the scenes. This great ensemble is made up of Aubrey Bahn, Reeve Boyd, Denali McKinney, and Emily Smith. My favorite moments with them were during the song “Oh, the Cougar and the Ute They Should be Friends.” They all create such fun characters and truly fill the stage with their energy. Director/Choreographer Sunny Bringhurst has made sure all characters are highlighted in some way and the entire production shows her deft handling,

For me, my favorite performances came from the two narrator characters the Prospector and Timpanogos (Kati Paul.) Bringhurst plays an over-the-top wacky Prospector who is constantly joking with the audience and other members of the cast. His performance doesn’t just have the audience laughing, but he manages to cause his fellow actors to break character and laugh along with us. Paul plays a more mellow character with witty lines that help bring balance to Bringhurst’s Prospector. The duo is a great combo onstage and they work well as the narrators to this fun story.

This show is so much fun. With an amazing cast like this who all have the freedom to improv, you will feel like you are part of a unique experience every night. You won’t want to miss this show, and you will probably want to see it a couple of times. So pack up the handcart and go see Utahoma at the Off Broadway Theatre in Salt Lake City. If you are wondering where you want to go this weekend, this is the place.

Off Broadway Theatre presents Utahoma by Eric R. Jensen                                             Off Broadway Theatre 272 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT                                      August 11-September 16, Monday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 PM                                Tickets $10-$16                                                                                                             801-355-4628                                                                                                               Facebook Page                     Facebook Event

 

Taylorsville’s South Valley Youth Theater’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is a Heap-a Good Fun for the Whole Fam’ly

By Angelina DaSilva

This summer, South Valley Youth Theater presents a colorful and exuberant version of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Alder Amphitheater at the Salt Lake Community College Campus in Taylorsville. I was overwhelmed that a youth group did such a lovely, committed production.

South Valley Youth Theater’s production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is directed by Jessie Ibrahim, President of SVYT, and student directed by Camille Perkins. Together with cast and crew they create a bright, lively show that features highlights of musical as well as acrobatic nature.

In Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, you will see woodsman Adam (Perkins), oldest of seven brothers, venture from his home to find wives for himself and his younger siblings. In a nearby township, he meets the independent and feisty Milly (Hekking) and quickly convinces her that by marrying him she can escape her tiring life as the town’s cook. He whisks her away and not before long Milly discovers that she ended up with six rambunctious and brutish brothers in law. Milly does her best to turn the whole lot of them into polite, well-mannered men that she plots to pair off with six lovely young women. This does not keep Adam from taking charge and talking his younger brothers into taking a shortcut to traditional courting. Havoc ensues when the seven of them sneak into town to abduct six young women. The plot and character developments within this show are somewhat hard to believe and make Seven Brides for Seven Brothers a questionable choice for SVYT’s lovable cast.

Music director Jeannine Hawkins and technical director Josh Hawkins worked with the cast to create showstopping solo pieces as well as exciting ensemble numbers. The cast was accompanied by Cassie Lorensen. Vocally, Milly (Hekking) stands out with a bright and clear singing voice. She demonstrates excellent vocal command with a well balanced mix of bright and rich. Kartchner Perkins creates a playful, lovable Adam with an energetic and clear voice. Garan Maughan, portraying brother Caleb, stands out with a warm, smooth voice. The second oldest brother, Benjamin, gets his charming, bold air from Jeremiah Sandberg, who proves himself to be a confident, engaging all-around performer. Sandberg fully commits, especially when it comes to choreography and shows a lovely sense of physical awareness.

Exuberant performances and the guidance of choreographers Spencer Bickel and Emily Morris make this show’s choreography a creative highlight. Its liveliness and playfulness make for an excited and engaged audience. In many places the choreography adds humor and sass. Key moments in the choreography feature Martha (Melissa Smith), a seemingly effortless dancer with the most precise timing. Smith is the kind of performer you notice before you have any idea who is who within the play. She is indubitably one of the most well-rounded performers of the show. Her elegance is matched only by Hekking. Sarah Weyrich adds to the choreography as a joyful and confident dancer. In the ensemble dance pieces, Weyrich acts as a leading force and role model for the other performers.

Another highlight of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is the delightfully vibrant costume design. Head costumer Cheryl Thomas used her tools to set a playful,colorful tone for the show. The costuming helped the audience keep track of who is who in a cast of over forty actors, dancers and singers. Color matching the brothers with each of their brides was an effective choice that also adds a bright splash to the show’s motif. I especially enjoyed the costuming for Milly, as well as the seven brothers.

 

 

 

 

 

When it comes to the acting in SVYT’s production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Hekking shines once more. She demands the audience’s attention with her own unwavering focus. Hekking continues to impress with clear as day diction and the most consistent and believable accent out of the entire cast. Smith’s acting choices give her Martha a sweet and delicate presence. I especially enjoyed Sandberg’s passionate and committed performance of Benjamin. His comedic timing is on point. The same can be said about Jackson McKenna. He gifts Gideon with a childlike innocence and vulnerability that make Gideon one of the most lovable characters in the show. Brynndi Troff creates a sugary sweet Alice and convinces with a genuine, warm performance as well as clear diction. Perkins, who plays Adam in both casts, delivers an urgent performance and stays professional and focused despite technical difficulties. Lilly Snow delivers a soft and gentle Sarah, while Katerina McAllister creates a bright, bubbly Dorcas. This cast’s Ruth (Chelsea Ottley) adds a genuine, gentle quality to the show. Loren Yancey shows us a funny and vulnerable Frank. Daniel, (Colby Mallet), has a charismatic and confident air about him. Spencer Bickel is an enthusiastic and engaged Ephraim.

 

 

 

 

 

The Alder Amphitheater offers a lovely venue, where the seating is ample and your view is unconstricted. The spacious stage makes a sizeable and multifunctional set designed by Jessie Ibrahim and Josh Hawkins possible. The set creates a welcoming and rustic atmosphere and gets the audience excited before they lay eyes on a single performer. Come prepared for an outdoor theater; feel free to bring cushions to sit on, sunscreen, bug spray, and perhaps a sweater.

There is no need to bring your own snacks or drinks since South Valley Youth Theater offers “Concessions for a cause”. You cannot miss the SVYT concessions stand with a wide variety of snacks and drinks. Every snack, ranging from nuts and apples to chocolate and skittles and every drink including water, and an assortment of sodas cost $1 each. Half of all proceeds from concessions will be donated to the medical expense fund of 17-year-old Drew Olsen, who was recently diagnosed with a rare seizure condition. Drew is not only a student at Copper Hills High School but also a friend to many of the SVYT cast. As you can see, “Concessions for a cause” is SVYT’s effort to give back to their community. To support them in that effort, you can either purchase concessions or make a direct donation to the cause at the concessions stand. Alternatively, you may visit the Olsen’s Go Fund Me page: GoFundMe.com/drew-olsen-medical-expense-fund.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, South Valley Youth Theater’s production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers makes for an enjoyable evening filled with exciting performances. You may have to look past the choice of play, but I still say: Come! Come for the animated acting. Come for the vibrant costuming! Come for the exciting choreography! Come to support local youth theater with heart.

 

 

 

 

 

South Valley Youth Theater presents Seven Brides for Seven Brothers                             Salt Lake Community College Alder Amphitheater  4500 South Redwood Road, Salt Lake City                                                                                                                         August 11-12, 14, 18-19   7:00 PM, doors open at 6:30 PM                                             Tickets: $7                                                                                                                    Call: 801-691-2527                                                                                                           Facebook Page          Facebook Event 

 

 

 

“Carousel” at Murray Park Amphitheater Takes Audience on a Joyful Ride

By Amanda Berg Whittle

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Carousel at the Murray Park Amphitheater as a part of Murray Arts in the Park. Though I am familiar with Carousel, I’d never been to the  brand-new amphitheater, which not only has the cleanliness of a new facility, but it’s pretty luxe. You don’t expect marble countertops in a city park’s bathrooms, but this place has them. The bleachers have seat backs, which helps add comfort when you’re watching a two and-a-half hour musical.

Carousel is a classic, created by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein–two of the most influential composers of the 20th century. Carousel follows a carnival barker who falls in love with a girl he sees at the carnival where he works. He loses his job just as he finds out his new bride is pregnant and, desperate to provide for his young family, is coerced into being an accomplice to robbery. When he’s caught and faced with prison, he accidently kills himself and is sent “up there”. Fifteen years later, he is allowed to go down to Earth for one day. He sees his daughter struggling with the mess he left behind, and attempts to give her and her mother the hope and dignity they deserve to carry on without him.

Jim Smith (Director) and Marty Taylor (Music Director) did a great job working collaboratively with Margene Conde (choreographer) to create a successful ensemble in addition to the wonderful leads cast in this production of Carousel. Even with few props and set pieces, Conde and Smith and Set Designer D. Scott Thomas designed the show to use their space well and minimal props wisely.

Cassie Pipperidge (Corrin LeBaron) and Enoch Snow (Mike Romney) have two of the best singing voices I’ve ever heard in a community musical, and work quite well as a stage couple, especially when singing the song “When the Children are Asleep.” Jigger Craigin (Kevin Elzey) has such a strong and hilarious personality. Despite being a smaller part, he was my favorite. For a young girl, Louise Bigelow (Tanner Jones) has incredible dance skills. Additionally, as much as I dislike the character, Billy Bigelow (Damon Yauney) is quite successful at portraying his character’s emotions.

As an instrumentalist myself, I was especially impressed with the 30-person orchestra and how they were able to create a large sound with minimal people.

I appreciated the large array of colors in the costumes (Mary Ellen Smith), and how appropriate they are for the time period they portray. I also appreciate the overwhelming cuteness of the little children in the show.

I’m glad I was able to attend Carousel in Murray, and would highly recommend it. It is at the park, so remember to wear bug spray, bring a picnic or snack, and enjoy this classic musical.

Murray City Cultural Arts presents Carousel by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein                                                                                                                       Murray Park Amphitheater 495 5300 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84107                                     August 11-12, 14, 17-19 at 8:00 PM                                                                             Tickets: Adult $10 Child/Seniors $8                                                                                     801-264-2614                                                                                                                     Facebook Page           Facebook Event