A Utah Theater Review by Josh Tiedeman
Recently I had the opportunity to see Androcles and the Lion performed in the Noorda Theatre at Utah Valley University. If you have never been to the Noorda Theatre it is on the east end of campus, connected to the Gunther Trade Building. The theater has an intimate setting as well as the ability to arrange the space in several different theater styles. For this production they have set it as a proscenium, which is the more “traditional” style of theater.
I was not aware of the type of show that I was walking into with a name like Androcles and the Lion - it could be anything from a drama to a comedy. As I walked into the theater, there were two clowns (Emma Christopherson & Zachary Cotter) “warming up” the audience. I thought it was a clever way of setting up the style for rest of the show that follows. The clowns showed off instruments that were going to be used throughout the rest of the show. I really enjoyed the way that Emma Christopherson brought the audience in and made it very comedic. Her responses to the crowd were fantastic and she was a delight to watch.
Androcles and the Lion is about a slave named Androcles (Ryan Cluff) who is trying to help Princess Isabella (Sharayah Anderson) and Prince Lelio (Shawn Saunders) come together in their love while the evil Pantalone (Briana Lindsay) wanted to keep Isabella all to herself. In Androcles’ efforts to unite the two lovers, he had to get Isabella her gold that she misplaced and along the way met a Lion (Matthew Price Davis) who at first seems frightening but once they get to know each other becomes really quite an amazing friend.
I have to be completely upfront, because I was not aware of the type of play I was going to watch, I did not enjoy it as much as I could have if I had known. One must mentally prepare themselves when seeing a show such as this because it requires a lot of audience participation. This is not the type of play where you just sit back and relax, you need to put forth effort so that the play progresses. If the audience does not participate, the show really lags. The production seems to be geared toward those of a younger generation than my own, I would guess children between ages 5-12 would really enjoy it. For those kids that want to get really involved, the theater has provided nice cushy seats up front to provided unobstructed viewing enjoyment.
I really enjoyed the performance given by Ryan Cluff, his facial expressions as well as his energy were astounding! Not only was his acting fun to watch, his musical talent was awesome as well. Many of the parts required not only the ability to act but also the ability to play a variety of instruments such as the guitar. Shawn Saunders also was a treat to get to watch perform and sing as well. A lot of the songs that were performed were really quite catchy.
Another character that really stood out was Pantalone played by Briana Lindsay. Her make-up was very well done and she definitely looked scary, and her characterization made her JUST scary enough that she would intimidate a younger audience, but still keeping it where she was not terrifying. Keegan Briggs had fantastic characterization as well, and I enjoyed his comedic timing. All of the actors were really quite enjoyable and the entire production was very well put together.
All of the sound effects came from the clowns (Christopherson and Cotter). It was really enjoyable to see all of the different instruments that they had introduced to the audience before the play being used in a variety of different ways. It was also nice that there were no microphones, as often times they can prove to be distracting when there are technical difficulties. The costumes were really well put together. I loved the Lion costume that Matthew Price Davis wore. The mane was really impressive. And the nose and chin that Briana Lindsay wore looked very professional and added a lot of character to her already well-established personality.While this is not necessarily a play I would take a date on, overall I would recommend this play to anyone wanting a carefree evening. I would especially recommend it to those who would take children along.
Don’t miss your opportunity to see: