“Steel” yourself for a night of emotions at Centerpoint’s Steel Magnolias

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By Micah Campbell

I am not a pretty crier. My eyes get all puffy and I begin to do this weird “I’m not crying” blinking to try to reduce the tears that fall from my eyes. When I received two tickets to see Steel Magnolias at the CenterPoint Legacy Theater, I knew very few people I could expose myself to with the inevitable tears, puffy eyes and sniffling because, if you have seen any version of Steel Magnolias, tears are going to come.

Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias opened in 1987 at the WPA Theater in New York and went on to become a movie. The play is based on Harling’s experience with the death of his sister. It is a dramedy set in Louisiana’s Chinquapin parish in Truvy’s beauty parlor. The story starts with Shelby and discussions of her impending wedding while she gets her hair done. Shelby has an episode due to her Type 1 diabetes and the story begins, covering the span of the next three years. Though it deals a lot with Shelby and her medical conditions, the focus is on this small group of six women, Truvy, Annelle, Clairee, Shelby, M’Lynn and Ouiser, and their strength and beauty while they face all that life has to offer them including the tragedies.

Director Janet Cook brings to life this beautiful story in the Leishman Performance Hall with the lights opening on Truvy’s parlor. Brian Hanh (producer and set designer) has created a salon parlor that feels familiar and adds to draw the audience into this world of laughter and sorrow. With the assistance of Laura Crossett (stage manager), Jordan Fowler with lighting design, sound designer Jay Clark, and Costume designer Jennie Richardson, Truvy’s parlor feels like home.

Truvy, played by Carissa Klitgaard, sits in a parlor chair getting her hair done by the nervous, new girl in town, Annelle, played by Kate Williams. Klitgaard and Williams had some big shoes to fill because these parts have been played by the likes of Dolly Parton and Daryl Hannah. As soon as Klitgaard opened her mouth and the southern belle drawl spilled out, she owned the part and the stage was set with the mousey, nervous Williams. The two begin to prepare the parlor for the day after Truvy hires Annelle.

Clairee, brought to life by Kathy Cappellucci, walks in in her pearls and Jackie Onassis-like dress suit and the audience is slowly introduce to the rainbow of personalities who by the end start to feel like friends. Shelby, played by Jessica Love, and her mother M’Lynn, played by Mims Zimmerman, walk in, bringing the central story and most of the drama of Type 1 Diabetes and the complications that come with it..

Finally, when Ouiser, perfectly portrayed by Hazel Rowe, storms in and brings a little slice of crazy and a lot of funny, the beautiful story and cast is knit together. This wonderfully assembled cast begins to share laughter, love and tragedy with welcome arms and an open seat in one of the parlor chairs or under one of the hair dryers.

Make sure you bring tissues or have some available as this is bound to bring you to tears. CenterPoint Theater’s production of Steel Magnolias is perfect for everyone whether for date night, girl’s night out, or just on your own. Go early, buy some concessions, and grab a seat because all seating is General Admission. All tickets are $15. Please not that children under three and babes I arms are not permitted. Steel Magnolias is now playing at Centerpoint Legacy Theatre on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays with the last showing on July 1st.

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CenterPoint Legacy Theater’s “1776” Will Make You Stand Up and Cheer

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1776 – MWF Cast Preview, by Susannah Whitman, 1776 TThS Cast Preview, By Jennifer Mustoe, Jessica Leigh Johnson, and Mike Smith

Front Row Reviewers Utah was given a great opportunity to review The CenterPoint Legacy Theatre’s production of 1776 in their preview shows, and was able to review both casts. We want to thank CPLT for this great opportunity. We can say with complete honesty that no matter what night you come see this show, you will love it.

When Lin-Manuel’s production of Hamilton hit Broadway in 2015, the world started paying a little bit more attention to the Founding Fathers. While 1776 is an older production (it originated on Broadway in 1969), it will have the same effect: You’ll leave the theatre feeling like a patriot.

Set during the sweltering hot summer of 1776, the musical 1776 tells the story of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence. General George Washington’s troops are in disarray, and defeat seems imminent. John Adams is stubbornly pushing for a break with England, Thomas Jefferson would much rather spend time with his wife than write up important documents, and Congress as a whole alternates between bickering, drinking, and light-heartedly throwing witty insults at one another. That a new country could be born of this mess is astonishing, and makes for great theatre.

Josh Richardson’s direction focused on effective storytelling, and every element of the production combined to create a moving experience for audience members of all ages. Americans can sometimes deify the Founding Fathers, or mythologize the story of America’s founding. But Richardson focused on the more complicated truth, which is that the story of America’s founding is both messy and beautiful. There are the shameful truths of slavery and the painful truths of compromise and the inspiring truths of perseverance. Under Richardson’s direction, the show humanizes the story of the year 1776 in a way that makes it even more meaningful than the myths we sometimes cling to.

The curtain rises on the continental Congress of Philadelphia, May of 1776. Scott Van Dyke’s set design is excellent. It’s balanced well and provides nice levels for a pleasing visual picture. Three large windows are used to show the weather outside, and also serve as screens for the occasional projection. The projections were extremely effective in this show—they are used to show the passage of time, and to strengthen the messages of the show. The projections used for “Molasses to Rum” and “Is Anybody There?” were especially powerful.

David Rees’ lighting design and Krista Davies’ sound design were equally effective in telling the story.

The cast of 1776 was a blend of theatre newbies and seasoned performers. But watching their work onstage, I couldn’t tell who was who—each actor did wonderfully. It’s difficult to highlight standout performances, since 1776 is such an ensemble show, and every actor and actress had a moment to shine. There is a lot of “sitting around” during the scenes in Congress, but every single actor had a distinct personality and remained deeply engaged in the action. Several performances are worth noting in the Monday/Wednesday/Friday cast.

Zach Watts was a perfect Richard Henry Lee, with an endearing enthusiasm that made the audience fall in love with him and drove the other characters mad. Dave Hill delivered his one-liners as Benjamin Franklin with wonderful timing. I was especially charmed by Daniel Sessions as Thomas Jefferson. He brought a youthful innocence to the role, and played Jefferson’s honest integrity so sincerely that you couldn’t help but adore him. Todd Wente and Natalie Peterson had such warmth and affection for each other as John and Abigail Adams, and their number “Yours, Yours, Yours” was filled with such tenderness. Both Wente and Peterson showed both strength and vulnerability, wit and stubbornness in their moments onstage, either together or apart.

My only criticism is of the way Martha Jefferson was portrayed. Britty Marie is very pretty, and a wonderful dancer, and a lovely singer. But I wanted more inner strength from her. She is no mere “Princess of the American Revolution”—the wives of these men played an enormous role in the fight for American independence. Her one number, “Violin,” is an opportunity to show that Martha is the intellectual equal of these men, to let the audience see why Jefferson burns for her. I wanted less wide-eyed innocence and more knowing wit.

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But in all honesty, there wasn’t really a weak actor among the bunch. Richardson cast a strong group of singers and actors, with a good variety of physical looks.

TTHS commentary: The stand outs from this show were Kyle Esposito as John Adams. This fine actor has an amazing voice and his acting talent is just as powerful. All of us were spellbound by his scenes. His dear duets with the fantastic Alexandra Camastro as Abigail Adams were phenomenal. Her voice was rich and sweet and blended perfectly with Esposito’s. The other true stand out was the actor who played Edward Rutledge in his one song, “Molasses to Rum.” Everything about this performance was perfect—so filled with beauty, pain, anger, condescension, bitterness. If there was one song and performance that embodied the entire show, it would be this. So poignant and powerful. He threw everything into this. The trio of Adams and Jason Wadsworth as Benjamin Franklin and Jeffrey Black as Thomas Jefferson was wonderful. The voices blended well and we felt a real camaraderie with these three.

While there were some historical inconsistencies in the costumes, overall, Laurie Oswald’s work was effective. I was a little distracted by the modern makeup and hair of the two women in the show (dark lipstick and loose hairstyles), but not so distracted that I couldn’t focus on the story.

Kristi Shaw’s choreography was a perfect fit for this show. This is not a script that should showcase dancing—it should be used incidentally to move the story forward, and that’s exactly what was done. (I especially loved the 10-paces-to-duel-with-the-quills moment in “But, Mr. Adams.”) Most of these actors are not dancers, so Shaw’s darling dance steps were simple but really fun and executed well.

There are two “show-stoppers” in this production. The first is the haunting “Mamma Look Sharp” at the top of Act II, when the reality of the Revolutionary War is highlighted. But by far, the most memorable number is “Molasses to Rum.” Matt Hewitt plays Edward Rutledge, the delegate from South Carolina, who refuses to vote for American independence unless slavery can remain in practice. When the other delegates protest, he delivers a scathing rebuttal pointing out their hypocrisy. Hewitt’s passion in the song is powerful, and you could hear a pin drop in the moments of silence during the song and the scenes directly afterwards. It’s uncomfortable in exactly the right way. It was wrong for Americans to practice slavery, and “Molasses to Rum” is a powerful and necessary reminder of that sin.

Summing up, we were amazed at how many men could be so talented and amassed in one show. I know that sounds strange, but there are not only almost all men in this show, but two casts’ worth! And not a clinker in the bunch. Strong vocal and dramatic performances. This show shouldn’t be missed. The only reasons I’d say don’t bring your children is the show is very long (almost 2 ½ hours or more) and there are a lot of damns. Other than that, this is a show that will inspire your young people and is an opportunity to have them experience this 4th of July season in a very remarkable way.

Centerpoint Legacy Theatre presents 1776 (music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards, book by Peter Stone)   Centerpoint Legacy Theatre Barlow Mainstage, 525 N 400 W Centerville, UT 84014

June 16th – July 15th, with performances Monday – Saturday, 7:30 pm Tickets: $14.00 – $25.50  Box Office: 801-298-1302

http://www.centerpointtheatre.org/

“The Tempest” — A Creekside Delight

By Andrea Johnson

The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s more well-known works, and as such, has been interpreted a variety of different ways.  As the setting of The Tempest is exclusively out-of-doors on an enchanted island, watching it performed in the creek-side amphitheater of Creekside Theatre Fest was a delightful nuance I enjoyed very much.tempest

As I arrived at the venue, Google unfortunately led me into an LDS church parking lot, which was actually the back of the seating area of the theater, but a chain link fence barred entrance that way.  I proceeded a little further west on the main road and found the location.  Heritage Park is located between that church and an elementary school, with plenty of parking on the street, near the school, and north of the road.  The actual parking lot of Heritage Park was occupied with food trucks on the night I attended, which meant I had to walk a little further, but bonus: food trucks (unsure if they will be there on other nights).
If you go, you will be crossing grassy areas to get to the amphitheater, so I would recommend against the cute little wedge heel sandal shoe that I opted for.  The amphitheater is a grassy hillside flanked by mature trees, with a babbling brook that serves as the edge of the stage.  You will want to bring something to sit on as the seating is on a grassy slope, and something warm to wear when the sun sets, although I was quite comfortable in the second act after I returned to my car and retrieved the stadium cushion and sweatshirt that my brain told me to get in the first place.
The venue holds several enticements for small children, including the aforementioned grassy hillside and babbling brook, and considering the verbiage of Shakespeare, this is not a show I would recommend for small children, again not for any explicit content, but rather so the show can be enjoyed and patrons will not be chasing children off the hill and out of the water.  The producers welcome small children, especially for their other festival show, Oz, but as a mother, I would opt to bring only my obedient children (they know who they are), who would enjoy Shakespeare.
The creek and the hill become an extension of the stage, and the actress portraying Miranda (Faith Johnson) took advantage of the water during the pre-show to establish the use of the environment as part of the show.  I worried about how cold she must have been, but as actors went in the water, down the creek, and through the flowing stream, they were either unaffected by it, or just holding character well and fooled me into thinking it may have been warmer than I assumed.  Well played all.  It was actually pretty cold, marking the final poor decision of my evening.
The show begins as the sun is setting, and we see Prospero (played as a female in this interpretation by Heidi Mendez) stirring up the tempest in the sea that will strand the occupants of a particular ship on this island for the duration of her plan.  Prospero and her then 5-year-old daughter, Miranda, were likewise stranded 12 years ago following the loss of her Dukedom to her brother, via the King.  Prospero and Miranda have been living on the island with a sprite named Ariel (Jeanelle Long) and a “creature” named Caliban (Alden Sturgeon), who are now slaves of Prospero, and do her bidding.  Her various assignments include an intricate plot to regain her Dukedom from her brother, Antonio, who happens to be one of the passengers of the fated ship, as well as a desire to match her daughter with the King’s son, Ferdinand.
The setting sun did illuminate some backstage activity, which was a little distracting, but this may just be an opening night glitch, as it was fixed before the scene ended.  Also, the director chose to have Ariel’s voice be disembodied as a recording played over the sound system, which was also a little distracting, as the only speaker was in front of the stage.  There were some miscues later in the show, which I attribute to opening night glitches, but at that point I had accepted the suspension of belief of the disembodied voice and was less aware of it, until the technical glitches brought it right back.  I really love the choice, I’m just not completely satisfied with the execution.  I think if the sound came from behind the stage, it would be less disconcerting.  Ariel’s recorded lines were also a great deal louder than the rest of the actors, who did an AMAZING job projecting in that space, which did them a disservice, since they were really holding their own.  Maybe even taking the volume down a little on the speaker would help.
At the heart of Tempest is a love story between Miranda and the King’s son, Ferdinand (Andrew Pingry).  Prospero manipulates almost every aspect of this story, and the love story is no exception.  Her manipulation creates a deeper love from Ferdinand by separating him from his party, so he believes he is alone in the world.  She commits Ferdinand into servitude so that Miranda will fall in love with him more.  Johnson and Pingry created a beautiful relationship as the young lovers, and you believe that they would have fallen in love anyway, regardless of Miranda’s mother’s meddling.
Another standout relationship was the one between the King’s butler, Stephano, played as female (and fabulous) by Jasmine Fuller, and the King’s jester, Trinculo, played exquisitely by Jordan Kramer.  Fuller and Kramer were delightful to watch.  The characters were so fun!  If you go for no other reason, go for the monster with four legs scene.  Truly a standout performance.
Overall, I left the theater content and deep in thought.  The director, Gabe Spencer, asked in his director’s note to consider the variety of love, and I must admit, this play made me think.  Is it love if it comes from a manipulation? Can you love after you have been betrayed? Is all love a manipulation?  Is all love a betrayal?  Can you love out of captivity?  Is love an intentional captivity?  No real answers as of yet, but I am still in the hours following the show.  Honestly, I have never loved Tempest in general, mostly because I see Prospero as a vengeful bitter old man, who only loves his daughter, and that not well.  I had that notion challenged.  So, thank you, Ms. Mendez.  Well played.
Tempest is part of a festival, with the alternate nights being a performance of Oz, a play that explores how L. Frank Baum might have conceived his work in his study.  Information and tickets can be accessed through the festival website: http://www.creeksidetheatrefest.org/ — make sure you use “re” for Theatre and add the “fest” or you will find yourself at another theater website entirely.
Tempest by William Shakespeare runs June 17, 19, 21, 23, and 24th.
Oz by Patrick Shanahan opens June 15th, and runs June 16, 20, 22, and 26th.
Curtain is 8 PM for both shows.
Creekside Theatre Fest is a semi-professional group supported by the Cedar Hills Arts Council.
Tickets are $14 for adults, $10 for children and seniors.

Making It Rain at the Draper Historic Theater’s Production of “The Rainmaker”

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By Micah Campbell

In fear of another night of mediocre entertainment at the touch of a button, a point and click night of minor excitement and binge watching, an invitation from my friends, Joe and Marc, to a community play was a welcome turn of events on a Monday night. I am more used to going to the community theater to see a musical, so when I learned that the Draper Historic Theater was putting on a dramatic play, I was intrigued.

Richard Nash’s The Rainmaker, written in the early 1950s and first opened at the Cort Theater in New York in 1954, is the story of a cattle rancher and his family in the drought-ridden American West. During a hot summer day, Lizzie Curry (Holly Anderson ) returned after a failed trip to obtain a husband. Her father, H.C. (Jordan Hyde), and two brothers, Noah (Noah Curry ) and Jim (Jeremy Ellsworth), are worried about Lizzie and her future more than they are about the dying cattle. Lizzie is on the verge of accepting her fate as a spinster when a charming conman comes to the ranch selling rain or rather his ability to make it rain for only one hundred dollars. And Lizzie, though skeptical of the conman, comes to see herself in a different light.

Director Diedre Celeste Miranda, who has worked in Los Angeles in the Glendale Centre Theatre and the Hale Center Theatre in Gilbert, Arizona, brings to life the 50s Depression-era West with a delightful cast and a beautiful set, constructed by Marc Navez and Robert Murdock. With Diedre Celeste Miranda’s stage direction, the cast was able to bring this play to life.

The cast of the Curry family worked so well together to create a family dynamic that made a Family Home Evening night feel like an actual night at home with family. Ms. Anderson brings the spinsterish Lizzie to life with the help of Jordan Hyde, as Lizzie’s father, the energetic acting of Jeremy Ellsworth, as Jim “Jimmie” Curry, and Stephen Watkins, as the honest “tells it like it is” older brother Noah Curry. Anderson, Hyde, Ellsworth, and Watkins’ chemistry worked to set the scene of a struggling family who only want the best for their sister and daughter.

There is some romance between Lizzie, the Deputy Sherriff File (Dan Larsen), and then the charismatic conman Starbuck, as brought to life by Brennen Vaughn. The minimal chemistry between File and Lizzie is outshone by the attraction between Lizzie and Starbuck. However, spoiler alert, Lizzie does not end up with Starbuck, but that is okay because she believes in herself at the end. And in the end, the conman’s con actually comes with a crack of thunder and a flash of lightning. And coincidentally, it was raining outside when I left the theater.

The Rainmaker, opened on June 9th at the Draper Historic Theater on 12366 South 900 East in Draper.  There are performances every Friday, Saturday, and Monday night at seven PM with the last showing on the night of June 24th. Purchase your tickets online at drapertheatre.org. Come early to get your concessions at the front and sit in comfortable movie theater seating while the beautiful cast, highlighted by performances from Andersen, Hyde, Vaughn, and Ellsworth and an introduction by the director, entertain you. This family-friendly performance is a good night out with the family or date night with your favorite person. Come and enjoy a beautiful telling of The Rainmaker. Believe me, it will be worth every minute.

Springville’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” is Filled with Artful Delight

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By Colton Redmund

As part of Springville’s Art City Days, Springville Playhouse is performing A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and this show stands by its opening song’s lyrics, it’s “A Comedy Tonight.”

The play written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim is about a slave who tries to earn his freedom by getting a beautiful woman to fall in love with his master. Things don’t work out quite that way, otherwise it wouldn’t make for a very good show.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is being performed at Merit College Preparatory Academy in Springville, a smaller theater and smaller stage but what it lacks in stage space it makes up for in its tone. The minute you walk in, the pre-show music and set help set the mood for the show–a light-hearted story about Ancient Rome and big characters.

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Some of the highlights in the show are Pseudolus, Hysterium and Miles Gloriosus. Everyone in the cast did amazing, but these three stood out the most to me. Pseudolus (Karl Young) is the play’s lead, a schemer who always had some trick, and if the trick didn’t work out, he had a trick to try and fix that. Hysterium (David Chapa) was one of my personal favorites. Loveable and funny, he is a little high-strung, but can you blame him with Pseudolus always messing things up? Hysterium tries to do the right thing and that’s never easy and he’s just hilarious. (Not to mention his hair is fantastic.) Miles Gloriosus (Isaac Davidson) steals the show. His booming voice, his towering presence, and his intensity all make his character pop.

The costumes were colorful and though this wasn’t authentic, it went well with the comic nature of the musical. The hat used in one scene, a 70s “Shack” hat, was hilarious. The set was wonderful for the space they had. It was open—and since this took place in Greece, it worked very well.

Thanks to Music Director Rachel Aylworth, the musical numbers were all very catchy and fun, with songs like “A Comedy Tonight”, “Free”, and “Lovely.” You’ll get the lyrics and tunes stuck in your head, and the performance of these songs are done so well and everybody helps add to that. The ensemble numbers were great. And many of the actors were veterans and they really had a great sound. It was fun to see these veterans help the newer actors—this is what community theater is all about.

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Kathy Young’s directions made the show sparkle by choosing some experienced actors and some newer performers. The energy was high and you could tell the cast had that real family relationship. She did a great job in the chase scene—it didn’t go on too long, and there were no pauses that took forever. She handled the physical comedy brilliantly.

Overall, I had a very enjoyable and fun evening with only one real problem, the small audience size. This show deserves a larger audience so I urge you all to go see this great and funny show!

The show runs June 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, 19, 23, and 24, at Merit College Preparatory Academy, 1440 West Center Street, Springville UT. Doors open at 7:00 PM and the show begins at 7:30 PM. $10 for adults, $8 for students/senior citizens. You can find them online at www.springvilleplayhouse.com.

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(in)Divisible is an Eye-Opening Look at Society and Politics

by Amanda Berg

(in)divisible at Rose Wagner TheaterAn original performance by 12 local playwrights, (In)divisible is a unique, bipartisan commentary about the everyday person’s response to the November 2016 election. It will be at the studio theater of the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center until June 18th. Each playwright wrote two five-minute monologues or dialogues (one Liberal and one Conservative) as responses to various aspects of our current political climate, without ever mentioning a politician’s name. I decided to go with my fiancé, who is on the opposite side of the political spectrum as I, because I knew this would result in great discussions about the content of the plays.

The casual atmosphere was quite comfortable—only about 75 seats in the theater, no props, no sets, no costumes—only 16 actors in everyday clothes, a small, black theater, some lights, and two music stands for the readings. The theater is in a great location downtown—the only downside that if you have a vehicle, parking is not free anywhere in the vicinity.

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© JJ Neward, Plan-B Theater Company

Since tickets were free, we did not realize it was necessary to have a ticket via email, but we were still able to get into the performance. Though tickets are free, attendees are encouraged to give a donation to The Children’s Center, which is a mental health facility for the birth-to-five population, many of whom are refugees and survivors of trauma—a very worthy cause and an organization I’d be happy to donate to any day.

The quality of the performance was wonderful; the playwrights wrote the pieces with the actors in mind (e.g., a Jewish actress speaking about her experiences as a Jewish woman, a Filipino actress speaking about her experiences as a Filipino woman, etc.). Between the caliber of acting talent, wonderful directing (Jerry Rapier), and excellent writing by the playwrights, it seemed as though the actors were honestly recalling their personal experiences. Though they were reading the scripts, they showed genuine emotion and rarely looked down, which I was happy about with since I personally find looking down at the script constantly to be quite bothersome.

There were 24 stories altogether, though I found it amazing how a few of the playwrights were able to connect their two skits, so one could see two perspectives to the same story. This was not a series of rants about politics, but sincere recollections about personal experiences and interactions.

Some content was eye-opening and new; other content was not as much, but the overall experience was an oddly satisfying combination of heart-wrenching, painful, beautiful, and joyful. My own viewpoints were challenged and validated, and the cognitive dissonance had me thinking about society and politics for the rest of the night. It also resulted in conversations about the content during the entire drive home!

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© JJ Neward, Plan-B Theater Company

Fortunately, the goal of the performance was not to change one’s thinking, but open the viewer up to a wider variety of information. Because it was written by local playwrights, there were aspects of the show that were especially personal to people in our Utah community, which made the performance even more profound. That being said, the quantity of profanity was great enough for even me to feel slightly uncomfortable at times, so if you are sensitive to swearing, this may not be the show for you.

PLAYWRIGHTS
Austin Archer
Matthew Ivan Bennett
Carleton Bluford
Rachel Bublitz
Elaine Jarvik
Julie Jensen
Jennifer A. Kokai
Melissa Leilani Larson
Jenifer Nii
Eric Samuelsen
Morag Shepherd
Debora Threedy

CAST
Joe Debevc
Lily Hye Soo Dixon
Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin
April Fossen
Mark Fossen
Bijan Hosseini
Bryan Kido
Tito Livas
Jayne Luke
Shane Mozaffari
JJ Neward
Nicki Nixon
Isabella Reeder
Matthew Sincell
Darryl Stamp
Jason Tatom
Alicia Washington

(In)Divisible is a show for an open-minded audience, a closed-minded audience, really an anything-minded audience, and I would suggest anyone who is interested at all in politics go see it at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center before it ends on the 18th.

Free tickets are available through Evenbrite. Patrons are encouraged to contribute
to The Children’s Center while at the theatre.

(in)divisible with Plan-B Theater
June 8-18, 2017
Th & F @ 8, Sat @ 4 & 8, Sun @ 2
Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner
In partnership with The Children’s Center

Big Hair and Big Vocals Lead Midvale’s “Rock of Ages”

By Ashley Rader Ramsey

Rock of Ages is a show that falls into the category of the Jukebox musical. The 2000s saw a dramatic rise in this musical darling and everyone from Abba to Queen gave their fans a new view of their music with cleverly crafted storylines linked together with everyone’s favorite hits. While some musicals have made their way into household names (think Mamma Mia!) and some most of us forgot even happened (Sorry, Hot Feet), Rock of Ages finds itself somewhere comfortably in the middle.

Rock of Ages tells the story of Sunset Strip rock bar The Bourbon Room. Home to wannabe rockstars and wannabe groupies alike. The bar is owned by actual rocker and musician Dennis Dupree and serves as the setting for our love story. She’s just a small town girl and he’s a city boy (sing it now) born and raised in South Detroit. Sherry and Drew have both found themselves in LA chasing the fame dream, but for now he’s cleaning toilets and she’s serving beers. Enter father/son real estate developers Hertz and Franz Klinermann whose new plan for the Sunset Strip threatens the Bourbon Room’s home on the Strip. In attempt to save the bar, they bring in the now famous band Arsenal who got their start in the Bourbon Room. Arsenal’s band is led by the glamorously sexy Stacee Jaxx, who proves a threat to Sherry and Drew’s budding relationship.

Rock of Ages uses a narrator to weave and guide the story along. It’s not a complicated story and for the most part leaves all of the characters undeveloped and emotional shells of your rock glam stereotypes. It’s not gonna be a Pulitzer Prize winner and that’s okay. A show using a narrator can be risky but it was a risk that has definitely paid off in Midvale’s production of Rock of Ages.

Actor Danny Egger’s gives a stand out performance as Lonny. Egger’s Lonny walks a great line of can’t take him to Mama but you wanna take him home to tick off Daddy. Egger brings a fantastic stage presence to the role and impeccable comedic timing, as well. His character sets the tone and energy for the show the moment he sets foot on stage.

While the rest of the cast took a couple numbers to catch up to the energy that Eggers set on stage (opening night jitters?) they quickly found their pacing to keep the show moving at a good pace. Eric Williams’ portrayal of Dennis Dupree is one of the strongest of the show. Williams, clearly a talented musician (he plays both electric guitar and saxophone in the show) gives Dupree a grounded presence on stage. Dupree with his bell bottom pants and long hair is a reflection of the rock movement of the 70s and he has seen it all before. He offers a guiding hand to young musicians and a paycheck to others chasing their dreams. William’s portrayal is so effortless and natural in this role he just seems to weave in and out of the story seamlessly. Taylor Lawrence’s Regina is ridiculously funny and a joy in whenever she sets foot on stage. Her moments of physical comedy and her pure bleeding heart bring together a well-rounded and lovable character you will be rooting for to the very end.

Cassidy Ross and Jake Holt take on the roles of the love birds Sherry Christian and Drew. Ross and Holt do a nice job of building a romantic chemistry on stage especially in the medley “More Than Words/To Be With You/Heaven”. Holt vocally does a wonderful job of manuevering the higher range of the hits of glam rock and shows a nice vulnerability as Drew. Ross, while not the strongest performer vocally, shines in Sherry’s moments of heartache. Ross gives a nice naivety and girl next door to the role. She also finds strong moments alongside Ben Brinton as Stacee Jaxx. Ross and Brinton play well of each other in their moments of bathroom passion. On his own, Brinton brings one of the strongest male voices to Rock of Ages and nails the oozing sex appeal of your favorite eyeliner wearing and big hair sporting glam rocker of the 80s.

A musical is only has good as its ensemble and the ensemble of this production is clearly very talented. Many of the ensemble members also take on smaller bit roles that feature their talents nicely. Standouts in the ensemble are Darsity Robles who oozes sexy and cool, and Samantha Morford who shines with her dance skills and tumbling.

Jan Harris does a wonderful job of costuming as she stays true to what the 80s actually looked like and not the neon-colored parody that most millennials are familiar with. Sean McLaughlin’s set is deceptively simple but the longer you stare at it, the more realize how great it actually is. From the period stickers covering The Bourbon Room and pretty seamless transition of video sets, McLaughlin brings anice touch of realism to the genre and decade. Choreopraphy by Alexandira Zinov and assistant Siobhan Roche is fun and high energy. They do a nice job of physically telling the story through movement. Though at times the choreography did feel inorganic and a little complex for the cast to execute properly, it was still a source of strength for the production.

Director and theater owner Tammy Jackson Ross has done such a wonderful job of building a theatre for Utah to see so much more than the usually produced popular pieces. Unafraid to be edgy and honest about tough subjects, she can be counted on for quality and high standards for her shows. Rock of Ages is no exception and her work of art shows clearly through in the direction of her show. Her talent as a director is highlighted in the strong performances of her actors. One of the strongest moments of the show is the number “Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” an unexpected love ballad between Lonny and Dennis. It is the duet between Eric Clapton and Billie Joe Armstrong that you didn’t know your heart was missing. While a strange and very sudden change of events, Ross’ direction of the rise and fall, and light peppering of comedy make it a highlight of the show.

Rock of Ages is rude and crude in all the right ways but probably isn’t appropriate for young teenagers and small children. Language and thematic events make it not great option for a family night out but the perfect escape for date night and girls and guys nights out.

Rock of Ages is playing now at Midvale Main Street Theatre now through June 24th with shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 with one Sunday night show on June 11. Tickets range from $15-22. Food is also available for purchase at the theatre.

7711 South Main Street (700 West) Midvale, Utah 84047, imidvaletheatre@gmail.com Tel (801) 566-0596

The SCERA’s “Hairspray” Shows Comedy’s Power to Enrich an Audience

hairspray sceraBy Jason Evans

 SCERA’s current production of Hairspray proves once again that comedy has great power to enrich an audience when approached from a serious position, leaving us feeling like our lives are made better by experiencing it. But the rich comedy can still entertain and we find us leaving the theater filled with sheer joy.

As director Jan Shelton Hunsaker states in her director’s notes: back in 1962, when Hairspray takes place, America was in the midst of a great civil rights struggle. Today, we are fighting an even greater one.

Our country is often on opposite sides on how to deal with important issues: Muslims, immigration, the LGBTQ community, modern society’s views of beauty, obesity, and the list goes on and on. It seems that in every way, this country is polarizing and people are becoming more distant from one another. Hairspray celebrates love, life, family, community, and through the heroic and optimistic eyes of the shows heroine, Tracy Turnblad (Chelsea Lindsay), we see that we are all alike, and that diversity, acceptance, tolerance are traits that should be admired and encouraged, not ridiculed and discouraged.

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Thank goodness for excellent productions like the SCERA gives our community. An audience is much more receptive to soul-searching and looking at itself when presented through the rose-colored glasses of musical comedy. All great musical comedies throughout the history of theater have done this, and Hairspray is no exception.

Jan Shelton Hunsaker and her brother Brad’s scenic design captured the heart of the 60s with great musical theater style but simple in its presentation. Deborah Bowman’s wonderful costumes were bright, colorful, and a feast for the eyes as well as a great way to distinguish between characters. This is especially helpful because the Shell’s stage is large. Bowman is a master at this and her designs never disappoint. Elizabeth Griffith’s lighting was the most elaborate I’ve ever seen on the Shell stage; it helped to convey the energy and excitement of this show.

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First and foremost, the ensemble work in this show was great. The energy was there and I know will continue to expand and increase in energy each night of the run. The energy of the ensemble was infectious.

Lindsay’s Tracy Turnblad was unique and was the first time I had seen an actress play this role with equal optimism but also realistic expectations.. From the opening number, “Good Morning, Baltimore,” I was hooked and rooting for her the entire evening. Her infectious laugh was endearing and I just wanted to be up on stage with her taking the journey with her.

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Michael Thomas as Seaweed Stubbs and Tearza Leigh Foyston as Penny Pingleton in the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre’s production of “Hairspray.”

Tearza Foyston’s Penny Pingleton was the surprise of the evening. Unlike other performances I’ve seen, Foyston was bright, funny, endearing. She and Tracy were a force to be reckoned with. Her journey from innocence to allowing herself to have fun and take more risks was believable and a joy to watch.

What can I say about Andrew Lloyd Hunsaker and his incredible, hilarious, moving portrayal of Tracy’s mother, Edna? Hunsaker is an actor I’ve admired and loved for a very long time. He embodies each of his roles with professionalism and a love for each character he portrays, and Edna is no exception. He took command of the stage every time he was on and I fell in love with the relationship between Edna and Tracy from the start. Hunsaker played this role as it should be, a complex and beautiful wife and mother who would do anything for her family. There were many times throughout the evening I forgot Hunsaker was playing the role, I only saw Edna.

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Andrew Hunsaker as Edna Turnblad and Chelsea Lindsay as Tracy Turnblad in the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre’s production of “Hairspray.”

The male leads, Dennis Wright (Wilbur Turnblad), Jaxon Dayton (Link Larkin), Kristian Huff (Corny Collins), and Michael Thomas (Seaweed J. Stubbs) were all fun to watch and each portrayed their characters with integrity and honesty. Our villains, Leslie Preator-Keckley (Velma Von Tussle) and Sasha Sloan (Amber Von Tussle) were hilarious and fun and I loved the fact they didn’t portray them as cardboard villains. In this production of Hairspray, they are human, a product of their time, and in the end, join the community, so there is some hope for them.

Last but not least, the incredible Luseane Pasa as Motormouth Maybelle is a shining star. This is my favorite character in the show and Pasa brought such integrity and compassion to the role. She is the one that brings the message of the show to the audience, the great 11 o’clock number, “I Know Where I’ve Been.” A final compliment to Daisy Allred as Little Inez; what a wonderful character and her energy was infectious the entire evening.

Finally, Tiffany Winkel Nutter did such a wonderful job with the music and her choreography was unique and added so much to the production. There was dance in portions of the show that I have never seen dance in before, and it added so much to those scenes and to the portrayal of the story. It’s a big job to handle such a large ensemble, and she did it with professionalism and great style. Welcome back to Utah, Ms. Nutter. Utah Theater has missed you.

The SCERA has produced a great piece of musical theater and this is a show not to be missed. If you’ve never seen it before, get yourself down to Orem and experience what is Hairspray. If you’ve seen the movie, or have seen another live production, still attend this one. There is enough that’s fresh and new that you will love this show even more.

Note: If you’ve never been to the SCERA shell theater—it’s outdoors. Take a blanket or camp chair to sit on, a jacket (it gets chilly once the sun goes down), and maybe some bug spray.

The show plays Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 PM at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre in SCERA Park in Orem, Utah. 699 S State St. Gates open at 7:00PM with the box office opening at 6:30PM on the north side of the Shell. You can also purchase tickets online at www.scera.org, in person at the SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S State St in Orem, Utah; Monday-Friday (10:00  AM-8:00PM), Saturday (Noon-8:00 PM) or call 801-225-ARTS.

The Zig’s “Cabaret” is Dazzlingly Beautiful

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By Brandon Stauffer

Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!

The Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden Utah touts a motto of “Professional Standard, Community Spirit,” and their production of Cabaret is everything they stand for.  As you walk into the theatre, you are welcomed by friendly faces and a welcoming staff. I immediately felt as if I was part of their family.

Cabaret is set in Berlin, early 1930s in the Kit Kat Klub, where the party is led by a Master of Ceremonies, who opens the show by saying, “Leave your troubles outside! So – life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here! Here, life is beautiful.” Truer words could not describe this moment in history as the Nazi Party begins to grow stronger and take power in Germany.  The show continues in counterpoint between the Kit Kat Klub, which serves as a metaphor for the political climate of the time, and the life of an American writer, Clifford Bradshaw who comes to Berlin to write his novel but is soon swept away into a love affair with the Klub’s leading lady, Sally Bowles.

From the moment I walked into the theatre, I was completely immersed in Cabaret.  Trent Cox’s set design was perfection; there was no question what kind of “Klub” I had entered. Center stage has such an amazingly authentic and ingenious plan, it’s hard to explain. Come see the show and you’ll see what I mean.

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For the pre-show, the bar came to life with the Kit Kat Girls and Boys as they meandered around the set. I totally believed I was looking in the window of this 1930s Klub, waiting for their “show” to begin.

The lights dimmed. I must admit this is the moment in any show I get the most nervous, hoping that I am about to see something great. Enter the MC, played by Joshua Samuel Robinson, and I was completely engulfed.  His portrayal of this character seemed so effortless, yet he never stopped working.  I never wanted him to leave the stage, and for the most part he didn’t.  I believed everything he did was a true moment for his character.  Like a true MC. he sang beautifully, his comedy was perfect, his dancing was on point, and his presence on the stage was brilliant.

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From that moment on, I wasn’t watching a show in a theatre in Ogden, Utah. I was in Berlin, Germany in the 1930s watching the Kit Kat Girls and Boys live their lives and exist in and out of the Klub.  The ensemble was brilliant as they traveled between numbers and scenes with ease, they existed not only in the Klub but also became the frame for all the scenes outside the Klub. They stayed in character, they were invested, and they were excellent in their roles.

On a train, we meet Clifford Bradshaw (Nathan Allen Vaughn) and Ernst Ludwig (Sterling Allen.) Both men bring a certain power to their roles that continued throughout the show.  Ernst becomes to the audience the leading growth in the Nazi party and he brought the perfect amount of power and empathy to the role. I wanted to like him but knew I shouldn’t.  Clifford, on the other hand, was so easy to like. Vaughn made Clifford accessible and so easy to love and root for that I wanted more of him and his story.

The story quickly shifts back to the Kit Kat Klub where Sally Bowles enters and sings the seductive song “Don’t Tell Mama.” Sally, played by Kelly Tansey, is the perfect addition to the show. Kelly brings the party to life–she is the party.  She is a beam of pure fun every time she enters the stage. She is able to walk the line of living in the and out of the Klub with perfection.  She is without a doubt the perfect leading lady to this show.

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Director Trent Cox brilliantly gives the show a meaning, a place, and the perfect cast–one of the best I have seen in a long time.  Under his direction, the Kit Kat Klub and its attendees stay onstage for almost the entirety of the show, and in character, they frame and watch the counter story that is set outside of the Klub. Choreography by Talese Hunt was nothing less than astounding; it was perfectly placed in and out of the Klub. Kelsey Nichols’ costumes added to each scene with dazzling detail and were perfection in authenticity. The music direction by Rick Rea, sound by Eliza Hayne, and lights by Daniel Pack all completed the production in a way that added to the story. I never lost my suspension of disbelief.

Cabaret at the Ziegfeld Theater is a glorious piece of theatre, but not recommended for children.  The work of art that has been created the Ziegfeld Stage should be celebrated and should not be missed.  Go, spend the night with the brilliant MC and the rest of the cast and enjoy theatre with a professional standard, and a community spirit.

Tickets are available at www.zigarts.com or by calling 855.ZIG.ARTS. Cabaret plays in Ogden through June 2 – 24th, FridaySaturday 7:30 PM. Saturday 6/17 2 PM

Tickets range from $20 – $17
The Ziegfeld Theater, 3934 S. Washington Blvd. Ogden, UT

 

Midvale Arts Says Good Morning, Midvale in “Hairspray”

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By Chloe’ Cox and Tyra Hammond

For us, a mother-daughter team who love theater, this was our first time attending a performance by the Midvale Arts Council. We had been told that they always put on a great show and, as Hairspray is always full of fun, we were excited to see what the cast had in store for us last night. They truly didn’t disappoint!

Hairspray is a musical comedy with a lot of lift and a ton of heart. Tracy Turnblad is a girl growing up in 1962 Baltimore whose greatest dream is to be one of the dancers on “The Corny Collins Show,” a popular local TV studio’s American Bandstand-type teen dance program. Without being a classic Barbie doll shape, she bravely enters the audition and tolerates the catty cruelty of the producer, Velma von Tussle and her daughter and reigning queen of the show, Amber. Tracy wins a featured spot and becomes an overnight sensation winning the affections of Link, Amber’s boyfriend, and setting new style trends in fashion and hair. With her giant heart and the loving support of her eccentric parents and best friend Penny, Tracy’s right to dance is not the only fight she feels passionate about. With some new friends and a newfound popularity, Tracy breaks the barriers of segregation and models a greater acceptance of diversity, paving the way for inclusion of all shapes backgrounds, colors–and hairstyles.

We arrived a little early Friday evening and easily found the Midvale Performing Arts Center with easy access to parking in the back. The parking isn’t abundant but certainly adequate for this quaint little theater with its retro exterior and remodeled interior. There are a few small windows covered with dark curtains in the theater that let in little streams of light when the house lights went down. Once the performance started and the stage lights came on, we no longer noticed them and we’re confident that’s a situation they will soon resolve. Its roomy, comfortable theater seating and relaxed atmosphere gave it a pleasant hometown feel. Without a bad seat in the house, we sat in the back row and still felt that up close and personal connection with the cast.

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The cast and crew brought this timeless story to life with their wonderful talent. Under the direction of Kristie Post Wallace, with Janzell Tutor as music director and April Kimball Thomas as choreographer, as well as the designers, this production of Hairspray took the audience to the world of Baltimore in the Swingin’ Sixties with its upbeat choreography, one of our favorites being I Can Hear the Bells. The fantastic vintage costume designs were also taken on by Casey Matern, who played Tracy. The supporting cast and ensemble strongly complemented the principal actors and were each talented in their own right with their voices and dance stylings.

Casey Matern, who played the ever eager Tracy Turnblad, lit up the stage brighter than any lighting designer could dream of. From the first note she sang, it was very evident we were in for a treat with her. Her mic appeared to be off throughout “Good Morning Baltimore” but, it was only apparent at the times that her back was turned as her strong voice easily compensated for the lack of mic assistance. She embodied Tracy’s hope and ambition while still maintaining her youthful naivety. Matern’s rendition of Tracy was spot on from her radical hair-do and joyful facial expressions to her Oxford-clad pigeon-toed stance.

Tracy’s mom, Edna (whose role is typically played by a male who can own the stage as a big, beautiful woman) was performed by the remarkably exuberant Glen Reber. His performance was full of comedy and joy as he created the loveable mama bear character that will do anything for her daughter and husband. His smile was broad and his face shone brightly and, well, he was just beautiful as was his classic Edna voice. Wilbur Turnblad, Tracy’s father and Edna’s husband, was played by Curtis Turley. He and Reber had a sweet and entertaining chemistry. One of the many highlights of the show was Edna and Wilbur’s duet, “You’re Timeless to Me,” as Reber was a much larger Edna to Turley’s Wilbur and the choreography was very theatrical, entertaining, and hilarious.

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Corny Collins, the host of “The Corny Collins Show”, was played by Skyler Bluemel, and he was a jazzy, snazzy character we enjoyed a great deal. Motormouth Maybelle, the host for The Corny Collins Show on the once a month “Negro Day” were both good counters to play against Wilcox’s (evil) Velma. Velma’s daughter Amber, heiress for the Miss Baltimore crown, was portrayed by Sydney Peebler wonderfully. Peebler’s depiction of Amber’s entitlement was in full force every moment she was gracing the stage, with dramatic facials and comical sidelong glances at her boyishly handsome costar, Link Larkin. Link was played by Brandan Ngo, who had a lovely voice to go with his cute looks and smooth moves. Ngo portrayed Link’s vanity while remaining a likable choice for Tracy to fall in love with.

The scene changes were performed quickly and seamlessly, owing to Samuel Burt’s set design The audience was able to experience the world of Baltimore without bogging down the stage with excess material.

Before curtain, we were able to talk with producer Stephanie Johnson, who told us that pneumonia was plaguing a couple of the cast members, namely, Oliva Netzler (Seaweed) and Emily Wilcox (Velma von Tussle.) Despite this fact, Netzler didn’t seem at all out of breath as he busted out some wicked dance moves to impress Penny, played by the adorable and beautifully-voiced Alanna Cottam. Despite Wilcox’s illness, she executed Velma’s nasty yet classy character very well.

It was a great pleasure to have a few minutes to chat with CaseyMatern (Tracy) after the show. With just a few short answers, we got a fantastic feel for Ms. Matern’s love of Tracy and for the production and cast that has held so much of her time and heart the past few months:

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FRRU: What was the hardest part about becoming Tracy?

Matern: Oh gosh, building up the stamina, honestly. Because this show for Tracy is go, go, go, go, go. The only time I have a break is literally during “It Takes Two.” So, running on the treadmill while singing to get ready. Stamina. That’s been the hardest part.

FRRU: There aren’t bios in the playbill. What is a little bit of your theater background?

Matern: I’ve been doing theater since high school. I am a stay-at-home mom and this is my outlet. I’ve performed a ton a Hale Center theater. I’ve done a few things here. I’ve directed here before. I’ve been Roz in 9 to 5 The Musical; Gertrude McFuzz in Suessical; I’ve played both the Witch and Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, and that will forever and always be my favorite show.

FRRU: What would you never change about this experience?

Matern: Here’s the thing. Racism is still such a sad, prominent issue in today’s society. It’s been incredible to watch this process. We started as two separate casts. Not on purpose, but you have the “Nice Kids” and the “Other Kids.” Or the “Other Nice Kids”. For a long time, it felt like two different casts and to watch it grow and the way everyone has come together. It’s been incredible and it’s a conversation that we, as a cast, have often and we’re very open about it and its similarities [to the show.] It’s been really great to watch everyone meld and become one.

With the inspiring words of Motormouth Maybelle, “If something is worth having, it’s worth fighting for.”   This was an inspiring, fun-filled production that will draw you in from the very beginning and hold you fast till the very last bow.

This is a family-friendly show with a few mild innuendos that are very easily missed if not understood. Each show runs 2½ hrs with a 15-minute intermission. There is elevator access to the 2nd floor theater with restrooms on the 1st floor and inexpensive snack concessions at the entrance.

The Midvale Arts Council presents Hairspray based on the book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman.

Midvale Performing Arts Center, 695 W Center Street (7720 South), Midvale, Utah

June 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 PM with a matinee each Saturday at 2 PM.

Tickets: General Admission $7, Senior $5, Child (3-12) $5, Midvale Resident General Admission $6, Midvale Resident Senior/Child Admission $4, Family Pass (one household) $25

Tickets available at www.MidvaleArts.com or can be purchased at the door.

Phone number 385-313-0278

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