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