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

 

Farmington’s “Seussical” was a Suessierific Family Production

By Becky Evans

I took my daughters to see Farmington City’s summer production of Seussical the Musical at the Farmington Arts Center and we all left singing and shaking our tail-feathers as wanna-be bird-girls.  As we learned more about the actors and actresses in this hometown production, we realized it was a show put on by families for families. Seussical follows a little boy named JoJo’s adventures in a town inhabited by Dr. Seuss characters including Horton the Elephant, Whos from Whoville, a General who is going to war with butter-side downers, Maysie the bird, a sour kangaroo, and many more.

Breanne Hendricks has worked tirelessly this summer as director and choreographer and it shows.  Derek Hendrick touches heartstrings with his on-pitch and sweet portrayal of Horton the Elephant caring for the Whos. Hendrick is also credited for designing and building the sets, which were lively and “Seussy.”  Rose Jenson costumed the show in a manner that defined who was who while allowing our imaginations to fill in the extra. Jenson is expressive and entertaining in her featured role as JoJo’s mother. She became involved in this production to spend extra time with her son this summer.

Hollie Lowell did a great job pulling big sound from a relatively small cast and her husband took turns alternating between the Cat in The Hat and the General along with the talented and extremely energetic Jason StowellAngie Burton rocks her part of the Sour Kangaroo with great facial expressions and dance moves although the sound cut out for some of her riffs and her vocal embellishments were hard to hear. Lowell’s daughter plays the bouncy young kangaroo and even looks related to Burton.

The actresses that stole the show in the hearts of my girls were the two bird girls: Lena Conatser as Maysie and Jamila Lowe as Gertrude.  Conaster’s energy was electric as she strutted and sang with confidence about her fabulous tail. Gertrude looks up to Maysie both literally and figuratively as she sets about trying to earn a tail like Maysie’s.  Although I would have liked to have heard her words more clearly during “All for You,” she sings with heart along with Horton in the “Finale” as they decide to care for Maysie’s egg together. It was a show-stopping moment when the egg hatches and an unusual creature is born. Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged and emerge triumphant.

Seussical the Musical was a fun, uplifting show to bring the whole family to. Farmington’s production ran only one week, Aug 1-7 but if you would like to be involved in the next hometown production, they are having auditions for their fall dinner theatre Play On this Saturday, Aug 12 from 9:00 AM-12:00 PM at the Farmington Arts CenterKatie Evans is directing and is looking for 13 comedic adults to join in the fun.

Farmington City presented Seussical the Musical                                                       Farmington Arts Center, 120 South Main Street, Farmington, Utah 84025                   Aug 1-7, 2017  6:30 PM                                                                                                 Tickets: $7