Catch “Brigadoon” at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre in Orem Before It Disappears

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By Angela Dell

Lone bagpiper, James Moyar, stands at the top of the hill at the back of the audience and plays traditional bagpipe music in a kilt and hose before the start of Brigadoon at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre in Orem. This is my first time seeing the original musical written by Lerner and Loewe, so I had zero expectations going in.

For those like me who are not familiar with the show, it follows two Americans, Tommy Albright (Logan Bradford) and Jeff Douglas (Sam Arnold), on vacation in the Scottish Highlands. There they find a magical village that only appears on the earth once every 100 years, unless someone from the village leaves. In which case, the village ceases to exist and the people are lost forever. Tommy falls in love with the beautiful and ever hopeful Fiona (Aubrey Rose Jackson) but must decide to either give up the life he knows back in America or his one true love.

Both Bradford and Jackson absolutely floor the audience with their amazing vocal talent. Bradford’s vocal performance history is extensive and impressive. His acting ability is consistent and dedicated. He gives his character depth and feeling as much while singing as well as delivering dialogue. This being Jackson’s debut performance, I’m absolutely stunned by the amount of talent she delivers. It’s not easy learning and maintaining a Scottish dialect, but she pulls it off superbly. She adds complexity and strength to her character that makes her a far more interesting person to follow onstage. Bradford and Jackson’s multiple duets throughout the show are a complete treat. Their duet “Almost Like Being in Love” is so charming and sweet, I heard audible sighs from the three girls sitting in front of me and my friend.

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Arnold’s devotion to his character is extremely apparent. Although his singing talent wasn’t specifically showcased in this production, Arnold is a talented 17-year-old with excellent comedic timing. He plays off his scene partners with a very natural sarcasm and never drops a line. Maggie Warren plays the formidable Meg Brockie, who just can’t seem to leave poor Jeff alone. Warren’s energy is contagious onstage. She gives her all in the song “The Love of my Life” in order to convince the reluctant Jeff Douglas of her suitability as a wife. The scenes with Warren and Arnold are absolutely charming and hilarious with their clashing desires.

The real reason we’re all here is to watch the dashing Charlie Dalrymple (Kyle Hansen) and sweet Jean MacLaren (Elizabeth Crandall) marry. Hansen’s understanding of his character goes beyond this production as he played the same character in a previous production in American Fork. His confidence onstage matches his character’s confidence about life. His character’s relationship with Jean is sweet and exactly what every girl wants in a guy. In the song “Come to me, Bend to me” he sings it with such care and humility, you’re grateful when she comes out and dances around him while he’s blind-folded to give him the assurance he needs when preparing for their wedding. Crandall’s performance shines during her ballet pieces. Her dance during “Come to me, Bend to me” is so sweet and meaningful, in tandem with Hansen’s singing, it makes for a beautiful piece.

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This was Christopher Gallacher’s first show choreographing and it was absolutely stunning. He used his background in folk dance to bring out the movement of the villagers in a symmetric and organized display. The ensemble did a marvelous job moving together as well as accomplishing the beautiful and sometimes complicated steps choreographed. Paired with Kelsey Seaver’s costume design, there is a veritable rainbow of color crossing the stage.  The set is easily movable and designed to allow for the impressive ensemble to dance, float, or chase across the stage thanks to set designer Shawn M. Mortensen.

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Director Jerry Elison is a hometown treasure to the local theater community. His hard work and dedication to this performance shows through as it does for all of his productions. His casting choices, blocking, and vision for the show was thoughtfully made and excellently executed. His devotion to theater shows through in this production.

The theatre is hard to miss sitting right in the middle of SCERA park but as there is construction on the parking lot on the east side of the theatre, parking may be limited so get there early. Also, bring bug spray as there are lots of bugs that come out around Intermission. If you are lucky enough to get seats in Section A or B, you have a white chair provided for you. If you opt to sit in the higher up seats, you can bring a blanket to sit on, your own folding chair, or rent a chair from them for one dollar. I’ve sat in the higher up seats with a blanket, and it was perfectly comfortable. They have concessions that are reasonably priced with an assortment of snacks or the option of getting a slice of Papa John’s pizza or a six-inch sub from Gandolfo’s.

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The SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre gives us beautiful music, talented actors, and devoted crew that creates a show that reminds us “when ye love someone deeply enough, anythin’ is possible. Even miracles.”

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SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre presents Brigadoon by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner

SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre, SCERA Park, 699 State St, Orem, UT 84058

August 4-19 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays 8:00 PM

Tickets: $10-14

801-225-2787

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SCERA’s “Seussical the Musical” Lightheartedly Encourages Audience to Think New Thinks

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By Teresa Gashler

When I brought my young family to see Seussical the Musical at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre in Orem, I didn’t know what kind of show to expect. I have been a librarian and I have a deep love for Dr. Seuss books. I was nervous because it is a full-length show and my kids struggle making it all the way through anything over an hour. Despite that, even my six-year-old enjoyed it the whole time. While that is a plus, it is more important to me that a Seuss show convey the important themes throughout Dr. Seuss’ books, and some of those themes are aimed at adults more than children. I am happy to say that SCERA’s production carefully integrates those themes. I love that Dr. Seuss combines whimsical elements with serious messages, and I feel this production embodies that. This show leaves some great discussion opportunities for families or friends to engage in.

Seussical is a musical celebrating many of the children’s books written by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel.) It focuses primarily on the storylines of the books Horton Hears a Who, Horton Hatches the Egg, and Miss Gertrude McFuzz, but includes many smaller portions of other Dr. Seuss books. The Cat in the Hat (Eric Smith) serves as the mischievous narrator and tells the story of Horton (Kyle Baugh), an elephant who discovers a community of people who live on a speck of dust. These people, called the Whos, include Jojo (Seth Sherman), an imaginative boy who is sent to join the Who military for thinking too many “thinks”. Horton vows to protect the Whos and places their dust spec on a clover. The animals around Horton ridicule him for believing in the Whos and steal the clover, putting the Whos in danger. As Horton painstakingly tries to protect the Whos, he ends up also taking care of an egg for Mayzie La Bird (Abbey Wood). She promises to return soon, but does not. Meanwhile, a bird named Gertrude McFuzz (Emily Bennett) wants to win the love of Horton, but she is self-conscious because she only has one feather on her tail and thinks that Horton won’t care for her because of it. She comes to learn to love herself for who she is and assists Horton with his commitments. Despite the challenges they face, Horton, Gertrude, Jojo, and the Whos are able to convince those around them to not only believe in the existence of the Whos, but also to be willing to change their thinking.

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Seussical was created by Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens, and Eric Idle. It premiered on Broadway in 2000 and has been nominated for many awards, including a Tony Award. It has toured throughout the United States, has been performed in London, and it has been adapted into a shorter version for younger performers called Seussical Jr.

When I first heard about Seussical a few years ago, I have to admit, I cringed thinking about cramming so many great stories into one play. I was afraid it would be watered down and cheesy, focusing on the whimsical and skimping on the brilliant themes and ideas throughout Dr. Seuss’ books. I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised. While there are a lot of characters and stories crammed together, the focus is primarily on Horton, Jojo, and Gertrude. This keeps the story coherent and gives opportunity to explore the themes. I do feel there are still too many subplots. In the original version, there was a Lorax sequence they had to cut for time. I think this show could use a few more cuts to tighten it up. While it is fun to see so many recognizable Seuss characters, they do detract from the main flow of the musical. That is the inherent challenge of having a musical celebrating all the works of Dr. Seuss – you honestly don’t have time to celebrate them all in one play.

That being said, I feel that SCERA’s performance deals with that challenge very well. The cast, as a whole, are brilliant. I enjoyed scanning the ensemble of colorful characters because each one is invested in the show. Director Shawn M. Mortensen does a tremendous job making each member of the ensemble an important part of the show. I didn’t feel like anyone was standing around filling space. I was stunned by how unified the cast is through the choreography. Mortensen is also the choreographer. The dance and movements are not only fun to watch, but keep a great flow and pace for the show.

The music, directed by DeLayne Bluth Dayton, is excellent as well. The lead roles sing with good technique and great passion. I enjoyed the solos that I heard. Unfortunately, there were a few solos I could not hear at all. I don’t know if it was because those particular actors were not loud enough, or their microphones were having difficulties, or another reason. Those moments were only a few, and the sound, designed and engineered by Chase Elison, is generally great.

The scenic design by Cole McClure, lighting design by Seth Mergist, costume design by Kelsey Seaver, and prop design by Christy Norton all complimented each other very well. I imagine it would be easy to go overboard on design for a show with Seuss characters, but they keep the design very well balanced. There is the right amount of whimsical elements, including trees that swing occasionally and airflate dancers. I also loved the choice to give the Whos colorful custom-made wigs and hats instead of doing the Who hair seen in movies (Who hair hurts so much!) The design elements are the right amount of fun and never overwhelming.

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Smith as The Cat in the Hat drives the show with his hilarious antics and abundant enthusiasm. The Cat plays many side roles which Smith performs brilliantly. The Cat has a duality of being a mentor and a devil’s advocate and Smith portrays both very well. My kids always loved it when he was onstage. Baugh does an excellent job portraying Horton as thoughtful and gentle, though simultaneously passionate about protecting the Whos and the egg. Sherman, who portrays Jojo, plays his role remarkably well for a young actor. Bennett and Wood bring great characterization to their characters Gertrude and Mayzie. All actors in this show invest in their characters and no one falls flat.

ss6       The SCERA Shell is an outdoor theater on a grass slope that can accommodate more than 4,000 patrons. Audience members can rent a chair or bring a blanket to sit ss4on. It is a more casual setting and great for families. Concessions are sold and patrons are allowed to bring their own food with some exceptions about how the food is brought in. The volunteer staff is friendly and helpful.

Overall, my little family had a great experience and I look forward to supplementing it by checking out all the Dr. Seuss books I can get my hands on during the next few months. Thank you, SCERA.

 

SCERA SHELL OUTDOOR THEATRE presents SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL by LYNN AHRENS, STEPHEN FLAHERTY, and ERIC IDLE

SCERA SHELL OUTDOOR THEATRE 699 South State Street Orem in SCERA Park

July 7-22, 8:00 PM Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri, Sat

Ticket Price $10-16

801-225-ARTS

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SCERA’s Guys & Dolls is a Sure Bet

By Larisa Hicken

Guys and Dolls 11x17 Poster_OLAs the final show of their indoor season in Orem, Utah, SCERA’s production of Guys & Dolls was sensational.

With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, Guys  & Dolls is a classic lighthearted musical about girls who fall for the wrong guys and gamblers who can’t seem to find their lucky break – except when it comes to love. The original production was an instant hit and many of the songs from the show will be familiar favorites for anyone who loves classical Broadway.

All of the design elements of the show worked together flawlessly to present a caricature of the stereotypical gangsters, gamblers, and missionaries from New York City in the 1950s. The brightly colored costumes by Kelsey Seaver and flashy set design by Shaun M. Mortensen added a lot of visual appeal and helped create a comic strip feel to the show that was downright awesome.

It was obviously opening night and there were a few blunders with actors dropping or missing props or getting slightly tangled in their costumes, but other technical aspects of the show were absolutely perfect.  I didn’t notice a single mistake with the sound and the lights (designed by Elizabeth Ottley Griffiths) were “spot on.”  Scene changes were quick and efficient and kept the rhythm of the show moving right along.

guys-n-dolls-05It was a lot of fun to see actor Bryan Thacker in a comedic role as Nathan Detroit since his last few roles have included much darker characters.  Thacker is a dynamic performer with amazing singing talent.  I lost a few of his words in the beginning due to the fast pacing of the show, but his accent was great, too.

His fiancé Adelaide was played by Alyssa Orme who seemed a little nervous in the beginning of the show, especially during “Adelaide’s Lament,” but she got better and better as the night went on.  Her vocals were very nice for someone so young and her physicality and comedic timing is fabulous. I would like to have seen a few more moments of affection and chemistry between Nathan and Adelaide, but they seemed natural and comfortable together.

guys-n-dolls-03Corey Morris made a sincere and charming Sky Masterson and I appreciated the rich quality of his voice. Cheyenne Lee, as Masterson’s love interest Sarah Brown, was hilarious with her physical gestures and facial expressions.  It was almost disturbing how well she played both an uptight missionary and a drunk person.

Together Morris and Lee made a visually interesting pair and there were some really nice tender moments between the two actors.  However, the stage blocking in their love song “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” felt a little off and prevented me from really seeing their connection in that particular moment.

One of the best scene’s of the night was “Marry the Man Today” between Adelaide and Sarah.  Their energy, timing, and interactions made the scene laugh-out-loud hilarious.

As Director and Music Director, David Smith and Choreographer Brittini Bills Smith should be particularly proud of their work with the chorus.  Their vocals were spectacular and their pantomimes and dancing were fabulous.  I especially enjoyed the tight harmonies of the gamblers during the first scene and the uniquely creative choreography in “Luck be a Lady” and “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

The ensemble deserves a lot of the credit for the high-energy performance and some of the best character interactions took place in the hustle and bustle of the background.  Stand outs were the amazing vocals of Michael Young as “Nicely Nicely Johnson” and the exceptional dancing of Jayson Shipley as “Rusty Charlie.”  The Hot Box Dancers absolutely stole the show with their “Bushel and a Peck” number.  That scene alone was worth the price of a ticket.

If you’re looking for an upbeat and fun show, you can bet you’ll enjoy Guys & Dolls at the SCERA Center for the Arts.

SCERA Center for the Arts
745 South State Street, Orem Utah
Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays @ 7:30pm
Adult – $12, Child (ages 3-11) – $10, Senior (ages 65+) – $10

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The SCERA’S Christmas Musical is Filled with Holiday Joy

likenBy MH Thomas

Throughout LIKEN’s The First Christmas the lyrics, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute. . . ” kept going through my head. The season has kind of sneaked up on me, and seeing this show was a good way to start my own Christmas season celebration.
The set designer (who doubles as the director), Jan Shelton Hunsaker, made the cozy living room on one corner of the stage work with the massive walls of an ancient village. The story of the nativity of Jesus Christ is told by a modern family. Each segment is started in the living room and progresses into the Biblical setting.

We meet this little family as the show begins. Parents and two recalcitrant children arrive at the home of their joyous grandparents. The friend who attended with me remarked that, “those teenagers were just like real teenagers”—a compliment to Olivia Keating and Wesley Hadfield. Grandpa (Jerry Ferguson) has a very natural way about him as he jokes around with his grandchildren. Grandpa starts the Christmas story with the Shepherds. Omar (Kyle Baugh) has a pleasing voice as he leads the song, Everything We Need. He, along with the other five shepherds, make a very enjoyable singing group. Kudos to the music director, Kathryn Little.

liken 2We are taken through the Christmas story, from Elizabeth and Zacharias to Mary and Joseph. The story continues with the Shepherds and Angels and the Inn Keepers, Wise Men and King Herod. The songs are lovely and carry the story along to the conclusion where all meet the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem.

The singers in this production are very well cast. Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luone Ingram) complement one another as they sing the touching, A Hand to Hold. Other standout singers are Caroline Chauncey as Mary and Jason Case as Joseph. The angelic choir also sings very nicely—and I enjoyed seeing the many smiling faces as they sang their songs. At times, the angels perform the equivalent of a Mormon gospel choir. A bit subdued, compared to the real thing, but well done. The Angel Gabriel, seen throughout the show, is expertly portrayed by Daniel Beck. He has a commanding speaking and singing voice and his costume is impressive. He plays the part with just the right amount of humor, when the scene calls for it, and he is a bright spot (literally and figuratively) in the production. The joy on his face and in his voice is contagious and spreads to the rest of the cast. His lively performance really adds a special something to the show.

For the modern family, the costuming had to be able to work as contemporary clothing and then with a few additions work into the ancient clothing style of the rest of the cast. At times, especially with the Wise Men, this gave the impression of a family Christmas pageant—but that just added to the charm of the show. Kelsey Seaver did an impressive job of costuming this large cast.

liken 1This show is appropriate for all ages and for any who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. After the main part of the cast leaves the stage, don’t rush to get up. There is a beautiful little vignette at the end. It is a sweet reminder of the meaning of Christmas.

Nov 21 – Dec 13, 2014 Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays @ 7:30pm

$12 Adult, $10 Child (age 3-11), $10 Senior (age 65+),
GROUP RATES
$10 Family/Corporate groups of 20 or more, $6 Church/Non-profit groups of 20 or more

SCERA Center: Showhouse II
745 South State Street, Orem, UT 84058

 

Les Misérables at the SCERA Should Have No “Empty Chairs”

By Larisa Hicken

les-miserables-05The SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem, Utah has a hit on their hands.  To celebrate the SCERA’s 30th year, they are showing Utah Valley’s Premiere of the beloved musical Les Misérables, by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg.

Les Misérables is an epic musical adapted from the novel by Victor Hugo which takes place on the brink of revolution in 19th century France.  The plot follows Jean Valjean as he is released after being in prison for 19 years.  Through a generous act of mercy, he is changed forever and vows to do as God would want him to do, even if that means breaking his parole.  His commitment leads him to save a young girl names Cosette and raise her as his own – all while running from the ruthless Javert who is determined to see Jean Valjean punished for being a wicked man.

les-miserables-02Director Jeremy Showgren does an excellent job of exploring the deep themes of Les Misérables  – sacrificing for that which we love and giving mercy versus demanding justice.  Showgren is obviously a talented director with the potential to be one of Utah’s best.

Showgren was also the Music Director and the tremendous vocal performances of the actors are a tribute to his abilities.  There were a few times that I felt like the theatrical aspects of the show were sacrificed for the vocal quality, but the sound was so spectacular that I didn’t really mind.

There were also a few times during the night where I felt like the storyline was a little unclear, due to distractions on the stage, so if you are unfamiliar with Les Misérables, you may want to read through a summary before you come.

les-miserables-04Matthew Krantz gave a rich heart-felt performance as Jean Valjean.  I liked his unique characterization and genuine expressions and his voice is magnificent.  “Bring Him Home” was a highlight of the night.  My only critique of his acting would be that he didn’t seem to age physically.  Even at the end of the night he had a little bounce in his step that didn’t seem to fit an older man with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Jeffrey Smith created a very believable and interesting Inspector Javert and gave a solid musical performance.  His final “Soliloquy” was phenomenal.

les-miserables-06The leading women were every bit as talented as the leading men.  Kelsey Mariner Thacker is a power house as Fantine and her gut-wrenching “I Dreamed a Dream” was something I won’t soon forget.  It was refreshing to see Cosette played by a truly powerful Soprano, Morgan Flandro and Kira Knorr, playing Eponine, gave an endearing performance of “On My Own”.  Allison Books, playing Madame Thenardier, also gave a polished performance.

I enjoyed BJ Oldroyd’s portrayal of Thenardier, but I would like to have seen his relationship with Madame Thendardier taken a little deeper.  These characters seemed a little flatter than the others in the show and I felt like there were some missed opportunities for comic relief between these two, particularly in “Master of the House.”

During “Dog Eats Dog” in the sewers, Thenardier snaps the neck of a fallen soldier which I felt was a little over-the-top.  Showgren made a clear effort to keep the show family-friendly during the rest of the show, so I was a little confused as to why that graphic moment was included.

The stand-out performer of the night was Bryan Thacker as the young revolutionary leader, Enjolras.  He has the stage presence and power to dominate a scene and I was ready to stand up and join his group as he sang “The People’s Song.”

les-miserables-03Christian Jones gave an earnest performance as Marius Pontmercy and there were a lot of tears during his moving solo, “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables.”  His character relationship with Morgan Flandro as Cosette seemed natural and genuine.

The cast of Les Misérables is made up of some of the best talent in Utah valley.  Every soloist was incredible and the ensemble brought the crowd to their feet for a standing ovation in the closing “Do You Hear The People Sing?”

les-miserables-01I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the outstanding hair and make-up designed by Samantha Dunford and the costumes by Kelsey Seaver, Deborah Bowman, and Danielle Berry.  The visual aspects of the show were some of the best I’ve ever seen at the SCERA.

Les Misérables is a show that the SCERA and all of Utah can be proud of.  Don’t miss the opportunity to see this terrific show performed by a uniquely talented cast.

LOCATION:
SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre
699 South State Street, Orem, UT 84058

DATES: July 3-19 @ 8:00 PM
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays

ADMISSION: $10-16
Tickets available online at scera.org.

SCERA’s Shrek the Musical Has Layers

Shrek the Musical Poster Review

Shrek the Musical is a story about looking beyond the outside façade that people present, seeing that people (and ogres!) have layers (like onions!) in order to find true love and friendship. The SCERA’s production in Orem, UT, takes this theme and brings it vividly to life. My husband and I went to see the show. Shrek the Musical is a much loved show in our house—our four children know all the songs—and we were thrilled to be able to see the show again on stage.

Shrek follows the story of its title character as he tries to get his swamp back from the draconian and perfection-obsessed Lord Farquaad who has thrown a bunch of fairytale creatures into it and out of Duloc for being “freaks.” Shrek makes a deal with Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona in exchange for the swamp with the help of his unwanted tag-along friend Donkey. Adventures ensue.

Shrek (BJ Oldroyd) had both a beautiful voice and the acting ability to pull off Shrek, being both lovable and off-putting when necessary. I believed he could scare people off by yelling in their face. His comic timing was also quite good. He sometimes let the unique Shrek accent drop, but not in a hugely noticeable way. He also had great chemistry with Wes Tolman, who played Donkey. Tolman cracked the audience up with his well-timed jokes, and nailed the character of Donkey without feeling like an Eddie Murphy copy-cat. He brought his unique take on the character, and I looked forward to every scene he was in.Shrek the Musical

Madeline Weinberger played an incomparable Fiona. I’ve seen her in several shows before, thought she would be perfect for the role of Fiona, and was expecting great things. Let me tell you, I should have set my expectations higher, because she was hilarious, her singing was perfection, and she had the attitude of a slightly crazed princess down perfectly. I was delighted by “I Know It’s Today” and “Morning Person.”

Carson Davies brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the role of Farquaad. I’m not sure if it was opening night jitters or what, but sometimes he said his lines so quickly he seemed out of breath. Also, I was disappointed with the directing decision to have him often ride in and out on set pieces and remain relatively static during most scenes. Farquaad is played with the actor on his knees with fake legs attached to the front of his thighs, to make Farquaad seem very short. This can be played for a ton of laughs, and I thought this production failed to capitalize on it.

Marshall Madsen brought a great character voice to Pinocchio. His intermission jokes had everyone laughing and groaning in their seats. I would have liked to see a bit more from him physically (how would a boy made out of wood move?), but that’s nitpicking a solid performance. Gingy was played by Shelley Young, and she shone in “Freak Flag.” I would have liked to see a bit more sense of leadership brought to the role, but Young also had four other roles to play, so perhaps she didn’t get the chance to develop Gingy as much. Another distracting thing was that her puppeteering was a little out of sync, so the words didn’t match the opening and closing of the puppet’s mouth (sometimes being directly reversed of what they should be).

Shrek the Musical Princess Fiona Donkey

The set was mostly simple sets of stairs and rolling platforms. Most of the time, it worked well. It wasn’t fancy, but it got the job done. However, some of the set movement felt unnecessary. The pieces were big and looked extremely awkward for the cast to move around, and often moving them didn’t accomplish anything except for the stairs now being in a slightly different spot. Since the set was so simple, I wish they had embraced that and kept it even simpler by not moving it nearly so much. It was exhausting to watch. There were however, some very clever and fun pieces, like the shadow puppetry in “Ballard of Farquaad” and the brilliant use of the stairs as Fiona and Shrek battle it out in “I Think I Got You Beat.”

The costumes were well-done, although sometimes very minimalistic. I loved the look of Fiona’s dress and the fun choice for Shrek’s pants. The makeup worked very well. It had to be very versatile for the ensemble, as the cast had to quickly transform from fairy tale creatures to Dulocians. I was impressed with how well the makeup translated as cast members played up to five roles each. Donkey was probably my favorite look. Shrek, which is very important to get right, looked just right.

I highly recommend this production of Shrek. It had so much heart, and the acting, singing and directing were superb. Shrek is not an easy musical to put on, but the SCERA manages to do it and hit all the right notes. Hats off to director Chase Ramsey for a great show!

SCERA Center for the Arts

Shrek the Musical

Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire

Music by Jeanine Tesori

SCERA, 745 South State, Orem, UT

Sept 13-Oct 15 Mon, Thurs, Fri, Sat. 7:30 PM

$12 Adults, $10 Child (3-11), Student (w/ID), Senior (65+)

(801)225-ARTS

www.scera.org

SCERA’s The Scarlet Pimpernel is a Visual and Vocal Masterpiece

By Larisa Hicken

ScarletPimpernel+11x17+Poster_OL+1The Scarlet Pimpernel based on the work by Baroness Orczy, with music by Frank Wildhorn and book and lyrics by Nan Knighton, is Director Jerry Elison’s 28th show at the SCERA theater in Orem,  Utah.  It is also one of my all-time favorite shows, so I was eagerly anticipating seeing this production.

The Scarlet Pimpernel takes place during the French Revolution and is full of romance, intrigue, and humor.  On his wedding night, Sir Percy Blakeney discovers that his bride, actress Marguerite St. Just,  provided information that led to the capture and execution of St. Cyr so he turns away from her and together with his friends decides to save as many aristocrats from the guillotine as he can through disguise and trickery.  Percy becomes the Scarlet Pimpernel and he and his bounders rescue many nobles from the guillotine and Chauvelin, a leader in the French Republican guard.  Eventually Chauvelin captures the brother of Marguerite and threatens to kill him if Marguerite doesn’t help him capture the Scarlet Pimpernel, but she has no idea that the famous hero is her own husband.

I was worried that I would miss the performance due to storms that lasted most of the day.  Just in time the sky cleared up and the show went on.  Thank goodness it did because the set designed by Teri Griffin is truly something amazing that made the whole night truly unforgettable.  I was in awe of the genius and planning that must have gone into such a brilliant design.  If you get a chance to see the show, it’s worth every penny of the ticket price just to see the set.

Of course, the show would be nothing without the actors, particularly the three lead roles of Percy, Marguerite, and Chauvelin.  Sir Percy, played by Stephen Gashler, has excellent comedic timing and I really enjoyed the scenes with his bounders and the interaction between him and Chauvelin, played by Bryan Thacker.

marguerite-chauvelin-webThacker has an incredible voice and his singing was by far the best of the night.  Chauvelin’s song, “Falcon in the Dive,” is not traditionally one of my favorites, but it was one of the highlights of this particular show.

The role of Marguerite was played by the lovely Kelsey Mariner Thacker.  Her spunky portrayal of Marguerite was delightful and I really liked her character choices.  Her French accent was a little distracting at times – mostly because nobody else in the show had one, but her French during the reprise of the song “Storybook” was “incroyable.”

The music was very well done throughout the show, particularly by the very talented ensemble.  Martha Glissmeyer, the Music Director, did a nice job and the harmonies were spot-on in the chorus numbers.  The solos in “Madame Guillotine” were all very nicely done.

The most fun characters in this show are, of course, the Scarlet Pimpernel’s bounders and the actors Kristian Huff, Eric Glissmeyer, Justin Stockett, Duncan Johnson, Brodee Ripple, and Sawyer Griffin were highly entertaining.  They each had well developed character relationships and interactions.  My favorite bounder was Elton played by Stockett.  He had me laughing out loud several times throughout the night.

marguerite-percy-chauvelin-webThe most entertaining moment of the night was when Choreographer Penny Colvin and Costumer Kelsey Seaver showed off their style in the song “Creation of Man.”  The bounders truly looked hilarious in fringe-covered pastels and their dance was perfect!  Seaver also impressed me again with the costumes for the King’s Ball in Act II.  When Percy and Marguerite entered in their matching outfits, I was wishing for my camera.

I’m glad the weather cooperated and allowed me to see this well-done production of my favorite show.  If you get a chance to see it, bring a blanket or jacket and enjoy an evening of quality entertainment with stunning visual elements that make this show a true visual and vocal masterpiece.

Photos by Mark A. Philbrick

SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre
699 South State Street, Orem, UT 84058
In the middle of SCERA Park

General Admission: $10 Adult, $8 Child/Senior/Student
Reserved Section B: $12 Adult, $10 Child/Senior/Student
Reserved Section A: $14 Adult, $12 Child/Senior/Student

August 2-17 @ 8:00pm
Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
Gates open @ 7:00pm

Let Your Kids Swing From the Trees to the SCERA’s Tarzan the Musical

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By Joel Applegate

Bring the kids! There’s so much to dazzle them in SCERA Shell’s production of Tarzan the Musical: the designs, the colors, the dancing and the fine costumes. This is a great show befitting an outdoor venue and the production values are very impressive. The amphitheater is a beautiful bowl of grass with seating areas and a large stage. Don’t worry about not being able to hear. The sound was very good for outdoors. I never had any problem hearing spoken or sung vocals.

     Nice direction by Shawn M. Mortensen brought all the production values together. One mark of a good director is the ability to assemble a great crew. In this case, they had a dandy. The set, also designed by Mortensen, is surprisingly elaborate for an outdoor venue. It included multiple levels and staging areas for the safari camp, the revolving tree house, the jungle, the apes’ nesting grounds and a couple of more elements belonging to the realms of trapeze art. It is a great-looking, detailed and functional.set.

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      But Mortensen has more than the set to work with. Characters are seen around the edge of the bowl. Entrances are made through the audience down the long sloping avenues; the “ape” youngsters mimicked real ape behavior very well and some of the real kids directly interacted with them. At intermission we all had fun watching the “apes” trash and play with the objects in the expedition camp, again interacting with the kids, who evidently ate it up.

     Because the entire amphitheater is used, we get to see costumer Kelsey Seaver’s colorful work up close. Seaver should be congratulated for organizing so many varied and elaborate sights. Her work on the flora and fauna characters of the jungle is just beautiful. The colorful shapes combined with Sunny Watts’ choreography keeps the viewer busy trying to catch all the details. As the sun went down, James K. Larsen’s light design came up smoothly and always complemented the space and the mood. Nat Reed’s puppet design of the leopard was very good. I did wonder, though, why it’s quite capable operator, Courtney Ellsworth, was dressed in bright blue and red. The Leopard would have been more effective, I think, as a stand-alone character if its operator had been costumed in black or tan. Another puppet feature that was fun for the kids – and me, too – was a large snake with glowing eyes. Its two handlers slithered through the audience before making its way on stage to attack Jane, who is then – conveniently enough – rescued by Tarzan. Pretty romantic, huh?

     And this musical is, of course, primarily a romance: Ape Man (Tarzan) gets Naturalist (Jane) at the end. It’s a great family outing with a score that is more pop than Broadway. Even though Jane’s father tells her to let go of her “schoolgirl fantasy”, this hint at the “noble savage” archetype was passed over quickly. In giving the Victorian era a make-over, I feel that the Disney folks have given the story too modern a sensibility that is jarring at times. There are some abrupt transitions that are challenging for any director to make sense of. The show has a few of these in which the flora suddenly come to life to – I suppose – illustrate the emotional life of the principles. But this is Disney’s Tarzan – not Burrough’s – and thoroughly family-friendly.

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     I liked the structure of the play, where we’re introduced first to a Young Tarzan, played with vocal surety by Cairo McGee (wonderful name!), and his Ape-BFF, Young Terk, played by a totally committed Lily Shepard. Great choice, by the way, casting females in both Terk roles. Both Young Tarzan and Young Terk moved and danced well. Then we learn of the fate of Tarzan’s parents before being introduced to the grown Tarzan in a crazy dance number. And actually, that was a great choice. The musical ensemble is huge and there’s so much to watch in Watt’s interesting choreography that I missed the moment of his arrival on stage. Suddenly he just seemed to be there.

     Brian Smith in the title role of Tarzan sings with a very nice voice. He belts where belting is needed and emotes in the softer moments with both of his leading ladies. His voice blended real well with Lauren Anderson as his Ape Mom, Kala. Together, they have some moments that surprised me by how touching they were. As Kala, Anderson was in excellent voice on her first number. She is one of the most interesting and nuanced characters on the stage. Likewise, in the number, “Different”, Tarzan’s opening duet with Jane, both actors’ voices blended nicely. Rian Shepard plays Jane with a trained voice. One of her best numbers was a duet with her dad, Professor Porter, played by Jim Murphy, who seemed perfectly cast. Naturally, Smith’s Tarzan is trim and fit and demonstrates some nice acrobatics. What would Tarzan be without a rope swing? Off-stage, Smith was just certified as a personal trainer, thereby fulfilling the casting requirements – and I dare say, audience expectations – for the title character.

     Carson Davies, as Tarzan’s Ape Dad, provides some of the best dramatic tension in the show. He’s got a good strong voice and sings feelingly with his wife Kala on a number of occasions. As the grown Terk, McKelle Shaw’s jazzy scat number at the top of Act 2 really sounded accomplished – the girl has the chops to make it work. As the villain in the piece, Clayton, the big game hunter doesn’t sing, or have a lot to do, but his imposing presence is essential to the plot and well-executed by Patrick Brannelly.

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    Tarzan the Musical is performed with great energy and commitment. However, I feel it’s only fair to mention that many of the principles did have some vocal glitches with off-key harmonies and some sustained notes that never quite found the right pitch. But that’s the challenge of performing outdoors. There were some very brief technical problems with a staticky mic. Great job to the whole cast for giving us a show that never lagged in energy or interest. The audience clapped loud and long at the end and left very satisfied.

     Just a note to producers: I was surprised at the lack of signage on the approach to the outdoor stage. Hopefully this can be remedied for folks going to the Scera Shell for the very first time. I’d recommend more visible marketing for the many patrons of the surrounding pool and parks. Although the night was perfect when I went, you might want to bring a blanket or light cover-up as it gets a little cool by the time the show ends around 10 PM. Bring a blanket if you plan on sitting on the grass. Otherwise, chair rental is available for a dollar.

Tarzan the Stage Musical
Based on the Disney Film

SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre
699 S. State Street in Orem, Utah
in the Scera Park Amphitheater

June 6 – 22, Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM
General Admission: $10 Adults, $8 Children
Reserved Seating: $12 – $14 Adults, $10 – $12 Children, Seniors and Students with student I.D.

Website: www.scera.org
Phone 801-225-ARTS (2787)

 

 

 

The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley is Flat Out Entertainment for the Whole Family!

A Utah Theater Review by Shannon Eden

The Scera Theater for the Arts, located just off of State St. in Orem, is home to many venues – the latest being their production of The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley, put on by their Theater for Young Audiences and directed by Julie Nevin. In the heart of the city, the theater is easily accessible and easy to find. The seats are assigned, which makes finding an ideal spot convenient and simple, but make sure you’re on time so you don’t have to climb over too many legs! There are the regular house seats, as well as a balcony option and there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. I brought my family along, and – thought we were meant to sit front and center – we opted for a side row with easy access to the aisle, just in case my 18-month-old made it necessary to take advantage of their cry room (a quiet room, set in the back corner with glass walls so that moms can take care of those other-than-quiet children and still enjoy the show – genius! I always appreciate when accomodations are made for families). We could see and hear everything quite clearly. Not only were my six- and three-year-olds on the edge of their seats, listening intently through the entire production, but little britches was completely captivated as well! So, I didn’t get a chance to use the cry room after all. Continue reading

SCERA’s Little Shop of Horrors Captivates Audiences

A Utah Theater Review by B.J. Wright 

 As a reviewer, sometimes you go into a show with high expectations. SCERA Center for the Arts’ production of Little Shop of Horrors was one of those shows for me. I was running through all of my favorite songs from the show as I drove up State Street in Orem to the theater. If you are not familiar with the show, it’s a story of an unfortunate florist’s assistant named Seymour who becomes a local celebrity when he discovers an exotic plant that has a secretive craving for human blood. In a press release SCERA explains that even though the show does not seem family friendly, director Jeremy Showgren has “made it like watching a cartoon, and focused more on the style than the horror of a man-eating plant.” I found this approach to the show to be very captivating.

                 As I walked into the theater, the set before me (designed by Daniel Whiting) was a signal that I was not going to be disappointed. As I made my way down the aisle, I was stricken with the barren graffitied wall of Skid Row, a rundown part of town where the play takes place.  Characters were walking across stage, entertaining the audience as we waited for the show to begin. There were several stories that would unfold in pantomime every few minutes, from a lonely “cat lady” who is curious what kitty treats taste like, to a drunk rummaging through the trash to find food. I was having so much fun anticipating what would come next, I barely noticed it was time for the show to begin. Continue reading