Ogden Musical Theatre’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Peery’s Egyptian Theatre in Ogden Utah is a Dream That Will Do

By Steve Odenthal

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, now playing at The Peery Egyptian Theatre in Ogden, Utah is no stranger to me.  I encountered the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics of Tim Rice early in my college years and quickly discovered the profound effect live theatre can have on those who are in tune with it.  I was very glad that to find that the magic to transform and immerse is still there, or should I say is still available today at the Egyptian Theatre.  You will want to see this one.

It’s all there for you and yours to experience and enjoy as a fully family-friendly performance so real that when you are on your feet after the show, your first instinct is to knock the desert dust from your sandals—even if you are like me and wear loafers.  So, how do they perform this magic? Hey, the play is set in Egypt and we are watching in the Egyptian Theatre, so grab a pith helmet and let’s explore.

The chief spellbinder in this production is the Director (Maurie Tarbox).  It was obvious quite early in the performance that each actor was in love with the show.  That is always what you want from a cast, but sitting in the audience there was something more and it was contagious.  We truly were in Egypt.  The physical facilities we all—cast and audience alike— occupied is an historic restoration of the Egyptian theatre built in 1924; a time the world was entranced by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.  The stage itself is built to be a plaza between two great Egyptian temples stage-right and stage-left.  Tarbox had to walk a very tight rope to not overwhelm, but rather immerse her actors and audience in this shared reality.  With the simplistic choices in set design (Ricky Parkinson) and rich selection in costuming (Joanne Hatch), Tarbox’s production team placed each of us in a comfortable environment from the very start of the show.

The audience needs a great story.  That means a story with some historic truth and strong emotion everyone can relate to—like the biblical story of Jacob (Brett Garlick) and his 12 sons. There is a just bit of sibling rivalry within this family.  The rivalry plays out onstage in this production as the favored Joseph (Jared Morgan) is sold by his brothers into slavery (they had considered worse) and then we track the life changes this little dust-up produces in poor, poor Joseph’s life, as well as the lives of his fine brothers.

And what a rag-tag mob of brothers Joseph has—they manage to keep the undercurrent of disgruntlement and sentiment bubbling right to the surface and it is truly fun to watch them express their heartfelt feelings for Joseph, slyly displaying them from a safe location away from his field of vision.  This feat is accomplished in a very subtle use of triangles and modular groupings of flat levels which give the proper separation and distance to make these asides believable.  This effect played so very well when brother Simeon (Joe Johnson) is trusted with breaking some sad news about Joseph to his father as Johnson emotes through the classic song, “One More Angel” and the brothers & wives intertwine with the festive “HoeDown”, every bit of the stage and every angle or level is incorporated into a masterpiece of choreography (Liz Smith.)   There is definitely no lack of thought or depth to this set and the design only gets better as the show goes on.

For his part, Joseph is well cast with Morgan’s boyish look and pleasant voice but I found that I had to warm to him a bit.  Most Joseph’s I see perform the role are from the start large and in charge, easily believable as a leader.  In this production, Joseph seemed to share an almost too trusting relationship with his brothers, right up until he is sold.  He believes, you can tell, that this is just good fun with the brothers (although it is getting a bit out of hand.)  Then in my mind, I realized that this young man was the second to youngest of the brothers and so his innocent vision of his heroes might just cause him to want to play along, for a while at least.  This might just be the perfect way to play the role.  We see Joseph grow in the show, not just the brothers’ change.

I enjoyed the staging of Potiphar (Brett Garlick) and Mrs. Potiphar (Karllen Johnson) in their mansion with the choice to keep the large separation of husband from wife as he counts money and she attempts to stray.  It was very effective to see their opulence versus the purity and simplicity of Joseph’s attire as a contrast to help us focus on the clash of good and evil.  There were lots of opportunities taken to show the audience emotional contrasts.  For example, the Baker (Austin Toney) sits dejectedly stage-right as his dream as interpreted by Joseph is not going to work out in his favor while the rest of the cast gives their all in a rambunctious “Go, Go, Go, Joseph” number that delights in our hero’s power to decipher hidden meanings.  Never breaking out of his funk entirely, our condemned Baker draws enormous solace from a beautiful cupcake accepting both his fate and a well-frosted beard while entertaining those of us who caught his struggle.

The brothers and their wives in this production really work as a team.  These wives are not your run-of-the-mill appendages to the brothers—they hold their own and seem to have a real relationship with their assigned brother.  At times, the brothers are even brought up short by their wives in a good-natured way, but I will let you find out about that when you attend.  I will say that you must be paying attention to their maneuvers especially in the “Those Canaan Days” number.  You will be delighted by the pay-off to the wives in that number for sure.  My hat (or pith helmet) is off to  Smith for the way she has choregraphed the entire show but especially as she brought these two very talented teams of dancers together.

The Pharaoh (Justin Brown) is beyond good.  In most Josephs, we know well on whom the character is based.  This time, I was not so sure.  I’m thinking that the megastar we knew so well might have styled his persona on Brown.  He seemed so secure in his own skin without letting the impersonation suffer at all.  Good job, there—You will enjoy his portrayal.

The Narrator (Meghan Parrish) is seamless and doesn’t miss a beat.  Being familiar with the show, there were times that I found myself anticipating her arrival a bit, but she always hit her mark and note.  Under her guidance, we were swept into the story completely from the very start.  She took our hands like we were the children on the stage with Joseph.

Speaking of the children in the cast (Childrens Dream Chorus), you could tell that they knew the show and were very aware of the preciseness of the presentation.  They smiled believably at the proper times and every time they were on stage I believed that they were in awe of Joseph.  A good cast, for sure.

The only issue that I experienced during the performance that was at all negative was a few instances where mics and speakers were experiencing sound issues.  The three mishaps were of short (seconds) duration and not during dialog or music.  I am sure the remedy has been attended to as we thoroughly enjoyed the production without further incident.

You should take your family to this show.  I think that there is something for everyone at the Peery’s Egyptian Theatre in the production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  There are laughs, quiet moments (not many), and great joy in store for you.  This show only has four more performances left at this exceptional theatre.  You will be amazed at what you find beyond the lobby and on the stage.  This beautiful restoration of Peery’s Egyptian Theatre holds over 800 patrons and is right downtown in Ogden next to great restaurants and shopping.  Parking is available and mostly free in the area.  Pricing of tickets are $15 and $20 dependent upon your proximity to the stage.

Don’t miss Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Peery’s Egyptian Theatre 2415 Washington Blvd.  Ogden, Utah. This dream will definitely do.

Ogden Musical Theatre presents Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.                                                                               Peery’s Egyptian Theatre, 2415 Washington Blvd, Downtown Ogden, Utah 84401           August 17-19 7:30 PM                                                                                            Tickets:  $15, $20                                                                                                        Call: 801-689-8700                                                                                                        Facebook Page

 

 

Sandy Art Guild’s “Beauty and the Beast” is a Magical Version of this Oft-Told Tale

BATB sandy

By Bridges Sayers

The Sandy Amphitheater, nestled away on a hill, is a treasure chest full of hidden theater gems, and the current treasure is Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Sandy Arts Guild continued their legacy of wonderful performances with their most recent performance of the classic tale of Belle (Jessica Sundwall) and the Beast (Jayson LeBaron) as they overcome magical spells, impossible circumstances, and ultimately discover that true beauty is found within. With music by the brilliant Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Wolverton, this show weaves together the most adored parts of the original movie with some new, exciting moments.

Naturally, the show demands a large production, and Sandy Arts Guild pulls it off with grace and finesse. I was particularly impressed with the Beast. His voice is sheer perfection for the role. His rendition of, “If I Can’t Love Her” is nothing short of magic. LeBaron understands the necessity for both the softer and more powerful parts of the role, and each character decision exceeded my expectations. I have seen this show many times, and I have yet to see a Beast tackle the role with such raw talent. LeBaron left me wishing that the Beast was an even bigger part, because I never wanted him to leave the stage. His relationship with Belle is sweet and expressive. I particularly enjoyed their blossoming romance during the library scene—it is well-paced and delicious to watch. Sundwall, on her own, is a talented dancer. Her performance during, “Be Our Guest” and, “Me” are wonderful. While I did find some of her character choices to be somewhat too forceful, I was awed by Sundwell’s rendition of, “A Change in Me.” At that point, I was sold on her characterization.

BATB sandy1

Sundwell is complemented wonderfully by her father, Maurice (Nelden Maxfield.) Clearly a seasoned performer, Maxfield tackles the oddball role perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed his performance during “No Matter What,” and really bought into the relationship between him and Belle. His relationship with Gaston (Russell Maxfield) is similarly rich. There is a solid foundation built between the two characters, which paves the way for a greater understanding of what takes place onstage. Russell Maxfield is wonderful with creating those relationships, particularly with his henchman Lefou (Tommy Kay.) I adored the two of them together, though I suppose I shouldn’t say that about the villains. Gaston grows in his villainy throughout the show in a horrifying yet brilliant manner. We all know a Gaston of our own, and Russell Maxfield does a fantastic job of developing a character you love to hate. Kay brings humor to the scenes with his lovely physicality and his well-chosen voice inflections. The duo is complimented brilliantly by the Silly Girls (Kristi Gowda, Allison Klippel, and Micki Martinez.) The trio of girls are hilarious onstage and really bring energy to all that they do. I found myself laughing aloud at their antics more than once.

While I loved the townsmembers, the castle-dwellers are the clear stars in the show. Aaron and I bickered about who was the best amongst them. Our personal favorite was the natural star, Lumiere (Brandan Ngo.) He does not play Lumiere, he is Lumiere. Ngo understands the role in a way few do. His vocals during “Be Our Guest” are both flawless and enchanting. I particularly loved the consistency and clarity of his accent—it aided his characterization and never disrupted his ability to be understood. Very well paired with Lumiere is the uptight Cogsworth (Kevin Cottam.) Typically a role that is easily forgotten, Cottam brings energy to the role in a way that makes it unforgettable. His relationship with Lumiere is touching, even if it is full of bickering. The duo is complimented wonderfully by Mrs. Potts (JaNae Cottam.) Her vocals during “Beauty and the Beast” are lovely and sweet. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with Chip (Morgan Thompson. CC Keel plays Chip Tuesday, Thursday And Saturday), the youngest actor on stage. JaNae Cottam truly works to facilitate the success of Keel, who is a show stealer in her own. The whole audience couldn’t help but let out a sweet sigh anytime she was onstage. Other notable performances come from Wardrobe (Ashley Shamy) and Babette (Danielle Nielson.) They both nailed their accents and really had fun on stage. Their energy makes them both clear standouts.

BATB sandy2

Director Laura Lerwill clearly understands the show well. The pacing of the show is wonderful, and though there are natural ups and downs in the script, there is never a dull moment. She is brilliantly paired with Choreographer Marilyn Montgomery. I particularly adored Montgomery’s work during the ensemble scenes, such as “Belle” and “Mob Song.” The sharpness of the ensemble is impressive. Technical Director Steve George does a wonderful job with such a large cast, ensuring that each person can be heard and gets their moment to shine. A clear star in the production staff is Set Designer Ricky Parkinson, who created a stunning, comprehensive set. I was surprised by how elaborate and beautiful it is. Costume designer Karen Chatterton created wonderful costumes for most of the cast, though I found Belle’s dress to be a bit dull for the role. However, her costuming of the Beast, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Wardrobe are truly gorgeous. The show is accompanied by a very talented live orchestra, led beautifully by Orchestra Manager Anne Puzey. I adore the music of this show, and the orchestra did a phenomenal job with it.

I want to thank the Sandy Arts Guild for being wonderful ambassadors for the arts—every representative I met or spoke with was incredibly kind and helpful. I always appreciate when theater’s show this kind of hospitality for all of their guests.

If you are looking for a fun-filled family night, come join the magic of Sandy Arts Guild as they present Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. This show is perfect for princes and princesses of all ages. If you’re hesitant to see it because you recently saw the live action movie, the stage version is completely different from the movie—and I mean that in the best of ways.

BATBSANDY3

Sandy Arts Guild presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast by Linda Wolverton

Sandy Amphitheater (1245 E 9400 S, Sandy, Utah 84094)

August 4-12 8:00 PM

Tickets: $8-$16 (though there’s not a bad seat in the house, I must say!)

801-568-2787

Facebook Page

Facebook Event

Invite your friends to Silver Summit’s Company

companyBy Jason Evans

Company, with music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth, premiered on Broadway on April 26, 1970 at the Alvin Theatre. It was highly successful and ran a total of 705 performances; it won the 1971 Tony award for Best Book of a Musical, Best Score, Direction (Harold Prince), Best Scenic Design (Boris Aronson) and Best Musical.

The basic story involves a series of vignettes involving a bachelor named Robert, Bobby to all of his friends (played by Rick Rea) and how he learns about the joys and perils of love, marriage, dating and divorce from his married friends. This show radically changed musical comedy when it premiered. It is not plot driven, but psychologically driven; in a nutshell, it brought existentialism to the American musical. Existentialism was basically a philosophical movement focused on the existence of the individual. It is a musical examination of the institution that is matrimony, which is both piercing with its psychological clarity, and buoyed by the comic appreciation of human frailty. This musical includes some of the best and most beloved songs by Sondheim including “Another Hundred People,” “Not Getting Married Today,” “Sorry-Grateful,” “Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Being Alive.”

This particular production is being staged at the Sugar Space Arts Warehouse in downtown Salt Lake City. It is basically an old warehouse that has been converted to a theatre space, quite nicely I might add. Michelle Rideout, founder of The Silver Summit Theatre Company, has done a nice job of converting this space into a theatre. I have only seen one other production in this space and that was their joint production with Utah Repertory Theatre Company of August: Osage County. At first it may seem like a huge space, but it grows on you and I personally am very comfortable there. This is their very first musical and I feel it is a triumph.

Director Kate Rufener states in her director’s notes that her approach to this piece is based on the notion that even though we crowd ourselves with love, relationships, and gain comfort in those, we yearn for a life where nothing is missing, no empty spaces, basically avoiding the voids in our lives. Ironically and unfortunately, those relationships often end up focusing on all that is missing in our lives, causing us to fill the void with all “the little things.” We need to go after what we really want in life. Know what we really want. As one of the characters at the end of the show tells Bobby, “Want something. Want something.” This is a very nice jumping off point for this particular musical and it served it well in this production. We watch as Bobby jumps through three relationships throughout the course of the show and how he tap dances between them, looking to fill that void but not willing to fully commit to someone. His friends’ lives and relationships are all at different levels of dysfunction, but at the same time, there is much love there in those relationships.

I really loved the personal touch that Rufener brought to this piece. During moments of personal reflection with Bobby, she featured all of these couples on stage showing their relationships with each other and how being with someone, “Company,” can enhance a person’s life tremendously when pursued with a personal passion and vigor. The other personal touch was at the end of Act One, when Bobby goes through a personal epiphany and realizes he is ready for marriage but doesn’t want to fully commit. The director has this reflection, the song “Marry Me A Little,” being sung during individual dates with the three girls he is currently going out with. This added a very personal flavor to the portrayal of Bobby and supported the song very well. I really felt as if I was in Bobby’s head.

Bobby, portrayed by Rick Rea, did an outstanding job in portraying a lost young man in the prime of his life searching to fill that void. I felt for him and was rooting for him from the very beginning. This is solely due to Rick’s very honest portrayal of Bobby. By the time we near the end of the show with his final realization of “What he really wants,” portrayed in one the of the most famous songs of the show, “Being Alive,” we feel a sort of catharsis with Bobby and we come out of this production better people and understanding of knowing what we want in life and going after it.

The rest of the ensemble was outstanding. The ensemble consisted of: Sarah (Eve Speer) & Harry (Brandon Rufener); Peter (Ricky Parkinson) & Susan (Lindsay Bateman); Jenny (Natalie Easter) & David (Natalie Easter); Amy (Ali Bennett) & Paul (Mason Holmstead); then the three girlfriends, Kathy (Rachel Schull); April (Heather Shelley); and Marta (Natalia Noble). Each couple only has brief moments to portray their respective stories, but each of them was unique and completely honest in their portrayals. There was never a false moment in the show. I fell in love with each of these couples and that is not an easy thing to do, but it is what makes the difference between a mediocre production and an exciting, fresh look at a classic, which is what Kate Rufener’s production does very well. The pinnacle of the show comes at the end when Bobby is out for dinner and drinks with the oldest couple of the group, Larry (Brian Gardner) and Joanne (Marcie Jacobsen). When after a long time friendship with this couple, Joanne offers to have an affair with Bobby, it forces Bobby to really look at himself and his life, and Marcie Jacobsen’s performance of Joanne beautifully provides the catalyst for that change in Bobby. I have seen Marcie Jacobsen deliver powerhouse performances before, but this one was truly a showstopper. Anyone familiar with the show knows about the most famous song from this show, “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Marcie knocks this number out of the ballpark in a heartbreaking rendition that left me totally speechless. There was no applause at the end of the song, which I personally feel is a huge compliment to this wonderful actress.

I love this musical with all of my heart. I love Stephen Sondheim. I keep asking myself every time I see one of his shows, “How does he know what it’s like?” “How does he know what I’m struggling with in my life?” “How does he know so much about the human condition?” He just does. This incredible piece of musical theater is living proof that Stephen Sondheim is one of the greatest living composers of the American Musical Theater. Congratulations to director Kate Rufener, her incredible cast, the wonderful Anne Puzey (Musical Director), and Michelle Rideout and Silver Summit Theater Company for putting on a wonderful testament to Stephen Sondheim’s genius alongside George Furth’s incredibly touching and insightful script. I truly walked away from this production, moved and my mother and I couldn’t stop talking about it all through the drive home. Everyone needs to see this production!

Company by the Silver Summit Theater Company plays Fridays & Saturdays (November 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22 at 7:30 PM, and Sundays, November 9, 16, 23 at 4:00 PM.)

Where: The new Sugar Space Arts Warehouse, 130 S 800 W in Salt Lake City. The easiest route is to travel to the exit off I-15 (600 S); turn left on 400 W; left on 200 S; right on Jeremy Street; right on 100 S; right on 800 W; the warehouse will be on your right (it is a red roofed warehouse amongst residential homes); you can access the driveway to the immediate north of the building and the parking lot is behind the space as well as on the street. I had no problems finding it.

Tickets: $15 in advance online (BuyYourTix.com), click on the Silver Summit Theatre Company link; or $18 at the door.

Content Advisory: Does contain adult subject matter, mild language, onstage theatrical depiction of marijuana use and one scene of mild sexuality. If this were a movie, it would be rated PG-13.

Website: www.silversummittheatre.org

Facebook Event

Facebook Page