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.

Hairspray at the SCERA

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.

SCERA's Hairspray 2017

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.

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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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.

The SCERA’S Drowsy Chaperone is Alive with Talent and Fun

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By Jennifer Mustoe and Chelsea Benjamin

The SCERA’s The Drowsy Chaperone is one of those shows you don’t want to miss. I wanted to get that out right away, so if you only have time to read a few sentences, you know the deal.

I’d never seen the show, but Chelsea had and was eager to see what I thought. I’d read a little about it, but really was unprepared for how awesome it was. Okay, I’ll explain more.

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It’s the story of Man in Chair, played winningly, perfectly by Brett Merritt, who shares his love for the musical The Drowsy Chaperone by playing its record. (And some funny bits in the show when the record skips and the dancers stop, stop, stop and another when the second act starts playing and it’s the wrong record and a completely different show’s song is acted out. Clever and hilarious.) About Man in Chair. He is awkward, funny, sweet and you feel a little sorry for him. Though the show is a comedy, Man in Chair brings us down to earth with his rather poignant story of his divorce–though when he told it was funny and I felt a little guilty about laughing but then you know it’s supposed to be funny so you laugh and then sort of sigh and think, gosh, what a sad man. Merritt had perfect timing and his eating the breakfast bar was classic. He can make chewing look funny.

The Drowsy Chaperone that he is telling us about is a screwball comedy set in the 1920s. Janet DeGraaff, played by Erin Lee Brown, wants to marry Robert Martin, played by Michael Shepherd. Janet is a famous theater star and her producer Feldzieg, played by Kyle Baugh, is angry that she is leaving. Feldzieg is being threatened by two hilarious gangsters posing as chefs, played by Jared Arnell and Nate Brogan.  All three of these actors were in sync and I loved their scenes.

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Erin Lee Brown was wonderful as the slightly diva-esque Janet, who claims she wants to leave the stage and then does a huge, glitzy number “Show Off.” Ms. Shaw’s voice is clear, her movement and dancing smooth and graceful and she embodied the diva fantastically. Her love interest Robert Martin had his own charm and self-appreciation, especially in “Cold Feets” where Shepherd mugs and preens delightfully with his best man George, played with style by Nathaniel Brown.

Here’s what was awesome about the show. First, the acting. Each actor did a fine job and was very believable. I think the SCERA consistently pulls in fine talent and this show proves it. The dancing, choreographed by director David Smith, was spot on. Nothing too fancy but all very tight. I love shows where the director is also the choreographer because there is such a connection with all the movement onstage. Bravo to Smith, who is also a brilliant actor in his own right. I know this because I’ve seen him perform and he is amazing. The costumes were wonderful, very 20s and simple for the Ensemble (who were all GREAT–wonderful dancers, actors, and the perfect rounding out of the cast) and fancier for the stars. The set, by M’Liss Tolman, was spectacular.

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As I said, the Ensemble was great and so were the co-stars of the show. Dane Allred as Underling (aka the butler) had some funny bits, which were executed with great timing. And though the show is called The Drowsy Chaperone, Delayne Dalton’s Chaperone wasn’t in as many scenes as I had expected. Dalton had great timing and I especially liked her physical comedy acting. I admit, I wanted her drunker, as that’s what “drowsy” really means. I had expected her to stumble and sway a bit more. McKell Shaw as Kitty was also a scream–with her typical ditzy blonde character complete with squeaky voice. Ellie Gallagher as the loopy Mrs. Tottendale was cute and funny and there is a surprise with her at the end. But I’m no spoiler teller so go see the show to see what it is. One of the best performances of the night was by Wes Tolman as Adolpho. Whoa. That guy is hilarious. One more mention: Rebecca Roberts’ Trix has some serious pipes. What a gorgeous voice.

Since I’ve never seen the show, I didn’t know if the big, huge spaces where there is silence and breaks in the show, especially during songs that had the audience laughing out loud are scripted or not. But what Smith does with this is really what makes the show over the top. And the cast responds and plays these all so well. It’s hard to explain these so again, just go see the show and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

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This show is completely appropriate for all ages. There’s enough going on for kids to stay entertained, nothing too out there for parents to fret about when they take their kids, and enough laughs for everyone.

 

SCERA Center for the Arts

745 S. State St, Orem

Mon, Thurs, Fri, Sat 7:30 PM

April 18-May 10

$12 Adults, $10 Children, Students and Seniors

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

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)

 

 

 

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

SCERA’s Fiddler on the Roof is Fun for the Whole Family

A Utah Theater Review by Jennifer Mustoe

Utah Community theater fires up in the summer. One of the truly great venues to enjoy a good musical is Orem’s SCERA Shell Theater. This year’s production of Fiddler on the Roof is worth seeing and I’d like to tell you why.

But I need to start at the beginning. My companions, my son Caden and our friend Corena, both 16-year-old thespians, were in Diamond Fork Junior High’s production of Fiddler a few years ago. All three of us came to last night’s performance with excitement, but a little concern. Would it be similar enough to Caden’s (who played Tevye) and Corena’s (who was an ensemble member) performances to help us feel “comfortable” but different enough to delight us? It’s always a little awkward when you see a show that you’ve invested in personally, and why being a reviewer as well as an actor makes my job fun and a little bit tricky at times, as well.

For those who’ve never been to the SCERA, it is an outdoor theater with a huge expanse of lawn to sit on. The first third has space for chairs that you can rent for a dollar a piece. On the sides and behind the chair area is open to anyone who has a blanket and is willing to sit on the ground. My companions and I chose the blanket option, not because we’re cheap, but because it’s really the only way to do the SCERA Shell. Continue reading