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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The SCERA’s Addams Family is Fun for your whole Family

af2By MH Thomas

The Addams Family: A NEW MUSICAL COMEDY  (a Utah Valley premiere) is a creepy, kooky way to usher in the Halloween season. Director Shawn M. Mortensen had fun with his spooky subject. It is evident throughout the production that he paid attention to detail in every way so those of us who grew up watching The Addams Family on television would be pleased. For me, this show is kind of a walk down memory lane. They are all there: from Morticia and Gomez and the children to Lurch, Fester and Grandmama. Cousin It and Thing even make brief appearances. The plot of this new musical comedy introduces us to some new characters that make the fun times really begin.

Yes, there is the expected finger snapping as the curtain goes up. Lurch (played by David Henry) presents a very imposing figure with fog swirling around him in the moonlight. He is standing in the graveyard with the members of the Addams Family.

It seems that there is something going on in the family and daughter Wednesday (Morgan Flandro) speaks to her father about her romance with a young man who is not like them, Lucas played by Brandon Haden. Gomez (Jack Stokes) does not know what to do. He is pulled between keeping his daughter’s confidence and wanting to confide the secret to his wife. Pugsley (Mitch Bandley) does not like the thought of losing his sister to this stranger. Their father Gomez is not the only who is confused. Wednesday is discovering things and feelings that are foreign to the way that she grew up. As Wednesday sings about her feelings, you can’t help but admire her strong voice and impressive facial expressions. Lucas and his parents are invited to spend the evening in the Addams’ Mansion. Alice (Delaybe Bluth Dayton) and Mal (Spencer Powell) Beineke are not altogether certain they want to go through with dinner with the Addams Family. Mal blusters and Alice recites silly little off the cuff poems. Dayton‘s Alice is convincingly ditzy. Fester (Patrick Brannelly) is a character who is all about love. He enlists the help of the ancestors to assist the young couple as they come to terms with each other and try to win over the support of their respective families. Fester is played with a light-hearted innocence and a sense of fun.

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Shelly Stewart Truax does a fine job of portraying Morticia. We found her performance to be the creepiest of the evening. She also displays a sense of her own awareness of her place as the undeniably desirable (at least in the minds of she and her husband) queen of the family. All kinds of hilarity ensues as the dinner party progresses. We learn of secret loves and secrets kept. The young couple struggles to understand each other. The families have a hard time accepting all that is going on around them. The ancestors do their best to keep the lovers on track. Will the families accept this unorthodox union?

Grandma (Brandi Washburn) is a delightful and funny part of the musical. Her sense of timing and her movement are quirky and charming—in a spooky way. We enjoyed her interactions Pugsley. Through the show, Lurch (David Henry) mutters and grunts incoherently. As the show is coming to an end, we discover that he actually has a lovely voice and that he can sing real, understandable words.

The ensemble is made up of Addams ancestors from various times in the past. They are an integral part of this performance. Their singing is spot on and truly impressive. Their costumes and makeup are excellent and their singing and dancing very enjoyable.

Congratulations to music director, Kellsey Mariner Thacker for an excellent job. The costumes (Deborah Bowman) and hair and makeup (Danielle Berry) are exceptional. We cannot forget the choreographer, Shawn M. Mortensen, who brought creepily fun movement to the production. The technical director, Nat Reed, also does a great job with all the special effects. The set by M’Liss Tollman is stunning.

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One thing we found confusing was the use of Gomez’s Spanish accent. Sometimes it was there and sometimes it was not. We wondered if this was a deliberate choice, but we did not see a clear pattern.

Our assessment of this production can be expressed in two words: Girl Power! Although we enjoyed all the performances, we felt that the women were stronger in their acting and singing. Way to go, ladies. You are very talented.

There were many children in attendance and for the most part, this is a family show, with a few suggestive comments. If you like fun, creepy Halloween plays, go the the SCERA. You won’t be disappointed.

September 12 – October 4
Times: Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays. Show starts @ 7:30 PM Doors open @ 7:00 PM

AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETATION: The show will be interpreted in American Sign Language on Thursday, September 18th. If you know someone who might need this service, please help us spread the word. Seating for this show is reserved, so please let us know you will be attending and how many are in your group at least 24 hours in advance by sending an email to april@scera.org.

Prices: ALL SEATS RESERVED To purchase tickets, call (801) 225-ARTS or click the BUY TICKETS button at the bottom of this page. If seating is available, you may also purchase tickets at the door 30 minutes prior to each show. $12 Adult $10 Child (age 3-11) $10 Senior (age 65+) Location: SCERA Center: Showhouse II 745 South State Street, Orem, UT 84058

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