By Bridges Sayers
Utah locals are sure to have heard of the delightful brand of theater produced in Murray’s Desert Star Playhouse. Their newest show, Pirates of the Scaribbean: Dead Men Do No Seaquels is sure to not disappoint. From the old-timey atmosphere, the friendly staff and servers, the excellent food, and the delightful performance—Desert Star Playhouse always creates an evening that delights in more ways than one.
Pirates of the Scaribbean follows the tale of dear Eliza Swine (Melissa Cecala) as she is caught between her true love, Will Doolittle (Rick Miller) and the man her mother Governess Swine (Sara McDonald) wants her to marry. This man is the boring, old, and cowardly Captain Stubing (Matt O’Malley). Drama ensues when Eliza is kidnapped by the dreadful Captain Barmitzvah (Lee Daily) and his henchmen, Barnacle (Andrew Nadon) and Plank (Brittany Shamy) in order to help break the curse of the stolen Beanie Babies. To save his true love, Will enlists the help of the notorious Jack Sprat (Todd Michael Thompson), and the adventure begins. Although the plot may sound a little serious, the light-hearted, comedic feel expected from Desert Star ensures the show is full of laughter and sheer fun the whole night long.
As Aaron and I perused the cast of characters, we were delighted to see a number of familiar faces. I was thrilled to see that my favorite Desert Star Playhouse performer, Daily, was in the show. Daily never fails to delight with his sharp wit and his brilliant vocal decisions. He creates the villain that you can’t help but love, even when you’re booing him (a Desert Star must). As Daily himself says in the show, once you get to know him, you’ll love him! Daily’s performance during a spoof of “Rich Man” was my favorite moment of the whole show—he had me in absolute stitches. Choreographers Hillary Akin Carey and Allison Cox deserve an enormous compliment for this number in particular. When you see it, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The dance is nothing short of hilarious. Captain Barmitzvah’s henchmen, Nadon and Shamy, were also favorites in this performance. They compliment Daily wonderfully and play the parts of the dim-witted, somewhat well-intentioned sidekicks very well. It is hard to say who of the trio brought the most, though, because they all work so brilliantly together. The casting decision by director Scott Holman is perfect.
Not to be forgotten in the review is Aaron’s personal favorite Desert Star Playhouse performer, O’Malley. Though not the lead in the show, O’Malley has the stage presence of an absolute star anytime he enters the stage. His self-effacing humor is lovely and the delivery of his lines is so natural and smooth. O’Malley is clearly a seasoned performer and comedian. His performance compliments his fellow cast members wonderfully. I particularly enjoyed his relationship with the Governess Swine, McDonald—they are very synergistic. Every time they were on stage together, I couldn’t help but become in engaged in all that they did. McDonald is by no means reliant on O’Malley, though. Her enthusiastic singing during the very early portion of the show set the tone for the evening in a way that is both unexpected and incredibly enjoyable.
McDonald also works together wonderfully with her stage daughter, Cecala. Cecala is another clearly seasoned performer, and her vocals are among some of the most beautiful that I have heard in all of the shows I have seen at Desert Star. She falls very naturally into the role of the romantic lead, and her feigned wide-eyed innocence is sheer perfection. I love her interactions with Miller, her well-meaning but naïve love interest. Miller’s humor is easy to understand for audience members of all ages, and his shovel-toting antics are sure to have you begging for more. Miller’s clear connection with Thompson helps bring about a genuine interest in Jack Sprat, whose role at first may be somewhat unclear to the audience. I started out unsure of whether or not Thompson would end up the hero or the villain, and I won’t spoil the ending for you, but Thompson kept me on the edge of my seat and guessing all along. As a spoof of Jack Sparrow, Thompson could give Johnny Depp a run for his money. His accent and physicality are spot on and well-maintained throughout the show. Though he uses an accent throughout, Thompson is easy to understand and is a natural fan-favorite as the show progresses.
The live accompaniment by Catie Omer is delightful. Omer has a special highlighted moment in the show which had me delighted and clapping along with joy. Her special brand of honest humor as she starts the show helps bring the audience into the Desert Star magic. Her musical talent flowed seamlessly with the work of music director Ben Mayfield. Desert Star shows aren’t meant to be beautiful or masterpieces by any means, but the music is fun, enjoyable, and showcases the musical talent of each performer.
I have to give a special shout-out to the gorgeous costumes, which never fail to disappoint. Costuming team members Lynn Funk, Daily, and Corinne Adair bring visual magic to the stage with costumes that compliment both the character and the actor. They work wonderfully with the set design team, Ken Lineberry, Louis Bitterman, Brian Tolman, Remington Sorenson, and Timothy Riggs.
In all, though, I have to say my absolute favorite part of the evening came after the end of the traditional show itself. The first few times I went to the Desert Star, I didn’t stay for the Olios. The Olio is a Desert Star tradition, in which the performers you just fell in love with perform a brief but wonderful musical revue. The So We Think We Can Dance Olio is a comedic joy to watch, and included some truly hilarious numbers. I won’t spoil it for you, but I did actually smack my leg because I was laughing so hard a number of times. If you attend the show, the Olios are a part that you simply cannot miss.
In all, Pirates of the Scaribbean is just another in a long list of wonderful shows that Desert Star has brought to life. I was delighted to see some of my absolute favorite performers all take the stage together and to witness their own sheer joy in performing and being a part of the Desert Star family. If you find yourself needing a night out with your sweetheart (it’s a great first date spot, I’m just saying) or if you just want some wholesome, Utah-centered humor in your life, Desert Star Playhouse’s production of Pirates of the Scaribbean is the place you want to be.
Desert Star Playhouse presents Pirates of the Scaribbean: Dead Men Do No SeAquals, by Ben E. Millet
Desert Star Playhouse, 4861 S. State Street Murray, UT 84107
Tickets: Adults $24.95 Children 11 and under $14.95 (special events may have special pricing)
January 4-March 17 Monday, Wednesday*, Thursday 7 PM, Friday/Saturday 6:00 PM, 8:30 PM, Saturday 11:30 AM*, 2:30 PM, 6:30 PM, 8:30 PM *as scheduled—check the website.
Contact: (801) 266-2600