By Jennifer Mustoe and Craig Mustoe
The Unsinkable Molly Brown, produced by Acting Up, the SCERA‘s teenage (10-12 graders) acting troupe brings great talent and a charming story to the stage. Directed by Kathryn Laycock Little, this group of teens do a helluva great job. Wait! Did I just say hell in my review? Yes, I did, because that word is said regularly in the show and if you are bringing your kids to Molly Brown, and you should, you’ll hear hell. Heads up.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown is based on the real life story of Margaret Brown, a wealthy socialite and philanthropist who survived when the Titanic sank. But the story is much, much more. In reading about the real Molly Brown, the musical focuses on some highlights and some truly fictional plot points, but it is a darling show with a lot of spunk.
Grace Garner plays Molly and is perfectly darling. She keeps up Molly’s Missouri accent, can belt out her tunes with gusto, and stays in character the whole time. Garner has a fair amount of physical expectations in this show. Not only does she have some fun dance numbers (Choreographer Brodee Ripple, Assistant T’naiha Ellis), but the role requires this plucky actress to do quite a bit of cuffing, rough and tumble rambunctiousness, and running around.
Her sweetheart, Johnny “J.J.” Brown, is played by Joshua Carr, a fine actor and good singer (Little is also the Music Director), and a great companion to Garner. He has lots of solos and sings them ably. He also has a lot of scenes with “the guys” where he has been a-drinkin’ and he plays a pretty good drunk. He is exuberant and able to convince us that the spitfire Molly would marry him, even though she wanted someone rich.
The rest of the cast do a fantastic job jumping from role to role, and getting into what seemed like many, many costumes. With each scene, of course, you recognize each actor, but they bring a new and completely different character to each new scene. It is quite remarkable. This is also a nod to Costume Designer Ripple, who does an amazing job of outfitting folks from the sticks of Leadville, CO to the royalty of France and everything in between.
Choreographer Ripple creates some really fun dances and though they are tight and perfect so you think they may be super simple, they are actually somewhat challenging. But they are not so over complicated that they look sloppy. Each dance, except the one at the Club in Monte Carlo that was quite long, is absolutely wonderful. I really enjoyed all the dances that had the ensemble dancing together–they are marvelous.
Two things that Director Little does with perfection that put this show over the top and not like a typical youth group show is the energy and “chatter” and whooping and hollering that goes on almost non-stop in the ensemble scenes. We loved this! It brings a very real layer to the production that punches it with sound, energy, action, and interest. We also really loved the harmonies and the fun songs in the show. As we were driving home, we both discussed how The Unsinkable Molly Brown is reminiscent of Annie Get Your Gun, Oklahoma! and The Music Man, but doesn’t really have any stand alone songs. This means each song in this show had to be really well-done because they aren’t especially familiar. Little and her cast do a fine job with this.
Front Row Reviewers Utah typically doesn’t review high school or youth group shows, not because we don’t like them, but we just don’t have the staff for it. So it was serendipity that brought us to the SCERA to see The Unsinkable Molly Brown. During the show, we both whispered to each other that we really liked the show. There are some GREAT laughs throughout, and it is a worthwhile production to see for kids and adults. However, beyond the “hells” sprinkled throughout the show, it is long, over two hours. If your kids are especially wiggly or they can’t stay up past 9:00 PM, leave them home with a sitter. But we really recommend this show for older children and families, and it’d be a really sweet date night, too. And a real bonus, the SCERA is also a movie theater and they have yummy snacks, including delicious-smelling popcorn you can munch during the show.
SCERA Center for the Arts presents The Unsinkable Molly Brown with Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson and book by Richard Morris
SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 State St, Orem, UT 84058
March 16-30, 2018 (Mon-Tues, Thurs-Sat) 7:30 PM
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The Unsinkable Molly Brown Facebook Event