Showing posts with label HCT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HCT. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Christmas Carol 2017

It just wouldn't be Christmas if I didn't see Hale Centre Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol. I like to joke that I've seen it so many times I could probably stand in for any part!  However, this year it is an entirely new production! It is now held in the new Jewel Box Theatre at the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre which has a traditional proscenium stage.  The script and all of the musical numbers are the same but, since it is no longer being performed in the theatre-in-the-round, the staging and the choreography are completely different. The stage reminded me of a set for a Shakespeare play because there is a upper level with balconies on either side at different levels and a staircase connecting the levels. The design is actually quite simple but I really liked it because, at its heart, the story of Ebeneezer's redemption through visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future is a simple one. Sometimes the same actors reprise roles year after year but this year I was able to see many that I had never seen before, including Stephen Kerr as Scrooge, Lucas Charon as Fred, and Addison Welch as Bob Cratchit. It was fun to see some new interpretations of beloved characters and I particularly liked a scene where Bob Cratchit thanks Scrooge because it is so heartfelt and moving with an affecting performance by Welch that actually brought a tear to my eye. Tiny Tim, played by Alexander Scott, is absolutely adorable and I loved his interactions with Scrooge! There are some new costumes for the ghosts and the Ghost of Christmas Future is quite terrifying. I thoroughly enjoyed this updated classic and, even if you have seen it countless times like I have, I definitely recommend getting a ticket (go here) but hurry because almost every show is sold out!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Aida at HCT

Last night I had the opportunity to see Aida, HCT's first production at the beautiful new Mountain America Performing Arts Centre. It is an absolutely incredible building and I was so impressed. The main stage is much bigger than the one in West Valley and the seats have a lot more leg room! The stage is also state-of-the-art with hydraulic lifts capable of moving various areas of the stage up and down. There are super cool LED screens that line the walls of the theatre which featured images integrated into the story, such as Egyptian hieroglyphics and the banks of the Nile. At first I thought they were really distracting but then I got used to them. All of the technology is really mind-blowing and I look forward to seeing how the production designers use all of it in upcoming shows. Aida, the story of a Nubian princess who is brought to Egypt as a slave and then falls in love with a Captain betrothed to the Pharaoh's daughter, is one of my very favorite musicals and, after being disappointed with the last few shows at Hale (go here and here), I am happy to report that this production is amazing and I really loved everything about it.  The cast is phenomenal, especially the three lead actors. Casey Elliott has played Radames before in the Broadway touring production and it is evident because I felt like he really understood his character's motivation.  He has an amazing voice, very well-suited to the rock and roll score. Kandyce Marie is an incredibly powerful Aida and she just about blew the roof off the building in "The Dance of the Robe," my favorite song in the show, and "Easy As A Life." Elliott and Marie have great chemistry and I loved their renditions of "Elaborate Lives" and "Written in the Stars." Amy Shreeve Keeler (Amneris) is a lot of fun to watch in "My Strongest Suit" but she also has a really powerful moment in "I Know the Truth."  The three of them gave me goosebumps when they harmonized together in "Not Me" and "A Step Too Far."  The staging is quite innovative and I especially loved the pool in "Elaborate Lives" and the tomb at the end of the show. The costumes, particularly the elaborate gowns and headpieces worn by Amneris, are spectacular. I had so much fun watching this show with some good friends and I highly recommend it (tickets may be purchased here).

Friday, September 8, 2017

Forever Plaid at HCT

Hale Centre Theatre has two shows running simultaneously: The Heart of Robin Hood is currently playing at the West Valley Theatre and Forever Plaid is playing in the Sorenson Jewel Box Theatre at the new Mountain America Center for the Performing Arts in Sandy. I have been eagerly anticipating this first show in the new theatre and I wasn't disappointed.  First of all, the theatre is absolutely amazing! The Jewel Box Theatre is a more traditional proscenium theatre (the main theatre opens in November with a production of Aida) and I am happy to report that there is leg room! Hallelujah! Second, the show is simply delightful in every way! Forever Plaid is essentially a juke box musical featuring a doo-wop group from the early sixties. While traveling to their very first gig at the Airport Hilton they crash into a bus of parochial school girls on their way to the Ed Sullivan Show to see the Beatles and are killed. They are given the chance to come back and perform the show they never got to in life. It is full of wonderful songs from the 1950s (my Dad would love this show) such as "Three Coins in the Fountain," "Moments to Remember," "No, Not Much," "Heart and Soul," "Shangri-La," "Rags to Riches," and "Love is a Many Splendored Thing." My favorite numbers were "Sixteen Tons" which was hilarious and "Lady of Spain" because they recreated all of the famous acts from the Ed Sullivan Show (I laughed and laughed when they pretended to be seals balancing beach balls). Keith McKay Evans (Frankie), Ricky Parkinson (Smudge), Jonathan Rex Baker (Sparky) and Will Perkins (Jinx) harmonize beautifully together. The choreography is a lot of fun, especially when they use plungers as microphones. In between the musical numbers, there is a lot of funny banter which emphasizes each of the characters' quirks such as Sparky's speech impediment, Jinx's propensity for bloody noses, Frankie's nervousness in front of a crowd, and Smudge's ulcer. I loved the minimal set design which included a piano (played by Tanner DeHaan) and a bass (played by Kelly DeHaan). This show is so much fun and I highly recommend that you see it (instead of The Heart of Robin Hood).

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Heart of Robin Hood at HCT

Last night I saw the Hale Centre Theatre production of The Heart of Robin Hood and I hate to admit this but I did not like it at all. In fact, there were parts of it that actually upset me and, had I not been sitting in the middle of a row, I would have left during the second act. This musical takes the story of Robin Hood (Derek Smith) that we all know and love and turns our hero into a villain who terrorizes the inhabitants of Sherwood Forest for personal gain rather than to give to the poor. It is up to Maid Marion (Riley Branning), eager to escape an arranged marriage to the despicable Prince John (Benjamin J. Henderson), to show him the way as they attempt to rescue two children (Sam Murdock and Ava Hoekstra). One of the problems that I had with the show is that it doesn't seem to know what kind of story it is telling. Is it a swashbuckling adventure with lots of comedic elements? Is it a romance filled with swelling power ballads? Or is it a tragedy about a family who dares to defy an unjust overlord at great cost? There are so many jarring tonal shifts I almost couldn't believe it. One minute you see Prince John forcing two children to watch the execution of their father (thankfully offstage) and the next you have Maid Marion singing a peppy love song. At one point Prince John is swishing around the stage with dancing colored lights on him while his soldiers torture people. It was awful to watch. I was bewildered by some of the choices the production team made. The costumes have absolutely no rhyme or reason with some characters dressed in Renaissance clothing and others wearing neon wigs, go-go boots, dreadlocks, Doc Martens, and eyeliner (Prince John reminded me of Adam Ant). Frankly, I thought it was a mess.  This is really too bad because I did like some of the songs and the two lead actors have wonderful voices. I don't understand why Hale would choose such an edgy production considering the demographic of it patrons. The crowd last night seemed very lukewarm to me. This is the second production in a row that has disappointed me so I only hope that Forever Plaid later this week can redeem HCT for me.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at HCT

My friend Scott, who teaches high school theatre, says, rather derisively, that Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is the most overdone musical of all time. He has a point, as I have seen it performed countless times, but it is so popular because it is usually so fun and entertaining. It tells the well-known Bible story of how Joseph rose to become the Pharaoh's second-in-command after his brothers betrayed him for being their father's favorite with songs that span every musical genre. Each production adds their own special touches and Hale Centre Theatre's version, which I saw last Saturday night, is no exception. In "Journey to Egypt" the Ishmaelites are portrayed as a motorcycle gang, in "Potiphar" the title character plays miniature golf trying to hit the ball into a Sphinx-like feature (which I thought was hilarious), in "Go, Go, Go, Joseph" the dancers emerge from psychedelic VW buses, "The Song of the King" is performed as a Las Vegas floor show complete with showgirls and waiters offering cocktails to audience members, and the "Megamix" is performed in a nightclub with Mrs. Potipher as the DJ spinning the tunes. These were all really fun touches and both Joseph (Zack Wilson) and the Narrator (Amelia Rose Moore) have incredible voices, but I didn't really like this production. Perhaps my friend Scott is right and it is overdone because I have seen much better versions. First of all, the lighting is way too dark, relying on colored lights and illuminated stars strung throughout the theatre to light the action. Sometimes I had a hard time seeing what was going on. Next, there was a lot going on. The stage at Hale Theatre is small and intimate and this is a big show with a large cast. There were many times when the action seemed to be a bit unwieldy, and even messy, with the moving on and off of set pieces and props and those set pieces and props were so completely over-the-top that they detracted from the action. Finally, I did not like the costumes at all. I thought they were dark, edgy, and a bit too avant-garde for my taste. In my opinion, they should be fun, colorful, and whimsical. My complaints all have to do with style; the music is, as ever, what makes this musical so popular and the cast does a fantastic job with all of the songs. I'm sure that most people will enjoy this production more than I did.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird at HCT

Last night I spent a lovely evening watching one of my all-time favorite novels, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, come to life on the Hale Centre Theatre stage. Jem (Matthew Rees) and Scout (Alyssa Buckner) learn that their father Atticus (Mitch Hall) is a hero when he defends an innocent black man named Tom Robinson (Alec Powell) against a charge of rape, even though he knows he will lose, simply because it is the right thing to do. They also learn not to judge people until they have seen things from their perspective through their interactions with Boo Radley (Justin Bruse) and Mrs. Dubose (Gayle Hayes). These themes have always had a powerful impact on me and they impacted me again as I watched this marvelous production. In fact, I left the theatre in tears. I was so impressed with the young actors in the cast, the aforementioned Rees and Buckner as well as Cooper Johnson as Dill, because they brought such innocence to their roles which was very refreshing to see. Powell just about broke my heart in his portrayal of Tom Robinson (every time I read the novel or watch the Academy Award winning movie, I always hope that the verdict will be different) while Josh Richardson made my skin crawl as Bob Ewell. But it was Hall who really anchored this production with a quiet dignity as the iconic Atticus Finch. I was holding my breath during his summation speech during the trial and at the end of it the audience broke out into spontaneous applause because it was absolutely brilliant! As usual the set design is amazing. The juxtaposition of the flower-laden porches with the stark courthouse and jail does much to convey the racism just under the surface in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. This adaptation, by Christopher Sergel, is quite faithful to the novel and I particularly liked having Miss Maudie (Betsy West) as the narrator. This story is not just a classic to be read in high school. It has a message that is timeless and this production is not to be missed! To Kill a Mockingbird runs at HCT until May 20 (go here for tickets and more information) but act quickly because most shows are sold out (with good reason).

Friday, February 17, 2017

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at HCT

I have very fond memories of watching all of the old movie musicals, like Oklahoma, The Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, at my Grandma Anderson's house. My cousins and I would sing and dance and act them out in my Grandma's living room over and over again. I love these classic musicals and I always try to see them performed live whenever I have the chance.  I was able to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Hale Theatre last night and it was so much fun! It is a wonderful production filled with great performances, rousing musical numbers, and energetic choreography.  Adam Pontipee (Dan Frederickson) leaves his frontier home in the mountains to find a wife in the nearest town. He finds the perfect candidate in Milly (Erin Royall Carlson) but she is dismayed when she discovers that she must also care for his six brothers.  Her solution is to get them all married off so she tries to teach them how to court women ("Goin' Courtin'" is such a fun number).  Adam fears that his brothers are becoming soft and suggests that they just go get the women they want to marry and chaos ensues! Both Frederickson and Carlson have lovely voices and I especially enjoyed their renditions of "Where Were You?" and "Love Never Goes Away."  All of the brothers, Benjamin (Brock Dalgleish), Caleb (Taylor Morris), Daniel (Christopher Gallacher), Ephraim (Patrick Wendel), Frank (Brian Nelson), and Gideon (Matthew Sanguine), are incredible dancers and I absolutely loved the church social scene, especially the dance-off between the brothers and the suitors.  I am always amazed by the big song and dance numbers that are performed on such a small and intimate stage.  I also really loved the brides, my favorite is Dorcas (Amelia Rose Moore), and I was impressed that each of them seemed like individuals with distinct personalities. All of their costumes are fabulous, particularly the skirts made from quilts. The rustic set is simple but effective and I liked all of the little details such as the gingham bunting at the church social. This is a production that will appeal to fans of the movie and I highly recommend it.  Many shows are sold out so act quickly (go here for tickets) because you don't want miss out on such a nostalgic show.

Note:  Yesterday I picked my nephew up from school and spent the afternoon with him.  He asked me what I was doing in the evening and, when I told what play I was seeing, he declared it to be lame.  Perhaps it might not appeal to twelve-year-old boys!

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Carol 2016

I am now officially on Winter break and I couldn't be happier (It was touch and go whether I would make it through my final class yesterday). I am definitely looking forward to some fun activities (and sleeping in) over the break. At the top of my list: a performance of A Christmas Carol at Hale Theatre. This, like The Nutcracker, is another one of my very favorite holiday traditions and it wouldn't be Christmas without it! Also, like The Nutcracker, it never grows old even though I have seen it so many times I could probably stand in for any part! I always look forward to the octet singing Christmas carols in between scenes. I always look forward to the dramatic entrance of ghost of Jacob Marley and all of his chains. I always look forward to Christmas at the Fezziwig's (especially when they sing "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella"). I always look forward the party at Fred's house (especially when one of the guests starts laughing uncontrollably).  I always look forward to the terrifying Ghost of Christmas Future.  Finally, I always look forward to the scenes which illustrate Scrooge's redemption, particularly the scenes with Bob Cratchit. During last night's performance, virtually every role was filled by an actor I had never seen before, most notably Stephen Kerr as Scrooge, Josh Richardson as Bob Cratchit, and Spencer Bean as Fred. It almost seemed like a new production because each actor added something new to the character. I thoroughly enjoyed myself last night, and not just because I am on Winter break! I highly recommend that you get a ticket to one of the remaining performances (tickets may be purchased here). Next year, A Christmas Carol will be performed in the new theatre!

Note:  I sat by the most adorable family.  They bought me a drink and a cookie at intermission for putting up with their four children (who were incredibly well-behaved).  It was a lot of fun!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sister Act at HCT

Last night I went to see Sister Act, the musical based on the 1992 movie of the same name starring Whoopi Goldberg, which is the current production at Hale Centre Theatre. I really enjoyed the movie so I was hoping that the musical would be just as entertaining. Normally I am not a big fan of the current trend of turning popular movies into musicals because they seem so contrived but I think this adaptation is fantastic.  Like the movie version, the story involves a singer, Deloris Van Cartier  (Raven Flowers), who inadvertently witnesses her gangster boyfriend Curtis (Brannon Killgo) kill someone. She is placed in the Queen of Angels Convent to keep her safe until she can testify against Curtis and, as you can imagine, she wreaks havoc on the Mother Superior by taking over the choir. Unlike the movie version, it contains all new original songs by Alan Menken and they are quite good.  I actually really enjoyed watching this show and there are a few aspects of the production that really stand out.  First, Flowers gives a sassy and soulful performance that is just so much fun to watch (I saw her in the title role of Aida at the CenterPoint Theater and she was amazing). She has a voice capable of blowing the roof off of the theater and a larger-than-life personality that makes her ideally suitable for this role. I especially loved her dancing in the song "Raise Your Voice" when she is teaching the nuns how to boogie! Second, I loved all of the choreography, especially in "When I Find My Baby" and "Lady In The Long Black Dress."  In fact, Joey (Bryan Dayley), T.J. (Cameron Garner), and Pablo (Matthew Richards) just about steal the show with their leisure suits and disco moves and I laughed out loud, as did everyone around me, during both of those numbers.  I also really enjoyed "Take Me To Heaven" with the nuns.  Finally, I loved all of the costumes!  Monsignor O'Hara (Oran Marc de Baritault) wears vestments that get more and more elaborate as the show progresses and what can I say about the nun's habits made of turquoise sequins for the finale? They are fabulous, baby!  Speaking of things that sparkle, did I mention all of the disco balls dangling from each entrance to the theater? So much fun!  I thoroughly enjoyed Sister Act and I highly recommend it for a fun and entertaining night out!  It runs at HCT until Dec. 3 and tickets may be purchased here.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Beauty and the Beast at HCT

Last night I had the chance to see Hale Centre Theatre's magical production of the Disney musical Beauty and the Beast. I absolutely loved this show from start to finish! Karina Gillette, as Belle, and Austin John Smith, as the Beast, are very well suited to their roles and have very powerful voices which almost blow the roof off the theatre. I especially enjoyed Gillette's rendition of "Is This Home?" and Smith's rendition of "If I Can't Love Her" (which elicited quite the reaction from the crowd). Cogsworth (Zac Zumbrunnen), Lumiere (Addison Welch), and all of the other enchanted objects are lots of fun to watch and "Be Our Guest" is quite the production number. Quinn Dietlein is hilarious as Gaston and I laughed out loud just about every time he hit poor Lefou (Thomas Brandley). Cory Reed Stephens, who is new to HCT, does a brilliant job with some innovative choreography (in a small space!), especially in the "Mob Song" which incorporates mannequins. Once again, I was impressed with Kacey Udy's set design. The castle comes down from the ceiling and it is very dramatic and, of course, I loved the library. Finally, I thought the costumes were simply amazing! Jenn Taylor's creations feature yards and yards of the most sumptuous, bejeweled, and bedazzled fabric you can imagine. The sheer number of costumes, especially for the ensemble, is especially impressive!  I also really loved all of the puppets, created by Taylor, used in the show, particularly the horse! This is a really big show full of enchantment and I would definitely recommend it for children! All of the children in the audience last night were spellbound! Beauty and the Beast runs at HCT until Oct. 1 but many shows have already sold out.  Go here for tickets.

Note:  The last time I saw Beauty and the Beast at HCT was with a five-year-old Tashena who wore her Belle dress to the show.  When the rose was down to its last petal, she screamed out loud to warn the Beast!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Big River at HCT

Last night (on my birthday!) I had the chance to see Big River at Hale Centre Theatre.  Based on the classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, this wonderful musical tells the story of Huck Finn and his friendship with Jim, a runaway slave, as they travel down the Mississippi River. I loved it!  I have seen this show before (at Hale Theatre) but I forgot just how beautiful the music is!  I especially loved the songs "Muddy Waters," "River in the Rain," and "Worlds Apart" sung by Huck (Matthew Clark Richards) and Jim (Conlon Bonner).  Their voices harmonized so well together and their duets are definitely a highlight of the show.  I also really enjoyed Huck's rendition of "Waitin' For The Light To Shine" and Jim basically made me cry with "Free at Last."  Both Richards and and Bonner give incredible performances but I was especially touched by Bonner's heart-felt portrayal of Jim. This production has a large supporting cast, many of whom are new to HCT.  My favorites include John Lee Roring as The Duke because he has the best facial expressions and his rendition of "The Royal Nonesuch" is absolutely hilarious, Stephen Kerr as Pap Finn because his raucous rendition of "Guv'ment" had the entire audience laughing out loud, and Rachelle Elbert as Mary Jane Wilkes because her  performance in "You Oughta Be Here With Me" gave me goosebumps!  In addition to the beautiful songs and the great performances, I would recommend getting a ticket to this production because of the impressive set.  The stage literally becomes a river, complete with a 9,000 gallon tank of water, on which Huck and Jim float their raft and, at times, there is even real rain and fog.  It is incredible! It was a great way to spend my birthday and, once again, I highly recommend this show.  Tickets can be purchased here, but get them quickly because many shows are sold out!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Times Square in New York City
A few years ago I was able to take a theatre trip to London with Pioneer Theatre Company.  I saw an advertisement for the trip in a playbill and spontaneously signed up to go even though I didn't know a single person who was going and I had to take a week off from school in April.  It was the trip of a lifetime and I have always looked back on this experience with fondness because I got to see a revival of My Fair Lady with Anthony Andrews, a brilliant production of Stones in his Pockets, and an incredible performance of King Lear at the Old Vic with Timothy West (who was amazing) in the title role.  I also got to see The Lion King and Mamma Mia for the first time (I cried when the elephants walked by me in The Lion King).  I literally met my roommate for the first time at the airport but I had a blast running around London with her.

Last fall I saw a similar advertisement in a playbill, this time for a theatre trip to New York City with Hale Centre Theatre.  Once again, I didn't know a single person who was going (including my roommate) and I had to take a week off from school in May (which, in case you were wondering, is not a good time to be gone) but I spontaneously signed up and I am so glad that I did! I got to see seven musicals in five days (including Hamilton which absolutely blew my mind), I got to do some fun touristy things (like visit the Statue of Liberty and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge), and I met some of the most amazing people who love theatre as much as I do (my roommate and I talked until 2:00 in the morning every night!).  I will recap my adventures in the next few weeks but here are some details if you are thinking of visiting New York City.   Where to stay:  I loved the Belvedere Hotel in Midtown Manhattan because it was conveniently located near Broadway and Times Square.  What to do:  I had a 7-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard, which lets you ride the subway and all MTA buses, and a 7-day New York Pass, which gives you admission to most tourist attractions (and lets you jump to the head of the line at said attractions) as well as a two-day Hop-on Hop-off Bus Ride.  My tour also included four Broadway musicals but I got tickets to three more shows here and here.  Where to eat:  My favorite restaurant while I was in New York was Amarone.  I recommend the Eggplant Fritters!

Note:  Don't be afraid to do something that is outside your comfort zone.  Amazing things can happen when you say yes to opportunities that come your way.  I usually don't regret the things I do but I almost always regret the things I don't do.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Peter and the Starcatcher at HCT

Peter and the Starcatcher is a magical story for children (and adults who refuse to grow up) about how a mistreated orphan boy becomes Peter Pan. It is currently playing at Hale Centre Theatre and I was able to see it last night. I've seen this wonderful play before but HCT's production just might be my favorite. The story is told on a minimalist stage with ordinary items used in creative ways as props requiring the audience to use their imagination. Many of the people sitting around me commented at intermission that they didn't really know what was going on!  I guess I am still a child at heart because I thought it was absolutely hilarious and I can't remember when I have laughed so hard! I laughed and laughed throughout the whole show and sometimes I was the only one laughing!  All of the actors are amazing with most of them playing multiple roles.  I really loved Kooper Campbell as Peter because he brought such a vulnerability to the role, Brighton Hertford as Molly because she portrayed her as such a strong and independent girl, and Nicholas Siler as the alliteration-loving Mrs. Brumbake because he was hilariously over-wrought but, in my opinion, Ben Abbott stole the show as Black Stache. Granted, Black Stache is my favorite character in the play but Abbott brought such a physicality to the role that made me laugh every time he was on stage (I felt the same way about his performance in HCT's production of Is He Dead?).  I loved watching his facial expressions and I loved it when he spoke directly to the crowd. I thought the staging was absolutely brilliant, especially the scene with the mermaids (I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe), and I particularly enjoyed the use the actors made of the many levels of the stage.  Kudos go to Peggy Willis for the fantastic costumes, especially the aforementioned mermaids, and Michelle Jensen is to be commended for the sheer number of props as well as the creative use of ordinary objects (I loved all of the green neckties used in the forest). I was absolutely enchanted by this production and, if you can summon your inner child as you enter the threatre, I suspect you will enjoy it too.  However, I highly recommend that you get a ticket as soon as possible because many shows are already sold-out.  Peter and the Starcatcher runs through May 18 and tickets can be purchased here.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Pirate Queen at HCT

When HCT announced their 2016 season, I think I was most excited to see The Pirate Queen. After all, it is composed by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil (better known for a little show called Les Miserables). I couldn't wait to see it and I got my wish last night.  It is, essentially, the story of two women who are enemies yet face the same limitations as women and ultimately triumph. Queen Elizabeth I (Cecily Ellis-Bills) has just assumed the throne of England and needs to prove herself by conquering the Irish barbarians. Grace O'Malley (Heather McDonald) becomes the chieftain of the O'Malley clan after proving herself in battle on her father's ship The Pirate Queen and fights to keep her people from submitting to the English Crown. It is an incredible story and, of course, the music is absolutely magnificent! I loved McDonald's voice (I thought she was a hoot as Ado Annie in Oklahoma) and I especially loved how her voice blended with Jacob Theo Squire's, as Tiernan, in the songs "Here On This Night" and "If I Said I Loved You" and with Ellis-Bills' in the songs "She Who Has It All" and "Terra Marique Potens." There are so many powerful scenes in this show but my favorites are "Dubhdara's Farewell" when Grace's father is given his final send-off to sea (the candles and the torches are incredible), the scene between Grace and Queen Elizabeth where the woman in the regalia of a monarch wants what the woman in chains and rags has in her life, and "I'll Be There" when Tiernan has to watch the woman he loves marry someone else to unite the clans. The show is staged very well, especially all of the battle scenes.  It is always so amazing to me what they can do on such a small and intimate stage and the battles are very realistic, especially in the song "Surrender." The choreography is so much fun to watch, particularly the Irish dancing during the wedding and the christening and I absolutely loved the staging of the song "Boys'll Be Boys." (Nathan Gibb Johnson is very easy on the eyes as Donal O'Flaherty, even if he does betray Grace to the English).  Brad Schroeder, the fight choreographer, and Alan Scariff, the Celtic choreographer, are to be commended. The costumes are fantastic, especially all of the over-the-top gowns worn by Queen Elizabeth and her attendants.  I love stories about powerful women and this story is told very well by HCT.  I highly recommend getting a ticket!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Beau Jest at HCT

Hale Centre Theatre likes to ring in the new year with a comedy and, once again, they picked a delightful one!  I interrupted my long winter's nap (it has been hard adjusting back to reality after winter break and I have been in bed by 8:00 most nights this week) to see their production of Beau Jest last night and it is absolutely hysterical! Sarah Goldman's parents want her to marry a nice Jewish boy and, because the man she is dating isn't Jewish, she hires an actor named Bob to pretend to be her boyfriend. There is only one problem. He isn't Jewish, either! With her parents at the door, there is no other choice but to proceed (Bob believes he can handle the "role" because he was once in a touring company of Fiddler on the Roof) and, of course, chaos ensues! I laughed and laughed at all of their antics, particularly when Sarah and Bob embrace and inadvertently hit the radio (several times) causing them to be serenaded by the song "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin over and over again. LizAnne Chapman is suitably overwrought as Sarah and Bryan Dayley is incredibly endearing as Bob and they have great chemistry together but, in my opinion, Ben Parkes, as Sarah's uptight brother Joel, and Todd Michael Thompson, as Sarah's boyfriend Chris, steal the show! Parkes brings a physicality to his role that is just so much fun to watch, especially in a scene involving throw pillows! I laughed out loud, as did everyone around me, in the scene where he tells Sarah to get over it! Thompson's facial expressions (and his double finger gun) are a hoot, especially when he competes with Bob for Sarah's attention! So funny!  I only have two complaints.  First, the scene with the Seder is much too long (in a play that is otherwise filled with lots of snappy dialogue) and I started to lose interest but it is early in the run and I suspect it will tighten up. Second, the set, uncharacteristically, is rather blah and, in my opinion, doesn't really look like an apartment that a young woman living in Chicago would have.  It didn't detract from my enjoyment but I kept wondering if it was the same set from last year's Over the River and Through the Woods. Aside from that, I definitely enjoyed Beau Jest and I highly recommend it for a bit of fun on a long winter's night!  It runs through January 30 and tickets can be purchased here.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Christmas Carol at HCT

I can't think of a better way to start winter break than by seeing HCT's wonderful and magical production of the beloved holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. It is one of my most favorite traditions and I have been attending this show for years and years. I really love the tale of one man's redemption and its message of caring for the welfare of mankind is particularly salient right now during these troubling times. I love seeing familiar faces return year after year, such as David Weeks as Ebeneezer Scrooge, but it is also fun to see new actors take on iconic roles.  I can't remember seeing anyone but Brad Charon play the role of Bob Cratchit or Adam Dietlein play the role of Fred so it was interesting to see Ryan J. Poole and Spencer Bean take on those parts, respectively, last night. Poole's characterization of Cratchit was very tender and I was particularly moved by a scene where Cratchit tearfully thanks Scrooge at the end of the play. I also really loved Ric Starnes as Fezziwig. Actually, all of the performances were great and, as ever, I was very impressed with the Victorian costumes and opulent sets.  I think my favorite part of Hale's production is the use of Christmas carols throughout the play.  I especially love it when the cast sings "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella" which is one of my favorites. Even though I have seen this production countless times I always sit on the edge of my seat and anticipate every scene, every song, and every line of dialogue (I honestly think I could fill in for any part).  It never gets old and I always leave the theatre full of Christmas spirit.  I recommend that you experience it for yourself!  Go here for tickets.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Big Fish at HCT

Wednesday night I had the chance to see the musical Big Fish at Hale Centre Theatre.  I didn't know anything about the music or story before I saw it but now I can tell you that it is absolutely charming. Will Bloom is exasperated by all of his father's wild stories involving an encounter with a witch, learning how to swim from a mermaid, a friendship with a giant, running away to the circus, and stopping an assassination attempt of a general during the war. When Will learns that his father is dying of cancer, he returns to visit and, after a Wild West confrontation between the two, discovers that his father has been a real hero all along. All of the songs are so uplifting, especially "Be the Hero," and I loved the choreography, costumes, and props featured in the fantastical stories recounted by Edward.  I think the scenes at the circus were my favorite and I just about died when the elephants (wearing pink tutus) appeared at the top of every aisle!  As usual, Kacey Udy has outdone himself with the set design.  There is a river (literally) flowing through the middle of the stage and it is pretty spectacular.  I also loved the use of miniatures to denote various locations such as the witch's haunted house, Auburn University, and the city of Ashton. Both Douglas W. Irey and Jacob Theo Squire are outstanding as Edward and Will Bloom, respectively. Irey portrays Edward's zest for life with an enthusiasm that is palpable and I really enjoyed his facial expressions, especially when he is wooing his future wife Sandra (Amanda Crabb). Squire portrays Will's journey from skepticism to appreciation for his father's stories with heartfelt emotion, particularly in the song "What's Next."  I also really enjoyed Mackenzie Seiler as The Witch.  She has an incredibly powerful voice and her song, "I Know What You Want," just about blew the roof off of the theatre (and received thunderous applause). I highly recommend this delightful show about the reconciliation between a father and son.  It runs at Hale Centre Theatre until Nov. 28 and you can go here for tickets and more information.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Wednesday night I saw Hale Theatre's production of the classic musical Oklahoma!  Every song is instantly recognizable: "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "The Surrey With The Fringe On Top," "Kansas City," "People Will Say We're In Love," "The Farmer and the Cowman," and, of course, "Oklahoma!" I've seen this show many, many times and I was quite impressed with what Hale was able to do on such a small and intimate stage. The choreography was absolutely amazing and I especially loved the rope tricks by Will Parker (Jack David Shapiro) in "Kansas City." The Dream Sequence was extremely well done. I think having Laurey (Elise Groves) and Curly (Derek Smith) as children and then adolescents together was very effective at showing their relationship and it was very impressive that Groves and Smith danced their own parts (most productions have a Dream Laurey and Dream Curly). I also think the Dream Sequence was very bold in its depiction of Jud (Jacob Theo Squire).  He is truly menacing and he literally made my skin crawl during this number. I always think Jud is a difficult character. Usually I have some sympathy for him and I feel a little bit unsettled by the exuberant happy ending after his death.  But in this production, I did not like Jud at any point. Director David Tinney made a bold choice to portray Jud as Native American and, at first I didn't like this characterization because it made me feel guilty about not liking him. However, I think Jud is supposed to be a polarizing figure who makes everyone uneasy so, after thinking about it, I feel it was very apt! I also thought it was quite interesting that Tinney chose to have Aunt Eller (Lizanne Chapman) break down in tears alone on the stage following the trial. As I mentioned, I've never been comfortable with such a happy ending after the death of another, however reprehensible that person might be. All of the actors have wonderful voices and seem to have a lot of fun with their characters, particularly Heather McDonald as Ado Annie and Andrew Hansen as Ali Hakim. My only complaint is that I sometimes couldn't hear Aunt Eller but that may have been a technical issue. Set designer Kacey Udy continues to amaze me with what he is able to build on such a small stage. This time he created a full size wooden windmill tower!  Quite impressive!  I would highly recommend this production because it contains all of the familiar and well-loved musical numbers but the story is presented in a completely new way! It runs until Oct. 3 and you can purchase tickets here (but get them quickly because many shows are sold out).

Note:  When I bought my season tickets last year, I had no idea that this show would fall on the first day of school.  It was a long day...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Little Mermaid

Last year I had the opportunity to see the stage musical The Little Mermaid at Tuacahn Amphitheatre with my student body officers.  It was absolutely magical and I loved experiencing it with my students, who loved it as well.  When Hale Theatre announced their 2015 season, I couldn't imagine that their production would be as good as Tuacahn's.  However, I saw the HCT version last night and let me tell you that it is amazing!  It just might be the best thing HCT has done in years!  I was completely enchanted by everything!  In fact, if you have children, stop reading right now and go here for tickets because they are going quickly, with good reason!  The musical tells the well-known story of Ariel, a mermaid who just wants to be where the people are.  Everyone in the cast is phenomenal!  Bre Welch is absolutely perfect as Ariel.  In my opinion, this particular role is much better suited to her voice than some of the other roles she's played at Hale (see here and here).  She has a look of wide-eyed wonder that makes the songs "Part of Your World" and "Beyond My Wildest Dreams" so much fun to watch.  Jon Rose is endearing as Prince Eric, especially in the "Kiss the Girl" scene.  Brooklynn Pulver Kohler is a lot of fun as Ursula and I loved watching the antics of Flotsam (Jeremy David Egan) and Jetsam (Ben Buttars) as they slithered around the stage on roller blades, especially when they high-fived each other!  The costumes in this show are a dazzling array of color and texture and I particularly loved all of the sea creatures in the "Under the Sea" number and I loved the sizzling lights on Flotsam and Jetsam's costumes.  Ursula's costume is so much fun (those tentacles) and all of the mermaids are covered from head to fin in sparkles!  Geoffrey Reynolds, who is new to HCT as a choreographer, certainly outdid himself with the staging of the big production numbers! There are incredible aerialists in "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl" and I laughed and laughed during the absolute chaos of "Les Poissons."  Kacey Udy, once again, worked his magic with the set.  There are clear glass bulbs suspended from the ceiling which give the effect of bubbles in the ocean and I loved Prince Eric's ship.  The entire theatre has the appearance of being under the sea with layers of seaweed and strings of pearls covering every surface.  The whole production is simply wonderful and I highly recommend getting tickets, especially if you have children!  You definitely don't want to miss this delightful show!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Over the River and Through the Woods

Last night I had the opportunity to see the play Over the River and Through the Woods at Hale Theatre.  It is a lovely story with a very warmhearted message about family (the little old ladies sitting next to me were crying).  It is also incredibly funny and I laughed out loud on numerous occasions.  Nick Christano (Alex King) is offered a big promotion at work which means that he will have to relocate from New York to Seattle. His overprotective Italian grandparents (Jared Dunn, Jayne Luke, Gary Pimentel, and Jane Merrell Huefner) in New Jersey don't want him to leave so they plot to give him a reason to stay. They decide that he needs a girlfriend which involves a painfully awkward set-up with Caitlin (Kylee Wood), the niece of his grandmother's canasta partner. Hilarity ensues. In addition to the humor, there are some tender moments as well because this play is a touching commentary on generational differences. Many of our grandparents worked hard their whole lives to provide more opportunities for their families, but in so doing, they paved the way for their children and grandchildren to leave them far behind.  A particularly memorable scene is when Nick's grandfather talks about coming to America for a better life and then realizes that Nick is also searching for a better life even though it is a different one from his.  I was lucky enough to have all four of my grandparents (and even a great-grandfather!) around until I was a young adult and I certainly recognized many of the situations portrayed.  One of my grandmas, who recently passed away, always wanted to feed everyone just like Nick's grandma. One of the funniest scenes in the play is when she tries to give him a ten pound pan of lasagna for the plane ride.  My grandma also sent me home with containers of food! The entire cast is very well-suited to their roles and I particularly enjoyed King's overwrought portrayal of Nick.  His facial expressions are hilarious, especially as he gets more and more exasperated with his grandparents' attempts to play Trivial Pursuit! As usual, I loved the set.  There were so many little details which were a lot of fun including the collections of spoons on the walls.   I definitely recommend this wonderful show.  Go here for tickets but do it soon because many performances are selling out.

Note:  If your grandparents are still alive, give them a call!
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