Showing posts with label PTC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PTC. Show all posts

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mamma Mia at PTC

I have seen the Broadway touring production of Mamma Mia several times and I've even seen it in London's West End twice (once on a theater trip with PTC and once with my Mom who danced in the aisle) so I was really curious to see what a regional theater like PTC would do with it.  I am happy to report that I loved their version and I think some of the choreography, especially in "Lay All Your Love On Me" (more about that in a minute) and "Voulez-Vous," even surpassed the Broadway version.  This musical features some of Abba's best known songs, such as "Dancing Queen," "Money, Money, Money," "S.O.S.," "Knowing Me, Knowing You," and, of course, "Mamma Mia."  Sophie Sheridan (Kathryn Brunner) wants her father to walk her down the aisle at her wedding but she doesn't know who he is.  When she reads her mother's diary, she discovers three possibilities:  Sam Carmichael (Brian Sutherland), Bill Austin (Dan Sharkey), and Harry Bright (Paul Castree).  Without telling her mother Donna (Coleen Sexton), she invites all three of them to the wedding and chaos ensues!  The cast is incredible in this show, especially Sexton!  During the fourth performance she broke her foot but decided to continue the run, wearing a boot and occasionally using crutches.  When I heard about this, I worried that this might take me out of the illusion of the show.  But the production team did such a great job of adjusting the costumes, choreography, and lighting (in just 24 hours) that, after her initial entrance on stage, I really didn't notice at all.  Sexton is definitely a trooper (a super trouper?) for continuing to perform with such a severe injury!  As great as the main cast is, I think the male ensemble steal the show with their scuba gear in "Lay All Your Love On Me" and their acrobatics in "Does Your Mother Know?"  This show is so much fun and I absolutely recommend that you take a chance (too much?) on PTC and see one of the remaining performances (go here for tickets).

Note:  I have really enjoyed the 2017-2018 season at PTC!  Highlights have been The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Bright Star.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Twelfth Night at PTC

You might think that after a day spent teaching A Midsummer Night's Dream to sophomores I wouldn't want to spend the evening attending yet another Shakespeare play.  If the play in question is PTC's production of the hilarious comedy Twelfth Night you would be wrong because that is exactly what I did last night and I loved it!  Sebastian (Zach Fifer) and his twin sister Viola (Grace Morrison) are shipwrecked in a terrible storm and each thinks that the other is dead.  Viola disguises herself as a man called Cesario and offers her services to the Duke Orsino (A.K. Murtadha) with whom she immediately falls in love.  Orsino is desperately in love with the Countess Olivia (Kelsey Rainwater), who is in mourning for her brother, and sends Cesario to make overtures on his behalf to her but she, in turn, falls in love with Cesario.  Meanwhile, Sebastian is wandering around and is, of course, mistaken for Cesario.  Chaos ensues!   There is a secondary story, which is the source of much amusement, involving Malvolio (David Andrew Macdonald), a priggish steward in Olivia's household.  He makes life difficult for the other members of Olivia's household, most notably Sir Toby Belch (Kenajuan Bentley), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Conner Marx), and Olivia's gentlewoman Maria (Susanna Florence).  To get their revenge they have Maria mimic Olivia's handwriting and send a letter to Malvolio from Olivia professing her love for him, requesting that he wear yellow stockings with cross garters.  These scenes involve a lot of physical comedy and they are so funny!  I was laughing out loud along with everyone else in the audience.  I usually don't like it when the setting is changed in a Shakespeare play (I'm a purist) but I thought that having the action take place in New Orleans after a hurricane during Mardi Gras was incredibly effective and I loved the set design and costumes.  This allowed the character of Feste (Richard E. Waits) to become a sort of Greek chorus singing old spirituals (which Waits composed for this production).  Sometimes you have to suspend your disbelief a little bit with this play but Fifer and Morrison look so much alike that it is easy to see why they would be mistaken for each other.  All of the actors give spirited performances and I really enjoyed myself.  I highly recommend this show but the production closes on Saturday so get tickets (go here) quickly!

Note:  Last night's audience was a bit more appreciative of Shakespeare than my sophomores!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

In the Heights at PTC

Before Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and starred in another Tony Award winning musical called In the Heights.  I have seen it a couple of times (including a full production at PTC in 2012) and I really love it, maybe not as much as Hamilton, but it is a very powerful story about love for a community and the family you make with those around you.  Pioneer Theatre Company is currently performing the concert version, a stripped down performance with minimal blocking and choreography (I am a huge fan of this concept and really enjoyed  the concert versions of The Rocky Horror Show and Chess).  My friend Angela and I went to see the performance last night and I was a little bit afraid of her reaction because I have a tendency to really hype the things I love and I worried that I may have overdone it.  Luckily she absolutely loved it and commented that she was really impressed with how well it was staged. The story revolves around a woman named Claudia (Jayne Luke) who acts as an abuela (grandmother) to everyone in a small community in Washington Heights.  Usnavi (Diego Klock-Perez) runs a bodega which is beset with problems, such as a refrigerator that doesn't work, and tries to keep his wayward cousin Sonny (Tomas Joaquin Matos) in line.  He dreams of returning to the cool breezes of the Dominican Republic.  Vanessa (Ariana Escalante) is hoping to escape the barrio, and an abusive mother, to move downtown but a credit check for her new apartment stands in her way.  Nina (Micki Martinez) is the pride of her parents (Enrique Acevedo and Melissa Blatherwick) and the whole neighborhood because she received a scholarship to Stanford.  But college is a lot harder than she thought it would be, especially when you have to work two jobs to make ends meet, and she is thinking of quitting.  Will all of their worries be solved when Abuela Claudia wins the lottery?  In the concert version the music takes center stage and I really enjoyed all of the songs but my favorites were "When You're Home," "Sunrise," "Alabanza," and "When the Sun Goes Down." The actors are fantastic and give incredibly passionate performances.  I was particularly impressed with Martinez’s characterization of Nina because you could really feel her pain at disappointing her community and Klock-Perez looks and sounds so much like Lin-Manuel Miranda that it is uncanny! This production is just wonderful and I highly recommend getting a ticket (go here) to the final performance tonight!

Note:  This is the first time that I have seen In the Heights after seeing Hamilton and I was particularly struck by the similarities.  You can definitely see Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical progression from one to the next.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

i at PTC

Last night I went to the world premiere of an incredibly thought-provoking play by Jeff Talbott called i.  I didn't know anything about it because there were no director's notes provided in the program and the setting was listed as a city sometime soon.  Now that I have seen it I think it is much better to go in blind and let the events (and the plot twist) surprise you.  It begins with a clearly distraught young woman named Sarah Cooper (Kathleen McElfresh) as she is interviewed by a doctor before undergoing a mysterious medical procedure.  The next time we see her she seems to be a completely different woman who has relocated to another city.  Then she meets Jake Bellamy (Todd Gearhart) and her new life begins to unravel.  This play is a profound meditation on identity and my mind was swirling with so many ideas as I left the theater!  What role do our memories play in who we are?  Is it better to feel nothing at all rather than feel sad?  Just because something is possible does that mean it should be done?   This play requires quite a bit of engagement as it is comprised mostly of intimate conversations between the two main characters (several people sitting near me were clearly restless) but I really enjoyed it.  The minimal set, composed of moving plexiglass panels, and the lighting cues are very effective at conveying the isolation felt by the main characters.  Both McElfresh and Gearhart give highly nuanced performances that I found to be incredibly affecting and I was very impressed by the sheer number of characters portrayed by Nefeesa Monroe.  I applaud Pioneer Theatre for its willingness to produce new works like this and I highly recommend this production.  It runs through March 3 and tickets may be purchased here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bright Star at PTC

When I went to New York almost two years ago there was one night when the group didn't have theatre tickets together and we were free to get tickets on our own.  I thought about Waitress (which I eventually saw with my friend Esther) and I also thought about Bright Star because I had heard so many great things about it.  But then Hamilton became a possibility and that eclipsed everything else!  Of course, seeing the original cast of Hamilton on Broadway was a dream come true but there was a little part of me that regretted the fact that I didn't get a chance to see Bright Star.  Little did I know that the show would be coming to Salt Lake City so soon and that almost the entire cast would be reprising their roles from the Broadway production, including the incomparable Carmen Cusack as Alice Murphy!  It is fantastic and to say that I loved it would be an understatement.  Featuring music and lyrics by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, the story takes place in North Carolina during the 1920s and just after World War II.  After returning from the war, Billy Cane (A.J. Shively) briefly returns to his small town and his childhood friend Margot (Maddie Shea Baldwin) but he decides to try writing for a magazine in Asheville and meets the uptight editor, Alice Murphy, who once made Hemingway cry.  When the magazine staff tease Alice about her boring existence, we see her (literally) transform into a wild and rebellious girl in love with Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Patrick Cummings).  The narrative goes back and forth from one timeline to the other as Alice learns to deal with heartache and loss and Billy learns the importance of home and the one who really loves him.  There is a plot twist that I predicted almost immediately but I was still completely engaged with the story because the performances are wonderful and the bluegrass music is incredible!  The song "Please Don't Take Him" brought tears to my eyes and I do not know how Cusack can sing it with such emotion night after night.  I think my favorite song in the show is "Asheville" because it is sung by a girl who is worried that the boy she loves will forget all about her when he goes to the big city.  Baldwin fills it with such longing and I liked how the song is staged.  In fact, the staging of the entire show is extremely clever with the ensemble cast moving props and scenery on and off stage seamlessly.  Finally, the band, sitting in a rustic cottage that is moved to various places on stage, is superb.  I especially enjoyed the fiddle solos played by Martha McDonnell.  Pioneer Theatre Company is only the third regional theater to produce this musical and I consider myself lucky to get to see such an amazing cast right here in SLC!  I highly recommend seeing this show, but you better hurry because tickets are going fast!  The rush pass line was the longest I've seen for any show at PTC (Including Newsies!).  Go here for tickets and information.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Newsies at PTC

There was a time when the Disney musical Newsies was at the top of my list of shows that I wanted to see.  Such was my mania to see it that I went to Los Angeles to see it at the Pantages Theatre only to learn that the Broadway touring company would be coming to SLC the following year.  Now it seems as if it is everywhere.  The Tuacahn Amphitheatre produced it last summer and both PTC and HCT have the popular show in their 2017-2018 schedules.  I had the chance to see it at Pioneer Theatre last night (I have a ticket to Hale's version next June) and it is fantastic!  It definitely rivals the Broadway versions that I've seen!  In 1899 a group of newspaper delivery boys, let by Jack Kelly (Jonathan Shew), goes on strike to protest Joseph Pulitzer (William Parry) raising the price of newspapers.  With a little help from an intrepid reporter named Katherine (Nadia Vynn) and Governor Roosevelt (Richie Call) himself, the newsies score a victory for all of the working children in New York.  The staging and choreography stays true to the original on Broadway with just a few new touches to keep it fresh and exciting.  The highlight of this show has always been the dancing and the dancers in this show are exhilarating!   The audience practically cheered out loud with every high energy leap and spin!  The big production numbers are so much fun including "Carrying the Banner," "Seize the Day," "King of New York," "Once and For All," and my favorite song in the show, "The World Will Know."  Shew is as handsome, charismatic, and talented as any Jack I've seen before and I loved his affecting rendition of "Santa Fe."  Vynn just might be my favorite Katherine and I was tapping my toes to "Watch What Happens."  I also really liked Stephen Michael Langton as Davey (he played Davey in the Broadway touring company).  Do yourself a favor and take your teenagers to see this show (If they are anything like the students of Hunter High I bet they are dying to see it) but get tickets soon because the theatre was packed on a Monday (go here for tickets).  It runs at PTC until Dec. 20.

Note:  I currently have what I call Joseph fatigue because Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is performed so often in Utah.  I hope the same thing doesn't happen with this show.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Comedy of Tenors at PTC

Several years ago I saw Lend Me A Tenor at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and I thought it was so much fun!  When I found out that the sequel, A Comedy of Tenors, would be a part of PTC's 2017-2018 season I got really excited.  This show is a hilarious romp through an elegant Parisian hotel suite as an impresario (Andy Prosky) tries to get three temperamental tenors (Hansel Tan, Gregory North, and Storm Lineberger) to stop fighting long enough to take the stage for the concert of the century.  Add a bellhop looking for his big break, misunderstandings galore, mistaken identities with comedic results, characters in various stages of undress hiding from each other, and plenty of face slapping and door slamming and you have a delightful evening of theatre.  What makes this show so much fun is the manic physical comedy and all of the actors have superb comedic timing.  At one point, there was so much running around I couldn't keep track of what was happening and there are some astoundingly quick costume changes.  I loved it and I laughed out loud multiple times as did everyone around me.  Oh and by the way, all three of our tenors can really sing!  They performed an impressive rendition of "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" from Verdi's La Traviata.  It is a bit risque in some parts but that just adds to the fun.  I would highly recommend this delightful production (tickets may be purchased here) which runs at Pioneer Theatre until Nov. 4.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at PTC

I wasn't sure if I would be able to see PTC's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because of my crazy schedule right now.  But I have heard nothing but rave reviews from everyone I know who has seen it!  I decided I better try to squeeze it in and I am so glad that I did last night!  It is absolutely wonderful and I loved it.  In fact, you should stop reading right now and go here for tickets to one of the few remaining performances (it runs through Saturday, Sept. 30).  Christopher Boone (Harrison Bryan) is a fifteen-year-old math prodigy with an amazing memory who is also autistic.  He has difficulty in social situations, doesn't like loud noises or having his routine disrupted, and cannot abide having anyone touch him.  When he is wrongly accused of killing his neighbor's dog, he decides to solve the murder himself (and write a book about it).  As he uncovers clues to the mystery, he discovers secrets about his own family which leads to a journey, literally and figuratively, of self-discovery where he learns that he can do anything.  It is also a very powerful story about two parents, Ed (Tom O'Keefe) and Judy (Stephanie Howell), trying to find an emotional connection with their special needs son and some of their interactions with Christopher are heartbreaking.  The story is told as Christopher reads his book aloud with some excerpts read by his teacher Siobhan (Melissa Miller).  The staging of this play is brilliant!  The set looks like a series of building blocks placed together with items such as tables, beds, chests of drawers, and even a rat cage (I loved when Christopher introduced his pet rat to people by saying that it doesn't have the bubonic plague), pulled out from a block when needed.  There are six actors who play all of the rest of the supporting characters who enter and exit the stage with clever choreography and blocking.  I was especially impressed with the choreography and sound design during scenes in train stations and on the underground because they mimic the sensory overload that Christopher is experiencing.  The entire cast is excellent but Bryan gives a deeply affecting performance.  The role is emotionally and physically demanding and he nails it!  Christopher's behavior is often very frustrating and Bryan is somehow able to make him into a likable character that you cheer for in the end.  I cannot praise this production enough and I only wish I had time to see it again!  Do not miss it!

Note:  If you go, stay in your seat through the bows.  Trust me on this!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Will Rogers Follies at PTC

Because I have a rush pass to Pioneer Theatre, I can see the current production any time I want.  I planned to see The Will Rogers Follies on four different occasions but something always came up to change my plans (mostly spontaneous invitations to do other things).  I finally made it to the show last night and it was just delightful.  This extravagant musical tells the life story of Will Rogers (David M. Lutken), America's favorite humorist, as if it were a big song and dance production by Florenz Ziegfeld.  Rogers performs rope tricks, has a little bit of fun with politics (it is rather eerie how much the political situation today resembles that of Herbert Hoover), and sings and dances with a bevy of high-kicking showgirls.  Of course there are a few occasional comments from Mr. Ziegfeld himself (the voice of Donny Osmond) with suggestions to make the show more interesting for the audience, such as moving his wedding to Betty Blake (Lisa Brescia) to the end of Act 1 even though they had four children by this point in the story!  Lutken does an amazing job delivering bits of homespun wisdom (and he's not too shabby with a rope, either).  All of the big song and dance numbers are quite spectacular led by Ziegfeld's Favorite, Chryssie Whitehead, and an incredibly talented ensemble of dancers.  I was especially impressed with "Our Favorite Son."  The wranglers, who are very easy on the eyes, also really impressed me in "Give a Man Enough Rope."  The four children, Kimball Stinger, Ava Hoekstra, Nathan Eliason, and Mila Belle Howells, are absolutely adorable and just about steal every scene they are in.  Finally, the costumes are incredible!  It is worth the price of admission just for the costumes alone; however, there are lots of reasons why you should go see this show and the most important one is that it is just so much fun!  It runs at PTC until Saturday (go here for tickets).

Note:  Kudos to PTC for such a great season!  I have enjoyed every production immensely (I think my favorite would have to be King Charles III) and I am looking forward to next season as well (especially Bright Star).

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

King Charles III at PTC

Imagine that Queen Elizabeth II has died and that, upon his ascension to the throne, King Charles III has plunged the monarchy into a constitutional crisis.  Imagine that William Shakespeare is still alive to write a modern tragedy about the current Royal Family.  Such is the premise of Mike Bartlett's play King Charles III, the current production at PTC.  I was able to see it last night and I think it is a brilliant examination of the role of monarchy in the modern world.  Charles (John Hutton) is a tragic figure, much like King Lear, who is out of touch and easily manipulated by the Prime Minister (Larry Bull) and the opposition leader (J. Todd Adams).  Believing that he should have more than just a ceremonial role in government, Charles refuses to sign the Privacy Act which eventually leads to his dissolution of Parliament.  Prince Harry (John Ford-Dunker), like Prince Hal, yearns for a different life other than the restrictive one as a royal and spends his time clubbing with inappropriate companions.  He is ultimately forced to choose duty over a girlfriend.  Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Samantha Eggers) is perhaps the most interesting character, as a sort of Lady Macbeth, who uses the crisis to further her ambition for Prince William (Grant Goodman).  She has a very powerful soliloquy where she bemoans her role as an ornament to the monarchy and vows to wield power when she wears the crown.  Another incredibly powerful scene is when William confronts Charles over his treatment of his mother, Diana (who makes an appearance as a ghost).  The staging is fantastic with a final scene that I still can't get out of my mind.  It is a riveting production and I highly recommend it!  King Charles III runs at PTC until April 8 and tickets may be purchased here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Chess at PTC

A few years ago PTC created a series featuring rarely performed musicals in concert format.  The actors use scripts and there are minimal costumes, sets, and props in order to let the music take center stage.  They began with The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which was so popular that PTC presented it two years in a row) and this year they continued with Chess, the musical that Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of Abba wrote before Mamma Mia.  Even though I only knew one song from the show, the wildly popular radio hit "One Night in Bangkok" by Murray Head (Freddie from the original West End production), I have always wanted to see it.  I am so glad I had the chance last night because it pretty much blew me away.  Against the backdrop of an international chess tournament between the United States and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War, a member of the U.S. delegation and the Soviet champion fall in love but become pawns (pun intended) in the political intrigue of their respective governments.  This tension makes for a fantastic rock opera filled with anthemic (I couldn't resist) pop songs which I absolutely loved, especially the aforementioned "One Night in Bangkok," "Where I Want to Be," "Someone Else's Story," "Nobody's Side," "Anthem," "Heaven Help My Heart," and "I Know Him so Well."   The three main leads, Matthew Hydzik as Freddie, Coleen Sexton as Florence, and Michael Halling as Anatoly, are absolutely incredible!  I was particularly blown away by Hydzik because he has the type of voice that I find to be very appealing, what I like to call a powerful rock and roll tenor.  In fact, he reminded me so much of Adam Pascal (I bet Hydzik would be phenomenal as Roger in Rent or Radames in Aida) who, incidentally once played Freddie in a concert version of Chess at the Royal Albert Hall in 2008, but I digress.  My favorite moment of the show was Hydzik's rendition of "Pity the Child."  All I can say is, "Wow!"  I highly recommend this concert but there are only two more performances so get your tickets quickly (go here).

Note:  Next year's concert musical was announced last night and it will be In the Heights.  I will get to see two Lin-Manuel Miranda musicals in 2018!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Women in Jeopardy at PTC

Yesterday was a dark and dreary day filled with intermittent rain and snow showers.  I was definitely in need of something to raise my spirits and I found it at Pioneer Theatre in the form of a new play by Wendy MacLeod called Women in Jeopardy.  It is a hilarious farce set in present-day Salt Lake City involving three divorced middle-aged women who get caught up in an intrigue and I laughed out loud more times than I can count.  Mary (Anne Tolpegin) and Jo (Rosalyn Coleman) are concerned when their friend Liz (Elizabeth Meadows Rouse) becomes involved with Jackson Scull (Joe Gately), a man whom they rather fancifully suspect is a serial killer.  In their minds, their suspicions are confirmed when Jackson wants to take Liz's dimwitted daughter, Amanda (Betsy Helmer), on a camping trip in a remote area of Southern Utah.  They share their concerns with Sgt. Kirk Sponsullar (Joe Gately), who looks remarkably like Jackson, but to no avail.  In desperation, Mary recruits Trenner (CJ Strong), Amanda's ex-boyfriend, to try to convince her not to go on the trip but he interprets this to mean that Mary is interested in him.  Chaos ensues when they all meet up at a campsite in the middle of the night.  This production is filled with amusing situations, lots of physical comedy (I laughed so hard that I couldn't breathe at Trenner's ill-fated attempt to seduce Mary), and fast-paced dialogue filled with lots of fun local humor (a line about Democrats had the entire theatre in hysterics).  All of the actors have great comedic timing and I was particularly impressed with all of the quick costume changes.  I highly recommend this fun comedy which runs at PTC through Saturday (go here for tickets).  It is the perfect antidote for the winter blues!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fences at PTC

Tuesday night I went to Pioneer Theatre's critically acclaimed production of Fences, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson.  As you may remember, I recently saw Denzel Washington's film adaptation and had a somewhat lukewarm reaction to it but that made me even more curious to see it on the stage.  Troy Maxson (Michael Anthony Williams) is a man with so many demons that he torments everyone around him:  his brother Gabriel (Jefferson A. Russell) who was injured in the war, his long-suffering wife Rose (Gayle Samuels), his friend Bono (Jeorge Bennett Watson), and his sons Lyons (Biko Eisen-Martin) and Cory (Jimmie "J.J." Jeter).  I still found the character of Troy to be incredibly flawed but Williams' portrayal was much more sympathetic, in my opinion.  Whereas Washington's version of Troy was always angry, I felt that Williams gave the character a certain vulnerability and his Troy was wounded rather than angry.  I think this story is much better suited to the immediacy and intimacy of the stage and this is especially true of the fence.  All of the action takes place in the yard which makes Troy's environment much more claustrophobic than in the film version.  In the final scenes, the stage is dominated by the fence with Troy inside the yard and all of the other characters on the other side.  It is extremely powerful and serves to highlight Troy's isolation.  I highly recommend this outstanding production which runs at PTC through January 21.  Tickets may be purchased here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Oliver at PTC

This is the time of year when I visit Charles Dickens' London.  However, instead of the usual holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, I made the journey with PTC's Oliver, the musical adaptation of another Dickens classic (I will be seeing A Christmas Carol at HCT in a few weeks). It was a really great production about the exploits of an orphan named Oliver Twist (Maxwell Rimington).  We first meet him in an orphanage, then he is sold to an undertaker, next he joins up with a gang of pick-pockets, and finally he finds his real home.  All of the big production numbers are a lot of fun with very energetic choreography and I especially enjoyed "Food, Glorious Food" with all of the orphans, "Consider Yourself" with the Artful Dodger (Christian Labertew), "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" with Fagin  (Bill Nolte) and the pick-pockets, "It's A Fine Life" and "Oom-Pah-Pah" with Nancy (Natalie Hill), and "Who Will Buy?" with the vendors.  All of the actors give great performances, including all of the children in the cast, but Rimington will absolutely melt your heart as Oliver.  I actually had a tear in my eye when he sang "Where Is Love?"  I was also extremely impressed with Labertew's Artful Dodger.  I was sitting very close to the stage and I loved all of his facial expressions.  Speaking of the stage, the set was very clever with lots of different levels depicting alleys, bridges, streets, pubs, shops, and a proper Victorian mansion.   I thoroughly enjoyed this musical, as did all of the children in the audience, and I highly recommend it for the whole family as a great evening of holiday entertainment.  Oliver runs at PTC until Dec. 17 and tickets can be purchased here.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Glass Menagerie at PTC

PTC's production of The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams' classic play about nostalgia, is closing very soon and, as I have been very busy the past few weeks, I thought about skipping it.  I have read and seen this play performed countless times and, frankly, I sometimes find it to be very grim so I didn't feel any urgency.  However, I decided at the last minute to see it last night and I am very glad that I did because I was quite impressed.  The play is narrated by Tom Wingfield (Zachary Prince), a writer reminiscing about his memories of his mother and sister and their dreary existence in St. Louis during the 1930s.   He longs to escape their suffocating apartment and substitutes movies for the adventure he craves.  Amanda Wingfield (Nance Williamson) lives in the past, regaling her children with stories of the southern gentility she experienced growing up on a plantation and of her many "Gentlemen Callers."  Laura Wingfield (Hanley Smith) is crippled and is so shy that she prefers to retreat into the world of her glass animals.  None of them can face the harsh reality of their lives, which is momentarily brightened by the prospect of a "Gentleman Caller" for Laura (Logan James Hall).  This play is very character driven and a good production relies on its cast to give engaging performances.  Prince, Williamson, Smith, and Hall do that and more.  Williamson, especially, commands attention as the overbearing Amanda and I found her interpretation to be quite humorous at times (I don't remember ever laughing at any of the other productions I've seen).  I really liked the set, particularly the the portrait of Amanda's husband which dominates the space.  I also really liked the use of light, which I found to be highly effective at conveying different moods throughout the play.  I definitely recommend this production but, unfortunately, it it closing tomorrow;  however, there are still a few performances left so act quickly and go here for tickets.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Last Ship at PTC

I've always been a big fan of Sting.  I've seen him in concert many times, including a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver and then another one the very next night at the Maverik Center in SLC.  I was so excited when I learned that PTC would be opening the 2016-2017 season with The Last Ship, the Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Sting about the community he grew up in.  This year I decided to get a rush pass to PTC, which means that I can get a ticket to any show on any night 30 minutes before curtain if tickets are available.  I had planned to see The Last Ship last night because I thought it would be a nice way to celebrate making it though the week of parent teacher conferences.  Then I heard a rumor that Sting would be attending this performance.  I thought it would be amazing to see this show with Sting in the audience so I watched the availability of tickets all day.  There were fewer and fewer tickets available as the day went on and when it got down to the last few tickets I bit the bullet and just bought one!  I ended up sitting six rows behind him and he seemed visibly emotional when the audience would respond to something.  After the show, he got up on stage and, in an emotional speech, told the crowd how much he enjoyed the production and thanked us for being an amazing audience!  It was so fun!  I really loved the show!  In fact, I'm thinking of going to see it again since I have the rush pass.  Gideon Fletcher (Bryant Martin) wants to leave his hometown of Wallsend, England despite the fact that his father wants him to follow in his footsteps and work at the local shipyard.  When he leaves, he promises his girlfriend Meg (Ruthie Stephens) that he will come back for her.  After fifteen years, he returns when he learns of his father's death to discover that the shipyard has been closed and that he has a son.  It is a wonderful story about the power of community and the relationship between fathers and sons that is both funny and heartwarming.  I loved all of the music including "All This Time" and "When We Dance," which I was familiar with, and "If You Ever See Me Talking to a Sailor" and "We've Got Now't Else."  Both Martin and Stephens have amazing voices and give very powerful performances.  I loved the innovative choreography, especially when they are building the ship in "We've Got Now't Else."  The set design is extremely clever, transitioning from a dock, to a shipyard, to a pub, and then the ship itself very easily with the movement of large steel panels and grids.  Really, everything about this production is wonderful and I highly recommend this show, even without Sting in the audience, which runs through October 1.  Go here for tickets.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Count of Monte Cristo at PTC

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is one of my all-time favorite books and, when PTC announced that they were going to stage a new adaptation during the 2015-2016 season, I was thrilled and decided to reread the classic in anticipation.  That may have been a bad thing!  The thrilling tale of betrayal and revenge begins when Edmund Dantes is promoted to captain of the Phaeron, much to the dismay of the purser, Danglars, and becomes engaged to the beautiful Mercedes, much to the dismay of his jealous rival, Mondego.  They accuse Dantes of treason when they discover that Dantes has been asked to deliver a letter to Noirtier, a notorious Bonapartist.  Dantes is arrested and brought before the magistrate, Villefort, who is the son of Noirtier.  Fearful of being exposed as the son of a Bonapartist, Villefort imprisons Dantes in the Chateau d'If where he languishes for years.  Dantes eventually meets the Abbe Faria, another prisoner, who teaches him languages, history, culture, and science.  Faria also reveals the location of an immense treasure on the island of Monte Cristo just before he dies.  Dantes takes the place of Faria and is thrown into the sea where he eventually locates the treasure and uses it to intricately and painstakingly plot and execute his revenge against Danglars, Mondego, and Villefort.  My favorite part of the book is how elaborate and clever Dantes' plans are and the lengths to which he is willing to go to exact revenge against those who have betrayed him.  I was quite disappointed that this adaptation chose to spend less than ten minutes on revenge (during the song "Too Much is not Enough") and, instead, focus on the resumption of the love story between Dantes and Mercedes (which does not happen in the book).  I realize that source material is often altered to enhance the storytelling but I feel that playwright Jack Murphy changed the entire focus of the story from an exciting tale about the dangers of letting revenge consume you into a tepid romance.  The songs are incredibly beautiful, especially "Forever," "I Will Be There," "I Know Those Eyes/ This Man Is Dead," "All This Time," and "The Man I Used to Be."  The lead actors give powerful performances, particularly Matt Farcher as Dantes and Briana Carlson-Goodman as Mercedes, and Dathan B. Williams just about steals the show as Abbe Faria (although, because of the altered story, crowd favorite Max Robinson is completely underutilized as Monsieur Morrell).  The set, with a giant revolving staircase, is impressive, the period costumes are very well done (other than the strange black leather pants worn by the count), and the choreography is exciting, especially the fight scenes.  PTC does everything right but I just couldn't get past the changes to the story and ultimately left the theatre disappointed.  Perhaps knowing nothing about the book is an advantage because everyone around me seemed to love it!  The show runs through May 21 and tickets may be purchased here.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cowgirls at PTC

Last night I went to see PTC's production of Cowgirls and I must say that I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would!  Country is my very least favorite genre of music but, by the end of the show,  even my foot was tapping just a little bit!  Jo Carlson (Leenya Rideout) has inherited Hiram Hall, her father's country and western saloon, but she has also inherited his debts and the saloon is about to be foreclosed.  In a last ditch effort to repay the debts and save Hiram Hall, she has hired the Cowgirl Trio to perform during the grand re-opening.  Unfortunately, she has, in reality, hired the Coghill Trio, a group of classically trained musicians.  The Coghill Trio has reached the end of a disastrous three month tour and, eager to prove themselves, they convince Jo that they can learn to play country music to the dismay of Jo's waitresses (Karis Danish and Ashlie Roberson) who think they could do a better job.  As she coaches Lee (Jessica Bradish) a cello playing New Age lesbian, Rita (Lindsay Zaroogian), a pregnant pianist afraid of losing her identity when she becomes a mother, and Mary Lou (Angela Chatelain Avila), an uptight violinist, on how to play country music, Jo must deal with the fact that her mother abandoned her for a career in country music.  The songs they sing take each of  them on a journey of discovery and I particularly enjoyed "Kingdom of Country," "Songs My Mama Sang," "Looking for a Miracle," "Don't Look Down," and "Saddle Tramp Blues."  While the plot is simplistic, the songs and choreography are quite entertaining and I was extremely impressed by the fact that the actors play all of their own instruments on stage (much like the actors do in the musical Once).  The set of the saloon also reminded me of the bar in Once with audience members invited on stage to have a drink and watch the final performance of the Cowgirl Trio.  I did grow a little weary of the stereotypical portrayal of the down-on-their-luck and hard-living waitresses (they even sing a song called "Don't Call Me Trailer Trash") and the twang (a big reason why I don't like country music) is definitely over the top!  However, I highly recommend this thoroughly entertaining show about women learning how to take a risk!  Cowgirls plays at PTC through April 9 and tickets may be purchased here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

An Inspector Calls at PTC

Last night I saw PTC's production of An Inspector Calls and I really enjoyed it!  The play takes place in an industrial city in England in 1912 (which I find to be a particularly interesting time in history).  The Birling family is enjoying a celebratory dinner announcing of the engagement of their daughter, Sheila (Katie Wieland), to Gerald Croft (John Skelley) who, as the son of Sir George and Lady Croft, is their superior socially.  Arthur Birling (Joseph Dellger), a wealthy factory owner, is particularly pleased about his daughter's engagement as it will certainly elevate his own status.  After dinner, Inspector Goole (Christopher Kelley) calls to question the family about the suicide of a former worker in one of Birling's factories.  Each family member, including the aforementioned Sheila and Gerald as well as Arthur's wife Sybil (Mia Dillon) and his dissolute son Eric (John Evans Reese), professes having no knowledge of the girl.  However, as the investigation continues, it is revealed that each of them is somehow complicit in her death.  The tension mounts and mounts as each person is questioned until there is a surprise twist at the end (the fact that there is no intermission only serves to heighten the suspense).  Sheila and Eric are completely shattered by this tragedy, while Sybil feels that she has done nothing wrong, Gerald wants to find someone else to blame, and Arthur only cares about the potential for scandal (in my opinion, this foreshadows the crumbling of the Edwardian facade during the war).  It is an interesting murder mystery but it is also a powerful indictment of the rigid social classes in the Edwardian era.  The ensemble cast is excellent but I particularly enjoyed Wieland's portrayal of Sheila (think Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary).  The stage is particularly effective as there is a factory, populated by "factory girls," located above an elegant dining room serving to emphasize that the wealth of the aristocracy was dependent upon the drudgery of the working classes.   Once again, PTC has given me a thought-provoking evening of theatre and I highly recommend this compelling show (particularly if you are a fan of Downton Abbey).  It runs through March 5 at Pioneer Theatre and tickets can be purchased here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Two Dollar Bill at PTC

Last night I had the opportunity to see the world premiere of a powerful and provocative play called Two Dollar Bill by playwright T.J. Brady at Pioneer Theatre.  It takes place in the present day on an unnamed Ivy League University campus where it is discovered that a well-respected and tenured history professor has falsified his undergraduate degree.  The play opens with Bill Dudley (Mark Zimmerman) lecturing to a U.S. History class on the Treaty of Paris which "officially" ended the Revolutionary War even though the British had surrendered at Yorktown a year earlier.  He states that the fledgling country needed legitimacy, in the form of an official piece of paper, in the eyes of the world.  Thus the central theme of the play is introduced:  what constitutes legitimacy?  Dudley is informed by the dean of faculty, who happens to be his wife, that the University has discovered that he was one credit short of receiving his Bachelor's degree and demands his resignation while an undergraduate student demands that a failing grade be changed because it will ruin her GPA and, therefore, her chances of getting into law school or business school.  In the midst of these goings-on, Dudley laments the loss of a two dollar bill given to him by his father and wonders why the lack of a degree makes him unsuitable for a position he has held for over thirty years and why his student seems more interested in getting a degree rather than learning the material.  Is legitimacy based on a piece of paper rather than knowledge and ability?  In the end, Dudley finds the two dollar bill and gives it to his teaching assistant, asserting that he doesn't need a piece of paper to remember his father.  This play is incredibly thought-provoking, to say the least, judging by the many conversations swirling around me at intermission and, even though this play deals with higher education, I couldn't help but think about the pressure I am under to pass students in my classes when they have clearly not mastered the material because our school is judged on its graduation rate.  I enjoyed this production immensely, not only for the subject matter, but also for the excellent performances by the aforementioned Zimmerman, Lesley Fera as the dean of faculty, Corey Allen as Dudley's teaching assistant, and Ephie Aardema as Dudley's undergraduate student.  Aardema is especially effective as an entitled student who, at one point, calls her Dad to threaten the school over her grade.  I'm sure she prepared for her role by visiting one of the high schools nearby (said without the slightest bit of cynicism).  I highly recommend this timely drama, especially to anyone concerned over the state of public education in this country.  It runs at PTC through January 30 and tickets may be purchased here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...