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

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.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It Happened One Christmas at PTC

I am not a fan of revues but, since I enjoyed It Happened One Christmas at PTC last night a lot more than I thought I would, maybe Christmas revues are an exception.  This original production was conceived by PTC Artistic Director Karen Azenberg and Kenneth Jones (who wrote the wonderful play Alabama Story performed at PTC last season) and features just about every Christmas song and story you can imagine.  The show takes place in an old and abandoned theatre in SLC on Christmas Eve.  Legend has it that all of the ghosts of Christmas shows past get together to perform for an imaginary audience and, if Santa Claus likes the show, it will snow on Christmas Day.  All of the musical numbers are a lot of fun to watch with dazzling choreography, coordinating costumes (someone sitting near me mentioned that it seemed like one long Gap commercial), magical sets, and incredibly talented performers (the children in the cast are adorable).  I especially loved the high energy opening number, Sparklejollytwinklejingley, featuring the entire company.  I feel that the second act lost a little bit of momentum but my favorite moment came near the end and included a reading from the New Testament about the birth of Christ followed by the song "Seasons of Love" from RENT.  This was an incredibly powerful moment and highlighted, for me, what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.  Of course, the show ended with a heart-warming rendition of "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!" with the requisite snow falling on stage (and in the audience) so I guess that Santa Claus enjoyed it.  I certainly did and I think you will, too, because there is definitely something for everyone in this Christmas extravaganza!  Go here to purchase tickets and give yourself a big dose of Christmas spirit!

Note:  I loved the audience sing-along of the "Twelve Days of Christmas!"  I think my section nailed four calling birds!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Outside Mullingar at PTC

I am not especially adventurous when it comes to the theatre (have I ever mentioned the horrible experience I had when I saw Seussical the Musical?) and I tend to see plays I've already seen before or at least know something about.  After all, tickets are often expensive and, if I am going to spend a lot of money, I want to make sure I enjoy myself.  Sometimes, however, I take a chance on something new and it instantly becomes a favorite (like PTC's production of Next to Normal several years ago).  Such was the case last night when I saw PTC's production of Outside Mullingar.  It is simply charming and I loved it!  All I knew before the curtain rose was that it was set in Ireland and I was quite surprised to discover that it was a contemporary play.  Tony Reilly (perennial PTC favorite Max Robinson) and Aoife Muldoon (Sybil Lines) have lived on adjoining cattle and sheep farms for years and, as they are both getting older, they begin to contemplate the future of their farms and whether their children love the land as much as they do.  Since neither Anthony (Tom O'Keefe) nor Rosemary (Amy Bodnar) are married, they worry that there won't be anyone to continue their legacies.  Will Anthony and Rosemary finally realize that they are meant to be together?  It is incredibly moving, especially when Tony tells Anthony how he fell in love with Anthony's mother, and it is often very comedic, especially when Rosemary declares that she has always loved Anthony.  All four actors give wonderful performances and I thought they did a great job with the Irish accent.  I liked the farmhouse sets and I thought the costumes were a lot of fun, particularly the wellies.  This play is very understated and character-driven but I was riveted by the dialogue.  I walked out of the theatre with a smile on my face (as did everyone sitting around me) and I would highly recommend Outside Mullingar for a lovely evening out.  It runs at PTC until Nov. 14.  Go here to purchase tickets.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fiddler on the Roof at PTC

Pioneer Theatre Company chose to open its 2015-2016 season with the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof.  I had the opportunity to see it last night and, in my opinion, they couldn't have picked a better to show to start the season!  Fiddler on the Roof is one of my all-time favorites (I even played Fruma Sarah many years ago) and I loved absolutely everything about this production.  Every song is instantly recognizable ("Tradition," "Matchmaker," "If I Were a Rich Man," "Sunrise, Sunset," "Far From the Home I Love," and "Anatevka.") and I had to try really hard not to sing along!  All of the actors are simply wonderful and I was particularly impressed with Michael Thomas Holmes as Tevye.  His characterization is quite different from other actors I've seen in the role and I loved all of his dialogues with God and his interactions with Golde (Tia Speros).  His rendition of "If I Were a Rich Man" is absolutely hilarious, with most of the audience laughing out loud.  I also thought that Kim Sava (Tzeitel), Nadia Vynnytsky (Hodel), and Mandy McDonell (Chava) had lovely voices and I thoroughly enjoyed "Matchmaker."  The choreography is absolutely incredible!  The Russian dancers in "To Life" and the bottle dancers at the wedding took my breath away and resulted in many cheers and whistles from the audience.  I also thought the choreography involving the Fiddler, who interacted several times with Tevye and then again with Chava during the "Chava Sequence," was quite effective.  The stark set features bare trees and the various houses and shops of Anatevka all appear to be crooked or leaning (emphasizing the precarious nature of their lives as Jews living in Russia).  Even though I have seen Fiddler on the Roof more times that I can count, my attention never once wavered during the entire show and I was completely caught up in the emotion of the story (I had tears streaming down my face during "Sunrise, Sunset").  Trust me, you definitely don't want to miss this beloved classic!  Get your tickets here!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Seventy-Six Trombones

I love all of the old classic musicals like The Sound of Music, The King and I, South Pacific, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof,  OklahomaSeven Brides for Seven Brothers, and, of course, The Music Man.  There is just something so wonderful about all of those those familiar songs and I have such fond memories of watching all of these musicals at my Grandma Anderson's house.  Last night I was able to see PTC's production of The Music Man and I loved everything about it!  What a great way to end the 2014-2015 season.  The cast is perfect!  Harold Hill (George Dvorsky) is as charming as he could possibly be and Marion the Librarian (Lizzie Klemperer) is perfectly uptight and buttoned down.  Mayor Shinn (PTC favorite Max Robinson) is the embodiment of befuddled pomposity while his wife, Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (Anne Stewart Mark) just about steals the show with her Grecian Urn!  Zaneeta (Jessica Blair), Mayor Shinn's oldest girl, and Tommy Djilas (Garrett Hawe), a boy with reform school written all over him, are amazing dancers.  Ye Gods!  Winthrop (Wally Inkley) is adorable, lisp and all, and I loved Amaryllis (Alyssa Buckner) and her cross hand piano piece.  I knew every single word of every single song and had to stop myself from singing aloud, especially in "Ya Got Trouble," "The Wells Fargo Wagon," and "Gary, Indiana."   The choreography in the big production numbers is so much fun to watch and I especially loved all of the business with the books in "Marion the Librarian" and the baton twirling in "Seventy-Six Trombones."  As usual, the set is superb.  The library (both the interior and exterior) is perfect and the foot bridge is lovely with all of the flowers and the twinkling stars through the trees!  I, along with just about everyone in the audience, had a grin from ear to ear throughout the whole performance and I suspect you will love it, too.  The Music Man runs through May 16 (go here for tickets).

Note:  I think I laughed out loud every single time Mayor Shinn said, "You watch your phraseology!"  I don't know why that is so funny to me but it always has been!  I'll probably be saying it to my students for days!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Hate Hamlet

Last night I saw I Hate Hamlet at PTC.  It is absolutely hilarious!  Andrew Rally (Ben Rosenbaum), an actor whose popular TV show has just been canceled, moves to New York when he's inexplicably offered the role of Hamlet in a Shakespeare in the Park production.  As it happens, his new apartment was once owned by John Barrymore, an actor known for his legendary performance as Hamlet.  When Andrew realizes that he doesn't have the acting ability to play such a complex character, the ghost of Barrymore (J. Paul Boehmer) returns to coach him through it.  I laughed and laughed at Boehmer's antics as the over-the-top Barrymore, particularly when he challenges Andrew to a sword fight and when he teaches him how to bow.  Add a real estate broker who holds a séance to summon Barrymore, a ditsy girlfriend who thinks she is in love with the character of Hamlet, a talent agent who once had a fling with Barrymore, and a Hollywood producer trying to lure Andrew back to television and you get a really fun evening of theatre.  Juxtaposed with all of the comedy is a fascinating discussion about art vs. entertainment and selling out for fame rather than earning glory.  I must admit that the snob in me enjoyed all of the jabs at television.  "When you watch TV, you can eat.  You can talk.  You don't really have to pay attention."  However, I also enjoyed the funny comments about Shakespeare:  "It's like algebra on stage."  I'm sure many of my seniors would agree with that sentiment after reading Hamlet last semester.  All of the actors do a great job, especially Boehmer, the costumes are a lot of fun, especially the codpieces, and the set of John Barrymore's New York apartment is fantastic.  I highly recommend this production!  It runs at PTC until April 4 and you can purchase tickets here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Crucible

I have read The Crucible, Arthur Miller's brilliant play about the Salem Witch Trials, more times than I can count.  I am, after all, an English teacher.  However, until I saw PTC's wonderful production last night, I had never seen it performed on stage.  To be sure, the play is an absolute masterpiece on the page but it is always magical when you are able to see the written words come to life.  John Proctor (Fletcher McTaggart) had an affair with his serving girl Abigail Williams (Madison Micucci) while his wife Elizabeth (Claire Brownell) was ill.  Abigail was forced to leave their house when Elizabeth learned of the affair and she now lives with her uncle, the Rev. Parris (Paul Kiernan).  Parris is concerned about his daughter Betty, who is very ill, and worries that witchcraft may be involved because he saw Betty, Abigail, and other girls from the town dancing in the woods with his slave, Tituba.  To dispel rumors in the town, he calls the Rev. Hale (J. Todd Adams), a renowned witch expert, to question the girls and Abigail suddenly confesses that Tituba conjured the Devil.  She forces Tituba and the other girls to confess, as well, and they begin accusing all of the women in town of witchcraft.  Abigail becomes very powerful and accuses Elizabeth Proctor as a way to get John back.  As John tries to defend Elizabeth and the wives of his friends, he is ultimately condemned himself.  The play is a powerful indictment against mass hysteria (Miller wrote the play during the era of McCarthyism) and this production features some powerful performances.  Micucci is absolutely brilliant as the conniving and manipulative Abigail.  Her facial expressions are especially effective, whether she is "seeing spirits," seducing John, or coercing the girls to do as she commands.  The scene when she and the girls are possessed during the trial is amazing.  McTaggart gives an incredibly passionate performance as the guilt-ridden Proctor.  I was literally holding my breath when he asks Elizabeth to forgive him before going to the scaffold.  The audience gave him a rousing standing ovation and he seemed genuinely taken aback by it!  I loved the sparse set, which easily transformed into the interior of various houses, a barn, and a courtroom, but the costumes were not what I was expecting (I wanted everyone to be wearing black for some reason).  I highly recommend seeing this play but I realize that it might not be for everyone.  A teenage girl sitting behind me complained that she didn't understand what was going on (she obviously does not attend Hunter High School) and the couple sitting next to me didn't return after the intermission.  Nevertheless, if you enjoyed this play in high school, go here for tickets.  It will run until Feb. 28 at PTC.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tell Me A Story

Last night I went to the world premiere of Alabama Story by Kenneth Jones at Pioneer Theatre.  The script was very thought-provoking and the production was exceptionally well done.  It is 1959 in Montgomery, Alabama when the State Librarian, Emily Wheelock Reed (Greta Lambert), comes under fire by Senator E. W. Higgins (William Parry) for the children's book The Rabbits' Wedding because a black and white rabbit get married.  Juxtaposed with this is the unexpected reunion between Lily Whitfield (Kate Middleton), the privileged daughter of a cotton plantation owner, and Joshua Moore (Samuel Ray Gates), the African American son of a former servant on the plantation turned civil rights worker.  Lily remembers a sweet childhood romance while Joshua remembers being beaten and driven off the property by Lily's father.  The two stories converge with very powerful discussions about censorship and segregation.  I particularly liked the message that having access to the ideas contained in books is the only way to change the world for the better.  The ensemble cast is excellent, including the aforementioned actors as well as Stephen D'Ambrose as Garth Williams, the author of The Rabbits' Wedding and stage manager for all of the action, and Seth Andrew Bridges as Thomas Franklin, Emily's assistant who has one of the most powerful speeches in the play.  The set design is very striking, almost like a children's pop-up book, and the costumes are fabulous, especially the southern belle dresses worn by Lily.  I think this play is extremely relevant in today's troubled times and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Alabama Story  runs until January 24 at PTC with evening performances and Saturday matinees.  Go here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Peter and the Starcatcher

Two years ago the Utah Shakespeare Festival produced Peter and the Starcatcher.  That year I could only spend one day at the festival and, since I didn't know anything about that particular play, I didn't choose to see it.  Of course it turned out to be the most popular show of the season and I was a little bit sad that I hadn't seen it (especially since the theatre teacher at my school raved and raved about it).  As luck would have it, I got a second chance to see it last night at Pioneer Theatre and I absolutely loved it!  Much like Wicked does for The Wizard of Oz, Peter and the Starcatcher tells the backstory of Peter Pan.  We learn how a mistreated orphan boy gets magical powers and arrives in Neverland and how the inept pirate Black Stache becomes Peter's arch-nemesis Captain Hook.  It is a fantastical journey that is best enjoyed through the eyes of your inner child.  You must be willing to believe (there is a hilarious spoof of the classic "clap if you believe" speech to save Tinkerbell) that stars fall to the ground and give ordinary people magical powers (such as turning the male ensemble into dancing mermaids).  I believed every bit of it!  The entire cast is wonderful (almost everyone plays multiple roles) but I laughed and laughed at Leo Ash Evens as Black Stache.  To be sure, Black Stache is a great character (a poetic pirate looking for a hero to defeat so he can become a memorable villain) but Evens is especially flamboyant!  I loved watching his facial expressions, particularly in the scene where he loses his hand.  The set is very minimal.  The actors pantomime much of the action, with the addition of some fabulous sound effects, and many of the props are ordinary objects such as ladders, which become the masts of ships, as well as plungers and umbrellas, which become swords.  The actors are almost like children using their imaginations while playing with whatever is at hand and I thought it was highly effective.  I definitely recommend Peter and the Starcatcher for children and for adults who, like Peter, refuse to grow up!  It runs through Dec. 20 and tickets can be purchased here.

Note:  The theatre teacher at HHS is taking her students to see it this afternoon.  I wish I could go with them and see it again!
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