Showing posts with label SLC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SLC. Show all posts

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Phantom of the Opera

The first time I saw The Phantom of the Opera was on Broadway in 1998 with my sister Kristine when we were on a girls trip to New York City.  I absolutely loved it and have now seen it at least a dozen times, including once on my most recent trip to NYC.  The production of The Phantom of the Opera that I saw at the Eccles Theatre on Thursday night is an all new touring version directed by Laurence Connor (the original is still performed on Broadway) and, for the most part, I really liked it.  The story about a disfigured madman living in the catacombs underneath the Paris Opera House and his love for the ingenue Christine Daae remains the same as does Andrew Lloyd Webber's magnificent music.  The biggest difference in this production is the set (there is still a crashing chandelier) which portrays a darker, grittier, and more realistic theatre and we definitely see more of the backstage areas.  There is a giant rotating cylinder on a turntable that opens up to reveal Christine's dressing room, the Managers' office, the rooftop of the theatre, and the graveyard (my favorite change to the set).  This cylinder also becomes a spiral staircase by which the Phantom leads Christine to his underground lair and I also really liked this change because it actually felt like they were under the theatre rather than in some fantasy.  The choreography is also more realistic and the operas performed seem like actual productions rather than caricatures.  The only change that I didn't like, and I really hated it, was the staging and the choreography for "Masquerade" which has always been my favorite number in the show.  The dramatic staircase is no longer used and the choreography employs more ballet than the stylized dancing of the original.  I also didn't really like the new costumes because they weren't as theatrical as I thought they should be since it is a masquerade ball. Another change from the original is the emphasis on the relationships between the Phantom, Christine, and Raoul.  The encounter between the Phantom and Christine during "The Music of the Night" is much more passionate, in my opinion, as is their performance of "The Point of No Return."  I have always believed that Christine should end up with the Phantom (although the only person who agrees with me is my sister) and in this version she seems really torn between him and Raoul in "Down Once More."  I usually think of Raoul as a fop but I also really enjoyed his encounter with Christine during "All I Ask of You."  I could really see the appeal of both of them for Christine and I appreciated this change in staging.  Quentin Oliver Lee is a fantastic Phantom and I loved his performance of "The Phantom of the Opera" and "The Music of the Night."  I sometimes couldn't hear Eva Tavares as Christine because the music seemed to overpower her but her version of "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" gave me goosebumps.  I enjoyed this new production and I am glad that I got to see it (every performance is sold out!).the

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2

Last night my friend Angela and I went to the final Utah Symphony performance of the 2017-2018 season and it was such an amazing concert!  In my opinion a performance featuring Rachmaninoff was a great way to end what has been a fantastic season!  The orchestra began with a piece commissioned by the Utah Symphony called Reflections by Tristan Murail.  It is very modern but, as explained by Thierry Fischer, it is a contemplative piece where the instruments mimic the tides and the wind and their ability to withstand adversity.  I found it to be very soothing.  Next Concertmaster Madeleine Adkins was the featured soloist in a performance of Korngold's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.  I had never heard this piece before and I thought it was beautiful.  I especially loved the third movement because it was very lively and the violin sounded a lot like a fiddle.  Adkins gave a spectacular performance (I really like her and I like the fact that the Concertmaster is a woman) and she received a thunderous standing ovation.  After the intermission the orchestra played Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2.  Rachmaninoff is one of my favorite composers so I enjoyed this immensely.  I think that the fanfare played by the horns in the second movement is so quintessentially Russian and I think that the main theme played in the third movement is especially romantic.  It was such a lovely concert and it was a great way to celebrate the end of the school year!

Note:  I am really looking forward to seeing the Utah Symphony perform in some outdoor venues this summer, particularly a performance with Sutton Foster at Deer Valley!

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.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Eagles at the Vivint Arena

When I heard the sad news that Glenn Frey had died, I was really glad that my family had the chance to see the Eagles the last time they played in SLC because I thought that they would never tour again.  Then I heard that the surviving members of the Eagles were going to tour with Vince Gill and Glenn's son Deacon and I knew that I had to get a ticket!  I love the Eagles so much because their music has been such a big part of my life.  The Eagles' album Greatest Hits (1971-1975) was my Dad's favorite road trip music and we would sing every song at the top of our lungs!  This concert was amazing!  They began, as they often do, with "Seven Bridges Road" which gave me goosebumps with the beautiful harmonies.  Then, in an emotional moment, Don Henley talked about Glenn Frey and introduced Deacon (he sounded so much like his Dad) who sang "Take It Easy."  I was so impressed with Deacon!  It had to be emotional for him to sing these songs and a bit overwhelming to be on stage with so many veterans but he definitely held his own.  He also sang vocals on "Peaceful Easy Feeling" and "Already Gone."  Vince Gill was also a great addition to the lineup and he gave me goosebumps with his rendition of "Take it to the Limit."  I also loved his vocals on "Lyin' Eyes," "Tequila Sunrise," "Heartache Tonight," and "New Kid in Town."  They let Joe Walsh off his chain and he provided much entertainment for the evening with "In the City," "Life's Been Good," and "Funk #49."  Even if his vocals aren't what they used to be, he can definitely play the guitar!  Timothy B. Schmidt was seated the entire evening due to surgery on his foot but he performed one of my favorites, "I Can't Tell You Why," as well as "Love Will Keep Us Alive" from the Hell Freezes Over album.  I have always really loved Don Henley and I was thrilled when he performed a fabulous version of "The Best of My Love," which is a favorite of mine.  I also really enjoyed a very sultry version of "Witchy Woman."  They got the Vivint Arena rocking with "Those Shoes,” “Victim of Love,” and  "Life in the Fast Lane."  The Eagles played for over two hours and I was really sad to see this concert come to an end because I enjoyed reliving my youth so much!  Despite being one of the youngest in my section I sang the words to every single song!  For the encore, they performed "Hotel California," with an incredible trumpet solo introduction, "Rocky Mountain Way," and "Desperado" complete with strings!  An awesome night!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Utah Opera's Die Fledermaus

Utah Opera ended their 40th Anniversary Season, rather appropriately, with the pop of a champagne cork in a delightful production of Johann Strauss Jr.'s Die Fledermaus.  I was able to see this opera last night and it was the perfect way to end a stressful week.  Prince Orlofsky (Abigail Levis) is throwing a ball and Falke (Troy Cook) is using it as an opportunity to play a practical joke on his friend Eisenstein (Daniel Belcher) as revenge for abandoning him in the middle of town wearing a bat costume.  He contrives to get Eisenstein to go to the ball as Marquis Renard instead of reporting to jail for insulting an official.  He also arranges for his wife Rosalinde (Sara Gartland) to attend as a masked Hungarian countess, as well as his maid Adele (Abigail Rethwisch) and the warden of the prison (Christopher Clayton) who are also using assumed names.  Hilarity ensues as everyone attempts to conceal their identities while having fun at the ball (with a little champagne).  Meanwhile, Rosalinde's former lover Alfred (Robert Breault) has reported to jail in Eisenstein's place to keep from compromising her.  When Eisenstein arrives at the jail in the morning and discovers him there, he confronts Rosalinde over her behavior bust she reveals that she is the Hungarian countess that he flirted with at the ball!  The story is so much fun to watch (it sounds convoluted but it is actually very easy to follow) and I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions.   The music is incredible and all of the songs are sung in English in this production.  My favorites were "Adele's Laughing Song" and the "Champagne Song."  The entire cast is wonderful but my favorite was definitely Levis as Orlofsky, whose antics are completely over the top.  The choreography, and the addition of four professional dancers to the cast, greatly enhances the party atmosphere and I loved the opulent costumes and sets.  I had so much fun watching this opera, almost as if I had also had a glass of champagne!  I highly recommend getting a ticket to the one remaining performance (go here)!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Spring in the City

Friday night I was downtown and I had an hour to kill in between dinner and the symphony.  I happened upon this lovely little garden area in between the Joseph Smith Building and Temple Square.  There were lots of little flower beds and places to sit and I absolutely loved it.  The spring flowers were so beautiful and they smelled amazing!  I wanted to sit there for hours!  I always say that fall is my favorite time of year but the spring is pretty spectacular, too!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Richard Strauss' Don Quixote & Zarathustra

Last week I went to a Utah Symphony concert with my friend Angela and this week I persuaded my sister to come along.  I usually really enjoy doing things by myself but I have to admit that it has been kind of nice being social lately!  I invited my sister along because she plays the cello and last night's concert featured Rainer Eudeikis, the Principal Cello.  The entire program highlighted the music of Richard Strauss and it was absolutely epic!  The concert began with Serenade in E-flat Major which is a lovely piece featuring the woodwinds and the horns.  Since I played the clarinet in school I enjoyed this very much.  Next, the orchestra played Don Quixote, with the aforementioned Rainer Eudikis on cello and Brant Bayless on viola.  This amazing piece is, of course, based on the novel by Miguel Cervantes and if you are at all familiar with the story it is uncanny how the various instruments mimic the action!  The cello represents Don Quixote, a old man who thinks that he is a knight is pursuit of an adventure, and the viola represents Sancho Panza, his loyal sidekick.  There are ten variations which tell the story and my favorites are when Don Quixote mistakes a bunch of sheep for an army because the brass sound just like the bleating of sheep, when he mistakes a group of pilgrims as kidnappers because the brass, once again, mimic the singing of liturgical chants, and the death of Don Quixote because I always think of the cello as a mournful sounding instrument and the final note depicting the old knight's last gasp is heartbreaking!  After the intermission, the orchestra played Also sprach Zarathustra which I found to be absolutely exhilarating!  I have never heard this piece performed live before but it is instantly recognizable if you have seen the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  In fact, I can never hear the opening fanfare without thinking of the movie!  This piece is simply spectacular and I loved hearing it live!  I suggest you get a ticket for this epic evening of music (go here).

Note:  One of the perks of having a companion for the symphony is being able to go out to dinner!  Last week it was the Cheesecake Factory and this week it was the Garden Restaurant!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fischer Conducts Shostakovich

It has been a fun and busy week and I capped it off with a Utah Symphony concert with my friend Angela.  It is so nice to have a friend who likes classical music as much as I do and we had an absolutely wonderful evening.  After the lovely concert featuring the music of Dmitri Shostakovich we walked to the Cheesecake Factory for dessert and met with some rowdy fans who had just come from seeing the Jazz beat the Thunder to advance to the next round in the playoffs!  So much fun!  The orchestra began with Piano Concerto No. 1 featuring Boris Giltburg on piano and Travis Peterson on trumpet.  I found this piece to be a bit mercurial because at times it was very stirring but one of the themes played by the trumpet was so mournful.  Boris Giltburg joined the orchestra once more for Piano Concerto No. 2 and this was my favorite piece of the evening.  The first movement was bold and dramatic with all of the strings playing in unison.  The second movement was almost unbearably romantic and it brought spontaneous tears to my eyes.  The third movement was very playful and lively.  I really loved this and I enjoyed Giltburg's performance because he was so energetic.  After the intermission the orchestra concluded with Symphony No 10 which was incredibly moody and atmospheric.  I especially enjoyed all of the themes played by the woodwinds throughout and I loved the almost plaintive theme played by the solo horn in the third movement.  I was also very moved by the triumphant ending!  I love the Russian composers so much and, because Shostakovich is a particular favorite of mine, I enjoyed this concert immensely!  The same program is being performed again tonight and tickets may be purchased here.  I highly recommend it! 

Note:  I've been spoiled this season with so many concerts featuring Russian composers.  My final concert of the season will feature my favorite: Rachmaninoff!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Grieg's Piano Concerto with Alexandra Dariescu

I have to admit that I bought a ticket to last night's Utah Symphony concert because I am a huge fan of Sibelius but I ended up loving all three of the pieces performed and enjoyed myself immensely!  The orchestra began with Carl Nielsen's Helios Overture and I loved it!  It began with a beautiful and contemplative theme, representing the sun rising above the sea, and then became very powerful with a soaring melody played by the horns followed by a triumphant fanfare by the trumpets.  The piece ended just as mysteriously as it began as the sun set and I found it to be quite breathtaking!  Then the orchestra was joined by Alexandra Dariescu for Edvard Grieg's spectacular Piano Concerto.  Dariescu may have been wearing a sparkly gold dress but it was her playing that dazzled the audience as her fingers flew up and down the keyboard.  From the instantly recognizable opening notes to the dramatic conclusion, I absolutely loved it!  After the intermission came the piece that I had been waiting for: Symphony No. 2 by Jean Sibelius!  In my opinion, Sibelius is every bit as passionate and emotional as the Russian composers but he is a bit more stately and restrained.  Symphony No. 2 is incredibly dramatic and I especially enjoyed the theme played by the cellos in the first movement because it is very atmospheric.  I found the second movement to be filled with tension and I loved the energy in the third movement.  There was a full house at Abravanel Hall last night with good reason!  This concert is not to be missed and, luckily, it will be repeated tonight (go here for tickets).

Note:  When I bought this ticket I thought that I was unfamiliar with Grieg but I immediately recognized the Piano Concerto as soon as I heard the opening notes!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Hamilton in SLC

Last night I got to see Hamilton for the fourth time in two years and this musical has definitely not lost its magic for me.  In fact, the more I see it the more powerful it becomes!  I can honestly say that I was just as excited for this production as I was when I stood outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre!  I am so glad that I got to see this production because it is fantastic!  This cast is actually tied with the original Broadway cast as my favorite!  Joseph Morales is absolutely phenomenal in the title role.  He reminded me so much of Lin-Manuel Miranda (he played Usnavi in the touring company of In the Heights) but I think he is a stronger singer, especially in "Dear Theodosia" and "Hurricane."  He did quite a few things to make the role his own but I think my favorite bit of business is when he wipes away his tears in "It's Quiet Uptown."  Nik Walker is so powerful as Aaron Burr and I think his is my favorite performance of "Wait For It."  Ta'rea Campbell is an incredible Angelica because she not only raises the roof of the Eccles Theatre during "Satisfied" but she also gives such an emotional rendition of "It's Quiet Uptown."  Marcus Choi is very different from the other actors I've seen play George Washington and his interpretations of "History Has Its Eyes on You" and "One Last Time" are also quite different but I really liked what he did with the role.  Jon Patrick Walker is absolutely hysterical as King George and his performance is so completely over the top.  He totally hams it up and I almost died laughing when he stomps his foot in "What Comes Next?"  I've not seen this character portrayed at such a pitch before but it was hilarious!  Shoba Narayan, as Eliza, has an unbelievably emotional response to Philip's death which made me start crying then instead of during "It's Quiet Uptown" like I usually do.  Finally, every Jefferson I've seen has has done something completely different in "What'd I Miss" and Kyle Scatliffe dances a little jig, which Hamilton imitates during "Cabinet Battle #1"  I also loved Jefferson's expression at the end of "The Election of 1800." I really loved every aspect of this production but what made it so much fun is that I have been hyping this show up to  the couple who sits in front of me, with whom I have become very good friends, all season long and, after the bows, they told me that it was everything I said it was!  The hype is real!  If you were not able to get tickets for the show during its run in SLC, you can enter the lottery daily for the chance to buy up to two $10 tickets!

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, April 7, 2018

Tchaikovsky's "Little Russian" & Prokofiev with Conrad Tao

It was certainly an incredibly dramatic evening at Abravanel Hall last night.  The Utah Symphony performed a concert featuring works by Sergei Prokofiev and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky under the baton of an exciting guest conductor, Karina Canellakis.  I really love the Russian composers so I thoroughly enjoyed this concert (my final two concerts this season feature Shostakovitch and Rachmaninoff so I am looking forward to them, as well).  The orchestra began with Le Chasseur maudit (The Accursed Huntsman) by Cesar Franck.  Although I was unfamiliar with this piece it was very easy to picture the events depicted.  A count disregards the Sabbath by hunting and, as he chases his prey, he is also pursued by demons who wish to damn his soul.  I loved the opening fanfare by the horns, representing the hunt, followed by the chimes, signifying church bells.  It was very dark and atmospheric.  Next the orchestra was joined by the brilliant Conrad Tao for Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2.  Tao is a very popular soloist and I always try to see him when he joins the Utah Symphony (I missed his performance in February because I had the flu) because he is so much fun to watch.  His fingers literally flew up and down the keyboard, especially in the wild and tumultuous first movement.  After the intermission the orchestra played Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 "Little Russian." This piece incorporates many Russian folk songs and I found it to be both stirring and whimsical, especially the final movement with themes played by the woodwinds.  I enjoyed this thrilling concert so much and I recommend getting a ticket for tonight's performance featuring the same program (go here).

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Audra McDonald with the Utah Symphony

Last night was a celebration of musical theatre at Abravanel Hall with the incomparable Audra McDonald and the Utah Symphony.  It was an amazing concert which gave me goosebumps as she belted out showstoppers and brought tears to my eyes as she reminded us that love is the reason for everything.  Let's just say that I won't forget this night any time soon.  I had the privilege of seeing McDonald perform with the Utah Symphony in 2002 as part of the Cultural Olympiad held in conjunction with the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.  It was my first introduction to her and I was so impressed by her beautiful and powerful voice!  I knew that I definitely wanted to see her perform live again and I am so glad that I got a ticket!  Her program featured a variety of selections from musical theatre that spanned decades from Rogers and Hammerstein to Gershwin to many new composers.  My favorites included a sultry rendition of "Moonshine Lullaby" from Annie Get Your Gun, "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, "Simple Little Things" from 110 in the Shade, "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, "Ice Cream" from She Loves Me, "I'll Be Here" from Ordinary Days, and "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady.  She was so personable and charming, telling stories and interacting with the audience all evening.  She mentioned how much she loves Utah because her husband's family lives here and she spoke quite often about her children.  It felt very intimate, like she was performing in a small club rather than in Abravanel Hall.  I was sad to see the concert come to an end because it was so wonderful but McDonald gave the audience a treat by singing an incredibly passionate rendition of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" from The Sound of Music to finish her set.  After a thunderous standing ovation, she came back to the stage to sing a lovely version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz.  Sometimes I am amazed at all of the opportunities we have to see Broadway stars perform right here in Salt Lake City!  I highly recommend getting a ticket to see one of the best from Broadway perform the same program tonight (go here) if there are any to be had because Abravanel Hall was packed last night!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Utah Opera's Pagliacci & Gianni Schicchi

The full breadth of human emotion was on display at Capitol Theatre last night as Utah Opera presented the double bill of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi.  The evening began with the tragedy Pagliacci which tells the story of a traveling comedy troupe who arrive at a small town to give a performance, much to the delight of the crowd.  The troupe consists of Canio (Scott Piper) who plays Pagliaccio, his wife Nedda (Marina Costa-Jackson) who plays Colombina, Tonio (Wayne Tigges) who plays Taddeo, and Beppe (Aaron Blake) who plays Arlecchino.  Canio is worried that Nedda might be having an affair but is persuaded to drink at the pub with the townspeople, leaving Nedda alone.  Tonio finds her and professes his love to her but she rebukes him mercilessly.  Nedda is actually having an affair with Silvio (Michael Adams) and, when Tonio sees them together, he tells Canio in order to punish her for her harsh treatment of him.  Canio is devastated but, singing one of the most famous arias, says that he will drown his sorrows with laughter when he plays Pagliacco on stage.  The performance echoes real life as Colombina flirts with Arlecchino while Taddeo stands guard but, when Pagliacco comes home to find the lovers, the action becomes real and he declares that he is no longer Pagliacco.  He dramatically kills both Nedda and Silvio, who is in the audience, and tells the crowd that the performance is over.  Piper gives an incredibly affecting performance, especially when he sings "Vesti la giubba" while getting into his clown costume.  I have to admit that I had a tear in my eye as he stood forlornly in the middle of the stage.  After the tears came the laughter with a rousing performance of Gianni Schicchi.  The scheming extended family of Buoso Donati attend his deathbed, hoping that his will has left them all wealthy.  All of them speak about what they want but Rinuccio (Aaron Blake) hopes that he will have enough money to marry Lauretta (Marina Costa-Jackson), the daughter of a lawyer named Gianni Schicchi (Wayne Tigges), whom the family think unsuitable.  They have heard a rumor that Buoso has left his money to a monastery and, after tearing his room apart looking for the will, are in despair when the rumor is confirmed.   Rinuccio summons Lauretta and her father and, while the family forbids them to marry, they ask Gianni Schicchi to examine the will to find a loophole.  He tells them that they should summon a notary and he will impersonate Buoso and dictate a new will but he warns them of the strict punishment for falsifying documents.  When the notary arrives, Gianni Schicchi gives Buoso's fortune to himself while the family can do nothing.  Rinuccio and Lauretta are now allowed to marry!  This opera has so much physical comedy that I was laughing out loud (so was the entire audience) but it also contains another very famous aria, "O mio babbino caro," which gave me goosebumps.  In my opinion, it was a perfect night of opera: tears, laughter, and some of the most beautiful music in the repertoire.  I highly recommend seeing a performance of Pagliacci and Gianni Schicchi, which runs at Capitol Theatre until March 18 (tickets may be purchased here).

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Sound of Music

Last night I had the opportunity to see the Broadway touring company production of The Sound of Music now currently playing at the Eccles Theater.  This story about a high spirited nun who is sent to be the governess to Captain Von Trapp's seven children has long been one of my very favorite musicals but I am more familiar with the 1965 movie starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer than I am with the stage version.  The production that I saw last night is based on the original book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse which is quite different from the movie and I found it to be a bit jarring.  I was happily anticipating all of my favorite scenes and songs and I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed when I was surprised by something else.  Some of the songs from the movie are omitted, such as "Confidence" which is such a fun number.  Some songs that are not in the movie are included, such as "How Can Love Survive?" and "No Way to Stop It" which are both sung by Baroness Schraeder (Melissa McKamie) and Max Detweiler (Jake Mills).  I didn't particularly care for either song because I don't really care about either of these characters.  I wanted more time with Maria (Sarah Brackett) and the Captain (Mike McLean) because their romance seems very rushed in this version.  Quite a few of the songs are performed in a different scene than they are in the movie.  For example, "My Favorite Things" is sung between Maria and the Mother Abbess (Lauren Kidwell), "Do-Re-Mi" is sung when Maria first meets the children, "The Lonely Goatherd" is sung when the children are scared of the thunderstorm, and "Eidelweiss" is not sung until the music festival near the end of the show.  After a while I decided to stop comparing it to the movie and simply enjoy the performances, which are fantastic!  Brackett, who is the understudy, is delightful as Maria.  All of the Von Trapp children are adorable, especially Sophia Massa as little Gretl, and they have beautiful voices which harmonize very well.  Kidwell just about blows the roof off the Eccles Theater with her rendition of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," definitely a highlight of the show.  I would absolutely recommend this show because it is such a classic that everyone in the family will enjoy but if the movie is your touchstone, like it is for me, just be prepared for some differences.  It runs at the Eccles Theater until March 4.

Note:  Broadway at the Eccles announced the shows coming to SLC next season and I could not be more excited!  The lineup includes Waitress, Come From Away, Finding Neverland, Aladdin, School of Rock, and RENT!  The season add-ons are Wicked and The Book of Mormon.  My sister Kristine has never see Wicked before so my Mom, Marilyn, and I are going to take her for a fun girls night!  Broadway at the Eccles also teased us with the announcement that Dear Evan Hansen will be coming the following year!  Squeal!  Go here for more information.

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.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ballet West's Cinderella

Last night I had the opportunity to see Ballet West's beautiful production of Cinderella and I absolutely loved it! Featuring sumptuous costumes and sets and a marvelous score by Sergei Prokofiev, this ballet tells the well-known story of Cinderella (albeit with a few differences from the Disney version) with choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton. The stepsisters are portrayed, rather hilariously, by men (Adrian Fry and Christopher Sellers) and the scenes of them getting ready for the ball had me laughing out loud! I also really enjoyed the scene where Cinderella (Beckanne Sisk) dances with a broom as a partner. The Fairy Godmother (Katlyn Addison, one of my favorite dancers) has four fairies representing the different seasons give Cinderella gifts before transforming her into a princess complete with a gilded carriage made from a pumpkin. The ball scenes are delightful with more antics from the stepsisters and I was so impressed by the athleticism of the Jester (Joshua Whitehead). I have to admit that Cinderella's entrance to the ball was absolutely magical and gave me goosebumps. The Grand Pas de Deux between Cinderella and the Prince (Chase O'Connell) is incredibly romantic and very moving with intricate choreography that is dazzling to watch. I thought the giant clock looming over the stage was very effective and the scene of Cinderella leaving the ball is quite dramatic. The final scene is lovely with glitter falling as Cinderella and the Prince dance off stage. The whole production is thoroughly entertaining and I think it is the prefect ballet for children because, while it is definitely a classical ballet, there are so many comedic elements, especially involving the stepsisters, and the story is a familiar one. Cinderella runs at Capitol Theatre through February 25 and tickets may be purchased here.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Utah Opera's Moby-Dick

Utah Opera’s premiere of Heggie and Scheer’s Moby-Dick had three strikes against it.  First, Herman Melville’s novel, upon which the opera is based, is definitely not my favorite.  As an English teacher it pains me to admit that I have never actually made it all of the way through.  I find the endless minutiae about the whaling industry to be mind numbingly dull.  Second, I am not usually a fan of modern operas sung in English.  I much prefer the classics sung in German and Italian.  Third, the run of this opera coincided with the Sundance Film Festival and I didn’t think I would be able to fit it in.  However, the more I learned about the production the more intrigued I became and I decided to get a ticket.  Last night I interrupted my Sundance screenings to see it and I am so glad that I did because it is brilliant!  Surprisingly, I found the condensed version of the novel performed on the Capitol Theatre stage to be anything but dull.  I was completely captivated by the story of an obsession for vengeance.  When the Pequod sets sail from Nantucket, the crew is excited about the riches they will earn, Greenhorn (Joshua Dennis), a newcomer to whaling, is eager for the adventure of seeing the world, Queegueg (Musa Ngqungwana) longs to see his island in the South Pacific again, and Starbuck (David Adam Moore) laments the dangers of whaling and fears that he will never see his wife and son again.  Soon Captain Ahab (Roger Honeywell) tells them that the real mission is to find the white whale that took his leg and offers a gold doubloon to the sailor who spots Moby Dick first.  When the crew is about to harpoon a whale, Ahab orders them to stop because it isn’t his whale.  Three months later the crew is bored and prone to fighting so Starbuck demands that Ahab let them hunt.  After spearing a whale, Starbuck pleads with Ahab to return to Nantucket to repair the leaking oil barrels and to seek medical attention for the cabin boy Pip (Jasmine Habersham) who was thrown overboard.  Ahab refuses and Starbuck contemplates killing him before his obsession dooms them all.  Ahab descends further into madness and, when the whale is finally spotted, deems it his destiny to kill it himself in an epic battle which kills everyone on board except Greenhorn who utters these immortal words when he is rescued: "Call me Ishmael."  The music is beautiful and haunting and I especially loved it when the chorus chants "Death to Moby Dick."  All of the principals sing their roles brilliantly and I was struck by the pathos in every performance, particularly by Moore!  The men's chorus not only sings but does an outstanding job with the choreography to convey the movement on a ship, whether it is raising the sails, harpooning a whale, rendering the blubber into oil, or riding out a storm.  The sets and costumes were constructed by Utah Opera and they are fantastic.  Finally, the build up to the battle between the whale and Ahab is intense and I was not disappointed with the special effects (which I will not spoil for those still planning to see it) in this scene.  I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this opera and I highly recommend getting a ticket to the final performance on Sunday.

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.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Something Rotten

My first theatre performance of 2018 was the Broadway touring company production of Something Rotten at the Eccles Theater.  I absolutely loved it!  I didn't know much about this show so when I got to the theater last night I started to read the program and discovered that Adam Pascal plays one of the lead roles!  Squeal!  He originated the roles of Roger in Rent and Radames in Aida on Broadway and I listen to the original recordings of those shows all of the time because I love Pascal's rock and roll tenor voice.  To say that I was excited to see him would be an understatement.  In fact, I haven't been this starstruck at a theatre performance since I saw Lin Manuel Miranda!  I may or may not have screamed like a thirteen year old girl when he first appeared on stage (for about ten seconds).  Adam Pascal aside, the show is hilarious!  It is a fantastic spoof of Shakespearean plays and Broadway musicals (over 60 different musicals are referenced).  Nick and Nigel Bottom (Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti, respectively) are playwrights who are tired of being outshined by William Shakespeare (Pascal).  Nick wants to do something new so he contacts Nostradamus (Blake Hammond) to see what will be popular in the future.  Nostradamus suggests writing a play with singing and dancing in one of my favorite numbers from the show, "A Musical."  Things go slightly awry when Nick asks Nostradamus to look into the future to see what Shakespeare's most popular play will be and, instead of Hamlet, Nostradamus sees omelette.  Nick tries to produce Omelette The Musical while Shakespeare tries to steal his own play back.  I loved all of the references to Hamlet (my seniors just finished reading it), especially the song "To Thine Own Self."  I think I may need to download the soundtrack and play it to my students!  I also really loved all of the references to Broadway musicals.  As an English teacher who is also a theatre junkie, this show was practically written for me!  Adam Pascal did not disappoint and his voice was perfect for the songs "Will Power" and "Hard to be the Bard" because Shakespeare is portrayed as the biggest rock star of the Renaissance.  I had so much fun watching this incredibly entertaining show and I highly recommend it!  Something Rotten runs through January 14 at the Eccles Theater (tickets may be purchased here).
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