Showing posts with label Utah Shakespeare Festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Utah Shakespeare Festival. Show all posts

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Utah Shakespeare Festival 2017

On Thursday I spontaneously decided to take a road trip to Cedar City (about four hours south of SLC) to see a few Utah Shakespeare Festival productions and I had a great time!  I saw a matinee performance of Guys and Dolls, a musical I have seen countless times, and, for the most part, I really enjoyed it.  The story, which is a bit dated but a lot of fun, revolves around the romantic struggles between Nathan Detroit (Quinn Mattfeld), who runs the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York, and Miss Adelaide (Melinda Parrett), his fiancee of fourteen years, as well as Sky Masterson (Brian Vaughn), a gambler, and Sarah Brown (Alexander Zorn), a sergeant with the Save-a-Soul Mission trying to reform him.  All four of the lead actors give wonderful performances and I especially enjoyed Zorn's over-the-top antics in "Havana" and Parrett's hilarious rendition of "Adelaide's Lament." I also laughed out loud at the comedic turns by Leslie Brott as General Cartright and James Newcomb as Big Jule.  The big song and dance numbers "Luck Be a Lady," and "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" featured fantastic choreography.  My only complaint with this show was the set, which didn't seem to me to be up to Utah Shakespeare Festival standards.  The set for the Save-a-Soul Mission, specifically, was rotated multiple times so that the seemingly unfinished back faced the audience.  I don't know if this was done intentionally for artistic reasons but it looked rather shabby.  It reminded me of something you would see in an amateur production (Hunter High has better sets and they are performing Guys and Dolls in the fall).  In the evening I saw Romeo and Juliet in the wonderful Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre and I absolutely loved it!  Everyone is familiar with the story of star-crossed lovers and their feuding families but this production was very fresh.  While Shakespeare's language is retained, I felt that the actors delivered their lines with a very modern sensibility making the play more accessible to everyone, including the young people sitting near me who were enthralled.  I was particularly struck by the juxtaposition between the almost light-hearted first half with the weighty and tragic second half.  The contrast worked very well.  Shane Kenyon and Betsy Mugavaro are perfect as Romeo and Juliet with very passionate performances but, in my opinion, Jeb Burris steals the show as Mercutio.  He is incredibly appealing in his early scenes and his death scene was most affecting.  I also really enjoyed Leslie Brott's performance as the nurse, which made me laugh out loud at times and cry at others.  It is an intense production which will surprise audience members who think they know the story.  I was able to have a few of the signature tarts in between shows so my day was a success.  Go here for more information about the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Shakespeare Festival 2016

I had only been home from my road trip with Sean less than 24 hours when I was back on the road to spend a couple of days at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  I was really looking forward to seeing the new Engelstad Theatre and it is quite impressive.  The stage itself is very reminiscent of the Adams Theatre but the facility is state-of-the-art with restrooms, concessions, and a covered foyer.  I think it is amazing.  My very first play in the new theatre was Tuesday night and I couldn't have picked a better one!  I have been waiting for three years to see Henry V having seen Henry IV Part One in 2014 and Henry IV Part Two in 2015 all with the same actor, Sam Ashdown, in the lead role.  I was so excited to see the play where Henry earns his crown and it was amazing! After succeeding to the throne of England, Henry (Ashdown) learns that, under Salic law, he is the rightful heir to the throne of France and, knowing that a foreign conquest will solidify his popularity with the people, he begins war with France.  Weakened by sickness and outnumbered five to one, Henry rallies his troops for battle with the famous St. Crispin's Day speech (which gave me goosebumps) and, despite overwhelming odds, achieves a decisive victory.  He wins the throne of France and the hand of Katherine and thus begins the reign of one of England's greatest kings.  There were moments in this play that took my breath away, particularly the aforementioned St. Crispin's Day speech and when Henry hangs one of his friends from his wild days, and the performances were incredible, especially Ashdown (who has done an amazing job with the role of Prince Hal and King Henry) and Eddie Lopez as the Dauphin of France (so cocky).  I loved the giant wax seal with Henry's monogram in the middle of the stage as a representation of Henry's reign and I loved the large banners representing the English and French flags.  So dramatic!  The battle of Agincourt was staged very well and I especially loved the archers in the balcony.  This production was excellent and I highly recommend it!  Wednesday afternoon I saw Mary Poppins and it was a lot of fun!  It tells the well-known story of how a practically perfect nanny saves the Banks family.  The two leads, Elizabeth Broadhurst as Mary Poppins and Eddie Lopez as Bert, were outstanding.  The big productions numbers, "Jolly Holiday," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "Let's Go Fly a Kite," and "Step in Time," had very innovative choreography and colorful costumes and I especially liked the kites flying through the audience.  There were lots of children in the audience who were mesmerized by Mary Poppins flying through the audience (although the little girl next to me said that she was glad that it was over at intermission) so it is definitely one I would recommend for kids.  My last play on Wednesday evening was The Three Musketeers and I loved it!  D'Artagnan (Luigi Sottile) wishes to become one of King Louis' famous musketeers and joins Athos (J. Todd Adams), Porthos (Todd Denning) and Aramis (Tasso Feldman) on an adventure to save the Queen's honor from the unscrupulous Cardinal Richelieu (Peter Lohnes).  All for one and one for all!  This show was a lot of fun because of all of the sword fighting (even in the aisles) and I loved Ben Livingston's performance as the silly King Louis XIII.  This is another show that kids will enjoy.  Even though I was only at the festival for two days, I certainly enjoyed myself (and had my fair share of tarts).  Go here for more information.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet

View of downtown SLC from the windows of Abravanel Hall
Last night I returned to Abravanel Hall (after what seems like a very long absence) for a Utah Symphony concert featuring excerpts from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet and performances from actors with the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  Several years ago I attended a similar performance featuring Mendelssohn's incidental music from A Midsummer Night's Dream and excerpts from the play performed by noted Utah Shakespeare Festival actors.  It remains one of my favorite Utah Symphony concerts and I knew this production would be every bit as good so I have been looking forward to it for weeks.  I think Prokofiev's score is incredibly dramatic.  I particularly enjoyed "Montagues and Capulets" because it is so stirring yet it features an evocative theme played by the flute in the middle.  I also really liked "The Death of Tybalt" because it is another stirring piece with a bold theme played by the brass.  In between the musical numbers, corresponding scenes were performed from Shakespeare's classic tale of star-crossed lovers by Betsy Mugavero as Juliet, Claire Warden as Lady Capulet, Sarah Shippobotham as the Nurse, Luigi Sottile as Romeo, and Peter Lohnes as Friar Lawrence.  These scenes were directed by David Ivers, who is one of my favorite performers and directors from the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  I liked the selections, especially the famous balcony scene because Sottile's characterization of Romeo was quite playful which I thought was very interesting.  The combination of Prokofiev's music and Shakespeare's text, not to mention the outstanding performances, certainly produced an enjoyable evening of entertainment (which was definitely needed after a long week).  I hope that the Utah Symphony and the Utah Shakespeare Festival continue their collaboration for many years to come.  This concert will be performed again tonight and if you are anticipating this year's festival as much as I am, this might tide you over!  Tickets can be purchased here.

Note:  My favorite moment of the evening came courtesy of a large group of high school theatre students sitting near me.  I saw them arrive on their bus and they seemed so excited to be there.  After the concert one of them said, "That was sooooooo good!"  It makes me happy when I see young people enjoy the performing arts because it has brought so much enrichment to my life!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Another Day at the Festival

I started last week at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and then I joined my family on a camping trip in Fillmore for the rest of the week.  When Marilyn mentioned that she really wanted to see one more play in the Adams Theatre, we spontaneously decided to drive to Cedar City (about an hour and a half away from Fillmore) to see King Lear on Saturday night.  I ended the week the same way I began it!
Ironically, King Lear is the first play Marilyn saw in the Adams Theatre.  Whenever I would bring Marilyn with me to the festival, we would usually see the contemporary plays in the Randall Jones Theatre but this particular year I really wanted to see King Lear and I convinced Marilyn to go.  It is really dramatic, intense, and full of symbolism so I was afraid that she wouldn't like it or get it. During intermission she told me how much she loved it and we've seen the Shakespeare plays ever since.
It was a beautiful night to see a play outdoors and this production of King Lear is amazing!  Lear (played brilliantly by Tony Amendola) is growing old and decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters Goneril (Melinda Pfundstein), Regan (Saren Nofs-Snyder), and Cordelia (Kelly Rogers) according to how much they profess to love him.  Cordelia refuses to publicly declare her love so Lear divides his kingdom between his greedy older daughters and their ambitious husbands to the detriment of everyone.  The actresses playing Lear's daughters are outstanding and I especially enjoyed David Pichette as Lear's fool.  Marilyn mentioned several times that the oldest daughter is the most ruthless while the youngest is the one who really loves Lear.  What?  I certainly enjoyed this play (and a few more tarts) and I'm glad Marilyn suggested we come.

Note:  Unbelievably, I ran into yet another friend while waiting for the Greenshow.  This time it was my friend Jim (the one who recommends great books).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Utah Shakespeare Festival 2015

This season is the final one in which the Adams Memorial Theatre will be used for the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  It has been in operation since 1977 and the first play I saw there, Shakespeare's The Tempest, was in 1989 while on a college trip.  I have returned almost every year since and have many wonderful memories of the amazing performances I've seen, including Patrick Page in Richard III and Brian Vaughn in Hamlet.  Sam Ashdown's portrayal of Prince Hal in last year's Henry IV Part One is also among one of my favorites so it is especially fitting that my final performance "within this Wooden O" was to see him reprise his role in Henry IV Part Two.
I also bought a ticket to see Amadeus and made the drive to Cedar City Monday morning in time to see the matinee performance.  The movie adaptation of the stage play is one of my favorites and I actually credit it with turning me into a fan of classical music (it was the first movie I ever owned) so I was looking forward to seeing it.  The movie is quite different from the stage play (Peter Shaffer wrote the play before the screenplay) but I eventually stopped comparing the two because this version is so powerful and I was completely drawn into the story of rival composers Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  David Ivers, one of my favorite actors/directors of the festival, gives an incredibly intense and passionate performance as Salieri.  He transforms from the stooped and wheelchair-bound older Salieri into the composer in his prime right before our eyes by merely substituting his coat, wig, and facial expression.  I have never seen anything like it before and it is repeated several times.  His agony is palpable when Salieri rails against God for giving such an unworthy man the talent he covets.  Tasso Feldman does a wonderful job as Mozart (he even has a great laugh) but Ivers dominates every scene, even when he is just eavesdropping on Mozart from behind a tall chair.  The supporting cast is excellent and I particularly enjoyed John Pribyl as Emperor Joseph II and Brandon Burk and Anthony Simone as the Vinticelli (Little winds).  The costumes are magnificent and I was struck by the opulence of Mozart's frock coats at the beginning of the play in contrast to the muted colors he wears as he sinks further and further into penury.  I loved the addition of Mozart's music, especially the operas, into many of the scenes.  This production of Amadeus rocked me (I couldn't resist) and I highly recommend it.
It rained all day so I was really disappointed that Henry IV Part Two might be moved from the Adams to the indoor stage.  I desperately wanted to see it outside to have one final memory in that magical theatre.  Luckily, the rain stopped just in time for the Greenshow (pictured above) and I enjoyed it very much while eating a tart (I ran into my friend Joe and he bought me another one).
Henry IV Part Two is not as exciting as the first one (It is rarely performed) because it is dealing with the aftermath of what has happened but I found it to be just as engrossing because of the resolution of these events, particularly the transformation of a wayward prince into a noble king and the reconciliation between father and son.  There are some hilarious moments with Falstaff (John Ahlin), the prince's unsuitable friend.  Ahlin is a master of physical comedy and I, along with everyone in the theatre, laughed out loud when he tries to get up off the floor and when he recruits men to go to battle with him.  However, I waited the entire play for the final scene between Prince Hal and King Henry IV (Both Sam Ashdown and Larry Bull are reprising the roles from Henry IV Part One) and it is powerful.  The King is on his deathbed and Hal, thinking that he is dead, picks up the crown.  The King accuses Hal of wishing for his death and berates him for all of his previous wanton behavior.  Hal responds with genuine grief and concern for ruling the country and the King finally shows him some tenderness and gives him advice.  Ashdown and Bull are incredible in this scene and I had goosebumps!  Another scene that is quite moving is when Henry V is crowned and paraded through London with much pomp and circumstance.  When he sees Falstaff, he turns his back on his old friend and banishes him.  Ahlin's performance in that moment brought me to tears!  I am now eagerly awaiting Ashdown's performance in Henry V next summer (It was a brilliant idea to cast the same actor in the role for all three plays, in my opinion) in the new Engelstad Theatre!

Note:  I keep inadvertently running into friends.  First it was Scott at a movie, then I saw my friend Marta in the lobby before Amadeus, and finally, as I mentioned, I found my friend Joe at the Greenshow before Henry IV Part Two.  The theatre wasn't full so after the intermission we moved to seats closer to the stage so we could sit together.  It was great!  Maybe I should actually plan something with my friends...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Utah Shakespeare Festival 2014

Last week I had the opportunity to spend three days at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City.  I had so much fun eating tarts (the cream cheese are my favorite) and seeing all of the plays this season.  It was the perfect way to cap off the summer!  Tuesday afternoon I saw the matinee of Sense and Sensibility.  Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors and I have read this novel so many times that, quite honestly, I did not care for the adaptation.  I kept comparing it to the book and there were many subtle differences.  However, I loved the staging and the performances were outstanding.  There are many journeys by carriage in the story and the way the actors simulated the movement of the horses was very entertaining.  Changes in scenery and the movement of props were effected by actors costumed as liveried servants and I thought this was ingenious.  All of the actors were well suited to their roles but Sam Ashdown was perfect as the rake, Willoughby.  He is very handsome and I don't think any proper English miss could possibly resist his charms.  In my opinion, Bria Sudia stole the show as the silly Charlotte Palmer.  I laughed out loud at everything she said and did.  It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.  Tuesday evening I saw The Comedy of Errors outside in the Adams Theatre (an excellent replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre).  This show was easily my favorite!  For this production the setting was the wild West during the gold rush of 1849 and the stage included a saloon, a brothel, and a barber shop.  I usually don't like it when directors stray too much from the source material but this show was hilarious (the spittoon)!  I can't remember when I have laughed so hard!  The actors had to pause several times to wait for the audience to stop laughing!  The story is about two sets of identical twins separated at birth who, unbeknownst to them, are all in the same town and are mistaken for each other with outrageous consequences!  The four actors playing the twins (Chris Amos, Drew Shirley, Aaron Galligan-Stierle, and Misha Fristensky) had brilliant timing and were quite adept at all of the physical comedy.  Definitely my favorite show!  Wednesday afternoon I saw the matinee of Twelfth Night which was directed by one of my festival favorites, David Ivers.  This show also involves twins mistaken for each other and a lot of physical comedy.  My favorite character was definitely Malvolio (David Pichette), who is duped into believing that the lady he serves is in love with him.  The costume he wears to woo her is hilarious and I laughed and laughed when he practiced his smile!  Wednesday evening I saw Measure for Measure, which I had never seen before.  This play is about justice and mercy and I found it to be quite intense and thought-provoking.  Steve Wojtas was excellent as Angelo, a man who judges the act of another man but then commits the same act.  There is a bit of comic relief to all of this seriousness in the form of Lucio (Jonathan Smoots).  He criticizes the Duke (John G. Preston) to the Friar, who is really the Duke in disguise, and then criticizes the Friar to the Duke.  The scene where he gets his comeuppance is hilarious.  Thursday I saw the matinee of Into the Woods, which is one of my very favorite musicals (I am beyond excited to see the new movie coming out on Christmas Day).  The story incorporates well-known fairy tale characters to demonstrate that actions can sometimes have unintended consequences.  I really loved the set!  Backdrops and props looked like original illustrations of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales (I especially liked Milky White the cow).  The cast was amazing, including my favorite festival actor, Brian Vaughn, as the Baker.  I especially loved Peter Saide as Cinderella's Prince because he was completely over the top (he was raised to be charming not sincere).  His song "Agony" with Rapunzel's Prince (Kyle Eberlein) had everyone laughing!  Such a great show!  Finally, on Thursday evening I saw Henry IV Part One, a definite contender for my favorite show of the festival!  It was so good!  Sam Ashdown (who played Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility) was incredibly charismatic as Prince Hal.  Sigh!  Henry Woronicz was irrepressible as Sir John Falstaff, the unsuitable companion of the prince.  While their naughty hijinx were a lot of fun to watch, the scene where Hal is confronted by his father, the king, was incredibly powerful and left me breathless!  I also thought the final scene was very well staged:  a spotlight with King Henry standing on the balcony and Prince Hal standing below him.  A portent of things to come (the festival is currently producing all of the history plays chronologically).  I really enjoyed my time at the Utah Shakespeare Festival this year!  There are so many things to do in addition to watching the plays like backstage tours, play orientations, play seminars with the actors and directors, a greenshow every evening (I especially enjoyed Scottish night with a piper), and, of course, the aforementioned tarts!  The festival continues through August 30.  Go here for more information.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I Can't Wait for Summer Vacation!

Sometimes the closing of the school year is hard.  This year is proving to be more difficult than usual so I am concentrating on all of the fun things that I hope to do this summer.

Deer Valley Music Festival
When it gets really hot in the valley, it is nice to head up to the mountains at the Deer Valley Resort and hear the Utah Symphony play under the stars!  You can bring a blanket and a picnic and sit on the hill or there are seats available near the stage.  This is one of my favorite things to do in the summer and we have heard the orchestra play the 1812 Overture (complete with real cannons) several times.  The pictures above are from last year's Bravo Broadway concert, which was fantastic.  I just got my tickets in the mail for the Music of U2 and I am beyond excited!  Go here for a complete schedule and to purchase tickets.

Utah Shakespeare Festival
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is held every summer on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City (a six hour drive south of Salt Lake City).  It is another one of my favorite things to do.  Sometimes Marilyn and I spend several days and see every play and sometimes we go down for one day and see a couple.  Once I drove down to see Hamlet and then drove straight home.  It was worth it.  The pictures above are from the 2010 production of Macbeth, which was awesome.  This year I am really excited to see Into the Woods (they produce non-Shakespeare plays, too) and Twelfth Night. I'm not going to lie, I'm also excited for the raspberry tarts!   Go here for a complete schedule and to purchase tickets.

Tuacahn Amphitheatre
Tuacahn is a natural amphitheatre made out of red rock in St. George (about eight hours south of Salt Lake City).  They perform several musicals in repertory every summer and you can also purchase tickets to a pre-show dinner.  The above pictures are from the 2012 production of Hairspray.  My very favorite production here was Les Miserables because they used the terrain beyond the stage for the epic battle on the barricade.  It was amazing.  This year my student body officers are going to leadership camp at Dixie State University and we get to see The Little Mermaid.  Go here for a complete schedule and to purchase tickets.

Sundance Summer Theatre
Sundance Summer Theatre, in conjunction with the Utah Valley University Theatre Department, has produced a musical at the Sundance Resort for the past several years.  Seeing a musical in the mountains is always a great way to beat the summer heat.  We have seen The Sound of Music (Marilyn sang along with the actors), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Annie Get Your Gun.  Marilyn and I may or may not have squealed when we found out they are doing Fiddler on the Roof this year.  Go here for tickets.
The Utah Symphony also makes an appearance at the Sundance Resort.  Near the Fourth of July they perform a program featuring patriotic music (think John Philips Sousa).  I took my cousin Merry to this concert last year and we both enjoyed it.  I'm thinking of going again.  Go here for more information.

Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series
Red Butte Garden is an amazing venue for outdoor concerts.  This picture is from the Crosby, Stills, & Nash concert in 2012, which was fabulous (even though I was probably the youngest person there).  This year I am going to see Natalie Cole and I am really excited about it.  Go here to check out this year's lineup and to purchase tickets (many shows are already sold out because members have priority to purchase tickets before the general public).

With all of these amazing events to look forward to, maybe I can make it through these next few weeks until summer vacation.  Maybe.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...