Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label theatre. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Aida at HCT

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Comedy of Tenors at PTC

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Hamilton in Los Angeles

For my third road trip this fall I left early yesterday morning to begin a ten hour drive to Los Angeles in order to see Hamilton at the Pantages Theatre last night.  My good friend Karen is a season ticket holder at the Pantages and subscribers were allowed to purchase extra tickets to Hamilton before they went on sale to the general public.  She very generously asked me if I would like a ticket and I asked her to try and get me one during my fall break (and I also gave her a price limit).  I couldn't believe it when she sent me a text telling me that she had been successful!  I was so excited to be able to see my favorite musical again (so excited that I didn't mind another ten hour drive this time to a city I hate driving in).  It was so incredibly special to be able to see the original cast on Broadway, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, but I really enjoyed what each actor in this production did to make the role his or her own.  Michael Luwoye, as Alexander Hamilton, has a beautiful voice and he sang the role in a more traditional manner rather than spitting out the lyrics, particularly in "My Shot."  His version of "It's Quiet Uptown" made me cry because he was literally sobbing through the song and when Eliza took his hand to forgive him he kissed it.  This absolutely shattered me and I heard the woman behind me sniffling after this as well.  I also really enjoyed Joshua Henry's portrayal of Aaron Burr because he infused a lot of humor into the role, especially in "The Room Where It Happened" and "The Election of 1800."  Isaah Johnson was incredibly powerful as George Washington in "Right Hand Man" but surprisingly vulnerable in "History Has Its Eyes on You" and then pretty much blew the roof off the Pantages Theatre at the end of "One Last Time."  Jordan Donica didn't strut around the stage as Thomas Jefferson like Daveed Diggs did but, instead, he struck a pose (which Hamilton imitated) during key moments and the mic drop in the first Cabinet Battle was hilarious.  Amber Iman, as Peggy Schuyler, had the funniest pout every time she sang, "...and Peggy" during "The Schuyler Sisters."  Finally, King George was played by Rory O"Malley, who I saw on Broadway, and it seemed like he had a lot more choreography in this production which made the audience laugh out loud!  My two favorite numbers were, once again, "Yorktown" and "Hurricane" because the staging is so dynamic.  I didn't think it was possible for me to love Hamilton any more than I already did but seeing it again was thrilling!  Now I can't wait to see it again in SLC in the spring!

Friday, October 13, 2017

An American in Paris

I have wanted to see the Tony Award-winning musical An American in Paris for a long time so I was thrilled when Broadway at the Eccles announced it as the first show of the 2017-2018 season.  I was able to see it last night and I thought it was wonderful.  The story follows the movie of the same name (a personal favorite) pretty closely.  A U.S. soldier named Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox) decides to remain in Paris after World War II and meets an aspiring ballerina named Lise (Sara Esty).  He pursues her and they begin to fall in love.  However, Lise has become engaged to Henri (Nick Spangler) out of a duty she feels to him and his family for protecting her during the war and Jerry is pursued by a wealthy heiress (Emily Ferranti) who wants to promote his art.  Will they choose love or duty?  Both Maddox and Esty are incredible dancers and the choreography is absolutely stunning, especially in "I've Got Beginner's Luck" and "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise."  The final 18-minute ballet to the tune of "An American in Paris" is simply spectacular and it was amazing to me that the leads have the skill and stamina to perform such demanding choreography at the end of a Broadway show!  It was a lot of fun to hear the well-known songs, written by George and Ira Gershwin, such as "I Got Rhythm," "'S Wonderful," "But Not For Me," and "They Can't Take That Away From Me."  I loved all of the costumes but the sets are so creative!  The minimalist sketches that Jerry draws throughout the show are often projected on screens to transport audience members to the middle of Paris.  This is an old-fashioned and incredibly romantic musical that reminded me of the big Hollywood extravaganzas of the 1950s.  Who could ask for anything more!  I highly recommend seeing it if you get a chance and this particular production runs at the Eccles Theatre until Sunday (tickets may be purchased here).

Monday, October 2, 2017

Frozen The Musical in Denver

My friend Rachel and I decided to drive to Denver over the weekend to meet our friend Larry to see the new musical Frozen, which is having its premiere in Denver before it transfers to Broadway next spring.  I had Friday off as compensation for parent teacher conferences so we left mid-morning and got in to Denver right at rush-hour (my favorite).  We saw the matinee on Saturday afternoon, went to my very favorite place to eat in Denver in the evening, and then drove home yesterday.  It was a quick trip but it was so much fun (it was really great to meet up with Larry who is awesome) and I am so glad that we did it!
I am a big fan of the movie so I was excited to see the show and it definitely didn't disappoint!  I loved it (we all did)!  The story does not veer too far from the movie but there are a few new songs which I really loved, especially "Dangerous to Dream" and "Monster" because I think they both really help to add a deeper layer to Elsa's character.  Even though I loved the new songs, my absolute favorite moment in the show was "Let It Go" which is just spectacular.  Caissie Levy has an amazing voice and she really belted it out to the rafters of the Buell Theatre.  It gave me goosebumps!  The special effects are incredible, especially when Elsa waves her arms and ice crystals flash across the stage in perfect synchronization.  She also has a really quick costume change into a beautiful blue dress covered in sparkles (all of the costumes are wonderful, very much informed by the movie).  I also really loved the special effects after Elsa's coronation, particularly when she touches objects and they freeze.  It is mesmerizing!  As previously mentioned, Levy, as well Patti Murin who plays Anna, do a really great job with their characters and I also loved the actresses who play the young Elsa and Anna (Brooklyn Nelson and Audrey Bennett, respectively).  My other favorites were Jelani Alladin as Kristoff and Greg Hildreth as Olaf (who sounds exactly like Josh Gad).  However, I would have to say that my very favorite character in the whole show is Sven (much like in the movie), played by Andrew Pirozzi.  Sven reminded me a lot of the animals in The Lion King.  I loved everything about this show and I'm so glad that I got to be one of the first to get to see it (we are already planning to go to New York and see it on Broadway).  It was another amazing adventure (one more road trip to go this year!).

Note:  Rachel dressed up as Elsa and it was fun to watch the reactions of all the little girls around us!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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

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

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

Forever Plaid at HCT

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Heart of Robin Hood at HCT

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Sundance

School will be starting for me very soon so I am definitely trying to cross items off my summer bucket list.  Last night I got to cross off seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Sundance Mountain Resort.  As you may remember, I am suffering from a bit of Joseph fatigue because I have seen it so many times but I always love being up in the mountains for some cooler temperatures than in the valley.  Actually, this production turned out to be a lot of fun because it incorporated a Western theme that worked really well.  The setting was the Jacob & Sons Ranch and the brothers and their wives were cowboys and cowgirls.  The Ishmaelites were cattle rustlers and the song "One More Angel in Heaven" featured a hoedown with fabulous choreography, including rope tricks.  Potiphar was a saloon owner which was a lot of fun with Mrs. Potiphar and her saloon girls.  When Joseph sang his signature song "Close Every Door" in jail he was wearing red long johns and the chorus held lanterns around him which was a cool effect.  The song "Go, Go, Go Joseph" featured saloon girls dancing a rousing can-can.  The Pharaoh was a railroad magnate and he made quite the impressive entrance on the engine of a locomotive with real steam.  "Those Canaan Days" featured a flamenco dancer and the brothers sang "The Benjamin Calypso" wearing giant sombreros.  I enjoyed all of the performances and Preston Taylor was an amazing Joseph.  Emily Rose Lyons, as the Narrator, had more of a country and western twang to her voice but it really worked with the theme.  I certainly wasn't expecting to enjoy the show as much as I did but it was a fun night.  I especially loved the fact that I had to put my hoodie on during intermission.  There is only one more performance of Joseph left and, unfortunately, it is completely sold out.  However, I heard a rumor that Sundance will be performing Oklahoma! next summer.  I definitely recommend making plans to see it!

Note:  I sat by some seriously cool people who bought me popcorn!  Here's a shout-out to them!

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, June 24, 2017

Dirty Dancing

On Thursday night I saw the Broadway touring company production of Dirty Dancing and, for the second time this week, I was pleasantly surprised by my reaction to it.  I am not a big fan of turning popular movies into stage musicals but this production was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it.  In my opinion Dirty Dancing is not really a traditional musical because it is more like watching the 1987 movie performed live on stage.  It follows the movie very closely, almost scene for scene, and includes many of the songs from the early 1960s that are included in the movie, such as "This Magic Moment," "Do You Love Me?," "Love Is Strange," "In the Still of the Night," and "You Don't Own Me," most of which are performed by ensemble cast members rather than the leads.  What makes this show so much fun to watch are the dance numbers.  It is the summer of 1963 and Baby Houseman (Bronwyn Reed) and her family have come to Kellerman's Resort for a vacation.  She meets Johnny (Christopher Tierney) and Penny (Jennifer Mealani Jones), two of the dance instructors at the resort, and tries to help out when Penny gets in trouble.  The scenes where the dancers perform for the guests are quite thrilling and I was especially impressed by Jones.  The scenes where Johnny tries to teach Baby the routine so she can stand in for Penny to keep their jobs at another resort are hilarious.  I especially loved how they staged the scenes of them practicing the lift in the water.  That elicited much laughter from the audience.  The final scene where Baby and Johnny dance to "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" was definitely a crowd-pleaser and the audience cheered when Johnny said, "No one puts Baby in a corner."  They also cheered when they did the lift!  Reed is so endearing as Baby and, as I mentioned, I loved her awkward attempts to dance at the beginning (I think it must be even more difficult to dance incorrectly than to get the steps right).  Tierney is a great dancer who is extremely charismatic as Johnny and it is easy to see why Baby is drawn to him (very easy on the eyes!).  I found this show to be wildly entertaining and, if you are a fan of the movie, you will definitely enjoy this production.  It continues at the Eccles Theatre until June 25 (tickets may be purchased here).

Note:  This musical might not be appropriate for young audience members.  The dancing is very sensual and one of the main characters has an abortion.  The woman sitting next to me left with her three young daughters at intermission.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at HCT

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

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella

Thursday night I went to the Eccles Theater to see the Broadway touring production of Rodger's & Hammerstein's Cinderella.  After watching this musical I can definitively say that I prefer the Disney version of this story.  I really didn't like the commentary on class structure and the fact that Cinderella is now a social reformer who must rescue the prince from everyone in his court deceiving him about the conditions in his kingdom.  I also didn't like the portrayal of the stepsisters who are merely silly instead of mean and end up as Cinderella's sympathetic conspirators.  I'm sure that this is an attempt to make the story more up-to-date for modern audiences but I yearned for the traditional fairy tale because it is so much more magical and romantic.  Having said that, I did love the gorgeous costumes and I was especially impressed by the quick changes from rags to elaborate ball gowns in the blink of an eye all while Cinderella is singing.  I also really loved the choreography, particularly during the "Cinderella Waltz" which is amazing.  Both Tatyana Lubov, as Cinderella, and Hayden Stanes, as Prince Topher, have wonderful voices and my favorite songs were "In My Own Little Corner," "Ten Minutes Ago," "A Lovely Night," and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?"  Joanna Johnson, a Utah native, is hilarious as Charlotte, one of the stepsisters, and I really enjoyed her in the song "Stepsister's Lament."  There were a lot of little girls in the audience, wearing tiaras that you can buy in the lobby, but if you are planning to take your little girls you should know that this production is very different from the one that they are probably familiar with.  However, the performances, costumes, and choreography make this a fun night out.  It runs at the Eccles Theater through June 4 (go here for tickets).

Note:  The theater was evacuated in the middle of the ball scene because of a fire, which turned out to be a false alarm.  I was impressed that the cast was able to pick right up with the same energy as before the alarm.

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).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird at HCT

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Lion King

Even though I have seen The Lion King many times (I saw it on Broadway less than a year ago), I don't think that I will ever get tired of it because it is absolutely magical!  I don't think I've ever made it through "Circle of Life" without getting a tear in my eye.  That baby elephant coming up the aisle gets me every time!  I saw the touring company production last night and it ranks right up there with productions I've seen on Broadway and in London.  I enjoyed every minute of it (tears and all).   The stage musical tells the well-known story of how a lion cub learns how to be a king and it includes many of the songs from the animated classic as well as some new ones.  I absolutely love the puppets and prosthetics used to represent the animals.  After a while you don't even see the actors manipulating the puppets.  My favorites are the giraffes and elephants.  The staging is incredible and I especially love the traditional music used as Mufasa and Simba frolic on the grasslands, when Sarabi and the lionesses hunt an antelope, and the wildebeest stampede in the gorge.  I was very impressed with the lead actors in this production and I had goosebumps when Mufasa (Gerald Ramsey) sang "They Live in You" and when Simba (Dashaun Young) sang "Endless Night."  Nia Holloway (as Nala) sang my favorite song, "Shadowland," better than I've ever heard it before.  I also really liked Rafiki (Buyi Zama) and her rendition of "He Lives in You (Reprise)."   My favorite part of seeing The Lion King, as ever, is watching the wonder on the faces of the children as they see all of the animals and this production made me feel like I did the first time I saw it.  It is just so magical!  It will run at the Eccles Theatre until April 16 (go here for tickets) and I highly recommend that you bring the children!

Note:  I think I enjoyed this production more than the one on Broadway because the sound was better.  I could actually hear Scar and the hyenas.  I did, however, miss eating cheesecake at Junior's after the show!

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!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Matilda

To be honest, I didn't have a lot of interest in seeing Matilda, the Broadway musical based on the book by Roald Dahl.  However, I saw it last night and, as is so often the case, I enjoyed it much more than I expected.  It was quite entertaining with outstanding performances by a cast of adorable children.  Matilda Wormwood (the incredibly talented Jenna Weir), a precocious five year old with a penchant for reading and telling stories, is neglected by her mother (Darcy Stewart), an amateur Latin ballroom dancer, and her father (Matt Harrington), an unscrupulous used car salesman, and is terrorized by Miss Trunchbull (Dan Chameroy), the tyrannical headmistress of her school.  The story is quite dark but Matilda triumphs in the end because sometimes you have to be a little naughty and stand up for what is right.  As I mentioned, the children are absolutely adorable and I particularly enjoyed the song "When I Grow Up" (I may or may not have had a tear in my eye during this song).  Miss Trunchbull is hilarious (think of Miss Hannigan crossed with an East German Olympic athlete) but I think my very favorite character is Rudolpho (Eric Craig), Mrs. Wormwood's ballroom dance partner.  His over-the-top performance in the number "Loud" had me (and everyone around me) laughing out loud.  All of the song and dance numbers, especially "Revolting Children," are a lot of fun but I often had difficulty hearing the lyrics which was a little bit disappointing.  The set is very clever and I particularly loved the use of typography throughout (the dancing on the alphabet blocks during "School Song" is amazing).  This is definitely not my favorite musical but I did enjoy it.  The Eccles Theatre was filled with children (some quite young) which really surprised me because I think the story is very dark and most of the humor seemed to go right over their heads (at least the ones sitting near me).  I recommend leaving the kiddos at home for the remaining three performances (go here for tickets).

Note:  Broadway at the Eccles will be announcing the 2017-2018 season on March 8 and I can't wait!  I am beyond excited that I will get to see Hamilton again!

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!
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