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

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Hunchback of Notre Dame at HCT

I have been anticipating HCT's production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame since the 2018 season was announced and I finally had the opportunity to see it last night! It is amazing and you should probably stop reading right now and go here for tickets because they are going fast (with good reason). I loved just about everything in this show! Victor Hugo's classic tale about outcasts who find sanctuary in a Gothic cathedral is full of so much pathos!  Quasimodo (James Bounous) has been hidden by his master Frollo (Josh Richardson) in the bell tower of Notre Dame Cathedral all of his life because he is deformed until he decides to walk the streets of Paris during the Feast of Fools.  When the crowd turns on him, he is rescued by the gypsy Esmeralda (Rebecca Burroughs).  She also catches the eye of the captain of the cathedral guard Phoebus de Martin (Preston Yates) who falls in love with her and she bewitches Frollo who becomes obsessed with possessing her. When Esmeralda rejects Frollo, he orders Phoebus to arrest her but when he refuses they both become fugitives who are aided by Quasimodo until the final confrontation in the bell tower. The music by Menken and Schwartz is so amazing!  I liked every single song but my favorites were "God Help the Outcasts," "Top of the World," "Heaven's Light," "Someday," and "Made of Stone." All of the lead actors have beautiful voices but I think my favorite characters were the gargoyles (Jacob Theo Squire, Brock Dalgleish, and Kaitlyn Dahl) who act as a sort of Greek Chorus. The set for this show is absolutely incredible! I loved the many different levels of the bell tower and it was so cool to see Quasimodo ring the bells! I also really loved the stained glass windows shown on the LED screens throughout the theater.  This, along with frequent Latin chants, adds so much to the Gothic feel of the story. This show is much darker than the usual Disney musical so some might not like it as much as I did but I think the theme of being an outcast is an important one and I think the redemption at the end of the show is incredibly powerful. I highly recommend this show (I may need to see it again!).

Friday, January 26, 2018

Cash on Delivery at HCT

Wednesday night I took a little break from the Sundance Film Festival to see Cash on Delivery, a lighthearted slap-stick comedy, at Hale Centre Theatre. Eric Swann (Bryan Dayley) began defrauding the office of Social Services by accepting payments for nonexistent lodgers at his house two years ago after losing his job at the Electric Company. Social Services, becoming suspicious of so many payments being sent to the same residence, sends Mr. Jenkins (Mark Fotheringham) to investigate. Swann enlists the help of his actual lodger Norman McDonald (Greg Larsen) and his uncle George (George Anderson) in order to keep up the ruse with not only Jenkins but his wife (Michelle Linn Hall), Norman's fiancee (Shannon Ricks), a grief counselor (Margie Johnson), an enthusiastic undertaker (Ben Parkes), a marriage counselor (David Marsden), and Jenkins' superior Ms. Cowper (Alison W. Henriksen). Chaos ensues as each of them are forced to tell one outrageous lie after another and impersonate fictional characters, including one who is supposed to be deaf and two who are supposed to be dead, until the whole thing unravels with hilarious consequences. At one point, I couldn't remember who was impersonating whom! I laughed and laughed at all of their antics! Every member of the cast, especially Dayley and Larsen, has impeccable comedic timing and the British accents are entirely believable.  The physical comedy is an absolute hoot, especially when one of the characters who is pretending to be dead is stuffed into a window seat and I always love a comedy that features lots of slamming doors. My only complaint is that I couldn't see some of the action because a large couch blocked my view from the left side of the stage (perhaps the scenic designers are so used to creating sets for the theater-in-the-round that they need some practice for a more traditional stage).  It was such a fun evening and I highly recommend this show but, as always, tickets are going fast (go here).

Note: This was quite the departure from all of the dark and edgy films I've been seeing at Sundance!

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).

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Christmas Carol at CPT

What an amazing (yet sleep deprived) week I've had!  In one week I've gone to two concerts (three if you count my niece's choir concert), two screenings of The Last Jedi, and this afternoon I went to my second production of A Christmas Carol.  This time I saw the beloved classic with my niece at the CenterPoint Legacy Theatre and this time it was a musical!  I have never seen the musical version before and it was quite a treat to see a completely different take on a play I have seen at least twenty times!  It tells the well-known story of the reclamation of Ebeneezer Scrooge's soul through visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future with the addition of some really heart-felt songs and dazzling choreography.  I really enjoyed all of the songs but I especially liked "You Mean More to Me" during a tender moment between Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, "Link By Link" during the visit from Jacob Marley's ghost, "Fezziwig's Annual Christmas Ball" which was quite the production number, "Abundance and Charity" during the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Present, and "God Bless Us Everyone" during the bows.  The entire cast was wonderful (I won't list them because it was a bewildering mixture of the MWF and TTHS casts) but I was especially impressed by Nick Cash as Scrooge.  The set and all of the costumes do a great job of transporting the audience to Dickensian London and I loved the choreography, especially with the shovels during "Dancing on Your Grave."  I highly recommend this production!  I loved it and so did Tashena!  It runs through Dec. 23 and tickets may be purchased here.

Note:  I sometimes miss playing Barbies with the little Tashena but I really enjoy hanging out with the teenage Tashena, too!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Christmas Carol 2017

It just wouldn't be Christmas if I didn't see Hale Centre Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol. I like to joke that I've seen it so many times I could probably stand in for any part!  However, this year it is an entirely new production! It is now held in the new Jewel Box Theatre at the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre which has a traditional proscenium stage.  The script and all of the musical numbers are the same but, since it is no longer being performed in the theatre-in-the-round, the staging and the choreography are completely different. The stage reminded me of a set for a Shakespeare play because there is a upper level with balconies on either side at different levels and a staircase connecting the levels. The design is actually quite simple but I really liked it because, at its heart, the story of Ebeneezer's redemption through visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future is a simple one. Sometimes the same actors reprise roles year after year but this year I was able to see many that I had never seen before, including Stephen Kerr as Scrooge, Lucas Charon as Fred, and Addison Welch as Bob Cratchit. It was fun to see some new interpretations of beloved characters and I particularly liked a scene where Bob Cratchit thanks Scrooge because it is so heartfelt and moving with an affecting performance by Welch that actually brought a tear to my eye. Tiny Tim, played by Alexander Scott, is absolutely adorable and I loved his interactions with Scrooge! There are some new costumes for the ghosts and the Ghost of Christmas Future is quite terrifying. I thoroughly enjoyed this updated classic and, even if you have seen it countless times like I have, I definitely recommend getting a ticket (go here) but hurry because almost every show is sold out!

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Bodyguard

Last night I went to see the musical The Bodyguard, based on the 1992 movie of the same name starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner.  I am not always a fan of turning popular movies into stage musicals but I went into this evening's production with an open mind.  The bottom line?  It is like an extended Whitney Houston concert featuring some of her greatest hits, such as "Greatest Love of All," "How Will I Know," "I Have Nothing," "I Wanna Dance with Somebody," "One Moment in Time," "Saving All My Love," and "So Emotional," with some superfluous bits in between the songs.  But, boy, is it a good concert!  Rachel Marron (Deborah Cox) is a superstar nominated for an Academy Award who has been receiving disturbing letters from a stalker.  The head of her security team hires a former member of the Secret Service, Frank Farmer (Judson Mills), to guard her 24 hours a day.  At first his relationship with Rachel is combative because she resents the intrusion but, of course, they soon develop feelings for one another which jeopardizes his ability to guard her.  Rachel's sister Nicki (Naomi C. Whalley), who has been jealous of her for years, develops feeling for him which also complicates the situation.  The story is thin and pretty contrived and the acting is unbelievably stilted, almost ridiculously so.  There is dramatic lighting whenever the stalker is shown but it is so cheesy that I almost laughed several times.  I also did not like when the stalker pointed a gun with a laser sight at the audience.  It made me incredibly uncomfortable in light of all of the mass shootings in recent memory.  However, Deborah Cox is absolutely spectacular, giving an incredible vocal performance and executing dazzling choreography.  I loved her rendition of "I Will Always Love You" at the end of the show!  She is the show and she is the reason to see this production!  It runs at the Eccles Theater through Sunday and tickets may be purchased here.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Newsies at PTC

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

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

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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...