Friday, March 14, 2014

Twelve Angry Jurors: Midvale Arts Council


"...You've listened to a long and complex case, murder in the first degree. Premeditated murder is the most serious charge tried in our criminal courts. You've listened to the testimony, you've had the law read to you and interpreted as it applies in this case, it's now your duty to sit down and try to separate the facts from the fancy. One man is dead, another man's life is at stake, if there's a reasonable doubt in your minds as to the guilt of the accused... then you must bring me a verdict of "Not Guilty". If, however, there's no reasonable doubt, then you must, in good conscience, find the accused "Guilty". However you decide, your verdict must be unanimous. In the event that you find the accused "Guilty", the bench will not entertain a recommendation for mercy. The death sentence is mandatory in this case. You're faced with a grave responsibility, thank you, gentlemen."

 And so the audience is introduced to what they will witness in the following hour plus a few minutes of deliberation amongst twelve jurors.  This show is adapted from Twelve Angry Men to accommodate the inclusion of both men and women.  I've seen both versions and it bothers me that angry men are seen as passionate, while angry women are more often seen as wenches.  Throughout this production, you see that in spite of the stubbornness and preconceived notions of the jurors, they are all somewhat open-minded to possibilities that life exists beyond their prejudices.  

To read the remainder of this review, go here

Photo Courtesy of www.midvalearts.com

Friday, March 7, 2014

What Surprises did I Face in the First Few Months of Marriage?

For those of you who have not yet seen my guest blog for The Cultural Hall, here is a little teaser.

Four months.
That’s how long I’ve had to figure out this whole marriage mystery – life with the blinders off as some would say.
Many have asked what has surprised me most about marriage.  Most of the answers that immediately start scrolling the news banner in my brain would either be of such saccharine mush that the askers would surely lose their recently consumed sugar that all the crap has been blessed out of, or be improprietous at best.
Thirty-Three Years.
That’s how long I’ve had to listen to all of the conversations and advice on all of the marital surprises or lack thereof.
So, what is most surprising?

Check out the post here to find out!



Monday, February 10, 2014

Reviewing Shows vs Previewing Shows

More than reviewing shows in Utah, I love to preview them.  

Sometimes an outside set of eyes sees something that a person heavily involved in the show doesn't see after two months of daily rehearsals.

I've been asked to review several shows and I have a blast thinking that someone out there may value my opinion. 

However, I've also been asked to see a couple of shows a week or two before they open.  Why?  To share my feedback on what is or isn't working.  I love this so much more than reviewing.

Previewing a show is certainly more entertaining in it's own right, but not for value of the show.  I like to see how hard people are working and the human side of the actors.  Most of all, I like knowing that what I have to share with them can actually make a difference in the quality of the show.  We all love reviews when they are good.  What about when they are bad?  The worst feeling for me is when I have something negative to say about a show and I know it could have been fixed prior to the show opening.  How can you give constructive criticism when all of the construction is already finished?

I'm not an expert, let me be clear on that.  I think my lack of "being an expert" is just what makes my observations poignant.  How many people seeing community theater in Utah are experts?  How many people are folks who know a thing or two about theater and simply enjoy the show?  I have quite a lengthy list of experiences both on and off the stage for over 20 years and I have seen over 100 Broadway productions in New York City - this doesn't make me an expert, but it sure does give me an eye for a good performance. 

I love reviewing shows, however, if anyone out there ever wants another pair of eyes at any point in the rehearsal process, I'd love to come and give my two cents.  I love making a difference.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.centuryvillagecondoforsale.com/theater-and-entertainment/
 

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Standing Ovation Phenomenon in Utah

If a production absolutely knocks you off your feet, then you get on your feet at the end of the show to applaud.  This is what we call a "standing ovation."

I have participated in audiences from L.A. to San Francisco to Alaska to Hawaii to New York City (dozens) to Ohio to Florida to even Branson, Missouri...you get the picture.  I've seen more than my fair share of productions.

Utah audiences have this unique approach to the standing ovation, the likes of which I have encountered nowhere else.  I think it would be fair to state that at the conclusion of an artist's performance, the audience milks it more than the actual performer.  They have this innate know-how and drive to get exactly what they want - more performing.

Here's how it goes in Utah:
1. Performer (theater, concert, or otherwise) gives their best performance and concludes their performance
2. Audience jumps to their feet and claps in uproarious thunder, regardless of if the performance was actually good or not
     - Shouldn't a performance be noteworthy to earn such a special kind of applause?
3. Performer re-enters the stage for the encore
     - Most performers are all-too familiar with the encore and have one prepared
     - After encore #1 is when most audiences know the show is complete
4. Utah audience continues to clap as if trying to shake down the rains from heaven
     - Performer re-enters and performs yet a second encore, most at least have a trick
       up their sleeves
5. Utah audience continues to clap with all the gusto of a stampeding heard of buffalo
     - Performer re-enters and most often will say they don't have another encore
       prepared, thank you, and please go home
6. Utah audience still doesn't get it until the lights in the theater come up and the stage begins to clear of anything that resembles a performer

I have actually seen five encores before while attending the performance of a Broadway diva with the Utah Symphony.  Five!  Can you imagine?

I'm curious as to how this all started.  How did Utah audiences start clapping and never stop?  How do they all seem to just know they should do this? 

Image from inc.com

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bonnie and Clyde: Utah Repertory Theater Company

I'm sure when you think of "musical," Bonnie and Clyde is not exactly the storyline that comes to mind.  But let me tell you what - Utah Repertory Theater's production of Bonnie and Clyde, as strange a concept as that is, sparked my interest in the actual historic events of Bonnie and Clyde to the extent that I spent several hours researching the story.

I wanted to know the truth or not-truth of these seemingly unbelievable events.  Was I ever surprised!  Creative liberties aside, the musical did a pretty good job conveying some of the parts about which I thought, "That couldn't be true."  Did you know Bonnie was a poet and predicted her own demise?  I found this all surprising because (I am guessing that most people of my generation and younger are in the same boat as me) I have never seen the classic film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway

For those not familiar with this infamous duo, we can sum up the story to say they were two 1930s southern outlaws in love, leading a murderous crime spree which ended in their gruesome deaths.

I had a little bit of difficulty finding Lehi Arts Center, where the production is housed, simply because my AppleMaps decided to take me on an adventure.  I showed up 6 minutes late, but Utah Rep caters towards Utah audiences who are preternaturally late, and I ended up being seated without being rude.

I immediately noticed the decor.  I absolutely fell in love with what they did with the space.  Each character is based off of an actual historical figure, which means we have photographs of the people involved.  The production company decided to recreate scenes and costumes to match existing photographs, then placed the actual character photo next to the cast member's photo.   To match this theme, at the conclusion of the show, they showed actual footage of the final ambush of Bonnie and Clyde.

The set is solid and perfect for the show, including a car they move on and off the stage through the set.  I'm not sure how the accomplished such a feat in the prohibitive venue, but it absolutely works thanks to the design of Steve Twede.  You will see the live accompaniment group off to the side, for which I say, "Kudos" to the director, Anjanette Mickelsen - she was paying very close attention to the actors on stage and spot-on with cues.

We first meet Bonnie and Clyde as adorable youth (Abigail Parkinson and Kimball Bradford), one with a dream to be a star, the other with a dream of becoming an outlaw.   The introductory song transitions into seeing the duo in adulthood shortly before they meet each other. Cue the entrance of the absolutely mesmerizing Madeline Weinberger as Bonnie Parker.  Can I say she was sheer perfection?  She alone is worth the price of admission.  I could not find a flaw with anything - her acting, her singing, and her movement were all exact.  Everything about her performance lead me to wonder what on earth this talent is doing on a stage in Utah County instead of in New York City.  Johnny Hebda as Clyde is a talented man with a wide range in acting and a lovely voice, but the role, for me, simply was not a fit in vocal range and the rough-and-tumble persona required to convince the audience he is murderous outlaw Clyde Barrow.

Buck Barrow, Clyde's brother, is the next character we meet after he has busted out of jail.  Of course the ladies then burst into a musical number about how he needs to go back to jail.  This is the part of the show you will find yourself giggling and smiling the most, as the women are in a beauty shop and bossing this fugitive around...you just have to see it, it was great comic relief.  I think it was around this time that there was an absolutely hilarious scene where a deputy tries to seduce one of the women with his gun and she is falling for it.  However, this side-action upstaged the dialogue of the main characters to the extent that the entire audience was laughing and we couldn't even hear the conversational exchange.  I hope I didn't miss anything important.

Throughout the production we meet many more characters, all of whom are integral to the action and ultimate demise of Bonnie and Clyde.  All of the actors and actresses lived up to my expectations for what I have come to know of Utah Rep. I was impressed with Christopher Bradford's vocal manipulation to have this soulful, gravelly voice as the minister.  He later sings in a more classical musical theater style, both of which are impressive.  I also appreciated the character of Blanche Barrow, Buck's wife, portrayed by Michelle Moore the night I attended, but Twyla Wilson on others.  She has some sassy lines which surprise you from what you can tell is supposed to be the straight-man character.  

But can I tell you who really won my heart?  Dallin Major as Ted Hinton, a man who played a large part in the final ambush of our outlaws.  Major convincingly portrayed a love-struck lawman torn between what he knew about a young girl and the reality of the law in front of him and he did it all while singing the sweetest melodic tones your eardrums could ever wish to hear.  I hope my company for the evening is alright with me confessing on her behalf that she said emphatically after the show, "His voice changed my life!"

I have to give shout-outs to several of the ensemble members.  Kira Knorr has an absolutely angelic voice -  we heard her soprano as she was walking through the aisles next to us. Cara Baker as the bank teller may have only had a few lines, but she delivered them with great characterization and panache.  Few actors can develop a character like hers in such a brief moment.

Towards the end of the show, if you've absorbed the awesomeness of the cast recreation photos aformentioned, then you will notice what a brilliant job the costume designer did in recreating one of the Bonnie's actual outfits.  I seriously couldn't get enough of this- I kept looking at the stage, then looking at the poster on the wall, then looking at the stage.  Well done, Nancy Susan Cannon. 

One word of advice for Utah audiences - know the show you are going to see!  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen audience members walk out of a production because of an inappropriate word or joke or scene, and this show was no exception.  My question is, "Why were you there if there was what you consider to be questionable material?"  Bonnie and Clyde were outlaws in love - they slept together, they swore, they killed.  If you are not prepared to see a show that contains that kind of content, then this is not the show for you.  That being said, the show would be rated a soft PG-13 if it were a movie.  Utah Rep has a content advisory on their website for the show listing the possible offenses you can check out here if you are wondering.   Also, be advised there are simulated gunshots in this production and the are loud...very, very loud. 

If you are interested in seeing a different kind of musical that has never been produced in Utah and has only been produced nine times since closing on Broadway, then you definitely need to see Utah Repertory Theater's production of Bonnie and Clyde at the Lehi Arts Center.  You will be thrilled to find yourself in an intimate setting surrounded by a marvelous level of talent and absolutely enthralled with the story.  Be prepared to carve out some extra time for yourself to go home and do a little more digging on the truth of Bonnie and Clyde's lives, I know I absolutely couldn't resist.  In fact, if you are at all thinking about seeing this show, you will be making a huge mistake if you don't go.


Bonnie and Clyde plays January 17 – Feb 1 2014 at the Lehi Arts Center, 685 N. Center Street, Lehi with performances Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and matinees at 2:00 p.m.  The show runs approximately 2 hrs. and 45 min.  Tickets are $15-$18 and you can purchase them here.


Lead Cast and Production Team:
Madeline Weinberger - Bonnie Parker
Johnny Hebda - Clyde Barrow
Michelle Moore and Twyla Wilson - Blanche Barrow
Johnn Wilson - Buck Barrow
Dallin Major - Ted Hinton
Christopher Bradford - Preacher
Cara Baker - Bank Teller
Kimball Bradford - Young Clyde
Abigail Parkinson - Young Bonnie
Adam Cannon - Director
Anjanette Mickelsen - Music Director
Ashley Ramsey - Choreographer
JC Carter - Producer
Annie Brantley - Stage Manager
Nancy Susan Cannon - Custume Designer
Kelly Donahue - Makeup and Hair Designer
Steve Twede - Set Designer



Monday, December 30, 2013

Past Year's Resolutions: 2013

What did I accomplish this year?

Every year I ask myself this question and make my retrospective resolutions for the year.  Hindsight is 20/20.  And I think it is much more uplifting to reflect and think, "Wow- I did that!" than to think, "I didn't meet two of my ten goals.  I'm a failure."  Know what I'm saying?  

In no particular order:

  1. Get engaged
  2. Get MARRIED!!!!  And consequently have many, many celebrations of a lifetime and feelings of love, joy, and all things overwhelming that I cannot possibly describe
  3. Visit NYC with the love of my life and his friends (and quite literally rub shoulders with Jake Gyllenhaal at the musical Matilda)
  4. Meet and have a conversation with Steven Spielberg
  5. Be a homeowner (with my *gulp* husband)!
  6. Be on a Broadway Stage (The Foxwoods Theatre to be exact)
  7. Hang out with a Tony Award nominee
  8. Be a choreographer
  9. Be a fairy godmother
  10. Move
  11. Order my first Polish Sausage for my own consumption, of my own free will
  12. Quit my stable, well-benefited job of nearly six years to work with my husband on his business, Life of the Party Entertainment - big, fat, huge, crazy leap of faith! But maybe not that crazy - I made sure to have at least one year's worth of living expenses saved before I took that jump.
  13. Maintain my six-times weekly dates with Gym
  14. Be a nun again 
  15. Attend Sundance Film Festival for the first time - having conversations with the likes of Jim Rash and Jerusha Hess
  16. Help two of my dear, amazing friends on their wedding days
  17. Visit Disneyland, Las Vegas (3 times), Shakespeare Festival, Ohio, Boise, and Arches (my first time)
  18. Bake almost all the desserts for the Off Broadway Theater Fundraiser in Downtown SLC in May
  19. Go skiing for the first and second times
  20. Have my cat shaved into a lion cut - twice.  Trust me, this is noteworthy and hilarious.
Resolutions of Year's Past
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008 








Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rent: Utah Repertory Theater Company

Way, way back many centuries (days) ago, I caught Utah Rep's last evening performance of Rent.  They even went out of their way to make sure we had police escorts to leave the building that night.  I kid.  Ends up they faced their own true version of "Rent" because the entity renting them the building didn't get the odd's and end's properly straightened out and they were being "evicted" so-to-speak.  Thankfully, the police let this modern day version of "La Boheme" endure to the end.

First and foremost, I want to start a controversy with two words: Audience Interaction.
Love/hate.  Right?
For me, as an actor or an audience member, this always makes me feel uncomfortable.  I participate as instructed or prompted, either way, I just don't like it.  As an audience member, I go to a show to let the actors take me to another world so I can escape from reality and whatever burdens are weighing on my mind.  The last thing I want to do is interact with a person who isn't even a person I can ever talk with or associate with again - it is a character played by an actor.  I feel dread and panic - not knowing what to say or do...because if this person is acting, shouldn't I too?  Wait...no I shouldn't....yes I should...ugh.   As an actor, I wonder if that audience member feels the same way I do when an actor approaches me in the audience.  That being said, if audience interaction has to happen, this troupe did a fine job of staying in character.

I must have been really into the show (or freezing because the warehouse setting was brrrrrr), because I only made a few notes.
  • Intro too long
  • The entire cast entered on the number "Rent," but why?  The setting is in the apartment of Roger and Mark...are there just vagrants wandering in and out of their place? 
  • The volume on the mics was overpowering and the chorus could not battle that sound.  The soloists were mic'd quite well, but then the chorus number seemed underwhelming because of the sound differential.
  • Angel and Collins were absolutely adorable together!
  • Mark was amazing, his pants were not
  • Mimi's solo number had "single ladies-esque" backup dancers.  This was a cool production element, yet I can't help but remember the vision of this being Mimi's big "coming out" moment where she steals the show and we really learn who she is as a strong individual and the backup dancers distracted from her strength.
  • Mimi's solo impressed me because she was dancing her tail off and wasn't winded in the least - way to go!
  • The entire cast, ensemble included, are amazing soloists - each person continued to blow me away in their own unique style.
  • Alex, Alex, Alex.  His voice could melt butter.  He continues to grow as an actor while his voice is what wins audiences again and again.
  • I loved the ambition of the musical director with the new harmonies in the songs.  Some worked, some didn't.
  • During La Vie Boheme, there was a very clever staging of a "Last Supper" scene - I dug it.
  • The staging of "Without You" was touching and extremely well executed.  The choreography allowed each aids patient to leave the stage one by one throughout the song - leaving Angle in the end.  I loved the symbolism behind this vision.
I'll sum this up with the words of  Director and Choreographer, William Cooper Howell, "We cannot control what passions and feelings we are brought into this world with.  However, we can control what we do with the gifts and feelings we are given.  We have the power within us to change the world around us with our love and our light.  May you leave here tonight infused with the need to express, to communicate, at all times, for any reason.  Change is in your grasp.  No Day But Today."

Roger Davis - Trent English
Mark Cohen - Austin Archer
Tom Collins - Aleksndr Arteaga
Benjamin Coffin III - Sean Carter
Joanne Jefferson - Nneka Barcelona
Angel Schunard - Derek Gregerson
Mimi - Connor Norton
Maureen - Karli Rose Lowry
Ensemble
William Cooper Howell - Choreographer
Rick Rea - Musical Director



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Carousel: Utah Repertory Theater Company

What happens when you write a theater review, then assume you have clicked "save" in your late-night delirium, only to realize "save" is the opposite of what happened?  And you have to get out wedding invitations to 300?  And a dear friend recently passed away?  Folks, it has been quite a whirlwind these past few days. 

I have many thoughts on Utah Repertory Theater Company's production of Carousel, yet am unable to recreate the glamor of my original writing in a quick manner.  Carousel closes this weekend, so I want to get some notes up.  I will edit this post as soon as I can to more accurately reflect my thoughts. 

Pros:


  • Live Orchestra!
  • Beautiful male silks worker - acrobatics on silks hanging from the ceiling ala Cirque du Soleil
  • The opening scene began with a stark stage, then gradually added in more color and life until all of a sudden you realize you are in the middle of a carnival - absolutely magnificent staging and pacing - this climaxes when the actors finally begin to speak, and then the crowd slowly dissipates until the scene is focused once again on the main characters
  • Speaking of staging - the "Human carousel" makes several appearances and I love the idea
  • Amber Lee Roberts as Julie Jordan is quite striking in both sweetness, stage presence, and cheek bones.
  • When Mimi West as Carrie Pipperidge sang "Mr. Snow" I felt as if I were being drawn into a story two old girlfriends were sharing with each other instead of just watching an artist sing a song.  Mimi also has an incredible trained singing voice.  
  • When Roberts and Samuel Ross West as Billy Bigelow share their first kiss?  Yowzas - now that's a kiss!
  •  June IS bustin' out all over - what a large cast!  They produced a perfect group sound that truly made me feel the excitement of a community preparing for their favorite event of the year.
  • Scott Cluff as Mr. Snow has a beautiful singing voice and is definitely one the women will realize why Ms. Pipperidge is swooning over.  He has an adorable chemistry with Mimi.
  • I'm not stranger to community theater and I have one big question - where did they get all of these amazingly talented men?!  They all sing AND dance with much more adequacy than I expected!  Great job, men!
  • Eve Speer as Mrs. Mullin has some amazing costumes! Especially the red and black number as her second costume - very striking - great work there!  Also, Speer had stage presence you can't ignore if you try.  When she's on stage, all eyes are on her.
  • Elsa Hodder as Louise - h.o.l.y. c.o.w.  What a dancer!  She actually looks like the child of Julie and Billy, dances and acts like a seasoned pro, and all at the age of 14.  Holy smokes I only wish I'd been half as talented as her at 14.  She performs a beautiful dance at the beginning of act two and her partner, whose name escapes me, is tremendous as well - beautiful lifts, jumps, balance, coordination...she's going places!
  • Roberts, as Julie Jordan, shed actual tears at the end of the show.  I could see the light glistening from them.  I appreciate an actress who is able to so fully immerse herself in her work that she emotes as her character.  Well done.
  • Kyle Allen, as villain Jigger Craigin was not wearing a microphone and sounded great - his evilness and sound did not need a mic to project to the audience members.
  • All-in-all this is a beautiful production!  The sparse feel of the Murray Theater lends itself to the atmosphere of the show. The ending of the show is somber, the message of the show can be seen many different ways, most of which is not "I hit you because I love you."  The point, to me, is that we can be forgiven for our mistakes and life can still produce beauty.  Don't let the dark nature of the storyline distort your appreciation of the beautiful performances. I was previously told this is the best show Utah Rep has performed to date and I whole-heartedly agree with that statement.  
  • If you are an appreciator of the classic's of Rodgers and Hammerstein, you will love this production, hands-down. 
Cons:
  • At the very beginning of the show, many of the faces are lost in the shadows, although I later realized this may have been intentional to show the starkness of the facility where the girls work.
  • Due to the venue, there is an echo in a lot of the sound from those wearing mic's.
  • The mics caused some of the voices to be muffled.  Unfortunately the beautiful voice of Samuel Ross West, as Billy, was the main voice on which we lost quality.  This is a such a terrible shame because West has a tremendous voice of which you want to hear every nuance. I've seen him perform previously and knew what I was missing.  The venue is difficult to work with mics in and I was assured the performance I attended was the first time his mic malfunctioned.
  • When Mr. Snow and Ms. Pipperidge argue, his reaction is so melodramatic, I thought I was missing a joke somewhere and it seemed rather out of place.  You do immediately know they'll end up together because he doesn't seem genuinely upset, I, and my company, found this a rather odd character choice, although charmingly funny.
  • My partner in crime for the evening suggested the program listing the bios should be arranged in order of leading characters, not in alphabetical order of actor's names.  He found it confusing to have to look up the actor's name in the front of the program, then flip to the bio section to find their bio alphabetically.  We know the character name, not the actor's name.  This did not bother me so much - I think it's a matter of personal preference.  
My sincerest apologies to the cast and pro team, mostly Johnny Hebda, for the delayed nature of this post.  Life, as displayed in Carousel, throws many unexpected turns.  

Catch the show!  Purchase tickets here or at the door. 
Friday August 23rd at 7:30 pm
Saturday August 24th at 2:00pm
Saturday August 25th at 7:30pm

Friday, August 16, 2013

Engagements: Three Decades

Rob and I had our engagement photos created this past week.  I have to tell you, Rob has dreamed of having his wedding photos featured on a wedding blog or in a wedding magazine for years.  No pressure on me, right? 

I spent weeks agonizing about what on earth we could do to create a theme to this wedding.  I've always been the type of girl who dreamed of one thing on my wedding day:  Looking into the eyes of the man I love.  Did I dream of color or flowers or gown or bridesmaids or or or?  Nope.  Nadda.  Upon learning my fella had a dream, I yearned with all of my heart to help him fill this dream, yet had no idea how to go about creating magic enough to be published. 

I tried to think of something that was uniquely "us."  He has attributes that are definitely him, being a DJ and all, and I have attributes that are definitely me, but what is "us?" 

Then it hit me.  "We" have unity in our love for performing, music, and classy dressing.  I love the era of the 1940s - 1960s.  He loves dancing.  I love dancing with him.  He loves bow ties and suits.  I love cute dresses. 

Why not have three settings - the decades of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s? 

What's your favorite era?

Photos taken by Jacque Lynn Photography at The Grand Hall

Photos taken by Jacque Lynn Photography at Dolcetti Gelato

Photos taken by Jacque Lynn Photography at Salt Lake City Marriott

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Irrational Fears

  1. Having a straw in my mouth while driving, then getting into an accident and the straw going through the roof of my mouth.
  2. Gremlins hiding between stair steps waiting to grab my ankles with their boney claws.
  3. Chicken on the bone or biting into a fatty/veinous piece of meat.
  4. Monsters being in the toilet when I sit down, enough said.
  5. Monsters grabbing my ankles from under the bed as I get into bed 
  6. Opening a plastic container with a foil topper - those things spit at you!