SOUTH SALT LAKE — If you’re looking for a kid-friendly, Halloween-inspired activity, Utah Children’s Theatre’s Haunted Theatre Spooktacular is the perfect night out. So often Halloween events can become too scary for younger kids, but UCT’s revue-styled Spooktacular is filled with friendly, funny ghosts who aim to entertain, not scare.
As the only “living” character in the play, Mr. Arthur Avalon (played by Zackery Western) is the charming master of ceremonies for the night. Arthur explains that he has invited talented ghosts to perform a smorgasbord of acts at the annual Haunted Theatre Spooktacular. Soon the ghosts arrive and the performances begin—with singing, dancing, a magic show, cowboy tricks, and even a radio show on the docket.
Children’s theatre requires extraordinary energy and drive to keep the smallest audience members (starting at four years old at this production) engaged. Director Joanne Parker excelled at creating this energetic atmosphere. The entire cast—without exception—goes above and beyond to break the fourth wall, include the audience (particularly the kids), and make children and grown-ups alike giggle throughout the night. Ghostly stagehand-turned-performer Roscoe (played by Bryson Dumas) is a stand-out favorite and constant source of laughs throughout the show, thanks to his fun Brooklyn accent, on-point physical humor, and constant shenanigans. Cowboy Tex Roundup, played by Jacob Harmon, performs whip tricks that cause even adults to gasp; and deceased opera star Marietta MacDougal (played by Jana Lynne Cox) enchants the audience with her clear, crisp, and stunning soprano voice. Truly every character—including the spunky teenage chorus girls and boys—create moments of laughter, entertainment, and excitement.
The ambiance of James Parker‘s set design accompanies the Halloween theme beautifully—with cobwebs, pumpkin pails, and antique-looking costumes completing the “haunted theatre” look. Designed by Tom Hohl and James Parker, the lighting throughout the night is fun and even includes ultraviolet lights to add a glow to certain scenes. The ultraviolet lights are best utilized during the “Hall of the Pumpkin King” finale, in which pumpkins carried by the performers appear to dance and float.
The costumes, by designer Christina Wilson, are mainly 1930’s and 40’s slanted, from Arthur’s three-piece suit (complete with pocket watch) to Roscoe’s working man tank, suspenders, and slacks. Russian ballerina Rosie Mae Slovinsky, beautifully played by Lexi Thomsen, is decked out in a proper stiff tutu and plenty of sparkle as she performs her take of Tchaikovsky’s Russian Dance. And Harmon’s Tex Roundup is the quintessential cowboy—boots, jeans, cowboy hat, and rope included. Such variety in the costuming adds to the eclectic feel of the variety show and the performers’ costumes reflect their various talents. Of upmost important in this production is the makeup design (by Meighan Smith) as Arthur’s skin appears colorful and very much alive, contrasting with everyone else in the cast, who are doused in white, flour-like makeup to suggest their ghostly natures.
In all honesty, UCT’s Haunted Theatre Spooktacular is an entertaining, family-friendly Halloween celebration that my seven-year-old guest and I both enjoyed immensely. From preschoolers to grandparents, audience members of all ages will find this production a light-hearted, engaging romp very worth a watch.