MURRAY — Desert Star surprised me with their production of My Big Fat Utah Wedding. Not every show there is a winner and my last experience left me unimpressed. This evening, though, reminded me why I (and probably the season pass holders, as well) keep coming back to this Murray City star.
My Big Fat Utah Wedding is a return production to Desert Star written by a Desert Star artistic director, Scott Holman, whom I recognized as being one of the funniest actors in their past productions. He created a clever script, though not as similar to My Big Fat Greek Wedding as I would have liked. The premise is simple: Gretchen is 26, LDS, and unmarried, which causes her family endless heartache. Then one day she meets Dax. They fall in love immediately and though he is a (gasp!) non-member, the two overcome every obstacle and plow through to their wedding.
Filled with lines about the Jazz, Utah slang, politics, and Mormon culture; the first act kept me entertained. My husband laughed the hardest when the father of the bride (David Weeks) admitted he gets a little tipsy when he mixes his Xango with his Tahitian Noni. The second act wasn’t as packed with one liners, which unfortunately gave me time to realize the story wasn’t living up to my expectations. It was less committed than My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it seemed like Scott Holman (the playwright) couldn’t decide if it was a Big Fat Utah Wedding or a Big Fat LDS one. You might think that wouldn’t matter, but it did, since the story became a watered-down mix of each; it failed to commit to or really sell either one. In the Greek version, for example, the fiancee character converts and is actually baptized; but in this attempt, Dax’s religious differences last all of two seconds. By the end, he is asking to play “church ball” like a regular old LDS guy. Maybe I’m just picky, but it felt wishy-washy.
This theater is famous for its comedy; they have a knack for putting their own spin on any storyline. But under all the jokes, I hope people see that there really are talented singers and actors in this show. Good strong voices and endearing personalities are abundant in My Big Fat Utah Wedding. Granted, I only saw one cast, but I was very impressed with Gretchen (Corinne Adair) especially. That tiny little blonde carried her weight as the lead, for sure.
An interesting part of the show was the surprise casting. There were two actors who continually changed characters, reappearing in new costumes with outrageous new accents throughout the plot. Justin Berry and Anthony Buck played (1) Dax’s buddies, (2) Dax’s parents, (3) wedding planners, and (4) Gretchen’s grandparents. Most of these roles were slightly annoying—the exception being Dax’s Sonny and Cher parents, who were fantastic—but they did add variety and color to the production.
The musical numbers were enjoyable. At times I had a hard time getting into a song, I think because I was trying so hard to “name that tune,” as most numbers were set to an existing melody. Two songs stretched the lyrics awkwardly to fit the music: “Goin’ to the cultural (hall?) in love” and “My we-e-dding day” could have been great with a little tweaking. Overall, though, I really enjoyed the music.
At Desert Star Playhouse, each show is followed by a musical revue of sorts that they call an Olio. Back in the day, when my family had season tickets and we attended show after show, the Olios were great. And we still laugh about a particular sketch involving a spittoon. The years have passed, though, and my experience with Olios has been boring at best. Thankfully, that wasn’t true this time. Desert Star’s Rock n’Roll medley was a joy to experience. I mean, who doesn’t love a good Journey medley? It wasn’t until the Olio that I realized Dax (Jeff Jensen) looks and sounds like Neil Patrick Harris. It’s eerie almost. And also, that Mary Parker Williams (who played Gretchen’s mother) has a knack for comedic timing. There was a segment about Karoake Night for an anger management group, and Mary was just a star!
Overall, I had a fun and enjoyable evening at Desert Star Playhouse and I would recommend My Big Fat Utah Wedding. Expect some popcorn, some laughs, and a stage full of great voices. I’d go again just for the Sonny and Cher and the Olio, really. It’s fun to laugh at Utah every now and then, too; as Gretchen’s father would say, “I ‘preciate cha s’much.”