OREM — Saturday, my husband, son, and I went to see Salty Dinner Theater’s production of Romeo and Juliet—Choose Thine Own Adventure at Orem’s Old Spaghetti Factory. The cast members greeted us as we entered, and they all were very “normal”—very much themselves, though they were already in costume. I didn’t notice this particularly until they started performing, when they became the various characters in the show. Nice touch, I’d say, to show the real differences between “person”’ and then “actor.”
All the tables in the restaurant’s large dining room ringed a small ‘stage’ in the middle of the room. It was very intimate and when I walked in, I thought, “How are they ever going to perform in here?” The answer? The actors mingled among the tables as well as in the center space, and did some lines from the perimeter of the room. This wasn’t theater in the round. It was more like, theater amongst the panorama of the entire area. It made for a cozy atmosphere, but as my family and I discussed on the ride home, it has to be a little disconcerting to have to maneuver around chairs and people, and—what if someone had their foot sticking out and the actors tripped? I admit, I was slightly worried, but never once did I notice the actors staring at the floor. At one point, Romeo did have to scooch one lady’s chair in and right in the middle of his Shakespearean lines he said to the lady, “Excuse me.” Ah, improv. Love it! This line and many others got a lot—A LOT—of laughs.
The play begins with the entire cast singing a song. I wondered if this was a musical, but that was the only song they sang. I’m not totally sure the song was necessary, but it was a cute introduction to the show. Romeo, played by a remarkably talented and charismatic Dallas Stromberg, and Juliet, played deftly and adorably by the theater company’s owner Mary Zullo Brassard, actually speak Shakespeare’s written dialogue, and I gotta give them props. They did their lines so well—Shakespeare isn’t easy to memorize, and is harder still to say so we modern folk understand what they’re talking about.
The two narrators, who were also the adapters/writers of the show, were played by Jennie Jonsson and Jeremy Jonnson and they provided a summary of what was happening in the show and what they were skipping over because, of course, there was no way they would be able to perform the play in its entirety. They didn’t speak in Olde English and actually argued between themselves about whether Romeo and Juliet should have ever been a tragedy in the first place. The female narrator actually kept a running commentary on the parts of the play she never liked, and these snarky lines got some great laughs. The two narrators also doubled as Lord and Lady Capulet—we knew they were changing into these characters because they put on Elizabethan hats. Even then, they spoke in modern language. And I was grateful. Their lines were hilarious.
The rest of the cast was equally as proficient and delightful. The Nurse, played by Tonia Sayer, though a young woman, walked stooped over and made her voice sound like an old person’s and made a very believable old lady. Benvolio, an affable young man who spent a lot of time talking to us at our table before the show, was played by Christopher Kucera. He had a lot of funny lines, and used modern gestures, which made him a very likeable and personable character. Rounding out the cast was the Friar, played by Madman, who was another young person effectively portraying an old man. He also made me believe he really was an old person, even though he didn’t have a line on his face.
We were served our meals before and during the performance, and the food was pretty tasty. During an intermission of sorts, a cute married couple, Brandon and Stacey Orton, sang love songs whose titles were written on hand outs on each table so the diners could choose which selections they wanted to hear. Personally, I didn’t think these singers were necessary, since I would have liked to process the play thus far and talk to the other people at our table. My husband and son loved the couple’s songs and the Ortons do sing beautifully. I think most everyone liked the singers, so there you go.
I will say, I’m not sure this is a show for young kids. I’m not sure they could sit still during the Shakespeare lines. And the Nurse at one point goes from old crone dressed in Shakespearean costume to a modern-day nurse who’s supposed to be rather sexy, and frankly, I thought this bit crossed the line. The line accompanying it, something like, “all the men in the room would like this nurse much better,” made me uncomfortable. This is a Valentine’s Day message for couples in love?
One of the most entertaining aspects of this experience is that the audience actually gets to choose the ending of the play. Should it end in tragedy, as in the original version? Or with a romantic ending? Or something totally off-the-wall wacky? Our audience chose the off-the-wall wacky ending, which was uproariously funny. Then, we got a ‘two-fer’ and got to see the romantic ending as well. It was my favorite—I love a sappy ending.
As I said, as we walked in, the cast members hobnobbed with the diners. Romeo was chit chatting with us, and I piped up that my son was playing Tevye at his junior high. Romeo hauled my son out of his chair and the two of them sang “If I Were a Rich Man,” dancing with enthusiastic shimmying and stomping. This got a huge applause, and pretty much made our night. Also, the advertisement for the show says, “Oh—and you might get to be in a sword fight.” The stage manager approached two people to be in said sword fight and my son Caden was one of them! As a proud but modest mother, I will simply say that my son did a great job. This sort of audience interaction is what makes dinner theater a potentially memorable evening for any audience.
My only real issue with the experience is something the Salty Dinner Theater and Old Spaghetti Factory in Orem cannot be accountable for. The parking at University Mall was horrible. So get there early or wear good walking shoes.