SALT LAKE CITY — The Off Broadway Theater is a fun venue in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. In the style of an old cinema theater, complete with a popcorn stand and old-fashioned ticket booth, the friendly ushers ready to take you to your seat. The theater is known for its comedy improv show, as well as its parodies of popular shows for a local audience. Their shows are meant for all ages, and I saw families attending together. As a theater patron, I am glad there are these types of venues in our theatrical community.
After a long week, I was looking forward to a night of comedic entertainment, and Gleek School Musical did not fail to provide just that. Eric Jensen encouraged the audience to participate in classic melodrama form by having us boo and hiss when the “villain,” Coach Sylvia Sylvester, entered. The story the Off Broadway Theater has chosen to bring the audience is the classic tale of jocks verses geeks, high school romance, cheerleaders, and a new kid trying to fit in. The parody includes shout-outs to Glee, High School Musical, Hannah Montana, and of course local, Utah-based humor.
Sylvia, played by Jillene Stark, was by far the strongest part of this production. Fans of Glee will be impressed with the way Stark is able to bring in jokes and physical humor expected of her character. Willis Schroeder (played by Chance LePrey) and Emmie Redd (Tiffany Rees) shared some impressive acting moments, especially building up the comedic tension during the “romantic” scenes.
The costumes and set design were quite simple; nothing more is really needed for a high school scene. I really enjoyed the costumes for the glee club, especially the outfits worn by the characters Kirk and Lau Zi. Costumers Eric Jensen and Janice Jensen did a created a world of high school fashion and showed just how diverse that can be. Kirk, played by Dallyn Steenerson, had many endearing moments, and made me feel like I had a best friend in the show. Lau Zi, played by Shealyn Kwan-Smith, was excellent with her physical comedy. One of my favorite parts was when she lamented, “No one slaps the masochist!”
The best part of the technical design was the props. There is a moment when the cleaning props of the Janitor Jim, played by Ian Murray, were used to help assist Coach Beesley (played by Eric Jensen) give a pep talk to the students. The writing and comedic timing of the props were some of the best moments of the evening. There was also a pretty impressive trick with a basketball near the end of the show that I loved. In fact, I am still wondering howMurray was able to design it and pull that one off.
The Off Broadway Theater is known for their comedy, with a few songs thrown in. Gleek School Musical had 15 songs, and some of them were much stronger than others. The writing for all the songs was clever; however, the musicality was hit-and-miss. It also seemed that some songs were more rehearsed than others. Breaunna, played by Kimberly Lochner, had the strongest voice, and seemed to carry most of the burden of making the songs successful. The ensemble, however, was musically more impressive as a group than as individuals.
The choreography, done by Jillene Stark, was very entertaining and helped make several of the numbers more entertaining than they would have been otherwise. Perhaps the best musical moment, which included choreography, comedy, musicality, was when the cast performed the creative “Hamlet: The Musical” in two and a half minutes. Even though the show is meant to be a parody of Glee and High School Musical, I feel like there may have been too many songs thrown in. A smaller number of higher quality songs would have been a better way to hold the story together than to have 15 musical numbers of widely varying quality.
Overall, the production was a fun evening of humor. Those who are fans of Glee or High School Musical will really understand the humor and have a great time. But remember, the Off Broadway Theater is known first for their comedy, not their musicality.