Author: Bryce Isaacson

THE 39 STEPS runs on frenetic hilarity

OREM — Richard Hannay was a typical London bachelor, until a temptress foisted herself upon him in his flat. Turned out she was a spy with a price on her head. So, when she gets whacked in Hannay’s apartment, he becomes a man on the run. To Scotland he goes to clear his name and uncover a spy ring called “The 39 Steps”. The date is 1941, so you can guess who’s behind all this. So begins Hale Center Theater Orem’s production of The 39 Steps, which shares the plot of the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name....

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Dinner Theater Where Nobody Dies

MIDVALE — Would you like to be serenaded with Christmas songs? What if a crack emcee was also entertaining your table with witty banter? And there was a steaming pile of barbequed meats on your plate? Then get yourself down to Salty Dinner Theater, the latest troupe in Utah to simultaneously feed your eyes and your face. Opening night for this production of “A Salty Christmas Carol” was in the event room of Joe Morley’s BBQ. It began with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future—Tonia Sayer, Christopher B. Kucera, Jordan Wonnacott—plotting to jolly up ol’ Scrooge (Jeremy...

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Desert Star could do more with “Back FROM the Future”

MURRAY — Teenage everyman Marvin McFlea had a crush on Miley Cyrus. His course of action was obvious: Steal a time machine, go back in time, and make your dad a superstar musician. Then surely you will be dating her in the future! There must be easier ways to get a Hollywood floozy to fall for you with a car that traverses time and space. But all this makes perfect sense in the world of Desert Star’s Back from the Future. Jeff Jensen stars as Marvin McFlea, imbibing the role with boyish charisma. Playing his mom Mandy is…Mandi Jensen in a warm and confident performance. Corey Brandenburger is his dad George, a total square oblivious to Mandy’s affection. And what a dork is he! But Back from the Future is dorked-up twice. There’s also Lewis, a soda jerker embodied by Ed Farnsworth (who also wrote the play). Lewis is three parts Rick Moranis and one part Napoleon Dynamite. Farnsworth is so good he’s creepy, so creepy he’s gewd. And what’s Back to the—I mean—FROM! the Future without a crackpot doc? But now she’s a lady! Way to progress, Desert Star! Holly Fowers gave a good performance, but I was looking forward to some Christopher Lloyd. The most laugh lines were thrown down by a character not based on movie: Sloane Buhler played by Corinne Adair. She’s a dumb high...

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Flight of the Conman

CENTERVILLE — The Music Man put West Side Story to shame in the 1958 Tony Awards. Maybe West Side was ahead of its time, and too jaded for pre-Vietnam America . But The Music Man had two things that West Side didn’t: a plot made from whole cloth, and an actor giving the performance of a lifetime. Robert Preston bagged a Tony for Best Actor, and later reprised his role in the familiar 1962 film adaptation. Rodgers Memorial Theatre is the latest local venue to revive the classic story of smooth-talking swindler Harold Hill’s exploits in the fictional small town of River City, Iowa. The Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday cast’s performance began with an exhilarating performance of “Rock Island” (aka “the train scene”), and segued into “Iowa Stubborn,” where the townsfolk displayed impressive singing voices and individual expression. Once in town, Harold Hill puts the moves on the local music teacher/librarian to keep her from noticing that “he don’t know one note from another.” Meanwhile, he cons the town into investing in band instruments for their children who he claims are in moral peril. Before long, Hill has the youth dancing their little hearts out with excitement. Led by Zaneeta (Caitlin Bird) and Tommy Dijilas (Jacob Tonks), the River City teens threw down some exciting dance numbers. Choreographer Stephanie Thomas gave a fresh, energetic perspective to familiar numbers like “Ya Got Trouble”...

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Annie Get Your Semi-professional Gun

CENTERVILLE — Seeing a musical written about a historical character like Annie Oakley is a pleasure in itself.  Along with Carrie Nation, she’s one of my favorite women in American history.  And this here wingding of a tale is full of Wild Western hootenanny like shootin’ matches, dancing, and Indians saying and doing things that would have a modern-day playwright sued into the Middle Ages by the ACLU. April Ann Lindgren stars in Roger Memorial Theatre’s (Tues, Thurs, Sat) cast as the backwoods sharpshooter Annie Oakley.  She never gave a fella the time of day, but when handsome professional gunslinger Frank Butler (B.J. Whimpey) comes to town, she gets a hankerin’ for a Frankerin’. After giving him a public lesson in marksmanship, Annie is hired by his manager—Buffalo Bill—to join the Wild West touring show.  The story, which revolves around their romance, is predictable; but cut it some slack, it debuted in 1946. The only part of the story that I don’t get is Annie’s change from lovestruck girl who would do anything for Frank to the girl who sings about how his wedding plans are bunk and she wants things totally different. Did her adventures touring Europe or Frank’s pride cause the change? Lindgren and Whimpey both do admirable jobs with their characters.  Lindgren is a strikingly beautiful protagonist, has a sweet voice, and plays the tomboy well (though she could draw some more...

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