Author: Russell Warne

UTBA reviewers sound off: Excellence in 2016

The social media consensus is that 2016 was a rough year for America. With a surplus of celebrity deaths and a chaotic presidential election, many people are ready to put 2016 behind them. But the Utah theatre community had a great year, with wonderful productions across the entire length of the state. As we do every year, we asked our reviewers and staff members to tell us what excellent productions they saw this year in Utah. Here are the shows that stuck in their minds weeks or months later. Excellent Professional (Equity) Productions Being the only Tony Award winning...

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Give your kids a merry night at THE HAPPY ELF

OREM — Santa Claus is coming to the SCERA! For five nights per week Utah audiences can see him on stage in The Happy Elf through December 17. In The Happy Elf, Eubie, the titular elf gets into trouble at Santa’s workshop during the Christmas season and is transferred to the “Naughty and Nice Department.” While enduring the drudgery of his new job, he discovers a town named Bluesville that has only naughty residents. Eubie then decides that he can return to Santa’s good graces, and even ride in the sleigh on Christmas Eve, if he helps at least one...

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NUNCRACKERS is a forgettable night at the Covey

PROVO—Those New Jersey nuns made famous in Nunsense, the Little Sisters of Hoboken, have a new holiday show written by Dan Goggin. In Nuncrackers, the nuns and Father Virgil are filming a public access Christmas special to raise money for the private Mount Saint Helen’s school. In the course of the show, the nuns sing, hand out Christmas gifts to audience members, make a fruitcake, and more. It sounds like an ideal show for fans of Nunsense. Unfortunately, Nuncrackers has little of the charm and originality of its predecessor show. Adding to the disappointment of Nuncrackers is the lackluster production at the Covey Center for the Arts. The central problem with this production was the weak direction from Stewart Shelley. A meandering show like Nuncrackers requires a strong hand that maintains quick pacing and keeps the humor sharp. Unfortunately, Nuncrackers completely lacked a coherent artistic vision, and the result was a series of humorless vignettes that seemed unrelated and often pointless. Additionally, the show desperately needed a choreographer. The dancing was credited to “cast collaboration,” and the result was sloppy, amateurish choreography (e.g., in “In the Convent” and “We Three Kings”) that was inferior to most Covey shows. A music director was also missing from the production team. This may be why most of the songs were either sung too sluggishly (“Three Hundred and Sixty-Four Days,” “It’s Better to Give Than to...

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Report on the 2016 Theatre Olympics (Wrocław, Poland)

WROCŁAW, POLAND — Thanks to the generous financial support of the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association (and the kindness of my boss to let me miss a few days of work), I spent a six days in eastern Poland attending the 2016 Theatre Olympics. While in Poland I was fortunate enough to attend a multiday young critics’ seminar (sponsored by the International Association of Theatre Critics) and—of course—I saw some plays. Aside from the occasional touring company and the BYU Off the Map international theatre festival, Utahns get few opportunities to see international theatre. Therefore, I think it is...

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Take a brief holiday with THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

PROVO — Oscar Wilde‘s fans in Utah have a new production of The Importance of Being Earnest that showcases why they love Wilde’s work. As an added bonus, BYU’s production of this classic comedy of manners and mix-ups shows why the university has a reputation for mounting respectable productions of classic plays. Director Rodger D. Sorensen understood fully that for this show, as Gwendolen says in the third act, “Style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.” A successful production of The Importance of Being Earnest should not take itself too seriously, and Sorensen’s principal aim in this version was to entertain. Much of the...

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