Author: Russell Warne

New ALICE IN WONDERLAND musical is a good match for young kids

OREM — If there is one thing I have learned in nearly a decade of reviewing theatre, it is that the target audience matters. This fact is especially true for productions aimed at young audiences. Children need stage productions that are tailored to their cognitive and emotional developmental levels. But this also makes it difficult for adults to review (and enjoy) productions aimed at kids. Yet, despite the age gap between me and the target audience, I still found SCERA’s Alice in Wonderland a pleasant evening. Based on the famous Lewis Carroll novel of the same name, Alice in...

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Grassroots Shakespeare’s KING LEAR lacks bite, but manages

SALT LAKE CITY — “Come not between the dragon and its wrath,” shouts King Lear after his youngest daughter, Cordelia, displeases him. The aged king’s wrath and his powerless responses to adversity are the subject of one of Shakespeare’s most enduring plays. The Grassroots Shakespeare Company has decided to kick off 2017 with this tragedy. However, instead of a play full of wrath and dragonlike ferocity, this production is docile and tame. As in almost all Grassroots shows, the cast of 11 collaborated to create the show without a director. This centerpiece of the Grassroots artistic system can be...

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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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