WEST JORDAN — When the air begins to cool and the pumpkins come out, Gardner Village is the place to be. During the month of October, it’s home to all things Halloween, such as whimsical witch displays, Witches Night Out, Breakfast with a Witch, and Witchapalooza’s The Taming of the Brew.
Much like the Shakespearean classic, The Taming of the Shrew, this story tells the tale of the Ravencroft Sisters and their predicaments with love. Splendora, the younger of the two witches, is in love and wishes to wed. However, the family tradition holds that her elder sister, the ever-witchy Brewella, must marry first. In order to be with her true love, Splendorela joins up with Dr. Philgood to introduce a set of bachelors and help her short-tempered sister find a warlock to love. The play was presented in a laid-back, interactive theatre fashion, which provided a nice atmosphere for audience members of all ages (i.e., children welcome). The actors frequently addressed the audience, made aside comments, and even recognized birthdays and special occasions.
The first half of the show seemed somewhat disjointed—the storyline jumped from the sisters’ predicament to an America’s Got Talent audition to an intervention by Dr. Philgood and back again. It was all over the place. But once the basic plot line was established, it stayed on course and became quite enjoyable. I experienced quite a few laugh-out-loud moments as the line up of eligible “bachelors” did their best to woo the lovely, but unlikeable, witch. Although the plot was disjointed in places, the five-member cast’s talents carried it through.
Amy Richardson portrayed the shrewish Brewella Ravencroft. She had a nice vocal range and performance, but she gave the character a snobby attitude, more suited to that of a teenager than a set-in-her-ways old witch. Her performance, however, was well suited for the younger audience members, and helped them follow the story. Jennifer Hohl not only played Splendora Ravencroft, but she also directed the show and accompanied several of the musical numbers on the keyboard. Hohl gave a very energetic performance and had several opportunities to showcase her powerful vocals. I was impressed with her effortless, enthusiastic performance.
While the sisters did a good job filling their roles, the bulk of the praise for this show belongs to the men. Each of the three actors brought a wide range of talents to the stage, seamlessly transitioning through a variety of characters, proving that they are worth their weight in Halloween candy. Paul Cartwright played the handsome Count Dashiel Hecate—the quintessential villain—as well as several of the other characters, including Dr. Philgood, Albus Dumbledore, and Jude Law. With each new character, Cartwright’s talent became more and more apparent. I especially enjoyed his versatile voice and accents.
Bryan Hague portrayed Gremelio Estevez—a groupie and the newest member of the band—and also Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, and other characters. Hague impressed me not only with his powerful vocals and ability to play the guitar, but also with his ability to switch back and forth between two characters in the middle of a solo. David K. Martin, who played Splendora’s love, Tristan Pendlehill, was the dark horse of the evening. Due to a doctor-prescribed vocal rest, Martin was unable to speak or sing during the performance. But despite his silence, he showcased his talent through body language and provided an outstanding amount of comic relief.
It’s also worth mentioning that the live music was provided by the Skele-Tones, a band made up of Todd Sorensen, Rich Dixon, and Rob Honey. The three musicians were extremely talented and kept the show going, often improvising sound effects to go along with the action.
As a director, Hohl looked to blend the humor of the show to reach both the younger and older audience members, with pop culture references that ranged from 101 Dalmatians and The Drowsy Chaperone to Dan in Real Life and Saturday Night Live. She kept the show moving and filled in for Martin’s voice as needed. The set and costumes were rather simple, but that kept the focus on the action.
I was apprehensive as the show began, but once the story got moving, I quite enjoyed myself. Sometimes, as a critic I tend to get caught up in the nitpicky details of a show, but during The Taming of the Brew I was able to let go and just take it all in. It’s easy to see why it has become an annual tradition for many families. All in all, it was a great way to spend a fall evening and get in the Halloween spirit.