MURRAY — Desert Star has been a Utah staple for years. And they have a tried and true formula that has worked for as long as they have been running. Somehow in all my time in Utah theater, I have failed to make it to Desert Star to see any show. I have heard both good and bad about Desert Star, and so I went with some worry. Would this be a fun night or just a ho-hum evening of entertainment?
Upon entering the theater it is clear that they have carved out a very specific niche for themselves. We were quickly led to our seats and a server took our order and we were able to enjoy the MC/pianist Jill Flanagan. She gave us the musical queues we would need to cheer for the heroes and boo the villains. She is very talented and does a great job of providing the atmosphere music throughout the show.
The plot is a parody of the old Beverly Hillbillies TV show. The Clam-Pitt family has come to California because Granny’s moonshine has been shown to be an ecologically superior alternative to gasoline. The neighbors, the Rottenfellers, however, plot to steal the formula. The show moved quickly and had many funny gags and bits peppered throughout. Beth Bruner’s script is fun and fast-moving.
Todd Thompson who played Jason Rottenfeller, the laid-back surfer of the Rottenfeller family, was especially fun to watch. Their duet about rival tanning philosophies got many laughs. His lines, both spoken and sung, were clearly and easily understood and he was fun to watch throughout the night. Trenton James Krummenacher portrayed JT Clam with enthusiasm, which especially payed off well when he and Thompson sang a duet about rival tanning philosophies. The song got many laughs.
Mary Parker Williams as Granny Pitt and Scott Holman, who directed this production, as Grandpa Rottenfeller got some of the deservedly biggest laughs in their “love” scenes together. Williams kept us laughing with her “elderly” voice, facial expressions, and physical comedy. Corey Brandenburger as JR Rottenfeller was perfectly oily as the villain, often criticizing the audience for not booing loudly enough. Samantha Bird as Shannon Rottenfeller played the spoiled rich “valley” girl routine very well. I only wish that George Anderson and Jeb Clam and the beautiful Brittney Marie Nielson as Jenny-Mae Clam had been given more to do.
The entire cast seemed to really be enjoying themselves through the whole evening. The cast is a talented one and they each have their moments to shine. The olio at the end of the evening was also fun, but some of the performers seemed to have lost the enthusiasm with which they performed during the show. The choreography was fun and hokey, and the whole thing would have been more fun if they had really gotten into it.
The biggest complaint of the evening was with the sound. It was difficult to understand everything being said on stage, so parts of the plot may have been lost. With the accents and high voices of the women, it may have been a mix issue, but there was clearly a problem going on. Scott Holman’s direction kept the evening flowing nicely and choreography by Julie Heaton fit the fun atmosphere of the show. It was a very enjoyable evening. Desert Star Theater is what it is and does it well. The audience knew what they were there for and was having as much fun as the actors seemed to be having onstage. I plan to return and have many more enjoyable evenings.