CENTERVILLE — “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” CenterPoint Legacy Theatre has opened up their theatre for their first indoor post-COVID production with a night of musical celebration of some of Broadway’s most well known villains. Directed by Danny Inkley, the concert consists of selected songs from some of Broadway’s favorite villains, a great decision for this time of year.
CenterPoint had done a lot to ensure the safety of their patrons. Audience members were encouraged to print tickets in advance or have them on our phone, but there was a separate entrance area for people who did not, which reduced congregating and lines in the lobby. Programs were available only digitally, which is going to be the way of the future. Groups were seated separately from the other parties, and as a patron I felt safer than in restaurants or other places that I have gone during the pandemic. No concessions were sold.
Most surprisingly, the cast wore clear face shields. The cast consisted of 13 members, and this is the first time I have seen a Utah theatre company utilize this level of care in a cast this size. Most companies either have opted to have smaller casts or take less care in on-stage protection. The face shields took away from the performance at all. In fact, thanks to music director Tara Wardle, the ensemble numbers were some of the best parts of the evening, especially “Facade” (from Jekyll and Hyde). I have always enjoyed the lyrics to that song, but the harmonies are challenging. (Even when I saw it on Broadway, the song sounded a bit awful.) But this group of 13 made the tune sound magnificent.
When I first saw the choices of characters for the evening, my critical mind was on fire. Is Elphaba really a villain? Why did CenterPoint pick that song out of all the songs in the Broadway songbook? When the show started, I was slowly put in my place. While there are certainly more evil songs from Sweeney Todd, none are as evil in a more amusing way as “A Little Priest,” and Tyler Hanson and Brittany Bullen handled that song so smoothly. I was so glad for the inclusion of the “Stepsister’s Lament” from Cinderella, and Kacee Neff and Sydney Stephan played the roles of the wicked stepsisters with great flare. I was also impressed with some of the numbers that might not be as well known to the full audience, like the delightful “Poison in my Pocket” from A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and Colton Ward was just fantastic in his innocent evilness.
Adding to the strength of the ensemble numbers was Marilyn Montgomery‘s excellent choreography. All through the evening Montgomery’s choreography added a great deal of aesthetic and production value. This was especially noticeable for “Masquerade,” the inclusion of which was a little surprising. But the ensemble’s dancing made it very a enjoyable part of the evening.
Some of the other numbers were less delightful. While Miss Hannigan and her brother Rooster are antagonists, Annie is overdone, and the characters are not as evil as many of the others featured in the concert. The number left me feeling flat. Also, while the inclusion of “Evil Woman” from Xanadu makes sense Janessa Zech’s antics upstaged Camille Crawley, who was doing her best to sing the song well.
The technical elements of this show were phenomenal. It is not credited in the program, but whoever did the voiceover for the show deserved a headline. He had the best level of creepy mixed with humor, and I was chuckling with every line that he spouted. And then the lighting, by David Rees, put me in the Halloween mood. The use of excellent colors mixed with the right amount of fog (not the overuse that a lot of companies fall into) was fantastic. I also appreciated the costumes by Tammis Boam that followed the Halloween theme and had a little individuality of character without straying far from the impression of a unified look appropriate for a concert.
During this COVID pandemic, it has been hard for me to look forward to holidays. So many traditions and events have been cancelled or altered. But Broadway Villains has put me in the Halloween Spirit better than anything else I have experienced so far. Mwahahaha!