SALT LAKE CITY — One of Salt Lake County’s newest semi-professional theatre companies is Hart Theater Company, whose mission is to provide excellent storytelling and unique, diverse, high-quality shows to our community. Their newest production of Possessive! The Musical delivers on that promise.
With script, music and lyrics by Spencer Ford and direction by Izzy Arrieta, Possessive! The Musical is an original, hilarious, dark musical comedy that follows an ordinary family in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania through one fateful night when their poorly-behaved adolescent son unexpectedly becomes possessed by a demon. Set in the year 2000, the show is packed with lots of fun 90s nostalgia and an energetic, original pop-punk score. It should be noted that this is a staged reading and not a fully mounted musical production, which gives audience members a rare opportunity to see a creative, unique, original work written by a local playwright.
For being a brand-new original work, the script was extremely well put-together and flowed nicely. There were no dull moments, and it was clear why each scene and character were essential to the plot. One of the standout aspects of this production was the casting. Each cast member was perfectly suited for their role. The cast is led by Derek Wayman as the demon who possesses the family’s young son, Darian, played by Ashlen Boresow. Wayman’s smooth, booming vocals are a perfect fit for the humorously non-intimidating demon, who possesses Darian in a manner reminiscent to Audrey 2 from Little Shop of Horrors. Also worth noting is the superb acting by Boresow, who flawlessly and impressively plays both “normal” Darian and “possessed” Darian.
Playing the demon’s minion and the family’s eldest daughter, Lisa, are Isaac Carrillo and Sasha Wilkinson, respectively. Carrillo and Wilkinson’s voices are well-suited for the pop-punk style of this score, and both were standout vocalists. Some of my favorite musical moments were the duets between Wayman and Carrillo or Carrillo and Wilkinson. The voices of these talented vocalists blend well, and their harmonies had me dancing in my seat. Music director Jenny McKay has done excellent work with this cast in perfecting their vocals and their harmonies.
Some of the minor setbacks of this production were that due to this being a staged reading rather than a fully mounted musical production, it was sometimes a little hard to follow. Without costumes and makeup, it was initially difficult to establish whether Carrillo’s character was a full-on demon in demon form, or whether he was a demon who had taken on the appearance of a human, or neither. As the script progressed, it became more clear that Carrillo’s character was, in fact, a demon without a physical human body, which left the question of how and why he was visible to the family at all. He also made a few contradictory references about wanting to use his “hands” to touch things (or people), but then later stated that he could not touch things since he did not have a body.
Later on in the script, Wayman hilariously plays multiple different characters other than his demon character, but without costumes and makeup, it was unclear whether these were truly meant to be different characters, or if they were simply meant to be the demon attempting to play tricks on the family by disguising his appearance. This could be fixed by using more distinctive character voices when Wayman is playing characters other than his demon character.
Despite these minor setbacks, the script is overall very strong, has catchy music, and is packed with laugh-out-loud moments. It is also surprisingly touching with sweet reminders of the importance of love and togetherness within the family. All of these qualities are only enhanced by the talented actors in this production.
Along with producing fully-mounted musical productions that are near Broadway-level in quality, Hart Theater Company also aims to produce original works written by local artists, as well as lesser-known plays and musicals that are not commonly done in Utah. This means that Hart Theater Company gives the Salt Lake community the unique opportunity to enrich their lives by being exposed to works of art that they may not see anywhere else in Utah. We are fortunate to have a company of this magnitude right here in Salt Lake, and it will be very exciting to see what the future of Hart Theater Company brings to our community.