SALT LAKE CITY — Those who are new to my writing might not realize I am a big fan of romantic movies and host a podcast covering them: the Hallmarkies Podcast. This is why the new production, Forever More, at Scaffold Theatre in Salt Lake caught my eye. It is billed as “an interactive valentines theatrical extravaganza,” which is quite the billing. Unfortunately while it is diverting, it didn’t live up to such grand ambitions and does not provide enough interactivity or entertainment for the steep $25 ticket price.
Forever More would be more appropriately labeled as an improv experience, although I believe it is all scripted. It has the feel of actors riffing off each other and for the most part they all do a good job. The idea is Cupid and Miss Valentine are helping Don Juan to get his mojo back by going through the great love stories of all time including both Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion.
The whole cast is a lot of fun and they have a nice chemistry together, but I particularly enjoyed Julie-Anne Liechty as Venus, who gets a lot out of a campy role. Jordan Scott also gets some good laughs as the love-weary Don Juan. Liechty is also the producer and writer so I’m sure that helps her sell the material she knows so well. My favorite section of the night was a spoof they did on a Hallmark movie with a cookie factory that employs everyone in a small town being shut down by the big evil bad man of business. I obviously know Hallmark movies, and it is a very effective piece of satire and parody. Some of the other choices I found a bit strange, like a bit on Dangerous Liasons, or reenacting the entire marriage proposal scene in Pride & Prejudice. I might have picked the reunion at the end since the proposal is a fight that ends on more of a contentious than romantic note.
The other disappointment was in the interactivity Forever More promises. There were only a couple moments of audience members being involved in the production and they were minor; rolling a dice or picking a story prompt from a box. The main interactivity was the audience having a bag of silk rose petals to throw about when they like something. I guess I was simply expecting more from an “interactive valentines theatrical extravaganza.” I should clarify it’s not that I had a bad time. Director Christy Summerhays does all she can to give us a fun experience, but for $25 I expect more than some goofy skits. It might be more enjoyable as a date night for couples. I went alone so I really can’t say, but I think the interactivity could have used the fact there were several single guests for some good-natured teasing.
The experience is billed as “family friendly” and the kids in my audience did seem to be enjoying themselves. I don’t know how many kids know about things like Dangerous Liaisons and Pride & Prejudice, but there’s enough energy in the performances to entertain the whole family. Still, I don’t know many families who can afford such a high ticket price. And perhaps making the experience family-friendly is a mistake? Going with a more edgy script could provide more laughs and celebrate more than just heteronormative love. It could also make the interactivity more fun if it’s more outrageous and spicy for a date experience. If I was going for a family-friendly “theatrical event” I would probably stick with love stories kids know more about like Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, or The Little Mermaid.
The actors are also not given microphones which was mostly fine as it’s a small room, but when they are singing it might have been helpful to at least had standing microphones they could sing into. I hate to say it but the singing in general was underwhelming. The set by Clarisa Johnston is made up of various platforms that are covered with valentines decorations. It’s engaging, and the costumes by Candice Bahe are just what is required for the characters and the various skits.
One quick note- make sure to plan plenty of time when arriving at Scaffold Theatre as there isn’t much parking and it’s tricky to find the theater located in an office building in a commercial part of Salt Lake. I drove past it 3 times trying to find it.
I hate to be too hard on something that’s so joyful and silly like Forever More, but for the steep price, the interactivity isn’t entertaining enough and the laughs aren’t there in the amounts I’d like to see. The concept has potential, so if they do it again next year I will definitely check it out, but as for this year, I’d say give it a pass.