SANDY — The tricky thing about a jukebox musical is making it appeal to more than just hardcore fans of the genre or artist. Mamma Mia was a big hit because it appealed to rom-com fans even if they weren’t the biggest fans of ABBA. Other shows like MJ: The Musical or American Idiot are really just for specific fans who love the musician or band in question. May We All, opening at Hale Center Theatre in Sandy, is more the latter, catering to big time country music fans with little appeal to those outside of that group. Country fans will probably enjoy it, and those who aren’t should probably skip it.

In many ways, I was the perfect critic to review this production because the book by Troy Britton Johnson, Todd Johnson and Eric Pfeffinger plays out much like the rom-coms I cover as a tv critic on the Hallmark Channel. I love the sweet romances, but the plots can be pretty predictable. Such is the case here: Girl comes back to the small town after being in the city, reunites with her high school hunk and realizes how great the town is that she so foolishly left years before. The story is fun enough even if it is a little thin to sustain a nearly 2.5 hour run time. There’s even the classic trope where the heroine must decide between going back to the city for a big gig and recording contract or stay for the town talent show she committed to. I wonder what she will decide…?

The hometown girl in this story is named Jenna Coates, played by Emma Wadsworth. And the fictional town is Harmony, Tennessee. Becoming a country singer hasn’t gone as well as Jenna has led people to believe, which has led to hurt feelings all over town, including her past love Dustin, played by Jordan Strong. Her best friend Liz, played by Elise Pearce, is going through her own personal and relationship struggles. (She gets most of the heavy lifting of the piece and is honestly a more interesting character than Jenna.)

Fortunately for Hale, most people are not going to May We All for the captivating story. Most are going to hear their favorite country music songs performed on the grand Young Living Centre Stage — and on that front it delivers in spades. There are two original songs by Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, but the rest are covers of classics like “Play Something Country” by Brooks and Dunn and “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus as well as newer songs I am less familiar with like “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves. The musical highlight is an audition segment where performers sing verses of classics like “Wide Open Spaces” by The Chicks, “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” (a particularly funny moment in the show), and “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash. I appreciated that the writers didn’t gender-swap Dustin’s performance of “Jolene”. He sang it just as Dolly Parton wrote it.

While his character isn’t given much to do in the story, Strong has a nice voice and a decent chemistry with Wadsworth. If anything, Liz’s man Joe (played by Zac Freeman) has more of an arc, even if he wasn’t the strongest singer of the cast. My favorite of the ensemble was Doug Wadley as Wilbur. He has some very funny lines, including a sequence where he orders “chicken but just the skin and mashed potatoes and gravy hold the potatoes” at a fast food place where Jenna works.

Director David Smith has smartly focused most of the energy on the music. Two camera operators filmed the show live, and the footage was displayed on the theater’s large screens. Set design by Kacey Udy and lighting design by Jaron Kent Hermansen amplified the concert atmosphere. Hermansen’s lighting featured footlights as well as strong strobe lights, so people who are sensitive to flashing lights should be careful. Adam Dyer choreography also kept the characters moving around the stage well.

One of the problems with theater in the round is audience members may only see the back of a character for an entire scene — but that isn’t the case here. In a church scene where they sing “Same Boat”, the actors picked up the pews mid-song so the entire audience could get a view of what was happening.

The only remaining critique I would give of May We All at Hale Sandy is that Jenna’s sister Kylie, played by Savannah Carrasco, did not look like a teenager to my eyes. Maybe it was just the styling, but the character looked older than Jenna to me.

In the end, May We All is a bubbly night of country music fun for all who love the genre but less convincing as a piece of great storytelling. If you enjoy country music you’ll probably have a good time. If that’s not your favorite, you can give this one a pass. Simple as that.

May We All plays Mondays through Saturdays at various times, April 22 – June 8, 2024 in the Young Living Centre Stage at Hale Centre Theatre (9900 South Monroe Street, Sandy). Adult tickets are $63-63. For more information, visit

These reviews are made possible by a grant from the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks program.