SANDY — Patrons of  Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy are many, and their expectations are exceptionally high. It can be tempting for a company facing such pressure to succeed to stick with guaranteed hits that audiences will be drawn to. It is for this reason I have to give the folks at Hale some credit for taking some risks this season. In fact, currently they have new to Utah shows on both of their stages with May We All on the Young Living Stage and The Time Machine getting its world premiere on their Sorensen Legacy Jewel Box Stage. While I enjoyed both, it is the latter I saw last night and found it to be an exceptionally inventive, exhilarating piece of theater.

The Time Machine is getting its world premiere at Hale and it is an adaptation of the novel by H.G. Wells with some pointed nods to the classic film from 1960 starring Rod Taylor and Alan Young. I cannot comment on the authenticity of this adaptation from the film, but this work stands strong alone. Michael D. Fox has made a story that zips through a number of time periods effortlessly while keeping its focus on a family and a love story. Science fiction can indulge in exposition and become dry but Fox’s script dodges most of those landmines.

The set up for the play is the Mason/Briggs family that consists of father Bradley, played by Roger Dunbar, teen daughter Skye, played by Kadyn Ballard, and grandma Helene Briggs who is seen both as an older woman  and in her youth. The elder is played by Tamari Dunbar and young iteration by Becca Ingram. One morning a mysterious package arrives from a strange man and Helene reveals she is a time traveler from the 1880s. Not only that but her great love was H.G. Wells himself and his famous book was inspired by her story.

Hale Centre Theatre ; HCT ; Hale Sandy ; The Time Machine ; 2024 ; Utah Premiere

The Time Machine plays at HCT Through July 20.

All the acting in the play was solid as each actor embodied his or her roles well but I felt Dunbar and Ingram were believable in their mannerisms and tone of speaking as younger and older versions of the Helene. I could see how it could be jarring going from one actor to another but they made it seamless with their chemistry and consistent choices.

With the secret of time travel out Helene and Skye end up on an adventure throughout time to protect ‘the source’ — a tardis like prop that enables time travel — and help make things right past family hurts. It’s a small cast, only 9 actors, but the way they have it staged it doesn’t feel small and there is even some pretty fun fight choreography from Anton Moss to keep things exciting.

Checking out this production is worth it, even if only for the truly amazing visual effects by lighting designer Jaron Kent Hermansen. I recently saw Back to the Future: The Musical on Broadway and these time travel lighting and other visual effects were as impressive as the work I saw there. While The Time Machine is a different show in tone and story, I’d be thrilled to see what Hermansen could do for lights with that production. The Time Machine was dazzling spectacle that only Hale can provide in this area. I don’t know that you see lights and effects of this caliber anywhere else in the state and it’s fun when the company lives up to that potential.

Hale Centre Theatre ; HCT ; Hale Sandy ; The Time Machine ; 2024 ; Utah Premiere

I do think act two is stronger than the first act as the action is really going full throttle by that point. It also includes the two best set pieces of the show. First a wonderful sequence in Albert Einstein’s office with Taylor Seth Hall playing the famous scientist. He is made up to great effect with iconic hair to match by Trisha Ison. Another fantastic scene takes place in the Hollywood Museum where we see the time machine from The Time Machine  film. The design also includes props and costumes from Back to the Future Part III and Somewhere in Time. I’ve been to the Academy Museum in Los Angeles several times and this really did look like that museum so it’s excellent work by scenic designer Jenn Taylor. There is  a mixture of modern and Victorian costumes by Peggy Willis and they are all convincing and well done.

The downside to the Jewel Box theater at the Hale is if you aren’t in the center sometimes you miss out on some of the immersion the visuals are meant to provide. If you can find a seat in the center portion that’s what I would recommend, and this has been true for a number of productions on the Jewel Box stage.

Aside from the exciting time travel visuals, the most important part of The Time Machine is the message it has about chosen families being as valid as anything from blood. I won’t give away the ending but it is very sweet making the production more than just sci-fi spectacle. Director Dave Tinney has crafted something fresh and exciting with real heart anyone can enjoy.

The Time Machine plays through July 20 in the Sorensen Legacy Jewel Box at Hale Centre Theatre (9900 South Monroe Street, Sandy). Tickets are $24-65. For more information, visit

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