It’s Jenny Hatch here, reporting from Utah, and I recently had the great fun of seeing all six shows currently playing at Utah Shakes in just three days!
Utah Shakespeare Festival Playlist compiled by Blogger Jenny Hatch https://t.co/tqG9uaQjzw
— Jenny Marie Hatch (@JennyHatch) July 11, 2015
Tony Amendola was the actor who brought Lear to life this year at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. He was all over the stage in his grief, insanity, and overwhelmed expression as his daughters made their choices and he had to adjust his thinking about who he loved best and why. I was bowled over by the costuming, lights, and the smoke-filled scenes with loud music and thunderous storms raging across the stage. I just happened to view the show in the amazing outdoor Adams Theater on July 4th (Independence Day in America) and the show was punctuated by the overwhelming sounds of various localities’ fireworks displays. As the show progressed into the late evening hours, an occasional bottle rocket and firecracker could also be heard, adding much to the overall sense of chaos and drama.
I have never experienced a marathon of live shows in quite this way before, and it was simply marvelous. As the final curtain call for King Lear took place last Saturday night, I had a feeling of complete satiation come over my heart and soul.
Click here to read an interview with the leads from this show on the Utah Shakespeare Festival Blog!
I grew up performing in a variety of settings in and around the Detroit Michigan metropolitan area. I always performed just one show at a time and enjoyed the fun and thrill of live performance in school, community, and church settings. South Pacific was a breakout show for me as a young actor. I was chosen by my elementary school music teacher to play Ngana at the local high school production of the show in 1980. My oldest brother Nathan auditioned and was chosen to play Emile in that same show and it was so wonderful to perform our six performances with my brother playing my Father in the show. My brother Jim was also in the cast and it was exciting to spend six weeks hanging out with the big high school kids at rehearsals and the cast party. A few years later my high school also produced South Pacific and I was chosen to choreograph the whole show and played a nurse. These early imprints in theatre and that particular show made it so a flood of memories hit my brain as the opening song “Dites-moi Pourqui” began after the overture.
This particular production of South Pacific was notable for the strength of each individual character. I did not see a weak link in the cast. From the powerful vocals of Bloody Mary, played by Christine Jugueta as she sang “Bali Hai”, to the hilarity of Aaron Galligan-Stierle who played Luther Billis, each lead and supporting character played their parts to near perfection.
The ensemble blasted out “There is Nothing Like A Dame” and “Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” while performing intricate and fun choreography. I was duly impressed by the military men in the show performing the most difficult push-ups while they sang. Allie Babich as Nellie and Michael Scott Harris as Emile brought tears to my eyes over and over as they depicted one of the most romantic love stories in the musical theatre world. Most patrons love the inimitable “Some Enchanted Evening”, but for me “This Nearly Was Mine” has always been my favorite song in the show and Harris sang it true and clear.
The Taming of the Shrew
This production of Shrew was also noted for an amazing love story between Kate and Petruchio. The stand out performances were from the leads who as an acting husband and wife team, managed to make some intimate sparks fly. I was amazed to witness the tears on the face of Kate during the final monologue by Melinda Pfundstein. Acting so authentic, I wanted to cheer as she scolded women for their clueless treatment of husbands and lovers.
“Fie, fie, unknit that threat’ning unkind brow
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor.
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads…”
Click here to read an interview with the leads from this show on the Utah Shakes Blog!
Henry the Fourth, Part Two
I have never read the play Henry the IVth, Part Two, so I did not know what to expect. The show was dark, dreary, and sad. Having not watched the previous part one, I was somewhat lost as the scenes were depicted on the stage. It was obvious my lack of preparation for seeing this show hindered enjoying the full experience. I was riveted by the quality of the acting, the jokes and many lighthearted moments mostly provided by Sir John Falstaff and his Page.
The leads were good, but the story was so sad, I found myself wanting to get up and leave because it just went from bad to worse as the bastard son of Gower wreaked his revenge on the characters in the play. I was also unprepared for the violence and grotesque nature of this show. While the actors vomited on stage the “ick factor” definitely diminished this experience for me and some of the audience members I talked to.
Click here to read an interview with the leads on the Utah Shakes Blog!
I have loved the story of Amadeus and his nemisis Salieri since watching the film version of the play when it came out in 1984. I was hoping that this production would have a live orchestra and opera singers to provide the musical accompaniment to the show, but it did not. The Amadeus movie soundtrack was background to my life as a musical theatre loving teen and I listened to it so much that I have had “Lacrimosa” memorized for the past thirty years.
This little bit of musical dismay was not such a big deal however because the acting of the show was so unbelievably good I quickly overcame my sadness that a live orchestra and singers had been replaced by recorded tracks.
David Ivers’ Antonio simply could not have been better. He managed to capture the power, majesty, and sadness of his own nothingness summed up in the infamous “too many notes” as he lied about Mozarts music to every other character in the show.
His many monologues during the show were only bettered by the witty and touching performance of the young Mozart, played by Tasso Feldman. Feldman’s comedic timing, his laugh, his look, his willingness to move in an arc of reality from naughty schoolboy to husband/father to penniless genius was so unbelievably well acted that I, once again, found myself bawling over and over again as the play was performed.
I was stunned while watching Charley’s Aunt to witness the cast break character during a particularly hilarious tea party scene. Several of the female actors started to laugh on stage and I was greatly surprised and saddened that they did not recognize how huge of a breach in theatrical professionalism this was. I hope the director will have a serious talk with them about this so that future shows are not marred by this mark of novice performing.
It is understandable why they were not able to hold back the giggles. Michael Doherty, who played Lord Fancourt Babberly stole the show again and again as the three act farce played out. He was non stop fun. By the final act, I was laughing so hard, I had a stomachache.
It was so amazing to have eighteen hours of theatrical revelry during a three day span.
I loved them all!
This is what I wrote on my Facebook Wall the day after seeing all six performances:
“I had the great privilege of attending all six plays being performed at the Utah Shakespeare Festival over the past three days.”
I feel somewhat exhausted, yet rejuvenated after these intense 3 days of 18 hours of live theatre. So many deep emotions coursing through my brain and the cells of my body as the performers depicted the various characters and scenes. My husband Paul asked me last night which show I liked best, and I told him it was as if he asked me which of our five children I liked best. I loved them ALL for a variety of reasons.
I am hoping to see each show at least one more time before the summer is over. And I would be happy to see Amadeus, Charley’s Aunt, South Pacific, and Shrew each weekend until the summer is over. The tragedies tore at my heart, and, while I was grateful to have watched them performed so professionally, I do not know that I would see them more than once or twice in a season.
Utah Shakes just announced most of their 2016 Season set to be performed next summer at the brand new Englestad Shakespeare Theatre in Cedar City.
These final photos are from the Greenshow. Every night the company performs a free outdoor show that revolves around the musical dance and vocal styles of Italy, Ireland, and England.
My own husband Paul sings with a professional choir called Village Voices here in town, and they were asked by festival founder Fred Adams to sing Madrigals before the Greenshow on the nights that the USF performs King Henry. So Paul has been having fun singing with his group twice a week since the season began!
If you’re a Utah-based producing organization, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a review.