Author: Elise Hanson-Barnett

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is a sweet and silly surprise

SOUTH SALT LAKE — Utah Children’s Theatre is something of an institution in the Salt Lake Valley, churning out lively theater capable of drawing the attention of young children while introducing a level of talent and entertainment to interest adults. Upon my first visit to this little theater in South Salt Lake, I was delighted to find that the rumors are true: UCT is a charming place. Charlie and the Chocolate  Factory is a familiar story with a book by Roald Dahl, and already adapted into two films, so I shan’t bore our readers with a recap. This theatrical version by...

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With AIDA, the Hale creates a spectacular debut in new facility

SANDY — Last Thursday night, I attended the grand opening gala for the new Hale Center Theatre in Sandy City.  It was perfectly lovely, as evenings go. Catered food, a new statue, and loads of men trying not to trod on women’s evening gowns delivered a sense of elegance and lavishness. The governor and other such dignitaries gave superlative-laced speeches, and an eternal flame was lit. Minor celebrities peppered the crowd: Michael Ballam fanned himself in the corner near the piano; Carmen Rasmussen wandered to and fro with her husband, the governor’s son. At last, the new theater was opened...

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SHOCKHEADED PETER is macabre merriment and mirth

SALT LAKE CITY — A woman pokes her head out between two curtains, lit dimly by warm light that highlights her grotesque, pale makeup and missing teeth. “I am the greatest actor in the world!” she howls. She steps out onto the stage and performs the speech again: “I am the greatest actor in the world! Behind this curtain stand the portals to the darkest recesses of the human imagination within which waits such monsters as your wildest nightmares could never anticipate!” She will be the emcee, the ghoulish guide through a series of grim and giggle-mugging tales of children...

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FOREVER PLAID is a safe bet for Hale’s new Jewel Box

SANDY — Hale Center Theatre has opened a part of their new Jewel Box theater in Sandy, and the company has chosen the jukebox musical Forever Plaid as its premiere production. For me, going to the Salt Lake County Hale (which, because of their new facility in Sandy, we probably can’t call “the West Valley Hale” any more) is like eating a peanut butter sandwich: sweet, reliable, and I’ll be satisfied afterward for about 30-40 minutes. There is nothing bold or surprising happening with that company, and they produce very little heart-rending or thought-provoking theatre. It was unsurprising, therefore, that Hale chose...

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DONE DID GOT GONE WITH THE WIND is delightful goofiness

SALT LAKE CITY — In The Blue Sheep Theatre Company’s premiere performance, comedy is king. Playwright Keri Gukeisen has crafted a parody of the iconic Gone With the Wind and brought it to the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival. The result, entitled Done Did Got Gone With the Wind was a hoot and a half. Fringe can be full of heavy pieces—dramas fraught with emotion and artistic nuance so surreal it makes your brain vibrate. A breezy, accessible comedy is therefore a breath of fresh air. Gukeisen came at this parody sideways: the premise was a down-home grassroots theatre company from a “football town” attempting to stage Margaret Mitchell’s seminal classic. Something I found fascinating about this production was that most of the actors performing it seemed to me to be fairly green, but it totally worked with the premise. Their staged failures at remembering lines, knowing how to exit, becoming injured backstage halfway through and switching leads, and bringing their backstage drama in front of the audience was all very believable and genuine as well as being heightened and hilarious. One particular highlight was when Conor Thompson—playing a character who had recently croaked—rolled offstage in a fantastic showing of physical comedy. I about fell off my chair laughing. As I mentioned, each individual actor has potential that could be strengthened with more classical experience, but they came together to work as an ensemble. One...

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