Author: Russell Warne

Interview with Jenny Latimer, “Les Mis” tour cast member

Recently, it was announced that Utah native Jenny Latimer will play the role of Cosette in the 25th anniversary U.S. national tour of Les Misérables.  We recently caught up with Jenny by phone and asked her a few questions about the role, her Utah roots, and her theatrical experience. UTBA: First, tell me a little bit about yourself and your background. Latimer: Well I’ve lived in Utah for 90% of my life as the oldest of eight kids.  You can infer a lot from that and you would probably be right. UTBA: How did you get your start in theatre?  What was your very first show? Latimer: My now-dear friend Pam Peterson cast me as Cinderella in the 4th grade play spectacular. I probably could have died happy then. I mean what 10-year-old girl doesn’t want to wear a big pink dress and dance with talking mice?  Pam ended up being the drama teacher at the Junior High and started giving me great opportunities from the get-go. I was very lucky. UTBA: What are some productions that Utah audiences would know you from? Latimer: I’ve been lucky enough to have worked at the Hale in West Valley, The Hale in Orem, Provo Theater Company, Tuacahn, and at Brigham Young University.  Recently, I portrayed Christine in Maury Yeston’s Phantom at the West Valley Hale as well as Marguerite in The...

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“Merchant” of Venice Strikes a Balance

CEDAR CITY — I was nervous as I entered the Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre for the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s production of The Merchant of Venice.  Like the more lighthearted The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice has become somewhat controversial in its portrayal of members of an oppressed group.  I was also aware that sometimes Merchant is categorized as one of the Bard’s “problem plays,” because it is not a lighthearted romantic comedy (like Much Ado About Nothing) or a dark tragedy (like Macbeth), but rather lies strictly between the two in an ambiguous no man’s land. By the end of the play, however, I did not see the work as a “problem play,” but rather Shakespeare’s attempt to give something to everybody: a courtroom drama, female-to-male crossdressing (just as much a trend in drama 400 years ago as superhero movies are today), three love stories, some comic relief, and a personal vendetta. Shakespeare certainly knew that he had a diverse audience with a wide variety of tastes to cater to! Visually, I appreciated this show.  The costumes (David Kay Mickelsen) were probably the most lavish of the Shakespearean Festival’s current productions and exemplified the prosperity and commercial might of late 16th century Venice.  The set design (Troy Hemmerling) was simple, but appropriate for the text and the physical stage.  Indeed, Hemmerling’s set struck that perfect balance...

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World Premiere is 12 Years in the Making

CEDAR CITY — Audience members who attend the world premiere of Great Expectations: A New Musical likely are unaware that the production they are seeing has taken over a decade to reach the stage.  Twelve years ago, Margaret Hoorneman was a retired high school English teacher in Iowa who had “tired of the usual retirement activities,” as she says, and began adapting the text of Charles Dickens’s classic book for the stage.  Hoorneman had taught Great Expectations to ninth graders and consistently noticed the connection that her students felt with Pip, the novel’s main character. So, how does a script from a Midwestern school teacher end up on the stage of the Utah Shakespearean Festival?  Hoorneman’s grandson, Brian VanDerWilt (who also shares a book credit with Steve Lozier) enlisted composer Richard Winzeler and lyricist Steve Lane to provide songs for Pip, Miss Havisham, and the other characters from the novel.  Although newcomers to the world of musical theatre, the songwriting team is very successful in their own right, having written songs for Gladys Knight, Lou Rawls, Terry Steele, and other singers. With a script and a CD of songs, the creative team then searched for a director.  In 2006, they found Los Angeles-based Jules Aaron, who had previously shepherded new musicals like Broads, Among Many Others, When Garbo Talks, I Only Have Eyes for You, and Better Than Beethoven...

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“Macbeth” Thrills are Nonstop

CEDAR CITY — Before diving into this production, I must admit that Macbeth is my favorite Shakespeare play.  It was the first one I read and it converted me to the Bard for life.  Over ten years later, I’m still enthralled by this text and its story of assassinations, madness, and the supernatural.  Therefore, I arrived at the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s opening night performance with a clear idea of the potential that this production held.  To my delight, director Joseph Hanreddy surpassed my hopes. For those of you unfamiliar with “The Scottish Play,” Macbeth is the story of the title character’s (Grant Goodman) rise of power after he meets three witches who foretell that he would rise in power among the thanes (mid-level nobles) and eventually become king.  The witches also tell his friend Banquo that he won’t become king—but his children will.  After one of the prophesies is fulfilled, Macbeth tells all to his wife (Kymberly Mellen) in a letter, who then prods him to murder King Duncan (Michael A. Harding) in their castle in order to ascend to the throne.  With a great deal of difficulty, he does so and becomes king.  After obtaining power, Macbeth murders his political enemies—including Banquo—to maintain his hold on power.  The atrocities he commits (and a visit from Banquo’s ghost) cause him and his wife to descend into madness until she...

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Shakespearean Festival Offers More Than Just Plays

If you’ve never been to the Utah Shakespearean Festival, you may not be aware of the many activities that the Festival has to offer.  During our time in Cedar City, we sampled some of these activities and also learned what we could about others that weren’t available during our visit. The Greenshow One of the Festival’s oldest traditions, the Greenshow is a free musical and dance performance that takes place outside of the Adams Theatre every Monday through Saturday at 7 PM.  The show is especially appropriate for children, but the spirit and fun of an Elizabethan country festival is accessible to all.  The Greenshow also helps each evening’s Shakespeare play attendees get into the spirit of the Shakespeare’s world through song and dance.  You may even want to attend twice so you can see both versions: Scottish Night and Irish Night.  And the best part?  The production is completely free. Literary Seminars Speaking of free, the literary seminars are another Shakespearean Festival offering that shouldn’t be passed up.  Every morning at 9 AM and 10 AM, there are one-hour seminars about the previous day’s productions in the grove of trees south of the Adams Theatre.  This is basically a Q&A with a knowledgeable Festival employee who can give you insights to the previous day’s theatrical experience.  I was skeptical when we went to the first one (on Much...

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