Author: Russell Warne

You really ought to give "The Music Man" a try

CEDAR CITY — The Music Man is a staple of the American theatre. Debuting on Broadway 54 years ago, this beloved show has been produced thousands of times, been incarnated on film (in 1962) and TV (in 2003), and revived on Broadway twice (in 1980 and 2000). As part of the 50th season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, this classic is being mounted in southern Utah for local audiences. In addition to the show’s general history, I have a personal history with The Music Man. It was the first play I ever acted in (in 1999) and it was...

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Love to hate "Richard III" at Utah Shakes

CEDAR CITY — I’ve been reading and watching Shakespeare plays for half of my life and I like to consider myself well versed in the Bard’s work. However, there has been one gaping hole in my knowledge of Shakespeare’s work: the histories. Quite frankly, the histories are not as frequently produced in Utah—or elsewhere in the United States—as are Shakespeare’s tragedies or comedies, which is why I had never seen one on stage. My only previous exposure to the histories was the film version of Henry V, starring Kenneth Branaugh. That’s why I’m pleased that the Utah Shakespeare Festival decided to mount a production of Richard III as part of their 2011 season. Richard III is the tale of the titlular character’s rise to the throne of England, which he obtains through deceit, treachery, and murder. Richard—who is duke of Gloucester at the play’s opening—is physically, psychologically, and spiritually deformed and willing to stop at nothing in order to obtain his goals. Elijah Alexander embraces the role of Richard and makes the character a man that you love to hate. Alexander is at best in scenes where Richard is putting on a façade of respectability while in reality crossing all bounds of decency, morality, and order as he pursues the throne. In these scenes (such as when he puts on a show of piety for the people of London,...

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All the Festival's a stage

CEDAR CITY — Pop quiz! What attracts 130,000 audience members per year, has won a Tony Award, and has been running for 50 years? Of course, the answer is the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  Today marks the opening of the Festival’s 50th anniversary season and UTBA is down in Cedar City covering it all. Here is a taste of what you can expect over the next several days. Reviews of all six currently running Festival productions. We’ll probably be posting one per day starting with tomorrow’s review of The Glass Menagerie. YouTube videos of Festival actors and administrators talking about this year’s plays. Special features about the Festival’s past, present, and future. Photos and insight into the 50th anniversary of the Festival. So, come back often to the UTBA web site for information about the Utah Shakespeare Festival. You can also learn more about our experience at the UTBA Facebook profile page.  We’re also tweeting like a robot on crack in order to give you real time updates on what we’re doing.  You can follow us (UtahTheaterBlog) or join in the conversation by using the hashtags #utba and #utahshakes.  Finally, we’re also updating our Facebook status whenever possible.  So, keep up with us and enjoy some of the best theatre of Utah along with us. For more information about the Utah Shakespeare Festival, visit their web site at www.bard.org. You...

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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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