Author: russwarne

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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Actors, Director Live Up to “Great Expectations”

CEDAR CITY — The Randall L. Jones Theater was buzzing with excitement on the afternoon of July 9, 2010.  A new musical was having its world premiere.  History was being made.  If the show were a success, then hundreds of lucky patrons would be able to tell all their friends and relatives that they were the first audience to see the show.  After all, who wouldn’t want to brag at a party that they had seen the first performance of the latest Broadway hit?  Such was the excitement at the opening of Great Expectations: A New Musical. Great Expectations tells the story of Phillip Pirrip—commonly known as Pip—who rises from the masses of the common country folk to the become a gentleman through some luck, good deeds, and occasionally his own initiative.  As a young boy, Pip aids an escaped convict who was hiding near his home.  Also near his home is the mysterious Satis House, where the elderly Miss Havisham mourns her broken heart after her fiancé jilted  her on their wedding day many years before.  To exact her revenge on the male sex, Miss Havisham adopts a girl named Estella and trains her to be cruel to all men—Pip being an especially convenient target, because of his infatuation with the young girl.  Years later, Pip is surprised by a visit from the lawyer Jaggers who tells the...

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UTBA Shakes It Up!

CEDAR CITY — Without question, one of the most important theatrical events of the year in Utah is the beginning of the Utah Shakespearean Festival‘s season.  As the only Tony Award winning theatre company in the state, the Utah Shakespearean Festival has been the pinnacle of theatrical achievement in Utah for decades. UTBA was thrilled to be invited to the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s 2010 opening performances.  Early Thursday morning, UTBA founder Dave Mortensen, assistant editor Russell Warne, and reviewer Julia Shumway met together and traveled to Cedar City as a group in order to experience the opening performances of all six of the festival’s current productions.  The three of us will watch all six plays, review two productions, and respond to one another’s reviews.  In total, you’ll have three separate perspectives of all six shows for you to enjoy. In addition to watching the productions, writing reviews, insulting one another’s opinions, and engaging in childish name calling, we’re busy generating other Festival-related content.  Our hope is that we can either prepare you for your visit to the Festival, or help you feel a little bit like you’re down here in Cedar City.  Look for our reviews starting Friday.  We’ll likely post one each day through Wednesday. Not all content is available on the UTBA site.  We’re posting most of our photos on our Facebook profile page.  We’re also twittering...

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