Utah Theater and NYC Trip Update! (March and April 2022)

Hey everyone! I’ve got a lot to update you all on. March and April have flown by and I have been as busy as ever!

First I have some exciting news! After a trial period I have been accepted as a regular theatre critic for the UTBA or Utah Theatre Bloggers Association! This is a professional organization that compensates for reviews and provides free tickets! It is no easy task to get accepted and I am greatly honored by it! I recently reviewed WVPAC’s production of Little Women for the site which you can read here.

New York Fun!

For years I have been a member of Utah Theater Lovers group on facebook. It is a wonderful group for theater fans to nerd out about local shows and anything on a stage! I have been to a few shows locally with them, but I have never done one of their group trips…until now!

In March I went with the group on a Broadway trip to the Big Apple and had a blast. Everyone in the group was super nice and Corina and Megan did a great job planning everything. If you are interested in group travel or need assistance I recommend using All Points Travel which Corina runs.

I saw 7 shows on the trip:

The Phantom of the Opera– this was very nostalgic for me as it was the first show I saw as a girl with my Grandma in San Francisco years ago. They did an incredible job with the singing and staging. It was a treat! 8/10

Company– it was neat to see this with Sondheim so recently passing. Plus, they gender swapped Bobby making the role female, which makes a lot of sense and worked well. What a treat to hear Patti LuPone sing ”Ladies Who Lunch” 7/10

Aladdin– I’m not always high on the Disney musicals but this one is a lot of fun. The dancing and special effects dazzle (the magic carpet is so well done!) and it’s nice they had some leftover songs from the movie like “Proud of Your Boy” 8/10

The Music Man– This had the feel of a local production in the best sort of way. If I’m honest Hugh Jackman was reaching for some of the notes but I didn’t care because he and everyone else was having a great time. Sutton Foster is outstanding as usual and the huge cast of kids are great 7/10

Take Me Out– This play had some engaging, emotional moments and the performances were all good. However, I felt the tone was all over the place, and I particularly didn’t understand why a sexual assault was necessary or what the play was trying to say about the lead character when that occurs. Everyone else seems to have loved this play so maybe I just didn’t get it? It’s also has a lot of shower scenes if you know what I mean LOL 5/10

Little Shop of Horrors– I was able to see this show with my friend youtuber Kristen Maldonado and her husband Eric. We hadn’t met in person so that was a blast and fortunately so was the show! They did a great job with the staging and all the songs. It was quirky and funny. Very entertaining! 9/10

Funny Girl– We saw a preview performance of this revival and I enjoyed it. I got to see it with my friend Jacks who I podcast with each week on City Girls Pod. We had a great time together and I thought Beanie did a fantastic job and her costar Ramin Karimloo was outstanding. I didn’t love the costumes and felt they played on every plus size cliche and the story isn’t my favorite (they updated it but not enough) but I do think critics are being too harsh on it. I liked it! 7/10

We also had a great experience with Broadway Up Close. They coordinated daily ‘Meet the Artist’ seminars, a quality craft frame activity and a wonderful walking tour of the theater district. Tim Dolan, who runs it, was fantastic, and I can’t recommend them more highly. 10/10

Utah Theatre Update

I had a great time seeing a bunch of local shows in some new to me and favorite theaters.

Fun Home (Tooele Valley Theatre)- this was my first time at TVT and it’s a small intimate theater at Tooele High School, which was the perfect setting for Fun Home. This show is a brutal depiction of Alison Bechdel’s life particularly her father who is a closeted gay man who commits suicide. I was a bit mixed on the songs but the book is devastating and the performances excellent. It’s amazing you can get this kind of talent in a tiny little theater in a high school in Tooele, Utah. This show is a tough sit but definitely worth it. 7/10

Ghost: The Musical (Luminaire Theatre Company, Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center)- I’d heard bad things about this musical but I enjoyed it. I absolutely love the Mid-Valley venue and the cast was exceptional. I particularly liked the actor Derek Wayman who played Sam and Fantasia Bowers was a lot of fun as Oda Mae Brown. The songs were decent. It’s exactly the plot of Ghost so I’m not sure what people were expecting. I was satisfied. 6/10

The Drowsy Chaperone (Hopebox Theatre)- I love the Hopebox and it was really neat this was the final show for DC and so they had the recipient of their hopebox charity for the show there, which was sweet and tender (they help a cancer patient with each show). And the whole show was hilarious and very well done by all involved. 9/10

First Date (Midvale Main Street Theatre)- I had never heard of this show but decided to give it a shot because I love MMST. As the title suggests it’s about a first date between 2 very mismatched people. They did a great job and the book was quite witty with a lot of biting commentary on modern relationships. The songs were less successful but I still had a good time. 6/10

See How They Run (Pleasant Grove Players)- PGP is a small theater group that performs in the Pleasant Grove Library. I love the intimacy and community spirit of their shows. This play is from the 1940s and it is so funny! If you want that screwball comedy you have to see this show. The whole cast did a great job. 10/10

Little Women (West Valley Performing Arts)- you can read my review here. 8/10

Mamma Mia! (American Fork Community Theater)- I had never been to the Valentine Theater (went to the outdoor amphitheater to see Thoroughly Modern Millie last year). This show had such a great community spirit I defy anyone to not enjoy it. This show is silly and bubbly and you certainly don’t go to see it for the plot. All the performers were excellent with great choreography and production design. 8/10

Assassins (Black Box Theatre SLCC)- Assassins was a bucket list show I’ve been wanting to check off, and I’m grateful for the students at SLCC for performing it. They did a phenomenal job on this challenging show. It’s tricky portraying the villains of history but that’s what makes the show interesting. It doesn’t have my favorite Sondheim songs and at times it does feel a little too much glorifying these genuinely terrible people but it’s still an interesting watch I recommend. 7/10

Anything Goes at the Cinema- this is an incredible filmed production of London’s West End’s Anything Goes. The pro-shot showcases the big dancing numbers as well as getting you close to the actors to see their comic acting. Sutton Foster is probably the best I’ve ever seen her and Robert Lindsay is a blast as Moonface. I also thought Samuel Edwards as Billy was outstanding. It’s still one of my favorite movies of 2022 so you could say I liked it! ‘Blow Gabriel Blow’ was the highlight in both singing and dancing. 10/10

Finally I was invited by On Pitch Performing Arts Center to their Spotlight Gala. It was a lot of fun to wear my HCA Awards dress again and I was happy to support a wonderful organization. If you are in the area check out all the good work they are doing.

So there you have it! Have you been able to see any shows in NYC or in your local area? Please share in the comments section.

CURRENT MINI REVIEWS (18 1/2, AMBULANCE, FATHER STU)

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Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I have been busy as usual.  The fun thing about doing my podcasts is there is always something new and fresh to talk about. Lately I’ve been covering a lot of television at Hallmarkies Podcast which has been demanding but exciting.

Anyway, I have some reviews to update you on. What have you been watching? There is so much it’s impossible to keep up with everything, so I would love your suggestions!

SANDITON SEASON 2

Anyone who knows me knows I was not a fan of Sanditon season 1. Based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel the creators decided it was more important to be edgy than to provide a satisfying love story. I particularly disliked anything to do with Esther and her relationship with her “brother” Edward.

What’s so surprising is it is created by Andrew Davies who has given us great period piece projects like the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. With Sanditon it’s like he has completely forgotten what makes for a satisfying romance.

Why did I watch season 2 you ask? Well, there was such an outcry at the terrible ending of season 1 I assumed season 2 would fix it all. Unfortunately that was not the case. Almost every love affair ends badly. Esther’s plotline is still awful, and we get another befuddling ending for Charlotte. What on earth! Jane Austen would not approve!

I hate this show!

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

18 1/2

I always enjoy a good historical fiction. It’s fun to go back in time and wonder what might have happened or what people might have been like? Such is the case with the new indie 18 1/2. In this movie we get a fictionalized portrayal of what it might have been like for a White House transcriber and her associate who find the 18 1/2 minutes missing from the Watergate tapes.

I liked Willa Fitzgerald and John Magaro in the lead roles and the simulated tapes with Bruce Campbell as Nixon and Jon Cryer as Bob Haldeman feel very convincing. Richard Kind also appears as a supporting role as a man who owns an inn where the transcribers are staying (it had the feel of It Happened One Night in those sequences, although not as much a romance).

The film does drag in the middle when Connie and Paul are trying to schmooze fellow guests (Sullivan Jones, Marija Juliette Abney) at the inn who also want the tapes. But overall this is an exciting and engaging time at the movies!

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

FATHER STU

I admit I tend to be easier on faith-based films than a lot of my fellow critics. This comes partly because I recognize the audience they are creating content for and that often they are made on small budgets with good intentions. Nevertheless, I recognize the genre could do a lot better in making nuanced and engaging films certainly to appeal to more than just the hard core believers (which I am not a traditional Christian so I include myself in that group).

This is why I get excited about a film like Father Stu. It is far from perfect but it takes risks in the genre that excite me and I hope it is successful enough to encourage others to make similar attempts. The first reason Father Stu stands out is it’s strong R rating. This is not a one or two curse words R. It uses the f word frequently as well as other profanities. This is really surprising given the target market.

That alone wouldn’t make the movie worth seeing (of course) but I appreciate the film has flawed characters that aren’t paragons of virtue. The title character, Father Stu, played by Mark Wahlberg is kind of a mess and he remains a mess even when he gets an ASL-like condition and his body starts deteriorating.  His relationship with God is also refreshingly simple and free from theatrics.

Unfortunately I wish the movie was made better. The directing is very clunky with strange photo choices and odd pacing.  There are also some weird side-plots that don’t work like Father Stu’s girlfriend who he seems infatuated with until all the sudden he’s not and wants to be a priest. Also his priest roommate was maybe closeted gay man but it was handled strangely?

Nevertheless, flaws and all I think Father Stu is worth a watch and if someone were to ask me this is the way I would like faith-based films to go.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

AMBULANCE

I have never been a big fan of director Michael Bay particularly his overbearing and annoying Transformers films. I did like his movie 13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi which perhaps was too politically charged to get the credit it deserves as an engaging action film but for the most part his style of directing isn’t my favorite.

Now we have AmbuLAnce and it is definitely the best movie Bay has made in a long time and while I had some issues it’s a fun action thriller.

The story centers around 2 brothers Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II who plan the perfect bank heist only to end up in a high speed chase around LA in an ambulance (hence the captialized LA in AmbuLAnce). This seems to be the year for movies set in LA and I think anyone who has visited or lived there will recognize the ridiculous nature of most of the chases in this film. Never has LA traffic been so free during a whole business day!

Gyllenhaal and Mateen do a great job playing off each other and Bay builds tension well as the day gets crazier with each decision Gyllenhaal makes. Eiza González is less convincing as an EMT trying to keep a cop alive in the ambulance but it works.

My problem with AmbuLAnce is the way Bay filmed the movie. The constant swirling drone shots and shaky cam made me nauseated. Honestly I’d recommend skipping this film in the theaters and watching it at home where you won’t be as sick. I know I’m more sensitive than most but it’s a long movie and all that movement was too much.

The movie also gets more ridiculous as it goes along with Gyllenhaal’s character getting more insane by the minute, which is fun, but also hurts the tension when its so unbelievable. It also vacillates greatly on how we  are to value human life. People are mowed over, cars are flipped, cops and thugs are killed and we are to be entertained where other deaths are treated with great solemnity.

There is fun to be had in AmbuLAnce but in the end the shaky filmmaking and questionable character/plot choices were enough to make it not enjoyable for me. Maybe watch it when it comes on streaming at home. Otherwise it’s a skip

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

COLMA: THE MUSICAL

This last review isn’t a ‘current’ film but one we are covering for The Criterion Project podcast I host that covers films on the Criterion Channel streaming service. It’s a micro-budget musical called Colma: The Musical and I loved it!

Made on a budget of only 15k in 2006 this labor of love from director Richard Wong and writer HP Mendoza (and lead actor) is a total delight. It tells the story of 3 friends graduating high school in Colma, California and trying to decide what to do next. The songs are the real highlight and it is full of bop after bop.

Naturally some of the production feels hyper-indie but it’s all done with such love and energy I didn’t care. If you have the Criterion Channel I highly recommend Colma: the Musical and look for our review to come on the podcast next week. It is a fantastic hidden gem more people should be talking about.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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