The Best of Utah Theater 2022 So Far

June has come and gone and I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights of the first 6 months of regional theater here in Utah. I have seen 50 shows in 2022 including my Broadway trip and had some of the most incredible experiences of my life. I have also had the joy of being a writer for Utah Theater Bloggers Association which has introduced me to even more local theaters like Creekside Theatre Festival and the Terrace Plaza Playhouse.

When picking out my favorite shows it’s like picking a favorite child. I love almost all of them for different reasons and I greatly admire all the mostly volunteer talent involved in over 30 local venues I frequented so far in 2022. I obviously have not seen everything available in 2022, and I haven’t seen every cast a show may have offered, so take these awards with a grain of salt. It’s all in fun after all!

Best Play- Sense & Sensibility (Lehi Arts Council)

I have to give some honorable mentions to The Normal Heart by An Other Theatre Company, which was very moving, and to See How They Run by Pleasant Grove Players, which was hilarious. The Play That Goes Wrong was also a riot at Centerpoint Legacy. My favorite play of 2022, however, has to go to the wonderful version of Sense & Sensibility by the Lehi Arts Council. The whole cast captured the spirit of Austen’s writing and they all had great chemistry- some of the actors playing multiple roles including acting as dogs at one point! It was remarkable to watch a tiny stage with minimal props become one of my favorite classic novels.

Best Musical Comedy- Hairspray (Draper Amphitheater)

Some honorable mentions go to both versions of the Drowsy Chaperone I saw at HCTO and Hopebox as well as the Scarlet Pimpernel at Terrace Plaza and Catch Me if You Can at Scera. Singin in the Rain also blew me away at Hale Sandy. These were all excellent but the best was the production of Hairspray at the Draper Amphitheater. I loved the cast especially the fact they had Edna and Wilbur alternating roles so both actors knew all the choreography of each other’s parts! It added to the chemistry and energy of the performance. All the actors were great. The singing was wonderful. The costumes were incredible and I loved they had a television projection on the screen behind the actors to make it feel like a TV studio at the Corny Collins Show. You can read my full review here.

Best Musical Drama- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Kensington Theater, South Jordan)

There are a lot of honorable mentions here. Bright Star and Camelot at HCTO were stand-outs. Little Women and In the Heights were great at West Valley. West Side Story at Hopebox and The Light in the Piazza at Hale Sandy were Broadway quality. Also Fun Home at Tooele Valley Theatre was gut wrenching and powerfully done.

All that said nothing impressed me more than The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Kensington Theatre. And this is for a show that I don’t even like the animated movie it is based on that much. From the costumes, to the lavish sets, to the full live orchestra, everything about this show was outstanding. I liked it so much I bought a professional DVD recording they had made, and I can’t wait to watch it many times. It really is incredible that hidden away in South Jordan, Utah you can get this quality of a production and all for under $20.

Best Actress- Caitlin Olsen as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical (Warner Cast- OPPA in Layton)

I saw many terrific performances by actresses in 2022 but the one that has stuck with me the most is Caitlin Olsen as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at OPPA. She perfectly captured Elle and isn’t the typical stick-thin actress you normally see. Her bubbly energy was so inspiring and her incredible singing voice nailed the surprisingly tough songbook. I wish I lived closer to Layton so I could have seen it multiple times for her performance alone. (I’m sure the other actress in the other cast was great too. I just didn’t get a chance to see her).

Best Actor- A.J. Nielsen as Frank Abagnale Jr in Catch Me if You Can (Scera Theater, Orem)

I honestly wasn’t going to see this show because I’m not the biggest fan of the movie (unpopular opinion), but I heard so many good things that I decided to watch it on closing night and was thoroughly charmed by the entire production. I loved all the singing and dancing and A.J. Nielsen was so charismatic in the lead role. He had great chemistry with Mark Gordon who played his nemesis Carl Hanratty and with Nathaniel Noyes who played his father. All 3 deserve best acting awards. It made for a wonderful night of theater.

Best Ensemble- Entire cast of Fun Home (Tooele Valley Theatre)

Tooele, Utah is a good hour drive for me so going all the way out there to see a show better be worth it. In the case of Fun Home it definitely was. If you don’t know Fun Home is the musical based on Alison Bechdel’s (of the Bechdel test fame) real life family. It’s an honest and brutal story involving her father’s closet homosexuality and eventual suicide, and her own coming out and coping with her father’s poor decisions. Alison was played by 3 separate actors, Emily Henwood, Lucile Johnson and Sofia Kenrick, and they were all great but the stand out was Henry Ballesteros as the father. Again, amazing you can see this kind of performance in the back of a high school theater in Tooele, Utah. I’ll never forget it.

Best Choreography- Singin’ in the Rain (Hale Centre Theatre, Sandy)

It seems almost unfair to compare Hale Sandy to the other theaters I’ve mentioned because they have a way different budget and stage to work with. However, I am also more critical of Hale for that very reason. Fortunately there were few flaws to be found in their latest production of Singin’ in the Rain. I liked it so much I have tickets to see the alternate cast later in July. From the iconic rain dance, to the long tap dance numbers, to quiet moments of dance between Don and Kathy, the choreography was the real stand-out, and it couldn’t have been done any better. It was dazzling, and the show is still on so if you haven’t had a chance to see it go! This one is worth the steep price tag at Hale.

So there you have it. That’s the best of 2022 Utah Theater in my opinion. What have you seen? What are your favorites? I’d love to hear!

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