Author: Rachel's Reviews

I am a rottentomatoes approved film critic and podcaster. I love animation, romcoms and holiday films and I am the proud creator of the popular Hallmarkies Podcast as well as Rachel's Reviews. I love interviewing creative minds and grow each time I interact with a new human. I love what I do

The Best of Utah Theater 2022 Part 2

Earlier this year I gave my awards for the best of Utah theater in the first 6 months of the year. You can read that post here. Now I would like to present my favorites from the bottom half of the year. As I said in that post, I did not get a chance to see everything and I only saw one cast of the shows in question but I did see 50 shows in that part of the year including one Broadway trip. So here we go…

Best Play– A Christmas Carol at Parker Theater

One of the great things about writing for Utah Theater Bloggers Assoc is it has encouraged me to see more plays. Musicals will always have my heart but it’s a great experience to see plays as well. One show that I reviewed for UTBA is A Christmas Carol at Parker Theater. I was introduced to this theater by UTBA seeing their extraordinary Hamlet this summer but was even more blown away by their A Christmas Carol. I liked it so much I saw it twice- bringing my parents and aunt with me for the second viewing.

Everything from the script, to the acting, to the luminous visual effects were outstanding. You can read my full review here.

Best Musical Comedy- Little Shop of Horrors (West Valley Performing Arts Center)

The folks at West Valley Performing Arts Center have continually impressed me with the quality of their productions. I loved their In the Heights in July, Beauty and the Beast in February and closing out the year with Little Shop of Horrors. Now I saw Little Shop on off-Broadway in March so the bar was set high for this production and they completely met it. This was every bit as good as the production I saw in New York if not better. The singing was outstanding. The puppetry and production design immersive and realistic. More people should be going to this theater as they are routinely beating their old owners Hale Sandy for a fraction of the price.

Best Musical Drama- Bright Star at CenterPoint Legacy Theater

Perhaps it is unfair to give CenterPoint Legacy this prize for their production of Bright Star because I absolutely adore this musical. In fact, I gave this prize to the Ziegfeld Theater last year for their production of Bright Star. What can I say? It’s an amazing show that gives you everything you could want: beautiful music, laughter, tears, wonderful story. This production by CenterPoint was outstanding- as usual. I was stunned when the couple next to me left at intermission! How dare they!

Best Actress- Reagan Fausett as Betty in White Christmas at the Regalo Theater, Lehi Utah

I absolutely loved White Christmas at the Regalo. I think the adaptation actually improves upon the movie in almost every way. The whole cast was excellent but Reagan Fausett stole the show as Betty . Her voice has a beautiful, rich quality to it and could take on the jazzy and classical Broadway tunes in the show. She was also up for the dancing numbers- something that Rosemary Clooney couldn’t do in the movie! This was a Broadway level performance in my opinion.

Best Actor- Darrin Burnett as Paul in A Chorus Line at the Empress Theatre in Magna Utah

I had never seen A Chorus Line until this Fall and I had never been to the Empress Theatre as it’s a good drive from my house. Fortunately I enjoyed both the theater and the musical and the standout was Darrin Burnett as Paul San Marco. He has a monologue where he shares his coming out story with his parents disowning him that was completely devastating. You could tell Burnett put his heart and soul into the performance and after he is carried off stage with a busted knee we all sat there absorbing what we’d just seen. Outstanding.

Best Ensemble- Entire cast of The Addams Family (Scera Theater, Orem Utah)

The Addams Family was all the rage this Fall in Utah but unfortunately I only saw 1 of the many productions because I was traveling so much in September and October. However, the one I did see at Scera in Orem was so good. The whole cast and production was on a Broadway level quality for a fraction of the price. The choreography was energetic and delightful, the sets interactive and surprising. But mostly the cast felt like a real family. Garrett Smit and Lauren Billings had wonderful chemistry as Gomez and Morticia and Sydney Swalberg and Luli Peters are great as Wednesday and Pugsley Addams.

Best Choreography- Matilda (Payson Community Theatre, Payson Utah)

I had the chance to review Matilda for UTBA at the Payson Community Theatre and I must say I was blown away. To be honest, the first time I saw the show I wasn’t that impressed. The fantasy elements of the script don’t work well and the whole thing felt bloated. However, the folks at PCT did such a great job those problems went away. I’m not over-stating it when I say the sets and the costumes were Broadway level quality. The performances were also all outstanding but what impressed me the most was how large the cast was and how great they executed the choreography. You can read my full review here. They truly made this show come alive and I just wish more people had the chance to see such a wonderful show. (They also had a married couple in real life playing Miss Honey and Trunchbull!)

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!

An Everything Update… August and September Happened

Hi everyone! I hope you are doing well. This is post is most delayed, which I apologize for. It’s kind of a vicious cycle when you get behind on a blog. The more behind you get, the more you have to cover until even attempting to write feels overwhelming. I guess I am glad to be living such a life that my August and September were so full of incredible experiences. It really isn’t too bad to be Rachel Wagner in 2022.

August

The highlight of August was my epic trip to Los Angeles. I was in California for 10 days (too long a trip honestly!). The first part was covering Christmas Con for Hallmarkies Podcast. This was an amazing experience where I got to meet co-hosts Megan and Ann and we covered the red carpet together.

It was a surreal experience to cover the red carpet and interview the stars in between outlets like People Magazine and E! News.

Then Megan and I had an incredible, surreal experience where we went to the beach for a few days and I got bit by a stingray! To recover we splurged and spent one day at the incredible Ritz Carlton in Santa Barbara and I will honestly never forget it. I’m dreaming of it daily.

The epic trip continued with my first visit to Universal Studios Hollywood (do the VIP tour. It is so worth it). I also did the tour of Warner Bros studio, saw Jaws with my LA friends, and spent a lot of time at my amazing AIR BNB with an incredible pool.

The trip was finished off with a 2 day HCA TV awards event where I was privileged to get to present Arcane with the Best Animated Series Streaming prize. I’ll never forget it.

Other fun stuff that happened in August includes seeing 8 shows that were all a lot of fun with the highlight being Matilda at Payson Community Theater and Hamlet at the Parker Theatre. I’m constantly blown away by the Broadway-level quality of so many of these local productions. You can read many of my theater reviews on utba site.

September

The big highlight for September was attending the D23 expo in Anaheim and 4 days of Disneyland. I debated about attending the expo this year because it can be a bit of a mixed bag of an experience. All the lines can be grueling especially when you are sitting for hours with no back support hoping to get it. This time it was a better experience because I knew what I was getting into and only waited for one Hall D23 line. The highlights were the Muppets Christmas Carol panel and the Encanto Celebration panel.

I also spent 2 days in Disneyland, 1 day in California Adventure and went to the Oogie Boogie Bash twice. My friend Jen was there with her family and I got to meet her adorable niece Ellie and we had a great time together. She is such a sweet little girl. It was super hot during this trip so it was beyond nice to go to Jen’s hotel room at the Grand Californian (and go in the pool!). Because I had a longer trip I could pace myself and not feel like I had to kill myself each day. This is the way to do it in my opinion.

My only major complaint is the portion sizes on the food have gotten outrageous. I paid $10 for a tiny cup of chili at the Carnation Cafe. I paid $30 for a meager portion of Chinese food at California Adventure. The food is always over-priced at Disneyland (delicious but overpriced) but this is at a new level.

Still I had a great time at both D23 and Disneyland and I hope you are all following me on instagram to see all the photos and more details.

Even with my D23 trip I still managed to see 7 shows in September. They were all very enjoyable but the highlight has to be Bright Star at Centerpoint Legacy and Addams Family at Scera. These are both Broadway level quality productions that are still playing. I can’t recommend them more highly (I think 5 local theater companies are doing Addams Family this year. It’s a phenomenon and I wish I had time to see them all). I also enjoyed seeing A Chorus Line for the first time at the Empress Theatre in Magna (loved it there!). I wish I had time to write up my thoughts on the touring company of To Kill a Mockingbird because Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation takes many liberties from the book and I had mixed feelings on the result. Didn’t hate it but didn’t love the changes.

So there is as quick a look-back of August and September as I could come up with. What a ride! I feel so blessed to have had such incredible experiences. And the fun continues in October going to New York for NYFF and the beginning of Christmas coverage on Hallmarkies Podcast (yes before Halloween). If you enjoy what I do and feel like you can support an independent podcaster and critic check out my patreon which has tons of great benefits and helps me more than I can say. Thanks so much and hope you all have a great October!