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

[THEATER REVIEW] Mamma Mia! (Draper Amphitheater)

There is perhaps no musical that embodies the feel of summer more than Mamma Mia. It’s not the most sophisticated or profound but it is escapist fun. (I enjoy both of the movies as well!). Last Friday I had the chance to see Mamma Mia at the Draper Amphitheater with my friend Jen and we had a great time. I love outdoor theater and this production had it all.

One of my favorite parts was the set that captured the feel of a Greek island so well. I also liked the costumes and energetic choreography. There was a sense of family and chemistry amongst the cast that was contagious. I think even the most grumpy patron would smile at the antics on stage.

The music is of course loads of fun based on the songs of ABBA composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. My favorite number is probably ‘Dancing Queen’ as well as ‘Take a Chance on Me’. Stay around for the curtain calls because you get to hear ‘Waterloo’ which is a blast.

The plot is a bit of a stretch and the romantic in me wishes Sky and Sophie got married in the end but it’s still loads of fun along the way. I can’t believe this was my first show at the Draper Amphitheater but it definitely won’t be the last. I hope to return soon.

7.5 out of 10

Ranking My First 10 Live Theater Shows of 2021

With the world reopening in 2021 I made a goal to support local live theater as much as possible. Since I was 3 weeks post dose 2 of the vaccination in April I have attended 10 live shows (amazing right?) and I thought it would be fun to rank all of the shows. In truth I have enjoyed every single show and am so happy to be back at the theater that even a less good show is still a show! I also know much of the world is not as fortunate as I am here in Utah and don’t have the option of live entertainment yet, so please don’t see this as ungrateful. It’s just a fun exercise to look back on the shows I’ve been able to see, so here goes:

10. Emma– Hale Center Theater Orem

While I always enjoy the intimacy of HCTO, and I love Jane Austen the music and lyrics for this show were disappointing. It was all performed well but the songs were forgettable and bland. It just didn’t do much for me as a show, which is surprising because it was done by Paul Gordon who penned Daddy Long Legs, which I adore. Oh well!

9. The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber Live at the Eccles Theater

Seeing a big spectacle concert like this was a lot of fun, and I had a great time. The reason it comes so low is there were some production problems with the microphones that were frustrating particularly with David Osmond. If I hadn’t known the songs, I would have had no idea what he was saying. For $45 I expect those kinds of problems to be dealt with. However, it was still a very enjoyable evening of music and gravitas that only ALW can bring.

8. Aint Misbehavin- West Valley Performing Arts Center

This was a fantastic concert of jazz musician Fats Waller songs. The live orchestra was so much fun especially the piano player who put in a workout throughout the show. It comes lower on the list just because I like showtunes more than jazz, but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I hope they keep making interesting shows at this new venue.

7. Thoroughly Modern Millie– Alpine Community Youth Theatre

These teens deserve a ton of credit for this production. The performances and energy were outstanding and whoever made the costumes did an incredible job. It’s not easy to perform outdoors but they did a great job and it was a terrific night of theater. However, the show itself isn’t my favorite. The whole plotline involving human trafficking is uncomfortable. I will definitely go to see this group again but hopefully next time it is for a show I like better (although ‘Not for the Life of Me’ and ‘Gimme Gimme’ are incredible songs!)

6. Matilda– Jaks Youth Theatre Company

Matilda is a show I had long heard about but never gotten the chance to see it until yesterday. This group of children and teens did a great job and the whole production had an energy I really enjoyed. The show is stolen by the 3 villains- The Trunchbull, and Mr and Mrs Wormwood. I’m not sure who the actors were in those roles but they did a great job and they had my favorite songs. The second act isa lot stronger than the first with all the memorable songs in the latter part of the show. I can definitely see Matilda becoming to a new generation what Annie was for my generation.

5. Annie Jr-Hale Center Theatre Orem

Speaking of Annie I thoroughly enjoyed the youth production of that show at Hale Center Theatre in Orem. I’m not sure what gets taken out from Annie vs Annie Jr but the young cast did a great job and the adults playing Miss Hannigan and Daddy Warbucks (as well as others) were fantastic as well. I have a fondness for Annie (I think it’s underrated!) and love any chance I get to see it performed live. Such a hopeful sweet show.

4. Les Miserables– Hale Center Theatre Sandy

Some people might be shocked to see Les Miserables in 4th place because I adore the show and have seen it 3 times on Broadway. Make no mistake I absolutely loved this show and it was such kismet that the first show I would see back from my break would be Les Mis which is so special to me. I love all of the songs and the story. However, I feel HCT could have used their stage more effectively and had it rotating so we could see all the sides of the barricade. Les Mis was known for a rotating stage and since they have the ability to move the stage I’m not sure why they kept it so static. That said, I still had a great time and would go see it again if I could.

3. She Loves Me– PG Players

Talk about a contrast from a big Hale production to this small production of She Loves Me. I adore She Loves Me to begin with and this was such a wonderful show. It was made better by being small and intimate with a cast that had great chemistry (the leads were a married couple which was fun). The quality of the singing and acting was fantastic and I will definitely be seeing more shows at the PG Library by the PG Players. Delightful

2. Daddy Long Legs- Hale Center Theatre Sandy

If I had to pick an underrated Broadway show this would be it. Daddy Long Legs is a 2 person show that is a completely charming love story. I enjoy all the songs and the staging at Hale was very inventive and fun. I also got to see my old teacher David Smith play the lead. It is my 3rd time seeing him in the role and he and costar Kelly Coombs had great chemistry. If you get a chance to see Daddy Long Legs at a theater near you do. It’s so good.

  1. Music Man– Center Point Legacy Theatre

To see Music Man at Center Point theater I had to drive all the way to Bountiful about 35 minutes but it was completely worth it. I love Music Man and this was a great production of the iconic show. I love the message of hope and that there are no lost causes- even a conman like Harold Hill can be redeemed. I love the songs especially ‘Trouble’, ’76 Trombones’ and ‘Till There Was You’. The performances were fantastic as well as the wonderful sets, costumes and shoutout to my friend Camille on the sound! It was a magical night of theater.

So there you have it! The first 10 shows I have seen! What an incredible experience I’ve had and I look forward to a summer of many more shows. If you know of shows I should check out please let me know. I know not everyone can support live theater right now but if you can I encourage you to do so. The arts are a treasure that makes life rich and powerful. Thank you to all the performers and teams that made all of these shows possible. It has been so fun!

[THEATER REVIEW] ‘Matilda’ (Jaks Youth Theatre Company)

Previous to tonight I had heard a lot about the musical Matilda based on the Roald Dahl novel I loved as a little girl. Today I finally go the chance to see it at the Jeanne Wagner Theater at the Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts Downtown. It was part of the Jaks Youth Theater Company which is a new group to me. New show, new group means lots of fun!

Like I said, Matilda is based on the Dahl book with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and book by Dennis Kelly. (If you want to see another fun show by Minchin check out Groundhog Day. You wouldn’t think it would work but it does!). Minchin brings a lot of humor into the songs especially the villain songs. That is definitely his strength.

Matilda tells the story of a little girl who just might be a genius named Matilda. When she starts school she’s already doing hard math and reading Dickens. Unfortunately she gets no help from her parents nor is her headmistress The Trunchbull any help. In fact, they are about as mean as you get.

Trunchbull singing ‘The Smell of Rebellion’ is one of the highlights of the show.

I also really enjoyed Mr and Mrs Wormwood (the program didn’t have who was who in the various casts). They sing a song called ‘Telly’ that was another highlight of Act 2

There were some audio and microphone issues that you always have with youth theater, but that was a small problem. For most of the show the production values were strong and the kids seemed to be having a great time, which is always the most important factor in youth productions.

When we got to intermission I wasn’t feeling the show. The songs were pretty bland, but the 2nd Act moved everything up a notch. It ended up being a really fun show that kids will have a blast starring in or helping to put on behind the scenes.

Everything else was done well by Jaks Youth Theatre and I’d definitely see one of their shows again.

7 out of 10

[THEATER REVIEW] ‘She Loves Me’ (PG Players)

One of my goals in this summer of theater is to check out playhouses I haven’t visited before. One such venue is the PG Players which host their shows at the Pleasant Grove City Library in Pleasant Grove Utah. This is a small venue with tickets at $15 for adults and $14 for students and seniors. I love the show She Loves Me (and You’ve Got Mail and Shop Around the Corner!). There’s just something so appealing about the idea of 2 people falling in love over letters!

She Loves Me is a musical with music by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Book by Joe Masteroff. It is based on The play Perfumerie which also is the basis for The Shop Around the Corner and then Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

The story, if you aren’t aware, is about 2 people who work at a department store and dislike each other. All the while they are writing each other as secret pen pals and falling in love as they do it. It’s charming and the songs are very entertaining especially ‘Ice Cream’ and ‘She Loves Me’

The PG Players production did a very good job taking advantage of the small stage they having using a folding set that moved and adapted to different scenes. The costumes worked and the leads were not only talented but had great chemistry. It stars a real life couple Alex and Melinda DeBirk as Georg and Amalia respectively (which explains the chemistry).

For the most part all the technical aspects were well done and it was a very enjoyable night of theater. I love small intimate theaters. I also loved the community spirit of this production. The directors, Howard and Kathryn Little, have been producing for PG Players for many years and several of the castmates have been in multiple productions together. It honestly makes me want to participate in a show someday. Such fun!

I definitely will see future shws at the PG Players. It was a great show!

9 out of 10