Today I give my review of the new production of Les Miserables at Hale Centre Theatre. My first time at live theater in over a year!
It’s no secret that I spend a lot of my life cooped up in doors. Sometimes people will say the weather has been bad but I don’t really know because I’ve been inside all day! So lately for my sanity I’ve been trying to get out and go to more activities- particularly plays and concerts and I thought I would give you a round up of what I’ve seen. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these and what you thought.
First cool experience is I got to go to the Utah Symphony to hear a concert called An American in Paris which was half Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and half Schubert’s Symphony No 7 in C Major. I preferred the Gershwin but as Utah has one of the best symphonies in the country it was a great experience.
Next, if you’ve been following my blog you probably know my favorite book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Well, after 13 years he has a new book called Bridge of Clay which I am dying to read. He came to Salt Lake for a lecture and book signing and it was really neat. He autographed my book and I was able to tell him how much his writing meant to me. So cool!
Then I tried out a new theater in Provo called The Hive. They were putting on a new original play called The Bookbinders Tale, which I had heard great things about. Unfortunately I found it to be a bit hipstery for me. I think it felt it was being more groundbreaking in its themes and messages than it really was. Still, I like what they are trying to do with the theater and would definitely give them another chance.
Anyone who has been following my blog knows how much I adore Josh Groban. One of the coolest experiences of my life was in 2007 when my friend Camille got bumped from the nosebleeds to down right by the stage! I also love Idina Menzel and have seen her in concert. So I was thrilled to see they were touring together and snatched up a seat (a terrible seat but I was sitting by nice people so it was fun). They did an amazing job and sung all the songs I wanted them to. My only qualm was that the big screen was broken so we could barely see them (the photo of them is from the Deseret News). But other than that a fantastic concert!
I also had the chance to make a new friend named Ashley who is a member of a theater group I follow on facebook. Always good to go out of your comfort zone and meet someone new. 🙂
As I was driving around in my hometown of Draper I noticed a sign for ‘A Night of Broadway’ by the Draper Philharmonic and Choral Society and decided to give it a try. To my delight it was such a great experience! Everything was so well done with so many different shows covered by talented singers and dancers. There were a few minor hiccups with microphones but other than that it was amazing and I hope to go to many more of their concerts
I was very excited to see Hale Center Theaters latest version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I had seen it there once before years ago (at the old Hale of course) and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately this time I left with mixed feelings. It was fun and I enjoyed seeing it with my family I thought some of the casting was a little off (not great chemistry) and the show isn’t very memorable. I couldn’t tell you a single song. Also it doesn’t use the Sink Me and iconic poem very well. The production of the play was very good and great costumes.
Next I was able to see 3 shows at Hale Center Theater Orem. 2 of them were at a double header of sorts. First I saw The Velveteen Rabbit, which is a play for children written by my former teacher Dave Smith. It was a very sweet little play for kids. Next I saw Anything Goes which is a bright and bubbly play full of Cole Porter songs. Naturally I loved it!
But the greatest surprise was seeing Daddy Long Legs which is a 2 person show based on the classic book (which I’m not high on and I like the movie even less). I went into it with low expectations but I wanted to support Dave and I ended up being delighted. The songs are great! It’s very romantic and I was amazed how they could learn so many lines! Very impressive!
Finally I went to another ‘Night of Broadway’ this time at the Scera theater in Orem. It was full of talent and they mixed in the standards with some more obscure picks. It was great. My only complaint is the seats in that theater are so small I could barely sit through it and you can’t move the seat arm rest up making it quite uncomfortable. Oh well
So there you have it! It’s been a pretty fun Fall for checking out the arts. There are so many great things to see and do that it can be quite overwhelming. I’m grateful to live in such a artistic and talented place.
What have you been doing lately? Been to any plays or concerts? Any recommendations? Let me know! Thanks!
Anyone who has followed this blog knows I love musical theater and that Hale Center Theater both in Orem and West Valley are two of the finest regional theaters in the country. I would truly hold their productions up to anything I’ve seen on Broadway. You probably also know I am a die-hard Les Miserables fan. It was the first music, not just musical, that made a significant impact on me and I’ve seen it 3 times on Broadway. So it was with a great deal of enthusiasium I went to see The Pirate Queen at Hale Center Theater written by Les Mis composers Alain Boublil (lyrics) and Claude- Michel Schonberg (music).
The Pirate Queen tells the true story of Grace O’Malley the daughter of an Irish Chieftan in the 16th Century. She’s a fiery lass and wants to hit the open seas with her father. There’s a lot of bold female talk in this musical including songs called ‘Woman’, ‘My Grace’, ‘The Choice is Mine’, ‘Boy’s’ll Be Boys’, ‘She Who Has All’ and ‘Woman to Woman’. There’s a point where it goes from bold to a little cheesy and patronizing. It’s kind of like if someone is telling you too often you look beautiful, you probably don’t look that beautiful…
Anyway, Grace gets on the open seas and ends up involved in conflict at sea, in arranged marriage, forbidden love, sword fights and even confronting Queen Elizabeth. She even gets in a sword fight just after having a baby. It is quite the lass indeed!
All of this is done with tons of flair by Hale Center Theater. The costumes are particularly stunning capturing that Elizabethan feel perfectly. The Irish dancing is a lot of fun and feels right out of Riverdance! As always with Hale, the singing was excellent. I saw it with Bre Welch as Grace and Cecily Ellis-Bills as Queen Elizabeth.
You can get a feel for it in this little promo:
The problem is, and it pains me to say it, I thought the songs and music were really poor especially being they are from Boublil and Schonberg. I left not wanting to download a single song. Nothing was memorable or even stood out as a big number. It all kind of meshed together. B and S’s musicals are practically all music so if it isn’t good that’s a huge problem.
As far as the script the plot and dialogue were also weak. I get it is a true story but Grace felt like a stock, predictable character. There was no break out moment like Dreamed a Dream or On My Own and most of the side characters were completely forgettable unlike Les Mis. (I know tough to compare to Les Mis but I can’t help it when it is the same writing team).
It’s not like I was miserable or something. If you want a generic, well put together play than you’ll enjoy it, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. The whole thing just felt very flat and soapy when it should have been epic and engaging.
But I certainly appreciate the effort put in by the cast and crew. Like I said, they did everything they could to elevate the weak material, so I give them a lot of props. Hopefully Boublil and Schonberg will be able to find their mojo and write something better that Hale can than elevate soon.
Have any of you heard of this play? Does it sound intriguing to you? In a way I kind of wish the story could be retooled and tweaked because there is potential there. It reminded me of Hale’s production of Scarlet Pimpernel and Zorro both which had way more memorable music and in a musical that’s kind of important. Oh well!
Last night I had the great opportunity to go to one of our amazing local theater companies Hale Center Theater Orem to see their production of In the Heights. This is a show I had never seen before and was fairly unfamiliar with the songs and storyline (I had 4 of the songs on my ipod but had never listened to the complete soundtrack). I love seeing shows that are classics that I know I will love but it is also fun to see something totally new and unexpected.
In the Heights is also different because it mixes hip hop with broadway in a way I’ve never seen before. Here is a clip from the Tony performance when it won best new musical
It was a little bit more adult than what I’ve seen at Hale before but still at a PG-13 level for sure . I have mentioned Hale Theaters several times on this blog but I don’t think I’ve ever profiled them on an exclusive post.
There are 2 Hale theaters in Utah, one in West Valley (soon to be Sandy) and in Orem. The theater in West Valley is larger and has a million dollar stage that can move around and provide some pretty amazing special effects.
Hale Orem is smaller (i couldn’t find a good photo of that stage) without the fancy special effects but it is equally compelling and intimate. In fact, on some productions I think smaller is better (I tend to feel that way about The Christmas Carol where the special effects and excessive fog machine at Hale West Valley can be a little much). It can also force Hale Orem to be very creative in the small space as in I think the Secret Garden where they moved door frames around to show a chase in a large manor.
Both of Hale theaters are theater in the round. where the seats are pointed down at the stage instead of staring up in an auditorium like a traditional play. This has an immersive feel that allows the audience member to be surrounded by the performance and to have a good seat from anywhere in the theater.
So they are good with the theaters but then the Hale’s make things extra special with wonderful talent and show choices. I’m amazed with how great the talent is especially considering that most of the performers are volunteers doing it for the joy of it not as a full time job. I really think that either Hale theater should be considered for the Tony Regional Theater Award. The Utah Shakespeare festival won that award and Hale Theaters are equally worthy.
Here’s some idea of what you see at both theaters:
I hope that gives you a feel for the quality of the shows. I’ve seen so many shows at both that it is hard to remember everything but here are some that come to mind
Hale West Valley:
My Fair Lady
Annie Get Your Gun
Zorro: The Musical (world premiere)
Once on this Island
The Wedding Singer
Hale Center Theater Orem: (I take voice lessons from them so I am a bit partial)
Secret Garden (a favorite of mine)
Beauty and the Beast
West Side Story
All Shook Up
Crazy for You
Singing in the Rain
Anyway, that gives you an idea of the range and quality. It is often as good if not better than anything I’ve seen on broadway and to make it even better most of the shows are under $20 and family friendly. It is a true blessing of living in Utah, so if you don’t go to see their shows you are really missing out.
My only comment to them would be it would be nice if they had more variety in their selection of plays. Between the two theaters they have done Arsenic and Old Lace, Lend me a Tenor, The Foreigner, Curious Savage, Hasty Heart and No Time for Sergeants multiple times and as frequent attendees of both theaters I don’t want to get season tickets to shows I’ve just seen. Particularly glaring is when it is done just a year after the other theater did it. For example, Hale Orem did the 39 steps one year and Hale West Valley did it the year after that. Or last year Arsenic and Old Lace (a particular favorite for this area I’m not sure why?) was done by Orem and now it is on the docket for next year in West Valley.
I understand the 2 companies are different businesses but as a business you should look at your competition and try to pick new and exciting material and not just for your musicals. I am sure it is tough to find clean and appropriate plays for a budget but I’m sure there are more out there than the repeats.
I can only think of a few misses with Hale. Last years Game’s Afoot was a huge disappointment. The ads made you think it was a play about Sherlock Holmes. In truth it was a lame farce about actors who played Sherlock Holmes. It also didn’t have the professional acting I expect with Hale. Lines were dropped and performances were clownish. Still, it was a rare miss.
I also look forward every year to seeing The Christmas Carol (one I don’t mind repeating!) every year at one or sometimes both of the Hale theaters. The man who plays Scrooge at Hale Theater Orem is amazing and has been doing it for decades. Its really an act of generosity to give so much of your time to the community during the holidays. It makes Christmas for me and I wouldn’t miss it!
So, if you haven’t seen a show at Hale Theater, go! And if you need someone to go with, call me!
Today was the summer recital for my voice lessons and it was another success. There were about 12 performers plus both of the Hale teachers Amanda and Dave. Everyone did great! We have 3 recitals a year and it is neat to see how each girl or boy improves during the intermittent months.
For this recital I sang “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Like always, it wasn’t perfect but it showed improvement. I think it was one of my best performances of the Broadway belty style of singing. I can’t say enough about how thrilling it is to see my voice get better and better. It’s a childhood dream coming true. I hope you enjoy the video. It is a bit tough to hear in points, so turn up your computer!
ps. I was wearing practically the same outfit in May and you can definitely see the weight loss! Wahoo!