All that glisters is not gold

The line from The Merchant of Venice is certainly true. However the production of The Merchant of Venice mounted in Cedar City was pure gold. Shakespeare's text certainly provides plenty of material to work with. With that base, however, the Utah Shakespearean Festival mounted an even more amazing, rich version of the play. Unfortunately this weekend was the last of the fall season. Now it is time to await the coming of the 2007 summer season.

Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular

We went to see Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular last night. It is an outstanding Las Vegas show. The quality of the music, signing, dancing and music is fantastic. And it is Las Vegas. That is it's somewhat like restaurant chains in Las Vegas - take the best restaurant chain in the world and put one in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas version will be more expensive, not as good and you'll feel rushed. That describes Phantom in Las Vegas. It is a great production of a great show, but it's been cut down and lost some of its beauty in doing so. With many scenes cut in half, and some cut all together it becomes more a frantic race to the end. Gone are the moments to pause and catch one's breath and really enjoy the show.

This comment may seem a little odd at first, but one of the things that I didn't care for was a little too much detail and not enough left to the imagination. With the exquisite theater built for the production and the fantastic special effects, combined with the speed of the show, it's tougher to get to a place where the mind is completely carried away into the fantasy of the show.

There are much better productions to be certain, but this one is pretty good. It would be helped greatly by adding the Overture back in to the production. WIthout the intermission it's a little tough to add the Overture to the second act back to the score but at least the Overture to the first act would help a lot. It is also great to see a new show in Vegas that has live music.


This evening brought redemption of a sort. A couple of months ago a seemingly benign envelope arrived from Netflix. Inside was one of the worst movies of all time. Sure, I'd heard it was bad. I thought "How bad can a movie be," and little did I know. The movie version of The Phantom of the Opera is amongst the worst ever. The lip-synching cast can neither sing nor act and the staging is embarrassingly bad.

Tonight however I saw The Phantom of the Opera as it was meant to be done. On The Great White Way history's second-longest running musical is a magical experience. Mind you one of, if not the worst, seat in the house sets one back a hefty $150. However, the performance is amazing. Howard McGillin as The Phantom is amazing as are the other leads Sandra Joseph as Christine Daae makes her Broadway debut with Tim Martin Gleason playing Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, a role he previously played on the touring production.

The first show I've seen on Broadway I had high expectations for the cast. However the staging of this production is beyond belief. On a standard proscenium stage the production does what the movie wasn't able to do and stages a believable complex story in an elegant and beautiful way and all without the benefit of "takes" and the chance to edit away the "mistakes".


Yesterday brought the opportunity to take in a couple of shows at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. The production the festival has mounted of Camelot is simply stunning. Three strong leads, Brian Vaughn as King Arthur, Christine Williams as Queen Guenevere and Michael Sharon as Lancelot, form the core of this excellent cast.

Finding the right place to start commenting on this production is hard. The staging, cast, choreography, and music were all outstanding. For example the joust scene with most of the cast on stage brings together the excellent talent, music choreography and staging into one crystalline scene. With each pass of the off-stage combatants the company moves in such fluid unison as to completely sell the idea they are indeed watching an event instead of looking into the audience.

Since I first visited the festival in the early 1980's I've seen dozens of plays and a handful of musicals produced by this excellent company. Camelot, however, ranks in the top few productions this elite company has put together.

The festival has been producing the works of Shakespeare since its 1962 inaugural season. In 1989 the festival opened the Randal L. Jones theater for presenting woks from the "Shakespeares of other lands." With the addition of this second theater the company expanded its repertoire to include annual musical productions.

And then there were none

Went to see Agatha Christie's classic whodunit Ten Little Indians last evening. I'm all for more local and regional theater and it is great to see facilities like the Summerlin Library and Performing Arts Center. The play, however, left something to be desired. It wasn't terrible, it wasn't great, the best description of it is "it wasn't." There was very little notable aside from an occasional problem with the microphones (though they were completely unnecessary for the small theater). The acting was ok. not good... not bad... Katie Craig was by far the best of the cast in her portrayal of Vera Claythorne.

'Almost Heaven'

As a fan of John Denver for many years I was excited to see the Denver Center Theater Company's production of 'Almost Heaven'. Without having read extensively about the production I expected an impersonation of Denver in a telling of his life with a musical retrospective thrown in.

The production we saw was not at all what I expected. Instead of a main character with a few supporting characters, there is an ensemble cast of six vocalists and five instrumentalists. The beautifully interwoven arrangements presented Denver's music in ways I never would have considered. With so many wonderful arrangements it is difficult to know where to start. Jeff Waxman's arrangements include a complex medley of Annie's Song and Leaving on a Jet Plane woven to show the simple beauty of the love between John and Ann as well as the complex times of conflict and termoil. The medly, as do the other songs, succeeds in sharing the beauty and harmony as well as the variety and complexity of the music and the man who created the music that has touched so many.

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