Fine cast elevates cornpone humor of PTC’s “Shucked” – Oct 30, 2022

Take a passel of musical-theater stock characters (the ingenue, the con artist who woos her, the hometown boy waiting on the sidelines, the wise-cracking sidekicks and the all-knowing narrators), give them a score of soaring pop-country hits waiting to happen, and you have Shucked, the latest Broadway hopeful to make its world premiere at Salt Lake City’s Pioneer Theatre Company.

Is the plot predictable? Yes. Are the jokes unapologetically corny and occasionally a little smutty? Oh yes. Will you have a good time anyway? Also yes.

Shucked, which opened Friday, has solid credentials: music and lyrics by Nashville hitmakers Brandy … Read More

Pioneer Theatre’s “Scapin” offers more silliness than sophistication in updated Moliere – Sep 18, 2022

Pioneer Theatre Company’s Scapin runs through October 1. Photo: PTC

Pioneer Theatre Company opened its season Friday night with two hours of unmitigated silliness: Stephen Wrentmore’s new adaptation of Molière’s seventeenth-century farce Scapin.

The main twist here is that the titular character is now a woman, and the overbearing fathers in the original are now overbearing mothers. The gender swap does little to alter the dynamic of the story; rather, it demonstrates the durability of Molière’s satire and the universality of certain comedic tropes.

The plot revolves around two households, both alike in dignity: … Read More

Utah Shakespeare Festival opens fall with absorbing “Thurgood” – Sep 15, 2022

Derek Charles Livingston stars as Thurgood Marshall in Utah Shakespeare Festival’s “Thurgood.” Photo: Karl Hugh/USF

Derek Charles Livingston introduced himself to Utah Shakespeare Festival audiences Wednesday onstage in the persona of Thurgood Marshall, the pioneering civil-rights attorney, Supreme Court justice, and subject of George Stevens Jr.’s 2006 play Thurgood. Livingston’s captivating portrayal of the multifaceted Marshall—erudite, impassioned, mischievous—made for an auspicious introduction.

The production took on added interest in June when Livingston, the festival’s director of new play development, was appointed as the company’s … Read More

Pioneer Theatre says goodbye to season with a lively “Hello Dolly!” – May 14, 2022

Paige Davis stars in the title role of “Hello Dolly!” at Pioneer Theater Company. Photo: PTC

Pioneer Theatre Company is closing its season with some good old-fashioned fun: Jerry Herman’s classic musical Hello, Dolly!

The 1964 musical, which gave Carol Channing her signature role in its original Broadway production, has a long theatrical lineage. Based upon Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker, the title character is Dolly Gallagher Levi, a sassy widow with a prodigious skill set and an equally prodigious supply of moxie. Dolly brings … Read More

A fine cast lifts the gentle humor, late autumn romance of PTC’s “Fireflies” – Apr 02, 2022

Joy Franz as Eleanor and David Manis as Abel in Matthew Barber’s Fireflies at Pioneer Theatre Company. Photo: PTC

Like a warm summer breeze, Fireflies slips into Pioneer Theatre Company’s season as a breather between the boisterous, exclamation-pointed musicals Something Rotten! and Hello, Dolly!

Fireflies is what you might get if Enchanted April were a sitcom. (Both are from novels adapted for the stage by playwright Matthew Barber.) Friday night’s Utah premiere was underscored by a steady beat of chuckles as the audience relaxed … Read More

Pioneer Theatre makes a fun evening out of “Something Rotten!” – Feb 26, 2022

Matt Farcher and Daniel Plimpton star as the impresario Bottom brothers in Pioneer Theater Company’s Something Rotten! Photo: PTC

At long last, Pioneer Theatre Company has opened its pandemic-delayed production of the Shakespearean spoof Something Rotten! And with world news going from bad to worse every day, this unabashed romp of a musical feels like a welcome vacation, with a show that offers a surprisingly satisfying marriage of sophomoric comedy and smart wordplay.

The 2015 Broadway hit, co-created by Karey Kirkpatrick with his brother … Read More

Pioneer Theatre premiere explores timely public health theme in “The Messenger” – Jan 16, 2022

Ora Jones as Dr. Therese Stockman and Turna Mete as Petra in the world premiere of Jeff Talbott’s The Messenger at Pioneer Theatre Company. Photo: PTC

A doctor with a dire warning about a threat to the public health. A politician who warns that the doctor’s recommendations could trigger economic catastrophe. A newspaper editor driven by an agenda of her own.

If the central characters in The Messenger—Jeff Talbott’s one-act play, which received its world premiere at Pioneer Theatre Company Friday night— sound as … Read More

Pioneer Theatre’s “Elf” provides a comical sugar rush to get through the holidays – Dec 04, 2021

Max Chernin and Antoinette Comer star in Elf at Pioneer Theatre Company. Photo: PTC

Are you feeling a little low on Christmas cheer after another year of pandemic and strife? Then Pioneer Theatre Company’s Elf The Musical could be the show for you.

Adapted from the 2003 Will Ferrell film by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin (book), Matthew Sklar (music) and Chad Beguelin (lyrics), Elf succeeds in balancing a contemporary sensibility with the peppy song-and-dance energy of classic musical theater. Pioneer’s eye-catching production, which opened Friday, is … Read More

Ellen Simon chisels out a witty portrait of family conflict in Pioneer Theatre’s “Ass” – Oct 23, 2021

T Ryder Smith, Laura J. Hall and Ben Cherry in Ellen Simon’s Ass, which had its world premiere Friday night at Pioneer Theatre Company. Photo: PTC

“Narcissism is the birthright of genius,” world-renowned sculptor Jule Waterman proclaims toward the end of Ellen Simon’s comedy Ass, which made its pandemic-delayed world premiere Friday night at Pioneer Memorial Theatre. 

And Simon—herself the daughter of an artistic genius, the late playwright Neil Simon—does make some sharp observations about the ways in which we indulge the creative and … Read More

Pioneer Theatre Company to explore family conflict in premiere of “Ass” by Ellen Simon – Oct 20, 2021

Ellen Simon (with actor T. Ryder Smith) whose play Ass will have its world premiere Friday night at Pioneer Theatre Company. Photo: PTC

Karen Azenberg will be happy to have the world premiere of Ass behind her. Not because she isn’t a fan of the acerbic comedy by her lifelong friend Ellen Simon—far from it.

“When we get this show open, it will be a big piece of the missing part of what Covid stopped,” explained Azenberg, Pioneer Theatre Company artistic director who is … Read More