The theater outlook for this summer is a season that could be called "as big as all outdoors."
A good share of the summer theater productions are staged in amphitheaters and other outdoor sites. The debuts of two major amphitheaters last summer and another on the horizon - along with popular outdoor venues at Cedar City, Orem and Sundance - means that Utah theatergoers who enjoy fresh evening air along with their Broadway and Shakespeare have plenty of options.Or, for those who prefer the comfort of an indoor theater, where the air conditioning is mechanical instead of natural, there are even more possibilities.
The huge Tuacahn amphitheater and performing arts complex at Ivins, west of St. George, and the new Ed Kenley Centennial Amphitheater in Layton made their debuts last summer. For 1996, both spaces will have greatly expanded programs.
Looming on the horizon is the new Alder Amphitheater at Salt Lake Community College's Redwood campus. With permanent bench seating for 1,000 and space for others on the surrounding lawns and berms, this has been planned as a multiple-use facility for concerts and theater events. There may be some activities later this summer, but no major theatrical productions are scheduled until the summer of 1997, when Pat Davis, who supervised SLCC's Grand Theatre, is anticipating the possibility of staging "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" . . . using live horses from the college's rodeo club.
But that's next year.
How about the next three or four months? (The "summer season" for theater runs roughly from late May through mid-September, with some companies overlapping.)
For a reasonably comprehensive list of this summer's productions across the state, see the clip-and-save calendar on Page W3 (along with a brief chart listing the venues and telephone numbers for further information). Watch for more complete details just before each of the productions opens. Some additions and changes were made in the list in just the past couple of days - and it will undoubtedly change in the weeks ahead.
Anniversaries are big this summer, with 1996 marking the 35th season for the internationally acclaimed Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City, and it's the big three-o for the old Lyric Repertory Company in Logan.
Among this season's highlights - or at least, sight unseen at this point, productions that appear to be very promising - are the world premieres of "The Seating of Senator Smoot" at Brigham Young University and Sundance's newly developed "Mirette" and "The Fitness Game" andregional premieres of "The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)" by the Salt Lake Shakespeare Company, a new stage version of "The Storm Testament" by the Terrace Plaza Playhouse in Ogden, plus a sizeable number of local productions celebrating various aspects of the Utah statehood centennial.
"Wllm Shkspr" got rave reviews during its Off Broadway run in New York. It's near the top of my list for potentially "hot" shows this summer.
Shakespeare's comedies are merged into one play, "The Love Boat Goes to Verona."
At last count (and this is always subject to change) there are at least four separate productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's incredibly popular "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" - July 12-17 in Sandy, Aug. 2-5 at Oquirrh Middle School, Aug. 15-24 at Kingsbury Hall and Sept. 9-14 at the SCERA Shell.
There will also be two versions of "West Side Story" - June 26-Aug. 31 at Sundance, followed rather quickly by a national touring production Sept. 17-22 at the Capitol Theatre.
"Utah!" is being touted as a Utah Centennial production, although it premiered last summer in the state-of-the-art Tuacahn Amphitheater west of St. George. It's opening a couple of weeks earlier than last year - running June 14 through Oct. 5 - and the entire Tuacahn programming is being expanded as well, with "The 1940s Radio Hour" and "Quilters" alternating in the indoor Hafen Theatre (part of the adjacent Tuacahn Center for the Performing Arts), and James Arrington's "Brigham Live!" being performed nightly at 6 p.m. in the amphitheater, just prior to the main-stage performances of "Utah!"
(Other actors, not Arrington himself, will be performing the show.)
The state's popular theater festivals - the Utah Shaksepearean Festival in Cedar City, the Old Lyric Repertory Company in Logan, the Utah Musical Theatre lineup in Ogden, the fledgeling Salt Lake Shakespeare Company in Salt Lake City and Sundance Summer Theatre at Sundance - are all gearing up for busy summers.
See related story on this page for a list of the major festivals.
Some other highlights:
- "Les Miserables," making it's fifth trip to Salt Lake City, is scheduled for a 31/2 week engagement Aug. 14-Sept. 7 at the Capitol Theatre. This company should include all or most of the performers chosen during auditions in Utah last fall - which should certainly heighten interest for local theatergoers. The Theater League of Utah has announced that tickets will be available Saturday, May 25, at the Capitol Theatre and eight other ArtTix outlets.
- Brigham Young University has two brand new - and very intriguing - works on its summer lineup. First up is Eric Samuelsen's "The Seating of Senator Smoot," opening next week. The winner in the BYU/Utah Centennial Playwrighting Contest, it's about the three-year battle over whether or not to allow Sen. Reed Smoot to take his seat in the U.S. Senate in 1904, when anti-Mormon sentiment was still heavy in Washington, D.C.
Also on BYU's docket: Elizabeth Hansen's "A String of Pearls," a drama involving five women who meet on Wednesday nights to play bridge during World War II . . . plus confront such issues as death, divorce, alcoholism, adultery, financial difficulties and emotional trauma. It plays July 31-Aug. 10.
- "Celebrating Utah: Our Unspoken Song," is a slightly revised (and retitled) version of last season's "Unspoken Song." Some new music has been added and the centennial revue - the result of a collaboration by Michael McLean, Kurt Bestor, Sam Cardon and David Tinney - will run June 20-Aug. 31 at Promised Valley Playhouse.
- Morgan Ludlow's Center Stage Theatre Company, dormant for much of the past year, is being reactivated for the Playwrights' Theatre Festival of Salt Lake City, scheduled for July 11-27 at the Wooden Dog at Trolley Square. Two one-act dramas and two one-act comedies will be staged, along with Ludlow's full-length play, "The Campus Rose."
- The popular Pickleville Playhouse at Bear Lake is changing from its tradition of musical melodrama to mounting a full-scale Broadway musical: "Crazy for You," featuring a batch of toe-tapping Gershwin tunes.
- Hunt Mystery & Company is branching out. In addition to regularly scheduled mystery dinners at both the Riverboat in Murray and the Camelot Restaurant in Layton, the troupe has just arranged with the Lighthouse Theatre at Cottonwood Mall for several performances of "More Mystery on the Moors," beginning June 8 and continuing throughout July.