I have seen the future of musical theater in Utah— and it’s brighter than you could possibly imagine.
The Grand Theatre’s production of Musical of Musicals certainly does benefit from the charm of the source material. Joanne Bogart and Eric Rockwell created a lively love letter to the masters of show tunes, spinning five satirical mini-musicals with the same basic premise in the styles of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander & Ebb. While the allusions are sometimes forced—an arbitrary Starlight Express-type roller-skating moment in the Webber segment; a tossed-off “et cetera, et cetera,” Yul Brynner style—the songs are dead-on homages to their sources. If you love the genre, you’ll be loving the hilarious versions of The Sound of Music’s “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and the “influence” of Puccini on Webber’s through-sung hits. But the stars of this production are the cast members, nearly all of them current students or alumni of Weber State’s musical theater program.
There’s a jaw-dropping level of talent on display: Michael Hernandez pouting his way through a version of Cabaret’s Emcee; Becca Lemon brilliantly over-singing as a Webber-esque diva heroine; Megan Rees hitting husky low notes; Kyle Olsen’s rosy-cheeked enthusiasm as the corn-fed Rodgers & Hammerstein hero. It’s a wonderful 10-member ensemble, made all the more remarkable by its youth. Throw in director Jim Christian’s terrific staging—most memorably in the constantly moving set piece of the Webber segment—and you’ve got a show that celebrates not only musicals, but the next generation of amazing performers who’ll be delivering them. (Scott Renshaw)
Musical of Musicals: The Musical! @ The Grand Theatre, 1575 S. State, 801-957-3322, through March 14. The-Grand.org