- Roshan Moyad
Pete Lee's unassuming style and Everyman appeal aren't necessarily in sync with your typical 21st-century stand-up type. He is, by his own description, "tall, dark and pleasant." He's also become something of a comedy sensation in the past decade. Likewise, his self-effacing humor and Midwestern persona imbue him with a generally upbeat attitude that's fairly uncommon.
"Most comedians think they're being 'real' onstage by being negative," Lee said via email. "But there is another side of the truth: Positivity. I love to do humor that finds the deeper truth in life. There is something fun in everything."
It's a combination that has worked well for him since the beginning, starting with his debut on Comedy Central in 2005, and a subsequent appearance at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. In 2008, Lee became a finalist on NBC's Last Comic Standing and made his acting debut on As The World Turns. By year's end, he could claim his own Comedy Central half hour special.
A favorite on college campuses, he picked up a web show on MSN.com, and was subsequently hired as a writer and cast member on FUSE TV's Video on Trial, the NFL Network's Top 10's, VH1's Best Week, Nickelodeon's Nicktoons, Comedy Central's Roast Battle and his own Comedy Central Snapchat Show.
With all those projects underway, one wonders how he acquires so much material. "I get my inspiration from making fun of myself," he insists. "I absolutely roast myself on stage. The best jokes are where people go, 'Oh wow! I totally do that, too!'" (Lee Zimmerman)
Pete Lee @ Wiseguys Gateway, 194 S. 400 West, 801-532-5233, April 6-7, 7:30 p.m. & 9 p.m., $15, wiseguyscomedy.com
- dav.d photography
Salt Lake Acting Co.: Fun Home
If your idea of a Broadway musical was shaped by Rodgers & Hammerstein, grandly operatic works or even rambunctious comedies like The Producers or The Book of Mormon, Fun Home might feel like an outlier. After all, it's based on an autobiographical graphic novel by Alison Bechdel—namesake of the "Bechdel test" for female representation in movies—about her experience coming out as gay, and her complicated relationship with her closeted gay father, Bruce. It's hard to envision big dance numbers for such a story.
But from the perspective of Jason Bowcutt—director of Salt Lake Acting Co.'s regional premiere of this 2015 Tony Award winner for Best Musical—there's no need to limit what kind of material can inspire a musical. "At the Signature Theatre [in Washington, D.C.], the artistic director would emphasize, 'It's a written piece,'" Bowcutt recalls. "'The reason people start to sing is because it's the only way the next thing could be expressed.'"
The show's narrative moves back and forth in time, as a 43-year-old Alison reflects on two crucial points in her life: as a child, and as a college student discovering her sexuality. While the relationship between Alison and her father is a central component, so is the different ways that those two people were able to approach being gay. "There's a lyric, 'Am I just like you, Dad?'" Bowcutt says. "That's the question the piece poses ... It explores [Alison's] capacity to come out, that she had the ability to come out [in the 1980s], as opposed to what Bruce had the capacity to do in his lifetime." (Scott Renshaw)
Fun Home @ Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 N. 500 West, 801-363-7522, April 6-May 13, dates and times vary, $15-$42, saltlakeactingcompany.org
- Karyn Allen
Body Logic Dance Festival
Ideally, a dance performance should have an audience mesmerized by the seemingly effortless ways dancers glide across the stage. But talented people pour hundreds of hours of labor into each performance, and these artisans often go unsung. Highlighting some of this invisible artistic labor is Body Logic Dance Co.'s second annual Choreography Festival, which includes four open-to-the-public classes in modern, hip-hop, jazz and Afro-fusion/samba dance, as well as a competition dedicated to choreographers starting their dance careers.
Serena Webb, co-artistic director, says it's uncommon for choreographers to be spotlighted in general. "I feel like in the entertainment world, we focus on these amazing dancers," Webb says. "But one of the biggest parts of the dance world is actually choreography."
The festival sets no stylistic limit on choreographers, though most of this year's performances are contemporary and modern dance. This includes a rare aerial dance piece, a subgenre of modern dance rarely spotlighted in Utah.
Since dance styles vary, Webb says the three judges—representing established local dance companies—don't dwell on dancer skill, but instead focus on how well the choreographers craft their routines, and their ability to convey a theme through them. Those judges will also offer feedback both choreographers and audience can learn from. "It's something that if you go to college for dance, you get to hear all the time, but our audience doesn't understand what goes into choreographing," Webb says. "They're going to come out of there with an education in dance." (Kylee Ehmann)
Body Logic Dance Festival @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South,801-566-3010,April 7, Master Classes:9 a.m.-4 p.m., $18-$65; Adjudication Concert:7 p.m., $15, bodylogicdance.com
- Joan Marcus
Broadway at the Eccles: Hamilton: An American Musical
Hey, wait, is Hamilton coming to town? I hadn't heard anything about it.
All kidding aside, every once in a while a Broadway musical hits town for the first time with so much buzz—think Wicked or The Book of Mormon—that it feels like a genuine happening. Such is the case for the 2016 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. From the moment it exploded onto Broadway in August 2015, it has been a phenomenon, inspiring unique interest and expanding the musical theater audience.
And it's easy to understand why. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda took the story of 18th-century America's founding fathers and the Revolutionary War and turned it upside-down, casting characters like Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson with non-white actors as a way to emphasize the American story as an immigrant story. The songs—with their mix of traditional musical-theater melodies and rapid-fire rap lyrics—further accentuated the show's sense of inviting everyone into the experience.
While the entire run of the show is officially sold out—the tickets having been scooped up online with a desperation generally associated with Black Friday deals at Walmart—there is still a way to get a seat. Visit hamiltonmusical.com/lottery to register for daily opportunities to purchase some of the 40 $10 orchestra tickets per performance, beginning 11 a.m. two days before each show date, and closing 9 a.m. the day before show date. Only one entry for two tickets is allowed per person, but you don't want to be throwing away your shot. (SR)
Broadway at the Eccles: Hamilton: An American Musical @ Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, 801-355-2787, April 11-May 6, dates and times vary, $10 ticket lottery at hamiltonmusical.com/lottery