- Michael Christensen
Bob Hope: An American Treasure
The World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., has honored many golfers with exhibits. But when the institution set out to create one honoring someone not known primarily for his golf skills—legendary entertainer Bob Hope, who earned a lifetime achievement award for his advocacy for the game—they wound up with something too popular to keep in one location.
Originally launched in 2008, Bob Hope: An American Treasure gathers memorabilia, photos and other artifacts celebrating Hope's decades in vaudeville, radio, television, movies and his famous USO tours. "We thought it would have a lifespan of around three years," Hall of Fame Vice President Brodie Waters, says. "But it just keeps going with no signs of slowing down."
With the cooperation of the Hope family, the exhibit showcases items including Hope's Emmy and honorary Academy Awards, a Congressional Medal of Freedom and even his original vaudeville contract. Video installations also capture material like Hope's popular TV holiday specials. According to Waters, however, the items associated with Hope's longtime support of and performances for American troops seem to make the biggest impression on visitors, including letters of appreciation Hope received from soldiers.
"He lived to be 100," Waters says, "so his life spanned so many different eras. But he was able to get through the politics of things and develop relationships. That resonates for people right now." (Scott Renshaw)
Bob Hope: An American Treasure @ Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South, West Valley City, 801-965-5100, through April 28, 2018, Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., free, culturalcelebration.org
- Samantha Kofford
Sting and Honey: This Bird of Dawning
Javen Tanner—artistic director of Sting and Honey, and creator of This Bird of Dawning—is fully aware that it's not your typical Christmas-season arts option. "I have this terrible habit of doing things nobody wants to see," Tanner says with a laugh. "From the get-go, this was such a hard sell: We're going to do the Nativity, with poetry and masks. 'Oh great—I won't be there.'"
Yet the production is celebrating its 10th year, using a unique combination of kabuki-style masked theater, movement and, yes, recitations of poetry to convey the story of the Nativity. While the bones of the show remain the same, Tanner says that there are changes that keep the show fresh, as well as the creative energy that comes simply from working with a new group of actors every year.
Within that framework is a tale that works for audiences regardless of their religious affiliation, and one that they keep coming back to. "People for whom this story is a real story," Tanner says, "it's a very profound experience for them, and they bring their family back year after year. ... Friends who are not believers, once they see it, they sort of feel the profundity of it.
"Rather than just a way to make money for the holiday season, this offers a great opportunity to stage a ritual that is still meaningful for people," he continues. "The masks lend themselves to the ritual feel of it: reverence, beauty, awe, wonder." (SR)
Sting and Honey: This Bird of Dawning @ Regent Street Black Box, 131 S. Main, 801-355-2787, Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 16, 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., $18, artsaltlake.org
- Charles Azzopardi
Momix: Opus Cactus
Dance is an interpretive art form, one that utilizes movement and creative designs to convey a nuanced narrative and visual impressions. Even so, it's no small challenge to convey the sheer scope and stunning scenery of America's sprawling Southwest through any medium, much less movement.
Still, credit Momix—a veteran Connecticut-based dance company with a 37-year history representing craft and creativity—with accomplishing just that. Utilizing motion and movement, puppets, props, lighting and illusion, the 10 dancers transform themselves into slithering creatures, winged wonders and other mysterious beasts that inhabit the desert's natural environs—a world of scarce resources, tumbleweeds and vast expanse. Dubbed appropriately Opus Cactus, it's a stunning showcase of vibrance and versatility, all set to a soundtrack featuring the music of Brian Eno, the Swingle Sisters and other musical masters.
"I often use dancers to compose a theatrical, often visual, world on stage," founder and artistic director Moses Pendleton, notes. "There is a lot of physical movement—a lot of dance, I would say—but it's part of a mix. I come from the Loie Fuller-Alwin Nikolais line of American dance—the body extended and transformed with fabric, props and lighting."
Still, it doesn't require being well-versed in the history of dance to appreciate the sheer spectacle. As Pendleton points out, it's due in no small part to some exceptional outfitting. "They're not simply costumes," he suggests. "They're wearable imagery." (Lee Zimmerman)
Momix: Opus Cactus @ Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearrns Blvd., Park City, 435-655-3114, Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m., $29-$79, ecclescenter.org
- Anthony Nunez
Gabriel Iglesias: Fluffymania
Local fans of Gabriel Iglesias have waited a long time to see his newest show, Fluffymania. But after months of waiting—originally set to start the tour in April, Iglesias was forced to postpone in order to deal with health difficulties stemming from ongoing struggles with diabetes—the comedian is bringing his latest jokes to Salt Lake City, celebrating 20 years on the road.
Iglesias' comedic style pivots around the ability to immerse the audience in a story, and using creative sound effects and characters. This skill—and his relatively clean sets—have enabled him to become one of America's most successful comedians, selling out venues like Madison Square Garden in New York City and The Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
The show's title comes from a long-standing theme in Iglesias' comedy. In addition to telling stories about race and his personal life, he often focuses on his weight. The "Fluffy" in the title of the show refers to his well-known insistence that he's not fat, he's just fluffy.
Being able to take a lighthearted attitude toward something like his weight is characteristic of Iglesias' style in general. Growing up the youngest of six children, raised by a single mother in government housing, he learned to use humor to face obstacles.
If you want to see the show, there's still time to buy a ticket, although at press time, only single seats were available. All tickets from the original tour date will be honored. (Kylee Ehmann)
Gabriel Iglesias: Fluffymania @ Vivint SmartHome Arena, 301 W. South Temple,801-325-2000,Dec. 16, 8 p.m., $32-$142, vivintarena.com