n By Scott Renshaw
nFor years, Sarah Shippobotham has been the voice behind voices on the Salt Lake City stage—a gifted teacher and dialect coach who has given scores of local actors their accents. Too rarely has she gotten her own opportunities to step into the spotlight. But in Utah Contemporary Theatre’s production of Pamela Gien’s THE SYRINGA TREE, she gets a doozy.
Over the course of 110 minutes—with only a dangling rope-and-slat swing for a set—Shippobotham plays more than a dozen characters in a tale spanning more than 30 pivotal years in the history of South Africa. As Lizzie Grace, she’s a young girl observing the effects of apartheid from her privileged position as the daughter of a white Johannesburg doctor. As Salamina, Lizzie’s beloved Xhosa nanny, she captures the other side of the South African racial divide. She plays Lizzie’s parents—a Jewish atheist and a Catholic, respectively—who are also outsiders in their own way, as well as various neighbors, servants and family members. And for some of these characters, she plays them from childhood through to maturity.
It’s a remarkable tour-de-force, all the more remarkable because Shippobotham captures emotional connections between friends, parents and children, none of whom share the stage at the same time. The play’s story addresses the deep wounds of the apartheid era, but never once feels like a mere history lesson. Instead, it’s a rich tapestry of human experience—with one talented human experiencing all of it.n
The Syringa Tree @ Rose Wagner Studio Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, 355-ARTS, through Dec. 20. UtahContemporaryTheatre.orgn
nBy Jacob Stringer
nAn odd subsection of this wonderful community—apparently not affiliated with the Eagle Forum—is determined to back up State Sen. Chris Buttars on this whole Christmas Crusade thing. The great big plan: A night of celebration of all things Santa Claus—that, and drinking.
Really, what could possibly put the Christ back in Christmas quicker than dozens of rowdy red-nosed individuals dressed in plush red velvet Santa suits cruising the pubs of downtown Salt Lake City? I know! That’s why I’ve reserved my rental and cleared my schedule for the 13th annual SLC SANTA PUB CRAWL. Just thinking about the diverse men and women coming together for pint after pint (after pint) of holiday—sorry, I mean Christmas—cheer all in order to stimulate the economy through the serious business of pub crawling brings incredible warmth to my cold, atheistic heart. Besides, the possibility of dozens of disheveled Kris Kringles the city over performing the dreaded walk of shame the next morning may be exactly what this Yuletide season needs.n
The Santa shenanigans begin at Lumpy’s (125 W. Pierpont) at 7 p.m. on Friday. At 8:15, the crawl officially begins and the horde moves to the Downtown Huka Lounge, Keys on Main, O’Shucks, Murphy’s, Bambara and Red Door, with a final nightcap at The Hotel. Remember, those without the appropriate attire will be subject to all sorts of public ridicule and embarrassing Santa hazing. (And, due to the chaotic popularity of the event, don’t be surprised if you run into other jolly bands of elves who have scheduled crawls downtown that same night,) Happy Holidays!n
Santa Pub Crawl @ various downtown venues, Friday, Dec. 19, 7 p.m.n
nBy Rob Tennant
nIn Pioneer Theatre Company’s production THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, Clara (Betsy Morgan) and her mother, Margaret (Lynne Wintersteller), are vacationing in Italy in the early 1950s—and they’re already singing a song about it. Adorable carts sell quaint wares, run and patronized by charming Italians doing charming Italian things like being caught in the act of adultery, fighting about it and storming out in a sexy, Italian huff.
This is the background pantomime during the opening number. The strange thing is that I bought it.n
Adapted by Craig Lucas from Elizabeth Spencer’s novel, this isn’t typical Broadway musical fare. Yes, there are spontaneous songs and accelerated romance with inevitable complications, but there are unexpected departures as well. The songs by Adam Guettel lack the familiar verse-chorus structure, and there are no big show-stoppers. Instead, we get mostly solos and duets in a conversational, opera-lite style. And the cast members have the pipes to pull it off—particularly Constantine Germanacos as Clara’s love interest, Fabrizio.n
Yes, some songs and dialogue are in Italian, leaving the audience with gesture, context and emphasis to interpret the meaning. But the device is handled within a narrow zone of restraint that manages to hold the audience’s attention without overdoing the body language. The plot strays from usual romantic comedy in specifics, but not in spirit. It has what you need from musical romance. There’s booming vocal artillery, charming performances, and genuine will-they-or-won’t they suspense. Try to see it with someone you love.n
The Light in the Piazza @ Pioneer Theatre Company, 300 S. 1400 East, 581-6951, through Dec. 20. PioneerTheatre.orgn
here&now Other New Happenings This Weekn
VOICE MALE CHRISTMAS The a cappella group lets loose with the spirit of the season in its annual holiday concert. Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 355-ARTS, Thursday, Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m. ArtTix.orgn
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS Salt Lake Dance Center presents a lively family ballet about a young girl’s Christmas Eve dream adventures. Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 355-ARTS, Dec. 18-19, 7 p.m. ArtTix.orgn
LIVE NATIVITY Sing along with the shepherds, and watch real people and animals fill the manger in an outdoor (dress warmly) presentation. Gardner Village, 1100 W. 7800 South, West Jordan, 566-8903, Dec. 19-20, 6 p.m.n
HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS Utah Symphony’s annual family concert of holiday Christmas favorites, with a special lobby visit from Saint Nick. Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 355-ARTS, Saturday, Dec. 20, 11 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. UtahSymphony.orgn
INTERPLAY: NEL TEMPO DI SOGNO Free film screening of Another Language Performing Arts Company’s spring 2007 multimedia presentation. University of Utah INSCC Building, Saturday, Dec. 20, 7 p.m. AnotherLanguage.orgn
SANTAS SKI FREE If you’ve still got that costume from the pub crawl (see above), take it out Saturday morning for a free day on the slopes (full outfit only, first 50 guests). The Canyons Resort, 4000 Canyons Resort Dr., Park City, 435-649-5400, Saturday, Dec. 20, registration 8-9 a.m. TheCanyons.comn
SALT LAKE CHILDREN’S CHOIR You thought a Christmas season could pass without hearing kids sing carols? You would be wrong, my friend. LDS Stake Center, 951 E. 100 South, Sunday, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m. ChildrenSing.comn
MUSICA ANTIQUA The American Fork Arts Council introduces you to the songs—and musical instruments—of the Baroque period. American Fork Library, 64 S. 100 East, American Fork, 801-763-3070, Monday, Dec. 22, 7 p.m. AFCity.org tttt