For its season opener, Wasatch Theatre Company chose the kind of musical that’s an intriguing delight for audience members—when they can understand the words.
The unforgiving acoustics of the Rose Wagner Studio Theatre and a few thin, unmicrophoned voices offered some challenges in fully enjoying the story of “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale—members of the privileged clan that gave us Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy—who were found living in squalor in the 1970s. From a prologue set at that time, the scene moves back to 1941, where Big Edie (Jennifer Perry-Hughes) is planning an engagement party for Little Edie (Ali Goldsmith) that’s as much about Big Edie showing off her would-be singing career. But Big Edie’s selfishness also sets in motion the chain of events that would result in the two—with Hughes playing Little Edie in Act II, and Sallie Cooper playing the now-bedridden Big Edie—still sharing their dilapidated mansion in the Hamptons.
The song score by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie features a dozen memorable tunes, ranging from the satisfyingly comic (“Marry Well”) to the gently heartbreaking (“Around the World”), and the complicated relationship between the two women makes for surprisingly affecting drama. But this is not a cast full of big pipes, with many of the songs swallowed up before they could really register. Hughes is the notable exception, turning in an impressive dual performance that sells the richness of her solos. She provides the engine that allows this strong material to shine, even when you find yourself wishing you could hear more of it. (Scott Renshaw)
Wasatch Theatre Company
Rose Wagner Center
138 W. Broadway
Through Sept. 24, $15