Essentials: Entertainment Picks Feb. 25 - Mar.2 

Prohibition in America, An Inspector Calls, Debussy's Jeux

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Spirited: Prohibition in America

Prohibition seems like an anomaly in American history—an extreme moral and legislative experiment—but it has something to teach us about the country's temperament, now as well as then, and has parallels that persist to the present day. The Brigham City Museum is hosting the traveling exhibition Spirited: Prohibition in America, featuring artifacts, documents, photos, videos and interactive kiosks about the period. It's worth a drive if you are interested in the period when the entire country went "dry," or just American history in general.

Visitors to the exhibit will learn what led the nation to adopt the prohibition of alcohol in 1919, the issues it raised, and the journey we as a people took through over a decade to its repeal in 1933. Photos look at what American life was like in the Roaring '20s, when, despite the ban, the entire country seemed to be on a bender; the culture of speakeasies; the emergence of gangsters like Al Capone; and the role of law enforcement officials like Eliot Ness and The Untouchables.

Local photos on the subject of alcohol and tobacco in northern Utah dating back to 1850, are also on display, as well as local artifacts from the Prohibition period. And it's an interesting slice of Utah history, illustrating the effects of the ban on the Beehive State—where our relationship with alcohol is ambivalent, to say the least, and that ambivalence lives on to the present day. (Brian Staker)
Spirited: Prohibition in America @ Brigham City Museum, 24 N. 300 West, Brigham City, 435-226-1439, through March 16.

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Pioneer Theatre Co.: An Inspector Calls

The stage is empty as audience members enter for Pioneer Theatre Co.'s production of J. B. Priestley's 1945 drama An Inspector Calls—but it's not, really. On a platform above the set, women work at sewing machines. A maid enters to leave whiskey and glasses on a table. Before the lights even go down, one thing is already clear: There is a class of people whose life of labor shouldn't be invisible.

The play considers that idea through the story set in April 1912, as prosperous factory owner Arthur Birling (Joseph Dellger) and his wife Sybil (Mia Dillon) celebrate the engagement of their daughter, Sheila (Katie Wieland), to Arthur Croft (John Skelley), the son of Arthur's chief competitor. But the pleasant evening is interrupted by the arrival of Inspector Goole (Christopher Kelly), who announces that a young woman has just committed suicide—and everyone at the Birling house may bear some responsibility.

Director Mary B. Robinson showcases the performances as each member of engagement party is interrogated in turn for callous actions that may have precipitated the loss of a life. Priestley's text is a fairly unapologetic socialist tract, but it turns on the differing responses of characters to the realization that their privileged obliviousness has consequences—some determined to learn from the experience, others doing everything possible to clear their consciences. The result is dark social satire that's about what you do with the knowledge that you have the power to ruin a life, or save it. (Scott Renshaw)
An Inspector Calls @ Pioneer Theatre Co., 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, Feb. 19-March 5, Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday matinee, 2 p.m.

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Utah Symphony With Ballet West: Debussy's Jeux

It seems like a no-brainer to combine the awesome talents of the Utah Symphony and Ballet West into one magnificent performance. When it happens, the result is pure magic, as you're seeing one of the greatest orchestras in the United States musically accompanying dancers representing a world-renowned company.

As part of its 75th anniversary, the Utah Symphony will collaborate with other arts organizations; the symphony specifically chose Jeux by Claude Debussy as the signature piece to perform with Ballet West. The performance showcases a garden at dusk, with a boy and two girls searching for a lost tennis ball. Their interactions soon turn into a romp hide-and-seek game, followed by quarreling and an evening of mystery bathed in moonlight. This particular piece is one of Debussy's lesser-known works, but it offers symphony fans a treat as the pace changes every few bars, creating a playful exchange between the audience and the performers as they move throughout the piece.

The Orchestra also will perform other classic works from French and American composers, including George Gershwin's An American in Paris, Louis Moreau Gottschalk's Grande Tarantelle and Maurice Ravel's Concerto in G Major for Piano and Orchestra. A pre-concert lecture is available before the show to all ticket holders in the First Tier Room with Utah Symphony Vice President of Artistic Planning Toby Tolokan, starting at 6:45 p.m. (Gavin Sheehan)
Utah Symphony With Ballet West: Debussy's Jeux @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 801-355-2787, Feb. 26-27, 7:30 p.m., $18-80.

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Broadway Across America: The Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

There's a tongue-in-cheek "Warning to the Audience" right at the outset of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder." Composer Steven Lutvak's jaunty tune is accompanied by the ensemble's disclaimer through Robert L. Freedman's lyrics: "For those of you of weaker constitution / For those of you who may be faint of heart / This is a tale of revenge and retribution / So if you're smart / Before we start / You'd best depart."

That opener sets the perfect tone for the 2014 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, based on Roy Horniman's 1907 novel Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal (which also inspired the 1949 film Kind Hearts and Coronets). It begins with imprisoned Lord Monty D'Ysquith Navarro revealing that he is soon to be executed. And from there, the narrative circles back to his earlier life as the impoverished son of a recently deceased mother, who learns that he is distant heir to the Earldom of Highhurst. Eight other people stand ahead of Monty in the line of succession—and if it takes making sure every one of them is dead in order to move to the front of that queue, well, so be it.

Freedman and Lutvak fill their blithely dark comedy with wonderfully catchy tunes like a nobleman's oblivious musings in "I Don't Understand the Poor," and the lively waltz as Monty contemplates taking action with "Poison in My Pocket." It's a perfect evening—provided you don't have a weaker constitution. (SR)
Broadway Across America: The Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder @ Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, 801-581-7100, March 1-3, 7:30 p.m.; March 4, 8 p.m.; March 5, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m., March 6, 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m., $37.50-$67.50.

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Shannon Egan: No Tourists Allowed

A Mormon-raised Utah native, journalist Shannon Egan was struggling with alcohol abuse when she decided to head to Sudan to cover humanitarian issues related to the civil war. What better place, after all, to find sobriety than a strict Muslim country that banned alcohol? But the turmoil there only leads to more emotional pain, and a traumatized response to what she sees around her takes Egan's struggle with substance abuse to another level.

No Tourists Allowed is a portrait both of the time and place in which physical atrocities were a regular part of the landscape, and of an individual trying to find her own personal peace. Now five years into her recovery, Egan reflects on sobriety and the nature of journalism in a war zone that can both shine a light on tragedy and make it worse. Join the author for a reading and signing today. (Scott Renshaw)
Shannon Egan: No Tourists Allowed: Seeking Inner Peace and Sobriety in War-Torn Sudan @ Weller Book Works, 607 Trolley Square, 801-328-2586, Feb. 27, 5 p.m., free.

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