Saturday’s Voyeur has always played to audience members that are a little bit pissed off about life in Utah. This year, though, Nancy Borgenicht and Allen Nevins want them to do something about it.
Salt Lake Acting Company’s annual satirical sendup of Beehive State foibles and follies has often skewered the “predominant culture” with what amounts to a grumble, a bemused shake of the head and a sigh of “Whaddayagonnado?” There are still plenty of broad shots at intolerant moralizing in the 2004 edition, but the longtime creative team behind the show has added to the mix an election year call to arms. The sense of urgency gives the show a renewed energy; if it’s not the funniest Voyeur, it’s certainly one of the most vital.
The typically loose structure hangs itself on two of the year’s big stories of LDS Church influence. In the first act, entrepreneur Daniel Darker (Robert Scott Smith) fights for the right to turn his struggling private club into a burlesque. Self-appointed, CTR ring-bearing “volunteers” LaVar (Jason Tatom) and Harmony (Camille Van Wagoner) lead the charge to make life difficult, inspiring Darker and his dancers to take the fight to the state Legislature. There, in the second act, they find that the focus is squarely on “the family,” as in the need to protect it with a Definition of Marriage amendment. And, as the Democrats grow ever more frustrated with the inability to make any headway, the Republicans successfully pass a “motion to gloat.”
No one who has seen a previous version of Voyeur will find anything radically different in the approach. Borgenicht and Nevins still craft jaunty, zinging lyrics to familiar songs, here ranging from showtunes like Cabaret’s “Wilkommen” to “Friends in Low Places.” They successfully push hot buttons like DABC enforcement and self-satisfied morality police, mixing in a little raunch ‘n’ roll attitude. They also show they still haven’t met a punch line they didn’t like enough to use it two or three times; you could make a drinking game out of spotting the “’preciate ya’s” and Passion of the Christ references.
What gives Voyeur 2004 its added pop is something beyond its annual release of accumulated liberal exasperation. While there are still plenty of great gags here—the best being a priceless link between Utah County and the controversial new abortion restrictions—there’s also a little more anger, and an added sense of urgency. The performers announce exactly how many legislative seats the Democrats need to take to overcome the super-majority, exhorting those in attendance to do something about it. There’s also a surprisingly emotional interlude as Brenda Sue Cowley—playing Jackie Biskupski—intones Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” as a refusal to submit to degradation of gay relationships. As comedically satisfying as the show is—and a big step up from last year’s uneven 25th-anniversary installment—it also shows an unexpected passion.
As per usual, Borgenicht and Nevins have put together a great musical comedy cast, including the superbly unctuous Tatom and the sassy veteran stripper trio of Colleen Baum, Annette Wright and Dee Macaluso. These are pros in every sense of the word—at the June 19 performance, Van Wagoner even played gamely through a scene after a false step left her with an injured knee that ultimately required her to leave the production.
But maybe it’s even easier for them to give their performances their all when they feel like the show stands for something. Saturday’s Voyeur 2004 allows for a little pressure to be released, but it also puts the pressure on those who come to get out and change things. Borgenicht and Nevins have always wanted the show to entertain. This time, they also want it to matter.
SATURDAY’S VOYEUR 2004, Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North , 363-7522, June 15-Aug. 22