William Littig: Vecinos
In our culture, a border is the mark of separateness, the dividing line of property or geography. Other cultures don't always view borders in the same way. Local artisan William "Willy" Littig traveled to northern Spain several years ago to trace the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a route of pilgrimage to the shrine of the early Christian apostle St. James the Greater in Galicia. He noticed subtle changes of material, color and texture where shared walls along the route met, and documented them with a series of photographs titled Vecinos—Spanish for "neighbors," or literally, "those in the vicinity."
The poet Robert Frost once wrote that "good fences make good neighbors," but that epigram doesn't take into account the ways that a wall can sometimes say "welcome." In his glasswork for local churches, including All Saints Episcopal and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Littig has shown that he has a deep understanding of the importance of symbolism in the decorative arts. In this photography collection, the purely utilitarian purpose of the wall is eclipsed by its social function.
In addition to being the marks of those who have shared the walls as domiciles, these decorative impulses also have significance to those traveling along the routes, indicating that these artisans are fellow travelers, literally and figuratively. The chance meetings of sojourners, like the intersections of these designs, could lead to epiphanies, aesthetic as well as spiritual. These understated images, glimpsed plainly and unaltered by the camera lens, are a vibrant metaphor for how much more unites us than whatever walls divide us. (Brian Staker)
William Littig: Vecinos @ Mestizo Gallery, 631 W North Temple, 801-361-5662, through July 8. MestizoCoffeeHouse.com
Broadway Across America: Motown: The Musical
While some musicals are known for their dance numbers (West Side Story) and others for their comic appeal (Book of Mormon), Motown: The Musical is all about the music. Based on the life of Berry Gordy and adapted from his 1994 autobiography To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown, this "jukebox musical" makes up for what lacks in story with more than 50 classic Motown hits.
Written as one long, nostalgic flashback, Motown begins in 1983, as Gordy is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Motown Records. It's a moment when Gordy—who dabbled in boxing and worked at Detroit automobile factories before starting his career as a music producer—should be proud. After all, he's founded the most successful black-owned music company in U.S. history. But the celebration is overshadowed by troubled affairs: The Motown label is in decline, its biggest stars are leaving for other deals and lawsuits threaten the company.
The musical doesn't dwell too much on these dour particulars and, almost before the audience is seated, the hits start rolling out, beginning with a sing-off between The Four Tops and The Temptations. And the hits keep coming: "My Girl," "Dancing in the Streets," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Please Mr. Postman," "Brick House" and more. Most characters (Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye) have only cameos, but what does that matter when the music is so good. (Katherine Pioli)
Motown: The Musical @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, through July 3, $57-$200, see website for full schedule. ArtTix.ArtSaltLake.org
Salt Lake Acting Co.: Saturday's Voyeur 2016
Donald Trump—err, Drumpf—two married gay men, two married lesbians and Joseph Smith walk into Kolob ... This isn't the beginning of a joke; it actually happens in Salt Lake Acting Co.'s annual production of Saturday's Voyeur.
In their annual satire of life in Utah, along with some presidential election-year commentary, creators Allen Nevins and Nancy Borgenicht know how to play to their liberal audience. Bordering on sacrilege, Saturday's Voyeur jokes about current events: education, fossil fuels, abstinence, the "dirty soda" war and the BYU honor code. But the theme of this 37th edition is how children of gay parents can't be baptized until they reach the age of 18 and denounce said parents. There's also a subplot focusing a little too much Drumpf, despite being hilariously played by Justin Ivie.
Ted (Devin Rey Barney) and Fred (Eric Lee Brotherson) co-parent their son Ned (Tito Livas) with Rose (Becky Cole) and Mary (Amanda Wright). In order to go on a mission, Ned has to distance himself from his loving moms and dads. It isn't until he's given a sip of dirty soda and has a dream about Kolob—with Heavenly Father (Ivie), Sister Lucie (Eb Madson), Heavenly Mother (Annette Wright) and Joseph Smith (Robert Scott Smith) in tow—that he begins to understand: Religion is confusing.
Saturday's Voyeur makes provocative and entertaining observations about Utah. Catering to a left-leaning crowd, this fantastic, preposterous parody would never work anywhere else. #blessed (Missy Bird)
Saturday's Voyeur 2016 @ Salt Lake Acting Co., 168 W. 500 North, 801-363-7522, June 22-Aug. 28, Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. & 6 p.m., $44-$55. SaltLakeActingCompany.org
Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre
Every summer, the Eccles Theater in Logan becomes a showcase for the wide variety of ways that theatrical performance and powerful music can combine to move an audience. Once again, the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre offers a season of productions and events dedicated to works spanning decades, yet united by their ability to join song and story.
The season opens on July 6 with Puccini's celebrated 1918 trilogy of one-act operas: the Paris-set Il Tabarro, the religious redemption tale Suor Angelica and the farcical Gianni Schicchi. Also part of the season is George and Ira Gershwin's American opera Porgy & Bess, a love story set in a world of Southern African-Americans in the early part of the 20th century. Classic Broadway musicals fill out the schedule, including the Tony Award-winning Ragtime, the Kern/Hammerstein favorite Show Boat and the family-friendly adaptation of Peter Pan (above). And an impressive repertory company plays multiple roles to make all of these shows possible.
But beyond these productions are dozens of fascinating opportunities to learn more about the creation and history behind the works, and the behind-the-scenes effort to put a show together. Enjoy pre-show talkback sessions, Academy Classes and one-night-only concert events like a tribute to Cole Porter. Whether you want to dig into the Gershwin songbook, learn about theatrical costuming or explore the many incarnations of Peter Pan, UFOMT will have something to enhance a weekend—or a week—at the theater in northern Utah. (Scott Renshaw)
Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theater @ Ellen Eccles Theater, 43 S. Main, Logan, 800-262-0074, July 6-Aug. 6, $10-$77 individual tickets, season tickets available, see website for full schedule. UtahFestival.org