The Utah Theater Scene 

Salt Lake City plays pack a wallop.

click to enlarge Pioneer Theater Co.'s A Chorus Line - COURTESY OF PIONEER THEATRE CO.
  • Courtesy of Pioneer Theatre Co.
  • Pioneer Theater Co.'s A Chorus Line
Live Utah theater isn’t going anywhere. Long a home to clowns, misfits and crowd-pleasing entertainers, the stage offers an intimate experience of human storytelling that cannot be reproduced by any other art form.

With a diverse community of companies, actors, writers and directors, the Utah theater scene is as vibrant as ever. Professional, cutting-edge drama steeped in commentary on current events can be found just as easily as sing-along Friday night fun fare. There’s something for every taste. Take the time to find the theaters that are right for you.

Salt Lake Acting Company
Situated in an old Mormon church and likely the reason the LDS Church does not allow anyone to use their old buildings anymore, Salt Lake Acting Company has been poking the bear and offering Salt Lake City audiences a theater alternative for more than 40 years.

“SLAC is still pushing boundaries, entertaining a diverse audience base and creating national headlines,” says artistic director Jason Bruffy. Coming attractions include: Too Much Memory, Feb. 3-28; Charm, April 14-May 9; Saturday’s Voyeur, June 29-Aug. 29. 168 W. 500 North, 801-363-7522, SaltLakeActingCompany.org

Pioneer Theatre Company
As the big kid on the block, Pioneer Theatre Company offers everything from whiz-bang musicals to classics to the best of contemporary theater. Lavish costuming and set design are par for the course. PTC strives to bring Broadway quality to our town and auditions actors in New York City, Los Angeles as well as in Salt Lake City. PTC also contracts with major theatrical unions for directors, choreographers, musicians and designers, thereby ensuring the highest of professional standards. In 2010, look for: Touch(ed), Jan. 8-23; Twelve Angry Men, Feb. 12-27; Our Town, March 12-27; 42nd Street, April 23-May 8. 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, PioneerTheatre.org

Plan-B Theatre Company
Officially incorporated in 1995, Plan-B Theatre Company is dedicated to stretching a penny to showcase the best of local talent. Whether featuring homegrown professional actors or producing original socially conscience plays, Plan-B is committed to creating true Utah theater. Even still, it managed to take one production (A Letter to Harvey Milk) abroad and another (Facing East) to an off-Broadway New York stage, where they forced the natives to take notice of something west of Riverside Drive. Stay tuned for: Wallace, March 4-14; Amerigo, April 8-18; And the Band Slammed On, May 1; Script-in-Hand Series, March 10, April 14 & May 19. 138 W. 300 South, 801-297-4200, PlanBTheatreCompany.org

Pinnacle Acting Company
Pinnacle is all about bringing to the people bare-bones productions packed with powerhouse acting. Past productions have ranged from classic drama with big casts and detailed costuming to black-box style performances with three actors on a nearly bare stage. Without a permanent home—though usually performing at the Midvale Performing Arts Center—the sheer performative horsepower of Pinnacle is worth the trek. They must be sought out to be believed. Coming up: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Feb. 4-20; An Ideal Husband, June 3-19; Steel Magnolias, Aug. 19-Sept. 4; Dancing at Lughnasa, Nov. 4-20. 695 W. Center St. (7720 South), 801-309-8934, PinnacleActingCompany.org

Utah Contemporary Theatre
Relatively new to the scene, UCT hopes to offer another voice for fresh, original work as well as contemporary plays that might not otherwise be produced locally. In tune with that mission, UCT will offer, in addition to its schedule of fully staged productions, a series of readings of new work being considered for development. These readings are open to the public and free of charge. Upcoming in 2010: Talking Wales IV: Finding Sir Formidor, Feb. 17-21; My First Time, Aug. 19-28. 138 W. 300 South, 801-886-3019, UtahContemporaryTheatre.org

PYGmalion Theatre Company
“The mission of PYGmalion Theatre Company, say PYG representative Shellie Waters, “is to produce plays which reflect issues, concerns and shared experiences in the lives of women.” This is not humorless feminism, though. PYG chooses scripts to shed light on the comic, tragic, and tragi-comic lives of women and the men around them. Casts vary similarly, with veteran professionals sharing the stage with budding up-and-comers. PYG fills an important niche in the local theater ecosystem. Coming soon: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, March 25-April 10; Sordid Lives, May 13-29. 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, PygmalionProductions.org.

Broadway Across America
Bringing touring Broadway productions, bells-and-whistles intact, all the way to Salt Lake City for little ol’ us, Broadway Across America lets us plain folks enjoy the same big-name shows that our obnoxious co-workers won’t shut up about seeing during their trips to the Big Apple. Get ready for: Avenue Q, Feb. 2-7; Legally Blonde: The Musical, March 23-28; The Lion King, Aug. 11-Sept. 12. Capitol Theater, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-5502, BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com

Utah Shakespearean Festival
The award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival is an excellent addition of culture to your Southern Utah wilderness wanderings. Calling Cedar City home since 1962, the festival’s repertory company produces a mix of classic Elizabethan drama alongside 20th-century and contemporary favorites in its two theaters. With multiple offerings throughout the summer and fall, it’s best to check USF’s Website for specific dates, times, and information on group rates and ticket packages. The 2010 season includes: Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Great Expectaions, Pride and Prejudice, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, The Adventures of Pericles, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Greater Tuna. Festival dates: June 28-Oct. 22. 351 W. Center St., Cedar City, 435-586-7880, Bard.org

click to enlarge CityGuide_Theater_Hale.jpg
Hale Centre Theatre
Edgy contemplation of man and society’s post-modern condition not your thing? Just want to get out for some memory-making time with the kids? For nearly 30 years, Hale Centre Theatre has been using the considerable community talent pool and a state-of-the-art facility to stage fun, values-minded musicals and comedies that won’t sting too much at the box office. Also offering tours, classes and summer theater camps for the younger set, Hale Centre Theatre is an excellent resource for learning about theater as well as enjoying it. On the roster: The Importance of Being Earnest, Jan. 1-Feb. 6; Fiddler on the Roof, Feb. 16-April 3; The Three Musketeers, April 19-June 5; The Pirates of Penzance, Aug. 10-Sept. 25; The Drowsy Chaperone, Oct. 5-Nov. 20; A Christmas Carol, Nov. 27-Dec. 23. 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City, 801-984-9009, HaleCentreTheatre.org

Desert Star Playhouse
Specializing in musical-comedy melodramas rife with pop-culture parody, Desert Star Playhouse is a fun night on the town. You can get pizza and a soda during the show, too. Heck, they’ll even sing “Happy Birthday” to you. Performing on two stages on Murray’s historic shopping district section of State Street, Desert Star is an excellent choice for family entertainment and special events. Group rates are available. Twi-lite, Jan. 7-March 13; Pirates of the Car-rib-eee-an, March 18-May 15; Beverly Hillbillies 90210, May 20-July 10; My Big Fat Utah Wedding, July 15-Sept. 18; Welcome Back, Potter Sept. 13-Nov. 18; Christmas Vacation, Nov. 18-Jan. 1. 4861 S. State, Murray 801-266-2600, DesertStar.biz.

The Off Broadway Theatre
Keeping it light and funny since 1994, Off Broadway Theatre is the downtown spot for funny-bone tickling. OBT performs classic comedies and musicals as well as an ever-expanding repertoire of house-made parodies. OBT is also home to Laughing Stock, Salt Lake’s premiere improv comedy troupe, performing every Friday and Saturday night. The Wicked Wizard of Ahhs, Feb. 12-March 13; Star Ward, April 23-May 29; Robin Hood: Boyz in the Hood, June 11-July 10; H.M.S. Pinafore, July 30-Sept. 4; Henry Botter, Sept. 24-Oct. 30; Miracle on Third and Main, Nov. 26-Dec. 27. 272 S. Main, 801-355-4628, TheOBT.com

Grand Theatre
Housed in the historic Salt Lake Community College South Campus building, the Grand Theatre nurtures local talent with education and a great old stage to perform on. Community-minded from casting to ticket price, the Grand Theatre stages solid shows produced with heart. Having Our Say, Jan. 26-Feb. 6; Eurydice, March 9-20; Bingo, May 11-22. 1575 S. State, 801-957-3322, The-Grand.org

Babcock Theatre & Studio 115
As the primary venue for the University of Utah’s Theatre Department and the Actor Training Program, the Babcock Theatre is the perfect place to experience productions staged by young, hungry talent. Housed with Pioneer Theatre Company in the Pioneer Memorial Theatre, the Babcock offers intimate theatre viewing with tomorrow’s big stars. Coming to the Babcock: The Rocky Horror Show, Feb. 19-March 7; The Would-Be Gentleman, April 9-18. Studio 115 is the department’s versatile black-box space in the Performing Arts Building, home to several experimental productions a year. Coming to Studio 115: The Affair, Feb. 25-28; THAED, April 1-4. University of Utah, 801-581-7100, Theatre.Utah.Edu

Wasatch Theatre Company
Bare-bones theater that doesn’t let fancy tricks get in the way of good storytelling, Wasatch Theatre is a welcome addition to the downtown Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Dedicated to producing original plays as well as contemporary classics, Wasatch Theatre Company offers a much-needed venue for Salt Lake City’s abundant local talent. Six Degrees of Separation, Jan. 14-30; Dead Man’s Cell Phone, performances TBD. 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-ARTS(2787), WasatchTheatre.org

Utah Festival Opera
The northern counterbalance to the Utah Shakespearean Festival, Utah Festival Opera keeps big voices and grand theatrics alive in the heart of downtown Logan. Utah Festival Opera offers classical opera in addition to more contemporary musical theatre. Thanks to its festival atmosphere, patrons can easily see multiple productions on its two restored historic stages during a weekend jaunt to picturesque Logan. The 2010 season runs July 7-Aug. 7, featuring: The Barber of Seville, Guys and Dolls, The Sound of Music, La Traviata, George M!, A Tribute to Lerner and Loewe, The Verdi Requiem, The Four Pianists, Carnevale Operafesta, Musica Magnifica, International Operatic Competition. Ellen Eccles Theatre, 43 S. Main, Logan, 1-800-262-0074, UFOC.org.

Also …
As a vibrant and dynamic entity, the Utah arts community is always growing. Check out:
Meat and Potato Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-ARTS(2787), MeatAndPotato.org
Utah Theatre Artists Company, UtahTheatreArtists.com
Ourspace Theatre, Park City Utah, 801-557-9000

Rob Tennant is a Salt Lake City freelance writer.

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Rob Tennant

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Rob Tennant is a Salt Lake City freelance writer.

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