The Essential A&E Picks for Feb. 14-20 | Entertainment Picks | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

The Essential A&E Picks for Feb. 14-20 

You Bet Your Black Ass, Broadway, Once, Bollywood Boulevard, Ali Wong

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click to enlarge LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
  • Library of Congress

Good Company Theatre: You Bet Your Black Ass, Broadway

Make no mistake: Racism is rampant in America. It's found in a medical school yearbook that allegedly shows the governor of Virginia posing in either blackface or a Ku Klux Klan hood. And it's given cover when a white supremacy rally is said to include "good people on both sides."

That makes Black History Month all the more important, and this weekend, Good Company Theatre celebrates the rich legacy of black America's contributions to the American stage, from the hardship and struggle replayed in Porgy and Bess (John W. Bubbles, from the 1935 premiere production, is pictured) to the multiracial reimagining of the legacy of our founding fathers in Hamilton.

As its title might suggest, You Bet Your Black Ass, Broadway is a spirited revue, featuring an all African-American cast performing songs from the greatest musicals showcasing black performers ever to emerge from the "Great White Way." Indeed, there are plenty of Broadway blockbusters to choose from—Big River, The Color Purple, Passing Strange, The Wiz and Dreamgirls among them.

"This revue is a chance to celebrate African-American contributions to musical theater," says Camille Washington, Good Company Theatre founder and the show's co-director. "We've been involved with Broadway since its very beginnings in vaudeville. So often, black folks have given—not just through music like rhythm & blues and gospel, but through performance style—to an art that seldom gives back. Good Company Theatre wants to promote, honor and share black talent through song." (Lee Zimmerman)
You Bet Your Black Ass, Broadway @ Good Company Theatre, 2404 Wall Ave., Ogden, 801-917-4649, Feb. 14-15, 8 p.m.; Feb. 16, 4 & 8 p.m.; Feb. 17, 4 p.m., $20,

click to enlarge PIONEER THEATRE
  • Pioneer Theatre

Pioneer Theatre Co.: Once

Once returns to the place where it all began—in a manner of speaking—when the stage musical begins a run at Pioneer Theatre Co. on Feb. 15. The movie version of Once first got attention outside of Ireland as a breakout hit at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007. The rest, as they say, is history: Once went on to get a theatrical release and won an Oscar in 2008 for Best Original Song, and the soundtrack garnered a Grammy nomination. In 2012, the story was transformed into a Broadway show by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and won eight Tony Awards.

Once is the story of an Irish street musician and vacuum cleaner repairman (known as "Hoovers" in Ireland) and a Czech woman who sells flowers. They bond over music and end up falling in love. However, both have other romantic and family entanglements that complicate things. The musical includes favorite songs from the film, like the Academy Award-winning "Falling Slowly," as well as two songs created specifically for the stage version by the film's two-person music team, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.

For this production, Roderick Lawrence, who audiences might recognize from a cameo as a hot lawyer from Comedy Central's Broad City, takes the role of "Guy." Hillary Porter, who has Broadway experience, makes her PTC debut in the role of "Girl." The cast also includes PTC veterans Mary Fanning (Baruska), Chris Mixon (Da), and local youth actors Hailey Burnham and Britton Gardner. (Geoff Griffin)
Once @ Pioneer Theatre Co., 300 S. 1400 East, 801-581-6961, Feb. 15-March 2, Mondays-Thursdays, 7 p.m.; Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m., $44-$71,

click to enlarge ANNE WHITMAN
  • Anne Whitman

Bollywood Boulevard

Hollywood might be the place you'd peg as the capital of the movie-making world, but the Indian film industry makes more movies than the United States. The most distinctive part of that industry is the Hindi language portion known popularly as Bollywood—which carries on a tradition of epic musicals full of music and romance.

A deep love for that tradition drove co-creators Heena Patel and Rushi Vakil to put together Bollywood Boulevard, a live theatrical celebration of Bollywood musicals, which debuted in 2017. "There has been an exponential uptake in interest in Bollywood since Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscars," Patel says. "However, a lot of the understanding that has emerged since then ... has been of films created in the last 10-15 years. For me, that really felt incomplete, because Bollywood is over 100 years old."

The production combines projected scenes from Bollywood musicals across the years with live dancers re-creating the choreography. To the extent that there's a narrative through-line, Patel says, "we have made our story the story of the film industry itself and how it has changed, grown and shifted over the generations."

One of the main challenges was narrowing down such an expansive history to just a few numbers. "We have reworked the song list since our premiere and in fact will be debuting some new songs in Salt Lake City," Vakil says. "I think diehard Bollywood fans are going to appreciate the level of thought that went into creating the song list for this show, and the expanse of people that we were able to recognize through it." (Scott Renshaw)
Bollywood Boulevard @ Kingsbury Hall, 1375 E. Presidents Circle, 801-581-7100, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m., $5-$40,

click to enlarge CLEFT CLIPS
  • Cleft Clips

Ali Wong: Milk and Money Tour

"It's very rare and unusual to see a female comic perform pregnant," Ali Wong insists. "Female comics don't get pregnant. Once they do get pregnant, they generally disappear."

That, in essence, defines the style of Wong—an unapologetic comedian when it comes to mores, manners and matters of social acceptance. Born of Chinese and Vietnamese ancestry, she emigrated to the U.S. at age 4 and later achieved a Bachelor of Arts in ethnic studies. The latter helped inform her cultural commentary and ability to skew stereotypes at every turn.

The tack worked well. In 2011, Variety singled her out as one of their "10 Comics to Watch," while her appearances on the late-night talk show circuit reaped rewards in the form of two Netflix comedy specials and a recurring role in the hit series American Housewife. That's in addition to guest appearances on Inside Amy Schumer and Black Box, her gig as a writer for the comedy series Fresh off the Boat and voice acting credits in the recent films The Angry Birds Movie, The Lego Ninjago Movie and Ralph Breaks the Internet. Even with her irascible attitude, Wong's found substantial success.

And yes, with two kids, Wong's also a working mom. While breaking down barriers for Asian Americans, she's redefining womanhood as well. "I'm an Asian woman and therefore guaranteed to live until I'm a billion," she notes. "I'm guaranteed like a turtle from the Galapagos."

Political correctness might dictate there's nothing wrong with that. Fans would note that's very Wong indeed. (LZ)
Ali Wong: Milk and Money Tour @ Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 801-355-2787, Feb. 17, 7 p.m., $65,

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