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BWW Review: Hale Academy's MOANA, JR. is a Satisfying Regional Premiere

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MOANA, JR. plays through August 28, 2020 at 4:30 pm.

BWW Review: Hale Academy's MOANA, JR. is a Satisfying Regional Premiere

Hale Center Theater Orem's Hale Academy is presenting the regional premiere of Disney's MOANA, JR. Visually striking and musically satisfying, it is certainly worth the effort to see.

MOANA, JR. (music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina, book by Susan Soon He Stanton) is based on the 2016 Disney animated film. Moana, the daughter of a Pacific islander chief, yearns to explore beyond her own island. In an effort to save her people, she recruits demigod Maui to help her return the heart of the goddess Te Fiti.

This stage adaptation for young people is an even more satisfying musical than the movie it's based on. Music adapter and arranger Ian Weinberger smartly utilized deleted material from the development of the film to add new impactful musical moments that drive story and character. Most touching is Moana's tender solo at the death of a loved one.

Blythe Snowden is strong and sure as Moana. She has a great partner in Jonathan Avila as a clever and carefree Maui. They are both quite impressive all around and would be equally so in an adult production.

Ammon Perez's Chief Tui is at the same high level and deserves a special shoutout. Also worthy of mention are the nice vocals of Claire Quigley as a reimagined Tamatoa and Bronwyn Andreoli as Gramma Tala.

The tricky ensemble numbers are executed well by an energetic cast in a story theatre style. With exceptional direction by David Paul Smith and choreography by Niki Fullmer, the production employs Polynesian iconography and movement, along with sweeping ocean-inspired visuals from costume designer Dvorah Governale, hair and makeup designer Laura Bikman, lighting designer Ryan Fallis, set designer Cole McClure, and prop designers Linda Hale and Brad Shelton. It's all worthy of a Hale Center Theater Orem mainstage production, and especially the lush costumes and unique puppetry.

Of note, the performers each wear a clear face shield onstage during the show. It is not difficult for the audience to become accustomed to them, and it is a simple, effective way to protect the young cast.

Additional precautions put in place by the theatre include masking and physical distancing of cast and crew in rehearsals and backstage along with daily temperature and symptom checks. Masks are required for patrons and staff the entire time they are in the building, and clear directives are given aurally and visually on walking pathways for social distancing. There is a one-seat buffer between parties, all seating and surfaces are deep cleaned and sanitized, and no physical programs are distributed.

MOANA, JR. plays through August 28, 2020 at 4:30 pm. For tickets, call the box office at 801-226-8600 or visit www.haletheater.org.

Photo Credit: L-R Blythe Snowden (Moana) and Jonathan Avila (Maui). Photo by Dustin Bolt Photo.


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From This Author Tyler Hinton