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BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre's A TALE OF TWO CITIES is Evocative

A TALE OF TWO CITIES plays through March 20, 2021.

BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre's A TALE OF TWO CITIES is Evocative

It is nearly impossible for Hale Centre Theatre to surpass its 2011 regional premiere of A TALE OF TWO CITIES, which is still a theatre-going highlight for many who were lucky enough to attend. However, its stunning new production of the show has much to recommend it, with bold imagery, meaningful moments, and haunting performances.

The 2008 Broadway musical A TALE OF TWO CITIES is redemptive and uplifting as it weaves a tale full of memorable characters. The storytelling and dialogue are sharp, and the score is complex and often achingly beautiful.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES (book, music, and lyrics by Jill Santoriello) is based on the classic Charles Dickens novel. The action moves back and forth between the two cities of the title--Paris and London--during the time of the French Revolution. After Dr. Alexander Manette is released from his imprisonment in the Bastille, he and his daughter befriend slovenly English lawyer Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat who has denounced his upbringing. The lives of the two men become inextricably linked to one another and to the Manettes.

The cast, including some returning lead performers from the previous production, is filled with talented performers and thrilling singers.

Kyle Olsen (double cast with Casey Elliott) and Ren Cottam (double cast with Kelton Davis) bring lush, unassailable vocals and determined spirit to Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, respectively.

Adrien Swenson as Madame Defarge (double cast with McKenna Kay Jensen) and Brittany Andam as Lucie Manette (double cast with Jessica Sundwall Hudson) offer contrasting portrayals of strong women, with equally contrasting but strong singing voices.

With too many supporting characters to name, some highlights include Josh Egbert as Marquis St. Evremonde (double cast with Jim Dale), Stephen Kerr as John Barsad (double cast with John Sweeney), Austin Smith as Ernest Defarge (double cast with Jason Baldwin), David Weekes as Dr. Manette (double cast with Ric Starnes), and Linda Jean Stephenson as Miss Pross (double cast with Sharon Kenison).

They are dressed well in Joy Zhu's period costumes (especially the distressed garb of the lower class) and Krissa Lent's hair and makeup design, with well-designed properties by Michelle Jensen.

Kacey Udy's 2011 set was a wondrous concoction of cobblestone and rough wood that was rooted in realism, twisting and turning so it hardly ever looked the same in any given scene. He went a different route in this revival, centering the staging around a large polished wooden set piece that moves cleverly and is inlaid with square glass windows and grates for light and fog. In some scenes, they gleam like jewels in superb interplay between the scenic and lighting designs.

The lighting by Jaron Hermansen glows with warmth, and its deep jewel-toned palette, symbolically suggesting the red and blue flags of England and France, is meaningful and visually impactful. (The occasional addition of pink, however, feels out of place in the setting.)

The breathtaking projections from designer Bobby Gibson and content artist Madeline Ashton are standalone works of art steeped in historical research and perfectly crafted for the mood and setting of each scene.

As in the very best stage musicals, there are moments when the many elements of this production come together with an alchemy that is indescribable to create strikingly evocative stage pictures. The set, lighting, and projections join with the staging, music, lyrics, and performances to create an emotional impact that is truly unforgettable.

The theatre is complying with all state and local government mandates for gatherings including socially distanced seating and a strict requirement for all audience members to be masked at all times. Other policies include rigorous testing and screening for actors and other employees, contact tracing, hand sanitizing stations and frequent disinfecting of surfaces, social distancing markers, and no paper programs or concessions. The theatre's COVID-19 Safety Guide can be found at www.hct.org.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES plays through March 20, 2021. For tickets (in very limited supply), call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.hct.org.

Photo Credit: Hale Centre Theatre.


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From This Author Tyler Hinton