Best of Utah Theater in 2013: Salt Lake City BWW Reviewers' Favorite Shows

Tyler Hinton's Picks:

1. RAGTIME at Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City,

One of the greatest musicals ever written received a sumptuous production that more than did it justice. The scenes and songs played out naturally and organically, and the dramatic elements were heightened and emotionally raw without diminishing the moments of joy and elation. With two casts filled to the brim with some of the best of Utah's theater talent, it was exquisite in every way and could easily be considered the best theatrical production in Utah this year.

2. DREAMGIRLS at the Capitol Theatre,

This national tour was exceptionally well produced and performed. The production team created a stellar, Broadway-quality production that didn't appear overblown, and the staging and movement flowed naturally and engagingly. The sung-through musical was a joy to listen to thanks to the explosive vocal power and remarkable acting chops of the performers across the board.

3. THE ODD COUPLE at Pioneer Theatre Company,

This production of the perennial classic was a sensational piece of theatre that reflected a profound understanding of the language of Neil Simon. It was somehow simultaneously over-the-top and true-to-life, and it worked. The sheer amount of audience laughter certified that much. Well directed, produced, designed, and performed, it was a Broadway-caliber night out right here in Salt Lake City, which is rare for a straight play.

4. Disney's TARZAN at Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City,

In addition to the fabulous score, this production's artistry, technical elements, and performances created a stunning artistic vision of a striking jungle paradise. The show took place in an imaginative world that fused a bright cartoony sensibility with more grounded cultural representations. Each scene revealed surprise after surprise as the design and direction provided new wonders in which the audience could delight.

Honorable Mentions:

I LOVE YOU BECAUSE by Utah Repertory Theater Company, (a solid production with an authentic off-Broadway feel)

ELF THE MUSICAL at Pioneer Theatre Company, (a show with Broadway zip, scale, and talent)

Blair Howell's Picks:

1. GOOD PEOPLE at Salt Lake Acting Company in Salt Lake City,

The brilliance of Pulitzer Prize-winning David Lindsay-Abaire's GOOD PEOPLE was strengthened by SLAC's expert staging of this fascinating play. Equal parts quirky comedy and piercing drama -- and equal parts harsh and gentle -- GOOD PEOPLE was smartly directed by Robin Wilks-Dunn and featured a searing performance of Nell Gwynn as Margaret Walsh that had nuance, heart, and honesty.

Honorable Mention: SLAC's VENUS IN FUR showcased the burgeoning talent of Marza Warsinske and Patrick Kintz with vibrant direction by Tracy Callahan.

2. EVITA at Egyptian Theatre Company in Park City,

Shortly after the revival closed on Broadway and shortly before the national tour began, Egyptian Theatre producers lobbied for exclusive regional rights to EVITA, and the efforts paid off handsomely for savvy Utah theatergoers. The splendid direction by Amber Hansen focused on the story's essential elements, and Rebecca Joy Raboy's choreography energetically kept the plot moving forward. The universally strong cast was lead by a captivating Erin Royall Carlson, who wrapped her formidable instrument with ease around the challenging title role.

3. URINETOWN at Hale Center Theater Orem,

HCTO's URINETOWN overflowed with bladder-bursting comedy. Kelly Coombs Johnson was delightful as Hope Caldwell, and Chase Ramsey deservedly was honored by Utah Theater Lovers for his wet-your-pants funny performance. The golden shower of talent included Taylor Eliason and Andrew Robertson as Officers Lockstock and Barrel, Daniel Fenton Anderson as Senator Fipp, and the excellent-in-every-role Marcie Jacobsen as Penelope Pennywise.

Honorable Mention: Standout performances by Cody Hale, Carleton Bluford, and Mackenzie Seiler made HCTO's THE CIVIL WAR memorable.

4. SPRING AWAKENING by the University of Utah's Department of Theatre,

A university production in Utah's list of Best Theater of 2013? Oh, yes. Stellar direction by Denny Berry made SPRING AWAKENING haunting and exhilarating. Not content with a cookie-cutter restaging of the original Broadway production, Berry brought innovations in staging that enhanced the storytelling and heightened the emotional pull. And the young cast -- led by Jaron Barney as Melchior, Dylan MacDonald as Moritz, and Jackie Jensen as Wendla -- was stunning, brimming with talent and promise.

Photo Credit: Ensemble in Hale Centre Theatre's RAGTIME; Robert Scott Smith as Mike Dillon and Nell Gwynn as Margaret Walsh in SLAC's GOOD PEOPLE.

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From This Author Tyler Hinton