Hairspray the Musical• April 11, 2023• Eccles Theater

Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe

Photographs by Jeremy Daniel

Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

The 2022/2023 season of Broadway at The Eccles has been one for the books! Shows like Moulin Rouge, Ain’t Too Proud, and Dear Evan Hansen has thrilled audiences.  Eccles Theater has been packed to the rafters with satisfied patrons. The shows of this season have been excellent, but I must admit, when this season was announced, I was thrilled to see Hairspray on the list.  I didn’t know there was a tour up until that point.  Outside of the occasional regional or community theater productions, my Hairspray musical experience had ended.  I really love this musical so I’m sure you can imagine how delighted I was to see it on the season schedule, and how much more ecstatic I was to be sitting in my seat Tuesday night waiting for the show to begin.  

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Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hanson• February 28, 2023• Eccles Theater

Reviewed by Alisha Gregson

Anthony Norman (Evan Hansen) in the 2022-2023 North American Tour of DEAR EVAN HANSEN, Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

In March 2020, Dear Evan Hansen came to Eccles Theater. Unfortunately, after only a brief run of performances, the production had to cancel its tour early due to the Covid-19 shutdown. Now, 3 years later, the Tony Award-winning musical has returned to Eccles. Thousands of Utahns who previously missed out will finally get their opportunity to see the show. We were fortunate to see the production on March 4, 2020. We hoped that shows would only be pushed back a week or so. Clearly, that wasn’t to be.

February 28th was opening night, and the theater was filled with excited guests. I noticed far more teenagers in the audience than I typically see at a Broadway show. This was no surprise, as Dear Evan Hansen resonates with a younger crowd on a deeper level than most musicals. That’s not to say this is a performance that only appeals to a teenage crowd. This musical has already become a favorite among theater lovers of all ages. 

The emotionally raw storyline focuses on an anxiety-filled teenage boy, whose deceitful stories both build up his confidence and weigh him down. Dear Evan Hansen covers a variety of heavy topics. Topics like suicide, mental health, grief, acceptance, and both the positive and negative impacts of social media. While the performance brought many in the audience to tears, the witty humor and quirky characters kept everyone laughing. 

Anthony Norman (Evan Hansen), Alaina Anderson (Zoe Murphy) in the 2022-2023 North American Tour of DEAR EVAN HANSEN,, Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

The modern-day setting makes Dear Evan Hansen stand out among other Broadway productions. While rarely used in other plays, modern technology, and social media were integral to the plot. Digital panels displaying text messages, emails, and social media covered the backdrop of the stage. The rest of the stage setup remained fairly simple throughout the night. Usually featuring a single bed, couch, or dinner table. The wardrobe, hair, and makeup were also very different from a typical Broadway show. The casual, everyday outfits and character appearances helped the show feel authentic and intimate. 

Without over-the-top costumes and elaborate stage props, the cast of the show had the opportunity to shine. It wasn’t until the end of the night, when they all stood in line to take a bow, that I realized just how small the cast really was. With only 8 characters sharing the stage,  they each had a decent amount of time in the spotlight. I was impressed with the character development. Not only with how well they were written, but how well each actor portrayed them. The characters were complicated, flawed, and relatable, with each one having their moment as both a protagonist and antagonist. Ultimately, as they became more and more vulnerable, it was impossible not to fall in love with each one of them. 

At the center of the story, of course, was the anxious and awkward Evan Hansen. The very talented Anthony Norman was perfectly cast for the role. He transitioned seamlessly as his character developed from a fidgety, innocent misfit, to a more confident version of Evan. His voice was beautiful and he captivated the audience while singing some of the show’s most popular songs like “Waving Through a Window”, “You Will Be Found”, and “Words Fail”. 

Heidi Hansen, Evans’s single mother, was played by Coleen Sexton. Trying to balance work, school, and being a mom, Heidi struggles with her own insecurities and shortcomings. Sexton stunned the audience with her powerful performance of “So Big / So Small”. 

Anthony Norman (Evan Hansen), Coleen Sexton (Heidi Hansen) in the 2022-2023 North American Tour of DEAR EVAN HANSEN, Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

August Emerson played Connor, the angry troubled teen whose tragic suicide sends Evan down an unexpected path. Emerson’s portrayal of the tortured teen was flawless. After Connor’s suicide, the character returned as Evans’s inner voice, far milder than the edgy version we meet in the beginning.

Zoe Murphy, Connor’s sister, was played by Alaina Anderson. Zoe, who was also Evan’s love interest, struggled to let go of the resentment she held towards her brother even after his death. John Hemphill and Lili Thomas played Connor’s parents, Larry, and Cynthia Murphy. Each member of the Murphy family grieved differently, while the loss of Connor sent the already dysfunctional family into even more chaos. As each of their complex relationships with both Connor and Evan played out, they gave the audience some of the show’s most heartfelt scenes.

Pablo David Laucerica nailed his role as Jared Kleinman, Evans’s “family friend.” Jared, a tech geek who assists Evan in his web of lies, was the comic relief. His comedic timing and delivery were outstanding, as he continued to earn the crowd’s laughter. 

Alana Beck, the bold teenage girl who asserts herself into the middle of the drama, was played by Micaela Lamas. Well-meaning, but desperate for attention, Alana will seemingly do anything to ignore her loneliness. 

In both vocal performance and acting abilities, the cast was amazing. They proved their talent with each new scene and song. As much as I enjoy listening to the original cast recording, I have to say I loved listening to this cast that much more. Maybe it was just hearing them live, but it says a lot to how great this cast was. The moving music and lyrics for Dear Evan Hansen were created by talented songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Who are also known for La La Land and The Greatest Showman. Book writer Steven Levenson wrote a beautiful and emotional story, that successfully takes on some very difficult topics in a touching way. 

I enjoyed every moment of Dear Evan Hansen and appreciated the many strong messages. I would highly recommend going to see Dear Evan Hansen at Eccles Theater if you get the chance. 

Select tickets are still available for Dear Evan Hansen at Eccles Theater. Click here for more info!

Patti LuPone

Patti LuPone• “Don’t Monkey With Broadway” Tour• February 4, 2023• The Noorda Center

Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe

“It won’t be easy.  You’ll think it’s strange when I try to explain how I feel…” about Patti LuPone at The Noorda Center of the Performing Arts on the campus of Utah Valley University.  What a moment in this venue’s history.  To have a legend of the Great White Way grace this young stage is a massive get for The Noorda.  But as I’ve mentioned before, this venue was up to the level of the great Broadway Legend and her performance and her still after all these years, powerful voice.  The meeting of Lupone’s voice and the acoustics of The Noorda filled the air of the room was a beautiful union.  

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Jessica Vosk

Broadway Star Jessica Vosk• January 25, 2022• Noorda Center

Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe

Photographed by Emily Muñoz

Jessica Vosk is a singer and actress best known for starring in the role of Elphaba, the lead in Wicked both on Broadway and on the show’s national tour.  She has also performed on Broadway in The Bridges of Madison County, Finding Neverland, and the 2015 revival of Fiddler on the Roof.  Vosk has also performed concerts in some of the most famous venues across the country including New York City’s famous Lincoln Center and sold out the iconic Carnegie Hall.  So having Jessica Vosk here in Utah at the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Utah Valley University was a real honor.

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Ain’t Too Proud

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations • January 10, 2023• Eccles Theater

Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe

Photo Credit: Emilio Madrid

The Eccles Theater and Broadway at the Eccles started 2023 with a bang.  Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations was a perfect way to start the new year.  The jukebox musical tells the story of one of the most iconic and influential groups in music history.  The Motown legends had so many peaks and valleys throughout their career that it would be impossible to pack all of the history into a Broadway show.  But the production sure tried.  In the late 90s NBC produced an four hour miniseries of the group and even with all the detail they provided, I still had more questions. Each membrer of the classic lineup has a story that could be its own movie or musical. 

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Moulin Rouge! The Musical

Moulin Rouge! The Musical •December 2, 2022• Eccles Theater

Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy

When Broadway at the Eccles announced their 2022-23 season and Moulin Rouge! The Musical was listed as one of the shows, I was beyond excited.  Like many of you, I’m a fan of the 2001 Baz Lurhman film starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.  I had heard great things about the stage version but I had seen very little of the production.  I try really hard not to listen to the cast recording until I’ve seen the production.  And I try to avoid watching too much video footage.  I really want to go in as fresh as possible. 

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and The Chocolate Factory• June 14, 2022 •Eccles Theater

Reviewed by Alisha Gregson

Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel

When I was offered a chance to attend and review Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on June 14th, at the Eccles Theater, I knew it was an opportunity I could not turn down. I have adored Dahl’s fantastic stories for as long as I can remember. His collection of classic children’s books was an influential and memorable part of my childhood. Just as they were for so many others. I have always hoped they would have a similar impact on my children. It just so happens that we are currently in the middle of what we have been calling our “Roald Dahl Summer”. We have been reading through his magical collection and intend to read all his classics before summer is over. Having just recently read Charlie and The Chocolate Factory to them, I was elated to have the opportunity to see the musical. 

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Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar 50th Anniversary Tour* May 10, 2022• Eccles Theater

Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe

Photo by Evan Zimmerman

When Jesus Christ Superstar came on the scene fifty years ago, I can’t imagine anyone, composer and lyricist included, would have foreseen this Rock Opera being revived for five decades. Initially, a concept album composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber with lyrics by Tim Rice. Both at the very earliest of stages in what would become legendary careers. The album was made because there was initially very little interest in producing a stage version of the musical. The 1971 album hit #1on the Billboard charts. That sparked some interest and the first production of Jesus Christ Superstar to place in London and eventually the U.S.

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Broadway at the Eccles Announces 2022/23 Season

Zions Bank Broadway at the Eccles is Excited to Announce
the upcoming 2022-2023 Broadway Season featuring
Moulin Rouge!, Tina and Les Misérables and more!

Salt Lake City, UT – Broadway Across America is pleased to announce the 2022-2023 Broadway at the Eccles season, bringing the best of Broadway to Salt Lake City. The season begins with two weeks of the smash Broadway hit Moulin Rouge! The Musical, winner of 10 Tony Awards – including Best Musical last year, followed by the Detroit Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, and you can’t stop the beat when an all new production of Hairspray returns in April. The season continues with the premiere of Tina – The Tina Turner Musical and one of Utah’s favorites Les Misérables plays an extremely limited two-week engagement opening in June of 2023. Concluding the season is the musical comedy, Beetlejuice, based on Tim Burton’s hilarious film. 

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Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Hamilton •Eccles Theater •December 229, 2021

Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe

I sat at my computer looking at the blank document for a long time. I wondered what I could possibly say about this modern musical theater masterpiece.  Is there an angle or breakdown of Hamilton that hasn’t already been covered?  The more I thought about it, the more white and blank the document became.  The answer is most likely, no, there isn’t much to say about Hamilton that hasn’t been said over the last six or seven years. But what I can and will comment on is my experience with Hamilton, and my review of the cast I saw in the And Peggy Tour here in Salt Lake City at the Eccles Theater.  Wish me luck!

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