“Sense and Sensibility” and “Into the Woods” – Utah Shakespeare Festival

This review aired on KBAQ July 31, 2014


Utah Shakespeare Festival
Cedar City, Utah

On Monday, I reviewed the first of three outstanding productions I saw at Cedar City’s Utah Shakespeare Festival, “The Comedy of Errors.”  Tonight, I’ll comment on the other two productions I attended, a new dramatization of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” and a remarkable version of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.”

“Sense and Sensibility” proved a prim and proper adaptation of the Austen story that was stripped of its minutia but the plot was never compromised.  The crisp script keeps the audience focused on the critical plot details and the succession of complex character names remains clear because of thoughtful script suggestions that subtly remind audiences of the characters relationships.  The plot explores love that goes amiss but is ultimately resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.  Again Cassandra Bissell and Eva Balistrieri, who played sisters in “The Comedy of Errors,” played very different sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, in “Sense and Sensibility.”  The pair were wonderful in crafting the hurts and harrowing slings that almost force the sisters to not get what they desire in love.  The interesting sets shifted with effortless ease to create the story’s myriad of locales but always allowed audiences to know where they were.  The rest of the acting ensemble in “Sense and Sensibility” was exquisite perfection.

Finally, Sondheim’s creatively clever and very modern interpretation of several well-known fairytales, “Into the Woods,” was brilliant.  This difficult musical can be confusing but Jeremy Mann’s direction and Christine Kellogg’s choreography work perfectly to keep the many characters and the various stories clear.  This musical is rarely performed and is often damaged by bad performances.  Everyone here was perfect.  Even the small orchestra handled the intricate score with rich aplomb and the cast’s singing was artful.  I was lucky to see the exquisite 1987 original production of “Into the Woods” but this fine cast and stunning production equaled the original.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival proved to be an impressive theater company that deserved its recent Tony Award for Best Regional Theater.  If you go to Cedar City, the Festival has a fascinating facilities tour where you might catch an understudy rehearsal or run into several performers camped backstage handling various responsibilities.  The only disappointment in the Festival experience was the weak Greenshow presented before the nightly outdoor productions in the Adams Theatre.  The just announced 2015 summer season includes “Henry IV Part Two,” “King Lear,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Amadeus,” “Charley’s Aunt,” and “South Pacific.”  On Monday, I’ll review a production of the Disney musical, “The Little Mermaid” I saw at the outdoor Tuacahn Amphitheatre in nearby St. George.  For tickets to the Utah Shakespeare Festival, call the Utah Shakespeare Festival box office at 800-PLAYTIX or order tickets online at www.bard.org.


“Sense and Sensibility” A

“Into the Woods” A