There was much ado in Cedar City July 7 through 9th. Celebrating the opening of the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the dedication to the new 38.6 million dollar Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. The Center encompasses the new Southern Utah Museum of Art, (SUMA). The new Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre replaces the old Adams Shakespeare Theatre. The Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre, the renovated Randall L. Jones Theatre and New Festival Administrative Offices, Costume Studio and Education Hall.
As Jimmie Jones, the only artist to have a permanent collection in SUMA said, “This center is a confluence of the arts.” I agree and what a wonderful idea this is.
I was on scene and able to take part in the festivities. The dedications were beautifully and elegantly accomplished. The SUMA center is modern and functional, with classrooms for teaching, movable walls for gatherings.
The first stage performance we attended was in the renovated Randal L. Jones Theater. “Cocoanuts,” is a vaudevillian like comedy, with the Marx Brothers characters doing original slap-stick. Although Slap-stick is not my taste, the performance was amusing and not offensively silly as I had imagined. One of the most notable attractions in the theatre renovations is the gold leafing painstakingly added to the balcony. Also added was the addition of a wait room for latecomers to see and hear the performance, while waiting for an appropriate time to enter.
The second performance was “Much Ado about Nothing,” in the new Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre. The new theatre is almost identical to the old Adams, with much more comfortable seating and a snack bar on each level, elevators for handicapped. The performance was exceptional as usual, funny and entertaining. I am certainly not a qualified actor’s critic, but I found Ben Livingston performance as Benedick hilarious captivating. I was told the sound would be better in the new
Theatre, I did not find it so.as others also confirmed. Some just cannot project loud enough for all to hear. I personally would be thrilled if the use of mic’s were allowed.
The third performance was again in the Randal L. Jones Theatre. “Mary Poppins” is not just for children. This production in particular shows us the value of the new Artistic and Production Facility where they have the ability to produce sets for five plays at one time. They outdid themselves with the Mary Poppins set, lighting and effects, quite powerful yet, enchanting. It is hard to pick one performer over another; they all played their parts outstandingly. Even one scène over another, there are so many exceptional ones. I hope we will see more of Miss Mila Belle Howells (Jane Banks) in the future, charismatic as she is.
The forth production for this season is The Three Musketeers, which we did not have time to see. But based on the others it is sure to be a hit also.
The new Eileen and Allen Anes Studio offer seating for 200 and provides a third option for festival productions, beginning with Julius Caesar on July 29 and for Murder for Two on August 4th.
The pre-show Greenshow is still a tradition, now performed in the new Ashton Family Greenshow Commons. The commons are a little smaller in size, so it will be crowed, go early. They are presenting 3 different show themes this year, English Night, Paris Bistro night and we saw the Irish show that was talented but lacked costumes, which I missed.
The Shakespeare season is now through September 10th, the Randal L. Jones Theatre productions, now through September15th.
The new center is an asset that can keep–on-giving, to the community, to the visitors to students and patrons of the arts, to all who go there.
The Bard would be pleased.