Tag Archives: Romeo and Juliet

Romeo, Romeo…

A scene from "Romeo and Juliet" performed in 2011 at the Utah Shakespeare Festival (Photo: Karl Hugh). View their current season at http://www.bard.org.

A pair of “Romeo and Juliet” productions come to Valley stages during the 2012/13 season, so those of you who’ve enjoyed one or more of this season’s theater productions featuring star-crossed lovers ala Shakespeare can now experience its grandeur as a work of opera or ballet.

Ballet Arizona presents “Romeo and Juliet” featuring music by Sergei Prokofiev and choreography by artistic director Ib Andersen Feb. 14-17, 2013. Those of you who insist it’s far too early to think of such things should recall just how recently we seemed to be celebrating New Year’s Eve. Time moves quickly, especially in matters of the heart.

Arizona Opera presents “Roméo et Juliette,” written by Charles Gounod, Nov. 16-18. The Arizona Opera production, sung in French with English subtitles, features lyric soprano Jennifer Black of the Metropolitan Opera performing the aria “Je veux vivre.” Talk about a moment.

Love fares no better in most works of opera, which is part of their appeal for those dashed in everyday life by similar dreams and disappointments. Arizona Opera opens its 2012/13 season with another tale of tragic romance set against feuding family — performing Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” Oct. 12-14. Think Scottish moor instead of Italian piazza.

Ballet Arizona opens its 2012/13 season with “Giselle,” composed by Adolphe Adam and choreographed by Ib Andersen, Nov. 1-4. It’s one of four works being performed with The Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall. Others include “The Nutcracker” (music by Prokofiev, choreography by Andersen) Dec. 7-24 and “All Balanchine” May 2-5, 2013 (featuring “Serenade,” “Monumentum pro Gesualdo”/”Movements for Piano and Orchestra” and “Western Symphony”).

Ballet Arizona’s 2012/13 season also includes “Director’s Choice” — being performed March 28-31, 2013 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix — which features “Le Carnival des Animaux” by Alexai Ratmansky (an Arizona premiere), “Diversions” by Ib Andersen and “Untitled” by Alejandro Cerrudo (a world premiere).

Arizona Opera’s 2012/13 season features Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca,” in which passionate diva meets political dissident, being performed in Italian with English subtitles Jan. 25-27. Also Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Tavatore” (Italian with English subtitles) March 1-3. And Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figero” (Italian with English subtitles) April 5-7.

No worries, by the way, if your Italian feels a bit rusty. If the rest of America can keep up with the Kardashians, you can keep up with a romance language or two. A quick click here will direct you to Arizona Opera offerings from composer bios and opera synopses to tips for first-time opera-goers — plus special programs for youth and adults.

Click here and you can explore education and outreach offerings from Ballet Arizona. Both companies, by the way, are readying for moves to new homes that’ll give them more space for both the artistic and administration elements of their work.

They’re also performing pieces to round out the 2011/12 season — including “Director’s Choice” (March 29-April 1) at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix plus “Topia” (May 2-26) at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix for Ballet Arizona — and “Aida” (March 9-11) and “Orfeo ed Euridice” (April 13-15) for Arizona Opera.

– Lynn

Note: Additional information about performance locations (including Tucson venues/dates) are available at each company’s website. Click here to learn about tonight’s special “season reveal” event at Theater Works in Peoria, and here to explore 12 works featured in the 2012/13 “Live in HD” season from the Metropolitan Opera.

Coming up: Doing time

Aria meets artwork

I spied works by students from Summit High School during a recent visit to the Arizona State Capitol. They were created in partnership with Arizona Opera’s education program, and are being exhibited through Young Arts Arizona. The exhibit is supported by the Arizona Commission on the Arts with funding from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Young Arts Arizona is a community-based organization that publicly exhibits children’s art, and has a special interest in supporting at-risk youth. They currently receive artwork from 49 schools and 31 agenices — which they exhibit throughout Tucson and the metro Phoenix area.

The Legislative Hallway Gallery at the Arizona State Capitol is one of several permanent galleries featuring Young Arts collections. Symphony Hall, Valley Youth Theatre, Cardon Children’s Medical Center and plenty of additional venues also exhibit works created through Young Arts partnerships.

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Young Arts Arizona produces more than 70 public exhibits of children’s artwork each year — some within their own Phoenix gallery, called “Purple Space,” which participates in the “First Friday” program. They’ve also got an online gallery. Many of the opera-inspired works I enjoyed at the Arizona State Capitol on Thursday had a “Phantom of the Opera” or “Madama Butterfly” theme.

The Arizona Opera production of “Madama Butterfly” runs Jan. 27-29 in Phoenix. Five-year-old Alexander King of Chandler and six-year-old Andrew Baiamonte of Phoenix will play the role of Madama Butterfly’s son “Sorrow.”

Arizona Opera recently announced its 2012/13 season — which they’ve dubbed “The Price of Passion.” It features five works that’ll be performed in both Tucson and Phoenix, including “Lucia di Lammermoor,” “Romeo et Juliette,” “Tosca,” “Il Trovatore,” and “The Marriage of Figaro.”

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Young Arts Arizona and here to learn more about Arizona Opera.

Coming up: Student art inspired by MLK

Shakespeare meets Middle Ages

Mike Roush and Ali Rose Dachis in Southwest Shakespeare Company's Romeo & Juliet

If you’re accustomed to thinking of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” as a bittersweet story of young romance gone awry, you’ll find plenty that’s new in the Southwest Shakespeare Company production of “Romeo and Juliet” being performed through Jan. 21 at the Mesa Arts Center.

The work is directed by Richard Corley of Chicago, who set “Romeo and Juliet” during the Middle Ages — before the time it was written by Shakespeare. It’s an intriguing twist for those familiar with productions morphed into modern day settings.

Before a single actor takes the stage, you’re gripped by the jarring nature of the set — the work of scenic artist Laura Johnson. Juliet’s bedroom balcony is askew. Tombs appear cast asunder. And the single stained glass window dotted with dark red circles signals you’re peering into a desecrated church.

“Churches have so many associations with things that happen in life,” says Corley. Marriage. Death. “I wanted the set to be evocative.” Corley shared his vision for the production during a post-show talkback with cast and creative team members on opening night — noting his fascination with the play’s too often overlooked apothecary scene.

It sparked Corley’s exploration of “the sense of disease and starvation” that’s an undercurrent in the play — something he punctuates with Friar John’s (Spencer Dooley) explanation that travel routes blocked off for fear of the plague prevented him from delivering the note that could have saved Romeo’s life. 

It’s tempting to assume that there’s little thrill in seeing a work already mounted many times over. But this “Romeo and Juliet” will heighten your appreciation for parts of the story you might have overlooked. Many in the audience remarked that the production gave them a greater understanding and appreciation for the language of this play. 

Mike Roush, Andres Alcala and Ali Rose Dachis in Southwest Shakespeare Company's Romeo and Juliet

The journeys of Romeo and Juliet from childlike wonder to grown-up woe are well portrayed in this production, but I was most intrigued by their enablers — Nurse to Juliet (Janae Thomas) and Friar Laurence. Andrés Alcalá (Friar Laurence during evening performances) delivers an especially compelling performance.

The cast and creative team include both fresh faces and Valley favorites. Both Mike Roush (Romeo) and Ali Rose Dachis (Juliet) are graduates of the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program.

Alcalá was recently seen in Childsplay’s “The Sun Serpent” and is directing their upcoming production of “With Two Wings.” David Barker, the Valley’s best known fight choreographer, returns for his 25th Southwest Shakespeare Company production.

Southwest Shakespeare Company will present two additional works to round out their 2011/12 season — a Yasmina Reza play titled “Art” (March 1-17) and Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” (April 19-May 5). Jared Saken serves as artistic director, and Utah Shakespearean scholar Michael Flachmann will lead a “Much Ado About Nothing” seminar on April 21.

Folks eager to support the Southwest Shakespeare Company’s education programs can attend a Feb. 25 fundraiser dubbed “Speakeasy Night” at the Wrigley Mansion — which features Dennis Rowland and his Jazz Trio, emcee Bob Sorenson and plenty of live/silent auction items.

Those needing a summer Shakespeare fix can head to Cedar City for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. And those of you eager to return to the Middle Ages can simply throw out your televisions, laptops and cell phones.

– Lynn

Note: Click here for show and ticket information (no one under the age of six will be permitted for this production). For a taste of scholarly discourse about Shakespeare and the Middle Ages, click here to read a review article written by Dermot Cavanagh for the August 2011 issue of the “Journal of the Northern Renaissance.”

Coming up: Writing tips and resources, More Shakespeare on Valley stages

Wistful for “West Side Story”

My daughter called from New York City just as I was heading out the door for opening night of “West Side Story” at ASU Gammage. The musical is set in the Upper West Side of NYC. My daughter’s living in Lower Manhattan, and she can jump on a subway and hit a Broadway show any time she wants to now. Assuming, of course, that she’s finished her homework. 

It’s her first year in the B.F.A. in acting program at Pace University. This was the first time, in a long time, that I’ve attended a show at ASU Gammage without Lizabeth– and I missed her. It was odd, after the show, to actually get in my car and drive home alone. No waiting at the stage door hoping to get cast member autographs. No late night mother/daughter “In-N-Out Burger” run. 

You can enjoy West Side Story at ASU Gammage through Sunday, Oct 2

Still, I had a great time at the show — which felt like one giant music and movement fest. Theater buffs know it as a classic piece of musical theater — the work of Arthur Laurents (book, director), Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Jerome Robbins (choreography). But it’s a “must see” for music and dance afficionados too.

“West Side Story,” originally directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, opened on Broadway in 1957. The revival on which this tour is based opened on Broadway in 2009 — and had 748 regular performances. Reading the cast and creative team bios for this production reveals a truly stellar team with some serious street cred. That’s not the case for every touring show, but it was evident Tuesday night.

The strength and consistency of Kyle Harris’ (Tony) performance translates into a powerful production overall. Without a top-notch Tony, it’s hard to find the story believable or compelling. Harris’ Tony feels innocent and earnest. He commands the stage with a robust yet tender vocal performance.

Ali Ewoldt’s (Maria) comedic skills were evident early on. And while many in the audience were clearly wowed by her operatic vocal performance, there were times it felt like too much of a good thing. I enjoyed Harris’ and Ewoldt’s solos more than their duets. The mix just didn’t work for me every time.

The dancing is remarkable throughout — but especially fun to watch during “Dance at the Gym” (Company), “America” (Anita, Rosalia and Shark Girls) and “The Rumble” (Company). All those dance teachers who must have harped through the years about pointing those toes deserve a slew of thank you notes.

The scenic design by James Youmans, which is perfectly lovely to begin with, grows more impressive as the show unfolds — becoming a real visual feast of line and color during “The Rumble” (Act I) and “Somewhere” (Act II). Lighting design by Howell Binkley feels a bit distracting during Act I, but is truly stunning during Act II. Think rich hues of purple and blue, and a bright white light as youth once divided begin to envision a world without hate.

Still, I could have closed my eyes throughout and been perfectly satisfied with my evening — thanks to a captivating performance by the “West Side Story” orchestra, which features music director and conductor John O’Neill plus associate conductor Paul McCaffrey. Also Daniel Bailey and Kyle Norris on keyboards, Rick Donato on drums and Michael Meza on trumpet.

Although the show is recommended for ages 13 and up, a few people did bring younger children along. The use of bad language and such is minimal in my book, but there are several sexual gestures that some parents won’t take all that kindly to. Best to follow the age recommendations unless you see the show first and then decide it’s okay to take your kids along for a second run at it.

Just pretend, if you take a teen along, that you’ve never heard any of the lingo used in the show. Hoodlum. Dame. Creep. Dig it. Daddy-o. So few of us have yet to come to terms with being on the planet long enough to see classic shows through multiple revivals.

Parents who take teens may find the show’s depiction of bigotry and bullying helpful in launching discussions about whether and how these occur today. As I drove home from “West Side Story” Tuesday night, I heard Anderson Cooper interviewing Alyssa Rodemeyer, sister of 14-year old Jamey Rodemeyer, who killed himself after being harassed about his sexuality.

Apparently she was taunted about her brother’s suicide at a recent homecoming dance, proving that some things haven’t changed all that much in the last fifty years. Ignorance and fear still breed hatred. Now, more than ever, we need people who embrace the differences that make every person precious and unique.

– Lynn

Note: Learn more about preventing suicide in LGBTQ youth at www.thetrevorproject.org.

Coming up: A playwright’s journey

A tale of teen angst

We forget sometimes that the musical “West Side Story” is a modern-day take on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” — a tale of young love thwarted by feuding families and the fickleness of fate.

I tend to think big song and dance numbers set against colorful sets and costumes — which is what I expect the touring production of “West Side Story” to deliver when it hits ASU Gammage Sept 27-Oct 2.

If I snap, will the West Side Story cast jump? (Photo: Joan Marcus)

But I was reminded, after chatting recently with cast member and seasoned television actor John O’Creagh, that it also delivers a powerful portrayal of “the difficulty kids have in defining themselves.”

ASU Gammage says the show is appropriate for ages 13 and up because it “deals with adult themes: violence, murder, rape and bigotry.” It includes “bad language, sexual innuendos and racial slurs.”

“It’s a very powerful work,” says O’Creagh, who describes “West Side Story” as “a very painful show in a lot of ways.” It’s a tough look at teens in rival gangs in New York City — and the challenge of making love survive in an atmosphere of hate.

Ali Ewoldt and Kyle Harris of West Side Story (Photo: Joan Marcus)

The original production of “West Side Story” opened on Broadway in 1957, when Americans commonly judged one another based on skin color, language and the like — something that still happens all too often today. Something else was true both then and now, according to O’Creagh. “Adolescence is a nightmare.”

The original Broadway production of “West Side Story” featured music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Jerome Robbins. The script was written by Arthur Laurents, who died earlier this year at the age of 93.

O’Creagh recalls that Laurents attended many rehearsals for this touring production of the show’s 2009 Broadway revival, exploring the show’s characters with cast members who include Kyle Harris (Tony), who holds a BFA from the University of Arizona, and Ali Ewoldt (Maria), who holds a BA in psychology from Yale University.

O’Creagh describes fellow cast members as “sensible, disciplined and hard working.” Not surprising given that they’ve studied at places like The Juilliard School, performed on Broadway in shows like “A Chorus Line” and “Les Miserables,” and worked with dancers like Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp.

Please control the urge to attempt these West Side Story moves until you get home after the show (Photo: Joan Marcus)

But when did O’Creagh first catch the acting bug? While playing Stage Manager in a high school production of “Our Town” — which left him feeling he’d spent his whole life preparing to do acting. “It was comfortable,” recalls O’Creagh. “Acting felt like a good old pair of sneakers.”

So what’s his advice for youth considering the acting life? “Read everything you possibly can,” he says. “Learn everything you possibly can.” Study grammar and language too — because acting is a craft born and carried by words.

– Lynn

Note: Those who attend the Thurs, Sept 29 performance of “West Side Story” at ASU Gammage can stay after for a free talkback with cast and creative team members presented by 99.9 KEZ. Fans of “West Side Story” can also see the Actor’s Youth Theatre production which runs June 26-30, 2012 at Mesa Arts Center.

Coming up: Fall break camps with an arts twist

Review: “Oedipus for Kids!”

“Oedipus for Kids!” is one of 30 musicals in this year’s New York Musical Theatre Festival, but you don’t have to fly across the country to enjoy it. The Valley’s own Nearly Naked Theatre is presenting the work through Sept 10 at  The Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre.

Before you go, a few things you should know. It’s adult material not suitable for children. And it’s full of all the things you’d expect in a tale of Oedipus Rex — except the gore. There’s no blood during the eye scene — just curious squirts from a pair of cleverly concealed creamer containers — although a final scene does get messy when a character takes a baklava knife in the back.

I attended the Aug 21 performance with my daughter Lizabeth, part of her informal “farewell tour” before leaving for college theater studies in NYC.  I felt torn, knowing I’d have to miss the National Youth Theatre Awards at the Herberger Theater Center that night.

“Oedipus for Kids!” is directed by Toby Yatso, one of Lizabeth’s teachers for many years at Arizona School for the Arts, and Sunday was her only real opportunity to say “thanks” and share a bit of goodbye banter. It just didn’t feel right to miss this bit of his work after all he’s meant to my daughter.

Sunday’s audience included several older teens, including ASA theater major Nicole Speth, who seemed disappointed that others weren’t catching the show’s many references to Greek mythology. Speth was delighted about putting all those studies of Greek mythology during sophomore year to good use.

Don’t send your teens if you’re convinced they’ve never experienced foul language akin to the title of a Broadway show starring Chris Rock that closed just last month. “Oedipus for Kids!” is anything but politically correct when it comes to topics like suicide and disabilities. It’s the spoofs of political correctness, Greek weddings, children’s entertainment and actors who take themselves too seriously that make this show such a killer comedy.

Still, “Oedipus for Kids!” is tame by some Nearly Naked standards. Yatso describes it as pretty typical fare in terms of content, but notes that unlike other works from this theater company, there’s no nudity. Only underwear. And simulated sex behind a rack of costumes. That’s a relief.

I’m a big admirer of Nearly Naked’s work (and that of founding artistic director Damon Dering), though I don’t really have what it takes to hit every show. In quaint parlance, I suppose I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to artistry meeting anatomy. “Oedipus for Kids!” is perfect for those of us ready to dip only our big toe into the water.

Folks who relish the risque know that this is where to find it. Still, I expect to see more Nearly Naked shows than usual this season because their five-show line-up includes a tantalizing take on “Romeo and Juliet” and the local premiere of “Spring Awakening” (a joint venture with Phoenix Theatre featuring direction by Damon and Phoenix Theatre’s Robert Kolby Harper).

“Oedipus for Kids!” features book by Gil Varod and Kimberly Patterson, lyrics by Gil Varod and music by Robert J. Saferstein (who also provides additional material). It’s published by Samuel French, which offers a summary of the work — a play within a play — on its website.

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times describes “Oedipus for Kids!” as “a spoof of children’s theater, with some truly funny songs and endearlingly loopy performances from a cast of just three.” The three are members of a fictional theater troupe specializing in performing the classics for children.

After success with the likes of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Fuzzy Duck Theatre Company decides to tackle “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles. Seems two troupe members are in the middle of a nasty divorce, and the third is an actor with “questionable methods.”

Samuel French notes that “off-stage disagreements between the cast members spill onstage.” Think “Noises Off!” with less booze and more blood. Their description also mentions “flesh wounds” and “fornication” — making it clear that this is an adults-only piece.

I’m told that the show’s two writers contacted Nearly Naked after learning they’d be mounting “Oedipus for Kids!” — offering to share updates to the work. Apparently this is the first full-scale production to feature those updates, and Varod and Patterson will attend the final Friday performance to see the result (and stay for a talkback with audience members).

The cast of Nearly Naked’s “Oedipus for Kids!” includes Johanna Carlisle (Catalina/Mommy/Jocasta/Oracle), Doug Loynd (Allistair/Lauis/Tedipus/Sphinxy) and Chad McCluskey (Evan/Oedipus). Aya Nameth, set to graduate next fall with a B.A. in theatre performance from ASU, is the Catalina understudy.

Carlisle is a veteran Valley actress whose program bio notes that her favorite role is that of mom to her son Maxx. Maxx Carlisle-King is a gifted teen actor currently appearing as “Sketch” in the Valley Youth Theatre production of “Hairspray” at the Herberger Theater Center.

Loynd’s bio recalls boyhood days in California spent acting, singing and dancing, Also sewing — which explains his skill as costume designer for Nearly Naked’s “Oedipus for Kids!” It also offers an homage of sorts to the cats he credits with “urging him to continue his passion.” More proof that the best artists owe it all to their cats.

Chad McCluskey “hails from foggy Newfoundland” and studies “Secondary Education: Chemistry” at ASU. Let’s hope some well-meaning parents won’t use McCluskey’s bio to lecture their own child with acting plans about the practicality of things like teaching degrees and “real jobs.”

McCluskey’s comedic performance in “Oedipus for Kids!” is the one to beat this season. “Oedipus for Kids!” is a gem of a show. Yatso’s directing sensibilities are perfectly matched to this work, which also features his choreography.

Musical direction by Mark 4man kicks the energy of “Oedipus for Kids!” into high gear. It helps to have songs like “A Little Complex” and “Be Kind to the Blind” to start with. And volunteers willing to join cast members on stage for a song about the plague.

But 4man’s music tracks, created at home with his keyboard according to Yatso, give the feel of a live band. Songs played before each act opens make for fantastic foreplay. As it should be for the opening of Nearly Naked’s 13th season.

– Lynn

Note: Those of you seeking Oedipus tales for younger audiences can click here.

Coming up: “Titus Andronicus” opens the Southwest Shakespeare Company season

Get real: “Romeo & Juliet”

Christian Barillas (L) as Romeo and Magan Wiles as Juliet in the Utah Shakespeare Festival 2011 production of Romeo and Juliet (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival.)

We’ve seen all sorts of “Romeo & Juliet” productions through the years — including wonderful works by Ballet Arizona and Childsplay. So it was hard to imagine, going into Thursday evening’s performance of “Romeo and Juliet” at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, that the work could feel truly fresh.

It’s often said that no two theater performances, even of the same show with the same cast, are ever the same — which seems especially wise when dealing with the ways of Shakespeare. Seeing “Romeo and Juliet” at the Utah Shakespeare Festival was like seeing it for the very first time.

Christian Barillas (L) as Romeo and Magan Wiles as Juliet in the Utah Shakespeare Festival 2011 production of Romeo and Juliet (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival.)

It’s fresh, flirty and fun — which feels a bit unexpected to those who’ve never seen the play, too often viewed as singularly tragic, in the hands of David Ivers. He directs this production of “Romeo and Juliet,” and Lizabeth couldn’t wait to race off and find him after the show.

I’ve seen Lizabeth wait in long lines to meet various celebrities, but I’ve never seen her gush the way she did after seeing this production of “Romeo and Juliet.”

After the show she exclaimed “David Ivers is brilliant — that ending, oh!” Then she ran off to share her enthusiasm with Ivers himself, as well as Quinn Mattfeld, one of her instructors when she studied acting here last summer.

Melinda Parrett (L) as Lady Capulet, Quinn Mattfeld as Benvolio, and Demetra Pittman in the Utah Shakespeare Festival 2011 production of Romeo and Juliet (Photo by Karl High. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival.)

“I’m probably the only person who gets star-struck at the Shakespeare festival,” she told me. But clearly other teens and young adults were enamoured with the work — laughing or turning to one another in amazement as the play unfolded.

We ran into Magan Wiles, who performs the role of Juliet in this production, as we arrived at The Grind — where select cast members offer rousing cabaret-style entertainment after Thursday evening performances on the Adams Memorial Theatre stage.

I shared with her that I’d been seated in the balcony close to quite a few teenagers, and that I’d spent part of the show scanning the theater for audience member reactions.

She was delighted to learn that young audience members reacted so favorably to the work. “That’s really where I started from,” she told me — referring to her approach to performing the role of Juliet. It’s her first season performing at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

The youth in Iver’s Verona feel refreshingly young. “The boys acted like boys,” Lizabeth told me. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, but there are other Shakespeare productions out there in which the young lovers and their kinsmen and companions feel stiff and stunted.

Matt Mueller (L) as Mercutio and Ben Jacoby as Tybalt in the Utah Shakespeare Festival 2011 production of Romeo and Juliet (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival.)

Here, they feel impetuous, full of energy. They don’t just fall in love, they get lovesick. They don’t just walk the streets of Verona, they jump. They don’t just talk, they shout and laugh and boisterously bemoan their fate. They feel alive — which makes all that death feel all the more tragic.

The production opens with ringing bells, then drums. With pounding feet and the scuffle of sword-fighting — masterfully done here as expected. But there’s plenty of unexpected along the way too. The final moments of “Romeo and Juliet” are gripping — the stuff that gasps, and glorious theater, are made of.

Christian Barillas as Romeo (L) and Magan Wiles as Juliet in the Utah Shakespeare Festival 2011 production of Romeo and Juliet (Photo by Karl Hugh. Copyright Utah Shakespeare Festival.)

Despite the tragic storyline, Lizabeth and I agree that a single word best describes this production of “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s “playful.”

I so hope that Valley youth who are studying or performing the works of Shakespeare will come to Cedar City to see this production of “Romeo and Juliet.” The teens who turn their noses up at Shakespeare need to see it too.

For Shakespeare, and Ivers, understand the young among us better than most.

– Lynn

Coming up: Some serious comedy