WEST VALLEY CITY — It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Charles Dickens' opening line of his novel, "A Tale of Two Cities," could sum up the short-lived Broadway run of the musical adaptation.
Getting a show from conception to a Broadway opening must indeed be the best of times. But to have the stock market fall sharply three days prior to opening is, without a doubt, the worst of times.
All shows on the Great White Way began losing money after the crash. But being new, "Tale" didn't fare as well and was forced to close after just 60 performances.
Several years later, Utah's Hale Centre Theatre opens the first regional premiere of the revolutionary tale since its run on Broadway.
"It's been very liberating to do a show that, basically, no one as seen," said director John Sweeney. "Compared to doing 'Fiddler,' for instance, there was a template for the production. But with this show, there was nothing but the script and our imaginations."
Using his full imagination, Sweeney, a regular director for the theater, and his production staff have spared no expense in bringing the French Revolution to life.
"I've been lucky and have been in contact with Jill Santoriello (composer/writer) and she has provided some thoughts and given feedback," Sweeney said.
Santoriello even joined rehearsals via Skype.
"She's been amazed at what we've been able to accomplish," Sweeney said. "She even went so far as to say she wished they'd had our stage when they did it on Broadway.
"We're taking the stage, we spin it around, use the outer ring and we do it in a certain way to establish location more than anything else.
"There is also a really great bridge that Kacey (Udy, set designer) has built and it lowers all the way to the stage; we have a couple of really impressive numbers on the bridge."
The musical also boasts 90 wigs, more than the theater has ever used; pieces of an old barn, purchased and dismantled to lend an authentic look; and, of course, a stage full of talented performers.
"The cast is amazing," Sweeney said. "Even Jill, she used the word 'passionate.' For her to feel that through Skype — she could tell how passionate they were."
"What's been really impressive," Sweeney adds, "is that people who have played lead roles here, people who have taken the last bow, are willing to be man No. 5 just to be part of this show. And that makes the overall production so strong."
Based on the classic tale of justice, love and redemption set in London and Paris during the French Revolution, it may be easy to make comparisons to another beloved stage musical, "Les Miserables."
"I've become a bit argumentative about that," Sweeney said. "Victor Hugo wrote 'Les Mis' three years after Dickens' ("Tale of Two Cities"). 'Les Mis' is also set during the June rebellion, while 'Tale' is set during the revolution. So, 'Les Mis' is 1789 and Tale is 1832."
Though Sweeney sees how one may draw comparisons, "'Tale' is its own story and 'Les Mis' is its own story.
Sweeney said that the emotions of the production and the talented cast make him "feel like I'm directing my first Broadway show.
"I know that sounds ludicrous but I really feel that way," he said. "It has been such an amazing experience and I couldn't be prouder to be part of it."
If you go...
What: "A Tale of Two Cities"
When: Through April 9, times vary1 comment on this story
Where: Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Dr.
How much: $15-$26