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Shakespeare gold: Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary with 6 productions

Published: Saturday, June 18 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

Anne Serle as Queen Elizabeth in The Greenshow, 2011.

Karl Hugh, USF

CEDAR CITY — "Golden, just really shimmering" is how Utah Shakespeare Festival founder Fred Adams describes this season of plays. With just days until opening preview performances this year, the festival's 50th anniversary, Adams says he has complete confidence in the lineup.

As in years past, there are three Shakespeare productions and three from playwrights of other eras, ranging from theater classics to lighter fare.

Adams is directing his and an audience favorite, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"It was the very first Shakespeare play I ever saw as a little boy at the age of 5, and it stayed with me all my life," he said.

It is a tale of a royal wedding, fairies in the forest and love potions to the wrong person, and Adams hopes it will attract veteran theatergoers and newcomers alike.

"Richard III" is the season's history play. It follows the rise and disastrous end of the last York King of England as he plots and murders his way to the throne.

"I think it's going to be chilling," Adams said. "I think it's going to be one of the most outstanding 'Richards' the Shakespeare Festival has ever done."

"Romeo and Juliet," the tragedy of forbidden love and street-brawling youths, is under the direction of David Ivers, one of the festival's artistic directors.

"He's cast it with some of the most, oh, charismatic young men. The fight scenes, they're breathtaking. And the little Juliet, she's just kind of magic — I think you're going to like her," Adams said.

Brian Vaughn, the other festival artistic director, is also taking on a major role. He is "The Music Man," the fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hill, who believes he has the solution to River City's trouble with its youths — a boys' band.

Adams smiles when referring to Vaughn. "It is a role he was born to play. He's having the time of his life. It's a valentine to small-town America."

Tennesee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" remains a beloved classic in the theater world and one Adams believes may attract a larger audience than when the festival first produced it in 1989.

The story of the emotionally damaged Wingfields will touch a tender chord, Adams says.

"It is one of the great American plays, one of the greatest of all time. Those who come to see it will be rewarded."

And "Noises Off!" a farce about a British theatrical touring company that is both unlucky and lacking in talent, has, in the festival's history, left audiences almost literally rolling in the aisles. But the play within a play packed with pratfalls and perfect timing is tricky to produce.

"It has got to be one of the funniest plays ever written," Adams said. "And the wonderful thing about it is people will be able to see it more than once. It's going to run all summer and through the fall, and it's going to be worth seeing again."

The festival opens with preview performances June 23, then officially on June 30 and runs through Sept. 3.

"Noises Off!" "Dial M for Murder" and Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" make up the fall season, Sept. 22-Oct. 22.

If you have never been to "Utah Shakes," as cast and crew call it, this would be the year, says Education Director Michael Bahr. "We have a number of plays that are perfect for families. This season we have more children in the company than we've ever had before. Children are acting in both 'The Music Man' and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.'

"Many families love the 'Green Shows,' performances on the lawn before the productions begin," Bahr said. "People sit out on the grass and watch dancers, singers, musicians and jugglers perform. We also provide students of all ages a chance to 'play' with classes, workshops, behind-the-scenes tours and literary seminars, during which audience members can voice their opinions about the plays, the morning after each production."

Adams calls this season a celebration year they will remember for a long time.

For ticket and workshop information, visit www.bard.org.

EMAIL: cmikita@desnws.com

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