Do the Tonys have an impact on Utah?

By Blair Howell

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 7 2011 3:00 p.m. MDT

While each of the producers interviewed had plans to see “The Book of Mormon Musical,” only Vaughn could offer firsthand knowledge of the show that received 14 nods, more than any other show this season.

While acknowledging that the show is “offensive, in your face and challenging — just as you’d expect from the ‘South Park’ guys — it has a magnificent score and is an homage to classical musical theater,” he said.

“A Tony award is one indication that there is a higher level of recognition for a play,” said Sally Dietlein, executive producer of the Hale Centre Theatre. “But it’s only one factor in how we select our productions.”

The following season includes the fresh-from-Broadway “9 to 5: The Musical,” which earned four Tony nominations, and “The Sound of Music,” awarded five Tonys in 1960 and, including its 1998 revival, 10 nominations.

The West Valley theater will present the U.S. premiere of “Zorro: The Musical” and the regional premiere of “The Game’s Afoot” by Ken Ludwig. “Crazy for You” and “Lend Me a Tenor” are two of Ludwig’s previous Tony-honored shows produced at the Hale.

“After producing a number of Ken’s shows, he and I have become email pen pals,” Dietlein said. “He’s been showing us material that he knows we’d like.”

“The Game’s Afoot” will be the play’s second production, and Dietlein added that the script hasn’t been finalized. “The play is so new that we’re still working with a version that has Ken’s notes and edits on it.”

“We travel to New York at least once a year to see shows and select what we believe will be appealing to our audience,” said Cody Swenson, co-owner of Hale Center Theater. “When a play receives either a Tony nomination or an award, it can help us market it.”

But he added, “We often get the inside scoop from Will,” referring to his Tony-nominated brother who appeared with four-time Tony-winner Audra McDonald in a benefit production of “110 in the Shade” at the Orem theater.

“I haven’t spoken with Will lately, but I know he’s thrilled to death for the nominees of ‘Priscilla,’ the show he’s in currently.”

While there’s been no formal announcement of the following season, Swenson revealed that Hale will stage the regional premiere of “Xanadu,” which earned four Tony nods in 2008.

“Will happened to have a night off, so we saw ‘Xanadu’ with him, and we had the best time,” Swenson said. “We just laughed and laughed. It’s a hilarious musical that doesn’t take itself so seriously that it can't poke fun at itself.”

The second production of the season will be “The 39 Steps.” “It’s such a fun and creative show that will play beautifully in our space,” Swenson said.

Adapted from the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film, “The 39 Steps” earned two 2008 Tonys and six nominations. “This has been a dream project of one of our directors, Chris Clark, since he saw the London production” in 2007, the director said. “It is a great comic piece that will help shake off the winter blues.”

Blair Howell is a writer and editor.

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