National festival to include four Utah theater productions at WSU regional event

By Blair Howell

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Feb. 3 2012 3:00 p.m. MST

“Is this that awful ’80s movie? No, we’re a hit. Read the papers!” was one of the original TV commercial taglines.

The much-maligned 1980 movie was rewritten as a stage musical to focus more on the Greek mythology plotlines and lampoons Olivia Newton-John’s popularity. “Xanadu” tells the story of one of the nine muses of ancient Greece who comes to earth to inspire the greatest of artistic achievements — a roller disco. Along the way, she falls in love and feels the desire to re-create herself. At its opening, the New York Times wrote that “Xanadu,” nominated for four 2008 Tony awards, “is simultaneously indefensible and irresistible. There’s so much silly bliss to be had.”

“I’ve never laughed so hard at a production in the 10 years that I’ve been at Weber,” said Priest.

“The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” by Ward Wright, Randall Wright and Marvin Payne, directed by BYU's Rodger Sorensen

Adapted from the popular children’s book by Susan Wojciechowski, this musical fable centers around three lonely people — Jonathan Toomey, Widow McDowell and her young son — who gradually learn to heal their hearts after tragedy alters their lives. The youngster asks a belligerent woodcarver to re-create lost crÈche figures following his specific instructions in this folk musical.

“The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” was created by first-time scriptwriters Ward Wright and Randall Wright, former BYU students, with musician Marvin Payne.

“This is such a tender story,” said Sorensen. “In three instances, the mother and child make all the difference. There’s Toomey’s wife and child, McDowell and her son, and Mary and the Christ child.”

The other productions to be staged at the festival are “Suddenly Last Summer” by Tennessee Williams, California Lutheran University; “The Dramatization of 365 Days” by H. Wesley Balk, adapted Bruce Goodrich, California State University, Fullerton; “God Sees Dog: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” by Bert V. Royal, Citrus College; “The Cover of Life” by R.T. Robinson, Concordia University; “The Unseen Hand” by Sam Shepard, Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy; “Cesar and Ruben, A Musical” by Ed Begley Jr., Santa Monica College; and “The Bald Soprano” by Eugene Ionesco, Scottsdale Community College.

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