"A TALE OF TWO CITIES," through April 9, Hale Centre Theatre, 801-984-9000, running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes (one intermission)
WEST VALLEY CITY — The musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" had a brief run on Broadway in 2008, closing after just 60 performances. While the show opened just three days before the stock market crash, it may not have lasted much longer under any circumstance — it's just not a great piece.
But Hale Centre Theatre, which just opened the regional premiere, has done everything in its power to make this show one worth seeing.
Jill Santoriello (book, music and lyrics) takes a monster of a story and, in trying to include all the characters and plot developments, weighs the production to a rather plodding pace. In addition to a rambling script, the songs just aren't very memorable.
I'm sure the cast, having spent ample time with the material, would argue otherwise; the music likely grows on you. But for a first-timer, I left musically unmoved.
That said, if you're curious to see a regional premiere, to see an original work you've likely not seen before or to expose yourself to great talent, this is a good production.
Director John J. Sweeney has assembled a wonderfully talented cast; Anne Puzey's musical direction mines the score for its pretty harmonies; Suzanne Carling's period costumes are beautifully done; and Spencer Brown's lighting design captures the best and worst of times.
The cast is outstanding. Kyle Olsen stars as Sydney Carton, the self-loathing, drinking attorney who finally learns to sacrifice for someone else. Olsen's Carton is a striking, often surly presence on stage, and he has plenty of songs to sing — nice songs that allow him to show off his range and acting chops.
Rhett Richins plays the guilty-by-association Charles Darnay. Richins' voice soars, but his emotional investment seems a bit too uniform. I would've liked to see a few more highs and lows.
Debra Weed plays the lovely, sees-the-good-in-everyone Lucie Manette. Weed, who has played this role in numerous incarnations, sings the score with ease and looks beautiful doing it.
Other strong performances were turned in by Angela Jeffries, David Weekes, Jared Dunn and Stephen Kerr.
And a bravo to Kacey Udy's set design, which utilized Hale's stage perfectly, allowing for change of locations for the show's many scenes without stopping or overshadowing the action.
I love seeing new works, especially when they're done well. And judging by the enthusiastic standing ovation last weekend, this one is sure to be a sellout.