Watching folks file into Salt Lake Acting Company long before curtain, it was clear that people planned on having a good time at "Saturday's Voyeur."
Bringing their own food and drink (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) to the annual roasting of our "pretty, great state," groups gathered in the green room before the show. They ate fancy cheeses, bruschetta and pastas, and laughter soared through the building. By the time the audience was seated, they were ready to be entertained.
Directed by John Caywood, "Voyeur," by Nancy Borgenicht and Allen Nevins, is done in a sketch fashion, with "pledge breaks" in between, asking and pleading with the audience to purchase season tickets.
The hits: "Broadway Style Thee-a-ter," a highlight with dueling mayors Salt Lake's Ralph Becker (Alexis Baigue) and Sandy's Tom Dolan (Duane Stephens) going head-to-head in true Broadway-style fashion. Also enjoyable was the "Silly Booze Laws" bit, taking a jab at the Legislature and our, well ... booze laws.
The duet between state Sen. Chris Buttars (Stephens) and "Voyeur" favorite Gayle Ruzicka (played very well, year after year, by Jeanette Puhich), was funny. And Kent Harrison Hayes' rendition of Mitt Romney, complete with finger pointing and hand gesturing, was also well done.
Playing both a beleaguered teacher and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a rhino hunter, is the always funny Colleen Baum; Hayes and Brenda Sue Cowley got quite a few chuckles as Nelly and Narley Moe.
And singing missionaries (Baigue and Jacob Johnson) and Shanna Jones (in many roles) had great voices.
Ultimately, the whole cast is good, though some players are underutilized.
"Voyeur" works best when everyone gets the joke. That's why jabs about saying "fur rills," and "thee-a-ter," though used every year, garner such appreciative laughter because everyone gets the joke. But at times I found myself thinking, "Where have I been?"
Perhaps SLAC could provide a brief reminder about stories from the past year. The episode at BYU's Monte L. Bean Museum wanting a white rhino and acquiring it by hunting made news, but it made news last November. The bit became much funnier when I researched the story afterward.
Perhaps before the show they could run news clips, maybe print a couple of headlines or paragraphs from newspaper articles, decorate the walls, put them in the playbill something to refresh our exhausted memories, get us on the same page.
What didn't work: "Voyeur's" science lessons. The trick with original material has to be incredibly understandable or the audience starts to feel anxious that they're missing the joke. In an otherwise funny moment, "Battle Hymn of the Republic," blasting Buttars, the lyrics turn to something about nematodes. Reading the script afterward, it's pretty clever. But during the show, it's too many people singing too many words and it's hard to follow.
The same thing happened as "Voyeur" tipped its hat to Nobel Laureate Mario Capecchi of the University of Utah. The scene between a teacher (Baum) and her precocious student (Johnson) was a wonderful tribute, but when they tried to set Capecchi's research to music, it slowed the pace of the show, became a touch confusing and, ultimately, not funny.
There were times the songs (Jenny Floor, music director) seemed to be set in keys that were difficult for the singers, and Cynthia Fleming's choreography often had the cast walking backward upstage, over a step, which seemed an odd choice and possibly unsafe.
Ultimately, it's good, and there's enough that's funny in "Voyeur's" 30th year that folks left smiling, and a hearty standing ovation was given when the playwrights of this Salt Lake institution were brought to the stage.Sensitivity rating: The requisite missionary jokes, language, sexual gestures and discussion; basically, a little something naughty for everyone.