OREM — The actors in Hale Center Theater Orem’s upcoming musical are hesitant to say that “Betty Blue Eyes” is a show about a pig.
Sure, the musical is named after a porker — one that gets pig-napped in fact — and her cute little snout adorns promotional material. But there’s more to it than meets the eye.
“It’s the hardest show to describe, because people shut down when you say it’s about a pig,” said J. Patrick Livingston, who plays Gilbert Chilvers (T/Th/S cast), the ham burglar. “But it’s really about a couple working through their low status in their village and both of them making themselves better.”
So it is about a pig. But not really.
Set in 1947 England, “Betty Blue Eyes” takes place just before Princess Elizabeth is set to marry Prince Philip.
“Our village wants to celebrate and have a banquet, but it’s also post-war Britain: food is rationed and things are tight,” said Kelly Hennessey, who plays Gilbert’s wife, Joyce (M/W/F cast). “The village council decides to have a pig that’s not registered with the government at the banquet. But my husband and I end up getting so frustrated with the town council that we steal the pig.”
Livingston described his character as charming, pleasant and kind.
“I love playing Gilbert,” he said. “He thinks he married the best woman in the world and wants to live up to that. He gets pushed around by village snobs and thinks stealing the pig will solve his problems — but it only makes more.”
Gilbert’s wife, on the other hand, is a social climber.
“Joyce is really concerned about status and appearances and what people think,” said Hennessey, who sped up a move back to Utah from Los Angeles for the chance to play Joyce. “She is ambitious and sees opportunities to improve her situation. But that’s also a downfall: she does things at the expense of her relationship with her husband and his well-being.”
HCTO’s production, which runs through May 27, is a regional premiere of “Betty Blue Eyes,” which ran on London’s West End in 2011.
“We are in constant search for new material our patrons will enjoy,” said Anne Swenson, HCTO executive producer. “It is also important to note that the theater world is not producing or creating much new material that is ‘family friendly.’ When we came across ‘Betty Blue Eyes’ we were tickled to find a show with catchy music and a family friendly story that was equal parts sweet and hilarious.”
“I love being part of a show that no one’s seen or heard,” Livingston said. “The music stays with you. Audiences are going to genuinely love it, and they’ve never even heard of it yet.”
While the story is new, its themes are familiar.
“Everybody wants to be appreciated and included. That means something different for everyone,” Hennessey said. “How Gilbert and Joyce communicate and overcome challenges and individual expectations will hit home for a lot of people.”
“‘Betty’ is fun and funny, sparkly and sweet,” Livingston added. “It’s got a lot of heart.”
And, don’t forget, a pig.
If you go
What: “Betty Blue Eyes”
Where: Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North, Orem
When: April 20-May 27, 7:30 p.m.; see website for times of Saturday matinees.
How much: $22-$24 for general admission, $16-$18 for children
Content advisory: Mild swearing and mild sexual innuendo between a married couple
Emily Edmonds is an online communications instructor for BYU-Idaho. She is the former editor of BYU's Marriott Alumni Magazine. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's in mass communications from BYU.