SALT LAKE CITY — With touring Broadway productions and local theater houses offering impressive lineups for 2019, Utah theater lovers are surely in for many a treat this year. Kicking off the year are seven award-winning — not just Tony Award but also Academy Award — productions that are sure to capture the attention of theater enthusiasts and theater newbies alike.
‘The Odd Couple’
The ties of friendship only go so far when it comes to matters of cleanliness. When two friends — neat-freak journalist Felix and sloppy sports writer Oscar — become roommates in “The Odd Couple,” they quickly discover the wide chasm their differences in personality create, a fortunate thing for the audience due to the level of hilarity that ensues.
Written by the prolific Neil Simon — arguably one of America’s most popular playwrights — “The Odd Couple” won three Tony Awards in 1965, including best author of a play for Simon.
Hale Center Theater Orem’s production of the play begins New Year’s Eve and runs through Feb. 9, 225 W. 400 North, Orem, $25-$27 for adults, $19-$21 for children (801-226-8600 or haletheater.org)
‘The Lion in the Winter’
The holidays just wrapped up but Pioneer Theatre Company is taking audiences back to Christmas … 835 years ago, that is. Set during Christmas of 1183, the historical drama “The Lion in Winter” follows King Henry II and his wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, who are struggling to determine who will succeed the king. As if Christmas doesn’t bring family drama on its own, try adding three vying sons, a disagreeing mom and dad and an indecisive king to the mix.
This one didn’t have quite as big of a showing at the Tony Awards as others on this list, ending up with a single win in 1966 for best actress in a play, but the 1968 film adaptation of the play garnered Academy Awards for best screenplay (by the original playwright, James Goldman), best score and best actress (the illustrious Katharine Hepburn).
Catch the play at PTC’s Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S. 1400 East, Jan. 4-19, dates and times vary, $30-$45 (801-581-6961 or pioneertheater.org).
‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’
A no-name Englishman finds out he’s in the line of succession to become an earl. Lest you think this is “Downton Abbey,” this award-winning musical — “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” — takes a twist with a healthy dose of comedy and a dash of murder. Monty Navarro, the Englishman of low station who finds out he’s eighth in line to the title, decides to help things along a bit by getting rid of the relatives blocking his path to wealth.
The New York Times’ theater critic Charles Isherwood praised the bit of “theatrical fun,” stating that “despite the high body count, this delightful show will lift the hearts of all those who’ve been pining for what sometimes seems a lost art form: musicals that match streams of memorable melody with fizzily witty turns of phrase.”
The rest of the theater world seemed to agree: “A Gentleman’s Guide” went on to be nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2014, winning four of those, including best musical. Hale Centre Theatre will stage the regional premiere of the musical Jan. 11-March 16, Jewel Box Stage, 9900 S. Monroe St., Sandy, $36-$44 for adults, $18-$22 for youths ages 5-17 (801-984-9000 or hct.org).
‘Lend Me a Tenor’
The fall of 1934 was on track to be one for the books at the Cleveland Grand Opera Company in the play “Lend me a Tenor.” With a world-famous tenor performing in a special one-night engagement, everything seemed to be going right … until the singer arrives late, is accidentally given a double-dose of tranquilizers and is replaced by the general manager’s assistant.
The comedy won two of the seven Tony Awards it was nominated for in 1989, as well as four of the six Drama Desk Awards for which it received nominations.
CenterPoint Legacy Theatre brings the farce to its Barlow Stage, Jan. 18-Feb. 16, dates and times vary, 525 N. 400 West, Centerville, $17.50-$27 (801-298-1302 or centerpointtheatre.org)
When one thinks of the comedy troupe Monty Python, words such as “funny,” “absurd,” “irreverent” or even “ni” may come to mind, but not so much a phrase like “award-winning.” However, that’s exactly what “Spamalot,” a musical based on the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” is.
“Spamalot,” the parody of the classic tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, hit Broadway in 2005, filled to the brim with trademark Monty Python humor. The musical’s success led to 14 Tony nominations and three wins, including the coveted best musical award.
Magna’s Empress Theatre is scheduled to mount a production of “Spamalot” Jan. 18-Feb. 2, 9104 W. 2700 South, Magna, $12 (801-347-7373 or empresstheatre.com)
‘The King and I’
In true Rodgers and Hammerstein style, the duo’s “The King and I” is a classic that has made a home in the hearts of theater and film lovers everywhere — as is evidenced by its impressive resume of awards.
With recognizable tunes such as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Shall We Dance?” and “Getting to Know You,” “The King and I” has taken audiences to 19th-century Siam for almost 70 years since it first opened on Broadway in 1951. Over the course of that 70 years, “The King and I” has also been made into a film and seen two Broadway revivals, all of which have been equally well-received by critics and audiences alike. The original 1951 production won all five of the Tony Awardsfor which it was nominated — including best musical and best actor for Yul Brynner — and that is only the beginning of the musical’s impressive awards pedigree. The 1956 film won five Academy Awards, with Brynner picking up another best actor win, and the 1996 and 2015 revivals picked up four Tony Awards each, including best revival of a musical in both instances.
The touring Broadway production — based on the 2015 Lincoln Center revival — makes a two-day stop at Logan’s Ellen Eccles Theater, 43 S. Main, Logan, Jan. 22-23, 7:30 p.m., $45-$65 (435-752-0026 or cachearts.org)
Fifteen years and more than 6,300 Broadway performances later and “Wicked” fever doesn’t seem to be subsiding anytime soon.
Based on Gregory Maguire’s prequel novel to “The Wizard of Oz,” “Wicked” hit the Great White Way in 2003, starring Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, who have each gone on to even greater success. The musical has run continuously on Broadway for 15 years while the national touring production has criss-crossed the continent, including stopping in Utah for a soon-to-be fourth Salt Lake City run, this time at the Eccles Theater starting Jan. 30.Comment on this story
While Stephen Schwartz’s musical has been a megahit from the start, it’s interesting to note that neither of its two Tony Awards are for best musical, which went to “Avenue Q” when “Wicked” went up against it at the 2004 awards. “Wicked’s” two Tonyscome by way of Menzel’s best actress win (Chenoweth was also nominated in the same category) and Eugene Lee’s win for best scenic design.
“Wicked” lands in Utah Jan. 30-March 3, dates and times vary, Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main, $69-$229 (801-355-2787 or artsaltlake.org)