Voyeur Gives Peek Into The Mormon Moment

When its original co-creators first conceived of and introduced Utah audiences to Salt Lake Acting Company’s Saturday’s Voyeur back in 1977, I wonder if anyone could have imagined that the little Roadshow with lots of heart, would have such staying power?  The show, for those of you not already in the know (have you been hiding under a rock?) pokes fun at Utah life, Utah politics, and Utah religion- most notably Mormonism and Mormon Fundamentalism, so sayeth Wikipedia. Since 1990, Nancy Borgenicht and Allen Nevin have been co-conspirators collaborators on Voyeur.  The show has only been left out of a handful of season line-ups since its premier and has ultimately become a) the theatre’s annual fundraiser, b) a much anticipated SLAC staple by regular patrons, and c) a cultural phenomenon.

Borgenicht’s and Nevin’s Voyeur 2012 traverses the current political and cultural landscape. Think überconservative Eagle Forum and their rightest-of-the-right-wing President, Gayle Ruzicka, think City Creek Shopping Center.  Unlike years past, this Voyeur seems to reach beyond the Utah borders and tackle some bigger social and cultural issues, in that gloriously irreverent and in-your-face way that only Voyeur can.  Through the story about a group of workers, with varying tasks and levels of authority at the Church Office Building, the audience joins in the unapologetic exploration of those foremost issues causing ripples in the pond that is “The Church”.  E.g.: the recent rise in Mormon feminism, the upsurge of Latter-day Saints going over to the Dark Side Democratic Party, and even the historic first march of active and believing Mormons in Pride Parades around the nation.  It takes some pretty sharp jabs at a Church that has millions of devout followers worldwide and is often accused of being more a corporation than a religious organization- but that’s nothing new for Voyeur. It is SLAC’s take on  the so-called “Mormon Moment”.  It is irreverent. And it is wickedly funny.

During the curtain speech, the usual courtesies were asked for, including the request that no pictures or recordings be taken by the audience. To drive home this request, the punch line “what happens at Voyeur, stays at Voyeur” was used- so with that in mind, I’m going to try not to reveal too much, because I think they have a point.  Seeing a brand-spanking- new-never-been-touched-by-human-hands piece of theatrical art is for most of us, quite a bit more enjoyable when all the plot twists and turns (and in this case- visual gags, scintillating subject matter, and jocular wit that packs a punch) are not revealed in advance, and therefore, spoiled.  A forbidden kiss is only breathtaking the first time it happens, and a joke is only funny the first time you hear it, right?

 

Director, Cynthia Flemming, who is also the show’s choreographer, has assembled quite an impressive cast and crew and working together they put on one H-E-double-hockey-sticks of a show.  The high level of energy, sustained throughout the three act musical parody, started the moment the first players stepped out onto the stage singing Our World and was still alive and kicking in the finale, Be Free. But, that’s what one expects from any performance at this cutting edge company. The cast is made up of extremely talented comedians who also happen to have amazing vocals.  The complete commitment by each to both character choices and to the show’s overall silly bawdiness, was impressive. Trevor Dean as the plucky Bud Rasmussen was very believable. He deftly portrayed the devout, true-blue Mormon boy, sweetly smiling and perfectly mimicking local idioms like “alls I know”.  And although he seemed to lose focus and stumble lines at least once or twice in every act, it didn’t overly upset the flow of dialogue. The talented, Steven Fehr (Elder Spencer/Godzicka/Moroni) is clearly a master of his craft; he kinda blew my socks off.  So completely different, yet altogether consistent was his performance of each character that I didn’t even realize he was playing all three roles until well into Act II.  The sweet spirits known as the Skittle Sisters (Elena Dern, Lauren Noll, Emilie Starr), were reminiscent of the Chiffons as they danced and sang together, only perkier; much, much perkier.  I began to think of them as the little twittering song birds in all the Disney movies; adorably chirpy and constantly on the move.  I also really liked their brightly-colored costumes designed by Brenda Van der Wiel. The girls were covered from neck to near ankle in noticeably form-hugging blouses and skirts; so much subtext!  Other stand outs for me include Austin Archer, who as the slightly creepy Nephi Jensen, had the audience nearly rolling in the aisles, particularly in the musical numbers Proxy Girl and We’ll be Everywhere; Trent Cox as Mitt/Brother Frey, who like Fehr, completely and seemingly effortlessly, transformed from role to role; the absolutely gorgeous Kaylyn West with her powerful voice and lithe body made for dance, as the spunky BYU Hawaii co-ed, MoHanna; and Alexis Baigue and Jacob Johnson as the ever-present (and secretly subversive) caricatures known as the Mitt-Bots.

 

From a technical standpoint, it was smooth sailing on calm waters.  I saw no body mics, and thanks to the suspension of several high quality but unnoticeable microphones above the stage (and an apparent ability to both project and articulate at the same time by every cast member), the audience could hear the performers well and never had to endure even a single annoying pop or intermittent static from a sweat-soaked body mic that seems to plague other local theatre companies. The choreography, which made shrewd use of the available space, was inventive and fun, especially when those Skittle Sisters were part of the number.  Until the third act, I labored under the delusion that the music must be pre-recorded. This is for a few reasons. First, I hadn’t read the playbill before the show started to see the band listed there. Secondly, I never heard a misplaced note and the band was nothing short of a well-tuned musical machine. And lastly, never did the lighting or any other aspect of the show call unnecessary attention to the band hidden deftly behind the facades of the “CoB”. It was only in Act III that I knew it was the fantastically real deal when I caught a glimpse through the scrim on stage right of Dave Evanoff rocking out on drums.

The folks at SLAC have a hit on their hands. Along with everyone else in the completely packed house, I laughed my butt off watching Voyeur 2012-seriously.  If you are a devout Latter-day Saint prone to feeling a bit persecuted these days, or a staunch Republican likely to get your panties in a twist because somebody’s poking a stick at you, this show may not be for you- which you should have figured out well before this sentence.  Everyone else: Go see this show!  The theater is cabaret style and the show is roughly 2 ½ hours long, so bring a nice bottle of wine and a picnic dinner and settle in for a great night of entertainment.

Salt Lake Acting Company presents “Saturday’s Voyeur 2012” from June 27 – September 2, 2012. Visit http://www.saltlakeactingcompany.org for more details.

3268 Total Views 1 Views Today
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Voyeur Gives Peek Into The Mormon Moment

  1. Verlene Del Porto says:

    Five of my family went to see this play on Friday, 17th. It was wonderful ,really enjoyed it a lot better than last year. The writing is excellent what I don’t understand is why a certain republican type or Mormon would be offended. It was all in jest. My niece, Elena Dern was one of the three sisters. I thought her stage presence was great. She has a great voice would have liked to heard more of it on the singing parts. All in all it was a great evening. One foot note, why are there so many intermissions? Some of the older croud can’t stay up that late.

  • Subscribe to Backstage Utah

    Get the latest Audition, Now Playing, and Classifieds posts directly in your email.