Theatrically, the pickings have been pretty slim around here since 2020 dawned, but things are looking up for February.
Three local productions will premiere here in Cache Valley next month and there are also a couple of really interesting offerings slated in Salt Lake City during February.
The month will start with a bang on Feb. 4th when the USU Theatre Arts Department debuts “She Kills Monsters,” a comedic drama by Vietnamese-American playwright Qui Nguyen. Nguyen is known in way Off-Broadway circles as the father of geek theater, which is a high-energy blend of pop-culture satire, stage combat, puppetry and multi-media special effects. “She Kills Monsters” will draw its audience into a fantasy role-playing game filled with homicidal fairies, ugly ogres and other nasty dungeon denizens.
At the other end of the dramatic spectrum will be the Cache Theatre Company’s production of the tear-jerker “Steel Magnolias.” The 1987 drama by Robert Harling uses an all-female cast to explore the emotional ties between the stylists and customers of a small-town Southern beauty shop. Audience members whose only previous exposure to “Steel Magnolias” was the film of this story by Herbert Ross may find the stage version to be a little claustrophobic, but it is also more focused and gripping than the movie. The CTC production of “Steel Magnolias” will run from Feb. 7th to 18th at the Utah Theatre on Center St.
Meanwhile, down south, the Salt Lake Acting Company will stage the Utah premiere of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” from Feb. 5th to March 8th. The recent play uses Henrik Ibsen’s groundbreaking 1879 drama “A Doll’s House” as a point of departure for a continuing contest of wills between a husband and wife. Ibsen’s play was the equivalent of a feminist manifesto 140 years ago, but Lucas Hnath has now penned a comedic spin-off that critics have called more nuanced and heartfelt than most modern battles of the sexes.
Toward the end of the month, the Music Theatre West folks will deliver your daily recommended dose of nostalgia with their production of the musical “Annie.” Based on the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie,” this feel-good show has been playing almost continuously since 1977. But the quality of Music Theatre West productions is usually so good that they can make even an old-hat show sound and feel fresh. Besides, I really want to see who plays the dog Sandy. Performances of “Annie” are slated at the Ellen Eccles Theatre Feb. 28th to Mar. 7th.
Finally, the real wildcard of the February premieres will be a full-length re-imagining of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by the Odyssey Dance Theatre. Odyssey founder and choreographer Derryl Yeager has set the classic comedy in modern-day Las Vegas with all of the Bard’s zany characters becoming performers in a musical review at Caesar’s Palace. If this show is just half as spectacular as the Odyssey’s troupe’s Redux Nut-Cracker, it will be a real treat for dance fans. The Odyssey Dance show is set for Feb. 27th to 29th at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City.