OGDEN, Utah – When the 2006 Utah Musical Theatre season opens in early July, Artistic and Managing Director Bruce Cohen hopes audiences will feel right at home.
That's because the company has made a conscious effort to hire talent with ties to Utah. Seven of the eight cast members for each of the first two shows ("Two by Two" and "Dames at Sea") are Utah products, including several alumni of Weber State University's Department of Performing Arts. The casting trend will continue with the company's final show, "Songs for a New World," in August.
"When I took the reins four seasons ago, one of my goals was re-establishing a majority of our hiring and contracting from Utah," Cohen said. "Today we can truly say we've put the Utah back in UMT." Cohen believes the decision to have more Utahns on stage also reflects the community's wishes.
UMT alumnus Robert Anthony Jones, a New York City export, is the exception to the all-Utah cast. Proving no one holds his lack of Utah ties against him, Jones has landed the plum roles of Noah in "Two by Two" and Hennesy in "Dames."
For Roy resident and Weber State University student Paul Cheney, who portrays Shem in "Two by Two" and Dick in "Dames at Sea," the 2006 season marks a homecoming. Cheney returns to UMT following 18 months of active duty in Iraq; he shipped out immediately following the close of the 2004 UMT season.
Although the cast is full of familiar faces, UMT's shows this season highlight discovery and new frontiers.
The first two shows to explore that theme, "Two by Two" and "Dames at Sea," will be presented in repertory. Cohen said audiences liked the repertory production schedule that UMT re-introduced last season. While a repertory format is challenging on its own, the company is taking it a step further this season, staging both shows on the same day three times during the run, including the debut performances July 8. Six cast members appear in both shows.
This marks the second time the company has produced "Dames," having staged it about 10 years ago. The musical is a natural fit in a season with so many Utah cast members, considering the lead characters hail from Centerville, Utah.
The familiar names and faces aren't limited to onstage talent. UMT alumna Linda Kearns is back in 2006, directing "Two by Two." Kearns has directed such UMT hits as "Triumph of Love" (2004) and "The Fantasticks" (2003). Brian Paul Mendoza, who set the dances for last season's "Wicked City Blues," is choreographing all three shows this season, and long-time WSU associate professor Van Tinkham returns to UMT this season to handle set design for the repertory shows.
"We're fortunate to have such close ties to Weber State University's Department of Performing Arts and all its talented students and faculty," Cohen said.
"Two by Two" debuts July 8 at 2 p.m., and "Dames at Sea" opens that evening at 8 p.m. The shows will run Tuesday through Saturday from July 11-29 and Aug. 4-5 in the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts Allred Theater on the Weber State University Ogden campus. According to Cohen, these productions have plenty of family appeal and are intended for audiences of all ages.
All weekday performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances will be held July 8, 22 and 29, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday evening performances will start at 8 p.m.
UMT will conclude the 2006 season with the premiere of "Songs for a New World," Aug. 18-26. This production will interest adults and older teens and does contain some PG-13 language.
Tickets are $20 per person, $16 for seniors, students, military and educators. Season subscriptions are available for $50 each. Youth subscriptions are available for $3 apiece with each full-price adult subscription purchased. For advance tickets, contact the Dee Events Center Ticket Office at (801) 626-8500 or 1-800-WSU-TIKS, or go online at weber.edu/ticketoffice.
Visit weber.edu/umt for more information on the upcoming UMT season. Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.