OGDEN, Utah – The summer of 2004 is proving quite eventful for Utah Musical Theatre performers Paul Cheney and Kara Buhrley Powell.
The duo portrays the romantic leads Prince Agis and Princess Leonide in UMT's romantic farce, "Triumph of Love." In addition to being the Utah premiere of the show, the production also marks the Equity acting debut for both young stars, a significant milestone in the profession.
"This opens up so many doors for me," Cheney said. "In New York, you can't even audition for a show without being in the union [Actors' Equity Association]."
Powell agreed, admitting she didn't expect she'd have the opportunity to earn her Equity status in Utah. Her first Equity role is just one of several personal milestones. In May, she graduated with her degree in theatre arts from Weber State University. After performing in all three UMT productions this summer, she starts graduate school in the fall at Northern Illinois University, where she hopes to eventually work on the Chicago stage.
For now, her focus is on bringing Leonide to life.
"It's an incredible role, both in terms of acting and singing," Powell said. "She's playful and funny, a little like Lucille Ball." Because of the different identities Leonide assumes, Powell said it was akin to preparing for four different roles.
In preparing for the role of Agis, Cheney has drawn on personal experience. An army reservist with the 321st Engineering Battalion in North Ogden, Cheney said his military training helped him with everything from identifying with the character to his posture on stage.
"This whole role is my life," he said. "Agis is raised to kill and now he's really questioning himself, ‘Can I really do this?'" In real life, Cheney said he could be called up to active duty at any time, making an understudy for Cheney very important.
Cheney is no stranger to UMT audiences. In 2003, he played El Gallo in "The Fantasticks" and Frank Butler in "Annie Get Your Gun." The opportunity to be reunited with director Linda Kerns was a major draw in his decision to return to UMT. Typically cast as a leading man or villain, he viewed the opportunity to do a farce as a way to stretch his range as an actor.
As for the show's somewhat bawdy content, both stars agree Utah audiences will love this production, full of double entendres, intricately woven subplots and comically bent genders.
"I'm bringing my grandmother to see the show," Powell said, describing her grandmother as the epitome of conservative values. "She's going to love the chemistry of this show."
"Triumph of Love" will be performed at the Allred Theatre, Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts, Weber State University, at 7:30 p.m. July 9-10, 14-17, 21-24. A matinee performance will be presented at 2 p.m. July 17. Individual tickets are $18 adults, $16 senior citizens, and $10 for students. Tickets are available at 1-800-WSU-TIKS or 801-626-8500. Season subscriptions covering the 2004 UMT season also are available at $48 each.
(Photo Caption:) The cast of UMT's "Triumph of Love" include (clockwise from top left): Rebecca Brandt Hample as Hesione, Michael Weingart as Hermocrates, Kara Buhrley Powell as Princess Leonide and Paul Cheney as Prince Agis.