UVU students bring Annie Oakley to Sundance stage
Ben Henderson plays Frank Butler in the Sundance Summer Theatre's current production of "Annie Get Your Gun."
His character is a narcissistic, overly confident performer in Buffalo Bill's traveling show.
"He was the Brad Pitt of his time," said Henderson, one of several Utah Valley University students participating in the community production, a unique partnership between the Provo resort and UVU's award-winning Department of Theatrical Arts.
This production of "Annie" follows the 1999 Broadway revival version, which featured Bernadette Peters, and later Reba McEntire, in the title role. It has a new beginning and end and includes three additional characters. At Sundance, the sets will be changed in front of the audience without a blackout.
"If you saw it before and it wasn't your cup of tea, come see it again," said director Kymberly Mellen.
The company consists of several up-and-coming actors, including UVU student and Cedar City native Mackenzie Pedersen, who plays Annie Oakley.
An adjunct professor in UVU's theater arts department, Mellen also has increased the presence of Annie's sisters to better portray their influence on her decision to pursue a relationship with Frank.
"I like that it is a show for independent, audacious women who have career goals and are seeking relationships too," said Mellen, who has directed several other Utah production including "As You Like It" and "The Forgotten Carols."
This is the sixth year that Sundance and UVU in Orem have produced a play on the Eccles Outdoor Stage which has a bowllike amphitheater with Provo's Mount Timpanogos as a backdrop.
Mellen and Chad Linebaugh, general manager of the Sundance Resort, think the partnership between UVU and Sundance is mutually beneficial.
It got its start in 2006, when Linebaugh became general manager. He wanted to bring back the summer theater; Sundance's founder, actor Robert Redford, also wanted the resort's outdoor venue to be used again.
At the same time, nearby UVU had an up-and-coming theater department "with great talent in the faculty," Linebaugh said.
Earlier this year, UVU's production of "Vincent in Brixton" received six awards at the national Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival: outstanding production, performance by an actress, direction, scenic design, costume design and distinguished ensemble.
All the more reason to go see the Sundance show.
"Sundance is a unique experience," Henderson said. "I'm taking the things I've learned in the classroom and using it in a professional environment."
Since the summer theater was revived, attendance has been better than expected. Linebaugh noted that the past two years, nearly all of the shows were sold out.
"People are flocking to it," he said, noting that Redford also makes it a point to attend.
"He's always impressed with the local talent," Linebaugh said.
Plans for the summer show begin months in advance. In the fall, UVU's theater department presents a list of possible shows to the Sundance Resort team, which narrows the list to three or four. Then Redford selects the show.
There are two criteria, said Linebaugh. "It has to be a musical and something that people relate to and know the music."
Anything you can do â¦
Utah Valley University's Department of Theatrical Arts partners with Sundance Summer Theatre to present the musical "Annie Get Your Gun."
Where • Sundance Resort's Eccles Outdoor Amphitheatre, 8841 N. Alpine Loop Road, Provo
When • Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. through Aug. 17
Tickets • Lawn, $20; assigned bench seating $24 -$26. Sundanceresort.com or 866-734-4428.
Details • Arrive at least one hour before showtime to allow for shuttle service.