Finding the Utah man, and the Mormon feminists, in another edition of 'Saturday's Voyeur'
Alexis Baigue has been singing and tracting onstage as a gay Mormon missionary for a long time.
At age 38, Baigue has finally been released from his calling as a dramatic elder in the annual satirical mission that is Salt Lake Acting Company's "Saturday's Voyeur," which opens Wednesday, June 25. In his 14th summer as a returning "Voyeur" veteran, Baigue will play Brother Fletch, a church employee who assists Elder Marriott in running the "Let's Get It Straight?" program.
Baigue can't wait to perform "What Does Fox News Say?," a parody song about what some religious leaders say about overcoming same-sex attraction. "I love that I get to say it all so succinctly, and ludicrously, for 61 performances," he says.
Of course, the actor hasn't just served "Voyeur" missions. Who can forget his standout role in the 2007 show as former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson's farting parrot?
Baigue may have racked up the most summers of "Voyeur" of any returning cast member, but he hasn't lost his enthusiasm for the show. He likes to point to a deeper connection. The original "Voyeur" launched on Baigue's third birthday, July 20, 1978. "We've always been linked cosmically, 'Saturday's Voyeur' and I," he jokes.
As the show's avid fans know, summarizing a "Voyeur" plot can be as unfunny as explicating a punchline. All theatergoers need to know is that this year's "Voyeur" is once again set on Temple Square and features such familiar characters as clean-cut missionaries, gray-haired church authorities and the Angel Moroni. Characters are preparing to compete in a Modesty and Values beauty pageant to honor Sen. Mike Lee, who sings his version of "Utah Man," with appearances by John Swallow and Miss Riverton.
There's also Sister Marriott, an Ordain Women feminist, whose black daughter, MoPhilia, is coming to terms with the church's racist past. Joseph Smith has a cameo, as do the chorus boys from "The Book of Mormon" musical, who don fat suits to be less attractive to their missionary companions.
As a SLAC promotional tagline brags about the Tony Award-winning Broadway touring musical that will play at the Capitol Theatre next year: "Before you see the knock-off, come see the original."
Some of "Voyeur's" parody songs: "Rockbusters" from "Ghostbusters," "Life Before Gays" from "All in the Family's" "Those Were the Days," "Ballad of the NSA" from "Ballad of the Green Beret" and "Buddy Gut" from Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend."
New to the cast this year is Olivia Custodio, an opera singer who is earning her master's in music from the University of Utah. She plays Sister Marriott, who serves as the voice of the liberal audience. "She says the things, sometimes, that people wish they can say," Custodio says.
Moving to Utah for graduate school was something of a cultural shock, as she grew up in Ohio and confused Mormons with the Amish, thinking "they ran around in buggies and bonnets."
After seeing last year's show, she was star-struck on the first day of rehearsals. To help with the comedic material, she draws upon her training in improv at Chicago's famed The Second City comedy troupe. "It's so much different than an opera where the notes are on the page," she says, adding: "I really am having so much fun it should be illegal."
For all that fun, which legislators or the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control haven't yet outlawed, getting an original show on its feet is harder than it appears. "Because it looks like such a lark, people assume we're pulling it out of thin air," Baigue says.
The process starts with auditions, when a mixed cast of "Voyeur" veterans and virgins is hired mostly cast "on spec" before there's much of a script. Director Cynthia Fleming, who is also the show's longtime choreographer, sees a rough draft of the musical about a month before rehearsals start, when she starts the detective work of watching videos of the original songs and reading reports of news reports while considering dance steps and scene blocking.
This year, cast members received a draft of the first two acts in the three-act show on May 12, the beginning of rehearsals. "The script came in earlier this year," says Fleming, adding that she counsels new cast members to not get too invested in any of their scenes or songs, as much material is cut and changed through the six weeks of rehearsal.
Once performances begin, Fleming watches the show transform over the run as the actors merge with their characters and become more comfortable interacting with the audience.
"Voyeur" remains the theater company's cash cow, as anywhere from 800 to 900 season subscriptions are sold annually during the musical's 61-show run. "Voyeur" theatergoers support the rest of the company's lineup of contemporary, often unknown, plays.
And directing "Voyeur" feels like hosting an extended community party. "When you feel the energy of the audience coming in, and then listen to how the play has touched some part of themselves, and their laughter there's nothing more rewarding," Fleming says. "For many people, it's the only play they ever see."
Another year, another 'Voyeur'
P The 2014 version of Salt Lake Acting Company's "Saturday's Voyeur" spins off the LDS Church's official clarification of doctrine, riffs on Mormon feminists requesting priesthood authority, features Sen. Mike Lee singing his version of "Utah Man," references The Salt Lake Tribune as the Deseret News' "prison bitch" and has more endless fun with clean-cut gay Mormon missionaries and Utah's conservative lawmakers. New this year? A cameo from the chorus boys of the musical "The Book of Mormon."
When • June 25-Aug. 31; Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 6 p.m.
Where • Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $40-$55 (discounts available for groups of 10 or more); 801-363-7522; saltlakeactingcompany.org.