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(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Olivia Custodio as sister M, and Jaron Barney as John Swallow get into character as part of the cast of "Saturday's Voyeur 2014," which is again set at Temple Square, during General Conference on Oct. 5, 2012. Among this year's newsy subjects: modesty wear for girls and women, Ordain Women, air pollution, and of course gay marriage.The characters are getting ready for the Modesty and Values Celebration, a beauty pageant, honoring Senator Mike Lee with special appearances by John Swallow, Miss Riverton (The cheerleader bomber) and Godzieka. As always, lots of singing missionaries.
Review: ‘Voyeur’ drops comedic bombs in its satirical send-up of Utah culture
Review » Talented cast shows off on “What Does Fox (News) Say,” a highlight of this year’s overstuffed script.
First Published Jul 01 2014 06:47 pm • Last Updated Jul 03 2014 03:38 pm

There’s a great version of "Saturday’s Voyeur" tucked away in the third act, where the satirical musical’s two strongest attributes come together. That is: a richly talented ensemble cast, set in motion by a theater company that takes wicked joy in making fun of the earnestness and hypocrisy of local culture.

All of this comes together at a Modesty and Values beauty pageant honoring Sen. Mike Lee. And it’s worth the price of the show’s expensive ticket for the brilliant "What Does Fox (News) Say" number, the perfect pop-culture satirical cover song, perfectly used in this annual ripped-from-the-Utah headlines exercise.

At a glance

Another year, another ‘Voyeur’

A strong cast (and crew) finally deliver in the third act of this long, over-bludgeony script, which enjoys its own jokes a bit too much. The “What Does Fox (News) Say” number characterizes what’s most successful about this year’s show, which is, like the material it’s sending up, a product of its time.

When » Reviewed Friday, June 27; continues through 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.

Running time » Two hours 45 minutes, including two intermissions.

Also » Listen for the musical jokes, like refrains of Mormon songs ranging from the hymn “The Spirit of God” to the Primary song “I Hope They Call Me On a Mission,” played by the spirited onstage band: conductor/keyboards Kevin Mathie, drummer David Evanoff and guitarist Gar Ashby.

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Unfortunately, everything that’s easy to hate about this overlong script by former Salt Lake Acting Company producers Allen Nevins and Nancy Borgenicht shows up earlier. Bloated scenes stretch on too long without the anchor of a coherent story. Talented actors play the heart out of one-note characters, yet the script requires them to keep reappearing onstage to re-bludgeon previously bludgeoned jokes. Greatest hits from previous years have been, yet again, recycled.

And SLAC seems as cynical as the institutions it’s sending up when it embeds two intermissions into a nearly 3-hour show to guilt theatergoers into buying season subscriptions.

If you feel guilty about messing up your perfect "Voyeur" attendance because you can’t get enough jokes about closeted gay Mormons or Utah accents or red-alert bad air days or Gayle ("Whip It") Ruzicka’s influence, rest easy: You’ll go home happy.

Not that a plot summary serves much purpose with "Voyeur," but here goes nothing: Acts I and II are set on Temple Square during a federal gov’ment shutdown orchestrated by Sen. Lee (Eb Madson) that coincides with October General Conference. Wandering the catacombs are two ghosts — a stoner, sax-playing Angel Moroni (Madson), who is repeatedly called to repentance by a dead docent (Jenessa Bowen), who is waiting for her husband to call her into the "Celestial." They run into horny Nephi Jensen (Austin Archer), who is texting God to send babes for "proxies."

Also meeting in the tunnels are church official Elder Marriott (Justin Ivie) and his No. 2, Fletch (Alexis Baigue), a closeted gay couple with their own secret handshake who are organizing a pilot program to help "Book of Mormon" musical chorus boys go straight. They’re also organizing the pageant to crown the Most Modest Mormon Maiden, which includes Miss Riverton (Leah Hassett), a contestant who just happens to carry around her own homemade bomb.

Ivie, a six-year "Voyeur" veteran, kicks the whole thing off with a pitch-perfect prayer that asks Heavenly Father to close the spiritual divide between season ticket buyers and subscribers. He and Baigue, a 14-time "Voyeur" returnee, successfully deliver the satirical Utah accent and idioms, underscored by the use of the word "abso-flipping-lutely."

Other comedic standouts include Austin Archer’s Joseph Smith, a bobbed wig refugee of the Temple Square Visitor Center diorama, and Latoya Rhodes’s MoPhilla, the confused, biracial daughter of Elder Marriott and his Ordain Feminist wife (Olivia Custodio), who shines in her impressive rap of "Mo Bless the Dead." Jaron Barney delivers a spot-on Talking Heads takeoff featuring disgraced Attorney General John Swallow, while Madson nails the cadence and pompous delivery of a conservative Utah senator.

As Miss Riverton, Hassett transforms "These Boots are Made for Walkin’ " into this punchline: "One of these days these boobs are going to hold the priesthood, too." While that joke might be a stretch, Hassett delivers the right blend of experienced innocence, befitting a Utah pageant girl.


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And yes, the Tribune’s ownership issues come up, too, when Sen. Lee asserts that the newspaper is now the Deseret News’ prison bitch.

Perhaps the best way to summarize what’s successful in this overstuffed script comes from one of "Voyeur" 2014’s often-repeated catch phrases, used by saints and sinners alike whenever they’re confronted with hypocrisy, or, say, doctrinal changes: "I’m a product of my time."

For those who like to laugh at the foibles of Utah politics and Mormon culture, this show serves as a product of its time.

ellenf@sltrib.com

facebook.com/ellen.weist



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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