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After years of reviewing Salt Lake Acting Company's annual big-budget satirical musical, both of us agree on this point: If you're looking for raunchy liberal humor, this year's edition of "Saturday's Voyeur" delivers. Justin Ivie's take on a Donald Trumpesque God might be worth the $45 ticket price ($55 for cabaret seats) for anyone stunned by the more-fictional-than-fiction nature of the current GOP presidential campaign.
Beyond that, our opinions diverge by degree.
Weist • As a piece of theatrical storytelling, Salt Lake Acting Company's annual cash cow doesn't go beyond 2-D stereotypes and wastes the cast's talent. That's a shame, because there's a real local story at the centerpiece of the satirical energy, but the musical doesn't develop it. And it could be so much or "sa much," in "Voyeur's" Utah-speak more satisfying if the main character, Ned, the Mormon-wannabe son of lesbian parents, were a real full-bodied character.
Bannon • I disagree, as I think this year's "Voyeur" is a definite improvement over the past couple of installments.
Weist • Isn't that a rather low bar for a professional theater company capable of such great work? And at a $45 ticket price?
Bannon • I agree with you about Ivie's performance. Since Donald Trump acts like he thinks he's God most of the time, combining his character with Heavenly Father works beautifully, and Ivie really captures his air of arrogant stupidity. Ivie fatuously proves that Trump doesn't have a clue, from "Who doesn't love me?," his opening self-satisfied salvo, to his claiming that David Duke, Jesus and neo-Nazis are all his best friends, to his smug declaration that "I love uneducated people." The upcoming presidential election and the current national LGBT issues helped "Voyeur" find a focused storyline that it capitalizes on; the show doesn't wander around.
Weist • It wasn't Tito Livas' performance as Ned that left me cold, but the writing. A purple morph suit standing in as Mormon garments doesn't make any sense in the story and limits the actor's ability to connect with the audience.
Bannon • Annette Wright's Heavenly Mother was developed into a three-dimensional character this year. She counters Heavenly Father and Joseph Smith's "testicular testimony" and consistently acts as the voice of reason and moral barometer of the show.
Weist • Yes, Wright's deadpan delivery steals every scene she's in.
Bannon • Another memorable standout: Eb Madson's frizzy-haired devil, Sister Luci. Her wily machinations to inundate Utah with Republican spirit babies keep the show barreling along. One of the best scenes, "The Pitch," has her and Joseph Smith (Robert Scott Smith) trying to persuade Trump to come to Utah, where he can make a fortune. Smith has some great ideas: "How about a coal port in Oakland?" Then he suggests "a developer's wet dream: We move the prison" that was well-received by the audience. Finally, they decide to convert Tooele into Atlantic City, and Luci adds, "Build a wall around Utah and make the Mexicans pay for it."
Weist • But why don't other characters have dimension? Ned and his mothers, for example. And I'm a big fan of Smith's Joseph Smith from last year's "Voyeur," but this year he was just a lady killer, a foil so that he and Ivie could sing "King of the Mos." That was one of the parody song highlights. Which brings me to this: Didn't the parody songs seem lacking this year? Or at least an afterthought?
Bannon • The show is slow getting started, but the second act takes off. It has a couple of jazzy musical numbers that work well. Smith the character and the actor really gets into singing "King of the Mos" and teams up with Ivie and Madson on "Breaking Her Is Hard to Do" to try to outwit Heavenly Mother. Luci's "Tea Party Plan," based on "Stand by Your Man," in Act I is also clever.
Weist • I did love the insider Mormon musical in-jokes, with the band playing refrains from "Saturday's Warrior" and the opening scene with the choir singing the Mormon hymn "If You Could Hie to Kolob." Last year there was a lot of simulated sex in the choreography. Did you think it was less smutty this year?
Bannon • Staying focused on one storyline helped the show walk the line between smart-mouthed sassiness and smutty sex jokes although it does get heavy on the simulated celestial sex. It has less mean-spirited sniping and more sharply shaped zingers about Utah culture shock, which justifies the mantra that runs through the show, "Being Mormon is so confusing."
Weist • I agree, but I guess I have higher expectations for satire. The laughs in "Voyeur" are well-targeted, but I want to leave the theater caring about the story, too.
If you could hie to 'Voyeur'
Justin Ivie's Donald Trump-esque Heavenly Father is the highlight of this year's show, even if the repeated celestial sex jokes are a little over-the-top.
When • Reviewed Friday, June 24; continues through Aug. 28. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 1 and 6 p.m. Sunday
Also • Additional performances Tuesday, Aug. 16, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Aug. 20, 2 p.m.
Where • Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $45-$55 (subscribers, group discounts); 801-363-7522 or saltlakeactingcompany.org
Running time • Two hours and 15 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission
Artistic team • Cynthia Fleming, director/choreographer; Kevin Mathie, musical director/arranger; Heidi Ortega, costume design; Michael Horejsi, set design; James M. Craig, lighting design; Janice Jenson, stage manager; Shannon Musgrave, assistant director/choreographer; Christian Stringham, Timothy Swensen, Martin C. Alcocer, assistant stage managers