|Vanessa Ballam as Eliza Doolittle, photo from UFOMT website|
For those who don't know, UFOMT is a yearly festival of operas, concerts, and musicals founded 20 years ago by opera star and local Loganite Michael Ballam. (Read more about Ballam's background in this interesting Deseret News article, "Michael Ballam: Utah tenor's career comes full circle".)
Each year my grandparents drive all the way up to Cache Valley from the far southeast corner of the state to see the UFOMT operas and shows. They aren't the only ones. Most of the festival's 20,000+ attendees come from all over the state and country. This year's productions are the operas Faust and Tosca and the classic musicals My Fair Lady and Kiss Me Kate. For more information on the shows, visit this blog post about Logan on Salt Lake City View.
The season is designed so patrons can see all four shows on one weekend, in a combination of matinees and evening performances. My dear grandparents purchase extra tickets each year so they can treat their children and grandchildren to the shows. How sweet of them!
I have been lucky enough to see several lovely UFOMT operas over the years. This was my first time seeing a musical, though. I was not disappointed! From the actors to the sets to the orchestra to the beautiful theater itself, nearly every detail was perfect. We are indeed lucky to have this caliber of performance available to us in our own little city. In my experience the UFOMT shows far surpass the quality of the national touring productions I have seen in Salt Lake City.
My Fair Lady Review
In Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre's production of Lerner and Loewe's classic musical My Fair Lady, Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (the lovely Vanessa Ballam) transforms into a sophisticated lady of society under the tutelage of dialect coach Professor Henry Higgins, ably played by Kyle Pfortmiller. The sets, costumes, staging, singing, and acting are all top-notch in UFOMT's rendition of the show. If one "fault" could be found with the production, it's that Vanessa Ballam's beautiful, classically-trained voice shines too brightly through the harsh, flat tones of Eliza's native dialect. Vanessa's acting, though, perfectly suited the role. It's in her blood, of course. Her father (and UFOMT founder) Michael Ballam, disguised under a bulbous nose and layers of makeup, stole the show in his comic turn as Eliza's father Alfred Doolittle.
Another stand-out was the quartet of men who sing with Eliza on "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?". I particularly noticed the sweetly soaring voice of the tenor. The whole chorus, in fact, was excellent as an ensemble and in their individually highlighted parts. A strong ensemble is a hallmark of UFOMT's shows. The performers come from all over the country, and are auditioned and hand-picked by Michael Ballam.
Costumes and sets were attractive and well-designed. I did wonder why we didn't see the black-and-white dress pictured above during the show. (It's a distinctive costume from the "Ascot Opening Day" scene.) Instead Eliza wore a pastel confection and carried a ruffly parasol that gave her a lot of trouble, to hilarious effect. The whole scene is traditionally one of the showpieces of My Fair Lady, musically and comically, and it lived up to expectations.
Funny and heart-wrenching by turns, and filled with catchy tunes, My Fair Lady is a good introduction to musical theater. Whether you're a longtime musical fan or not, I encourage you to see this performance. The remaining show dates are July 20, 25, 28 (matinee), August 3 (matinee), 9 (matinee), and 11. Single ticket prices range from $12 to $76, with half price tickets available for students and children. Or take advantage of UFOMT's season design, which allows one to attend all four shows in one weekend. Visit www.ufoc.org for details.
|Interior of the Ellen Eccles Theatre, photo from UFOMT website|
|Detail of balconies and phoenix mural. Photo credit: Wally Bloss, Executive Director of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts|
Have you been/are you going to any shows this year at UFOMT or at the Old Lyric? What's your favorite musical?