Wild West Shakespeare revisits the Bard

Tuesday , July 08, 2014 - 12:19 PM

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By AMY NICHOLSON

Standard-Examiner correspondent

Gossip and rumors hilariously bring one couple together and riotously drive another apart in Cache Theatre Company’s Wild West production of “A Whole Lotta Fussin’ Over Nothin,’” based on the Shakespeare classic “Much Ado About Nothing.”

The outdoor “dessert theater” tradition started last year with a comical musical version of Romeo and Juliet penned by River Heights resident David Sidwell.

“It was so fun last year, we decided to do it again,” Sidwell said. “It is a fun thing we plan to do every year.”

(A similar event was used to be produced at the American West Heritage Center, in Wellsville.)

This time around, Logan resident Wendi Hassan wrote the script and Sidwell is directing.

Sidwell, a photographer, poet, writer and professional storyteller, loves all things creative. One of his main passions is directing, and he also works as an adjunct professor in the theater arts department at Utah State University.

He enjoys taking characters and elements from Shakespeare’s plays, and turning them into melodramas.

“I have studied Shakespeare a lot,” Sidwell said. “He was a pretty funny guy who wrote lots of comedies. None of his plays were original to him. He rewrote stories he heard of in the past. So I think someone taking one of his plays and having fun with it — I think he would be delighted.”

All audience members are offered a root beer float during intermission to keep the tradition of serving dessert. In addition to the refreshment, patrons may choose to purchase an optional meal ticket and dine, 30 minutes before the performance, on smoked pulled-pork sandwiches, chips, drinks and dessert.

Last year, the production adhered more strictly to the melodrama style.

“This year it is more of a comedy farce,” Sidwell said.

But a scheming villain, named Singin’ Jenny, is still present and is played by Sidwell’s daughter, Lotti.

In the Shakespeare version, Don John plots to cast Hero in a bad light by making her appear unfaithful to her lover, Claudio. In this version, Singin’ Jenny accomplishes her plan to disgrace Heroweena in front of her lover Clyde by disguising herself as Heroweena and singing rowdy songs in a saloon.

“It seems that nothing drives Don John except that he likes being a bad guy,” Sidwell said. “He seems to revel in doing evil things. Singin’ Jenny also likes to cause a fuss. She is a fun character and one of the few who talks directly to the audience.”

His wife is also in on the action. Marianne Sidwell, a music specialist from Utah Opera Festival, along with Rebecca Hainsworth, of Lindon, composed the original lyrics and music for the production.

“We have rousing songs, funny songs and love songs,” David Sidwell said. “Like any good musical, there is a good mix.”

While audience members will see similarities to Shakespeare’s work — like lovers Ben and Bea who can’t help verbally sparring with each other — theater lovers don’t have to be familiar with the original play to enjoy this one.

“If they have never seen or heard of ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ they will still enjoy it,” Sidwell said. “If they do know the show, they will recognize the characters and the storyline.”

He enjoys carrying on the Utah tradition of community theater and said the Old Rock Church was once the performance space for the Providence Players, a pioneer theatrical troupe.

“Almost every community had their own little theater company when the pioneers first settled here and Shakespeare was among the most popular playwrights they performed,” Sidwell said.

The Old Rock Church was built in 1869 and now operates as a bed and breakfast.

Sidwell hopes members of the community will come out for some laughs and to enjoy the words of a renowned playwright.

“A lot of the original language is left in this play. Entire speeches are kept intact. Shakespeare is celebrated as the greatest author who ever lived. Why not celebrate by having fun and being creative with his works?”

PREVIEW

  • WHAT: ‘A Whole Lotta Fussin’ Over Nothin,’’ Wild West Shakespeare
  • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. through July 12; 2 p.m. show July 12. Meals served 30 at 7 p.m. for those who buy meal ticket
  • WHERE: Old Rock Church (shaded area adjacent), 10 S. Main, Providence
  • TICKETS: $10-$12/show only, optional $8/meal tickets available; http://cachetheatre.com
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