Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Laugh Lines From "Hunk-cules!"

There are a lot more laughs on stage!  Click here to buy tickets to "Hunk-cules"

Monday, August 29, 2011

2012 Season Promises Laughs Galore

Desert Star Playhouse announces its 2012 season of hilarious shows. With a line-up that includes parodies of beloved Hollywood movies, hit TV shows and one of the biggest hits on Broadway, there will be laughs for the whole family. Season tickets go on sale August 30th for current season ticket holders and September 13th to the general public.

Desert Star Playhouse has built its reputation on producing hilarious musical parodies and this season is no exception. Featuring four brand new comedies and the return of an audience favorite, the 2012 season will have something for everyone to enjoy. Artistic Director, Scott Holman, shares his thoughts about each of the shows for next year.

(January 12–March 24) Holman: “This hilarious parody of the TV series, transplanted to Utah County, is full of laughs. One of the crime scene investigators is a soccer mom who has her kids waiting in the minivan while she investigates the crime scene. It was a big hit the first time we did it, and our audience voted to bring it back.”

(March 29–June 8, 2012) Holman: “Every time we do a ‘Princess Bride’ joke in one of our shows, the audience erupts with laughter. So it was a no-brainer to give the Desert Star treatment to this beloved family classic.

(June 14–August 25, 2012) Holman: “Our audiences love it when we make references to Utah culture in our shows. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? This mash-up of monsters and Utah culture, with some over-the-top Desert Star comedy, will have everyone rolling in the aisles!

(August 30–November 10, 2012) Holman: “We’re going to the magical land of Oz, and we couldn’t be more excited! There’s a new villain in town who’s even worse than the Wicked Witch. The witch will have no choice but to team up with her former enemies to fight the new villain. This promises to bring big laughs next year!”

(November 15–January 5, 2012) Holman: “’My Big Utah Wedding’ has been a huge hit with Desert Star audiences. So we’re doing a new show with the same characters, only this time they’re dealing with all their nutty relatives coming to town for the holidays. It’s going to be a lot of fun, but with some heartwarming moments.

You can get your season tickets by calling 801-266-2600.
For a mailable form Click Here.

To order Online Click Here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Story Behind The Characters

Justin Berry is a familiar face at Desert Star Playhouse.  In fact, since 2006, he's appeared in every Desert Star show but ONE!   His first appearance on the Desert Star stage was in the 2003 production of Jekyll and Hyde.   Justin frequently acts as emcee to announce the birthdays and anniversaries, and the audience members enjoy his personality and wit.  He is currently playing the role of Prince Diaredes in Hunk-cules: I’m Too Sexy For My Toga.  With his over-the-top energy, he's bringing laughs galore to our audiences.  Justin also played the role of Dax (the boyfriend) in Desert Star's original production of My Big Fat Utah Wedding, from 2004 to 2005.  This show has the distinction of being Utah’s longest running show, and Justin played the part of Dax longer than any other actor.  By day, Justin works as the Graphic Designer for the theater.  He designs the playbill for each show, the website, and all the print advertising you see for the theater.  He's an important member of the Desert Star family.  

After seeing his latest character in Hunk-cules: I’m Too Sexy For My Toga, we wanted to get some insight into how he works as an actor, so we asked Justin to share his process for creating crazy characters.  He explained that, as part of his actor training in college, he learned to develop an extensive backstory for his characters.  A backstory is a tool that actors use to help define and build characters, including family history, major events that happened in their lives, and other information the audience never really sees, but which helps the character come alive.  Justin follows this practice for every role. While in rehearsals, he develops an extensive backstory for the character to help shape what the audience sees onstage.

Here are four of his favorite backstories:

Prince Diaredes in Hunk-cules (2011)
••• For this villainous role, I wanted to create something different from other villains I've played. So I set out to create a story that would explain why the prince would do the things he does. I decided he was nothing more than an overgrown, spoiled child.  He was one of those kids who were bullied at school and developed a Napoleon complex as a defense. He did not have  a strong father figure, but was raised by his mother, who gave him everything he ever wanted. He was an only child and used that to his advantage at every opportunity. From his mother he also got a keen sense of style and love for all things garish. His hobbies include torturing insects, accessorizing, craft projects, pottery and making faces at himself in the mirror.

Tin Man in Wizard of Odd (2008)
••• This was one of my favorite roles to play. We took the Tin Man and mashed him up with Simon Cowell of American Idol fame. What was really fun to explore with this character was what made him so jaded, yet lovable at the same time. Again, I went back to his school days and realized that though he was not picked on, he was just not accepted. He was a boy made of tin and this made him different. The other kids in Oz were scared of him and basically avoided him. He fell in love with a girl who would reject him and break his heart. It was this tragic event that drove him to become the hollow shell of a man that he did. The real fun then came when I started to layer on the attitudes and caustic nature that is Simon Cowell. This show was running during American Idol season, and every week I would watch the show and write down all of Simon's over-the-top, mean or crazy comments. I would then work them into the show. The other actors really had no idea what was coming next.

Colonel Flanders in My Valley Fair Lady (2008)
••• As far as backstories go, this is probably my favorite one. His life started in the deep South where he was raised with his sister. Soon the family moved to Utah so his father could buy a honey production company. After his parents died in a tragic bee accident (don't ask), he and his sister were set for life financially. They sold the honey business and decided to live a perfect Southern Utah. But boredom soon set in for this Southern gentleman. So what to do? It was on one of his many outings to the zoo, that he realized he could start his own fast food chain, and Kamas Fried Moose was born. When he failed to find a market he also tried Kamas Fried Steer, Kamas Fried Deer and Kamas Fried Badger. It was not until he discovered pigeons while walking through the park that Kamas Fried Pigeon was hatched and he had a winner! But even that was not enough for this socialite. So he would take trips to the mall or other public places to be able to see how everyone else lived. He also fancied himself a bit of a spy, and while on a "stake out" would put on his trench coat over his white suit, add dark glasses, and a white fedora.  He would then drive his white Rolls Royce (complete with a gold-plated pigeon as a hood ornament) to his destination, where he would park across the street and watch his target, feeling he was perfectly inconspicuous and sly!

Deadeye Dawson in Butch Cassidy and the Sunburnt Kid (2007)
••• Here was another great villain that I was gifted to play. His life did not start in the Old West, but rather across the great pond. England. He was a bully and a cheat while he growing up, but never a very good one. He often got beaten down by the people he was trying to bully. Such was his lot in life. He tried to make money in a series of failed business and ventures (some honest, some not so honest). But all of these things failed. He wanted to be rich and famous and he wanted to be revered if not feared for his power. He also loved the dime novels about the American West and wanted to be a cowboy. But it soon became very clear that he would never have these things if he stayed in his homeland. So he decided it was time to face a new frontier and he charted a course for America. It was on his long boat ride that he came up with the plan to take the Old West by storm. He named himself Deadeye Dawson in order to strike fear in the hearts of those he would meet. The wannabe cowboy was born. He lost his sight in one eye when he lost a bet on a train and got poked in the eye (a stupid bet to make for sure.) So he became a two-bit gambler and part owner of a saloon. But he really never did amount to much!

So, what was the one Desert Star show Justin hasn't performed in since 2006?  Star Wars Episode MDCCLXXXIV.  After performing in My Big Fat Utah Wedding for 18 months, he wanted to take a well-deserved break.  But after one show, he was ready to get back on the stage again.

To purchase tickets to Hunk-cules: I’m Too Sexy For My Toga, click here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Here's What Audiences Are Saying About "Hunk-cules: I'm Too Sexy For My Toga"

We always love your shows…sometimes I get dirty looks for laughing too loud! Thank you so much for giving us something to look forward to. I only wish there were more shows!
--Amy Marcelis

This is the quintessential Utah experience! What a great time! Thank you!
--Kelly Meister (Boise, ID)

Fantastic. The laughs never stopped. Don't miss it or you will regret it!!! --Laurie Cayton

Another great show. Love the wholesome atmosphere. Great Hercules.
--Name withheld

I always enjoy the local spoofing. Keep up with the good work.
--Cathy Taylorsville

Wonderful show. Acting was great, singing was great, and the servers were also great! What a wonderful way to celebrate turning 24!
--Cameron & Judd Morgensen (S. Jordan)

We really enjoyed the show & the food. It's our first time. We'll be back for sure! We had a great time. --Kristi Andersen (Roy)

We loved the show! All the actors and the piano player are very talented and versatile. We can see all the hard work that was put into this play. Hooray for the set and costumes also. Thank you and congratulations! --Heidi & Scott Wagner (SLC)

Thoroughly enjoyed this evening. We are season ticket holders and always look forward to coming and seeing the show. Great bunch of actors who entertain us. --Bev & Tim Coburn

The show was very funny & clever with tons of energy. Great fun! 
--Tami Griffith (Centerville)

Always a good time @ Desert Star. Excellent show. Love all the current event jokes you tie in and Mormon culture. --Chad & Rachael Peay (Layton)

One of the funniest shows yet! ... Made for a great date night! 
--Alex & Joey Lewis (Magna)

The show was so great! We enjoyed it so much and laughed a lot! We always have a great time when we come to Desert Star! --Jill Skousen (Pleasant Grove)

It was so funny that I peed my pants. (Not really, but it was funny). 
--Daniel Widenhouse (NC)
We love coming to Desert Star Playhouse. It is a great family date night. We loved the play tonight. --Name withheld

Super fantastic!! Lots of fun. Loved the jokes. Desert Star is always good!
--Cami & Josh (WVC)

Loved the show! The timing & jokes were very funny. Thanks for a great night of entertainment. --Meg Naisbitt

Fun show! Very entertaining and talented performers. --Lynn (Ogden)

Everything was great. Great experience, great service, great show. Thanks!
--Name withheld

The show was hilarious and I seriously hope I remember all the jokes. I loved all of it, and I love how openly they make fun of the government! --Taylor Deem (West Haven)

The actors were very entertaining and talented. They convinced me that they were having fun. --Sierra Schick & Sala Farris

Had a great time. Songs were hilarious & the actors/actresses really were awesome!
--Katie Emmery (OK)

We loved the show! It was a lot of fun. We loved Herc's "amazing" smile. (OK, maybe my dad wasn't as much into the smile as much as I was). Keep up the fun. 
--Kayla & Michael Bradshaw (Highland)

We really enjoyed ourselves. Our server was great. ...Great lines and way to get the audience involved! --Chris & Lisa

Loved it, as usual! Great job! --Kenny Grossaint (SLC)

Fantastic! Great cast! Loved it! Is Hunk-cules single? --Name withheld

The cast was excellent. This show had more music, which was fun and helped move the show. The best part was the flood with all the maritime gags. Hercules was great. Loved how he smiled thru the entire show. Loved this show! --Pam Saley (SLC)

Had a great time. I loved the "California Girls" spoof. --Becca Cardon

Excellent production! Very clever & well written. The voices were fabulous. Thanks for a good time. --Pam Higginson

One of the best shows we've seen. We had a lot of fun. 
--Greg & Susan Stone (S Jordan)

Lots of fun & laughs. --Cynthia Lakey (N. Salt Lake)

Everything was amazing! The shows are always so fun and well put together
--Megan Eden (Ogden)

It was so much fun! We loved it!! --Kami & Katie (Morgan)

This was a fun, funny show. I liked all the music. --Name withheld
Excellent everything as usual! Great service, great food, and GREAT SHOW!
--John & Jennifer Hutchinson (W Jordan)

Terrific! Awesome! Liked the guys in dresses! Fun & Funny! 
--Carolyn J. Christensen (Sandy)

The show was fun and entertaining. It was very well worth it. --Name withheld

Friday, August 12, 2011

Making the Magic Happen

Hunk-cules: I’m Too Sexy For My Toga opens this weekend at Desert Star Playhouse, and our technical crew has been hard at work!  In a matter of days, these wizards of set design have performed a miraculous feat.  They’ve transformed the Desert Star stage from Utah’s west desert in the 1950s (which was the setting for the last show) to ancient Greece in 600 BC. The tech crew works tirelessly into the wee hours of the morning to get it all done on time. It’s incredible to think they perform this magic every time a new show opens.

Let’s take a look behind-the-scenes, where they’re building sets, hanging lights, painting props, sewing, creating ferocious monsters, and moving enormous set pieces that only Hercules himself should be lifting!

Set designers hard at work.

 Bobby Robertson painting a fountain

Ty Williams using foam rubber to create the terrible Chimera

A scary detail on the fountain.

 That's one way to get your name in lights.

 Sean "Fritz" Fitzgerald is giving the Chimera abs.  

Kaitlin Williams hanging a drop.  Those palace columns probably can't hold much weight but they sure look good! 

 You can't do lighting at Desert Star and be afraid of heights! 

 I thought we were doing Grease, not Greece!

The completed fountain fit for Zeus himself!   Cold running water included.

Ty Williams with the completed Chimera.  Three heads to be provided by actors.

For tickets to Hunk-cules, I’m Too Sexy For My Toga, click here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Legend Of Desert Star

Desert Star Theater has a long, rich history, not only as a company, but as a physical building as well. Join us for a quick journey through what we like to call The Legend of Desert Star.
In 1923 a small movie theater, The Gem, appeared on State Street in Murray. It featured a small, rounded ticket booth in the center of the entrance. Behind it, a small lobby led to the theater which featured rows of seats facing east. Near the front by the stage, there was a piano to provide the musical background for the silent movies gracing the screen. 
The most popular pictures playing at The Gem were action-packed western adventures. These serial-type cowboy movies played every Friday and Saturday night with a cliffhanger ending designed to bring audiences back the following week.
The owner, Tony Duvall, decided in 1930 that it was time to expand his business so he closed The Gem, demolished the building and replaced it with a new structure.
No longer just a movie theater, Duvall added apartments and retail shop fronts as well. The new theater was named The Iris Theater and the apartments bore the same name.
The seating was moved to the rear of the building and now faced south (just like they do today). A long lobby connected the State Street entrance to the actual theater.
The Iris Theater continued to operate until 1954 when Duvall retired. After changing hands a couple of times, the theater got yet another new name, The Vista.
During this time, several different businesses and specialty stores occupied the retail spaces along the State Street portion of the building. Among those companies was J.C. Penney.
So how does Desert Star Playhouse fit into the picture? In 1989, theater lovers Mike and Alyce Todd decided to take on the challenge starting a live dinner theatre.  Their first show was produced at Pioneer Trail State Park (near This Is The Place Monument) as part of a wagon ride and chuck wagon dinner. 
They chose to produce a traditional melodrama, "The Sally Kathleen Claim." The evening also featured a short musical olio with the show. Desert Star was born...under the stars.
Mike recalls the summer was not without mishaps. During one performance, a forest fire raged on the hillside near the show. A helicopter repeatedly filled its water tank from the pond just behind the stage. During another performance, the horses from the wagon ride were spooked and stampeded. But the show went on, and the adventure had begun.
When the summer ended, the Todds were not ready to let the curtain close. They began searching for an indoor venue to continue producing shows.
They looked at several locations in the Salt Lake area. One of these was the now-closed Vista Theater (this is where the stories merge). However, they felt the building was "un-inhabitable." However, after looking at several other buildings, the Vista was clearly the most habitable and a lease was soon signed.

In the fall of 1989, "Flower of the South" opened and the Vista was re-christened Desert Star Playhouse.
The old movie theater seats were replaced with tables and chairs. The old sloped floor however remained, making it a challenge for audience members to keep their drinks and popcorn on their tables. 
The first show ran through the end of the year with the addition of a Christmas Olio in December. It was during this show that Desert Star favorite Mary Parker Williams made her first appearance.
The first full season opened in 1990 with "Calamity Jane." A year later, another favorite, Scott Holman, would join the ranks. Scott recalls in those days they frequently played to nearly empty houses. "People would call and ask, 'What time does your show start?' and we'd say, 'When can you get here?'"
In 2000, Desert Star was nearly homeless again. Murray City said the historic edifice needed to be brought up to current building codes or demolished. The building owner told the Todds--who were leasing the theater--he planned to tear the building down. Not wanting to lose their location, and with hopes of saving this historic icon, the Todds chose to buy the theater themselves and renovate it.
The theater lobby was remodeled, giving it the distinctive look it has today with the Old West street and Delicate Arch mural. To the delight of female patrons, new rest rooms we also added. During the renovations, Desert Star returned to it's roots and once again headed for an outdoor venue, performing two shows at the Murray ampitheater. 
Since that time the company has continued to grow. A restaurant was created as part of the renovation. Desert Star Pizza was later added. Prior to this, pizza was delivered each night from a local pizza chain. In the fall of 2004, the Desert Star Dinner Theater replaced the restaurant, and has since been home to plays, concerts and other events, including "My Big Fat Utah Wedding," Utah's longest running show.

After 23 years, the legend all true legends do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Birth of the Blog!

Welcome to the new Desert Star blog! It's a fun new way to be a part of the Desert Star family. Happy Trails Online is your backstage pass to actor interviews, behind the scenes stories, and an inside look at all the fun we have at Desert Star. We will be posting every week, so check back often to read all the exciting new features.  Check out our first feature story on Mary Parker Williams below.  If you like it, join our site and you'll be notified each time we post a new article.  Have fun!

The Woman of A Thousand Faces

Anyone who regularly attends Desert Star Playhouse recognizes Mary Parker Williams.  Mary, who’s currently starring in Goldilocks Capone and the 3 Amigos, is an audience favorite.  She has been lighting up the Desert Star stage with her hilarious facial expressions and outrageous physical comedy for many years. Her current turn as a maniacal and mischievous villain with a split personality, is bringing laughter to both young and old. 
We asked Mary, who is also the assistant director at Desert Star, to reflect on her all- time favorite characters she’s played on our stage, and what makes them memorable.  
Here are Mary’s top five favorite roles from the past:

Kit in Gunsmokin’ (2003)
••• Kit was fun to play because she was the heroine. She was a woman who dressed up and pretended to be a tough gunslinger to frighten off the villain.  So I got to pretend to be a guy. Scott Holman (the director) gave me the direction to play it like Clint Eastwood. If you notice, Clint always talks in a tough-guy whisper.  He never raises his voice.  That was back before we had microphones at Desert Star, but because my voice had to be so quiet, I was the only one miked for the show. I had a lot of fun with that character. I love western movies, so it’s a no-brainer that a western would be my favorite Desert Star show!
Betty in My Big Fat Utah Wedding (2004-05, 2010)
••• I loved playing Betty, the mother of the bride. I gave her a scatterbrained and flighty personality. Betty was a homemaker, so I just tried to think of all the examples in my life of great housewives. My mother had nine sisters, so I drew on my memories of them, and it gave me a lot of inspiration.  
There was a funny bit of physical comedy I added to the character.  I thought back to my childhood days in Primary, and how the chorister would use her hands to physically cue us when the notes of the song were going up or down.  So I added snippets of familiar LDS songs to my dialogue, and I’d do that with my hands while I sang.  The audience really got a kick out of it. 

Mrs. Huffington in My Valley Fair Lady (2008)
•••For the physical shtick, I really enjoyed playing Mrs. Huffington. Ben Millet wrote this character to be overly-injected with botox. She was a rich snob with an addiction to plastic surgery.  Ben actually wrote into the script for the character to wear a clear plastic mask to simulate the botox, but I wanted the challenge of seeing how stiff I could hold my face, while still being understood. I thought it made the character a lot of fun.
The other thing I loved about that part was the way it evolved over time. In the play, the character gets shocked. So the botox goes all the way down to her feet. The challenge was to keep my whole body rigid--as if it had been subjected to botox--while they laid me down on the floor. Later, they’d pick me up and put me on the couch.  Then, a few weeks into the show, I had another idea.  I wondered if I had the strength to keep my body stiff, so I’d look like a plank spanning from one arm of the couch to the other. I was there for quite a while during the scene, but I did it!  It's a fun place in my memory because I was able to add a bit of physical comedy for my own enjoyment.  
Frau Knockwurst in The Phantom of the Grand Ole’ Opry (2007)
••• I’ve played a lot of old women at Desert Star, but I felt my biggest success with Frau Knockwurst. She was really fun because of the challenge of an accent.  She was kind of patterned after Frau Blucher from Young Frankenstein.  It takes me a while to get accents, so the idea of her being German didn’t sound too exciting in the beginning. But, through the rehearsal process, I was finally able to accomplish it without morphing into other accents. I also gave her a real sourpuss mouth.  I get a kick out of coming up with signature facial expressions for a character.  
I also like to put accents in my costume for the audience to notice.  Frau Knockwurst was the costume mistress for the opera house, so I put a pin cushion on her hat, and worked a lot of other funny bits into the costume.  For me, that adds a lot of fun to the character.  
Julia in Jekyll & Hyde (2003)
•••This was the first time I got padded for a role. I had to wear a fat suit, which made me look and feel like I had substance–a full figure gal! I also loved this role because of the sound effects.  I love sound effects, so I asked Scott Holman if I could do all of them for the show. He just rolled his eyes and said, “Whatever, Mary.” I got this apron where I kept a horn, slide whistle, and bird whistles. For most of the sound effects, I was doing them into a microphone from off stage. However, when one character got hit over the head, I came onstage with the bird whistle to help the audience imagine a cartoon with birds flying around his head.  That whistle, however, needed water to make the trilling sound. I had a lot of funny mishaps with the water spilling in my apron, making it look like I’d accidentally peed my pants.    

Mary summed it all up this way, “I love sound effects and I love costumes. Once I’m in a costume it really helps to flesh out a character. Other theaters spend a lot of money on visual effects, but I think sometimes those things can get in the way. An actor can be overwhelmed by costumes and scenery. So much emphasis can be placed on those things that we forget there’s a story and great characters–and those are what I love about theater!”
Goldilocks Capone and The Three Amigos ends this Saturday, August 6.  Don’t miss the opportunity to see this funny comedienne in one of her zaniest roles!  Click here for tickets.