A Delightfully Vintage Evening: My Newest Old find for a Great Night Out!

 

I admit it.  I'm a sucker for the arts.  Ever since I was cast as Carol in "A Christmas for Carol" (go ahead and groan, I still do), in 4th grade, I've loved live theater! And since I also love the vintage feel of the early & mid 1900s, last Saturday night turned out to be quite a treat.  If you're on the hunt for a fun idea for a date night, or a neat family activity, we found a new - old spot you might enjoy too.
Tysen and I were invited to see the play "Kiss Me, Kate," a Cole Porter classic, at the Empress Theater in Magna.  Saturday happened to be one of "those days," with the kids - you all know what I mean. So we slipped out a little earlier than planned, grabbed some dinner and found ourselves on Main Street Magna with a full 40 min to spare before the play!

We considered napping in the car, but instead decided to take a walk around.  If you've never been, Magna's Main street looks like time stopped around a hundred years ago.  Hand painted signs, brick store fronts.  There are quite a few run down spots, but it's still a fun walk.  One of my favorites was the Magna Museum, closed for the season, with items inside glass cases that were labeled "Do not touch" anyway. We scratched our heads trying to figure out how anyone could possibly touch!


Then we sauntered on over to the Empress Theater.  The building is distinctive. I took pictures in sunlight, in
twilight, then again as the lights came on. I even tried a selfie!  (Note: I am seriously selfie-impared.  I don't know if there's a program or a class for it, but it's real. I'm a witness)

The Empress was built in 1916 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a community Theater, functioning on volunteer and community involvement.  If you're a history buff, like I am, you can find out all the crazy cool history of the building here.

We were lucky to have a backstage tour where Tysen was thrilled to hear some ghost stories of the building (Note to Tysen fans: he HAS been on a paranormal investigation there, and he was bummed that he hadn't heard all the significant stories so he could have known more at that time).

With all the history, feeling like I'd walked back in time, the choice of play was absolutely perfect! I felt like I should have been wearing a seersucker dress and then it all would have been complete!

Tysen hadn't seen "Kiss Me, Kate" before, so it was fun experiencing the humor of it with him for the first time.  The music and the energy of the play is so delightful!  At first, when the opening number started, I admit I had my doubts.  I knew this was community theater, volunteer actors.  But I also knew that they have many auditions and their casting can be pretty rigorous.  Still, it started off a little rocky.  I was concerned I was in for something similar to a church production.  It was opening weekend though, and kinks work out as things warm up.  Within only a few minutes everyone found their groove and we thoroughly enjoyed the performances.

  Particularly delightful are the leads, Josh Astle as Fred Graham and Emily Wells as Lilli Vanessi.  If you don't know the story at all, it is a play within a play. Almost all the cast are playing actors who are in Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew."  The parallels outside the Shakespeare play, in the lives backstage, create a brilliant level of comedy juxtaposed with Shakespeare's text.

The show almost gets stolen by the hilarious performances of Troy Larsen and Kevin Pope as a pair of gangsters. They perform the always awesome "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," and they do so with style.  Other favorites done especially well are the high energy "Too Darn Hot," the hilarious "Where Is the Life That Late I Led?" and the vintage feeling "So In Love."


The great thing about a night at The Empress is that for the cost of a movie, you get a live arts experience.  It is a wonderful place to get kids interested in theater.  (I hear their next play, "Shrek, the Musical" is a particular favorite with the younger crowd).

 A ticket costs $10, and group prices are $8 per ticket.  As large as my family is, we almost qualify for group pricing too!!  Anyone want to go out with us so we can all get cheaper tickets together? ;)

A disclaimer - It IS community theater.  All of the actors, etc. have day jobs.  The sets and costumes rely on donations. So it's not Utah Opera Company glitz.  Some patience is sometimes required.  But it is decidedly quaint. And charming. And talent and passion abound.

 I couldn't help but think, as body mics popped or malfunctioned, what could this place be capable of given the proper funding? And oh, how I would LOVE to do just that? (Speaking of which, if you are planning on celebrating Love Utah Give Utah day this Thursday, March 20th, supporting local organizations, and you haven't decided WHICH local organization you'd like to support yet, might I suggest The Empress? Visit Here)

For a fun and different date night, or as a great family activity (performances are always Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays btw), check out the 2014 Season - which has the theme of "Build Character" as the guiding principle. How cool is that to have such a positive overarching theme?

Kiss Me, Kate: March 14-April 12
Shrek, The Musical: April 25- May 17
My Darlin' Clementine: May 30-June 14
State Fair: June 27-July 26
Once On This Island: August 8-30
Camelot: September 12-October 4
Ten Little Indians: October 17-November 1
Mary Poppins: November 21-December 22

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