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Category Archives: Music / Theater

Family First and Family Last

We just concluded the Sandy Arts Guild’s production of “The Addams Family,” a musical comedy based on the characters from the popular 60s TV show and 90s films. I played Gomez Addams, the eccentric father who loves his family and enjoys collecting “instruments of persuasion.” I feel so fortunate to have met so many awesome people over the last two months. I’m both happy and sad to have the show come to an end. “The Addams Family” is a light-hearted, silly musical with lots of witty dialogue, energetic dance numbers and fun songs. And while it is mostly just for pure entertainment, the central message of the show is about the importance of family. As one of the songs proclaims, “It’s family first and family last and family by and by…”

Let me reaffirm my belief in our wonderful human family. As children of a loving God, I believe we are all brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t get along, we fight, we argue and we hurt one another. And still we’re all part of the human family on life’s journey together, and I’m grateful that there are so many good people who want to serve and lift others. My life has certainly been blessed by many kind acts from loving friends and family.

Theater folks are like family. They all come together over several weeks to create something of value. Most people have no idea the amount of work that goes into a show. There are people who design, build, paint and decorate the sets and gather props. There are people who design and sew costumes and help with make-up and wigs. There are the sound guys, the lighting designers, the stage crew, the choreographers, the music directors, the marketing team, the logistics coordinators and ticketing folks. All of them work together to create something special to share with audiences.

Of course, the actors get the limelight, the applause and the bows, but everyone is needed and necessary. Similarly, in an LDS ward, the bishopric and members of the ward council may have the higher profile callings, but each person is needed and necessary. Each person has much to contribute, and I’m very grateful to those who serve and bless others with no thought of recognition or reward.

Last night, as we concluded our eight-show run, my thoughts turned to a talk I’m giving in sacrament meeting today regarding our quest to become more like Jesus Christ. I thought about how families can help us become our best selves despite (or perhaps even because of) their imperfections. Now I’m fully aware that MANY people do not have ideal family situations, but family is still family, and I believe that God have given us families to help us become more loving, patient, kind and loyal.

I’ve been doing theater for 30+ years now and have been involved in over 30 productions. Each cast I’ve worked with has pulled together to make something special. And yet, despite all our best efforts, I have never done a perfect show. That’s the nature of live theater — sometimes lines are forgotten, dance steps are missed, musical notes are sharp or flat, and lighting or sound cues are off or some set piece, prop or costume malfunctions. Despite our very best efforts, we’ll never have a “perfect” show — but we can still STRIVE for perfection.

An oft quoted scripture in the LDS world states: “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). I’ve heard this scripture many, many times during my life, and most people interpret it to mean that once I’ve done EVERTHING I can possibly do to earn my salvation, Christ’s grace will make up the difference. However, I believe that a more correct interpretation of the word “after” in the phrase “after all we can do” is “apart from” all we can do. In the end, it is the grace of Jesus Christ that saves us. Christ is not a cheerleader sitting on the sidelines encouraging us to become our best selves. No, he is (or should be) an active participant in our progression and relying on his merits, mercy and grace is crucial.

Let me return to the theater analogy. On my own, I am an actor standing by himself on an empty stage with no sets, lighting, music, makeup, costume, props, microphone or dialogue. However, with the support of a wonderful cast, crew and production team, I can really shine. Likewise, our families and friends can lend us the help and support we need become what God wants us to become — and we can offer them our love and support as well. Yet even when we give our best efforts, we WILL fall short without the grace (divine help) of the savior Jesus Christ.

The prophet Moroni summed it up well in the closing chapter of the Book of Mormon when he wrote: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ… then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:32-33).

I LOVE this idea of being “perfect in Christ.” It shows our humility as we recognize that, try as we might, we’ll never achieve perfection. As we accept Jesus Christ into our lives and draw upon his atoning power that cleanses, enables and ultimately saves, we can be made whole, complete and perfect.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2017 in Music / Theater, Spirituality

 

Saving Mr. Banks

Three months ago today, I began a journey to become George Banks, the father from the beloved children’s books and Disney film “Mary Poppins.” I love David Tomlison’s portrayal of the proper Mr. Banks and the music from the film has always enchanted me. So when the opportunity came to play Mr. Banks in both casts of Alpine Community Theater’s 2015 summer production, I just couldn’t resist.

Mr. Banks and I have a lot in common. We are both business bankers, tasked with the important job of deciding how best to invest our banks’ money. We are both fathers — my daughter Lily and son James are roughly the same ages as Jane and Michael. We share the common struggle of meeting the unique challenges of fatherhood, including how to provide a strong, steady positive influence while maintaining a balance between discipline/respect and love/friendship with our children.

At the beginning of the show, George is disconnected from his family and disengaged from his most important role as a husband and father. When Mrs. Banks suggests that the children would like to come and say goodnight to him, he replies dismissively, “Tell them you’ve given me the message.” The line illustrates just how distant he has become from his children. He is totally absorbed in advancing his career and in keeping up appearances to the determent of all else.

It takes a stern, yet loveable nanny to jolt him out of this negative state of improperly placed priorities. Mary Poppins comes to Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane with a positive, but no-nonsense attitude that whips the children into shape, but also sets in motion a series of events that gives George the opportunity to change. Faced with unemployment and foreclosure, along with the return of his own nanny Miss Andrew (who represents abuse and neglect from his own childhood), George is forced to decide what’s most important.

“Illusions may shatter, but memories stay; the things that really matter, I lost on the way,” he sings while despondently reflecting on the sorry state of his life while walking through the park. He finally recognizes the need to change. Moments later, a whole host of chimney sweeps descends into his house just before he takes the long walk to the bank to learn of his professional fate. (Turns out he gets a promotion and a healthy raise because his decision was the right one. Check out the following clips.)

There are several moments that I love in this show. I love the scene where Mary Poppins teaches the children about happily serving those who can’t possibly repay your generosity in “Feed the Birds.” I love the message of remaining cheerful and energetic even when we have tasks we’d rather not do, as conveyed in “A Spoonful of Sugar.” I love the scene between George Banks and chimney sweep Bert in which Bert reminds George that “childhood slips like sand through a sieve and all too soon they (the children) have up and grown and then they’ve flown, and it’s too late for you to give a spoonful of sugar…” It’s a poignant moment in which George finally realizes that he is letting the precious moments of childhood slip by and that his priorities have been wrong. I know I’ll think of this sweet lesson when I’m tired from a long work day and I’d rather not be bothered by my kids. I will strive to enjoy and be “fully present” for those fleeting moments with my children.

Yes, there are many moments that I love in this show. But my favorite is one in which Jane and Michael come to George with some coins that they have been saving. They know that he’s been going through a difficult time lately (on unpaid leave from his job awaiting a decision about his future) and they tell him that they think “a bit of extra cash might loosen things up a little.”

Wide-eyed, they willingly offer their father the money, exclaiming, “It’s a WHOLE SHILLING!” In their minds, they have just given their father a precious gift because it is all they possess. In the grand scheme of things, a shilling would have made very little difference in the family’s financial situation. George knows this and yet he is deeply touched with their willingness to give it. This tender moment on the stage is my favorite of the show. As the children look up at George and reach out their hands to offer their “widow’s mite,” he accepts their offering with gratitude.

Offering

I have reflected on the beautiful symbolism of this little exchange and how it relates to the atonement of Jesus Christ. We are children of God who has given us everything. Our loving father asks us to freely, lovingly give Him a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Compared to the tremendous weight of the debt we owe to Him, our offering is meager at best. But as we offer Him our whole hearts, He accepts our offering with joy.

Often when I think about the message of the atonement embedded into this little scene, I get tears in my eyes. In the grand scheme of things, our offering to God is miniscule. Our repentance and willingness to follow Him is so very small in comparison to all that He has done for us. And yet, it is enough. The Lord Jesus Christ embraces us and expresses His joy at our willingness to “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.” (Moroni 10:32)

For me, this is the most powerful message of the show. God’s love for us knows no bounds. It is sweeping and unconditional. He has given us everything and all he asks of us is our willingness to give our “widow’s mite.” He asks for the ONE thing that is ours alone to give: our heart. And while it may seem wholly inadequate, it is enough.

This is the story of the redemption of George Banks. As an actor, I dedicated three months of my life rehearsing for and then presenting to audiences this heartfelt transformation. May these lessons sink deep into my soul. May I never forget.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2015 in Music / Theater, Spirituality

 

Wait Until Dark

“Wait Until Dark” performed at the Lehi Arts Center October 24 to November 1, 2014. I played Mike Talman, the nicest of the three thugs! A slight New York accent and a lot of stage time in a suspenseful play made this role quite enjoyable. This is the first time in 25 shows that I’ve played a bad guy.

Here are a few video clips and pictures from the show.


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Posted by on October 30, 2014 in Music / Theater

 

“The Importance of Being Earnest”

In early February, I auditioned for Oscar Wilde’s hilarious play, “The Importance of Being Earnest” and I was offered the lead role of Jack Worthing (a.k.a Ernest). This romantic comedy is full of extremely witty dialogue as it satirizes the English aristocracy in 1890s London. The story centers around two proper gentlemen (Jack and Algernon) who use the same pseudonym (Ernest) to escape social obligations by pretending to be someone they’re not. 
 
My character, Jack Worthing, pretends to have a younger brother named Ernest who constantly gets into trouble, giving Jack the excuse to leave his country estate and enjoy the pleasures of London while using a fake  identity. During his visits to town, he meets and falls in love with Gwendolyn, who informs him she has always dreamed of marrying someone named Ernest. When Jack’s secret is discovered by his friend Algernon, a series of hilarious events ensues.
 
My involvement in this play has been so much fun for me. It has also been a challenge as I’ve had to memorize many pages of dialogue and tried to perfect my English accent. We had our final dress rehearsal last night and I’m pleased to say that the show is going to be highly entertaining.
 
We only have five performances from April 25 to April 30 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m. at 685 North Center Street in Lehi. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at http://www.lehiarts.com/Buy-It-Here.html.
 

Below are some photos taken during one of our first dress rehearsals. Costumes have been improved since these photos were taken. 

Jack learns that Gwendolyn has always dreamed of loving someone named Ernest -- and she detests the name Jack.

 

Algernon tries to reconcile with his friend Jack.

 
Jack Worthing is in mourning due to the “death” of his fake brother Ernest.
 

Jack and Algernon discuss the tricky situation they’ve gotten themselves into.

Jack is overjoyed when he learns more about his mysterious origins.

 

Jack finally discovers his true identity.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2011 in Music / Theater

 

BLEND

It’s a simple word and a simple concept. Blend. It connotes unity and oneness of purpose. For our singing group, it means that whetn we’re all singing together, we sound much better than any of us sounds individually. So we chose the name BLEND for our album, and ultimately, for our group.

We’ve just posted links to the album tracks on our website so you can listen to our work. The first our eight sessions with Clive Romney, our first-rate recording engineer, was way back in July, so it’s been a long process. As a group, we would rehearse the pieces we were going to record. Then we’d go to Clive’s studio and we’d record each part individually to get it just right. We used headphones to listen to the beated guide tracks that Clive had prepared for each song — it felt pretty official.

Clive would then mix and edit the pieces the individual tracks so that they could sound as good as possible. It’s amazing what his auto-tuning software tools can do… 🙂

Studio recording and editing time isn’t cheap, especially when done by a seasoned professional and gifted musician like Clive. Thankfully, the album was financed by a generous contribution from a lady in my mom’s ward. She and her husband had heard us sing in their ward and he mentioned to her that we really should record an album. Unfortunately, he died suddenly in the summer of 2009 and we were invited to sing at his funeral. She was so grateful for our music that she wanted to give us a gift that would last. We were dumfounded when we received her gift last Christmas, and we no longer had an excuse not to get this album done. It was a lot of work, but well worth the effort.

Go to http://blendsingers.wordpress.com/album/ to listen and order a copy of the CD, which will be released this week.

Below is the artwork, designed by my friend and fellow group member Mike Peterson. Pretty cool, eh? Do you see the visual elements of BLEND?

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2010 in Music / Theater

 

Upcoming Acapella Album

It’s been a dream of mine for a long time and it’s finally happening. Through the generous contribution of a friend, our acapella group has been able to fund the professional recording of an album of some of our favorite music. Our final recording session is next week so we can have the CD ready for our Christmas concert season. We plan to include nine tracks on the album with a mix of sacred and secular music (mostly 50s doo-wop). Selections will include:

Amazing Grace
I Love the Lord (set to Finlandia / Be Still My Soul)
Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy
Come, Come Ye Saints
I Know That My Redeemer Lives
O Danny Boy
In the Still of the Night
Two Silhouettes on the Shade
Goodnight Sweetheart

We’re five guys who starting singing together in the early 1990s as students at Hillcrest High School in Midvale, Utah. We all have regular jobs and have no aspirations (or sufficient talent) to become professional musicians. We don’t intend to make money from this album, except to fund future recordings. We just love singing together. And we love the messages of hope and inspiration that we can share with our music. Here’s a sample of one of our tracks. Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2010 in Music / Theater

 

Singing Together at Christmas

The Christmas season is here and with all the snow, cold temperatures, lights and decorations, it’s beginning to look and feel like it! However, nothing makes me feel the Christmas spirit more than music. I really enjoy listening to Christmas music, but performing it for others is one of my favorite Christmas activities. Thankfully, my “man-band” Harmonix continues to get together to sing (we’ve sung off and on since high school).

We’ve done ten performances so far this year with three more scheduled. By year’s end, we will have sung in four sacrament meetings, six Relief Society or ward parties, one funeral, a Memorial Day program sponsored by Midvale City and one performance for the inmates at the Utah State Prison. And while we love to sing together throughout the year, our favorite time to perform is a Christmas. There’s just something special about music at this time of year.

Here’s a photo of the group we took for a gig in Bountiful last year. Handsome guys, eh?

A few years ago, I insisted that we come up with a name for the group. Since no one had a better idea, I christened us “Harmonix.” The guys want a new group name, but no one has come up with anything better!

It’s been a great blessing that we have stay connected as friends through our common interest in music. And although we aren’t “professional-grade,” we really do enjoy sharing our feelings and testimonies through song. 

Here are a few videos of our performance at First Night 2007 in downtown Salt Lake City at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Enjoy!

Joy to the World

Good King Wenceslas

Angels Singing Deo

Christmas Chopsticks

Rudolph

Deck the Hall

O Come, O Come Immanuel

Little Drummer Boy

Silent Night

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2009 in Music / Theater