For one weekend only, the University of Utah Musical Theatre Program seniors presented “A Dangerous Game: An Evening of Frank Wildhorn.” This production features a compilation of songs from 11 of Frank Wildhorn’s musicals. Laurie Langdon choreographed and directed the performance. Langdon is a former Houston Ballet soloist and dance captain and swing for the third national touring production of “Phantom of the Opera.” Langdon’s efforts came through during the performance, but the students were the driving force behind the show’s success. They worked on costumes, props and marketing on top of actually performing. The show represents their cumulative experiences and studies in the MTP.
Wildhorn’s musical influences range from pop to jazz, and many of his songs share a similar uncanny nature, with chilling harmonies and emotionally charged lyrics. The seniors made his songs come to life with their evocative dancing and beautifully contrasting voices. Yet, while some performers were invested throughout the entire show, others lacked focus on facial expressions and acute performance qualities, especially when they were not in the spotlight.
All the solos highlighted the strengths of each performer, and all sounded strong when singing challenging songs while simultaneously dancing. The choreography was explosive and well staged. Sometimes, the performers danced tentatively, but overall, they did a fantastic job of connecting with audience members, particularly during the big group numbers.
Various numbers portrayed different types of relationships, straying from the traditional tendency to focus on heterosexual romances in the musical theater world. This helped the entire production feel more inclusive and compelling.
One of the most interesting aspects of this performance was that it took place in a small theater, which allowed audience members to observe every detail of the performance. The space created an atmosphere of intimacy. Both the up-close and personal nature of the performance and the vigor of the performers’ voices ensured that no one would feel detached from the performance.
There were a few slower-paced, heartwarming pieces, such as “Heroes,” from the musical “Wonderland.” Such numbers served as refreshing breaks during the otherwise exhilarating performance. They also allowed viewers to witness the connection between the artists, who have been working alongside each other throughout their college careers.
I greatly enjoyed this vibrant and unique compilation of musical numbers. The set was simple and effective, the dances covered several different styles and the entire show moved along smoothly and swiftly, lasting just over an hour.
The show ran from April 18 to 20 in Studio 115 of the Performing Arts Building.