“The Beautiful Game” is a Stunning Spectacle

By Jaycen Eggleston

The University of Utah’s premiere production of “The Beautiful Game” was quite something. Opening the show was a beautiful orchestral number to bring the actors onto the stage and move the mirrors that would later become integral to the staging of the play, followed by the rousing title number — “The Beautiful Game.”

The dancing and musical numbers are reason enough to go see the University of Utah’s production of “The Beautiful Game,” a musical about a group of teenagers growing up during The Troubles in Ireland in the 1960s. However, they and the staging are probably the only reasons to see this musical.

The creative use of mirrors to make the stage seem larger and create “rooms” within “rooms” on the stage was ingenious. Moved about by actors coming on to or off of the stage, they made beautiful transitions between scenes and fascinating props in several of the musical numbers. The staging was also perfect for the time the musical is set in: featuring a burnt out bus — that doubled as the pit for the orchestra, who were another highlight of the musical — rusted tin sheeting and a series of roll-away rooms that made a pub, a hotel room and a locker room.

The plot of “The Beautiful Game” is interesting, as it follows a group of Catholic teenagers — the exception being Derek “Del” Copeland (Devin Rey Barney) who is atheist — throughout their teen years during a dangerous time in Irish history. The music is a masterpiece, as many have come to expect from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s works, and the dance numbers were a pure kinetic beauty: a feat for which we have MTP student choreographer Jesse Klick to thank. A fascinating and beautiful combination of contemporary styles and ballet, the footwork and aerials that made up each of the soccer games, the fights and the parties were stunning.

Though I found myself eagerly awaiting each musical number, the in-between was, well, the in-between. The audience found themselves invested in the burgeoning relationships of John Kelly (John Peterson) and Mary McGuire (Lindsie Kongsore) in “Don’t Like You,” as well as Bernadette (Mikki Reeve) and Gregory O’Shaugnessy (Patrick Ryan Castle) in the moments in between numbers that were complex and sweet even before their number “Let Us Love in Peace.” Reeve and created a sweetly straight-forward romance that the entire audience was rooting for before our dreams were tragically crushed at the end of the first act.

Denny Berry did a wonderful job directing, though some decisions left the audience wondering “Why?” One such example is the group’s “Irish” accent. As this is “The Beautiful Game” premiere in the United States, keeping the accents was not only a way to keep true to the setting, it was a way to keep true to the musical’s West End roots. However, the accents in the work often dropped during important moments, were poorly done or blurred words beyond recognition when sung.

However, there were several amazing performances by several actors. Mary Nikols and Micki Martinez, in ensemble roles, often stole the show in group numbers and scenes with their enthusiasm and ability to work their lines and body language to their fullest emotional potential. Patrick Ryan Castle, Madi Cooper (Christine Warner) and Derek DuBay (Father O’Donnell) also crafted characters that were easy to connect or laugh with and root for throughout the play.

Overall, the musical was good, though some aspects left the audience wanting more. I would recommend going for the music and choreography alone.

“The Beautiful Game” will run through March 4 with showings each night at 7:30 p.m. with matinees at 2 p.m. on Feb. 24 and 25, as well as on March 3 and 4. Tickets are free for U students with valid ID, and $18 for general admissions with discounts for seniors, military and students of other schools. To purchase tickets, please go to https://tickets.utah.edu/events/the-beautiful-game/