‘#SLACabaret’, a Hilarious Variety Show about Loving — But Not Always Liking — Living in Utah


The cast of “#SLACabaret” at Salt Lake Acting Company. (Courtesy David Daniels)

By Hannah Keating, Arts Editor


“#SLACabaret” is the newest installation in Salt Lake Acting Company’s line-up of summer parody shows, taking the space of the company’s tradition of “Saturday’s Voyeur.” Playwrights Martine Kei Green-Rogers, Aaron Swenson and Amy Wolk pay homage to the SLAC’s trend of poking fun at Utah life, but “#SLACabaret” find more ways to celebrate the joys of living in this part of the West.

Maybe it’s the company’s optimism after a year where theatre performances looked wildly different, maybe it’s the fresh take that this team of playwrights provides. Either way, this variety show is a powerful and hilarious presentation.

Starting their Journey

The cabaret-style show of spoofed songs and loosely-tied plot points begins with Nia, played by actress Mack, who has flown to Salt Lake City to start a new job and a new life, but can’t seem to find her way out of the newly remodeled Salt Lake City International Airport.

Nia meets Parker-Avery Wagstaff (Jae Weit), a non-binary person trying to escape a family curse and Kavin Jorgensen (Aathaven Tharamarajah), a Mormon missionary. She also meets Hudson “the Manager” (Michael Hernandez) who is the point of contact at the airport for Caren (Olivia Custodio), who insists that she isn’t a “Karen.”

Against the backdrop of a wildly confusing airport layout — a topical and funny premise, as the $4.1 billion price tag on the remodel has confused passengers for months — and a destructive explosion from a gender-reveal convention that causes terrifying malfunctions, the four individuals with “main character energy” try to find “what they’re looking for” in an exit, but find a sense of home in one another.

Still Looking for the Exit

Director Cynthia Fleming has curated a powerful cast for this show. I would buy tickets to see Mack’s vocals alone, which are complemented by genuine scenes with Hernandez’s manager character. Weit and Tharamarjah’s characters develop an unlikely friendship as well, their acting performances as tender as their vocals are chilling and dance prowess stunning.

I was blown away by the comedic timing of several actors, namely Custodio in her “Karen” persona. Her characters are overdone to the point of perfection and the audience sits in the palm of her hand. Her acting chops are challenged only by duo Matthew Tripp and Mina Sadoon, always appearing together on-stage but stealing the limelight as Sean and Shawn, former 2002 Winter Olympians hiding out under the airport and helping travelers in need.

Actress Niki Rahimi narrates it all, commanding Act Two with a parody of Stephen Sondheim’s patter song “Getting Married Today.” One scene in the show that had me in stitches presented Custodio as a scarily intense and emotionally removed pioneer woman — she sings a parody of Sia’s “Chandelier” about the Mormon Pioneers, the performance in the music video exemplified with Rahimi caricaturing Maddie Ziegler.

My one critique of the original show was the disconnected and flimsy plot — where the characters were rife with personality and developed past, the turn of events the show takes is unsuspected and unsupported. It’s easily overlooked, however, with the sheer hilarity of the script. Green-Rogers, Swenson and Wolk know how to write parodies that the cast ran with, leveling up the lyrics with vocals that knocked the house down.

(From Left to Right) Jae Weit, Mack, Aathaven Tharmarajah, and Michael Hernandez in “#SLACabaret.”
(Courtesy David Daniels)

If there’s no other reason to see “#SLACabaret” outside of the dynamism of its performers, its quippy lyricism, the entire musical number about “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” or simply as an outing to see some live theatre, I guarantee it’s the only place you’ll see a seamless mash-up of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” and the Witch’s Rap from the prologue of Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” It’s absurd, and it’s absolutely delightful.


“#SLACabaret” runs in-person through Sept. 12, and starting Aug. 28, audiences can stream the show virtually. Tickets for both in-person and streaming shows are available on SLAC’s website now. In-person attendees must show proof of full vaccination upon arrival and face masks are required.


[email protected]