LOGAN – After “a year without a song,” local impresario Michael Ballam has finally announced that the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre will perform this year.
In a departure from previous seasons, the UFOMT will stage five small-cast musicals or reviews, featuring the troupe’s best-loved performers from past productions.
“The budget for this season will be a fraction of what it has been in the past,” Ballam acknowledges. “But we are not sacrificing quality or talent and will still hold to our mission.
“Our audiences will be entertained, educated, enlightened and ennobled. They will walk away from the Utah Theater feeling that they have received value for the price of their tickets,” Ballam pledges.
Recent limited productions here since the coronavirus outbreak more than a year ago have clearly demonstrated that what Cache Valley residents and visitors crave is that quintessential spark of spontaneous artistry that can only be found in live stage performances. Ballam has assembled a small ensemble cast of festival favorites to provide that magic spark.
The local impresario will, of course, undertake multiple roles in the upcoming 2021 season, along with his daughter Vanessa Ballam and son-in-law Stefan Espinosa. Each of those performers has a long string of glorious UFOMT credits.
Joining them will be soprano Suzan Hanson, who last delivered a riveting performance as opera diva Maria Callas during the summer of 2019.
Another returning veteran is Joy Hermalyn, who played Abigail Adams opposite Michael Ballam as John Adams in productions of “1776” in 1996 and 2008. Hermalyn has since drawn praise from the New York Times as that rarest of theatrical gems: a gifted mezzo-soprano vocalist who can do slapstick comedy.
Also joining the list of headliners will be noted conductor and musician Jerry Steichen and song stylist Michael Corvino.
The 2021 UFOMT season will open with “The Fantasticks,” the longest-running musical of all time. Vanessa Ballam and Stephan Espinosa will co-star as the bamboozled lovers Luisa and Matt, while Michael Covino appears the bandit El Gallo.
Michael Ballam and Suzan Hanson will co-star in the much-beloved musical “I Do! I Do!” The play, also by “Fantasticks” authors Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, chronicles the ups and downs of a couple’s relationship during a 50-year marriage.
Also slated is “Souvenir,” a musical celebrating the improbable fame of New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins, which was based on hilariously off-key recitals she performed in the 1930s. The two-person musical will feature Joy Hermalyn and Jerry Steichen.
The season’s most ambitious production will be “33 Variations,” a musical journey that probes the motivation that drove Ludwig von Beethoven to create the “Diabelli Variations.” Michael Ballam will star as Beethoven in this production, sharing the stage with Suzan Hanson, Vanessa Ballam, Stephan Espinosa and Joy Hermalyn.
Finally, Michael Corvino and the Utah Festival’s singers will perform “Sentimental Journey – Ol’ Blue Eyes,” a nostalgic trip down memory lane celebrating the immortal music of Frank Sinatra.
“We plan to open our 2021 season on July 7 and close on July 31,” Ballam explains. “All of our shows will debut during a period from July 7 to 10, with two performances of each show during the following three weeks.”
All of those productions are slated for the Utah Theatre on Center Street in downtown Logan.
“We will also be hosting all of our regular UFOMT events,” he added, “including the Academy, Informances, Breakfast with the Stars, Café des Artistes, the Silent Film festival, appearances at the Logan Tabernacle, the Late Night Cabararet and the ever-popular Donor Appreciation Event at the Griffin Farm.”
Tickets for the upcoming 2021 season will be available soon at the UFOMT website at www.utahfestival.org