Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Finding Joy

I often find myself grasping so tightly to the rules and technicalities of life, of the way something is "supposed to be," that I lose perspective.

In gymnastics and dance, I used to be so caught up in the exact move or flick or nod at the exact right time that I ended up with stiff execution and an overthinking expression on my face, except for the perfectly-timed, "smile here!"

I remember the exact moment when I first learned to loosen my vice grip on the way things are "supposed to be."

I was 20, performing in a summer show on an amphitheater stage (audience covered, dressing rooms not) in Piqua, Ohio - home of the most inspiring, breath-taking thunderstorms of torrential proportion. As August nights in Ohio go, one of these storms visited our performance. Just as my big solo began, so did the lightning and thunder, cracking a whip louder than any speaker could project my sound. My brain screamed, "Pay attention to me!"

Then it happened.

The rain ripped away my grip from all of the preciseness I'd rehearsed. Little rule-follower, technical Larissa fell away and out emerged someone who embodied "dance like no one is watching."

This storm prevented me from following my plan. With all of those technicalities washed away, I found joy.

The rest of the show, we sloshed around in soaking wet costumes, just praying to get through and laughing our faces off at how ridiculous we looked.

After the show, an older patron said to me, "You sure did look like you were having fun up there!" At the time, I was not pleased. Fun? FUN?! I'd never been told that before. You are supposed to tell me I'm good!

But it was in that moment that I not only found what I need, but what everyone around me needs.


What do you have a vice grip on in your life? Are you trying so hard to be perfect, be a "yes" person, appear to the world that you've got it all together, that you've lost sight of the spark that gives you purpose?

Let go. Peel away each one of those stubborn fingers clinging to conventionality.  There are so many things in life we cannot control, that we lose ourselves in the constant, "herding cats" of it all.  Do not cling to things just because you can control them.  Find the joy in the unexpected. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Total Hip Replacement at 36

I am trapped in a body that does not work.

Me.  A gymnast.  A dancer.  An Actress.  A gymnastics coach.  A choreographer.  An athlete.  A wedding planner.  A weight trainer.  A 10,000 steps 6 days a week mover (curse you, my beloved Fitbit).

Lest you are confused, rest assured I have spent the past six weeks trying to wrap my head around the words, "We have two options.  One - do nothing.  Two - you need a total hip replacement."

As my mind spun out of control, the doctor went on to explain to me that something to do with Hip Dysplasia is measured on a scale from 1-4, 4 being the worst.  I'm a 4.  Osteoarthritis is measured on a scale from 1-3, 3 being the worst.  I'm a 3.  There is an angle they measure to recommend hip replacements at anything less than a 20.  I'm a 14.  Obviously, I lost grasp of details here.

Other words swirling as they entered my brain were:
bone-on-bone, bone spurs, no ligaments, calcified ligaments, zero range of motion

Time to back-track.

Most of you are probably confused, either never having heard me complain or perhaps remembering a time or two I mentioned my hip was sore.  I didn't want anyone knowing I was in pain because then I might not get cast as a dancer in a show or asked to coach gymnastics, or I'd be lectured on why I wasn't going to the doctor.  I was afraid.  I was afraid of knowing what was wrong.  I was afraid of being stupid because I had no idea where to start with the doctors.  I was afraid of medical bills.  I was afraid of being told there was nothing they could do.  I was afraid, most of all, that I was crazy and making up some phantom pain. 

But I am not crazy.

This all started 4 years ago when my hip started popping just prior to getting married.  The feeling was a discomfortable pop out of place - like a searing knuckle popping almost.

In January of '14, I had my first of many, as I call them, "flare ups."  The pain in my groin/inner hip area was as if I was being stabbed.  I could not walk without a severe limp and my poor husband found me collapsed on the stairs in tears, paralyzed with fear.  But the pain subsided after a few days.

Every few weeks, I'd have a day or two of pain.  Especially if I had a heavy dance day.  I remember auditioning for "Footloose" and hardly being able to walk that night.  But I kept moving and dancing, hoping I'd just tweaked some muscle or aggravated something in my aging body, accepting my new normal.  My husband became accustomed to hearing, "I'm having a flare up today, don't walk so fast." But that never stopped me.  I kept trucking right along.

Along the way, I tried massage therapy, chiropractic care, sports chiropractic therapy, stretching, stretching, more stretching, and I even became a gymnastics coach in part because I knew it would keep me active and stretching every day.   All the while I continued to work out 6 days a week with weights and cardio.  I tried anything I could do to loosen up what I thought was a "locked hip," but nothing helped.  Even cold/heat therapy, electric stimulation, a daily regime of mobility exercises, and ultrasound stimulation.  I am often told, "Just hearing about all you do is wearing me out." 

Why did I keep pushing through this pain?

Let me tell you a story that helps you understand what happens inside of me when I do gymnastics or dance.  Last May, I auditioned for "Beauty and the Beast" at Hale Centre Theatre.  I left the theater feeling as if I were flying through clouds of freedom.  My body moved!  I moved!  I cartwheeled and high-kicked and tap-danced and split and jumped and leaped and every beat of my heart exhilarated the core of my soul.  I posted from the parking lot, "And then I danced.  And suddenly all was right in the world."

You see, when I dance or tumble, my soul is free.  My heart is free.  Anything is possible.  Happiness is limitless.  My brain tingles.  I love feeling the strength of my body and of what it is capable, tying together what is inside my heart with physical expression.  My body is literally flying when I do a back tuck or an aerial...literally I am a bird soaring.  There is nothing in this world that can free my mind, body, and soul this way.  I can fly.

Back to "Beauty and the Beast."  I sought some massage therapy before my final audition (callback) and my leg was manipulated in all sorts of positions.  Thinking it was simply a muscle problem, imagine my chagrin when this caused the worst flareup yet.  At our first rehearsal a month later (I made it!), I walked as normally as I could, not wanting my new cast mates to know that not only was I 10 years older than all of the other dancers, my body wasn't working.  A few weeks later, I did something coaching gymnastics that rendered me practically immobile.  My hip would pop painfully without warning with almost any movement.  I'm talking paralyzing, breath-stealing pain.  I remember a friend grabbing my leg at rehearsal to fix my positioning on the floor, my hip popping, and then the room flashing bright colors and spinning around me because of the blinding, searing pain.

Yet I danced.  I danced for 4 months day in and day out.  I loved every moment as much as my comprehension of love allows.  No experience in my life has left me more fulfilled.

But the day after the show closed, I could not even lift my right leg.  I had to pick it up with my hands to get it in the car.

And you know what this dummy did?  Thought, "Huh, I must just be fatigued from the show.  It will get better."  That's right...I still didn't go to the doctor. I continued working out, dancing, choreographing, coaching gymnastics....all of it.

This summer, I was part of another production where my dancing was minimal, but I found myself frustrated.  How could this little amount of dancing cause me pain?  Then I wore my heels for the show.  Have mercy.  My hip wanted nothing to do with those heels.

I traveled to Disney World just before we opened, and my friend there, at the end of a 3-park day, said, "Are you okay?  Do you have blisters?  You are hobbling..."  I said, "No blisters, just this stupid hip thing I have where it hurts at the end of the day.  No big deal."  That's when I knew this was not something I could hide much longer.

One particularly emotional week when my husband was out of town, I had collapsed in pain too many times.  In between tears, I picked up my phone and googled something that lead me to the Orthopedic Specialty Group at TOSH.  I pretended I wasn't crying as I told the poor woman on the phone my sob story, not even knowing if she was someone who knew anything at all.  She was an angel and referred me to the right doctor based on our best guesses.

The next available appointment was 2 months out.  For. The. Love.

Which brings us back to some of the strangest words I've ever had to comprehend.  "You need a total hip replacement."

Aren't I too young for this?  Isn't there another option?  How could I have prevented this?

Nothing I did caused this and nothing I did could have prevented this.  Apparently, this condition is quite common for females in their 30s.  Hip dysplasia is genetic.

Do you know what was actually happening this whole time I was in pain?  Because of the dysplasia, I developed severe osteoarthritis.  My bones began slicing into my ligaments until they were destroyed, then began grinding into each other.   My body began building new bone to protect itself - calcifying the surrounding tissues and even forming bone spurs. The doctor cannot even temporarily prescribe pain medication because none will help my particular situation.

I walked out of the doctor's office into the perfect sunshine of a September morning.  The wind dried the tears off my face.  My life, as I know it, will change forever.  But there is an answer.  Relief is in site.  I am not crazy. 

This entire time I have been running about willy nilly with my bones grinding together.  Who does that?!

This is where I ask for your help, your patience, and your forgiveness.

I now know what my body has been going through.  I now know why my mental health has been slowly, yet steadily declining.

Chronic Pain.

I have been suffering with chronic pain for 4 years.  Please Google "long term effects of chronic pain" for more information.  What I can quickly tell you is that it deteriorates your mental state.  Sufferers are prone to emotional variances, depression, outbursts, extreme fatigue, lack of comprehension, and the list goes on.

I have had some friends say I don't seem as happy as I used to be, that I'm not myself.  Others have simply distanced themselves from me silently.  Several have asked about my "swollen" body.  Friends, I need you....there is a light at the end of the tunnel!  I will be back to "normal" in about 4-6 months!  Please hang in there with me.  Please.

Right now, I am exhausted beyond comprehension all but a few hours a day.  Choosing what to do with my very limited energy supplies each day is almost impossible and has left me disappointing others and myself almost constantly.  The surgeon said the most important thing I can do is to keep moving every day, so most of my energy is prioritized into workouts.  Frustrating workouts because my body is putting all of its focus on healing a hip that can't be healed and none into metabolizing.  This has left me humiliated and ashamed, as my whole lifestyle revolves around health and fitness.  I should not be because none of this is my fault, but I can't exactly stop every person on the street and say, "I'm just so swollen because (fill in the entire story I just told you)." 

My surgery is scheduled in January.  I'm scared.  Out. Of. My. Mind.

I recently watched the beautiful musical theater stage show, "American in Paris," at the Eccles Theatre.  As we walked back to the car, I started crying as I told my husband, "The dancers are all so free.  They all leap and spin and dance and their bodies are free.  I'm scared to death I will never feel that again in my life.  I need to feel that way, Rob.  I need to dance.  What if I never get to feel that way again?"

In one of his wisest marital moments to date, he responded, "You can't move like that now.  This surgery will fix you.  Maybe you won't be able to do everything you did before, but you certainly can't now.  Let's get you out of pain."

I am having a total hip replacement.  I am hoping for a new lease on life.  I am hoping to be able to feel free again in this body that currently has me trapped.

Until then, I'll cry every time I watch "Dancing with the Stars," or coach my gymnasts and watch them fly, or see my friends perform, or imagine what life will be like when I can once again take a step without pain.  

Yep, this is me playing "Grandma" in "Addams Family "just two weeks ago...still refusing to accept my condition

Friday, April 28, 2017

Rejecting Faith

I am bothered when people present, "questioning faith" as a negative.

Questioning and curiosity are part of human nature.  Without questions, we would never learn.  Without questions, man never would have explored space, never would have adventured into the unknown parts of the world,  never would have invented the iPhone.

Is faith something you establish once, all at one time, and then any deviation from your initial thought is considered a questioning and rejection of your faith?  Certainly my faith in God now is entirely different than it was as a child.

Faith is something that grows and changes every moment.  How is it possible to view this process negatively?

Another oft-used term is, "rejection."  I do not see how any existence of belief in God or a higher power is a rejection of faith.  Perhaps your particular path to commune with God has changed, or your belief in the expectations He has for you in this life, but does that really call for the label that you have "rejected" faith?

Why does a realization that your path may be different than you once thought have to have so much negativity attached?   As a child, I told everyone I encountered that I was going to be a "Vegetarian" when I grew up so I could take care of animals every day.  Once I Iearned the accurate term of "Veterinarian," and that I'd also be responsible for putting animals down, I changed my mind.  No one criticized me for abandoning my future career path and I received much encouragement to continue searching.

Most often, the members of the sect of faith that is being questioned are the ones who object.  Last year, an article was published about how some Malawi girls are forced to have sex with a man, known as a "hyena," after their first period.  This act is believed, in their faith, to be a sexual cleansing and to keep the family safe from diseases and disaster.  If a girl refuses this, she does not know what calamities will befall her family.  In their culture, rejecting that faith is a terrible thing.  But to those of us on the outside, we see rejection of those beliefs as life-saving and liberating.

If a person changes from Catholic to Protestant to LDS to Non-Denominational, that person is not a rejector of faith 4 times over.  That person is human and curious and constantly searching for their individual path to a higher power.

We are all simply trying to find our personal way to most connect with the divine.  I truly believe that path is different for each one of us.  I truly believe that our higher power knows we are human and prone to err.  I truly believe that we are all on earth to love and be loved.

* http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36843769?ocid=socialflow_twitter

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Past Year's Resolutions: 2016

What did I accomplish this year?

Every year I ask myself this question and make my retrospective resolutions for the year.  Hindsight is 20/20.  I think it is much more uplifting to reflect and think, "Wow- I did that!" than to think, "I didn't meet two of my ten goals.  I'm a failure." I always push myself as much as possible towards work I love and then let the universe fill in the blanks. 

In no particular order:

  1. Perform in "Beauty and the Beast" at Hale Centre Theatre as Silly Girl 1.  Life Changing.  Words are not adequate. 
  2. Film, "My Christmas Love," for the Hallmark Channel.  
  3. Win Best of State for Event DJs with Life of the Party Entertainment
  4. Still able to rock my tumbling like this
  5. Choreograph "Charleston" for Riverview Junior High
  6. Perform as Sally Brown in "Snoopy," also choreographing
  7. Watch my husband sing a duet with Backstreet Boy, Brian Littrell
  8. Transition my work with Life of the Party Entertainment to mainly wedding consultation and coordination, hiring an assistant for business coordination. 
  9. Become a Certified Wedding Planner with The Bridal Society in New York City.
  10. Continue to work out regularly
  11. Get my braces off!
  12. Visit: 
    1. California in October (Disney Land, Universal Studios), 
    2. Florida in November for Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios and a wedding
    3. Florida in March for a conference in Amelia Island & an oceanside stay at the Omni
    4. Las Vegas,
    5. Phoenix, Arizona,
    6. D.C.
    7. Virginia
    8. New York City (3 times)
    9. Buffalo and Rochester
    10. Ohio
    11. Pennsylvania
    12. Canada/Niagra Falls 
  13. Watch Rob DJ the wedding of his mentor - also the man who DJ'd our wedding - Elliot, in Orlando
  14. Have the most successful year thus far helping brides and grooms implement the weddings of their dreams
  15. Finally get the upgrade to some much-needed space for our company car - 2016 Honda Pilot
  16. Coach gymnastics all year and continue to feel that rush of adrenaline anytime one of my girls lands a new skill
  17. Meet Steve Martin walking his dog while walking home from Bright Star
  18. Watch a friend perform in Waitress and then introduced to star, Jessie Meuller

Resolutions of Year's Past:

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Past Year's Resolutions: 2015

What did I accomplish this year?

Every year I ask myself this question and make my retrospective resolutions for the year.  Hindsight is 20/20.  And I think it is much more uplifting to reflect and think, "Wow- I did that!" than to think, "I didn't meet two of my ten goals.  I'm a failure."  Know what I'm saying?

In no particular order:

  1. Attend the Tony Awards in New York City!!!  What a dream-come-true, all thanks to my little sis.
  2. Be featured on a national network television show.  Blood and Oil.  Opposite Don Johnson. Yes, that Don Johnson
  3. Choreograph Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for Taylorsville Arts
  4. Choreograph 4 elementary school musicals for Murray City and Sandy City
  5. Be dance captain for Sandy Arts Guild's Shrek
  6. Perform as an ensemble member for my very first time in Sandy Arts Guild's Shrek
  7. Perform in Nunsense for my third time.  Sister Mary Leo and I can't seem to part ways.
  8. Meet the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys (minus John Lloyd Young) and sit front row center for their concert - Midtown Men
  9. Increase my husband's business, Life of the Party Entertainment, 234%, since I first began working with him three years ago
  10. Continue to celebrate many special occasions and adventures with my hubs
  11. Continue to work out regularly
  12. See myself on the big screen at the movies during the Sundance Film Festival - Don Verdean 
  13. Live through rubber bands, metal springs, and braces galore
  14. Take a road trip to California with one of my dearest old roommates, Andrea, for the wedding of one of my dearest friends of the past 14 years.   I love him with all my heart, he was one of my toasts at my own wedding, and now I can love his darling wife just as much!
  15. Visit Las Vegas thrice - once for Mobile Beat, once for Las Vegas DJ Show where my little sis and her hubs met up with us, and lastly for a quick 24-hour trip to visit my older sister while she was there for a convention.  On the February trip, I survived the most violent illness I've had in a long time - even having to call a doctor to come to the room to treat me because I could not leave the room.  Awful.  Rob learned a lot about me that day and I him - he's amazing. 
  16. Take my parents to see some of Utah's/Arizona's wonders they had on their bucket lists: Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Zions' National Park and the Shakespeare Festival.
  17. Visit Disney World and Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights/Harry Potter with my husband - we've been talking about doing this since I first met him and he told me he worked there for three years.  Lindsay and Elliot were extremely generous in hosting us.  I can't wait to go back in November to help make their wedding the best day of their lives.
  18. Throw the greatest "A Christmas Story" party yet
  19. Continue helping beautiful brides plan and implement their weddings
  20. Continue helping with The Cultural Hall Show Podcast
  21. Learn how to groom/shave my cat 

Resolutions of Year's Past

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best Snickerdoodles in the World - Recipe

If you love chewy, moist snickerdoodles, then this recipe is for you.  I originally ran across my favorite recipe here, however I quickly began making tweaks to make the recipe my version of perfection.  One of my male friends ate 8 in one sitting, then returned an hour later for 6 more, proclaiming, "These are even better than Great Harvest!"

This recipe yields about 3 dozen.

1.5 C Butter @ room temperature
1.5 C Sugar
1 C Brown Sugar
3 Eggs
3 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Almond Extract
4.5 C Flour
3 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Salt
1.5 tsp Baking Soda
.75 tsp Cream of Tartar

6 tsp Sugar & 3 tsp Cinnamon mixed together

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • Cream Butter & Sugars
  • Blend in Eggs, Vanilla, Almond Extract
  • Blend in Cinnamon, Salt, Baking Soda, Cream of Tartar
  • Blend in Flour
  • This dough is a-mazing.  Go ahead, take a spoonful
  • Refrigerate dough for an hour.  This is not absolutely necessary, but really does make a good difference.  Aim for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.  If you don't have time, just stick the dough in the fridge while each batch is in the oven.  
  • Roll dough into slightly larger than a walnut size (2-3 tablespoons)
  • Roll dough balls into cinnamon/sugar topping mixture
  • Bake for 12 - 14 minutes.  You will know they are done because they will be slightly cracked on the top.  Do not overcook, these are best chewy.
  • Let cookies cool and chow down!  
Snickerdoodles in the middle of this display from my "A Christmas Story" Party

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Homemade Oreo Recipe

Homemade Oreos with Cream Cheese Frosting rolled in Holiday M&Ms for an extra seasonal flare
Over the years, I've been asked for my Homemade Oreo Recipe more times than I can count.  So much so, in fact, that I have an email draft all saved and ready to go anytime someone asks.  Why not share this secret with the world?

I had my first go at these with my friend, Jon Scott, in 2008 and have been tweaking it ever since.  At my highest, I was making three batches per week for about two years. Enjoy!

For those of you who need EXACT, overly ridiculously precise instructions, this recipe provides.

1 box Betty Crocker Devil's food cake mix (has to be Betty Crocker, has to be Devil's Food)
2 eggs
Whatever amount of oil the cake mix box says
Roll into quarter-sized balls and bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes
You will be able to tell if the cookies are cooked enough because they will have cracks in the top of them and when you lift the pan up and let it drop down, the cookies will sink a little.

Cream Cheese Frosting (enough for two batches):

1 stick real salted butter
1 8 oz. block cream cheese
blend until smooth
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
blend until smooth
1.5 cups - 3 cups powdered sugar - this is the one where you have to trust your taste buds.  Some people like really cream-cheesey frosting, others like it very sweet.  I typically put in 2-2.5 cups.  It's up to you.  

Blend until smooth and refrigerate.
This keeps in the fridge in a sealed container until the expiration date of the cream cheese.  I usually have a tub of frosting in my fridge ready to go, that way I only have to worry about making the cookies and I can do that super fast.  

Let the cookies cool completely before you frost them.
Put however much or little frosting in the middle that you want.  I find that most people like more frosting.
Once I have them all frosted, I typically keep them refrigerated until ready to serve.  I also find that most people prefer these chilled.  

Each box of cake mix makes about 20 oreos.  That's why my frosting recipe is for a double batch - I almost always double up on the cookie recipe when I'm taking them somewhere.
If you roll the Oreos in M&Ms or other candies, simply dip the top half of one ball of dough in the topping, then bake.  Only the top half of each completed cookie needs dipped, which will help your garnish last longer.  
You can use any kind of cake mix and duplicate this recipe for a variety of flavors.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Carrie The Musical: Utah Repertory Theater Company

I walked into Utah Repertory Theater Company's space at the Gateway for Carrie: The Musical, and was immediately submersed in a world that felt like a Haunted Gymnasium.  The sounds,the lighting, the smells, the "dead" people walking around were all on par.  I'm not a big fan of interactive casts when the production wasn't originally designed to be interactive, so I was a little leery until I realized this was not an interactive production, but an immersive one.  The "dead" students simply existed to create the atmosphere, which perfectly pulled me into the spell of Carrie: The Musical. 

Carrie: The Musical, directed by Johnny Hebda, is based off the famous Stephen King novel and subsequent film, Carrie.  The plot follows the title character as she matures in high school, as she is bullied relentlessly, as she learns to trust and distrust, as she is abused by her religious zealot of a mother, and as she discovers her powers which ultimately lead to her demise and the demise of almost all of her classmates.  

Immediately, I was impressed with the strong choral ensemble sound and great acoustics in combination with superbly-executed dance moves.  In spite of the fact that the actors are often directly in front of you or surrounding you, the blending is fantastic and, because of the intimate atmosphere, even if an actor's mic wasn't on as quickly as it should have been, you could still hear the actor.  Vocally, the strongest numbers for me were anything sung by Rachel Shull as the terrifying Margaret White, "Unsuspecting Hearts" - a duet between Natalia Noble's Carrie White and Megan Shenefelt's Miss Gardner, and "Shine"- a duet between Emilie Starr's Sue Snell and Brock Dalgleish's Tommy Ross.  I was impressed with how healthy of a belt sound the leading actors produced with an exception of a few pushed lines on the title song "Carrie."  Skye Dahlstrom's sassy, insecure bully, Chris Hargensen, on "The World According to Chris" had a strained, forced sound to her belt, but melted my heart with her crystal clear angelic, gentle sound when singing in her higher register head voice as she introspectively sings alone after the rest of the cast exits the stage. 

Acting-wise, Dahlstrom is a stand-out in her portrayal of Chris - she shows us the insecurities deep within that manifest into cruelty.  We watch all of the character relationships develop throughout the show, but the best relationship chemistry, surprisingly, is at the beginning of the show between "best friends" Sue (Starr) and Chris (Dahlstrom).  I also enjoyed the loving, protective relationship between Carrie (Noble) and Miss Gardner (Shenefelt).   

Natalie Noble will absolutely knock your socks off as she becomes Carrie White - from her posture to her mannerisms to her awkward glances to her unsure-come-unstoppable metamorphosis.  Margaret (Shull) was truly the most terrifying character in the show, with her religious-zealot mind frame and the way she loves and simultaneously abuses her daughter.  My notes actually said, "Shull as Margaret - YIKES!" Miss Gardner (Shenefelt) is Carrie's inspiration in a voice of love and reason.  There was a certain melody missing to her southern accent, but nothing can stop the warmth you feel emananting from her and her love for the students.  Emilie Eileen Starr's Sue is the heart of this production, covering every emotion from joyous to tearfully traumatized to love to fear to hate - and bringing the audience along with her on the ride. 

As a whole, the ensemble characters are fantastically convincing in character, never breaking even though at times they are practically on top of the audience.  They precisely and energetically execute Ashley Gardner Carlson's ambitious choreography.  One female ensemble member lacked the electricity to her character the others portrayed, while none of the male ensemble members convincingly portrayed the heterosexual males they are intended to be (one is written as being "confused).  But don't take what I'm saying the wrong way - the ensemble was absolutely at a level at which any director would be more than pleased.   To both ensemble and leads - most of the cast has rock-star physiques that the best of trainers would be proud of, so I must point out there is no need to fidget or adjust the costumes while on stage. 

Speaking of the ensemble, the staging of many of the scenes, full of chaos and running, was precisely portrayed the performance I attended.  I can see how one wrong step could lead to a collision or injury, but the cast seemed acutely aware of each other, in spite of darkness, flashing lights, and screaming.   

The lighting, by Geoffrey Gregory, with precise spots, color changes, creation of the tone for the special effects, etc, was also exactly what I would hope for in a production in this space.  The magic of the special effects shared with the audience were spot-on.  Many of the effects were implied for the audience to use our imaginations with sound and light, which absolutely worked because the imagination is often times more vivid than reality, yet because the effects we saw were so enthralling, we were left wanting more of the magic show.  

Also a huge help in creating the atmosphere was the makeup by Kelly Donahue.  Characters change from dead to alive at the beginning of the show through the flashback story-telling of Starr's Snell.  I was amazed at the quickness of that change.  Carrie is a girl who doesn't know how to take care of herself, but I don't see her as absolutely wretched, which is what her harsh makeup at the beginning of the show creates with the red tones on her eyes and flesh tone on her lips.  Her color tones were more blended by half-way through Act 1.  The aging makeup on Shull worked well, considering the very small venue and how close we were, but I wish I had been twenty feet further away so I wouldn't have noticed.  To save the best mention for last - the blood.  The Blood!  The blood looked real, created gore without being over-the-top, and smelled delicious.  Yes, I understand the creepiness of that statement.  Very well done.

The music was perfection.  I didn't realize the orchestrations were live until part-way through the show because they were precisely executed and at such a perfect balance sound-wise with the vocals.  Balance may seem a given, but in most shows there is almost always one over-powering the other.  Hats off to music director Kevin Mathie.  

Director Hebda's vision for the show was original and well-executed.  Many of the props, as we experience this story through the flashbacks of Sue Snell, were left to the imagination, except vital pieces such as The Bible.  In flashbacks, we remember only integral details, not every minute object.  The missing pieces added to the atmosphere, creating a disturbing element visually.  Hebda's vision also leant itself to leaving out some of the vulgar bullying aspects at the beginning of the show that weren't necessary.  He wisely re-imagined the beginning of the show to have the characters first appear as deceased, then a close-up on the living Sue, creating the full-circle of the story. You will also notice that Sue never changes costumes, which makes sense as the audience is experiencing this story through her narration of her memories.   She flawlessly transitions from telling the story to being part of the story.

There wasn't any better place to be this past Halloween weekend than watching this production.  The talent impressed, the atmosphere transported, and the message touched hearts to the point of tears from both audience members and cast alike.  If you are intrigued by the idea of Carrie as a musical, go check it out and you will walk away with your heart more full, whether for your love of people or horror.*  Carrie is the perfect choice for entertainment to haunt you with the ghosts of your past, as every audience member will be able to connect with one of the characters as someone they knew, or were, in their youth.  

You can buy tickets for shows Wednesday at 7:30pm - Sunday, November 8 at 7:30pm.  There is a 2pm Matinee on Saturday and a 3pm matinee on Sunday.  This Wednesday is "pay as you may" day at the door (Gateway Mall, 90 S. Rio Grande St. in Salt Lake City) as long as tickets remain.  Prices are $18 for adults pre-purchased, $15 for students/seniors, and $20 for adults at the door.

*Content Advisory:  This production contains adult language, with several uses of "the F-word."  There is also physical violence, although it is purely theatrical, it is staged convincingly.    

Directed by Johnny Hebda
Musical Direction by Kevin Mathie
Choreography by Ashley Gardner Carlson
Assistant Directed by JayC Stoddard
Produced by Cylie Hall

Sound Design by James Hansen
Lighting Design by Geoffrey Gregory 
Makeup by Kelly Donahue 
CARRIE WHITE- Natalia Noble
SUE SNELL- Emilie Starr
TOMMY ROSS- Brock Dalgleish
BILLY NOLAN- Derek Gregerson
MISS GARDNER- Megan Shenefelt
NORMA- Giovanna Doty
HELEN- Kellie Rodriguez
KIM- Micki Martinez
LISA- Jenny Bauman
FRIEDA- Morgan Michel
GEORGE- Todd McRae
STOKES- Tommy Kulkus
FREDDIE- Garrett Grigg
STEVE- Dallon Thorup
RICKY- Paul Calvo