‘American Fork Idol’ – It Was Just All Right For Me, Dawg
Dinner theater is an unusual concept that everyone should experience at least once. At Desert Star Theatres, it’s less like dinner theater and more like an LDS social — tightly packed inside a church gymnasium. The rustic venue seats about 250 at tables placed too close together and draped with blue-and-white plaid table cloths. Baskets of complimentary popcorn centerpiece the tables, and menu options include pizza, chicken fingers, wraps, desserts and non-alcoholic drinks. The wait staff buzzes about nonstop like large flies hindering the view of the stage. They’re not terribly annoying, just a bit nettlesome.
Then comes — in the case of American Fork Idol — the opening remarks by the piano accompanist who welcomes you to the show and gives you audience participation instructions before the performance begins.
Lights go down and it begins: The contestants of America’s Next Hollywood Pop Superstar include frontrunner Bo Biceps (Nate Copier and Jeff Jensen), the Utah County underdog Tanya Trucker (Heather Elmer and Mandi Jensen), a flamboyant mama’s boy Dylan Ai-Chihuahua (Bryan Daley and Bryan Hague), Jason Castor Oil and Carrie Underwear. Ryan Snoozefest (Justin Berry and Trevor Jerome) hosts, and Theodore Scowl (Ed Farnsworth and Tod Huntington) — a relative of Simon’s — Polly Medulla (Chelsea Grant Hubbard and Bonnie Wilson Whitlock) and a “Randy” mannequin are the judges.
The contestants are swiftly taken through tryouts, and then wisked off to Hollywood. Jumping right into the competition, it all seems to be going smoothly, less Dylan’s meddling stage mother Debra (uummm … David Archuleta and dad) and Carrie’s Sunday-school song choices (though a real Utah crowd-pleaser). Then mysterious accidents start occuring, eliminating contestants one-by-one. This scenario develops like a dastardly evil-doer tying a lovely maiden to railroad tracks.
Of course romantic feelings also develop between the contestants … and at least one judge. Tanya and Dylan have eyes for Bo, and as the contest heats up, secrets are revealed that will change the Hollywood hit show forever.
As with most Desert Star productions, American Fork Idol is extreme camp, with over-enthusiastic characters, silly awkward moments and, in this case, a humorous play on lyrics. “Cold-hearted Skank,” a hilarious rendition of a Paula Abdul hit, is the highlight moment.
Unfortunately, comedic timing is off by more than a couple of the actors; yet, with the number of performances they are scheduled to do, it could easily put them off from time to time.
There also is some difficulty liking …. or maybe offense may be taken by the reconciliation of Dylan’s questionable sexuality. Plus, portraying “Randy” as an emotionless, robotic philistine is dull and unimaginative. These flaws don’t necessarily ruin the fun of the show, but unfortunately places playwrights Ben E. Millet and Bethany Knighton low on my scale.
Then featured after the final curtain is an “olio” or hodgepodge of sketches and musical selections. Though a bit long, as olios go, Love is in the Air is fantastic fun. The ‘boy band’ number is both comically choreographed (by Kerstin Davis) and performed. Also, the infomercial for an aphrodisiac stimulates a few chuckles.
Desert Star Theatres is a local favorite, often satirizing mainstream Utah culture in a friendly, non-offensive way. But hopefully they’ll learn to parody all of Utah’s diveristy in that same light.
‘American Fork Idol’ runs through June 6, Desert Star Theatre, 4861 S. State Street. Tickets $8.95–17.95, 801-266-2600 or desertstar.biz.