Utah Shakespeare Festival announces 2020 play lineup, plans to extend season by 3 weeks

In this 2016 file photo, a casting of William Shakespeare sits outside the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, Cedar City, Utah, July 7, 2016 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — The Utah Shakespeare Festival has announced a new, extended season for 2020. The Tony Award-winning theater company will be producing nine plays from June 1 to Oct. 10, a season that is three weeks longer than this year. It is the longest season the festival has ever produced.

“It’s a season of love, laughter, romance, and revenge,” Brian Vaughn, artistic director for the festival, said in a press release. “Complete with identical twins, singing cowboys, dancing pirates, charming villains, and inspiring women, each of these plays celebrate the glory of life, the magnitude of love, and the laughter that lives in us all.”

As usual the plays will be performed in three world-class theaters, with a wide variety of musicals; Shakespeare comedies, tragedies and histories; and classic and modern theater.

“The Festival is breaking new ground by producing in June,” said Frank Mack, executive producer. “Changes to the calendar at Southern Utah University enable the Festival to fulfill a long-held ambition to start producing plays earlier in the summer than our traditional late June/early July start. This not only opens new programming opportunities, but provides audiences a chance to visit the Festival as early as June 1.”

The 2020 season will start with two shows running in rotating repertory in the Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre: a musical and a Shakespeare play. A third production will be added to the Anes Theatre in August.

“Cymbeline,” William Shakespeare’s fantastical romance, will open the season on June 1 and run through Oct. 10. A wicked stepmother, a banished soulmate, villains, ghosts, long-lost princes and a lion-hearted heroine are all a part of this mythic tale based on the legends of ancient Celts and chock-full of deception, intrigue, innocence and jealousy.

A musical comedy gone wild, “Desperate Measures” by Peter Kellogg and David Friedman will be in performance from June 2 to Oct. 10. This critically acclaimed new show takes Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” and goes west — way west, as in cowboys, a mysterious sheriff, a saloon girl gone good and a nun out of the habit.

“You will laugh until you cry as this show shakes things up with toe-tappin’ music and a script fully loaded with laughs,” the press release states.

These two shows will run in rotating repertory, with matinee and evening performances through Aug. 6 when a third show will be added to the mix: the United States premiere of “Shakespeare’s Worst!” with performances through Oct. 9.

Written by Mike Reiss of “The Simpsons” fame and actor and teacher Nick Newlin, “Shakespeare’s Worst!” is an original and hilarious retelling of a Shakespeare classic. Workshopped as part of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Words3 new play program in 2018, this new play is set in a small-town theater where a group of actors are performing “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” But one of the cast members is unhappy; his career is going nowhere, he’s tired of the show, he wants out and he is all-to-happy to tell the audience exactly what he thinks.

The fourth week of June, three Shakespeare plays will open in the outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre.

“The Comedy of Errors,” one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays, will open on June 22 and play through Sept. 4. Featuring not just one, but two sets of bewildered twins, it’s double the laughter and twice the fun as confusion reigns supreme.

Playgoers will have a chance to see the rarely performed “Pericles” from June 23 to Sept. 3, as the festival performs this tale of high adventure for only the third time in its history. Pericles is searching for thrills, treasure and family, but his loves die, his friends deceive him and the gods seem to be against him. In the end, he finds the most important treasure of all: himself.

“Richard III” is the next installment in the festival’s History Cycle, completing the story of the War of the Roses told in “Henry V” and the three parts of “Henry VI.” Playing from June 24 to Sept. 5, “Richard III” features one of Shakespeare’s most charming and evil villains. Richard, the ambitious son of York, has taken the English throne by exploiting or murdering everyone in his path, but it isn’t clear that he can keep it in the twisted world he has created.

Finally, three more classics will fill out the 2020 season in the beautiful Randall L. Jones Theatre:

First to open is”One Man, Two Guvnors,” the hilarious new comedy by Richard Bean, running June 25 to Oct. 10. Winner of multiple Tony and Drama Desk awards, this glorious comedy is a fresh take on the classic farce “A Servant of Two Masters” and a unique laugh-out-loud mix of satire, songs and stupendous physical comedy as Francis finds himself with two new jobs and two new bosses, who he must continue to please against all odds through mistaken identities, outrageous farce, love triangles and inspired lunacy.

Next is the ever-popular Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “The Pirates of Penzance,” which plays from June 26 to Sept. 5. Spotlighting a ship full of zany pirates, a bevy of giggling maidens and a band of bumbling policemen, the show is one of the most charmingly silly love stories ever to grace the stage. Alack! Alack! Will our hero, Frederic, ever be reunited with his love, Mabel?

The final show in the Randall Theatre will be “Into the Breeches!” – a hilarious and heartwarming look at the WWII home front and a group of women who band together to keep their favorite theater going while the men are off to war by mounting an all-female production of “Henry V.” This modern comedy is like a theater version of the film “A League of Their Own” and plays from July 28 to Sept. 9.

Tickets for the 2020 shows are $20-82 and are now on sale. To purchase tickets, go to the Utah Shakespeare Festival website, call 800-PLAYTIX, or visit the ticket office at the Beverley Center for the Arts in Cedar City.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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