Salt Lake Tribune Review: Saturday's Voyeur 2017

25 July 2017

Review: Spying on the Russian connections in ‘Voyeur’

By Ellen Fagg Weist & Scott D. Pierce | Salt Lake Tribune | June 30, 2017

How do you satirize Utah's local culture under a Trump administration?

The title of this year's edition of "Saturday's Voyeur" — the blunt-edged "The S--- Show" — suggests comedy soup. This year's show aims to localize the national political disruption and includes Eric Lee Brotherson's scooter-riding, compromised Jason Chaffetz and a brilliant cameo by Annette Wright as Utah's forever senator, Orrin Hatch.

But it's Eb Madson's Vladimir Putin who steals the show, with his fast-paced rip-off of "Chess' " "One Night in Bangkok," Voyeurized to "One Night in Salt Lake." Tribune TV critic Scott D. Pierce agreed with me, as we teamed up consider the long-running "summer in Salt Lake City" satirical tradition.

Ellen Fagg Weist • Overall, the show is at least 30 minutes too long, and the Mormon cultural jokes are mostly asides — or simple pandering to audience expectations. "Voyeur" features some good parody songs, but the clever moments don't add up. The show's best stuff is buried under lengthy setups — i.e., the scenes — that stretch way, way too long. This show desperately needed an editor! Agree? Disagree?

Scott D. Pierce • Absolutely! Two acts would've been plenty. Three was too many. Overall, there was a lot about this that was clever, but not a lot that was funny. It's not hard to make me laugh, and while I chuckled two or three times, I never once laughed out loud. I agree that in Act 1, the Utah/Mormon jokes seemed tacked on. The Jason Chaffetz story was less forced, although that also went on too long.

Weist • The ensemble cast was, once again, extremely talented and well used. But what about the story?

Pierce • The two main focuses were Donald Trump and social media/technology, which struck me as strange. I liked the idea of personifying Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa and their catfight, but the script (by Allen Nevins with song lyrics by Nancy Borgenicht) frequently veered into "You dang kids get off my lawn" territory. There were multiple references my millennial offspring wouldn't have gotten at all, and some of the James Bond films referenced were before even my time.

Weist • The best stuff for me was Madson's Putin. His shaved head, bare chest, jodhpur-style pants and high boots all helped the actor's comedy. Madson's caricature won me over every time he was onstage. But the Utah State Liquor Store scenes went on way too long.

Pierce • As good as the Putin parts are, there were decisions that puzzled me. "American Pie/American Lie" worked well, but making a returned-from-the-dead Buddy Holly a central character was odd — and not funny.

Weist • The dead singer was well portrayed by CJ Strong — I loved the particularity of him pushing up his glasses — but the idea was so dated and didn't work well as a metaphor for our tabloid "fake news" era.

What about the technical stuff: band, music covers, lights, sets? I liked director Cynthia Fleming's choreography and appreciated watching less simulated sex than in prior years.

Pierce • What I liked best was the enthusiasm of the cast. They threw caution to the wind and went all out, and that helped smooth over some of the rough patches. And some of the ragged edges worked in favor of the production — if it were entirely slick and smooth, it would be something entirely different and far less entertaining.

Weist • Yes, the cast was working to sell it. I loved the very clever spy-versus-spy scene transitions and thought "The Russian Connection" number was well-conceived. I wish the spy elements actually added up to a plot. What were the musical high points for you?

Pierce • I thought the multiple spins on "American Lie" were clever and tied the show together. My favorite number, too, was "One Night in Salt Lake."

Weist • I wonder about audience. Don't you think progressives of a certain age (maybe the people who will dig on the Buddy Holly and social media overload stuff) might be turned off by the crude language? I mean more so than if the story were aimed at millennials.

Finally, whom would you recommend this show to? Do you think this edition will serve as a decompression valve for theatergoing liberals, as the stories about Mormon culture do?

Pierce • Less would be more when it comes to profanity, which became less amusing with repetition. But I do think SLAC knows its audience. Most of the people there were having a good time, and some of the local references — even some of the anti-Trump jabs — were met with laughter and applause.

If you're straitlaced, Republican, Mormon and/or under 40 (45? 50?), this isn't the show for you. If you're a liberal who remembers when Roger Moore (maybe even Sean Connery) played James Bond, it's aimed in your direction.

Weist • As you might expect, both of us loved the recurring joke about our colleague, editorial cartoonist Pat Bagley, who draws the ire of Putin by drawing him as portly. Maybe that's a good spoiler to end on.