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Salt Lake City Weekly Saturday's Voyeur '97

Comforting the afflicted, afflicting the comfortable.

By Bill Frost

AUGUST 4, 1997:  Salt Lake City is right on the cusp: Large enough to afford the luxuries and problems of a major metropolis, yet small enough that everyone knows what the other guy is doing. Figure in the Wasatch Weird Magnet (the strange and unexplained seem to be drawn here), along with the fact that everyone in charge is basically nuts, and you've got a satirist's dream.

Saturday's Voyeur has been fulfilling that dream since 1978.

In case you've been living under a rock or reading the Deseret News, Saturday's Voyeur is the comic-relief valve that opens every year around — what else? — Pioneer Day. If writers/directors/producers Nancy Borgenicht and Allen Nevins didn't provide this invaluable service, many a sane person's head would explode from the sheer volume of absurdities that would go unchallenged. With the all-new Saturday's Voyeur '97: Jordan Riverdance, Utah has once again been — to quote Bill Maher — satirized for your protection.

This year, Voyeur takes its sights off the Mormon culture and blasts the sarcastic scattergun at everyone and everything Utah — still, of course, including the LDS Church in a reduced role. For those who are media- and politics-savvy, Jordan Riverdance flings the jokes and references fast and furious: If you allow your attention to waver for a second, you're bound to miss something.

Why does it move so quickly? Simple: This isn't the play, it's the final auditions.

Director Marcel Monson (played perfectly over-the-top by Brad Slocum) has called back his favorite actors, only to find out that the show's producers have replaced him and are "mainstreaming" Voyeur. In typical Utah fashion, the producers have hired out-of-state. The new director is the Irish Lord of the Dance, Michael Flatter-Me (a goof on Michael Flatley), and he's casting only the BYU Young Ambassadors. Monson is devastated, but decides to continue the auditions anyway, hoping the producers will reconsider before Flatter-Me arrives from Provo. An understudy (Alexis Baigue) is possessed by the spirit of Satch, the deep-sixed UDOT mascot, who then becomes Monson's guardian angel.

This Voyeur moves swiftly because — since it's just an audition — all the actors remain in perfunctory leotards and the set changes are nil: Minimal costume and set changes equal more wackiness per second.

Back on stage, the "actors" are running through their audition pieces. Monica (played by Jeanette Puhich), from everyone's favorite locally-filmed TV series "Touched by an Angel," shows up, as does her boss, Della Reese. In reality, Reese is a large black woman: In Voyeur-land, she's played just a little too well by large, white man Michael Boswell, gospel-belting and all.

Cutting it up: Margee Smith (Brenda Sue Cowley) trims Gov. Leavitt's (Jon Humberstone) hair in SLAC's Saturday's Voyeur.
A larger white guy, Bob Baker, gets in some of the show's best lines early on, likening Satch to a "Hassidic flasher" and lamenting his lack of roles, since Joe Waldholtz is still in jail. Due to his sheer size, Baker can't be ignored: Think Chris Farley with actual talent. He does a dead-on Doug Short, but never Merrill Cook — surely he's done something stupid lately.

Dan Larrinaga's portrayal of Steve Young, the 36-year-old MVMV ("Most Valuable Mormon Virgin"), brings Young's sexual preference into question — hard to believe, I know. Despite all the changes in Voyeur, the homoerotic hilarities of old remain the same.

An obscure newsblip about Gov. Mike Leavitt's haircut ritual — he has it trimmed often to avoid that "new cut" look — is the impetus for Margee Smith, the demon barber from Murray, played with psychotic zeal by Brenda Sue Cowley. Jon Humberstone's blissed 'n' blank portrayal of Leavitt brings the guv's intelligence into question — hard to believe, I know.

As act I draws to a close, things get a little sexier: A catfight between Margee and Jackie Leavitt (Elizabeth Whitney), Eagle Forum Fuhrer Gayle Ruzicka (Boswell, again) doing a striptease and singing "Let Me Subjugate You," and the Craig Taylor Dancers with the girls of American Bush (no, they don't strip down — Voyeur hasn't gotten that risque yet) performing "Hey Big Member" — that's "member" of the Legislature, by the way.

Act II's highlights include a show-stopping "Road Rage" (done up with gusto to the tune of "Rawhide"), and Deedee Corradini (Marilyn Alldredge) as Deevita, singing "Don't Cry For Me Salt Lake City," with a little help from someone named Ron Yengich (Kirt Bateman). I'm not sure, but this guy is either a lawyer or the biker from the Village People.

The real payoff that this is all leading up to is the Jordan Riverdance finale. This, of course, is a deserved send-up of Riverdance, the Celtic crapfest that's got the country all in a tizzy. The dreaded Michael Flatter-Me never makes it, so the Lord o' the Dance role is taken on by — oh my gawd — Mike Leavitt. The virgin is played by hair-flipping Young Ambassador Melissa Gessel, and even long-time Voyeur pianist Jennifer Floor gets to dance.

What happens next is beyond description. This is the funniest damned thing you will ever see.

I'd even go so far as to say that this year's is the best production of Saturday's Voyeur to date — and I've seen a few. If you take your local comedy seriously — trust me, it's the only way you can — don't miss this one.

Saturday's Voyeur '97: Jordan Riverdance runs until Sept. 21 at the Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North, 363-0526. Show times: Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets: $24.50 + ARTTIX charge.

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