Photographs and music both stir our memories. The theater piece "35MM" combines the photography of Matthew Murphy and the music of Ryan Scott Oliver to weave a series of vignettes into one universal story.
"We are excited that our first musical production is a genre-bending and unconventional one," artistic director Alicia Washington said.
"35MM" is relatively new and made its off Broadway world premiere just two years ago. But, according to cast member Sean Bishop, an Ogden resident and Weber State University graduate, the show is well known among young musical theater enthusiasts. He and his new husband, Taylor Knuth, also a WSU graduate, have had their eye on the show for a while.
"I told Alicia to look into it two-years-ago, so when she announced it, I knew I wanted to be in the show," Knuth said.
"We were big fans of '35MM' already, so as soon as she decided to do it, we jumped in," Bishop added. "There is nothing like it, the music is really unique, challenging and fun. It is abstract. It is an exhibition like you would expect if you went to a photography show in an art gallery."
Bishop said the musical's relative obscurity adds to the allure.
"I kind of like that a lot of people will show up not knowing what to expect," he said. "I like the idea of them diving into something unfamiliar and taking a chance on something new."
Throughout the show, 15 photographs are projected while the five-person cast performs image-inspired songs. Cast member Jennifer Hughes, who teaches drama at Saint Joseph High School, said the score is not easy.
"It is probably the most challenging musical theater piece I have done because it is so conceptualized," Hughes said. "There are really tight five part harmonies, atonal songs, crazy rhythms and so many different styles. Some songs are not meant to be taken seriously. Other songs are beautiful and heartfelt and taken literally. It pretty much covers the gamut."
Hughes appreciates the mission of Good Company Theatre.
"I am extremely passionate about having theater in Ogden," she said. "I love that Alicia is trying to put things out there that aren't done all the time."
Hughes said the show contains adult language and themes.
"It is not for the faint of heart," she said. "It's edgy but not crude."
Hughes likes working with young talent, including director Randall Eames, a WSU Graduate who works as the director of communication for Salt Lake Acting Company.
"Randall has a lot of maturity, he is very passionate, and he knows the show well."
Eames, who has acted professionally, is excited for the opportunity to direct, and believes Weber State has prepared him well for his career."
"Weber is an incredible school," Eames said. "It is a gem of a program. It is small enough that you get a lot of one-on-one training in multiple areas. But, there are enough people that there is a healthy level of competition to always push you to be better."
He is leaving to pursue his masters in musical theater at San Diego State University this summer.
"The theater community here is very supportive, but I wish there were more ways for people to make a living being an actor," he said.
Bishop and Knuth shared a similar sentiment and said they plan to move to New York for their careers within a year.
"There are probably only a small handful of people who make a living wage in acting in this state," Bishop said. But, he feels optimistic about the future. "It is huge that we have all of these new shows coming to Utah and that we have enough audiences to facilitate all of these theater companies. I think the theater scene is growing. I could see going to New York for 10 years and coming back to visit and finding there is a thriving scene where people are really making money. I think the market is right for that."
As far as new musicals go, Eames thinks "35MM" has a lot of promise.
"The first time I listened to it, I was really intrigued," he said. "The music is extremely difficult. It allows the actors the opportunity to explore different roles. It is a great piece."
One of Eames' favorite numbers is "Why Must We Tell Them, Why?"
"It asks, 'Why must artists explain their art?' And, says, 'If you think too hard, you will miss the point. Come, sit, listen and think a little bit, but not too hard. Just take it in,'
"The musical asks the questions, 'Does a picture capture the soul? What emotions to photographs spark? What can photographs do to you as far as memories?' It asks in a really subtle way. It is not in your face demanding you to answer. It just kind of puts it on the table and lets you mull it over. As with most artistic forms, it is open to interpretation. There are obviously moments taken out of the composer's experience as a human and those moments relate to a lot of people because they are so genuine and honest."
- WHAT: '35MM'
- WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, May 8-25
- WHERE: Good Company Theatre, 260 Historic 25th St. Ogden
- TICKETS: $17/at the door or $15/online at www.goodcotheatre.com