Besides MCT, Missoula is also home to another theater company with a long rich history. The Montana Repertory Theatre is celebrating 50 years by delivering one of their finest productions and by doing it differently than they have in the past.
Neil Simon has generated some of the most comedic plays ever written, and Barefoot in the Park is definitely one of the best of his best. It is perfect suited as the cornerstone for this Golden Anniversary celebration, and should contribute to making this year’s national tour a smashing success.
Normally the Montana Rep’s show features Actors’ Equity members in the lead roles, but director Greg Johnson turned that around when he cast UM students Whitney Miller and Hunter S. Hash in the roles of Corie and Paul Bratter, newlyweds moving into their first apartment in NYC in the 60’s. Although they are not (yet) Actors’ Equity, they are no strangers to theater-goers in Missoula. Miller just completed a run in the lead role of Elle in Legally Blonde the Musical, while Hash appeared in Dracula and A Christmas Carol.
As for the rest of the cast, all of them are veterans of previous Montana Rep productions. Laurie Dawn portrayed Kate Keller in last year’s All My Sons, which also featured Colton Swibold as her son Chris. Mark Kuntz starred as Jay Gatsby two years ago in The Great Gatsby, which also featured Swibold.
The set was a masterpiece of simplicity, perfectly created by Scenic Designer Joey Sarno and complemented by Props Artisan Jerry Goodwin. The set was further brought to life by Lighting Designer Brian Hapcic and Audio Designer Timothy McHenry, while Costume Designer M L Hart provided the final touches that catapulted the stage into a true icon of the 60’s.
This production achieves its success through the overall direction of Montana Rep’s Artistic Director Johnson, while Stage Manager Hope Rose Kelly ensured that each performance was true to that direction.
Suffice it to say that this is one of the finest productions we have every witnessed, including off Broadway and national touring Broadway productions. Every cast member left it all on the stage as they transported the audience back to the 1960’s in such a natural way that it felt like we had boarded a time machine and travelled there. This is a true ensemble piece, and every actor had the chance to shine at some point in the show. The pacing was brisk and moved the show along without ever dragging.
Do not miss this show. Remaining performances in Missoula are scheduled for January 26 at 7:30 p.m., 27 (sold-out) and 28 (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.), as well as February 2 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. Performances are held in the Montana Theater on the campus of the University of Montana. Tickets are available at the UMArts Box Office or online at GrizTix.com.