If you like Noel Coward plays, you will like Utah State University Eastern’s production of “Blithe Spirit,” an improbable farce, set to open the weekends of Nov. 30, Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 7-9 at 7:30 p.m. in the Peterson Black Box Theatre.
The comedy was first produced in 1941 on Broadway and later in London. Blithe Spirit” has 43 productions showing in the United States and England, proving the lasting appeal of the play, said USU Eastern Director Corey Ewan.
It was made into a film in 1945 starring Rex Harrison of “My Fair Lady” fame and Kay Hammond who was in the original London cast. The latest professional production was several years ago with Angela Lansbury recreating the role of Madame Arcati both in London and New York and finally at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.
The story concerns the socialite and novelist Charles Condomine who invites the eccentric medium and clairvoyant Madame Arcati to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book.
Condomine wants to learn more about the occult for a novel he is writing.
The séance backfires when the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife who has been dead seven years, Elvira, haunts him. She is moody, morally bankrupt and desperate to disrupt Condomine’s marriage to his second wife.
Eventually, she wants Condomine to join her in the spirit world and plans his death.
The “Blithe Spirit” production is still a favorite play of theatre goers for the past 71 years throughout the U.S.
Irving Wardle of “The Times” wrote, “Stylistically, it is Coward’s masterpiece: his most complete success in imposing his own view of things on the brut facts of existence.”
Charles Spencer of “The Daily Telegraph,” wrote “Blithe Spirit” is one of Coward’s three indisputable comic masterpieces.”
When Director Ewan was looking for a comedy to produce for USU Eastern during the 2017-18 season, he chose “Blithe Spirit” because, “I had seen past productions, some good, some not so good I wanted the chance to do a good production. The play is a challenge in that there is little action, but lots of very witty dialogue. This is what Noel Coward was known for. . . This is a perfect counterpoint to the last production in that we get to play comedy. We have laughed a lot during rehearsals, I hope that translates well to our audiences.”
The setting for the Condomine home is based on British homes of the upper class in Kent, England.
Scenic designer for “Blithe Spirit” is Brent Innes who combines set pieces from several shows to create the Condomine home. “The challenge is to find unique and fun ways to create the special effects required by the show. I think we will all be quite surprised by what we will see . . . or not see,” Innes said. There are a number of “ghostly-specific-special effects” included in the show.
“Blithe Spirit’s” cast includes Charles Condomine played by Tate Sommerfeldt, a graduate of Cardston High School in Alberta, Canada; while Cheyenne Davis, a graduate of Maple Mountain High School in Springville, plays his second wife Ruth and Brooke Gailey, a graduate of Blackfoot High School in Blackfoot, Idaho, plays his first wife Eliva. Emily Dale, a graduate of Stansbury High School in Stansbury, plays Madame Arcati who leads the séances and spells.
Two Carbon High School graduates are in the cast including Dr. Bradman played by Josh Demie and Edith played by Scyler Smith. Bradman’s wife is played by Bethany Peyton, a graduate of Wayne County High School in Teasdale.
Christopher Vlamakis of Helper is stage manager with Gabe Marcotte of DaVinci Academy in Ogden is the assistant stage manager.