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CEDAR CITY -- Opening night at the Utah Shakespearean Festival kicks off a season of classics and the world premiere of a musical.
As the festival celebrates its 49th year, the plays open with ticket sales already ahead of last year's total and, organizers hope, enough entertainment to attract even more.
Audiences are reacting to it, responding positively; and basically, there is something for everyone.
–Fred Adams, founder, Utah Shakespearean Festival
The season again boasts three of Shakespeare's works. To Beatrice and Benedick in "Much Ado about Nothing," love is a game; not everyone agrees, but the pursuit proves eye-opening.
For centuries, "The Merchant of Venice" has remained Shakespeare's most controversial play, but the questions are relevant: What is justice? Where does one find mercy?
Fred Adams, founder of the Utah Shakespearean Festival, says, "Audiences are reacting to it, responding positively; and basically, there is something for everyone."
In "MacBeth" the quest for power, no matter the cost, is timeless; so are the Bard's words in the production known as "The Scottish play."
Kym Mellen, who plays Lady MacBeth, says, "They are desperately in love at the top of the show, and that adds all the more to their tragic fall."
Based on the Charles Dickens novel, the festival presents a world premiere musical of "Great Expectations, a New Musical." It stars veteran Broadway actors.
"You have this beautiful weather, this beautiful country and audiences that are smart and creative and supportive," said Jack Noseworthy, who plays Pip.
Jane Austen fans romance is in the air as Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy meet in Cedar City in "Pride and Prejudice."
"I knew it would be a big season, but I knew it was the kind of season that would attract audiences and artists about what we were doing, and it is," said R. Scott Phillips, executive director of the Utah Shakespearean Festival.
And part Alfred Hitchcock, part Monty Python, "The 39 Steps" is the huge comedy/mystery hit on Broadway, which boasts a cast of festival favorites, new artistic directors, Brian Vaughn and David Ayers.
"[It's an] espionage thriller, but because of the theatricality of it, being done for the stage, it's sort of all about how four actors can sort of do the entire film," Vaughn explained.
The six productions at the Utah Shakespearean Festival run through Sept. 4 in Cedar City. For information on ticket prices and availability, CLICK HERE.