Will Utah Embrace Its Newest Theater Company—Utah Repertory Theater Company?

Share Article

Utah Repertory Theater Company, hailed as “the most exciting up-and-coming theater company in the state” by Broadway World, approaches its first-year anniversary. But will the company see a second season, or will this non-profit company be a flash in the pan, following the pattern of many theater companies closing after their first year?

“I founded Utah Repertory Theater Company as a way to bring high-quality, though seldom-produced, plays and musicals to the state. There is so much talent in Utah, but much of this talent is forced to leave the state to find work,” said Johnny Hebda, the company’s founder and member of the company’s executive board. “Also, I was tired of seeing the same 15 to 20 shows recycled throughout the state year after year. There are many amazing shows with important messages that need to be shared in the state. Theater has always had the power to shape people’s thinking and open people’s eyes to others’ lives and struggles.”

During its first season, the company has produced shows at several different theater venues and employed some of Utah’s most talented performers and artists, from Spanish Fork to Ogden.

Utah Repertory Theater Company, commonly referred to as Utah Rep, took on a very ambitious season, debuting with the musical SIDE SHOW. The company has since presented Utah audiences with five full-length productions, four of which have been Utah premieres. The season has included I LOVE YOU BECAUSE, WHAT THE BELLHOP SAW, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CAROUSEL, and currently in production, Jonathan Larson’s RENT. The following show will be the state premiere of Frank Wildhorn’s BONNIE & CLYDE.

Each production has received critical acclaim from local reviewers and bloggers. Patrons have given standing ovations and left in tears as they have been moved by the productions. One patron said after CAROUSEL, “I left the theater wanting to be a better person, it made me go home and tell my husband and kids that I love them!” And another patron sent a message after seeing SIDE SHOW that “I have never been moved so much by a production. As someone who has always felt different or didn’t fit in, this show really spoke to me and gave me hope. Thank you for bringing [SIDE SHOW] to Provo.”

Despite its successes, the company has struggled to gain sponsorship and strong attendance.

“It can be discouraging, when you feel that you have put your heart and soul, blood and tears to do everything in your power to make the shows successful, and we don’t receive the full support we need,” said Hebda. “Ticket sales have averaged 25 to 30 percent of the house, which is not covering our operations. I just don’t want our dream to die as we have so much positive momentum. We simply need more patrons and businesses to support our mission.”

Utah Rep has launched an Indiegogo campaign with a goal to raise $10,000. Benefits to contributors include season tickets, flex passes, and tickets to the complete Utah Rep 2014 season. The fundraising event, with all proceeds tax-deductible, can be viewed at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/utah-rep-s-2014-season-kick-off.

Hebda also announced a resident theater for Utah Rep, in partnership with the Utah Arts Alliance. This non-profit, downtown Salt Lake City arts group has begun to refurbish an adjacent theater known as The Cube specifically for Utah Rep productions.

“Establishing a resident theater location at the Utah Arts Alliance’s The Cube will give Utah Rep an artistic home and increase our visibility as a member of the Utah theater community,” Hebda said.

However, Utah Rep’s quest for funding to remain financially solvent remains.

“If patrons knew some of the obstacles Utah Rep is up against, they would rally to our aid,” said Kymberly Mellen, Utah Rep’s Executive Producer: Artistic Adviser/Casting. “We have been hugely successful in producing shows with increasing production and artistic values. Something that makes our company very different is the focus to pay actors and artists now and increase wages in the future. Other local companies produce good shows but, by never paying actors, expect the actors to subsidize the shows.”

“There is no other theater company like Utah Rep and that’s why Utah so desperately needs it,” said JC Carter, Utah Rep Executive Producer: Business Manager. “Many companies that want to do ‘different’ theater jump way out of the box and produce theater that could only appeal to a very small niche market. Others take risks on certain shows, but often fall quickly back into old, tried-and-true productions. Utah Rep takes a different tactic. The company produces shows that people know, but nobody has dared to do them. Utah needs Utah Rep to wake it up and bring new ideas to the forefront.”

For more information on Utah Rep, visit the company webpage: http://utahrep.org/.

The credentials of the company’s board members are here: http://utahrep.org/information/board/

Source: Broadway World names Utah Rep “the most exciting up-and-coming theater company in the state” http://www.broadwayworld.com/salt-lake-city/article/Summer-Stages-BWWs-Top-Summer-Theatre-Picks-Salt-Lake-City-20130614.

Reviews of Previous Utah Rep Productions


RENT is “fantastic” with “stand out performers who got my attention for great acting and fantastic voices.” “It is one of the few shows that I want to go see again before it closes.”—Backstage Utah

“The success of [the director's] vision was beyond anything I could have ever expected from a production of RENT in a small, new theater company in Utah, and I left with the honest opinion that the production I just saw would have made Jonathan Larson and the original production team proud.” “As for the cast, each deserves to be praised...”—Utah Theatre Bloggers


Utah Rep’s production is “exemplary” through “poignant acting, emotional choreography, and wonderful voices.”—Utah Theatre Bloggers Association

“Carousel has very strong vocal talent, dancing that can sell its own tickets, and acting that caused a patron that I overheard say, ‘I don’t know why I’m crying, I never cry.’ Director Johnny Hebda amassed an amazing group of talent for this production.”—Front Row Reviewers


“I cannot tell you how impressed I was with this troupe rarely missing a beat of the frantic comedy pacing.”—Larissa Explains It All For You

“Well done one and all, including the show’s director, Chase Ramsey. Directing a farce is akin to herding cats, and Mr. Ramsey managed to deliver a very smooth show.”—Backstage Utah


“The opportunity to see a group of attractive, talented young people who obviously love the genre [of musical theater] is wonderfully satisfying.”—Salt Lake City Weekly

“The wonderful talent and enthusiasm onstage created an infectiously upbeat atmosphere from the first entrance to the final bow.”—Backstage Utah


“SIDE SHOW at the Echo Theatre in Provo is an engaging, poignant, and thought-provoking theatrical experience. The production is a fine debut for the newly christened Utah Repertory Theater Company.”—Broadway World

“You should make whatever arrangements you need to get to Provo and see this amazing production before it ends.”—Backstage Utah

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Johnny Hebda
Visit website