By Alayna Een, Front Row Reviewers
In mid October, when the leaves blaze brilliant colors and the world marches its way to winter, we naturally lean into the supernatural and seek out ghost stories—and Great Hall Theatrical’s original musical Take My Death Away is ready to entertain and spook audiences of all ages with a thrilling tale of romance, necromancy, and second chances.
The story is set in the American South, in a charming small town bordering a mysterious wood. Sadie, a young woman mourning the loss of her fiancé, David, has been visited by a mysterious cloaked figure. Certain that her deceased beloved has been trying to contact her, she struggles to accept the well-meaning advances of childhood friend Isaac, the village doctor. Meanwhile on the other side of the veil, David has won the sympathies—and unbeknownst to him the affections—of the ghostly Eve, and they are on the brink of a breakthrough to enable David to return to his body and to his fiancée’s waiting embrace. The arrival of Mr. Kristoff, a shady expert in the paranormal, further stirs up the townspeople (both living and dead) and they flock to receive his strange remedies—unaware of what they may lose in the bargain. Shocking revelations and sobering decisions lead to a climactic finale that changes the lives—and afterlives—of everyone in town.
David (Jon Ogden) is the determined, recently-dead protagonist. Ogden gives him a youthful, sincere, and sweet temperament and performs his songs—including the quick-tempoed tricky ones—admirably. Sami Nordin brings the bookish, self-sacrificing, undead Eve to life with tender attention and the perfect sprinkle of sass. This show has a surprisingly lively group of undead meanderers, led by the paternal and petulant Pat (Michael Mehner) and his propper and hen-pecking wife Jessie (Chelsea Tramell). Mehner and Tramell take their role as comic relief to heart in a supernaturally satisfying performance. The group number “Restless Immortals” is especially entertaining, with ghoulish moves and haunting but energetic refrains. Heather Peavler (also Daisy) is a stand-out in the ensemble, with grace and character commitment.
Leading out in the land of the living is Teresa Gashler (Sadie), and she beautifully conveys Sadie’s strength within personal conflict. Sadie’s bumbling but good-natured Aunt Deborah (Lori-ann Cunningham) is very believable in her well-meaning interferences. Garion Jorgensen’s Isaac is sweet and sincere but with a firm backbone, especially when it comes to the supernatural. The mysterious Kristoff (Gary Taylor) is smooth-talking and suave in village scenes but compellingly conniving in other interactions.
The team of set creators transforms the stage with a beautiful fall tree as a centerpiece, and the eerie fog and dark woods juxtaposed against a charming cottage, providing a versatile background for the show’s many moods. Robyn Pitman’s costume design draws the line between living and dead while still building interest and individuality in all the outfits. Director Ruthie Cobb brings out the best in the storyline (by Teresa and Stephen Gashler: composers, playwrights, producers) and hits a good balance of humor, supernatural, and drama.
Take My Death Away at the Angelus Theatre in Spanish Fork, Utah, is a mainstay of Great Hall Theatrical, and well loved by the community. Anyone looking for some fall entertainment beyond the typical pumpkin patches and Hocus Pocus is sure to enjoy this original tale brought to (after)life by a dedicated cast and crew.
A review by Front Row Reviewers
Great Hall theatrical presents Take My Death Away by Stephen and Teresa Gashler
165 N Main St, Spanish Fork, UT 84660
October 16–30, 2023 at 7:30 PM
Tickets: $16–$18 801-900-3035
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Great Hall Theatrical Website
Take My Death Away Program