Front Row Reviewers

Experience Star-Crossed Enchantment at West Valley Arts’ “Shakespeare in Love”

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

Review by Bianca Doyle
Shakespeare in Love, the theatrical adaptation of the beloved 1998 film, takes center stage at West Valley Arts, promising an enchanting journey into the world of the Bard. Directed by Kate Rufener, this production aims to capture the essence of Shakespearean drama infused with romantic fervor and comedic charm.

The story follows the fictitious account of William Shakespeare (Josh Egbert) as he struggles with writer’s block, competing theatre companies, and living in the shadow of his best friend and literary counterpart, Christopher Marlowe (Colton Ward). Things seem bad for our poor bard, until he meets spirited noblewoman Viola de Lesseps (Jillian Joy). Viola dreams of a life as an actor, but cannot perform due to laws prohibiting women onstage. As they navigate the complexities of love, art, and duty, their romance unfolds amidst the creation of Shakespeare’s most famous love story, Romeo and Juliet. Filled with wit, romance, and theatrical intrigue, Shakespeare in Love is a celebration of love’s enduring power and the magic of the stage.

The heart of the show lies in the captivating chemistry between the leads, portrayed with undeniable charisma and emotional depth. The palpable connection between Egbert as Will and Joy as Viola lends authenticity to their forbidden romance, drawing the audience into their world of passion and longing.

The supporting cast also shines brilliantly, adding layers of depth and vivacity to the narrative. Noteworthy performances from Ward as the inspired playwright Kit Marlowe, Eliyah Ghaeini as the bombastic Ned Allyn, Stephen Kerr as the always exasperated Mr. Henslowe, and Tyler Roberts as the perfectly slimy Lord Wessex, bring a delightful energy to the stage, complementing the leads with their impeccable timing and nuanced portrayals. The cast of the Rose Theatre’s acting troupe all did an excellent job in finding moments for their characters to shine, while not upstaging the main action of the show.

The lighting design by Colter Lincoln deserves applause for its evocative use of color and mood-setting techniques. From the beautiful use of a rose motif to the actual words of Shakespeare filling the theatre in key moments, the lighting design adds depth and visual appeal, enhancing the emotional impact of each scene.

The costume design by Emma Stringham transports audiences to Elizabethan England with its meticulous attention to detail and authenticity. Each costume, from lavish gowns to period-appropriate attire, contributes to the overall aesthetic and helps bring the world of Shakespearean theater to life on stage. Queen Elizabeth’s (Sonia Inoa-Rosado Maughan) elaborate dress and Viola’s stunningly gorgeous wedding outfit stand out in particular.

Shakespeare in Love is a play with music led by Music Director Anthony Buck.  There are a couple music interludes with singing, recorder playing, lute playing, just to switch between scenes, but it is not a traditional musical. However, the added lilting melodies put us in an Elizabethan England mood.

Staging a show in the round that was not originally written to be showcased that way is an incredible challenge. Director Rufener showcases expertise in her staging, creating an immersive theatrical experience. Her blocking allows for dynamic interactions between characters and keeps the audience engaged from all perspectives, enhancing the overall storytelling.

It’s sometimes a challenge to take a film script and turn it into a live performance play. This production takes the best of the film and represents it well, but there are some places that it’s obvious it’s an adaptation. The full effect is still an impressive work that fleshes out well.

West Valley Arts seems to be a hidden gem in a valley full of incredible theatre companies. I have been thoroughly impressed with the quality and production value of each show I’ve seen there, and Shakespeare in Love is no exception. This production is brimming with memorable performances, innovative staging, and visually stunning elements. The show succeeds in capturing the magic of Shakespeare’s world and the timeless allure of love and artistry and Shakespeare in Love is high quality entertainment you don’t want to miss.

West Valley Arts presents Shakespeare in Love, based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. Music by Paddy Cunneen.
West Valley Performing Arts Center, 3333 S, Decker Lake Dr. West Valley City, UT 84119 
April 12-May 4, 2024 7:30 PM. Thursday‑Saturday, and Monday.
Tickets: $18–25
Facebook page  
Contact: 801-965-5140,
Box Office Hours: Wednesday through Saturday 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM

Photos by Brighton Sloan.

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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