Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical: A Heartfelt Celebration
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is excited to announce the cast members for this summer’s production of Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical, including familiar faces to Festival audiences as well as new company members making their first appearance here.
As an ardent Jane Austen fan, director Valerie Rachelle says she is thrilled to bring this story to the stage, and especially as a musical because Austen’s characters are so “comedic, loving, laughable, and heartfelt”. She compares the show to champagne, as she hopes audiences will enjoy the sparkle, celebration, elegance, joy, and humor, all based on Jane Austen’s beloved novel. This is a perfect production for the whole family to enjoy
The lead cast is as follows:
Allie Babich returns to the Festival after eight years. This season she plays Emma Woodhouse in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Balthasar in Romeo and Juliet. Festival audiences may remember her as Ensign Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, Ela Delahay in Charley’s Aunt, and Vixen/Ensemble in Dracula. She has also performed with First Stage, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, American Shakespeare Center, Door Shakespeare, Guthrie Theatre, and in an international Disney on Classic: A Magical Night Tour to Japan. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Laura Brennan performed with the Festival’s Shakespeare in the Schools education tour of Much Ado About Nothing in 2022. This season will be her mainstage debut, playing Harriet Smith/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Stage Hand in The Play That Goes Wrong. She has also performed with Hoosier Shakespeare Festival, Texas Shakespeare Festival, Cider Mill Playhouse, and First Folio Theatre, among many others.
Rhett Guter returns to the Festival, playing Mr. George Knightley in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Chris in The Play That Goes Wrong this season. He has performed in over twenty Festival productions between 2005 and 2021, including Ragtime, The Pirates of Penzance, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Music Man, and The Greenshow. He is also a magician and prolific choreographer, having choreographed numerous productions here. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Chris Mixon returns for his eleventh season at the Festival since 2002. This time he will be playing Mr. Woodhouse/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Dennis in The Play That Goes Wrong. His theatre work included the national Broadway tour of How to Succeed in Business Without Trying, world and NYC premieres at Pearl Theatre Company, and productions at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Pioneer Theatre Company, Geva Theatre, Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, and Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, among many others. He also has film and television credits including The Rosa Parks Story (CBS), All My Children (ABC), One Life to Live (ABC), and Law & Order (Wolf Films/Universal TV). He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Melinda Parrett returns as Miss Bates/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Annie in The Play That Goes Wrong. She has performed in nearly twenty productions at the Festival since 2007, including as Mrs. White in Clue, Elsa Schraeder in The Sound of Music, Titania/Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, and Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes. Other theatres she has worked at include Denver Center, Goodspeed Opera House, Geva Theatre, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and Oregon Cabaret Theatre. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Jim Poulos returns for his fourth season at the Festival, having previously played Ross in Macbeth, Henry VI/Ensemble in Henry VI Part One and The Conclusion of Henry VI: Parts Two and Three, and The Duke/Ensemble in Big River. This season he will perform as Mr. Elton/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Max in The Play That Goes Wrong. Other theatres include American Repertory Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Geva Theatre, Denver Center, and Great River Shakespeare Festival, among others. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Gilberto Saenz performed with the Festival’s Shakespeare in the Schools education virtual tour of Julius Caesar in 2021 and makes his mainstage debut this season as Mr. Frank Churchill/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet. He has also performed with AhHa Broadway as Ernst Robel in Spring Awakening, The Tank NYC as Avery the Amazing in Amazing, and Milwaukee Rep as Indio in West Side Story. He has also appeared in the films Voyeur and Untitled Tenderness Project.
Marissa Swanner is new to the Festival and will play Mrs. Elton/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and is a Featured Performer in The Greenshow. Previous experience includes directing and choreographing Tick, Tick… BOOM! at Lyrique Music Productions, The King and I with Drury Lane Theatre, South Pacific and All Shook Up at Flat Rock Playhouse, Breakfast at Tiffany’s at Dinah Washington Center, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime.
Additional members of the cast are:
Evelyn Carol Case makes her Festival debut as Mrs. Bates/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Prince Escalus in Romeo and Juliet. She has appeared with Prague Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare Orange County, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Laguna Playhouse, and ten seasons as a resident artist with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
Tim Fullerton is returning to the Festival after appearing as Judge in last season’s Sweeney Todd and Cornwall in King Lear. Audiences can see him this season as Mr. Weston/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Capulet in Romeo and Juliet. Productions with other theatre companies include Poirot: Murder on the Links with Oregon Cabaret Theatre, The Book of Will with Texas Shakespeare, Mamma Mia! with Pacific Conservatory Theatre, and he was part of the original cast recording of The Three Musketeers with American Musical Theatre.
Kat Lee returns to the Festival, coming directly from this year’s Every Brilliant Thing Utah touring production. This season she will play Mrs. Weston/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Lady Montague/Paris page in Romeo and Juliet. Additional roles with the Festival include two seasons as a Featured Performer in the The Greenshow, Harlem Woman in Ragtime, and Angel-ett/Ensemble in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, among others. She has also performed at the Denver Center, Short North Stage, and Lyric Repertory Theatre.
Cameron Vargas is new to the Festival and will perform the roles of Robert Martin/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Trevor in The Play That Goes Wrong. He has also acted in Dogfight at Sierra Repertory Theatre, West Side Story and Little Women at Granbury Theatre Company, Indivisible With… and Julius Caesar at Milwaukee Rep Project, and several others at PCPA.
Grace Wissink is also new to audiences at the Festival. This season she will perform as Elizabeth Martin/Ensemble in Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical and Stage Hand in The Play That Goes Wrong. Previous experience includes Hamlet at Playmakers Repertory Company, Nia and Dance Nation at Kenan Theatre Company, Fun Home at Company Carolina, and The Birthday Party at LAB! Theatre.
The 2023 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 21 to October 7 and includes Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical, A Raisin in the Sun, The Play That Goes Wrong, Timon of Athens, and Coriolanus, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and backstage tours. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or visiting bard.org.