The Sheik: Won’t You Be My Valentino?

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Desert Star Playhouse is the most consistent theater in Utah.

It never deviates from the narrow niche is has carved for itself: Musical melodrama parodies of familiar stories, written in-house, with a troupe of regular actors and a live pianist.

But more to the point, the shows are reliably high in quality — not “theatre” with an “re,” for sure, but funny and goofy stuff that will entertain your average casual theatergoer for a couple hours.

All of which is a long way of explaining that once you’ve reviewed a few shows there, it’s hard to keep writing new reviews. I’m always tempted to say, “It’s typical Desert Star, and that’s a good thing,” and call it quits.

The current show, “The Sheik, or Won’t You Be My Valentino?,” is a characteristically silly and convoluted story about a pair of English explorers, Alice Hastings (Kerstin Anderson) and her prissy fiancé Percival Rampling (Ben E. Millet), who find an important artifact in Arabia. The good Sheik (Scott Holman, also director and writer, adapting from an old script by Peter Van Slyke) needs the artifact for good purposes, while his evil cousin the Wazir (Jack Drayton) wants it for selfish reasons. The Sheik falls in love with Alice, too, a love which he admits is “paper-thin,” since they’ve never really spent any time together. (Later, Percival confesses to someone that his engagement to Alice was just a plot convenience, and that his getting together with someone else would be “an acceptable plot twist.”)

On the Sheik’s side are Omir (Holly Braithwaite) and Ramin (Patrick Rosier); Ramin speaks mostly in lines from Tom Cruise movies, allegedly because he looks like Cruise, which he doesn’t. With the Wazir is his sorcerer, Yakmid (Matt Kohler) and his assistant Jasmine (Mary Parker Williams), who is ditzy and carries around a purse. She is one of the more amusing characters in the play, which is the same thing I said about Williams in the last show I saw her in at Desert Star.

Everyone is well-cast, and no cast member mugs or hams more than necessary. Holman is always good in leading roles, if for no other reason than he’s the best at ad-libbing, which is common in these shows. “The Sheik” is not the theater’s absolute funniest offering — one or two scenes drag it down — but it’s funny enough to be worth seeing, both for newcomers and Desert Star regulars.

Should you go? Seems like half the audience is always composed of regulars. See for yourself why that is.

Read one Desert Star review, and you've pretty much read them all (except for the few shows that haven't been as good as the others). The theater's consistency is good, but it sure makes it hard to write new stuff every time.

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