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MUSICALS, DRAMAS OPENING ON REGION’S STAGES

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An original religiously oriented musical, a revival of a comedy-drama by Ruth and Nathan Hale, a community production of "The Music Man" and a musical about Porter Rockwell are opening on Wasatch Front area stages this week.

- "THANK YOU, PAPA," which recently completed a six-week run at the Hale family's Glendale Center Theater in Southern California, is coming back by popular demand to the Hale Center Theater, 2801 S. Main.The comedy-drama, written by Ruth Hale, is mostly autobiographical (two-thirds fact, one-third fiction), about Ruth's early family life in Granger, now part of West Valley City.

Ruth and Nathan Hale, who could be classified as the Hume Cronin and Jessica Tandy of local thespians, have been acting together for 56 years. In "Thank You, Papa," a poignant, slice-of-life production, they'll portray Ruth's parents - Edith and Will Hudson.

On some evenings during the 44-performance run, depending on how the double-casting of other roles works out, theatergoers could see four generations of Hales on the stage at Hale Center Theater. (You have to remember that in this family, when young suitors come a-courting, they don't just ask for the girl's hand in marriage - they have to audition for the role.) The cast includes Tara Meyrick and Sarah Sandberg Hale as Vicky (Ruth as a young girl); Jonathan Hale and Cody Swenson as David Henderson, a cocky young journalist, and Sherry Hale Brian, Sally Dietlein, Marilyn McCumber and Sally Hale Swenson sharing the role of wealthy actress Estelle Harrington.

Other cast members are N. Kurk Holshue and Mark Dietlein as Paul LaPier, the boyfriend; Virgie Ostler and Mary Sandberg as Maude, a rich aunt, and Andrea N. Clark and Juli Hale as Murial, a busybody friend. (There's no indication whether this role falls into the two-thirds fact or the one-third fiction category. If "Murial" is still around, maybe we'll hear from her.) Rounding out the cast are Stan Conrad and Roger Barker as an insurance peddler; Tyler Woodhouse and Matt Barham as Tenny Davidson, a teenager, and "any great-grandchild who is still awake" as Jesse, the child.

- "THE MUSIC MAN," one of the most popular family musicals ever written, will be presented Friday, Saturday and Monday, Oct. 6, 7 and 9, at 7:30 p.m. by the Draper Community Theatre in the newly restored auditorium of the Park School, 12441 S. 900 East, Draper.

The school is listed on the National Historic Register.

Karen Whiting is directing the musical about the transient peddler who swoops into River City, Iowa, selling the folks his non-existent marching band instruments.

The show, by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey, contains some of Broadway's finest tunes - the rousing "76 Trombones," and such ballads as "Till There Was You" and "Goodnight, My Someone."

Reserved seating is $4 in advance or $4.50 at the door, with general admission priced at $3 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under in advance (50 cents more if purchased at the door). There is also a $10 family ticket available for the Monday evening performance only.

For further information or advance reservations, call the Draper City offices at 571-4121.

The production is being cosponsored by the Draper Arts Council, the Utah Arts Council, Draper City and the National Endowment of the Arts.

- THOSE WHO ENJOY rhythm and blues will find it in Brigham Young University's upcoming premiere of the play "City of Peace."

But fans of rock 'n' roll, folk, ballads, lullabies, pop and choral anthems will find those styles as well in a story of hope amid darkness woven around music by composer Arlen Card.

"City of Peace" will open on an impressionistic set designed by Charles Henson Thursday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the Nelke Experimental Theatre of the Harris Fine Arts Center.

The play, written by J. Scott Bronson, is nearly as challenging to describe as the music.

"It's unlike anything I've ever directed, and it defies traditional definitions," explains Charles Whitman, faculty director. "In some ways it's a passion play, but it's also a musical in which layers upon layers of meaning are contained in the script. There are those who may consider it to have elements of fantasy. Certainly enough dramatic elements exist to make it work, and I find it to be fresh, energetic, delightful and powerful."

In the play's prologue, a radio announcer decries the appalling lack of solutions to inevitable disaster. Subsequent announcements show an increasing despair. Finally the broadcaster's voice is one of warning as he shuts off the station and heads for the mountains.

Mankind is in trouble, not due to a holocaust, but because few people have done anything to secure the human race. Three bands, however, are trying to exist. Two are positive, and they pool their knowledge to find a solution, the City of Peace. The third is the personification of evil.

While Whitman is enjoying the experience of mounting this new work, he admits he isn't sure how people will react to it.

"I think it's important to come to this play with a completely open mind," he says. "I find it exhilarating and extremely hopeful, but I have no idea how it will strike people. I've gotten chills, however, from the story several times, and I'm working with an incredibly fine cast."

"City of Peace" began nearly three years ago as a concept album conceived and supported by Utah businessman Russell Card. He turned to his brother Arlen, a young composer who is already amassing credibility in his field. Card composes for ABC Sports and the Fox network, has been retained on a feature film, teaches music theory at BYU, and received a fellowship to the Sundance Film Institute, where he worked with such composers as Silvestri ("The Abyss"), Dave Newman ("Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure") and veteran award-winning composer Henry Mancini.

For assistance with lyrics, Arlen Card recruited J. Scott Bronson, a playwright whose stage credits include "Heartlight" and "Arthur's Place."

When asked if this was a so-called Latter-day Saint play, Bronson replied, "Yes, but not in the sense that it is only for Mormon audiences. There are no LDS references to confuse a non-Mormon audience, and although it is certainly spiritual in nature, those ideals are embodied in concepts of belief, obedience, faith and love of God."

"We offer ideas subliminally in a surrealistic way," says Card. "In this way, people often accept things they normally would not be so inclined to accept. I expect people to be surprised but not shocked."

Starring in "City of Peace" is Scott Pickard, who plays the figurative Ancient City and a leader called Jerry. The New City and Diane are played by Kelly Shepardson. Other leads are Jason Hughes, Kristie Monson, Gillette Crowther and Richard Raddon.

Set designer Charles Henson has originated a scene suggested by a photograph of an Arizona landscape.

"The print shows silhouetted mountains with a dusty, musty feel in browns and golds," he says. "I wanted to create a backdrop of loneliness, desolation and emptiness and contrast the hope shared by those seeking the City of Peace."

Kim Whitman and Susan Broberg have designed costumes that depict a decaying of present society. Also assisting as choreographer is Cathy Black, who is using dancers as part of the symbolism. Particularly featured will be Michelle Harrast of the dance faculty.

Following its Oct. 5 opening, the play will be staged Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. through Oct. 21. Also planned is a 4 p.m. matinee Oct. 16. Tickets at $5.50 for general public, $4.50 for senior citizens and $4 for faculty, staff and students are available through the drama ticket office, 378-7447.

- ANOTHER ORIGINAL MUSICAL, this one about a legendary Western gunman opens Friday, Oct. 6, for dinner theater performances at Town Square Backstage.

The musical, "Porter Rockwell," written by Buddy Youngreen and James Prigmore portrays the the man who became a legend in his own lifetime, known throughout the West as a gunfighter, Pony Express rider, scout, lawman, and "Avenging Angel" of Mormondom.

Said the playwright/director, "My idea is to present a musical portrait of the man Orrin Porter Rockwell, Mormon pioneer. He appeals to the rebel in all of us."

The cast is led by Tracy Marrott as Rockwell. Friday and Saturday performances include dinner, prepared by chef Maria Vargas. Cost is $16.95 per person. Dinner is served from 6 to 7:15, with the show at 7:30. Monday evenings, families are invited to a refreshment show, beginning at 7:30. Phone 377-6905 for reservations. Group rates are also available.

The restaurant is at the back of Provo Town Square, 46 N. University, and parking is available at 95 N. 100 West.