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There's no getting around it. Ralph G. Rodgers Jr. has always had a commanding presence in Salt Lake City theater - either on stage (in a variety of Gilbert & Sullivan roles or in another audience favorite, the title role in the musical "Scrooge") - or behind the scenes, back when he was managing the busy Promised Valley Playhouse.

Oh sure, there are always other performers to step in and take over, but somehow "The Mikado" and "Scrooge" just weren't the same when Rodgers left Salt Lake for a new assignment as general manager of the LDS Church's Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie near the northern tip of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands.While he was in that tropical paradise for six years, Rodgers, in his usual professional way, rewrote the PCC's nightly "This Is Polynesia" spectacle and implemented some other changes at the center, which continues to rank as Hawaii's No. 1 paid tourist attraction.

But even while he was living in Hawaii, his heart was still in Utah. He managed to make at least one trip every winter to the state to meet with local travel agents - and feast on those fresh-baked, mouth-watering Lion House rolls.

In the meantime, the Playhouse changed directions and his former colleague at PVP, Pat Davis - after a brief stint at the equally brief TriadTheatre - moved on to a somewhat "regular" job with Salt Lake Community College.

(I doubt if anyone in the theater business can consider work in that field as "regular.")

But now that SLCC has acquired the old South High School, 1575 S. State, as a downtown campus - and knowing that that venerable building has one of the finest auditoriums in town - it didn't take Davis long to resume her involvement in something she has always loved - the theater.

Her initial project, while the interior of the school was being spruced up, was an outdoor production of "Promised Valley" in the football stadium. In its original, uncut form, this survived both vandalism and weather problems.

But Davis also had long-range plans for year-round community theater in the auditorium, where students - rather than just taking classes in carpentry, sewing and art - could get some real hands-on experience in building sets, props and costumes.

With Ralph Rodgers back in town, a revival of "Scrooge," the musical version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," was a natural for the holiday season.

"Scrooge" opens Friday, Dec. 8, at 8 p.m., and will continue on Mondays through Saturdays through Dec. 23. At 7:30 p.m. nightly, there will be a "pre-show" in the foyer featuring a variety of local high school madrigals and ensembles.

There will also be a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 23. Tickets are priced at $6, $7 and $8 in the evenings and $4, $5 and $6 for the matinee performance. For reservations, call 967-4509 or 484-5344. Tickets also are available at all Smith's Tix outlets

The show is being directed by Davis, with Robert Stephens as musical director, Lisa Arbon as choreographer, Diane Allen in charge of costumes, and Clif A. Davis as set designer, with J. Chad Davis as scenic artist.

The cast includes Galen Chatterton as Bob Cratchet, Ricky Davis as Tiny Tim, Terry Spencer as Marley, Deeann Blair as Christmas Past and David Jewkes as Christmas Present.