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S.F. OFFERS A TRIO OF INTERESTING PRODUCTIONS

Utahns heading for San Francisco within the next few weeks will find at least three Broadway (and off-Broadway) caliber productions on Bay area stages, including the limited-run engage-ment of "The Will Rogers Follies" starring the leads from the original Broadway cast - Keith Carradine and Dee Hoty.

Here's a look the shows I saw during a recent visit:- THE HOTTEST SHOW IN TOWN IS "COLE!", an energetic revue that originated with San Jose Repertory Theatre company down at the south end of San Francisco Bay.

Moved lock, stock and grand piano into the Marine's Memorial Theatre, it became a complete sell-out when the San Francisco critics' reviews hit the street.

The engagement is forced to end Oct. 4 (due to the nomadic American Conservatory Theatre company leasing the space), but the producers of "Cole!" hope to move elsewhere as soon as possible for an open-ended run.

The all-Cole Porter revue, which was mounted in Salt Lake City several years ago by Rafael Castanera for Theater 138, contains nearly 50 of the composer's best songs, performed by three men and three women who demonstrate an incredible amount of talent for singing, dancing and playing the piano.

There must be boundless energy offstage as well. I lost count on the number of costume changes.

It's all performed on a stylish two-story set, and the only accompaniment is the polished black grand piano - sort of like having Porter himself playing his tunes.

When the producers locate a new space, "Cole!" should be in San Francisco for a nice, long run.

- ANOTHER BIG HIT that definitely ends Oct. 3 is "The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Revue," making the first stop on its national tour. Next stop is Texas.

The winner of six Tony Awards, including "best musical," this sure-fire audience-pleaser combines the talents of a great cast and a legendary director/choreographer.

I received a press packet this week from the show's national publicists in New York City and, according to the long-range itinerary, it's scheduled to stop in Salt Lake City on Nov. 9-14, 1993, at the Capitol Theatre. (Dates this far in advance, however, shouldn't be considered set in concrete. Maybe not even Silly Putty.)

With its old-fashioned Flor-enz Ziegfeld chorus lines and plenty of homespun Will Rogers humor, it's the kind of show that should clean up across mid-America. (There is one brief scene with a topless Indian maiden, but it's in good taste and not particularly shocking.)

The initial tour stars Keith Carradine and Tony Award-winner Dee Hoty reprising their original Broadway roles as Will and Betty Rogers.

Carradine's musical abilities should come as no surprise to those familiar with his previous work in "Nashville." He doesn't have Will Rogers' build, but with his cowlicked hair and his laid-back demeanor, he carries it off.

Two of the show's best elements are Tommy Tune's innovative choreography and Rogers' timeless commentary.

The "Our Favorite Son" routine, when Rogers decides to run for president, is a show-stopper.

With a batch of hummable tunes by Cy Coleman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, "The Will Rogers Follies" is the kind of made-in-America musical that was long overdue when it hit Broadway in 1991. I can hardly wait for it to come rolling into Utah.

- AN OFF-BROADWAY HIT that's been slowly hitting some other major cities across the country has finally come to San Francisco.

It's the hilarious "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding."

The basic premise is not unlike the popular murder mystery dinners that have proliferated around the Wasatch Front. Except instead of a murder, the audiences for this show get to participate in a wild American Italian wedding.

For the San Francisco production, patrons gather at the First Congregational Church at the corner of Post and Mason. Your ticket looks like a formal invitation and assigns you to a table for the reception later in the evening.

Two former Salt Lakers are involved in the show - Kit and Mary Lee Anderton, both of whom should be well known to Salt Lake theatergoers. (Kit was technical designer for TheatreWorks West and New Shakespeare Players and also performed in such shows as "Macbett," "Taking Steps" and the first version of "The Foggiest Notion." Mary Lee performed in several Theater 138 productions, including its final show, "The Heiress," at the old CenterStage space on Highland Drive.)

In "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding," Mary Lee plays the role of the reception caterer's daughter, Nikki, a waitress who pouts and pours her troubles out from table to table.

The wedding itself is funny in and of itself, as the two families (and there's no love lost between them) begin straggling down the aisle. What you get is an assortment of Relatives From Hell - the sleazy father of the groom and his slinky girlfriend, tacky bridesmaids chewing bubble gum (and one of them is pregnant), the bride's dramatically distraught mother, a doddering old uncle, a bleary-eyed photographer . . . we could go on and on.

Following the wedding, everyone troops across the street to a banquet room in the Kensington Park Hotel for a wild reception, with dancing, multiple toasts to the happy couple and a less-than gourmet pasta dinner.

While regional companies don't yet have access to the script for "Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding," it would be interesting to see of one of our local companies could adapt the concept for something similar with a Utah flavor.