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`PHANTOM' PARODY GUARANTEES A PUN TIME

The O.G. (Opera Ghost) is spreading himself all over the place these days - in quite a variety of different productions.

The "definitive" one, of course, is Andrew Lloyd Webber's, apparently lodged permanently on Broadway and traipsing about the country in a couple of large-scale touring and "sit-down" (longer run) companies. One of those is now playing an open-ended run in San Francisco and the touring version is scheduled to visit Salt Lake for eight to 10 weeks in 1996.Locally, Peter Van Slyke's melodrama musical parody of the classic Gaston Leroux thriller has become a favorite of Desert Star Playhouse patrons.

This tongue-in-cheek edition is being brought back by popular demand (although I think it was really those frightening notes from the obsessive Opera Ghost that motivated DSP to restage it).

Remember: the Desert Star's version is not the megabucks Andrew Lloyd Webber piece. The basic story line may be similar, but the Murray theater's chandelier doesn't weigh two tons and it doesn't take a mile-long parade of semi-trucks to set up all the fancy scenery and special effects equipment.

But the Playhouse has one of the area's best professional directors (Edward J. Gryska) and a cast of top-notch local talent (Bret Wheadon as the insanely jealous Phantom, Holly Healy as sweet, young ingenue Christine Daae and Darla Davis as outrageous diva Madame Carlotta, to name just three).

Wheadon has been featured in shows at Lagoon and in previous seasons of the Utah Musical Theatre series in Ogden, Healy is well-known to Desert Star Playhouse fans and Davis has appeared in such productions as "Nine" and "Oil City Symphony" at Salt Lake Acting Company.

Another Broadway vs. Murray tradeoff: the Playhouse has more family-friendly ticket prices - $6 to $10 instead of the $15-$65 on the Great White Way. You can also munch on freshly baked pizza and hand-dipped ice cream treats in the Desert Star's cabaret style theater.

Others in the cast are Terry Benedict, Jack Drayton, Roger Stephenson, Tom Jordan and Bret Manning.

Sue Talmage is musical director for the production, including the post-show "Lullaby of Broadway" olios.

"The Phantom of the Opera" will run from Friday, Sept. 16, through Nov. 12, with performances on Mondays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 7 and 9:30 p.m. All seats are reserved. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children ($10 and $8 on weekends). The theater is at 4861 S. State, Murray. For reservations, call the box office at 266-7600.

Pizza and other menu items are available for a nominal extra charge.