CEDAR CITY -- You can't blame Fred Adams, founder and executive producer of the 39-year-old Utah Shakespearean Festival, for being somewhat giddy on Monday morning.

That's when he was able to officially announce that the festival -- the fifth biggest such festival in North America -- will be the recipient of the 1999 Antoinette Perry "Tony" Award as the country's "outstanding regional theater."By winning the Tony Award, the Cedar City-based festival joins the ranks of such prestigious companies as the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Chicago's acclaimed Steppenwolf Theater, the Denver Center Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theater and two Southern California landmarks -- the legendary Pasadena Playhouse and San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, among others.

"We received word about the award on Friday afternoon in a telephone call from Edgar Dobie, managing producer of the Tony Awards production, but we couldn't say anything about it until Monday morning, when the Tony nominations were being announced at Sardi's Restaurant in New York City," said Adams shortly after the announcement became public knowledge.

"This is saying to the nation that the USF is worthy of national attention, and we've worked so long for that," said Adams.

R. Scott Phillips, longtime managing director of the festival, added that "it's an incredible honor. It's like we've reached the pinnacle of something that's both deeply profound and very rewarding. All those years of struggling have paid off."

Contacted late Monday afternoon, Phillips said e-mails, floral bouquets, telegrams and telephone calls had been pouring into their offices from friends and colleagues all across the country.

"But this is not just here and now, it's a tribute to the thousands of actors and directors who have worked here in the past," Phillips said. "I couldn't be more thrilled. This is a terrific honor for us, and especially for Fred, but also for the state and the region.

"I just got a call from the Los Angeles Times," he said. "You can't buy that kind of publicity."

"We're looking forward to being at Radio City Music Hall in New York City for the Tony Awards presentation on June 4," Phillips added.

The 300-plus actors, artisans and directors for the upcoming Utah Shakespearean Festival season began gathering in Cedar City last weekend and had their first company meeting on Monday morning, when Adams told the group -- assembled in the Randall L. Jones Theatre -- that the festival was being awarded the Tony.

"They jumped and whooped and hollered," said Phillips, "and Fred was extremely emotional. It's been a labor of love for him, and now, to get this honor, it was extremely moving."

The Tony Award includes a medallion, which will be displayed -- at least temporarily -- in the Randall foyer. The festival will also receive a check for $25,000.

"I suspect that will be earmarked toward the festival's expansion project," said Phillips.

"The festival's board of governors just had a retreat, and it was agreed that they're going to step up the capital campaign to raise funds for the project. They're committed to raising the $55 million needed to get the center built. With our 40th anniversary next year, some good things are starting to come together." The project will include moving the old Adams Theater and building a Shakespearean Center for the Performing Arts.

"I suspect that most of your readers know what the Tonys are, although they're not as mainstream as the Oscars, but to those of us in theater, it's what we all work to achieve," said Phillips.

Adams noted that shortly after he made the announcement, one of his longtime colleagues -- Kathleen F. Conlin, who is casting director for the festival -- said, "Now we have to work even harder."

Joining Adams and Phillips on stage in New York City for the presentation will be Cameron Harvey and Douglas N. Cook, the festival's producing artistic directors, and Sue Cox, chairwoman of the festival's board of governors.

The festival's 1999 season includes the world premieres of two works -- Adams' new adaptation of "Peter Pan," with original music by Brian Baker and Christine Frezna, both of whom have worked with the festival for many years; and Howard Jensen's "The War of the Roses," an adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Henry VI" trilogy.

The latter will be staged in the outdoor Adams Memorial Theatre, along with "The Merchant of Venice" and "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

In addition to "Peter Pan," two other productions playing in repertory in the Randall theater will be "Noises Off" and Anton Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard."

For its 40th anniversary season, Phillips announced that the festival will mount Shakespeare's "Tempest," "Julius Caesar" and "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" in the outdoor venue, and Eugene O'Neal's "Ah, Wilderness," "Arsenic and Old Lace" and Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" in the Randall -- with Fred Adams playing the role of the Major General.