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Theatrical offerings opening on Utah stages this week

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The first production in Heritage Community Theatre's 31st season, the second mainstage entry in this summer's Utah Musical Theatre lineup and Utah's first visit by the Saigon Water Puppet Theatre troupe are among this week's new theatrical offerings.

For details on the regional premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, "Wit," see today's Sunday Arts section cover.

"THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN," Meredith Willson's rags-to-riches musical set in the Old West, will be presented by Utah Musical Theatre during Ogden's Pioneer Days celebration.

Aileen Quinn, who was the red-headed orphan in the first movie version of "Annie," will play feisty Molly Brown, who survived the sinking of the Titanic and turned Denver society on its ear. Molly's adventurous husband, Johnny "Leadville" Brown, will be played by Robert Mammana.

At the age of 8, Quinn became a swing orphan in the original Broadway production of "Annie," and within a year she was signed to play the title role in the film version, opposite Albert Finney and Carol Burnett.

After touring and promoting the film worldwide, Quinn worked on some television cartoon specials ("The Charmkins" and "The Wizard of Oz") and appeared in several regional-theater productions during high school and college. She also played the role of Princess Zora in "Frog Prince," which airs frequently on the Disney Channel. After graduating with honors from Drew University, Quinn performed in two national touring productions, Theodore Bikel's "Fiddler on the Roof" and Cathy Rigby's "Peter Pan," and starred in two off-Broadway productions.

Performances of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" will be 7:30 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays, July 18-29, in Peery's Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden. There will also be four matinees at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays. All seating is reserved. Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for students and senior citizens and may be purchased in advance from the Dee Events Center box office (626-8500 or 1-888-WSU-TIKS), or at the Egyptian Theater, 395-3227.

The Utah Musical Theatre series also features the 1940s musical revue "The All-Night Strut," playing in WSU's Browning Center in repertory with the mainstage Egyptian Theater productions. "Molly Brown" will be followed by "1776," playing Aug. 8-19.

THE SAIGON WATER PUPPET THEATRE, considered to be a Vietnamese treasure, will stop at Sundance Summer Theatre, July 27-Aug. 12, for 22 performances on the King Stage.

Currently on a worldwide tour, the ensemble consists of 20 musicians and puppeteers, bringing the time-honored tradition of puppetry on water to Utah.

The art form is more than 1,000 years old and offers a glimpse of Vietnamese culture and tradition through a series of short vignettes portraying life in and the folklore of the fishing and farming villages of Vietnam, accompanied by music played on centuries-old instruments.

During a recent stop in Edmonton, Canada, Shelly Decker, a reviewer for the Edmonton Sun, said, "From its spark-spitting, water-squirting dragons to its splashing birds, the Saigon Water Puppet Theatre of Vietnam provides a window into the life of this complex Asian nation."

Performances will be 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Wednesdays-Saturdays. Tickets for general admission seating are $5 for children 11 and under, and $7 for adults.

In connection with the production, three music and puppetry workshops will be held at 2 p.m., following the matinee performances on Aug. 5, 11 and 12; admission is $3 (with the purchase of performance tickets). Tickets are available in advance from the Sundance box office (225-4100) or all Smith'sTix outlets.

THE SUNDANCE WOMEN'S SERIES will host a visit by Zelda Fichandler during a luncheon and discussion on Tuesday, July 18, at Sundance.

Fichlander is best known for her work as founding director of the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. She has received numerous awards for her work in theater and this year was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame — the first artistic leader outside of New York City to receive the honor.

She will lead an open discussion at the luncheon, which will begin at noon.

Admission is $25 per person, with a portion of the profits benefiting a charity of Fichlander's choice. Reservations are limited and must be made in advance by calling Shauna at 223-4078.

The Sundance Women's Series is a quarterly program designed to celebrate the women of Utah while addressing issues faced by today's busy women. In addition to the arts, other topics have included politics, parenting, cooking, fashion, decorating, current events and women's issues.

"KISS AND TELL," F. Hugh Herbert's 1943 Broadway comedy, will play July 21-Aug. 12 in the Heritage Community Theatre in Perry.

Guest-directed by JaceSon Parker Barrus of the Hale Centre Theatre, the World War II comedy follows the chaos in 15-year-old Corliss Archer's home, where she's involved in a hilarious case of mistaken identity while attempting to keep from revealing her brother's secret. (The original Broadway production's claim to fame was attracting public attention to two future Hollywood stars — Kirk Douglas and Richard Widmark.)

Performances will be 8 p.m., Mondays, Fridays & Saturdays July 21-Aug. 12, with one matinee at 2 p.m. on July 29. Tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and children. For reservations, call 1-435-723-8392.

"APRIL ANN,"one of Ruth and Nathan Hales' popular comedies, will play July 21 & 22 at the Hale Summer Playhouse in Grover. Performances are 8 p.m. For tickets, call 1-435-425-3589.

CHAMELEONS, THE WHODUNIT COMPANY,will present a murder-mystery dinner at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 21, at Snowbird Resort. Tickets for the audience-participation mystery and dinner are $35 per person, with a choice of four entrees. Advance reservations are required. Call 933-2110 for tickets.

Information on stage productions or auditions must be submitted at least two weeks in advance. Compiled by Ivan M. Lincoln, Deseret News theater editor, 1-801-236-6017. Send material to Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110 (Attn: Ivan Lincoln), or send it via e-mail: ivan@desnews.com or fax to 1-801-237-2550.