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Musicals, comedies to open

2 of the plays feature Utah frontier settings

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Three musicals (two with frontier Utah settings) and two comedies are among this week's new theatrical openings in the region.

PROMISED VALLEY, first staged in 1947 in the University of Utah football stadium to commemorate the centennial of the arrival of the Mormon Pioneers, is being revived — and scaled down — for a "Days of '47" run in the Social Hall at This Is the Place Heritage Park's Old Deseret Village. Appropriately, it's being performed by Michael Bennett's recently revived Deseret Dramatic Association, patterned after a troupe of players founded in the 1850s by Brigham Young.

For nearly three decades, "Promised Valley" was a summer season mainstay in downtown Salt Lake City — first at an amphitheater adjacent to the old Hotel Utah, then several summers in the restored Lyric Theatre (renamed Promised Valley Playhouse).

In recent years, though, "Promised Valley" — except for an occasional community theater production around the area — gave way to a series of newly written LDS Church musicals with more contemporary themes.

Bennett anticipates that, next year, a planned amphitheater at This Is the Place Heritage Park will be finished in time to move "Promised Valley" back outdoors, with full-scale staging. But for this summer, with the limited size of the Social Hall stage, he's scaling it back somewhat. He assures local audiences, however, that all of the familiar music will be there — just not as many dancers and singers.

Performances will include a preshow Dutch oven cookout with live pioneer music in the nearby bowery. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., followed by the production at 7:30. Performances are Monday-Saturday, July 16-21, and Monday and Tuesday, July 23 and 24. Tickets, including the dinner, are $20 for adults and $10 for children, 3-11 years of age. Seating is limited and advance reservations are required. Call 582-1847 to reserve tickets.

BANDS OF IRON, RINGS OF GOLD, unlike "Promised Valley," is completely fictional. But it's an entertaining look at life in frontier Utah when a small town is torn apart by the pros and cons of the arrival of the railroad.

Written by Pat Davis and Kenneth Plain as part of the celebration of Utah's statehood centennial in 1996, it's being staged July 19-Aug. 14 as a coproduction of Salt Lake Community College and the Taylorsville Arts Council as part of the valley's "Days of '47" celebration.

The title is derived from the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads uniting the country with "bands of iron," while one of the railroad proponents is returning to a Utah town with a "band of gold" for a woman he met more than 10 years earlier. Now a widow with a 7-year-old son, he hopes to marry her, although they have differing views on the impact the trains will have on the community when the rail line is completed.

"It strikes a sympathetic parallel to the anxieties some Utahns feel towards the pressure the state will have next winter," says coproducer/publicist Margaret Aoki of SLCC. "Just as the railroad did more than 100 years ago, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games promise to bring changes and excitement to our relatively quiet community."

Beth Bruner is directing the musical. Her cast includes Kristen Kittel as Cordy Jackson, the widowed young woman, and Curtis Simmons as Pearson Day, the man who has suddenly come back into her life.

Chad Davis is scenery designer for the show.

Greenshow entertainment, including storytelling, music and other activities, will begin at 7 p.m. on the lawns surrounding the Alder Amphitheater on SLCC's Redwood campus. Curtain for the mainstage production is 8 p.m.

Tickets are $6 for adults, $3 for students, senior citizens and children, or $15 for a family pass. Tickets will be available at the gate. For further information, call 957-4232 or 262-4705.

GREATER TUNA, the off Broadway comedy hit, will replace the previously announced "Hope Springs Eternal" in the Villa Playhouse's intimate Little Brown Theatre, 239 S. Main, Springville.

Sharing the 20 characters, all of whom live in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas (allegedly the state's third smallest community), are Dane Allred and Scott Tarbet. In addition to portraying the DJs at the town's rather weird radio station, they also play a variety of eclectic characters — men, women, children, even animals.

Performances will be Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for students and senior citizens, and $6 for children, 11 and under. For reservations, call 489-3988.

THE GROOM SAID NO, a family comedy — and one of Ruth and Nathan Hale's early scripts — is being staged for two nights, July 20 and 21, at the Hale Summer Playhouse, a rustic venue on the Hale family's ranch near Grover.

Sherry Brian, who coordinates the Playhouse's summer season, said this comedy is about a fellow who comes home from World War II. A young girl has been waiting for him, and she's convinced that he's going to marry her. She's spent all of her time getting her trousseau ready in anticipation of their wedding — although none of his letters have implied that he's going to marry her. (In the meantime, he's fallen in love with a nurse he met in the Navy).

Sally Hale is directing. Performances will be 8 onboth nights. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children. Seating is not reserved. There is a $1 discount per person for groups of 25 or more. To order tickets in advance, call 785-8123 (Orem) prior to the weekend, or 1-435-425-3589 on days of the show.

CINDERELLA, Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical based on the beloved fairy tale, will be presented July 19-24 at Spanish Fork High School by the Spanish Fork Community Theater. Elaine Hansen is directing the production, with Richard Lunt conducting the orchestra.

There is a "presale" discount for tickets purchased in advance. These tickets, $6 each, are available from Artistic Floral and Boothe Brothers. Tickets purchased at the door will be $7 for adults, $6 for children and senior citizens, and $30 for an "immediate family" pass. Performances are 7:30 p.m. on July 19-21, 23 and 25, with one matinee (but no evening performance) at 4 p.m. on July 24.


Information on stage productions or auditions must be submitted at least three weeks in advance. Compiled by Ivan M. Lincoln, Deseret News theater editor, 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 237-2550.