Three stage productions opening this week are geared toward youths and their families:

"FOOTLOOSE: THE MUSICAL," the Broadway stage version of the filmed-in-Utah County movie, opens Saturday in Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City, where it continues through Sept. 1.

JaceSon Parker Barrus is directing a double-cast ensemble that includes Daniel Tarasevich and Cameron Hansen as renegade city slicker Ren McCormack, and Erin Royall and Emily Morgan Jeppson as Ariel Moore, the preacher's daughter. David Weekes and Mark Dietlein alternate as the Rev. Shaw Moore, who is adamantly opposed to dancing, with Fawna Gillette Jones and Gayle Hayes Castleton as his wife. Rounding out the principal players are Jeff Tuke and Jon Copier as Willard Hewitt, and Natalie Dixon and Erin Royall (when she's not playing Arial) as Rusty.

The state-of-the-art theater is showcasing an assortment of special staging and lighting effects, including a unique tracking system built into the stage that will seamlessly transform it from a Chicago night club into a small town chapel, from a drive-in restaurant into a family kitchen, and from a gas station (complete with pumps and cars) into a country-western dance club.

In a switch from the usual tape-recorded accompaniment, "Footloose" will feature a live, five-piece band, led by pianist Kelly DeHaan, the show's musical director. Marilyn May Montgomery is choreographing the show, with set design by Andrew Barrus, lighting by Spencer Brown, costumes by Scott Michelson and sound by Mike Williams.

Performances will be 7:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, with Saturday matinees at 12:30 and 4 p.m. Tickets range from $14-$21. For reservations, call 984-9000, visit the box office at 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive or log onto www.halecentretheatre.com.

"LES MISERABLES: THE SCHOOL EDITION," adapted especially for school-age performers from the long-running Broadway and touring musical, will have a limited engagement at the SCERA Shell amphitheater in Provo. It opens Thursday and continues through July 25, with performances at 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays-Saturdays. Jayne Luke is directing and choreographing the all-youth ensemble.

With a limited budget and resources, this "Les Miz" won't have the expensive scenery and costumes local audiences have seen in the national touring production. Instead, Luke is directing the show from the perspective of youths coming onto the stage, seeing costumes and props, and deciding to dress up and do a play about very adult themes.

The cast includes Caleb Parry as Jean Valjean, Adam Walton as Inspector Javert, Marissa Smith as Young Cosette, Denika Spann as the grown-up Cosette, Heidi Magill as Fantine, Megan Durrant as Eponine, Dillan Conrad as Gavroche, Riley Soter as Marius, and Tiffany Smithee and Nicholas J. Frandsen as the Thenardiers.

Tickets are $9 for adults and $5 for children. For reservations, call 435-225-2569 or 225-2787.

"JOHN LENNON AND ME," playwright-author Cherie Bennett's comedy-drama about a girl with cystic fibrosis — and based on her 1993 novel "Good-bye, Best Friend" — will have its regional premiere this week.

It will be presented by the University of Utah Youth Theatre on the Babcock stage of Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, where it opens Wednesday and continues through July 19 on Tuesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., with two Saturday matinees at 2 p.m.

Barbara Smith is directing a multigenerational cast of U. Youth Theatre students, U. students and local theater professionals. Bennett and her husband, dramaturg Jeff Gottesfeld, are serving as artists-in-residence for the summer Theatre School for Youth program. Bennett will be in Salt Lake City through Aug. 2. She and her husband are teaching playwriting classes and workshopping Bennett's newest play, "A Heart Divided."

The actors and the director have also been researching cystic fibrosis, including meeting with volunteers from Primary Children's Medical Center.

The cast for this production includes Maren Ritter and Alexis Verson, who are double-cast as the central character of Star, a young Hollywood wannabe and Beatles fan whose hope for stardom is stymied by cystic fibrosis. Also in the ensemble are Cassie Crockett as Star's roommate, Courtney; Chris Eckels as Jeff, her first crush; and Shelby Andersen, Nella Holden and Andrew Gorang in other roles.

Bennett will be present for post-play discussions and book signings following the first week's evening performances.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youths, 18 and under. They're available through all ArtTix locations (581-7100 or 355-2787).


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