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The top 10 arts and entertainment stories of 2017

SALT LAKE CITY — Art is alive and well in Utah.

This past year saw major improvements and upgrades in many local arts groups across the state. Not only did Hale Centre Theatre completely relocate to accommodate a bigger audience, but Ballet West made a $3 million investment to upgrade its popular production of "The Nutcracker" to meet modern times.

Many Utahns also starred in, created or produced nationally recognized works of art. To start, Elizabeth Smart produced and narrated a Lifetime movie based on the story of her life while in captivity. Dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling finished second place on "Dancing with the Stars," and bestselling fantasy author Brandon Sanderson released the third book in his popular Stormlight series.

But that isn't all. Food also took center stage, with Deseret News writers visiting and reviewing many local restaurants throughout the state.

Here are the top 10 arts and entertainment stories of 2017, as chosen by the Deseret News Arts and Entertainment team.

The new Hale Centre Theatre opens.

Hale Centre Theatre said hello to its new home at the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre in Sandy on Nov. 16 with a performance of Elton John's and Tim Rice's "Aida." The venue was previously located in West Valley City, but the founders decided it was time to move when the theater "started to sell out," according to HCT president and CEO Mark Dietlin. The new theater is 122,300 square feet and includes a 467-seat, 11-row proscenium thrust stage and a 900-seat, 10-row theater-in-the-round.

Read more here.

The Elizabeth Smart movie premieres on Lifetime.

A movie about Elizabeth Smart's life called "I Am Elizabeth Smart" premiered on Lifetime on Nov. 18. The movie chronicled her life from when she was taken from her home on June 5, 2002, to when she was found almost a year later on March 12, 2003. Smart told the Deseret News the film which she helped produce was "the best movie I never want to see." "Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography," a two-part documentary about her life, premiered on A&E a week before the movie was televised.

Read more here.

Popular Utah author Brandon Sanderson releases his third book.

Best-selling Utah author Brandon Sanderson released the third book in his 10-book Stormlight series called "Oathbringer." Ahead of the release, he spoke with the Deseret News' Justin Carmony about his new book, his writing process and his Mormon faith. In the interview, Sanderson told Carmony that growing up as one of the only Mormon kids in his community helped him to get into the heads of many of the "outsiders" he writes into his books.

Read more here.

Ballet West upgrades popular Christmas tradition just in time for the holidays.

Christmas would not be complete without a performance of "The Nutcracker," but this year, Ballet West took it to a different level. The local ballet company spent $3 million to update the popular production — the longest running in the country — complete with a more whimsical set and more elaborate costumes. Ballet West’s artistic director Adam Sklute said it was time for the 30-year-old production to adopt a more modern approach.

"As beautiful as our old production was, it was nearly 30 years old," Sklute told the Deseret News. "It took enormous amounts of money and time and energy every year just to make it presentable to the level that we wanted for our audiences."

Read more here.

KBYU's Classical 89 goes off the air.

After 72 years of broadcasting classical hits from Provo all across the nation, the music will soon be stopped. In October of this year, BYU Broadcasting announced that Classical 89 KBYU-FM will be cut from the airwaves. Amid growing concerns over the change, Michael Dunn, the managing of director of BYU Broadcasting, told the Deseret News that the decision was a strategic, and not a personal, one.

"It’s not anything about 'I'm against classical music,'" said Dunn. "It's just that with these assets that we have, we have to look at the highest and best use of those."

Read more here.

Utah's chocolate scene continues to grow.

Utahns love their chocolate. The state is home to nine artisan chocolate makers, one of which launched in June. Representatives from some of the local chocolatiers shared their story and passion for the delicacy with the Deseret News earlier this year. Robbie Stout of Ritual Chocolate said the unique location of Salt Lake City allows them to reach customers all over the world.

Matt Caputo, CEO of Tony Caputo’s Market and Deli, also shared his philosophy with the Deseret News on how he keeps his chocolate "a priori."

Read more here.

Utahns compete in national TV competitions.

Utahns took the nation by storm this year, with a number of contestants with ties to the state appearing in and taking home many top honors on national television. There is Provo teen Aaliyah Rose who made it to the live playoffs of NBC's "The Voice." She got the chance to work with both Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani.

There is also Salt Lake attorney Betsy Knudson who won $38,601 on Jeopardy, Utahn Sierra Dawn Thomas who returned for a second time on "Survivor: Game Changers," and Karson Voiles from West Haven who competed in Season 9 of NBC's "American Ninja Warrior."

We also can't forget famed dancing violinist Lindsey Stirling who finished second on "Dancing with the Stars." She even received a perfect score on a classic foxtrot she performed with dancing companion Mark Ballas in October.

Read more here.

Utah actors who starred in the "best worst movie" as children share their stories.

Not every movie has to be great to go down in the history books. "Troll 2," a strange tale which chronicles the story of a family attempting to escape a goblin who wants to turn them into plants, was filmed in Utah in 1989. Since then, it has earned the title as one of the "best worst movies" ever filmed. Two Utah-based actors that starred in the film as teenagers opened up to the Deseret News about the benefits and regrets of working on the project.

Read more here.

'The Book of Mormon' musical returns to Utah.

The award-winning musical which debuted on Broadway in 2011 came to Salt Lake City on Aug. 1 for the second time in two years. Some Deseret News readers told us they thought the show was "offensive" and "irreverent." Others thought it was "just a fun night out." Tim Allen even had his own thoughts on the matter, sharing with the Deseret News that he almost walked out of the musical because he thought it was "horrible" and not funny at all.

Read more here.

Deseret News writers ate and reviewed some of the best food in Salt Lake City.

Utah's capital may be called "Salt Lake City," but it sure is known for some of its sweets as well. Deseret News staff members spent an afternoon tasting some of Salt Lake's most well-known desserts — including the gelato at Harmon's, the chocolate truffle cake at Eva's Bakery and the strawberry ring at Gourmandise — and lived to tell the tale. We shared our experiences, complete with photos of all our stops on the tour, online.

But that's not all — we also reviewed a number of ice cream shops and pizza parlors all along the Wasatch Front as well.

Read more here.