Theater openings this week are centered on four of Utah's university campuses - "Sunday in the Park with George" at the U. of U.; "Hello, Dolly!" at SUU in Cedar City; Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" at USU, Logan, and an evening of one-act musicals, including Leonard Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti," at WSU in Ogden.

- "SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE," Stephen Sondheim's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, inspired by the life of French pointillist painter Georges Seurat, close the Pioneer Theatre Company 1990-91 season.The musical, co-authored with librettist James Lapine, had a long run on Broadway. The PTC run coincides with the 100th anniversary year of the artist's death.

The show is considered one of Sondheim's most personally challenging scores. In typical Sondheim fashion, it's an intelligent musical that is rich with visual and verbal resonance.

Seurat was born in 1859 and died in 1891. His technique of applying tiny dots of brilliant color made an indelible impression on the art world.

The inspiration for the Sondheim-Lapine musical is "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte." The collaborators, using the painting as a starting point, have created a fictionalized account of Seurat's life and work.

The first act focuses on Seurat and his relationship with his with his model and mistress. The second act jumps to present-day New York and his great-grandson's confrontation with the same issues faced by his famous ancestor.

Director Allen R. Belknap's cast includes Robert Peterson, Margaret Crowell, Frank Gerrish, Anne Stewart Mark and Helen Morrison, along with Michael Mandell (last seen locally as Jim in PTC's "Big River").

Equity players from New York in major roles include Joel Fredericks and Janet Metz as George and Dot, and Alfred Lakeman, Lynn Eldredge, Kim Moore and Steve Gray. Other cast members are Janine Lindsay, Berit Anne Wingel, Rebecca Holt, Dorothy Briggs Arnold, Camille Bailey and Sam Stith.

"Sunday in the Park With George" opens Wednesday, May 1, and will continue nightly at 8 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. There will also be matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays. For ticket information or reservations, call 581-6961.

- AN EVENING OF ONE-ACT MUSICALS will play Tuesday through Saturday, April 30-May 4, at 7:30 p.m. in the Monson Theatre of the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts at Weber State University.

James Christian is directing both productions - Leonard Bernstein's domestic opera, "Trouble in Tahiti" and Valerie Dunlap's a cappella musical, "Echo Re-Echo."

The first is "a glimpse at a marriage in crisis, a couple going in opposite directions, and the forgotten love within their marriage," said Christian, while the second is about a contemporary woman who is journeying through a process of self-discovery as she tries to hear her own voice amid the echoes of hundreds of other voices of people who have helped shape her life.

Narlene Mathie and Greg Duffin will play the couple in the Bernstein production, with Jodi Longstroth as Emma, the central character in the Dunlop piece.

Other cast members in the second piece, who create sound effects and portray the various people in Emma's life, are Tera Wilde, Tim Goins, Bret Wheadon, Rock White, Angela Cole, Brian Bon, Jeni Carver, Lori Schoonmaker, Ryan Kemp, Jenifer Arnett and Vondel Hathaway.

General admission is $2 for adults and $1 for students. Tickets are available in advance from the Dee Events Center box office, Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or at the door prior to performance.

- "HELLO, DOLLY!," one of the longest running shows in Broadway history, is opening this week in the Randall L. Jones Theatre at Southern Utah University.

Director Roger Bean's cast for the turn-of-the-century musical extravaganza includes April Black and R. Matthew Benton as matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi and miserly Horace Vandergelder.

Other performers include Deven S. May and Buddy Waters as Cornelius and Barnaby, the two young men anxious to get out of Yonkers for a night on the town in New York, with Janae Koralewski as Irene Malloy and Bets Malone as Minnie Fay.

Performances will be Thursdays through Saturdays, May 2-4 and 9-11, at 8 p.m. For reservations call the SUU theater box office at 586-7878.

- "THE MERCHANT OF VENICE," one of William Shakespeare's most popular comedies, is being presented by Utah State Theatre May 2-11.

The comedy, according to director Lynda Linford, is the story of Bassanio, a young man who cannot afford to woo Portia, a wealthy young woman. So Bassanio's loyal friend Antonio, a successful businessman, approaches the lender Shylock, a successful Jewish businessman, to secure a loan - not guaranteed by 10 percent or even 50 percent interest but by a pound of flesh. Complications arise and repayment is overdue as Shylock prepares to collect.

The locale for the play is Venice, which gives the work a cosmopolitan, international flavor, Linford said.

"We are repositioning the time to 1865, the beginning of the American reconstruction period, a time with almost intoxicating expenditure," Linford said. "It was a period of great indebtedness."

Linford's cast includes guest artist Peter Temple, an Equity actor with experience at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival in Oregon, who will play Shylock. Also in the cast are Lorelle Peterson (Portia), Gary Arave (Antonio), A.J. Seims (Bassanio) and Brad Toby Tyler (Prince of Morocco).

Linford's production will highlight issues she feels are pertinent to contemporary audiences.

"Everyone knows what discrimination means," Linford said. "This play has themes of religious, racial, national and economic prejudice. It shows the physical manifestation of intolerance."

Performances will be Thursdays-Saturdays, May 2-4 and 9-11 in the Morgan Theatre of the Chase Fine Arts Center at Utah State University. Curtain is 8 p.m. There will also be a matinee on May 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the USU Smith Spectrum Ticket Office and or at the door. Admission is $6.50 for adults, $5.50 for senior citizens, USU faculty/staff and youths, and $3.25 for USU students (and dependents age 18 and under). Students must have valid activity cards. Group rates are available.