Look at it this way. If you couldn't get tickets to "Les Miserables," there are still some other musicals in the area that can help ease the pain.

Here's one man's view of three:PIONEER MEMORIAL THEATRE: Blurring the line between art and reality is a favorite game of visual artists. Mark Strand and Red Grooms did it in a children's book where a hungry kid lifts a piece of fruit from a Rembrandt painting. Filmmaker Akira Kurosawa did it in "Dreams," where a young man cavorts through the landscapes of van Gogh paintings.

But taking people who appear in a painting and giving them histories and secrets, that's a storyteller's fantasy.

And "Sunday in the Park With George," PMT's arty version of the Stephen Sondheim musical, offers a bit of both.

This is the story of Georges Seurat, the French painter. And if you're a Sondheim fan but have never seen this show, the only thing that won't surprise you is the fact there are dozens of surprises.

With a swipe of his hand, Seurat (played by Joel Fredericks) can make trees materialize and dogs disappear. This is life imitating art, imitating life, imitating art. The music is impressionistic, the story surreal and the props and scenery right out of a museum amusement park.

About the only thing that anchors this musical in reality is the acting. And, to be honest, one wouldn't mind seeing the cast members take flight a little more than they do.

Fredericks, an earnest, young Irish tenor, plays Seurat with a certain inner fire. The problem is the audience never quite feels the heat. When he calls "More red! More blue! More beer!!" it comes out like a haiku poem, not a burst of turbulence. Competent, quick, Fredericks does ignite from time to time, though he's quickly doused. In short, he's a little too much white wine and not enough vinegar.

What passion there is comes from Michael Mandell's "vulgar boatman" and Robert Peterson's robust rendition of Jules, a fellow artist.

Janet Metz is perky and fun as Seurat's mistress, and Margaret Crowell is her steady self; but for the most part this is rather heavy sledding.

When Frank Gerrish - in comic relief as an ugly American - says to his wife, "Paris doesn't look much like the paintings. I don't see no passion, do you?," I thought, "not much."

WEBER STATE: Meanwhile in Ogden, James C. Christian and his Performing Arts people have mounted "An Evening of One Act Plays." The first one, "Trouble in Tahiti," is a gem. The second "Echo Re-Echo," is a bauble.

"Trouble in Tahiti" is one of the better-kept secrets in American musical theater. Written by Leonard Bernstein, the score is fresh, invigorating and totally unpredictable.

This is the story of a couple lost in the labyrinth of marriage and the middle class; two people hoping to find their way back to "The Garden." It's "Paradise Lost" but never quite regained.

As you might expect with Bernstein, his music is so good it's hard to know what's tongue-in-cheek, what's a tip-of-the-hat to some past master. Whether or not it's tribute or parody, the jazz syncopation (a la Gershwin) and some of the scat numbers (done by Tera Wilde, Tim Goins and Bret Wheadon as a "Greek chorus" in tuxedoes and dinner dress) are good enough to stand on their own.

Greg Duffin (as Sam) and Narlene Mathie (as his wife, Dinah) sing with impressive seriousness and operatic quality here. Mathie has the show-stopper in the ballad "There Is a Garden." It's gorgeous. And Mathie not only makes it her own, she also gives it back to the audience enhanced. Wonderful stuff.

The second one-act, "Echo Re-Echo" by Valerie Dunlap, is more fun but also more superficial. A self-conscious avant-garde quality about the work wears thin. The show seems to date as you watch it.

It's a story about a young woman named Emma (Jodi Longstroth), a woman with an engineer's mentality but a lover's heart. In several flashbacks we meet her parents (Angela Cole and Rock White), meet her boy friend (Bret Wheadon) and - in the end - meet "the real her" (sort of).

Despite some fine student performances, the be-bop nature of the songs and the smart-mouthy lyrics don't quite cut it. We long to be back in that garden with Dinah.