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Deseret Morning News archives
The late Robert Peterson, center, in one of his many performances as "The Man of La Mancha."

After 39 years at the Deseret News, it's time to move on. I'm retiring Friday.

My first two decades here are pretty much a blur — a few months on the general assignment desk ... a year or two consigned to the "back shop" making sure last-minute stuff got to the presses ... seven or so years on the copy desk editing stories and writing headlines.

The past 20-plus years have more adventurous, covering Utah's ever expanding live theater beat along with occasional circuses and a few theatrically oriented concerts.

Before I exit stage left, most of my friends just want to know about my all-time favorite (or not-so-favorite) shows, personalities and stories.

That simplifies things. Following are some lists, containing both genuine favorites mixed in with guilty pleasures. The titles and names are not necessarily in top-to-bottom order.


1. "Les Miserables"

2. "Ragtime: The Musical"

3. "Pirated" (also known as "The Pirated Penzance")

4. "The Ark"

5. "Camelot" (the original national tour in San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House where I first saw a young chap I had never heard of — Robert Peterson)

6. "Forever Plaid"

7. "1776"

8. "The Most Happy Fella"

9. "Lend Me a Tenor" (the Utah Shakespearean Festival's recent musical version of the comedy)

10. "West Side Story"

Other strong contenders: "Big River," "Shenandoah," "The Fantasticks," "Brigadoon," "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "The Music Man," "Sweeney Todd," "South Pacific," "Man of La Mancha," "The Slipper and the Rose" and "Tomfoolery" (a revue based on comedian Tom Leher's hilarious songs)


1. "My Big Fat Utah Wedding"

2. "Noises Off"

3. "Pageant"

4. "Incorruptible"

5. "Waiting for Godot"

6. "Arsenic and Old Lace"

7. "The Foreigner"

8. "The Importance of Being Earnest" (in 2004 with Max Robinson as Lady Bracknell)

9. "The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of "A Christmas Carol"

10. "Misalliance"


1. " Hamlet"

2. "Stones in His Pockets"

3. "Conversations With My Father"

4. "The Laramie Project"

5. "Death of a Salesman"

6. "Arcadia"

7. "Molly Sweeney"

8. "The Diary of Anne Frank"

9. "Facing East"

10. "Master Class"


1. "42nd Street" (One of the first touring shows I covered at the Capitol Theatre. The star, the late Cathy Wydner, took my kids backstage afterward to show them the larger-than-life props.)

2. "Mamma Mia!"

3. "Miss Saigon"

4. "Wonderful Town"

5. "Hairspray"

6. "Sunset Boulevard"

7. "The Boy from Oz"

8. "Civil War: The Musical"

9. "Jekyll & Hyde"

10. "Aida"

A few others: "The Will Rogers Follies," "Love Letters," "Sunset Boulevard," "Thoroughly Modern Millie"


1. Robert Peterson

2. Fred C. Adams

3. Eugene Jelesnik

4. Carol Channing

5. Michael McLean

6. Debbie Reynolds

7. Ruth and Nathan Hale

8. Rosemary Clooney

9. Jim Christian

10. Patrick Page

Also directors Charles Morey, Larry West, Richard Scott, David Mong and playwrights Julie Jensen, Aden Ross, Mike Dorrell


1. Robert Peterson ("Man of La Mancha")

2. William Leach as Willy Loman ("Death of a Salesman," "King Lear")

3. David Spencer ("I Am My Own Wife")

4. Patrick Page ("Cyrano de Bergerac," "Richard III," "Henry V," etc.)

5. Anne Cullimore Decker ("Master Class")

6-7 (tie). Brian Vaughn and David Ivers ("Stones in His Pockets")

8. Jayne Luke ("Facing East" and "Big Love")

9. Erica Hansen ("Always ... Patsy Cline")

10. Catherine Clark Reilly ("The Belle of Amherst")


1. "Zorro" (the 2004 travesty that probably lead to the demise of Weber State University's Utah Musical Theatre)

2. "A Day, a Night and a Day"

3. "Zorba: The Musical"

4. "From Japan to Plaza-Toro" (a truly tedious Gilbert & Sullivan "revue")

5. "Oliver" (the 2004 national tour)

6. "Little Women" (1999 at the Grand)

7. "Phantom of the Opera" (not Andrew Lloyd Webber's spectacle but a mediocre 1989-90 touring rip-off)

8. "Utah!"

9. "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (Tuacahn'S 2002 version that got sidetracked with very odd Holocaust references)

10. The long-gone TriadTheatre's "International Revue," which ended up going into extreme overtime largely due to a backstage nightmare that could rival "Noises Off"

E-mail: ivan@desnews.com