`A Gift of Christmas': Church production moves to new theatero

Promised Valley Productions' "A Gift of Christmas," which has become a yuletide tradition in the Salt Lake area, will return again this year - but to a different theater.

Cast members, including former Broadway star Robert Peterson, will perform the seventh and final season of the musical production in the newly remodeled Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah.Director Charles Metten said he hopes that Church members will attend the production - not only because this is the last year it will be performed - but because there are several new scenes and lyrics. "We have made it much richer," he said. The ending of the show has been reworked to put more emphasis on the innkeeper as he finds the true meaning of Christmas.

"The Gift of Christmas is a great gift for the family," said Brother Metten.

The musical debuted in 1991 and has been performed in past years in Promised Valley Playhouse on State Street in downtown Salt Lake City. However, the theater closed last January because of structural concerns.

Parts of the musical have been reworked to fit the new, larger theater. However, its message remains the same: "finding the true meaning of Christmas."

In the musical, Robert Peterson portrays the innkeeper who turns Mary and Joseph away, just hours before the birth of the Jesus Christ.

During the production, the innkeeper is taken - with the help of young children - on a magical adventure; from his Bethlehem inn to a modern-day Christmas, to Santa's workshop, to an elementary school pageant, to Dickens' 19th Century London, and back to the stable and the Savior's birth.

The children then show the innkeeper the consequence of his actions and help him learn the real meaning of Christmas, explained Brother Metten, a Church service missionary.

"He tells Mary and Joseph to go away and then he realizes that he has made a mistake," he said. " How he gets back to the stable and faces Mary is the story that we are telling."

Brother Metten said the innkeeper represents people today.

"The show sends the message that unless you become like a little child you are not going to find peace and happiness," he said.

Produced by the Church's theatrical production company, "A Gift of Christmas" will open Friday Dec. 12 and run Tuesdays through Saturdays until Dec. 31. Matinees are scheduled Dec. 13, 24, 26 and 27.

Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and matinee curtain time in 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $8 to $15 and can be obtained at Kingsbury Hall box office (801-581-7100) or at all ArtTix outlets which include the Capital Theatre box office located at 50 W. 200 South and select Albertsons stores in the Salt Lake Valley.

Kingsbury Hall is located at 1350 E. 200 South in Salt Lake City. Free parking is available on the University of Utah campus.

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