Justin R. Barton and Vaud E. Masarsky opened the Gaslight Dinner Theater on 28 May 1976 with Gale Storm starring in Abe Burrows’ comedy, Cactus Flower. “Owners and operators had to paint and build almost to the opening hour and consequently weren’t quite prepared for the first show.” Some food didn’t arrive for the banquet and scenery changes were slow.[1, 4]
The Gaslight claimed to be the only year-round Star-System Dinner Theater in the Intermountain area. Theater managers worked with the Actor’s Equity Association to have a recognized star heading the cast of each production. Actors appearing at the Gaslight included Bob Denver, Broderick Crawford, Imogene Coca, Sid Caesar, Loretta Swit, Ken Berry, and Jim Hutton.[3, 5]
The theater seated 440 patrons. All seats had “excellent sightlines to the stage” with “no balconies or seats with obstructed views,” possibly a comparison to Tiffany’s Dinner Theatre Restaurant which opened earlier that same year.
Deseret News critic Howard Pearson described the Gaslight as “functional and a comfortable and convenient facility. It is a miniature of a Las Vegas showroom, without having the tables so close together that patrons cannot move. It is an open and delightful theater.”
A gourmet buffet preceded each show and both were offered for one fixed price. Dinner was served from 7 to 8 PM, followed by a show at 8:30 PM. Matinees on Wednesday and Saturday featured a luncheon buffet. The menu for “Cactus Flower” included Steamship Round, Moussaka, Chicken Veronique, Crab Casserole a la Francaise, and an international salad bar.[3, 8]
Mary Chase, general manager, explained the dinner theater concept as “a compromise between art and economics. Theatre in America has been forced to decentralize by rising costs. Where once quality, professional productions could wait in large metropolitan areas expecting the market to come to the theatre, today theatre has learned it has to go after its market.”
On 10 May 1977, associate producer Adam Gregor announced that the Gaslight would close immediately.
"It is with great regret that we announce the closing of the Gaslight Dinner Theater. There will be no more performances. High production costs for the high caliber of star shows required a greater percentage of attendance than we regularly received. We want to thank our customers for their past patronage and also to thank others who supported us."
The sudden closing came as the theater was nearing its first anniversary. Local sources told the Deseret News that plans had been made to remodel the exterior of the showhouse with a “new look.”
Patrons with worthless advance tickets appealed to the newspapers, county attorney and the Utah Attorney General's office for help. 200 had complained to the State Trade Commission by 28 June 1977. Unfortunately, owners of the dinner theater were required to pay secured creditors before refunding any ticket money.[6, 7]
1. "Gaslight Names 3 to Staff", Deseret News, 10 May 1976, page A11
2. "Director for Gaslight Here", Deseret News, 17 May 1976, page A15
3. "Gaslight Theatre Opens Friday", Daily Herald, 23 May 1976, page 43
4. "Gaslight Conquers Opening Problems", Deseret News, 29 May 1976, page W4
5. "Gaslight is Closed", Deseret News, 10 May 1977, page C8
6. "Tiffany's Owners Want to Reopen But Lack Insurance", Deseret News, 13 May 1977, page B2
7. "Ticket Refund Chances Slim", Deseret News, 28 June 1977, page A12
8. "'Robin Hood' Closing Early", Deseret News, 12 August 1980, page C7