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(Photo illustration by Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) What would your last meal of choice be for the end of the world?
Radio head: Doug Fabrizio finds a new voice as Sherlock Holmes

RadioWest host takes on the mystery of the world’s most famous detective.

First Published Dec 15 2012 01:01 am • Last Updated Apr 08 2013 11:33 pm

If Doug Fabrizio ever were to interview himself on RadioWest — not that he would want to, he says, because he rambles too much — he probably would ask to hear the story about the stone hearth.

When he was 10, his parents took him to a production of the perky patriotic musical "George M!" at Valley Music Hall. It was just a high-school production, but he was star-struck by the razzle-dazzle. Later, when

At a glance

Another ‘Sherlock’

“Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle,” adapted as a radio play by Utah playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett for Plan-B Theatre Company. Doug Fabrizio will voice Sherlock Holmes, with Bill Allred as Watson, and Jay Perry and Jason Tatom as everyone else. The show is directed by Cheryl Ann Cluff, with foley sound effects by Mark and Eric Robinette.

When » Tuesday, Dec. 18, 7 and 8:30 p.m.; the 7 p.m. performance will be broadcast live on KUER, 90.1FM.

Where » Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center’s Jeanné Wagner Theatre, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City.

Tickets » $10-$20. Call 801-355-ARTS or visit www.planbtheatre.org for more information.

Info » At press time, the only tickets available were balcony tickets for the 8:30 p.m. show.

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he got home, he noticed that the fireplace hearth, with its raised ledge and its three overhead spotlights — well, it was a kind of stage! As long as he didn’t take big steps in any direction, he could put on his own "George M!" right there in the basement.

He recruited his sister and some neighborhood kids for the supporting roles and he became the leading man, as well as the director, the producer and the guy who turned the lights on and off. It was the first of many plays staged in the Fabrizios’ Bountiful home.

If Doug Fabrizio ever were to interview himself — not that he would want to, because he’s not very interesting, he says — the first question he would ask would go something like this: "You’ve said, Doug Fabrizio, that you wanted to be an actor but you chickened out. Talk about that, if you would."

­­—

Leaning forward » For as long as Fabrizio can remember, he wanted to perform. At 5, according to his mother, he came home from the doctor’s office, got one of her white shirts, put it on backward and acted out the part of the nurse. He was the kid who, at 7, took a broom, wrapped some white material around the handle and pretended it was a microphone.

He acted at Viewmont High and then enrolled in theater classes at the University of Utah. But in the end, he was too afraid to go to New York City to find work as an actor. Instead, he stayed in Utah and became a radio reporter, news director and, eventually, the host of KUER’s RadioWest.

It wasn’t the career he intended, but Fabrizio has gained national acclaim and a loyal following. One morning during the public radio station’s fall fund drive, I watched a woman volunteer swoon when he walked by. More significant, the guests on his show often describe him as one of the best interviewers in the country.

Radio visionary Jad Abumrad, co-host of WNYC’s Radiolab, himself interviews people for a living. Sometimes, Abumrad says, the artifice of the interview can get in the way, because "you have your questions, and your expectations form a kind of barrier." Fabrizio is different. "He has the ability to hold the tension between being extremely prepared and being able to throw those questions out the window."


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In other words, Fabrizio does that thing we all mean to do in a conversation but often don’t: He listens. If the guest is in the studio, Fabrizio is leaning forward, looking him in the eyes. It’s a leaning forward both physically and emotionally. "Doug is driven by an honest desire to know," Abumrad says. It’s the kind of intense curiosity that other interviewers pretend to have but often can’t pull off.

Yeah, Fabrizio says, but the show could always be better.

Making intimate conversations » On Tuesdays and Fridays, Fabrizio and producers Elaine Clark and Benjamin Bombard meet in his office in the Eccles Broadcast Center on the University of Utah campus to do a post-mortem on the week’s shows. They’re a tough crowd.

On this particular morning, Clark hands out a list of previous shows, with a letter grade next to each. There are six C+s, three B-s and one B.

"This is the European grading system," Clark explains. "No grade inflation. If we get a B, we’re dancing."

"If we get a B, we put it on the refrigerator," Bombard says.

Fabrizio is his own toughest critic, reserving a B+ or the very rare A for shows in which he thinks he has actually pulled off what he sets out to do. His favorite shows are the ones they call "intimate conversations," for example the one he had in 2004 with Gene Jacobsen, a former University of Utah professor who survived World War II’s Bataan Death March.

Fabrizio grades himself hard because he hates complacency. One thing he has going for him is that his lack of self-confidence means he’s always afraid he won’t be prepared enough.

Some mornings he gets to KUER at 4:30 to prepare for the day’s show, coming up with pages of questions, looking always for moments of transformation in his guest’s life or ideas. Then he searches for a narrative arc for the whole show, hoping to create movement and depth as the hour progresses.

Clark collects the praise Fabrizio’s guests pour on: "He asked some of the best questions I’ve ever gotten," wrote Judith Shulevitz, author of The Sabbath World.

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