By Jonathan Decker
Southern Utah is known for its particularly first-rate theatre scene, with Tuacahn Amphitheatre near St. George and the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City leading the way. The window is closing on this year’s shows, so here’s the inside scoop on what to see and what’s worth the trip. These wonderful shows close in mid-October, so get a move on!
The current season of Tuacahn is offering a stirring production of The Sound of Music and a two Disney shows, The Little Mermaid and When You Wish. All three are strongly produced and well-acted, with powerful music and impressive stage design, so which to see (if you can’t see all three) really depends on your needs.
The Sound of Music is best for adults, teens, and older children who can appreciate the story of a nun-in-training who serves as a tutor for the children of a lonely widower, just as the Nazis are preparing to overtake Austria. Small children will find it runs too long and is too serious for their liking, but the rest will be deeply moved by this production, adapted from the hit Broadway musical and Hollywood film, based on the true story. The cast does the source material proud.
Everyone will love The Little Mermaid, which swaps out the roller-skates of the production from a few years ago with impressive wirework that truly gives the impression of swimming underwater. The script includes all your favorite songs, well sung and impressively staged, while taking pains to iron out a few story elements that haven’t exactly aged well.
If you have small children, your best bet is When You Wish, as the running time is a crisp two hours and it’s essentially a musical review of all their favorite Disney movies, come alive with staggering stage design, mind-blowing wardrobe changes, and immersive variety. From Moana to Tarzan, from Beauty the Beast to Aladdin, from Mulan to Tangled and so much more, it’s the next-best thing for a trip to Disneyland. We took five children ages 3-13 and they were never bored, never wandered, and never got restless. That isn’t to say that only kids will enjoy it; any die-hard Disney fan will have a blast.
UTAH SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
An absolute must-see is Every Brilliant Thing, a stunning one-man play starring the inimitable Michael Doherty as a young man whose mother attempts suicide several times, so from childhood to adulthood he compiles a list of all the things in life worth living for. Poignant, funny, heartbreaking, and uplifting, it’s an incredible script and a tour-de-force performance. Heads up; he may interact with you and even call you out of the audience to participate. It’s amazing. Has a few innuendos and mild language.
The Book of Will chronicles the efforts of William Shakespeare’s friends to create an official compilation of the Bard’s complete works for future generations. It’s funny and fascinating, if a bit dry towards the beginning, it picks up steam as it goes and ends with an emotional wallop. Other offerings include the seminal Hamlet, the perennial favorite Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
For Tuacahn info and tickets, please visit: https://www.tuacahn.org/
For Utah Shakespeare info and tickets, please visit: https://www.bard.org/