Tuacahn Ampitheatre, also known as Southern Utah’s “Broadway in the Desert,” has a stunning lineup of plays for your family this season. But what to choose and how to spend your dollars? I saw them all, so let me help!
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT
Every single one of my friends who’ve seen this musical and posted on social media about it have adored it, so consider their glowing endorsements in balance with my less enthusiastic reaction. For frame of reference, I love the film. While, by its own admission, it takes dramatic and artistic license with the biblical source material, it’s a film with a reverent, praising attitude towards God that’s true to the spirit of the story. This play, on the other hand, overreaches to make non-believers comfortable, taking a lukewarm, hot-then-cold, unsure position towards God while dialing the fictionalized drama between Moses and his adopted brother Ramses up to 11.
To be clear, I’ve no problem with people who don’t believe in God and I enjoy many stories with a more secular worldview. But to alter the entire point of a story in order to be politically correct doesn’t sit well with me at all. It’s like when the anti-organized religion themes of novel The Golden Compass were dropped for the film adaptation so as not to offend believers. This play of The Prince of Egypt does the same thing, but at the other end of the spectrum, diluting the faith elements of the story of Moses to keep everybody happy. In my opinion, if you’re going to tell a story, tell it with confidence in its message, or don’t tell it at all. The film had balance. The play does not. The new songs did nothing for me. The acting was inconsistent, with performances ranging from excellent to mediocre. The sets, stage effects, wardrobe, and vocal performances were fantastic, and it certainly had its moments. But I was disappointed, I must confess.
Lavish in its costumes and stage production, with “all-in” performances and whimsical romance, there’s plenty to enjoy here, though I must say that this is, to me, one of Rogers and Hammerstein’s weaker musicals when compared to the majesty of The Sound of Music or The King and I (or the iconic show-stoppers of Oklahoma!). Still, if you’re in the mood for a fairy tale romance, this is definitely worth it.
The most pleasant surprise of this year’s lineup. I had no expectations for this musical adaptation of the popular Roald Dahl novel about a magical little girl whose self-absorbed, neglectful parents send her to a school with an abusive headmistress, but it was a warm-hearted, empowering delight with impressive dancing and memorable music. The performances were excellent, it was laugh-out-loud funny, its genuinely moving, and the pacing never lagged. If I had to recommend one show, this’d be it.
Based on the true story of an all-day, all-night jam session between Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, this is the most fun I had all theater season this year. The story is fine, but this is essentially an extended first-rate rock concert with performers who aren’t just imitators, but legitimately great musicians in their own right. Impossible not to clap, tap your toes, stop your feet, and dance in the aisles (all of which are encouraged). Ridiculous amounts of fun, especially the encore concert at the end.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.