Neatly nestled between the red canyon walls of Snow Canyon State Park, Tuacahn Center for the Arts lights up the sky.
The outdoor theatre is home to many acclaimed musicals, bringing three-dimensional life to simple words on a page with films such as “The Little Mermaid,” “Tarzan” and “Hairspray.” This season, theater enthusiasts from across the nation can purchase tickets to see “Mamma Mia,” “Newsies” and “Shrek the Musical.”
As viewers climb the steps to the warmly-lit foyer, each one is welcomed by the smell of a variety of sugar-coated nuts and the smiling faces of the actors, with their pictures plastered to each pillar surrounding the fountain, which slowly cascades down the stairs.
From there, the crowd is as wild and as strong as a riptide, dragging each individual from one place to another with little say on the matter. Following the current of people, each person somehow finds himself in the overcrowded, overstimulating gift shop filled to the brim with any knick-knack imaginable. Pushing and pressing against walls and shelves to get to the fresh air, shoppers exit through the small café.
Each excitement-filled customer is corralled toward the large amphitheater already teaming with children aged less than a year to well over 55 years old. As each audience member takes his or her seat, the stage manager takes the microphone, his voice bouncing off of the brick and concrete in the middle of red sand and canyon walls. He quickly asks each person to silence their cellphones, avoid audio or visual recordings, and to escort noisy children back to the foyer before the lights dim and the stage is filled with a dark blue and purple glow.
Right off of the bat, the audience is filled with laughter and awe as superb comedic ability and powerful vocals emit from each actor. Without skipping a beat, the younger actors are replaced by their iconic adult counterparts and unfamiliarity transforms into nostalgia.
Each character is given their own intricate backstory, packing the eager hearts of the crowd with an impressive mixture of emotions, which causes each person to both empathize and sympathize with each actor as they attempt to portray each life within the short two hours they are given.
Alliances are made and broken, friendships are put to the test and innuendos and parallels with reality fly at the audience with such vigor it knocks each member of the audience on their backs with laughter. Between high-brow humor and fart jokes, all kinds of humor are not only welcomed but also celebrated.
Despite the famous and familiar story, “Shrek the Musical” brings new dynamics, storylines and feelings to a wistful tale of turmoil and true love.
“The actors’ ability to take a whimsical story and make it relatable and believable [is] astounding,” Las Vegas local Ashlie Harper said. “I’ve heard of Tuacahn’s ability to put on amazing feats of art, but I never understood it until now.”
Ashlie Harper was not the only one traveling great distances to watch experience Tuacahn in person. Tyler Berkley traveled from Bucyrus, Ohio, to watch his favorite childhood plots unfold on stage.
“I was skeptical, to say the least,” Berkley said. “I was afraid I had wasted money to rewatch a movie I already had on DVD, but it was nothing and everything I could have imagined.”
Berkley said it was one of the best renditions of the musical he has seen on any stage.
“Having seen shows all over the country, I think I was most scared I would be disappointed,” he said. “There’s this idea that Broadway is the best and always will be, but theaters like Tuacahn are definitely challenging that notion.”
St. George local Brianna Hylton says she comes to Tuacahn shows as often as she can.
“I’ve come to shows [at Tuacahn] for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It’s also amazing to see the actors on stage.”
Hylton said was she looks forward to most is the Christmas performances.
“[Christmas] is my favorite time of year, and [Tuacahn] always has something going on,” Hylton said.
Tuacahn offers performances and activities for both Halloween and Christmas. Thriller is a two-hour dance extravaganza highlighting all of the spooky legends surrounding the October holiday. During the holiday season, the outdoor theatre has Christmas in the Canyon in which a plethora of lights illuminate the dark canyon and a live Nativity scene. Actors from the 2017 season will also be performing Fairy Tale Christmas Dec. 1 through Dec. 23 in the Hafen Theatre, a villain’s twist on Christmas.
Shrek the Musical closes Oct. 20, and the show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $36 and top off at $104. Seats are limited to a small handful.