Now Taking the Stage

Utah’s Festival Season Showcases World-class Live Performances

Peri Kinder

June 6, 2013

Pirates, kings, angry men and a practically perfect nanny will visit Utah this summer. And whether you travel north or south (or both), quality theater productions will satisfy your appreciation for live performances.

Tuacahn Amphitheatre

With red-rock cliffs towering in the background, the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Ivins, Utah, will present a series of fun, family-friendly performances, running from May 30 through December 22. Mary Poppins, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Starlight Express, and Disney’s Mulan will entertain audiences of all ages.

Tuacahn’s themed dinners are served two hours prior to show time on the outdoor plaza. Patrons can enjoy a Supercalifrgailistic Dinner, with a Mary Poppins flair; a Diner Express meal featuring a Starlight Express menu; or a Big City Buffet served before Thoroughly Modern Millie. Pre-show entertainment features local artists performing musical revues on the mini-amphitheatre stage.

Visitors to Tuacahn can look behind the curtain during a backstage walking tour that highlights the costume area, scene shop, staging areas and green room. And the Tuacahn Saturday Market has returned from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. each weekend. Visitors can browse the event that features local artists, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and entertainment.

A complete list of Tuacahn events can be found at

Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre

When nationally acclaimed operatic performer Michael Ballam takes the stage in Logan during the Utah Festival Opera, he will be tackling a character he’s never done—even after hundreds of performances in more than 100 major roles.

Starring as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Ballam took the role only after Sheldon Harnick (the play’s lyricist) convinced him that he would be perfect as the Jewish father being tested by strong-willed daughters and religious persecution.

“I swore there were certain roles I would never play. The role of Tevye is so associated with iconic performances,” Ballam says. “But he’s an everyman. He’s you and me, and he’s current. He’s struggling with today, and not just 1900 Anatevka.”

The Logan festival celebrates its 21st season this year, with events starting on July 10 and running through August 10. Along with Fiddler, other plays include The Flying Dutchman, Otello and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

One big draw to this festival is the orchestra that accompanies each show. Many productions utilize a small orchestra, but the full orchestra in the Ellen Eccles Theatre provides a lush sound that can be found in few places around the world.

“You can go to New York today and you will not hear an orchestra of more than 15 members,” Ballam says. “Nobody can experience this anymore. If I can keep it going throughout my life, and my grandchildren’s lives, then people will only be able to hear this in Logan.”

The five-week festival also includes vocal concerts, an International Competition, backstage tours, Breakfast with the Stars, the Utah Festival Academy and rare performances like Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, performed by the American Festival Chorus and conducted by Craig Jessop.

During the festival, Ballam hosts a “Symbols of the Passover” event that explains the rich symbolism behind the Passover feast, which crosses over religious lines to include Islam, Christians and Jews.

“We’ve been observing this in our home for 42 years,” Ballam says. “I probably know as much about Passover as any Rabbi you’ll ever meet.”

For a complete schedule of events, visit

Utah Shakespeare Festival

Southern Utah University sets the stage for the Tony and Emmy award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival as it celebrates its 52nd season. The festival offers a variety of performances ranging from Shakespearean classics to contemporary, family-friendly plays.

The festival is one of the largest Shakespearean events in North America and attendance has risen from 4,000 for the first festival to more than 130,000 theater-goers last year. This year’s event runs from June 24 through October 19.

The Adams Memorial Shakespearean Theatre, one of the most genuine Elizabethan theatres in the world, will host productions of Shakespeare’s King John, Love’s Labor’s Lost and The Tempest. And the Randall L. Jones Theatre will present Anything Goes, Twelve Angry Men, Peter and the Starcatchers, Richard II and The Marvelous Wonderettes.

The festival provides an orientation one hour prior to each show to discuss backstory and plot points to help prepare the audience for the performance. “Shakespeare can be a little scary but we try to educate people the best we can,” says Nikki Allen, marketing and public relations manager for the festival. “We have guests who visit us from all around the world and what draws people here is the atmosphere.”

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