Going to the Tuacahn Amhitheatre is definitely a different experience from any other. Why, you ask? Because it's an outdoor theater that is built right into its surroundings.
Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Ivins is one of the only theaters that is completely outside. It is built right in Padre Canyon, with an accessible red-rock background. Although the weather is often very warm in the St. George area, the plays are performed in the twilight, when the canyon is starting to cool down and you can feel the shadows of the looming red walls stretch over you and the stage.
The dramatic setting has been used for anything from "The Sound of Music" to Disney's "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin." Sometimes the canyon itself is used for the plays; sometimes it just gives a little extra depth to the stage.
I wish Tuacahn would make more use of the natural backdrop, because I felt like the huge area behind the stage went to waste. I know it's been used in the past, for example in "The Sound of Music" during the famous scene with Maria running down the hill, but more often than not, the theater sticks to its man-made stage.
Even when the canyon is not being used though, the color and height of the red rock is still impressive and makes for a beautiful place to sit and watch a three-hour play. Additionally, Tuacahn often includes the use of harnesses that the actors use in many plays to "fly" over the crowd, whether on a flying carpet or jungle vine, or holding an umbrella -- if you're Mary Poppins, of course!
The plays I saw this summer were great! As an extended family, we saw "Mary Poppins," "Starlight Express" and "Mulan," three out of the four current plays running at Tuacahn (the fourth is "Thoroughly Modern Millie"). The actors had obviously practiced their roles for months; everyone performed so passionately and got so into their parts that each play was a very entertaining show.
Even my youngest cousin proved entertainable when we went to see "Starlight Express" the second night. For days after, all our family heard were the youngest kids singing the repetitive and, after a while, slightly irritating songs from the play about trains falling in love.
I think the favorite was "Mulan," which might have been due to the fact it was performed at the smaller, indoor stage, and it was only 70 minutes long. The one-act play was perfect for families, especially those with younger children.
But any Mary Poppins fan would have been pleased, if not a bit surprised, at the slightly revised edition of "Mary Poppins." There were a few minor, perhaps important, scenes that were different but I still thought it did a pretty good job of sticking to the original Disney movie and capturing the light-hearted fun of the beloved story.
Casual dress is acceptable at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre to accommodate the warm weather. Also, if there is even a chance of rain, bring an umbrella! Some shows will keep going despite a light rain, so be prepared.
All in all, if you're looking for a way to connect with your family, nature, and a good story all at once, you should definitely go to Tuacahn. It's a great memory that people of all ages can enjoy together, and there is something to be found for everyone there.
Whether you're watching Mulan take down some Huns, or Mary Poppins fly over the crowd with her umbrella, you'll leave Tuacahn feeling wonderful and lighter than air!
To find out more about Tuacahn, call the box office at 435-652-3300 or visit www.tuacahn.org. Tickets are $28-$75 depending on the day of the week and seating area; admission is $15-$26 for the indoor theater. "Mulan" ended Aug. 10, however, the other three plays run through Oct. 22-24.
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Here's a look at three of the plays now running at Tuacahn Amphitheatre, as reviewed by Lily Valeika, a Layton High School TX. writer.
A tale about two children and the many adventures they go on with their nanny, who teaches them to be "practically perfect" like her, and helps reunite their busy family with a little love and fun. The story is changed quite a bit from the well-known Disney movie and a new character was even added, Nanny Andrews.
Go: If you're a die-hard Mary Poppins fan (if there is such thing).
DON'T go: If you're a fan of the original "Mary Poppins."
Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5
Favorite character: Bert; he brings a lightheartedness to the stage through his fun accent and carefree attitude.
With original directing by Andrew Lloyd Webber, this is an extremely musical musical. The roller-skating tricks were cool though, and the stage extends into the audience. This is probably the best play out of the longer ones for kids, as it had nonstop action with the constant roller skating and the bright, flashy costumes.
Go: If you really like roller-skating.
DON'T go: If you're not an Andrew Lloyd Weber fan.
Rating: 3 stars
Favorite character: I didn't have an overall favorite character, but the main character was a bit like the engine in the story "The Little Engine That Could," because he keeps racing despite self-doubts. I did like that aspect of it.
This was the best play by far, especially if you like "Mulan," the Disney story about a Chinese girl who serves in the army in her father's place. This play followed the movie almost exactly. The music and scenes that were added were great additions to the overall mood of the play, and the songs were even better live.
Go: If you're in the mood for a short, fast-paced play.
DON'T go: If you have no soul.
Overall rating: 5 stars
Favorite character: Mushu; the person who played him had a giant puppet costume that he used to "hide" behind, however his face held all the expressions that the puppet couldn't.
Lily Valeika will be a senior at Layton High School and has enjoyed taking pictures for as long as she can remember. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.