This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
It's always a really big show at Tuacahn Amphitheatre and this year's productions of "Disney's The Little Mermaid" and "Grease" are no exception.
They've got that giant outdoor stage, and they go out of their way to use it. "Little Mermaid" is "the biggest thing we've ever done," said Tuacahn artistic director Scott Anderson, who also directs the show.
"I wanted to give the feeling of being underwater, so we went out and invested in an 80-foot-by-30-foot water curtain," Anderson said. "It's pretty amazing. It covers the entire stage, and you can literally stream water down on our stage."
They can flood the stage at Tuacahn, which they do for one "Little Mermaid" scene when a giant ship sails in front of the audience. And they use that giant water screen like a movie screen, projecting undersea images on it, creating something even bigger than what theatergoers see when they attend that little Broadway version of the show in New York.
"It actually is bigger than Broadway," Anderson said. "The 'Under the Sea' number with the water curtain and the black-light effect and the costumes and the dancers is just amazing."
"Grease" director Tim Threlfall isn't dealing with thousands of gallons of water, but he's trying to maneuver thousands of pounds of steel in his production, in the form of six automobiles and four motorcycles.
"We have a dynamite cast, but sometimes classic cars are tough," he said. "A 1947 De Soto doesn't always start exactly when you want it to. And it needs to start exactly when you want it to when it's sitting in the middle of the stage with a '51 Packard on one side and a '54 Ford pickup on the other side, and all three of them have to make a fairly quick exit. If one of them doesn't start, egads, you're in trouble."
There have been umpteen stage versions of "Grease" since the musical debuted in 1970. Tuacahn's production includes "a few scenes stolen from the movie," with the blessing of the author, of course.
"We can have a car race on this stage, so we want to have a car race in our 'Grease,' " said Threlfall, who's directing his 11th Tuacahn production. "This is what I call the Tuacahnization of a show. That's kind of what 'Grease' demands, so we went out hunting for cars."
A big part of the Tuacahn experience is the setting an outdoor amphitheater built into the red rocks of Ivins, about eight miles northwest of St. George. It's not exactly an urban center, but Tuacahn is acquiring a reputation for acquiring high-profile shows.
In 2010, it was the first to secure the rights to "Disney's Tarzan." This season, it's the first regional theater company to secure the rights to "Little Mermaid"
Even getting the rights to stage "Grease" required a bit of effort. "It's touring pretty much all the time," Anderson said. "We've been trying for two years to get it, but they wouldn't release it. We just caught them at the right time between [touring] shows."
While Tuacahn has rotated three shows some years, Anderson said "Little Mermaid" and "Grease" are both so popular they decided to just stage two shows in 2011. As usual, the same repertory company stars in both shows, with a cast of some 40 actors and a production staff of 100.
"It's the best dovetailing of casts that I've ever had at Tuacahn in terms of the young people," Threlfell said. "There's hardly any mature roles."
But both shows hold appeal for a wide range of theatergoers.
"Kids will enjoy them, but so will their parents," Anderson said. "And their grandparents."
A stage as big as the outdoors
Tuacahn Ampitheatre presents "Disney's The Little Mermaid" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through Oct. 21; "Grease" runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through Oct. 20.
Showtimes • 8:45 p.m. in June, July, and August; 8:15 in September; and 7:30 p.m. in October.
Info • Tickets are $29-$59 for adults and $23-$49 for children, available at http://www.tuacahn.org or 435-652-3300 or 866-321-8051.