8 Things You Will Love About Tuacahn
There is no other place quite like Tuacahn Center for the Arts. Since 1995 it has been a host of some of our most favorite Broadway and other musical productions. Tuacahn is set in the most beautiful and unique locations just outside of St. George, Utah. Tuacahn alone attracts people from all over the world to take in one of its grand performances hidden in the majestic Southern Utah red rocks. It really is a fascinating location for this unique and extremely popular amphitheater.
1. Summer Shows
Much has been said about the 25 summer theater seasons at Tuacahn Center for the Performing Arts! Nearly 300,000 patrons annually travel from near and far to attend uniquely “Tuacahn” musical theater productions with amazingly talented actors chosen by audition in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, and New York. Tuacahn’s famous creativity also extends to great show designs, extravagant sets, amazing costumes, more than two decades of strong administration, hundreds of dedicated volunteers, a supportive community … and a longtime connection with the world’s largest producer of theater and entertainment.
Tuacahn and Disney
“Disney has been very good to us,” states Scott Anderson, Artistic Director of the relationship between Tuacahn and the multi-national mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered in Burbank, California.
Disney first discovered Washington County as a backdrop for filming “High School Musical 2” and you’re likely to recognize our beautiful red rock country, but the Disney connection didn’t stop there!
After attending a Broadway production of Disney’s Tarzan, Anderson left the theater convinced this show was a perfect vehicle for Tuacahn’s 2010 summer season, but the first hurdle was “getting Disney to give us the time of day!” Eventually Tuacahn’s hard work, determination and ambitious vision of their future with Disney paid off with a license to produce a stage version of the story of the feral child raised by apes in the jungles of Africa.
Since that beginning, Tuacahn has continued to produce 1-2 Disney shows every summer including, but not limited to The Little Mermaid twice, Mulan, Mary Poppins, Aladdin, Newsies, Beauty and the Beast, Prince of Egypt, and the surprise hit When You Wish, an original musical revue featuring big classical Disney production numbers and award-winning music.
Every year, three plays – some Disney, some Broadway shows we all know and love – are selected for the Tuacahn stage. No question, “Broadway in the desert” is an amazing success story! Get your tickets now.
What Others are Saying
“We saw The Million Dollar Quartet the opening weekend. It was one of the most entertaining productions we have seen! The cast are all professional performers and most of them have performed in this play in other venues around the country. The musical talent is amazing and combined with the characterizations of these well-known legends makes for a few hours of wonderful escape into another time and place. The people who attended the play with us, as well as others who have seen it since then, were all delighted with the show.” ~ Susan from Tonaquint Terrace
“Last night, we saw Cinderella. Other than a slight rain delay, we really enjoyed the performance. The understudy played the role of Ella but she was excellent. Many of the younger patrons in the audience were in their Cinderella dresses. I only recognized one song that was performed but we loved the talent displayed. It was good for adults and children and there was a packed audience.” ~ Hal from SunRiver
“Prince of Egypt was phenomenal – perhaps the best show I’ve ever seen at Tuachan. The parting of the Red Sea will amaze you. The music and choreography are outstanding!” ~ Wendy from Bloomington
“My friend and I saw ‘Matilda – The Musical.’ It was so entertaining. The child actors were fabulous and so talented. A great show for both kids and adults.” ~ Alaris from SunRiver
2. Spring and Fall Concerts
What do comedian and talk show host Jay Leno; singer and Broadway star Kristen Chenowyth; singer, songwriter and fashion designer Boy George; internet sensations The Piano Guys; singer and “American Idol” standout David Archuleta; The Beach Boys, one of the original boy bands and contemporaries with the world famous Beatles; pianist, composer and record-producer Burt Bacharach; Grammy Award-winning and multi-platinum record selling singer Colbie Caillat; vocal folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash; country music legend Willie Nelson; American rock band REO Speedwagon which first splashed onto the music scene in 1967; Australian soft rock duo Air Supply; Professional Bull Riders – entertaining but not musical or funny – and a dozen or more tribute bands all have in common … well, other than talent? The answer is all have appeared in concert – one or more times – before sold-out audiences on the Tuacahn stage!
An ambitious schedule of popular and well-known singers, comedians and other entertainers have performed in our spectacular red rock “canyon of the gods.” Spring and fall concerts on the Tuacahn stage began as someone’s good idea to bring in more audiences back in ????. Since then thousands of vacationers and local patrons have enjoyed sold-out shows in what has now become an integral part of Tuacahn’s annual programming, bookending the Summer Theater Season.
Except perhaps in January and February, there is always something fun, entertaining or exciting to enjoy at Tuacahn.
Halloween may not be everyone’s favorite holiday but many of us in the St. George area go all out for All Hallows Eve! The most popular Halloween tradition around town is certainly the spectacular “Thriller” at Tuacahn Center for the Arts. This wickedly fun show – now in its 16th year – features amazingly choreographed dance numbers performed by what the local newspaper described as “the young, trim, slim and athletic” members of the Odyssey Dance Theater celebrating famous ghosts, ghouls and goblins and some of the most unlikely spooks of the season.
This two-hour program is certain to put you in the Halloween mood. So, come early and bring your camera for the opportunity to interact with zombies, mummies and werewolves greeting guests on the Tuacahn plaza.
These tickets will be on sale online at www.tuacahn.org, by phone to (435) 652-3300 or at the Tuacahn box office as the witching season approaches.
4. Celebrating the Holidays in Tuacahn Canyon
Tuacahn’s Fairy Tale Christmas is all about villains you know – Cinderella’s wicked stepmother; Maleficent, the fairy-queen with a serious ax-to-grind; the giant at the top of Jack’s magical beanstalk; Rumpelstiltskin and a few others – who devise a scheme to kidnap Santa Claus just before the “big day.” What do they hope to get out of this devious plan? Why, ransom of course! And, the ransom they are after is storybook endings different from those we know and which each feels they deserve. But Fairy Tale Heroes – such as Snow White, Jack, Cinderella and others – will hopefully come to Santa’s rescue in the nick of time!
Held in Tuacahn’s indoor Hafen Theater, “A Fairy Tale Christmas” – which alternates with Christmas in the Canyon each week from November 24 to December 23 – features a very small cast, each who switch from good-to-bad and bad-to-good with fast-paced energy, alternating between villains and heroes before your very eyes.
Christmas in the Canyon
This show premiered at the 2016 NY Fringe Festival to a large and enthusiastic audience. In its second year, Fairy Tale Christmas Tuacahn-style is a funny, imaginative, popular and festive hit celebrating the holiday season, with matinees and evening performances on alternating Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, beginning November 24 and running through December 23
Tuacahn’s multi-faceted “Christmas in the Canyon” is a FREE, no-admission gift – Tuacahn’s way of saying “thank you” for another successful year – of twinkling lights, holiday music, hot cocoa, shopping in the Tuacahn gift shop, enjoying a holiday train ride and visiting with Santa Claus under the holiday sky. You are also invited to a live nativity designed to remind us of the “reason for the season.” The Live Nativity, with music, narration and volunteer actors telling the story of the birth of the Christ Child, has a $2 charge per person or $15 for an entire family (up to 10 individuals). The Live Nativity plays in the amphitheater at 7 p.m. with a repeat performance at 8 p.m.
“Christmas in the Canyon” is certain to put you in the holiday season. Don’t miss it if you are vacationing in southern Utah during the holiday season.
5. Saturday Marketplace
If shopping is your thing – even if it isn’t – a morning at the Tuacahn Marketplace should definitely be on your southern Utah vacation itinerary. Held almost every Saturday throughout the year, the Tuacahn Marketplace is not only an unequalled shopping experience for arts and crafts created by talented local artisans, it’s also an opportunity to enjoy tasty food items and entertainment while you shop or at your leisure. All this while also experiencing the amazing red rock splendor of “the canyon of the gods” in the cool light of day! Best of all, it’s free-to-the-public … unless, of course, you can’t pass up a piece of beautiful handmade jewelry, an adorable baby blanket or some memorabilia from your favorite sports team!
If you skipped breakfast so you could get the best deals, you may find delicious pancakes, bacon and juice served from 9 – 11 a.m. in the new Snow Canyon Café will fill your empty spots. Not a breakfast fan? If that’s the case, you might enjoy a panini sandwich later in the morning instead, or, try assorted tasty treats offered by vendors along Tuacahn’s tree-lined walkway as you browse and shop.
Whether you end your morning with a full stomach or shopping bags filled with beautiful souvenirs of your southern Utah vacation, you’re certain to enjoy a pleasant morning at the Saturday Marketplace.
6. Tuacahn Gift Shop
Whether you are searching for souvenirs of your time spent in Tuacahn’s red rock “canyon of the gods” or one of the many shows or concerts or you want something special to decorate a wall at home, you’re likely to find exactly what you’re looking for in the amazingly beautiful Tuacahn gift shop. Attractively displayed in 3500 square feet, you’ll find a dazzling array of interior home décor, including – but certainly not limited to – clocks, artwork, faux bronze Western/historical and nativity display pieces; even a large section of beautifully made décor designed specifically for Harley-Davidson fans. But, if none of these beautiful deals strikes your fancy, there’s also some fun and weather-resistant outdoor décor to take home whirlygigs, bird baths or garden gnomes.
The Tuacahn Gift Shop also houses Chef Hog’s Café, with a menu of gyros, burgers, pulled pork sandwiches in an award-winning combination of BBQ, Greek and American cuisine in an all new indoor café space looking out into the spectacular “canyon of the gods” and overlooking the Tuacahn backlot filled with scenery being used in current shows. Portions are generous, flavorful and the views – both theatrically and in nature – will make your meal the perfect overture to your evening in the spectacular outdoor amphitheater.
A desire for amazing souvenirs or delicious food can be satisfied in the Tuacahn Gift Shop. Come early, enjoy a good meal and a good performance. This is certainly the right place for both!
7. Tuacahn High School
Utah’s first-ever charter school opened its doors for 86 students of the performing arts and technology on August 23, 1999. Since that hot summer day, enrollment at Tuacahn High School in the beautiful red rock canyon in Ivins, UT has grown to more than 400 – with a waiting list of students from around Washington County, other parts of Utah and beyond – fulfilling the dream of those who saw the future of the Tuacahn Center for the Performing Arts.
School curriculum, for students in 9-12th grade, is described as “a combination of a fully accredited college preparatory program and intensive instruction in the performing and visual arts” with an emphasis on singing, dancing, acting and instrumental performance. And, while THS is a Class 1A school, competitions – Shakespeare, Dancesport, and theater – are in Class 3A and 5A divisions.
If a quality academic and arts curriculum with an expert faculty, a 15-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio in an unparalleled setting and a friendly student body sounds perfect, check into Tuacahn High School. As one former student noted, “If you are at all interested in pursuing a career/lifestyle in the arts, Tuacahn High School is the place for you. It is a school full of forward thinkers and innovative ideas.”
~ Jackson S.
“We moved here from California just for this school. It was the best decision we ever made. I am ending my fourth year and I have loved every minute. The teachers are mentors and people I look up to, it’s easy to get involved and make friends and I feel prepared for college. One problem is that now I don’t like weekends because I love being at school??”
~ Jessica W.
8. Canyon of the Gods
Here in southern Utah, it is said the word “Tuacahn” means “Canyon of the Gods” in the language of the Mayans. But these are showbiz people, so whether or not it’s true, it makes no difference in our nearly 25 years of enjoyment of “Broadway in the Desert!”
Orval and Ruth Hafen were the first to be awestruck at seeing spectacular 1500-foot red rock cliffs surrounding the future home of Tuacahn Center for the Performing Arts. In his desire to own this little piece of heaven where he could bask daily in these glorious surroundings, Hafen purchased an eighty-acre parcel and built a cabin, the remnants of which can still be seen behind Tuacahn High School.
Outdoors is Ideal
In the mid-1990’s, Doug Stewart, noted playwright, St. George resident and avid outdoorsman was hoping to find the ideal place to build an outdoor theater when he hiked into this breathtaking box canyon. It only took him an instant to see what Orval Hafen saw and to know he had found absolute perfection for his dream to come true in the aptly named “canyon of the gods” and Stewart’s ambitious plan for a 42,000 square foot arts center began to take shape.
In addition to a 1920-seat outdoor amphitheater, the complex would also include a 330-seat indoor theater – named appropriately after Orval and Ruth Hafen – as well as a dance studio, black-box theater, recital hall, costume and scenery shops, studios, classrooms and a gift shop, all carefully carved into the brilliant, natural red rock backdrop, to complement – without taking away from – the amazing scenery.
Since Tuacahn’s early days, there have been several definitive changes to Stewart’s original vision. After four seasons of the stage production “Utah!”, it became apparent – under new leadership – a new direction was called for … and in Season 5, Tuacahn introduced the first “Summer Festival of Theater.” A double bill of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, playing on alternating evenings from mid-June to Labor Day Weekend, brought audiences to their feet night after uncomfortably hot summer nights.
With this change, the amphitheater found itself in the enviable position of dealing with huge crowds and sold-out houses as they entertained more than 100,000 people from every U.S. state and twenty-five countries of the world, in the festival’s first 70 memorable performances.
to provide high quality productions featuring amazingly talented actors, year after year as it has grown and thrived to become the 2nd biggest economic driver in Washington County next to Zion National Park (coincidentally also pretty spectacular landscape), according to an October 2015 article in St. George News.
The total economic impact of this dream machine is close to $80 million, with the arts center attracting an average of 265,000 annually to its shows from just about everywhere! Local residents love Tuacahn productions as much as those who travel long distances, but we never lose sight the undisputed “star” of every show is Tuacahn’s “canyon of the gods.” As CEO Kevin Smith once said, “if what we present on stage matches the majesty of the canyon, we feel we’re doing our job!”
So when you decide to come and stay with Five Seasons Vacation Rentals at one of our family friendly resorts here in St. George, Utah this summer, be sure to include a Tuacahn show in the itinerary. I promise that you will not be disappointed with the show or your seats (there is not a bad seat there!) out at Tuacahn Amphitheater, your lodging accommodations in one of our lovely St. George Vacation Rentals with Five Seasons, or even the weather (guarantee lots of sunshine!).