You know southern Utah for its red rock, national parks, and warm weather, but did you know it’s also famous for stunning theatrical and musical performances? Yes, over the years, hundreds of plays and concerts have taken place in a beautiful amphitheatre just outside a little town called Ivins. Built in front of a backdrop of exquisite red rock, Tuacahn Center for the Arts is a must-see southern Utah gem. So settle in as we tell you everything you need to know about Tuacahn!
Where is Tuacahn located?
Tuacahn Center for the Arts is nestled in the beautiful red rock mountains of southwestern Utah. Located just north of the popular city of St. George, it sits at the mouth of Padre Canyon. And while the red-orange canyon is breathtaking, it’s the manmade Tuacahn theater that really makes it a unique place to visit.
What is Tuacahn?
Built in 1995, Tuacahn promotes the performing arts while showcasing southern Utah’s natural beauty. The campus includes a high school for aspiring artists and actors, a small indoor theatre, a dance studio, and costume and scene shops. But when people mention Tuacahn, they're usually referring to the outdoor amphitheatre. It seats close to 2,000 people, and is home to musical and dramatic performances throughout the year.
The amphitheatre sits in the shadow of 1,500 foot sandstone cliffs, providing a stunning backdrop for every performance. This spectacular natural beauty makes Tuacahn a unique place to enjoy a show.
What does Tuacahn Mean?
The word Tuacahn is Mayan, and translates roughly to “Canyon of the Gods.” The original founders chose the name in hopes of inspiring those who visit by both the natural performance of the jagged cliffs and the human performances of the actors.
What makes Tuacahn popular?
Anyone who has been to Tuacahn can tell you that the best time to visit is during the summer months. This is when they perform a seasonal collection of three to four musicals and plays at the outdoor amphitheatre. This includes popular Broadway musicals from Disney and Rodgers and Hammerstein among others. These summer plays are the reason many people call Tuacahn Amphitheatre a “Broadway in the desert.”
Originally built in 1995 with the sole purpose of helping people understand and appreciate the beauty and history of southern Utah, it didn’t take long for the owners and directors to realize that the amphitheatre could do that while also entertaining families. After a few years of only showing their own musical, Utah!, they transitioned to more family-friendly shows, and Tuacahn’s popularity exploded.
The stunning landscape and Broadway shows aren’t the only reason you will enjoy Tuacahn. The indoor gift shop at Tuacahn is full of unique and locally-made products, as well as the musical-themed gifts you would expect to see. They also offer many delicious concessions such as drinks, popcorn, roasted nuts, and frozen lemonade. The lemonade is especially delicious in the summer when temperatures often climb to over 100 degrees before the sun goes down.
What shows has Tuacahn put on?
Much of Tuacahn’s draw since their transition from the Utah! musical is their choice of summer shows. They typically choose three to four well-known plays that rotate evenings from June to October. These shows are so popular that many patrons buy season tickets to make sure they get to see every one of them.
Some of the more popular shows are the Broadway adaptations of Disney movies. Since the early 2000s, Tuacahn has shown (sometimes more than once) Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Newsies, Mary Poppins, and Tarzan.
To go along with these family-friendly Disney musicals, they also offer other popular musicals every summer. Some of the productions shown in Padre Canyon over the years have been The Music Man, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Sister Act, Peter Pan, The Prince of Egypt, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
To appeal to all viewers, Tuacahn offers the shows on rotating nights throughout the week. Their lineup also begins incorporating new shows for the second half of the summer. For example, in 2019, Tuacahn showed The Little Mermaid, and a Disney music show, When You Wish from May through June. Then they added The Sound of Music, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder into the rotation from July through the end of their summer season.
Are Tuacahn shows good?
While this all sounds great, we need to address the elephant in the room: Are the shows themselves any good? As someone who attends Tuacahn every year, I can confidently say yes! One big reason why is that many of the shows are the original Broadway versions, complete with the same scripts and music. Not only this, but they often even get some of the Broadway actors from the play to come perform as well!
Because they get professional actors, the acting and singing is phenomenal. And, not to allow nature to be outdone, they always find really unique ways to highlight the landscape too. Tarzan being spotlighted against the red rock cliffs before swinging onto the stage is one of my favorite Tuacahn moments.
Does Tuacahn only show plays and musicals?
Even though these summer shows are the most popular, they’re not the only events Tuacahn puts on throughout the year. Many music artists and comedians grace the amphitheatre stage in the fall and spring when evening temperatures in the desert region hover in the 60s and 70s. Over the years, artists like Heart, Styx, David Archuleta, and even comedian Brian Regan have taken the stage in front of the red rock cliffs.
Does Tuacahn do holiday shows?
Because temperatures in southern Utah don’t drop too drastically in the Fall and Winter, Tuacahn also puts on holiday shows. Around Christmastime, they decorate the Amphitheatre with Christmas lights and do a live Nativity show. They also perform The Christmas Carol indoors. Halloween is another holiday celebrated in the canyon as Odyssey Dance Theatre comes to Padre Canyon to perform Thriller.
Go enjoy a show!
The season’s just around the corner. Be sure to check their website for the latest updates and showtimes. Amazing shows await, so get down to St. George and enjoy some of the best scenery and performances in the state!