The first notes of the orchestra indicate the show is about to start. At this point, I’m buzzing with anticipation. As the overture to the show begins, we settle into our seats as horses and camels trot across the stage. (Yes, real horses and camels.) Next, a long line of performers dressed as Hebrew slaves pull the overturned Obelisk into place, and the show has begun.
By intermission, darkness has closed in and the bright stage lights take over. Once it’s dark, the lights bounce off the rock and add interesting dimensions of light and shadow.
“It’s such a fun playground for our lighting designers to play with,” Shelton said.
He adds that there’s no light pollution in the canyon, so the audience can look up and see the stars.
While travelers are increasingly coming to Utah for its pristine dark skies, those who aren’t looking don’t often see them in an increasingly developed world — let alone right in the middle of a premier musical.
“This isn’t something you can see in L.A. It’s stunning.”
Intermission ends and we are pulled back to Moses’ story. Perhaps the most well-known moment in the story of Moses is the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. From the moment I bought my tickets, I wondered how they could possibly try and part a large body of water on stage.
Not to give spoilers but Tuacahn seems to make the impossible, possible.
Scott Anderson, Artistic Director of Tuacahn and Director of “The Prince of Egypt,” emphasizes that the story comes first. Tell the story, he says, then add the technical elements. And Tuacahn has a lot of technical capabilities — like giant water features.
“These are things you can do here that you can’t do at an indoor theater,” Anderson says, “The amazing thing is you don’t get lost in the technical elements.” He praises the production team for making that possible.
When directing a show at Tuacahn, Anderson’s philosophy is, “Let’s embrace our environment. Let’s give them a real feel for this environment when they come here to see a show.” You may see a musical at another theater with normal indoor backdrops and sets, but Shelton and Anderson separately said, “If you haven’t seen it at Tuacahn, you should come and see.”
By the end, I can’t take the smile off my face and I have chills despite the 100-degree weather. We applaud for each cast member, but I wanted to give an additional standing ovation to the landscape. The canyon walls and sparse shrubbery quietly stood back there with stars hanging overhead, enhancing the production and culminating in a live theatrical experience you can’t have anywhere else.