By Melissa Fields, Park City Magazine
IN 2010, a wall at the century-plus-old Capitol Theatre was taken down to properly house life-size-animal set pieces as part of The Lion King’s first Utah visit. Further space constraints made it necessary to begin the show in the lobby. And thanks to the Capitol’s busy schedule—it’s the full-time home of both Ballet West and the Utah Opera—the blockbuster Disney show ran in Salt Lake City for just seven weeks, as opposed to the 10 it typically played elsewhere.
Soon, however, large-scale Broadway shows, musical acts, and other traveling productions will be no longer constrained by either space or scheduling when the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater (131 S Main St, SLC, general info: 385.468.1010; tickets: 801.355.3757)—named for the same family who seeded Park City’s beloved Eccles Center—officially opens for business this fall.
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects designed the theater, which includes a 2,500-seat performance hall, a 150- to 250-seat black box theater, and a spectacular six-story open lobby outfitted with delicate spherical pendant lights. A galleria connects Main Street to Regent Street, a once seedy alley that’s scheduled to open as a pedestrian plaza with eateries and shops this fall.
Management will fall under the umbrella of Salt Lake County’s Center for the Arts (CFA), longtime operator of the Capitol Theatre, Abravanel Hall, and the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. To program the Eccles Theater’s Broadway offerings, CFA built on a multidecade relationship with MagicSpace Entertainment.
“The first long-run, gigantic touring Broadway show we brought here was Phantom of the Opera in the late 1990s,” says MagicSpace COO Steve Boulay of the long-anticipated venue. “We sold 215,000 tickets for that show, which to this day is the most tickets sold for an event in the state’s history.” Chris Mautz, meanwhile, the force behind Red Butte Garden’s Summer Concert Series and part owner of both the State Room in Salt Lake City and O.P. Rockwell here in Park City, has been contracted to be the theater’s live music presenter.
The Eccles Theater’s inaugural Broadway season kicks off with Beautiful—The Carole King Musical November 15–20. Subsequent shows include Mamma Mia (Feb 2–5, 2017) and The Book of Mormon (Aug 1–20, 2017), among others. And returning next March 23 to April 16 is the full production of The Lion King, presented this time with all theater walls intact.