Monday, 1 October 2012

Aladdin: The Tuacahn Experience Part 1 - Before the Performance

This is a post I've been meaning to do for a while, like ever since I completed my review way back at the end of June, and as Aladdin enters its final month at Tuacahn I realised it's now or never.  But in getting everything ready for my write up of everything I experienced at the Tuacahn I realised I had a lot more material than I originally realised so I've decided to split this post into two parts.  Tonight I'm going to focus on before the show, and then on Wednesday I'll look at the show itself and Tuacahn's version of the "stage door" experience.

My "Aladdin Experience" started sat in Heathrow Airport.  In an excited mood (despite how early it was) I was playing on Jane's iPhone and decided to tweet "Sat at Heathrow airport ready to fly.  Next stop @Tuacahn for #Aladdin!"  Not only did Tuacahn retweet but Courtney Reed also replied "Have fun!!"  Needless to say, I was very happy.

Fast forward 16 hours, 2 flights and (I think ) 3 time zones and we were finally in Las Vegas.  Now all that stood between me and Aladdin was a 2 hour drive on the "wrong" side of the road in a "small" car that looked like a tank compared to what I normally drive.  Considering I'd never driven on the other side of the road before and I'd only ever driven an automatic once, I think I did rather well making it out of Vegas without a scratch.  On the interstate driving soon became a lot more relaxing, then I spotted the Tuacahn's first billboard.  It was for their 2011 Season and featured The Little Mermaid.  Then, before we even got out of Nevada, we saw another billboard;

And this was just the start.  Tuacahn deserve all the success that they've had with this show and then some.  They advertised everywhere.  The billboards on the way from Vegas (and on the way to Vegas) were just the start.  As well as the standard local leaflets you get at all hotels, these were at the hotel reception and on every table at breakfast;

The adverts had Hairspray on the back as well
And on the subject of hotels, I do just want to quickly say we had a fantastic time at the Wingate by Wyndham.  The staff were really friendly, the room was amazing and the price was fantastic.  I wish we'd been able to stay longer as Utah really is a beautiful part of the world.  Before this trip I'd never been interesting in a fly drive sight seeing holiday, now I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Anyway, back to Aladdin!  Driving along the main road from St. George to the Tuacahn (once you get off the interstate) banners for Aladdin and Hairspray hung from pretty much every street light;

Now, as you might expect for an outdoor amphitheatre, the Tuacahn is a little off the beaten path.  Whoever it was that told me "there aren't any roundabouts in the the US" was clearly lying, but when they look this beautiful you can't really complain;

Did I mention Utah was beautiful already?  I mean seriously, imagine driving past something like that on your way to work every morning.  Sure beats the views I get.  And when you think the views can't get any more impressive, you arrive.

Tuachan Entrance
Yeah, I admit it, I had a big kid moment and took Abu with me to Aladdin!
That water that feeds that waterfall and pool actually starts way up in the foyer area of the Tuacahn, running down the stairs at the main enterance (which you'll see in a moment) through the middle of the car park and then finally into this waterfall.  It really is an incredible sight.

A double staircase (divided by the water feature) leads up from the car park to the main foyer area.  The stairs themselves are cleverly decorated with posters for this seasons shows, Hairspray and

The main foyer is area is open air and contains pretty much what you'd expect, from box office to merchandise and refreshments.  But just being in the open gives it a completely different feel from any other theatre I've been to.  Even when everyone is in the foyer waiting for the doors to open, you never feel crowded.  The pillars supporting the roof are all decorated in character one sheets for Aladdin and Hairspray, and by the main refreshment stand is a full wall poster of Aladdin and Jasmine on a magic carpet ride.

And for all the kids (and, if you're like me and Jane, big kids) there's this as well;

Tonight the parts of Aladdin and Jasmine will be played by Chris and Jane, whilst the role of Genie will be played by Jane's Stitch bag
Before we saw the show for the second time I had the great pleasure of meeting Heidi Anderson.  Heidi is the Tuacahn's Marketing Manager and an absolutely lovely person, I'd spoken with her a few times by email and it was great to finally meet her in person.  What I was amazed to discover is that Heidi doesn't always work behind the scenes, in fact last year she was on stage as Ursula in Tuachan's production of The Little Mermaid!  I won't post any links here, but there are some YouTube clips available of her performance and of some of the amazing effects used during that production and you should really check them out.  Heidi is fantastic, her costume is just unreal and the effects speak for themselves.

Before our second show we also did the back stage tour and pre-show dinner offered by the Tuacahn.  First came the tour, a small group of us gathered outside the box office where we were met by our guide (whose name I really wish I could remember, she was extremely nice and did a wonderful job).  Going back stage we were shown everything from the dressing rooms (including all of the amazing costumes for both Aladdin and Hairspray, all made on site by the Tuacahn's costume department except for Edna's finale dress which was hired) to the green room.  We got to see where the animals were housed, the pool of water used to flood the stage in some shows (like The Little Mermaid), the props tables;

Genie's Lamp - sorry it's a little blurry

Some props for the show's narrators and the edge of Jafar's Lamp
And, of course, the sets!

The Sultan's Throne Room

The Palace Gate

Agrabah (and, above me, Aladdin's home - yes I so wanted to go up there!)
As the tour ended the back stage crew were hard at work moving the sets into position for the start of the show;

And we headed off for the pre-show buffet dinner... The Sultan's Supper!

I speak from experience when I say the chicken was delicious.  There was some minor theming done to the dining hall (remember the Tuacahn alternates between Aladdin and Hairspray every night, so to get any show specific theming was a really nice touch).  My favourite was the buffet table for Genie's Little Favorites.

Dinner done, it was time for the main event.  And I have to say that the Back Stage Tour and Pre-Show Dinner offered by the Tuacahn are both fantastic value for money.  The tour is fun and informative regardless of which show you're seeing, but if you're going to see a show you love then you get the added bonus of seeing the props and set up close and in person.  If you are going to the Tuacahn this (or any) season, I would highly recommend adding the tour and dinner to your tickets.  It's a great way to spend an evening at the theatre, and I found sitting outside eating my meal whilst waiting for the show to be an extremely relaxing experience.

Oh, and there's a great view of the camels getting ready for the show...

And with everyone ready... it's show time!

On Wednesday (I hope) I'll be posting the second part of my Tuacahn experience and I promise a lot more words and (maybe) a few less photos.  Seriously though, and I know I say this a lot, if you can get to the Tuacahn before this season ends then do it.  Aladdin and Hairspray are two fantastic shows in a venue that is truly a one of a kind.  Hairspray runs until 20th October and Aladdin runs until 19th October.  Tickets for both, as well as the Back Stage Tour and Pre-Show Dinner, are available direct from Tuacahn.  Whilst Aladdin has it's European Premiere later this week and it's Asian Premiere later this year, the 19th October is currently the last scheduled performance in the USA.  I'm sure there will be more coming, and we all hope for Broadway in the not too distant future, but for now this is it.  It's a fantastic production and Utah desert is an ideal setting for this Arabian adventure.  If you can be there then don't miss out.


  1. Hey Chris! Edward Juvier here. Thanks for coming all the way out to Utah! And thanks for all your passion and support of our show! We loved having you out there and love your blog!! And you're right... Heidi's Ursula was the BOMB! And here's hoping that Aladdin does make the next step! As a fan of the show nothing would make me happier! I know they're going to have a ball with it!

  2. Hi Edward! Thank you so much for your kind words, it was an absolute pleasure coming to Utah, seeing the show and getting to meet everyone. It means so much to me to know that people involved with this amazing show actually know about and like this blog.

    Once again a big thank you to you, and everyone at Tuacahn, for all the hard work, energy and passion that you put into this show night after night, and for making Jane and I feel so welcome whilst we were there. Best wishes for your final weeks, keep making that magic!