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    Categories: A & ETheater

Broadway Comes to Town—Opening night at the Eccles Theater

Well it’s about time to take this thing out for a spin, right?

The George S. And Delores Doré Eccles Theater Officially opened for business last night to a packed house of more than 2,100 be-gowned and tuxedoed donors and patrons, honored guests, media and, we gamely assume, several members of the taxpaying public

The evening was opened stiffly by Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, followed by words from Spencer Eccles, the patron of patrons, who warmed the room with a charming (no snark here) attempt to sing a few bars of “Somewhere of the Rainbow.”

The show itself was a showcase of local talent pinned on the backs of Broadway stars Rita Moreno, who hosted with brassy aplomb, Megan Hilty, who sang the way she sings (umm, awesome) and Brian Stokes Mitchell whose deep baritone admonished the audience to help him “get the spirit right in this theater.”

“This theater is lucky to have you all,” Mitchell solemnly told the hall’s first ever audience. “Take good care of this house.”

Kurt Bestor, and his gorgeous head of hair, was on the scene, as is tradition, conducting the Ballet West Orchestra. Ballet West  itself performed a lovely and graceful set and the city’s two modern dance troupes Repertory Dance Theater and Ririe Woodbury joined forces to perform for the first time ever. There was a Sharks-Jets feel to the routine, come to think of it, but then most modern dance looks like Westside Story to me.

Really though, the theater itself was the star. The producers of this one-off variety show took great pains to show off all its whistles and bells. The opening Fantasia was highlighted with three (Did-ya see it honey? Three!) grand pianos rising out of the orchestra pit. Set pieces flew in from the rafters, spotlights blazed from every angle and the and the digital backdrop showed the wonders of high-res graphics capabilities switching out for nearly every number. Mitchell highlighted the theater’s planetarium-ey ceiling during his bone-rattling rendition of “Stars” from Les Miserables. I mean why not?

Oh yes, I’m getting there… the seats were very comfortable with plenty of legroom. Cupholders too! No recline option however. Seems like a miss. “Please adjust your seats to the full and upright position and be sure your tray tables are up and locked: Wicked is about to begin.”

Out in the lobby, there it was to be noted: The Zion Pillbox, a grim, bunker-like situation for the bartenders, who were shoving glasses of wine out like German stick grenades. Wine, by the way, that everyone in the joint seemed to be holding in plain sight and drinking out of pure spite.

Honestly folks, it was a real swell evening (again, no snark). There was a sense of relief in the air, lots of back slapping and some very moving performances and a tantalizing taste of great things to come.

And after, we all spilled out onto Regent Street for a dance party—just like the kids from Fame!

Jeremy Pugh :Jeremy Pugh is Salt Lake magazine's Web Editor. He covers culture, history, theater, the outdoors and whatever else we ask him to. Jeremy is also the author of the book "100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die" and the forthcoming history, culture and urban legend guidebook "Secret Salt Lake" (Spring 2019, Reedy Press).