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.
Now, however, large-scale Broadway shows, musical acts, and other traveling productions will no longer constrained by either space or scheduling when the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater —named for the same family who seeded Park City’s beloved Eccles Center—officially opens for business on October 21.
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.
The Eccles Theater’s Grand Opening kicks off with a black-tie gala on October 21 hosted by Rita Moreno and featuring headline performances by Brian Stokes Mitchell and Megan Hilty. The event will also include the Ballet West Orchestra, performing music by Utah singer/composer Kurt Bestor. Other performers will include Ballet West, the University of Utah Department of Theatre, Utah Opera Chorus and a first-of-its-kind collaboration from Repertory Dance Theatre and Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. Following this black-tie event, guests will enjoy a post-show celebration on Regent Street.
Other Grand Opening weekend events include open houses on Saturday and Sunday, October 22 and 23 from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., respectively. In addition, a free special live broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Music and the Spoken Word sponsored by Zions Bank on Sunday, October 23 at 9:30 a.m. Even though the event is free, you must acquire tickets via their website and they are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The theater's inaugural Broadway Show season begins with Beautiful—The Carole King Musical on 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.