Sandy • The circular lifts of Hale Centre Theatre’s new stage fit together like the components of a giant Erector Set, officials said as they showed off the technology baked into a new Sandy arts complex on Wednesday.
It was an emotional demonstration for the company’s co-founders, Sally and Mark Dietlein, as they watched the first working demonstration of the lifts in the new Centre Stage Theatre.
“Everything in here is custom for this building,” says Andrew Wellons, controls integrator for TAIT Towers, an international company renowned for designing staging for Lady Gaga and other high-profile concert tours. “You will not be able to find a lift system or an overhead crane system like this anywhere.”
The Mountain America Performing Arts Complex will open in parts, beginning Sept. 1 with the run of the popular “Forever Plaid” musical revue on the company’s new thrust stage. It will be like a platter serving up a feast of theater, Sally Dietlein says of the Jewel Box, which will seat 475 people.
The rest of the building, as well as the company’s new-generation arena stage, will open Nov. 16 with the run of the Elton John and Tim Rice musical “Aida.” The Centre Stage Theatre, which seats 900, incorporates technology designed for custom-built theaters, such as Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil shows and the Metropolitan Opera, says Kacey Udy, HCT’s production designer.
The Sandy theater is the third new arts complex to open over the past 18 months in the state’s unprecedented building boom, after the launch of Cedar City’s two new Utah Shakespeare Festival theaters and downtown Salt Lake City’s Eccles Theater.
For the Sandy complex, the theaters and supporting technology systems cost $80 million, while the plaza, fountain and adjacent parking garage cost an additional $20 million. The 14-foot fountain, one of the largest in Utah, will circulate 5,700 gallons of water per minute, said architect Lyle Beecher of Beecher Walker & Associates.
Mountain America Credit Union donated some $10 million for naming rights, including cash contributions, a $1 million marquee facing the freeway and an additional floor for the parking structure, Mark Dietlein says.
Sandy City Council approved $42 million in bonds to help fund the theater, which will eventually be owned by the theater company in a 27-year lease-to-own agreement, says Mayor Tom Dolan.
The bells and whistles of the theaters’ backstage systems were designed over eight years, drawing upon staging experience at the company’s West Valley City theater. Then automated systems were added to increase flexibility. “It’s quite magical what they’ve come up with,” says Udy of working with TAIT designers and engineers.
The house of the Centre Stage Theatre is an oval, intersected by an X, which creates four entrances for actors. The stage is a 24-foot circle, significantly larger than the theater‘s current 18-foot circular stage, which features a circular ring in the middle.
The new stage is entirely automated, with a main lift in the middle and two crescent-shaped side lifts. The entire stage can be lowered down into the pit. Then two cantilevered slip stages, which weigh 20 tons, can close over it to create a new stage, which will allow for lightning-quick scene changes.
Also new is the theater’s overhead fly space, where two “bogie” carriages, which function similarly to upside-down freight cars, can move sets.
Together, the new backstage technology will provide theater designers “a completely new range of flexibility,” Udy says. “We do like a little bit of spectacle, that’s our thing, but we always ask ourselves: ‘Does it help the story?’”
Having two theaters will increase HCT’s capacity from 613 to 1,360. It means performances will continue throughout the year (except Sundays), rather than closing for two weeks between runs. The company hopes to double its annual audience from 250,000 to 500,000. This month, season ticket sales have increased 40 percent over sales last August, Sally Dietlein says.
“Every time you come and see one of our performances over the next year, you will be seeing these bells and whistles engaged in different ways,” Udy says. “We will be learning as we go.”
Beginning Sept. 1, Hale Centre Theater will perform in the Mountain America Performing Arts Center, 9900 Monroe St., Sandy. For show information or tickets, visit hct.org or call 801-984-9000. The last show in the West Valley City theater will be Nathan and Ruth Hale’s comedy “A Bundle of Trouble,” which will run Oct. 21-Nov. 30.