Sandy • Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan were among the political notables at the glittering gala Thursday night marking the opening of Hale Centre Theatre’s new high-tech Centre Stage.
The lobby was packed with sequined patrons at the opening, where guests sipped Sally Temples, Marktinis and Sparkling Ruth fruit drinks.
At a brief ceremony, Herbert proclaimed Nov. 16 as Hale Centre Theatre Day. Co-founder Sally Dietlein thanked everybody who help build the fancy new arts center. “Oh my goodness, there are a lot of everybodies out there, and you’re a spectacular-looking bunch,” she said, looking over the crowd that packed the theater lobby and filled the staircase.
The black-tie gala kicked off with the unveiling of a massive bronze jester statue on the plaza outside the Mountain America Performing Arts Centre. The event was capped with the first performance of the company’s high-flying, spectacle-juiced revival of “Aida,” the 2000 Broadway pop musical Elton John and Tim Rice wrote about a forbidden love.
Flashy projections on video screens outside, in the lobby and in the house provided a high-tech flash to the new complex, as does a $1 million marquee facing the freeway.
At the center of the night’s attention was the Centre Theatre’s automated 24-foot circular stage, built by Tait Towers, an international live entertainment company. The stage hydraulics feature ”47 axes of motion using more than 120 motors,” according to the theater company.
More simply, the entire stage can be considered a movable beast, with a center circle capped by two cantilevered slip stages, which weigh 20 tons.
The $80 million complex, which also includes the 467-seat Sorenson Legacy Jewel Box theater, was built by Layton Construction and designed by Beecher Walker & Associates. The Sandy City Council approved a $42.7 million bond that includes a 27-year lease-to-own agreement with the theater company. Donations have been sought to cover the rest of the cost.
The opening marks a new chapter in the 32-year history of the homegrown Utah theater company, which launched as a for-profit company in a former lingerie factory in South Salt Lake in 1985 before transforming itself into a nonprofit company in 1997.
Hale has performed for 18 years in an $8 million theater, which opened in 1998, built with West Valley City taxpayer bonds. (The current show, “A Bundle of Trouble,” will close Dec. 1.) The house was enlarged from 530 to a squishy 613 seats, and most of the company’s long-running plays and musicals have sold out.
Those huge audiences for a community theater — Hale markets itself as a “professional family theater” — make the company something of an only-in-Utah success story. It’s also unusual for the number of amateur actors, singers and dancers who turn out to audition and perform in its shows, which are double-cast.
The company employs a full-time staff of 48 and a part-time staff of 147, with 300 performers paid per-show rates. The community theater company has an annual budget of more than $7 million, which is bigger than the state’s fully professional companies.