Salt Lake's Eccles Theater Puts Performing Arts Over the Top
Words: Beth Lopez, Images: Jason Whitehouse
Something beautiful has taken shape in downtown Salt Lake: a stunning glass-walled theater elegantly rising six floors above a bustling Main Street intersection. But it didn’t arise from nothing: its creation was driven by the exceptional interest Utah locals take in the performing arts. A recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts revealed that 84.5 percent of adults in Utah attended a performance in 2015. This means more Utahns attend performing arts shows than anyone else in the nation.
Interest in the arts in Utah is sky high, but until now, the beloved mainstay venues in downtown Salt Lake weren’t equipped to accommodate large blockbuster shows. But after years of anticipation, a stunning, cutting-edge 2,500-seat performing arts venue is stepping onto the scene.
The cast of characters is complete. The new George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater completes Salt Lake’s performing arts puzzle. The result: a rich masterpiece of cultural entertainment options including Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony; Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, host of multiple performing arts companies; and Capitol Theatre, where Ballet Utah dancers and the Utah Opera light up the stage.
The new Eccles Theater is set to host the city’s largest arts events, elevating the overall scene to match the level of locals’ enthusiast. In addition to its main Delta Performance Hall, it’s home to an intimate black box theater, event and rehearsal space, a six-story grand lobby, and outdoor plaza. Show-goers sweep through a starry-lit lobby as they transition through an artfully designed journey from street to lobby to theater.
Of course, it’s on stage that the real magic happens. The stage will feature several much-anticipated shows in the theater’s first year, including Hamilton, Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia, Matilda, The Lion King, and The Book of Mormon.
While these musicals are in the limelight, the new theater will host a variety of musical performances, comedians, dance performances, and speaking engagements. All will stretch the wings of Utah’s ever-expanding arts and entertainment scene in new and lively ways.
An appetite for theater—and fine dining. Before the curtains rise, you’ll want to fill up with a meal worth savoring as much as the show. Fortunately, the Eccles Theatre sits amid downtown Salt Lake’s best-loved eateries. Next door to the east, the classic Martine is a step into 19th-century elegance with elegant small plates and a show-stopping wine list. A five-minute stroll down the street takes diners to Salt Lake’s bold culinary darling, The Copper Onion. And some of the most acclaimed sushi in the state, flown in daily from the coast, is served at Takashi, two blocks south.
Theater-goers can also wind down their evening with after-show drinks at nearby Bar X, known for its refined cocktails and prohibition-era feel. Or they can head to the aptly named Whiskey Street a block south of the theater to discuss theatrical plots over a few sips of bourbon. And, easiest of all, the bustling Beerhive Pub is right across the street from the theater—and it’s home to an unparalleled beer menu.
Go ahead and stay a while. In keeping with the theater’s taste for excellence, it’s also situated among several superb hotel options that tempt downtown visitors to make a real night of it. Stay the night in Kimpton’s classy Hotel Monaco, or ride one train-stop down to the sumptuous Grand America Hotel, where a Jazz band serenades guests in the lobby late-night as they sip a nightcap from the hotel bar.
To conclude the evening in quiet, romantic style, walk back through the city center to Capitol Hill and cozy up at the Inn on the Hill. It’s an elegant Victorian mansion offering views of downtown and quick access to a walking path that circles the lit-up Capitol Building at night.