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Odyssey Dance Theatre Is 'Thrilling' Audiences One Last Time With THRILLER

This year's Thriller will feature all the favorites, including tap dancing skeletons, Salem's Mass, The Lost Boys, Frankenstein and his bride, and of course Jason Jam.

Odyssey Dance Theatre Is 'Thrilling' Audiences One Last Time With THRILLER

At the end of this year's Halloween season, Odyssey Dance Theatre is hanging up the skeleton costumes, the bride of Frankenstein gown and the Jason masks for the final time.

"We're just moving on to another phase of our lives," Derryl Yeager, founder of Odyssey Dance Theatre and the production of Thriller, said of his impending retirement. "It's been a great run; we've done great things and it's been exciting. But it feels like it's time to let someone else carry the flame."

It's been roughly 20 years since Yeager dreamed up the idea of a haunted-yet-humorous Halloween spectacle that would not only celebrate the popular fall holiday, but it would also turn even the most dance-averse audience members into big fans.

"It is just the icing on the cake to hear people in the audience laughing so hard," Yeager said. "People really love the humor. It's so few and far between to find a dance performance that is of such high quality and also humorous."

Looking back at all the success Thriller has seen, Yeager said it's hard to believe things were so uncertain during its first year.

"We started off with four performances at Kingsbury Hall (in Salt Lake City)," Yeager said. "About four days before we were set to open the guy who owned the theater called me and said, 'we've only sold a few tickets. You should think about cancelling."

But Yeager said he really felt like they were building something special, so he leaned into the uncertainty just to see where things would go.

"I figured, if we're going down, let's go down in flames," he said.

In the end, they sold about 300 tickets and the response was really strong. Within three years they were selling out performances of Thriller at Kingsbury Hall.

In 2003 Yeager and his dancers brought its ghosts and ghouls to Southern Utah, casting a spooky shadow at Tuacahn and starting a tradition that brings many fans back year after year.

"It started with a handful of Tuacahn shows and blossomed into a full week," Yeager said. "Thriller has really become like our company's 'Nutcracker'. It's the season that provides the funds for us to operate the rest of the year."

This year's Thriller will feature all the favorites, including tap dancing skeletons, Salem's Mass, The Lost Boys, Frankenstein and his bride, and of course Jason Jam.

"You can't be without the Jason Jam. It's one of the most iconic parts of the show," Yeager said. "You have these three Jasons dancing with ice picks and machetes and its clear there is one who didn't quite graduate from Jason School. The kids just laugh their heads off at this because we've all known this guy; someone at the back of their class."

Yeager is also excited to bring back of few of his own favorites from years' past.

"I'm planning on bringing back the River of Blood Dance," he said. "We've taken it out the last three or four years because of various shootings that have happened and being sensitive to things in the news. But I decided I don't have to worry about people sending emails anymore, I want to bring it back. It's really, really funny and if you can't take a joke or see the humor in it, then don't come."

The same goes for his excitement at bringing back the Lorena Bobbitt character and her medley of songs titled, "Cuts Like A Knife."

"It's just hysterical," Yeager said. "There have been a few documentaries on her in the last few years so it's brought her story back into pop culture. And if they don't understand the jokes - because it's a little more adult-oriented - the kids can just enjoy the goofy backup dancers."

The past year represents a series of goodbyes for Yeager and his dancers as they concluded their final season of It's a Wonderful Life in December, a final European tour this spring and then ending on the company's bread and butter with a final season of Thriller.
"It's sad, but at the same time, it feels like the right thing to do," Yeager said. "It's a long process to let it all go, but it will be great to see what the next chapter of life brings."

Catch the final season of Thriller at Tuacahn this fall. Tickets are on sale now at www.tuacahn.org or by calling 652-3300.


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