Pickleville Playhouse

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Pickleville Playhouse
Pickleville Playhouse.jpeg
Address2049 South Bear Lake Blvd
Garden City, Utah
 United States
OwnerMs. Andrea Davis
Years active34 years
ArchitectLeGrande and Betty Larsen

The Pickleville Playhouse is a musical theater located on the banks of Bear Lake in Garden City, Utah, United States. LeGrande and Betty Larsen founded the Playhouse following their vision of creating a family-friendly theater that would serve as a place to bring generations together.

When the Larsens moved to Driggs, Idaho where LeGrande began his practice as a physician, they discovered an old melodrama theater, Pierre's Playhouse, in nearby Victor, Idaho. Their love for performing grew and after moving to Logan, Utah in 1976, the Larsens were inspired to build their own melodrama theater.[1]

The Pickleville Playhouse was named for the town in which it once resided, Pickelville. A short time after the construction of the Playhouse, the town Pickelville was annexed as part of Garden City.[1]


Construction on the playhouse began in June 1977. Despite never having constructed a large building before, LeGrande and Betty Larsen, with the help of their six sons and one daughter, acquired as much help as they could from experts and did the rest on their own. They peeled white pine logs by hand and mixed concrete in wheelbarrows.[2] The seats were brought from the old Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City which was undergoing renovation at the time. Because the Larsens weren't allowed to collect the seats until the workers at the Capitol had gone home, the family drove two hours in the middle of the night to the theater in Salt Lake, loaded up as many chairs as would fit in a truck, returned to Bear Lake, and repeated the process until all 320 chairs were moved. The original seats are still in use today.

The family constructed by day and rehearsed on the stage at night. There was no place for the cast and crew to stay, so they spent the nights in sleeping bags and tents. The Larsens had to work quickly as they were scheduled to open their first show in August, two-and-a-half months after construction began.[1]

Adjacent to the theater is Bandito's Wild West Grill (formerly named The Pickleville Pavilion), which offers a western-style cookout.

Growth and Expansion[edit]

In the theater's early days, the Larsen family and the actors they recruited enjoyed performing despite the small numbers of people in the audience. They began to wonder what to do with the back half of the theater since the seats were never filled. However, as the theater's reputation grew, so, too, did the audiences. The Playhouse now performs for sold-out audiences from mid-June to early September with up to 10 showings per week. Pickleville has expanded its repertoire of summer melodramas to include favorite Broadway shows and, in December, takes its cast to Logan and Salt Lake City, Utah, where they perform an original Pickleville Christmas production.


LeGrande and Betty Larsen gradually transitioned ownership of the theater and its operations to their youngest child (and only daughter), Andrea Larsen Davis. After a childhood spent at the theater and years of dedicated study, Andrea’s oldest son, T.J. Davis, joined her as a full-time partner and writer for the Playhouse. T.J. now writes both script and score for both the summer melodramas and the annual Christmas shows.

Juanito Bandito[edit]

The Playhouse has gained local notability in recent years for the creation of a character, Juanito Bandito, an "unabashed, Spanglish-speaking, likeable crook".[3] Both created and played by T.J. Davis, Juanito Bandito appeared first in Chuck Wagon's Wild West Showdown in the summer of 2008 at the Pickleville Playhouse. The character became the subject of the next three consecutive summers' shows-- The Hanging of El Bandito (2009), Bandito Rides Again (2010), and Who Shot Juanito Bandito? (2011), "Ready, Fire, Aim starring Juanito Bandito" all of which were written by T.J. Davis.


In August 1977, the Playhouse performed its first melodrama, The Faithful Footman.[1] Currently, they perform two shows each summer, one melodrama, and one Broadway show.

Shows by Year
Year Melodrama Broadway show
1977 The Faithful Footman --
1978–2002 (coming soon...) (coming soon...)
2003 The Saloon Keeper's Daughter Forever Plaid
2004 Chuck Wagon's Wild West Showdown You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
2005 Finding the Fickle Fortune Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
2006 Tied to the Tracks Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
2007 A Pirate's Life Little Shop of Horrors
2008 Chuck Wagon's Wild West Showdown Thoroughly Modern Millie
2009 The Hanging of El Bandito Annie Get Your Gun
2010 Bandito Rides Again Crazy for You
2011 Who Shot Juanito Bandito? Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
2012 The hanging of el Bandito REIMAGINED Forever Plaid
2013 Bandito Rides Again Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
2014 Who Shot Juanito Bandito? REIMAGINED Beauty and the Beast (musical)
2015 (Juanito Bandito) The One With the Monkey (previously A Town Called Danger) The Drowsy Chaperone
2016 Ready, Fire! Aim Hairspray


  1. ^ a b c d Pickleville Playhouse history
  2. ^ "Utah Theaters".
  3. ^ Haddock, Sharon (June 25, 2011). "Pickleville's 'Juanito Bandito' nothing but silly fun". Deseret News.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°54′34″N 111°23′23″W / 41.90944°N 111.38972°W / 41.90944; -111.38972