From 1996 to at least August 1997, Grandma Ruby's Playhouse presented live musicals on stage, Memorial Day through September. The theater was part of the Bumbleberry Village.[1, 6]
In 2001, the showhouse was named Bumbleberry Restaurant & Play House. Before closing about 2002, the theater performed melodramas and was owned by the family operating the adjacent restaurant and motel.[3, 4]
Rhett Thomas reopened the Bumbleberry Theatre in 2003, with three musical revues, “Twist the Night Away,” “I Fall to Pieces: The Life and Music of Patsy Cline,” and “It's Showtime!”[3, 5]
“They're all original shows,” Thomas said. “It's not original music, but we don't do storyline shows. It's pure entertainment. Come and forget about your worries and cares of life. Come in and just sing along, clap – you can just have a good time. Just come and enjoy. That's what it's all about.”
Originally from Long Beach, California, Thomas traveled coast to coast, performing in big show cities such as Branson, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada.
“I had lived in about nine different states in my 10 years of marriage. I had looked for a place to settle down, a place to call home, for longer than a year. ... I love Zion. I love the area. I asked my wife to marry me on the way back from Zion over 11 years ago. When we thought of coming back and putting shows in, we felt right about it.”
Despite fairly good attendance, 70 to 80 people per night, Thomas decided in 2007 to move to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue other options. The Bumbleberry Theatre was put up for sale. Final performances by Rhett Thomas Productions were held on 11 August 2007.
“At this point in time, it's been a good run,” Thomas explained, “but it takes a lot of work to get the hikers to come in to see the shows night after night. Running a theater is expensive; we're not nonprofit and we're not subsidized.”
In July 2012, Rhett Thomas, now living in Branson, Missouri, announced a new partnership with Stan Smith, owner of the Bumbleberry Theatre, to permanently bring family-friendly entertainment back to Springdale. The newly-remodeled Bumbleberry Theatre will reopen on 31 August 2012 with a limited run of "Twist the Night Away." Thomas has begun work on two new original musical productions for Bumbleberry and plans to announce special engagements by entertainers known worldwide.
1. Southern Utah Telephone Directory, November 1996, November 1997
2. Utah's Dixie Phone Directory, 2001-2002
3. "It's Showtime! at the Bumbleberry", Hurricane Valley Journal, 25 July 2007
4. "Curtain closing on 4 productions", Deseret Morning News, 03 August 2007
5. “Branson, MO Comes to Springdale, UT”, www.thebumbleberrytheatre.com, July 2012
6. "Weekend Calendar", Deseret News, 18 July 1997