Mark A. Philbrick
Paige Thunell and Corey Furr, front, and Brittney Pasquale, back left, Amy Kesler and Elijah Thomas in "Once on This Island."

OREM — A clever twist on Hans Christian Anderson's version of "The Little Mermaid" will play out Caribbean style when "Once on This Island" comes to the SCERA Center.

The musical, nominated for multiple Tony Awards, tells the story of Timoune, a poor peasant girl who falls in love with Daniel, an upper-class boy she saves from certain death. She begins a fateful journey she believes is influenced by the gods of earth, water, love and death.

"I love this show," said director Laurel Barham. "It's such a wonderful story of love, endurance and making choices. It about getting along and understanding each other without allowing differences to prohibit us from living our lives."

Under the watchful eye of the island's gods and goddesses, the strength of Timoune's love for Daniel is tested by social prejudice.

Barham selected the show because of the cast's abilities when it comes to dramatic interpretation. She lauds the catchy pop music score of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty as being true to Caribbean roots with its calypso flavor, an ideal complement to the story. The set, described as "very Caribbean, with the sacred reverence that is mysterious when you are among ruins," is a key element.

The cast is made up of the advanced high-school students in SCERA Youth Theatre troupe, Acting Up.

Cast members include Paige Thunell, Corey Furr, Elijah Thomas, Brittney Pasquale, Amy Kesler, McKay Heaton and Aubrey McKay.

"Both the leads are with us for the first time and are high school seniors," Barham said "These two are really going places because of their talent. Many of the leads are sophomores, and it's exciting to see how good they are becoming."

The production is dedicated to the late Syd Riggs, Utah County stage director. "Whenever I asked her for advice, her answer would be 'Just tell the story.' One of the driving forces in this musical is a song that explains 'Why We Tell the Story.' I think of Syd and all she did to help us know why we do theater and spend all our time at it. It's a way of making the world better," said Barham.

If you go . . .

What: "Once on This island"

Where: SCERA Center for the Arts, 745 S. State, Orem

When: 7:30 p.m., Feb. 25-March 1

Cost: $6/$4 children, students and seniors

Phone: 225-2569