1 of 2
Suzy Oliveira
Arianna Higbee (MWF) stars as Ariel in HCTO's "The Little Mermaid."

"THE LITTLE MERMAID," through April 14, Hale Center Theater Orem, 225 W. 400 North, Orem (801-226-8600, haletheater.org); running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes (one intermission)

OREM — For those who love the 1989 Disney cartoon "The Little Mermaid," Hale Center Theater Orem's newest production will be both heartwarming and mildly disappointing.

The classic songs are there, along with close to a dozen songs added for the Broadway musical version. The colorful and elaborate costumes closely mimic the cartoon, and other aspects actually improve upon the Disney classic.

For example, Ariel (Arianna Higbee, M/W/F), was portrayed less as a whiney teenager rebelling by falling in love with a forbidden human man, and more as a sweet, shy girl who just wants to find a place where she belongs. Higbee, who before this production played Ariel at princess parties, not only looked the part but gave an earnest rendition of the mermaid who is fascinated with the beauty in the world above the surface as well.

Tanner Perelle was a bubbly, flamboyant Flounder, who, in the musical version, is in love with Ariel and jealous of Eric. He was often the comic relief, though the true humorous delight of this production was Amber Dodge Tinney's (M/W/F) portrayal of Scuttle, the seagull. From her accent to her quirky tap dance number to her squalling participation in "Kiss the Girl," Tinney was the highlight of the show.

Other aspects left something to be desired. David Matthew Smith had one of the best voices of the cast, but his acting performance could be inconsistent. At times, he was effective, then other times his lines came out monotone, only emphasizing how corny they sometimes were.

Mack's rendition of Ursula (M/W/F) was satisfactory but lacked the sparkle needed for such an exuberant villain. Luseane Pasa as Sebastian (M/W/F) had an erratic Jamaican accent and appeared to have some opening night jitters before she eventually warmed up. She improved greatly by her performance of "Kiss the Girl" in the second act.

1 comment on this story

In general there seemed to be some opening night nerves during the first act — tripping, running into giant costume pieces, fumbling over lines — but things went smoother overall by the end.

It's Disney — if you take your 7-year-old girl, the musical will go over well. If you're looking for HCTO's best production of the year in quality of acting and singing, "The Little Mermaid" might not be it.

Content Advisory:"The Little Mermaid" contains mild swearing and some frightening scenes.